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Photo courtesy Florida Division of Historical Resources
8,000-10,000 BC

Paleoindians living in a Florida twice its present size and hunting large now-extinct animals like mastodons and also relying on smaller game, fish, shellfish, and plant foods.

Known Paleoindian sites are often found in association with chert-bearing limestone outcrops. In these areas fresh surface water is found as well as chert for tool production. In the Apalachicola region these outcrops are most common in the Woodville Karst Plain in Wakulla County and in Florida Caverns State Park and vicinity.

AD 200-900

Photo courtesy Florida Division of Historical Resources
Native Americans build at least three dozen mounds above flood water of the Apalachicola. These mounds were mapped in the early 1900s by archeologist Clarence B. Moore. A burial mound at the Chipola Cutoff contained 42 folded skeletons and 51 clay pots. Other archeological sites from this period known as Weeden Island include the Aspalaga site, a crescent-shaped village, midden, and mound complex on the Apalachicola River; the Sycamore site in the Torreya Ravines in Gadsden County; the Pierce site in the vicinity of Apalachicola; the Yon Mound and village in the vicinity of Bristol; and the Yent Mound in the vicinity of St. Teresa.

“These [people] live in wigwams, or cabins built of bark which are made round, like an oven, to prevent any damage by hard gales of wind. They make the fire in the middle of the house and have a hole at the top of the roof right above the fire, to let out the smoke. These dwellings are as hot as stoves, where the Indians sleep and sweat all night.” John R. Swanton, The Indians of the Southeastern United States, Bulletin 137, Bureau of American Ethnology, Smithsonian Institution, 1946

AD 900-1500

Thousands of Native Americans of what is known to today’s archeologists as the Ft. Walton culture thriving, engaging in intensive agriculture, growing corn and other crops. The Cayson Mound and village complex in the vicinity of Blountstown on the Apalachicola River may have been a regional center of this culture.

1513-1763 First Spanish Period


Spanish explorer Panfilo de Narvarez and his small army traveled through the region. One possible route proposed by Donald E. Shepard (“Cabeza de Vaca’s Journey—Florida Trails,” crossed Gum Swamp, East River Pool, and the St. Marks River, then passed a plain north of today’s Medart, Sopchoppy, Ochlockonee, and New River swamps, and a big stream they called “Magdelena” (the Apalachicola).

“The country is mostly level; the soil is sand and earth. All throughout it there are very large trees and open forests containing nut trees, laurels and others of the kind called resinous, cedar, juniper, wateroak, pines, oak and low palmetto, like those of Catilla. Everywhere there are many lagoons, large and small, some very difficult to cross…The animals were three kinds of deer, rabbits and hares, bears and lions and other wild beasts, among them one that carries its young in a pouch on its belly….The country is very cold; it has good pasture for cattle; there are birds of many kinds in large numbers: geese, ducks, wild ducks, muscovy ducks, ibis, small white herons (egrets), herons, and partridges. We saw many falcons, marsh-hawks, sparrow-hawks, pigeon hawks, and many other birds.” --Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca, chronicler of the Narvarez expedition, translated by Fanny Bandelier (1905)


Hernando de Soto and his men travel through Florida and into Georgia. De Soto’s exact route is matter of debate. Charles Hudson (in Jerald Milanich and Susan Milbrath, First Encounters: Spanish Explorations in the Caribbean and the United States) believes De Soto traveled north out of Florida east of the Apalachicola River and then crossed the Flint River in Georgia. Independent researcher Donald E. Sheppard ( believes that de Soto camped on a plain on the east bank of the Apalachicola and after taking several days to construct a bridge crossed the Apalachicola at the site of present-day Chattahoochee.


Four Spanish missions established among the Indians in the area of the Apalachicola: two along the river and two farther west. One mission, known as Sabacola, established on the upper Apalachicola just below the confluence of the Chattahoochee and the Flint. The Spanish refer to the Apalachicola River as the River of Santa Cruz.


Spanish build Fort San Marcos at today’s St Marks to protect the Apalachee mission; French raided the fort in 1682.


Apalachicola Fort was established on the west bank of the Chattahoochee at the confluence of the Flint River. The fort was abandoned 2 years later.


Spanish establish trading post at St. Marks. Creek Indians establish towns in the area under Secoffee, son of Brim.

Forbes Land
Map of Forbes Land
1763-1783 British Rule

1784-1821 Second Spanish Period


Panton, Leslie and Company, established in 1785, headquartered in Pensacola. After 1805, the company was known as John Forbes and Company. The company trades guns and other English-made goods with the Indians for deerskins and other furs. The Indians soon find themselves heavily in debt and trade large tracts of land to cancel their debts. This land, eventually more than 1 million acres on both sides of the Apalachicola, is referred to as the Forbes Purchase, and the purchase is approved by the Spanish government.

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Early 1800s

Steamboats develop and for the next 30 years became way of life on the Apalachicola. Bristol depends on steamboat traffic for its livelihood.


At the end of the War of 1812, Major James Nichols the British commander transfers his troops and his Indians and Negro allies to Prospect Bluff on the Apalachicola River where they construct a fort. Pressured by Spanish authorities, Nichols and his British soldiers leave the fort and all its arms with the Indians and former slaves. Those who remain harass river traffic, disrupting this important supply line to the Americans’ Fort Scott river on the American-Spanish border.

Early on the morning of July 27, 1816, a ground force under the command of Colonel Duncan Clinch supported by two gunboats attack the fort. One of the first shots from one of the gunboats hits the powder magazine, killing 270 of the 320 persons in the fort, leaving only three uninjured.


Andrew Jackson marches down east bank of the Apalachicola to the site of the British Negro Fort and instructs his aide-de-camp James Gadsden to build a new fort which Jackson named Fort Gadsden in his honor.


Colin Mitchell purchases the Forbes lands.

Planning map of Colinton. Photo courtesy Florida Photographic Archives.

Florida becomes a territory of the United States.


Colin Mitchell lays out the town of Colinton at a place called Prospect Bluff (Fort Gadsden) on the Apalachicola River….”on a fine level plain of pine land, 15 feet above the river at low water, and within the purchase made by J. Forbes and Co. from the Indians. The town lots are 60 feet wide and 120 feet deep. The water lots are 75 feet wide, and form 160 to 300 feet deep. The swamp land under the bluff is from 70 to 90 feet wide, and is sufficiently firm for excellent foundations for wharves at a small expense….The Apalachicola and Chattahouchie Rivers are navigable at all times for large Steam Boats 220 miles in a direct line to the Falls above Fort Mitchel, and run through a fine fertile country, the produce of which must descend these Rivers by Colinton to the Ocean.”
Sketches, Historical and Topographic of the Floridas, 1821

Mitchell’s claim to the land was found invalid and the town never became more than a dream and lines on a map.


Town of Apalachicola founded.


Spain cedes East and West Florida to U.S. Florida becomes a territory of the United States.


President James Monroe sets up a customs district that stretches from Cape Florida to the Apalachicola River.


Jackson County established.

Creek Indian Village
Drawing of Creek Indian village, by Francis comte de Castelnau. Photo courtesy Florida Photographic Archives.

Treaty of Moultire Creek gives land along the Apalachicola River to chiefs John Blount and Tuski Haco Cochrane and land near Sneads to the Mulatto King and Emathochee.


Gadsden County established.


District of Apalachicola established.


William Simmons of St. Augustine and John Lee Williams of Pensacola meet at the old Spanish settlement of St. Marks and select Tallahassee as capital of the territory of Florida.


Campbellton Baptist Church established. The church was first organized as the Bethlehem Baptist Church and is reputed to be the oldest Baptist Church in Florida. The present church building established in 1858.


Ferry across Apalachicola at Aspalaga landing begins.


Webbville Post Office established. Webbville is the principal commercial center of Jackson County.

The Fannie Fearn steamboat on the Apalachicola River. Photo courtesy Florida Photographic Archives.

Marianna and Aspalaga post offices established.


The steamboat Fannie Fearn’s begins her travels from the Gulf to Columbus, Georgia.


Campbellton post office established.

Photo courtesy Florida Photographic Archives.

Damaging hurricanes strike St. Joseph.

Botanist Alvan W. Chapman settles in Apalachicola.

The federal government appropriates funds to remove obstructions from the Apalachicola River and to deepen the channel in the bay and St. George Sound.


The town council changes the name of the town from West Point to Apalachicola. Before “Westpoint,” the town was known as Cottonton.


Franklin County established.


Botanist Hardy Bryan Croom leases a plantation near Aspalaga Landing. Croom later discovers the rare Florida torreya tree.


Lighthouse constructed at western tip of Little St. George Island.

Photo courtesy Florida Photographic Archives.

Wakulla County established from a portion of Leon County.

Chattahoochee incorporated; previously a federal arsenal had been built at the site of the town.


Second Seminole War involves ten thousand Flint-Chattahoochee Creeks who refused to move West.


Apalachicola Land Company holds a series of land sales. The company lays out lots and provides for streets, a square, a courthouse, a cemetery and churches. Purchasers of lots fronting the river required to build sturdy wharves and to construct 3-story, fire-proof brick buildings.


Apalachicola Land Company dredges the harbor.


After New Orleans and Mobile, Apalachicola is the Gulf’s third largest port.

St. Luke's
St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Marianna. This building, the third of four on the site, was constructed in 1878 but destroyed by fire in 1941. Photo courtesy Florida Photographic Archives.

St. Lukes Episcopal Church, Marianna, constructed.

Lighthouse constructed on the western end of Dog Island.

Calhoun County established.

First state constitutional convention held at St. Joseph near present-day Port St. Joe.


Population of Apalachicola reaches 1,030.

Yellow Fever Drawing
Matt Morgan drawing in Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper personifying yellow fever dragging down Florida as Columbia rushes to the rescue. Photo courtesy Florida Photographic Archives.

Yellow fever epidemic devastates the town of St. Joseph.


The port of Apalachicola ships 48,070 bales of cotton to domestic markets and 38,794 bales abroad.

1845 Florida becomes a state.


Dr. John Gorrie of Apalachicola invents an ice-making machine and develops a process for cooling a room artificially after he observed that patients with fevers benefited from a drop in room temperature.


Greenwood Baptist Church established.


Light constructed on Cape St. George. The light was downed by hurricane in 1851 and replaced in 1852.

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Oysters packed in barrels and shipped to neighboring states and northern markets.


Dr. John Gorrie’s ice machine patented.


Cape St George lighthouse built.


Liberty County established from Gadsden County.

1856 (November 25)

Writer for Bainbridge Argus notes of Apalachicola: “Blow out the Flint and the Chattachoochee rivers and what would be the condition of this flourishing city?”


U.S. Coast Survey, Preliminary Survey of the mouth of the Apalachicola River.


Apalachicola resident Alvan W. Chapman publishes Flora of the Southern United States.

1861 (January 10)

Florida becomes the third state to succeed from the Union, after South Carolina and Mississippi. At the secession convention in Tallahassee, McQueen McIntosh of Franklin County introduces the secession resolution. Florida uses military force to seize the federal arsenal at Chattahoochee

Union forces take control of St. George and Dog islands.

1862 Federal blockade of Apalachicola.

“Starvation was avoided because of the large numbers of fish and oysters in the bay ….people could not avail themselves of the wild cattle and hogs that flourished on St George and St Vincent Islands,” William Warren Rogers and Lee Willis, III, At the Water’s Edge

Confederates place batteries and obstructions (heavy chains) at the Narrows above Apalachicola and at Rock Bluff below Chattahoochee

Hosford's map of the Apalachicola River. Photo courtesy Florida Photographic Archives

R. F. Hosford, 3rd Corporal of Captain W.T. Gregory’s Company H. 5th Florida Regiment, draws map of Apalachicola River.


George Washington Scott draws map of Apalachicola River and of area from St. Marks lighthouse north, including roads, trails, and railroads.


Federal forces raid Apalachicola and seize ammunition and cotton.

1864 (September 27)

Union forces penetrate inland from Fort Pickens as far as Governor’s Milton’s hometown of Marianna.

1865 (March 6) Battle of Natural Bridge near St. Marks

Local militia, a cadet corps from West Florida Seminary, and a few regulars defeat a force of 1,000 Union soldiers and protect the capital of Tallahassee from capture.


Apalachicola ships more than a hundred thousand bales of cotton.


Oliver Hudson Kelley founds the town of Carrabelle. He builds the Island House, which is managed by his niece Carolyn Aarrabelle Hall. He names the town in her honor.


St. Teresa settled by residents of Tallahassee as a summer retreat.

Early 1880s

James Coombs establishes a store and sawmill in Apalachicola


Cebe Tate of Sumatra gets lost and lives to tell the story. The name Tate’s Hell is derived from his account of the ordeal.

Large parts of St. George become the property of the Humphries family. The island has timber, turpentine, cattle, and wild hogs. The steamer Crescent City carries people twice a week to the island.


State law awards commercial oyster planting and harvesting rights in designated waters to individuals.

Photo courtesy Florida Photographic Archives

Pennsylvania Tie Company sold and renamed the Cypress Lumber Company.


Florida Fishing Commission created.


Edward Porter becomes the lighthouse keeper on Little St. George Island. He builds a cottage and a storm house and grazes as many as 250 head of cattle and 200 hogs and maintains a large vegetable garden.


Quaker David Brown, his family and others found Eastpoint as a cooperative enterprise, the Co-Workers Fraternity. The profits from lumbering, fishing, and manufacturing were to be shared.

Photo courtesy Florida Photographic Archives

Traffic on the Apalachicola increases in volume by almost 70 percent as a result of lumber industry

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Early 1900s

Greek spongers come to Apalachicola.

Canneries for oysters and other seafood established in Apalachicola.

The way to Tallahassee from Apalachicola was by boat and train. The boat, a beautiful sidewheeler Crescent City made daily trips from Apalachicola to Carrabelle. Every morning the train ran from Carrabelle through Tallahassee to Cuthbert Georgia; Lanark Village community built and owned by the Georgia, Florida, and Alabama Railroad, fashionable resort including the Lanark Inn attracted people form Florida and Georgia.

1900 (August 22)

Electricity comes to Apalachicola.

1900 (May 25)

Great fire in Apalachicola started by sparks from wood cookstove. The fire destroyed six city blocks.


Gibson Inn built (originally known as the Franklin Hotel)


Dr. Ray V. Pierce, a patent medicine manufacturer from Buffalo, New York, purchases St. Vincent Island and converts it to a game preserve.

Completion of the Apalachicola Northern Railroad from River Junction in Gadsden County, 70 miles of tracks link with east-west Florida lines.


Branch of Apalachicola Northern Railroad from Apalachicola to St. Andrew Bay results in the founding of Port St Joe near the long vanished St. Joseph.


Dreamland, Apalachicola’s first movie house, opens.


Club House opens on St. George Island. The facility serves meals and rents bating suits and boats to guests.


Dixie Theatre in Apalachicola opens.


Worldwide flu epidemic.

17 million acres of pine or lost to wildfires. In some places, sugarcane replaced pine.

Map, Apalachicola Bay
Map of Apalachicola Bay and surrounding land, ca. 1921. Courtesy Florida Photographic Archives.

First bridge over the Apalachicola completed.

William Popham plants 100,000 barrels of live oysters and shells. He borrows effectively from the ancient Japanese practice of binding scrub oak branches with wire and anchoring them at intervals to the bay bottom. Popham often said, “The best investment on earth is the earth itself.” He later ended up in prison for not paying income taxes and for fraudulent use of the mails in advertising St. George Island.


Dedication of Victory Bridge, Chattahoochee.

Opening of Popham’s oyster packing factory.


Sisters Annie Gibson Hayes and Mary Ellen “Sunshine” Gibson bought the Franklin Hotel and changed the name to the Gibson Inn.


Gulf County established from a portion of Calhoun County.


Neals Landing
Neals Landing. Photo courtesy Florida Photographic Archives.
Drought, water is so low that you can wade the river at Blountstown.




Invention of outboard motors.

Slash Pine
Slash pine established January 12, 1930. Photo taken 1938; courtesy Florida Photographic Archives.
Faster growing slash pine planted on land previously in longleaf pine or on drained wetlands.


Oyster season is one of the worst on record.


Gulf Intracoastal Waterway extended from Pensacola to Carrabelle


Clifford C. Land founds his turpentine operation in Tates Hell, starting at High Bluff and moving to Greenpoint 2 years later. At High Point a commissary, an office and shanties for the workers were built.


The newly constructed John Gorrie Bridge connects Apalachicola to Eastpoint and points beyond.

Photo courtesy Florida Photographic Archives.

Bridge over the Apalachicola linking Bristol and Blountstown.


The steamer George W. Miller makes three trips a month to Columbus, Georgia, carrying freight and passengers from Apalachicola.


Crabmeat factory established in Apalachicola. Seafood industry breaks record with 112,089 pounds of seafood and 51,700 gallons of oysters.


Florida torreya is the most conspicuous tree in the ravines

1940s and 1950s

Chattahoochee is the second busiest rail freight port in the state next to Jacksonville.

Photo courtesy Florida Photographic Archives.

The U.S. Army establishes Camp Gordon Johnston at Carrabelle. Invasion training occurs on Carrabelle Beach. Lanark Village and St George Island are taken over by the army.

According to William Rogers and Lee Willis III in At the Water’s Edge, servicemen sent to Camp Gordon Johnston call it Hell by the Sea and Alcatraz of the Army with its “fetid, lousy mud flats by the Alligator Sea.”

Ultimately the camp sprawled 20 miles along the coast between St George Island, Carrabelle, and Alligator Point. The military presence put seafood industry on hold as fishing boats were restricted to operating during daylight hours in designated areas. The oyster industry was hurt by lack of labor.


German U-boat torpedoes and sinks the British ship Empire Mica British off Cape San Blas. The Coast Guard vessel Sea Dream and another vessel the Countess rescued 14 British soldiers.


Congress passes the River and Harbor Act authorizing the Corps of Engineers to maintain a 100-foot wide, 9-foot deep channel form Apalachicola to Columbus Georgia.


Construction begins on the Jim Woodruff Lock and Dam in the Apalachicola River to facilitate maintenance of the barge canal.

Edward Mueller writes in Perilous Journey: “The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was striving to improve the river, but many veteran river folk believed their efforts were a waste of time…the river was continually cutting new paths and did as it wished and many of the manmade efforts were futile.”

Entrepreneurs envision the Chattahoochee and Apalachicola as crowded with barges and tugs and lined with manufacturing complexes and thriving inland ports. Locks and dams, it was thought, were the key to bringing wealth and prosperity to the river.

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1950s and 1960s

Logging of Tupelo


The last big sawmill in Apalachicola closed.


End of paddlewheelers when the excursion steamer George W. Miller was removed from the river.

Dorothy Rose Matthews, Pat Baxter, and Ruth Hall, St. George Island, 1952. Photo courtesy Florida Photographic Archives.

St. George Island Gulf Beaches Inc plats the island into units and begins selling lots.


Aerial photos show the first large ditches to drain Tate’s Hell Swamp.


Car and passenger ferry service begins from Catpoint to Eastpoint to East Hole on St. George and from Carrabelle to Dog Island


Jim Woodruff Lock and Dam on the Apalachicola becomes fully operational.
Sikes Cut permanently separates St. George and Little St. George islands.


Jim Barkuloo begins research on striped bass. The creeks are in their natural state and you can usually run your boat up into the mouth of the creeks.

Harbor Day in Apalachicola hosts prominent guests from throughout the basin. Jimmie J. Nichols, mayor of Apalachicola, gives Atlanta’s mayor William Hartsfield a 1,000 pound anchor and a plaque reading “The Port of Apalachicola salutes the Port of Atlanta”


Florida Water Resources Act creates five water management districts


Army Corps of Engineers proposes spending $200 million to turn river into barge canal.


The State of Florida purchases 1,883 acres on the eastern tip of St. George Island through the Florida Environmental Land and Water Management Act.


The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers proposes to build a low level navigational dirt dam on the Apalachicola River between Bristol and Blountstown. The dam was never built because of strong opposition from Franklin County Commissioners, the Apalachicola Bay seafood industry, Floirda state officials, and conservationists statewide.


Conservation and Recreation Lands (CARL) trust fund established.


The Apalachicola National Estuarine Sanctuary created by the Office of Coastal Zone Management, a branch of NOAA.




Water Quality Assurance Act.


The governors of Alabama, Florida and Georgia and the Corps sign a memorandum of agreement to develop a water management plan for the ACF basin.


Warren S. Henderson Wetlands Protection Act.






Gibson Inn in Apalachicola reopens.




Old John Gorrie Bridge replaced.


Corps releases a proposal to reallocate water in Lake Lanier from hydropower to water supply for the Atlanta Metro Area.


The state of Alabama files a lawsuit against the Corps.


The governors of Alabama, Florida, and Georgia and Assistant Secretary of the Army sign a memorandum of agreement to work together to resolve water resource issues.


The state acquires the first portions of Tate’s Hell.


Tropical Storms Alberto and Beryl and Hurricane Opal flood Panhandle


Amendment three of the Florida Constitution, otherwise known as the net ban, is approved by voter referendum. The amendment bans all gill and entanglement nets from nearshore waters.


$20 million compensation program for those harmed by the net ban passed by the legislature.


The state of Florida establishes the Ecosystem Management and Restoration Trust Fund.


President Clinton signs the ACF basin compact into law.


ACF Compact extended.


ACF Compact extended.


Governor Jeb Bush and Florida cabinet vote unanimously for a resolution to end dredging on the Apalachicola River.


Compact terminated without agreement.


St. Joe Company proposes 7 new residential areas, 3 new commercial sites, and an industrial area in eastern Franklin County. At their SummerCamp site, the company plans to build 499 homes, stores, and an inn on 784 acres.

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This page was last modified on : 03/08/2005

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