Creek Indian Village
Florida Photographic Collection
Creek Indian village on the Apalachicola River. Castelnau, Francis, comte de, 1812-1880

The Apalachicola region has been populated since the first Floridians arrived 12-14,000 years ago. Clam shell middens and sand burial mounds found along the Jackson River and associated creeks and swamps at Box-R are typical of the prehistoric sites found scattered throughout the lower Apalachicola River valley. Creek Indians from Georgia and Alabama began settling along the Apalachicola River in the early 1700s.

East of the Box-R property, the town of Apalachicola was incorporated in 1829. Within a decade, the Apalachicola River became a major shipment route for cotton grown on farms and plantations of south Georgia, Alabama and north Florida, establishing the town as the third largest port facility in the Gulf of Mexico. On St. Joseph Bay to the west of Box-R, the town of St Joseph was founded in 1835 by settlers from Apalachicola who hoped to divert shipping traffic from Apalachicola.

Apalachicola Northern Railroad depot
Florida Photographic Collection
Apalachicola Northern Railroad depot: Port Saint Joe, Florida

Box-R's northern boundary, the Jackson River, connected the Apalachicola River with Lake Wimico, a few miles to the west. St. Joseph residents had Lake Wimico dredged and linked to the Jackson and Apalachicola rivers via a channel and built an eight-mile steam operated railroad from the lake to the town of St. Joseph. On the political landscape, the town was the site of Florida's constitutional convention from December 1838 to January 1839, when the constitution was signed. Despite these successes, St. Joseph failed to prosper and its population dwindled after a yellow fever outbreak in 1841 and a destructive hurricane in 1844.

By the 1850s, the lumbering industry in north Florida was becoming well-established and many small family-owned sawmills sprang up along the Apalachicola River. Logging continued to dominate the local economy, peaking around the turn of the twentieth century. Millions of board feet of longleaf pine and cypress passed through the port of Apalachicola. Pines were also sought for their sap, which was distilled into turpentine and rosin and known collectively as naval stores. By the early 1900s, few patches of unlogged forest remained in the Panhandle. Apalachicola turned its attention to the bay and the famous Apalachicola oyster industry began in the later part of the 19th century.

Cypress lumber yard
Florida Photographic Collection
Cypress lumber yard: Apalachicola, Florida

In 1909, Port St. Joe was founded near the former location of St. Joseph. That same year, the Apalachicola and Northern Railroad built sixteen miles of track connecting the new settlement with Apalachicola. From Apalachicola, the track extended north to Chattahoochee. In 1910, the first passengers made the 50-minute trip between Port St. Joe and Apalachicola, crossing a portion of the present day Box-R WMA. Regular passenger service ended in 1951, but freight hauling continues today. The Intracoastal Waterway route through Lake Wimico and the Jackson River opened in 1930 and connected Destin and Apalachicola.

In the late 1920s, Edward Ball and Alfred DuPont began buying large tracts of land for timbering with funds they had earned by investing in failed banks during the Depression. The pair purchased the entire town of Port St. Joe including the railroad. The town became the headquarters for the DuPont enterprises. The St. Joe Paper Company was formed in 1936 and a paper mill built in Port St. Joe began operations in 1938. The mill employed hundreds of workers until it was sold and shut down in 1999.

FWC Facts:
The Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival has an annual economic impact of $557,500 to $562,500 for Brevard County.

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