The Making of Port St. Joe, Florida
The Making of Port St. Joe, Florida
1867 - James Bennett Stone purchased approximately 6,000 acres in Gulf County (still Calhoun County at that time) for $125.74. This land purchase included part of 7,000 acres that had belonged to the Lake Wimico & St. Joseph Railroad on the Bay of St. Joseph and the entire land area of the old city of St. Joseph. The present day city of Port St. Joe is now situated within the confines of this land.
1907 - Apalachicola & Northern Railroad proposed
Proposal was made to build a railroad across the lower part of Georgia and northern Florida. The Apalachicola & Northern Railroad would extend through Apalachicola and terminate at St. Joseph, with a total distance of 350 miles. The preparatory work for the sixteen-mile extension from Apalachicola to St. Joseph was begun in May of 1909. By December of that year the railroad was ready for cross ties and iron. Timbers had been cut and pilings were being driven for the thousand feet of slip wharves that would extend into the bay.
1909 - Port St. Joseph founded
Port St. Joseph was founded and a post office was established there. Terrill Higdon Stone was the first postmaster. On March 21 1910, by act of the State Legislature, the new town was renamed Port St. Joe in order to distinguish it from the former city of St. Joseph and avoid possible complications that might be incurred from the old tax deeds.
1910 - Apalachicola & Northern Railroad opens
On May 7th the first excursion and passenger train over the Apalachicola & Northern Railroad left Apalachicola at 8 am and arrived in St. Joe fifty minutes later. Arriving passengers were greeted with a picnic lunch at the beach provided by the ladies of the M.E. Church of Apalachicola as a fund raising event. The round trip fare was fifty cents.
1910 - Calhoun Timber Company comes to Port St. Joe
The Calhoun Timber Company began construction of a new mill in Port St. Joe and had vast holdings in the area. The mill continued operation until 1916 when it became the Florida Timber Products Company.
1911 - Battle over the division of Calhoun County begins
A Legislative battle for the division of Calhoun County began in March. The county was over eighty miles long and Blountstown, the county seat, was located fifty-one miles from St. Joe.
1912 - Port St. Joe experiences growth
Many new homes were being built and the first public school at Port St. Joe opened. The railroad docks were expanded, new companies were incorporated, and the population had grown to between 1200 and 1800 according to census records.
1913 - Incorporation of Port St. Joe
The city of Port St. Joe was incorporated on July 1st. Thomas J. Howard served as the first Mayor, but resigned before the end of the year. Terrill Higdon Stone then became mayor and served for several terms and promoted the city at every opportunity.
1922 - Constitutional Convention marker erected
A marker to commemorate the assembling of the First Constitutional Convention at St. Joseph was erected at the site of the former city. It was dedicated on January 11, 1923 in a huge celebration sponsored by the citizens of Apalachicola and Port St. Joe.
1925 - Gulf County founded
Terrill Higdon Stone was the outstanding spokesman for the division of Calhoun County. He was not only serving as Mayor, but was also on the Calhoun County Board of County Commissioners, serving his first term in 1918. His fifty-one mile journey to attend meetings in the county seat at Blountstown was a difficult one considering the roads and modes of travel in those days. After seven years of opposition by the residents in the northern portion of the county, Mr. Stone got his wish and Gulf County was founded on June 6, 1925. He served as one of Gulf County’s first Commissioners and later served the county in the State Legislature during the 1933-35 sessions.
1930 - Port St. Joe experiences hard times
The population of Port St. Joe had dwindled to 851 people. The forests had been turned into wastelands and the lumber mills were closed down after many years of cutting and re-cutting of the timberlands. With no payrolls, the effects of the 1929 bank failures and the national panic and depression sweeping the country, people began to move out of Port St. Joe to keep from starving to death.
1936 - Alfred DuPont brings his dream to North Florida and Port St. Joe
With his wealth and great vision, Alfred DuPont had a dream of rehabilitating the charred and cut-over lands of Northwest Florida and improving the economy of the area, with Port St. Joe being the planned center of activity. DuPont had purchased thousands of acres in Gulf County and several surrounding counties in the late 1920’s. Several years later a new papermaking process was invented by Dr. Charles H. Herty and caught the attention of Mr. DuPont. He began to see a future in the paper industry. He died on April 29, 1935, but his wife and brother-in-law, Edward Ball, followed through with his plan and on May 25, 1936 incorporation papers were filed for the St. Joe Paper Company to begin construction of a paper mill at Port St. Joe. Almours Securities, Inc., a subsidiary of the DuPont Companies that took over the St. Joseph Land and Development Company in 1934, organized the paper company. The company began formal operations on March 17, 1938.
St. Joseph, Florida
St. Joseph, Florida, was a boomtown that briefly became the largest community in Florida, before being destroyed only eight years after it was founded. St. Joseph was founded in 1835 on the shores of St. Joseph Bay, one of the finest natural harbors on the Gulf Coast of the United States. The town site is in Gulf County, Florida, near the city of Port St. Joe.
As no rivers flowed into St. Joseph Bay, two railroads were built connecting St. Joseph with the Apalachicola River in an attempt to siphon off some of the cotton and lumber being shipped down the river to the port of Apalachicola.
By 1837 St. Joseph had become the most populous place in the Territory of Florida, with approximately 6,000 inhabitants. In 1838 the town hosted the first Constitutional Convention for Florida, which drew up the constitution used when Florida became a state in 1845. Some have called St. Joseph "Constitution City" and even transferred the name to the new Port St. Joe.
In 1841 a ship brought yellow fever to St. Joseph. The disease killed many of the town's inhabitants, and caused the rest to flee. A hurricane in 1843 struck with a large storm surge, destroying the abandoned town. The area remained uninhabited for the rest of the 19th century. In the early 20th century Port St. Joe was founded about two miles north of the site of old St. Joseph.
The only remains of old St. Joseph are some tombstones in the Old St. Joseph, or 'Yellow Fever', Cemetery in present-day Port St. Joe.