The following is an excerpt from the Feb. 14, 1890 edition of the Pensacola Daily News. You might call it a love letter to Franklin County. Over the next five weeks, Chasing Shadows will publish this piece in its entirety. Thanks to Mark Curenton Apalachicola’s premiere local historian, for unearthing this gem.
We begin with early shipping history and a description of the lumber mills that dominated the economy in the late 1800s. Our Chasing Shadows question this week: When did the Cypress Lumber Company close its door? If you know, please contact the Times at 653-8868 or Lois Swoboda at email@example.com.
A TALE OF TWO CITIES.
Lovely, Prosperous, Thriving Apalachicola.
ITS BIRTH, GROWTH, FALL AND RISE.
From Poverty to Affluence. From Wealth to Indigence, From Penury to Prosperity, the Place has Run the Gamut.
ITS PEOPLE AND THEIR BUSINESS.
The Story of Carrabelle Briefly Related, Etc., Etc., Etc.
Franklin County has an area of 690 square miles. It is located on both sides of the lower part of Apalachicola River, and embraces the bay by that name, into which that stream flows. It’s capital, located on the west side of the river at its mouth, is Apalachicola, a city of 3,500 inhabitants.
This point was settled by Indian traders, agents of the house of Forbes & Co., of New York, who carried on a vast trade with the United States government. The land was purchased from the Indians in 1804 and a few years later from the Spaniards. The firm of Forbes & Co. owned all of what is now Franklin County. Apalachicola was continued as a trading point until about 1820, when the territory was purchased by the United States government.
Forbes & Co. sold their possessions to Mitchell, Innearity and others, who organized the Apalachicola Land Company. These people were largely interested in lands in other portions of Western Florida. They continued the trading business inaugurated by Forbes & Co., and the settlement grew rapidly. About 1830 the town of Apalachicola was laid out. The plan was destroyed and reformed in 1833, and again, on a larger scale, in 1835. The last change is the place upon which the city is now built.
The company, having possession of the land, encouraged by every legitimate means the coming of capitalists from the East to locate at Apalachicola. That city, then a mere village, promised to attain to rare commercial value, a promise that was afterwards fulfilled. Before the late war Apalachicola was the third cotton port in the South, ranking only after Savannah and New Orleans. Large brick warehouses for cotton storing and compresses were constructed, and a magnificent levee was built for the accommodation of cargoes of cotton which came down the river from numerous steamboats employed in the trade. Nearly all of Alabama and West Georgia contributed the staple of this vast commerce. The shipments were exclusively exports, and Apalachicola was known in all the extensive markets of the foreign world. By the coming of war all business was suspended and commerce was temporarily destroyed.
There were no engagements of a sanguinary nature at Apalachicola, but the port was blockaded by Federal gun-boats, and all sources of supplies were thus cut off, except as the blockade might be run by daring spirits, and the latter were not wanting in those days.
The Federals alternated with the Confederate troops in the possession of the town for a couple of years, after which the former had full control.
During the war, by various acts of vandalism, many fine buildings were destroyed. At the end of the war Apalachicola had only its prestige left; it was a veritable wreck and little resembled its former self. The former business people had left it having lost their fortunes through stress of circumstances engendered by the struggle. But few of them ever returned, but the cotton business was revived by men of eastern cities, who had no interest in the place beyond what the utilization of its advantage netted them. A very large business was carried on in 1865-6-7 by these non-residents. The harbor was again filled with shipping and the rivers were alive with many boats. The wharves and warehouses were again stored with cotton and compresses were humming night and day.
Commencing with 1868, the business began to decline, but this fact was owing to the construction of new railroads east and west, through the interior of Georgia, giving the staple of that state better facilities for export on the Atlantic coast, the cotton of Alabama then going mainly to New Orleans, partly through the port of Mobile. The non-resident merchants of Apalachicola pulled stakes and departed for new fields, leaving Apalachicola practically to oblivion for a number of years.
It was about the year 1875, when Apalachicola’s decreasing business tide reached its lowest ebb. The tide then began to turn, and a steady growth, commencing with 1876 and continuing until the present day, has given the city a foremost place in the world of finance and commerce, and promising it a prominence surpassing that which characterized it before the war.
The rehabilitation of Apalachicola is due to the development of vast material resources, of which the timber interest constitutes the principal part. The first saw mill was built in 1867. In another year an additional mill was erected just above the town, and in 1869 another was erected in the corporate limits.
These mills were not managed by that spirit which characterizes the lumber manufacturers of Florida to-day. Hence they were not very successful. In 1871 another mill was built by a Philadelphia firm and in 1872 another mill was erected. In the succeeding year, owing to general depression of business throughout the entire country, the milling business was virtually suspended. In 1876, as related, the tide again turned and all the mills were shortly put in operation. Since that time several others have been added to the list of these mentioned, all of which are now in the hands of experienced men, who are pushing the business for every cent that may be gotten out of it. Lumber manufacturing is the principal industry of the place, and the business is being expanded to dimensions which may be imagined, when it is known that from it along the city receives the benefit of an annual expenditure of $1,500,000.
Among the more prominent of those engaged in the manufacture of lumber at Apalachicola is:
The Cypress Lumber Company
Whose facilities for obtaining supplies and for manufacturing, are unsurpassed in the state. This company was incorporated under the laws of the State of New York, with a capital stock of $100,000. A. Stearns, of Boston, is President, Frederick C. Moseley, also of that city, is Secretary and Treasurer, and Frederick M. Stearns, of Apalachicola, is Vice President and General Manager. The mill has a cutting capacity of 75,000 feet per day, and attached to it is a shingle mill, capable of turning out 50,000 shingles per day. They employ 125 men. Their plant covers about 40 acres of ground. In connection with the saw and shingle mill, a large planer and moulding mill are run. The company own the Lottie, a handsome steamer of 50 tons, which does their towing.
Among the other accessories is an elevated railway 2,000 feet in length. The mill is 150 feet in width by 225 in length. Nine boilers, with a total horse-power of 1,350, are in constant operation.
The machinery is driven by two powerful engines of the most approved make. The planing mill and the fully equipped machines are run by separate engines.
The workingmen are organized into a fire company, using, in case of need, an admirable system of hydrants. The Cypress Lumber Company is said to have the best boom in the South, being capable of accommodating 150,000 logs. Their payroll will average $4,000 per month.
A. T. Stearns, senior member of the firm, is the oldest lumber merchant in Boston, being a member of the A. T. Stearns Lumber Company of that city. The company owns about 20,000 acres of finely timbered lands, located on the Chipola, Flint, Chattahoochee, Apalachicola, Carrabelle and Ochlocknee Rivers. The price paid for logs is $4.50 to $5.50 per thousand, and the lumber is sold at from $14 to $20 per thousand feet.
The Kimball Lumber Company
The Kimball Lumber Company operates a gang and circular saw and they manufacture yellow pine, cypress lumber and shingles. The capacity of their mill is one million board feet of lumber per month, running ten hours per day. They employ one hundred men and have a pay-roll of $4,650.00 per month. The capital stock of the concern, all paid in, is $100,000.00. The company has a frontage on Apalachicola River of 1,467 feet and lease 1,180 feet more.
They manufacture fifty thousand to sixty thousand shingles per day. They have now in contemplation the idea of increasing their capacity to further extent. Mr. S.N. Kimball is President, and Henry Hall, Jr., of Mobile, Ala., is Secretary. The directors are: S. N. Kimball, Henry Hall, Jr., E. E. Sanders of Pensacola, J. H. Cross, of Westerly, R. I., and C. R. Kimball of Apalachicola. The firm began its existence in 188 and is supplied with every requisite for conducting the business, being possessed, among other things, of two fine tugs, the “Hudson Pet” and “C. Amelia,” towing being a considerable factor in the conduct of a milling business at that point.
D. M. Munroe & Co.
This firm, constituted by D. M. Munroe and J. V. Pereira, have a mill with cutting capacity of forty-five to fifty thousand feet per day. They employ sixty men and own the tug “Constance.” One hundred acres of land is covered by their plant and it is valued at $75,000. The ramification of their trade embraces many ports in Europe, Central and South America. They get their timber from the Flint, Chipola and Chattahoochee Rivers. A. D. Munroe is Manager and Superintendent.
The Kennedy Lumber Co.
The Kennedy Lumber Company’s mill cuts twenty-five to forty thousand feet per day. They saw both cypress and pine. Their capital stock is $50,000 and they employee fifty-five men. They own the “M. Brash,” a handsome little steam tug, and are located directly on the Apalachicola River. Peter T. Kennedy, of Bradford, Penn., is President, and Robert Morgan is Secretary and Treasurer.
The Florida Shingle Mill
This factory has a prominent site on the riverfront, and Mr. J. G. Friend, of Mobile, is its President. Its capital stock is $50,000. The plant is worth $30,000. It turns out 150,000 shingles per day. Forty men are employed with a payroll of $300 per week.