The following article, from the Saturday, March 23, 1912 edition of The Apalachicola Times, was headlined "31 Years ago in Apalachicola." It was brought to our attention by local historian Marck Curenton.
The 28th of next month – 31 years ago – the editor of this newspaper issued his first newspaper in Apalachicola. During this period the editor has seen many changes in Apalachicola, and many of these are passing in review as he writes this article.
Thirty-one years ago there were fewer than 1,000 residents in Apalachicola, this population being supported by one saw mill – that of Coombs & Emlen – and a very limited sponge, fish and oyster trade, the latter dependent for existence on a bad and uncertain schedule of two steamers per week – sometimes one and often none – to transport the oysters, fish and sponge catch to the markets above us.
“Coonskin” – as the boys called it – was good for grits and grease at the Company’s store. Also for a “water-million” if Peter Sodaberg’s patch in East Bay was not ruined by the droughts or the rains. Josh M. also dispensed oysters in a building where now stands the Express office at 10 cents a quart silver or 15c “Coonskin.” Josh did a thriving business in Coonskin, but when he wanted to pay off Will Duffy and Billie Cullen in Coonskin for four loads of oysters at 50c per barrel in the skin, they struck and threatened to employ Judge Pickett as attorney to bring suit for damages.
To add to the perplexities of the occasion Pat Nedley swore he’d quit shucking ‘em without he could have a look in on a few silver dimes. He didn’t like Coonskin nohow, and Pat Lovett had offered him a job on the police force at $40.00 per month in city scrip, and city scrip was better than Coonskin anyhow. Besides, there was a chance to get an extra $10 a month if you were swift enough to catch the boys when they fired up on Old Pike.
But things were cheap then compared to present day prices. Six whopping big mullet for a dime silver, or five of 'em for a dime in Coonskin. Oysters at 10c a quart or 50c a barrel!
One day Charley Crowson went up to Turtle Harbor for a day’s hunt. His gun was – as Bill Knickmyer would express it – a sand pounder, (I don’t believe there was a breech-loader in the town.) When Crowson returned from Turtle Harbor his boat was literally loaded with “Pulldews.” Forty of ‘em had been killed by Crowson at one shot. The birds brought 5c a piece in the market, and the town feasted on Pulldews for two or three days, or until Frank Cross came back from St. George Island in Mrs. Robinson’s little schooner. Frank had a cargo of young cranes that he had caught on the Island. There were several hundred in the hold of the schooner. Frank sold 'm like hot cakes, and the townfolks feasted on broiled crane, and stewed crane and baked crane for almost a week.
In 1882 the Brash saw mill was running. And in 1883 the old Pennsylvania Tie Co’s mill had passed into the hands of a new concern, Mr. Naylor being sent here to repair the mill and adjust it for cutting pine and cypress logs. Later Mr. Naylor gave place to Mr. Ben F. Howland, the latter being sent here by the new owners – The Cypress Lumber Co., of Boston, Mass. In those days the river swamps were filled with cypress trees. Timber was cheap and labor was correspondingly so. The cypress logger who made a contract with the Cypress Lumber Co. at $4.50 per m. for logs at once became a bloated bondholder and held front rank with the elect. And the citizen who secured a job with the Cypress Lumber Co., where they paid the men in real money was dined and feted. And he had the swell head so badly that he thought on occasion he was as big a man as Mr. Pat Lovett, the town marshal, and refused to behave himself when Mr. Lovett told him to shut his mouth and go home and sober up.
In those days William Henry Hall was the chief “bob-cock” at the Coombs & Emlen mill. William Henry was called somewhat of a dude in those days, and he didn’t care for expenses either. Beginning the day’s labor just as the last crow of the cock was heard and winding up when it was too dark to distinguish the color of the foreman’s new paper collar. Those pine logs that sold on the open market as low as $2 per m., were cut in a hurry and pushed up on the drying pile so quick that it would almost take one’s breath away to think about it. And after the day’s labor was done, William Henry went to his boarning [sic] house, ate his supper, put on a collar, and tuning up his fiddle he hied away to the dance where he played “Old Aunt Sookey” until the lusty crow of the rooster gave warning that it was almost time to blow the first whistle at the mill.
Time has wrought many changes. The old Apalachicola has passed away with regrets from some and gladness for others. But the saddest part is the passing of the old familiar faces that held sway in this city by the sea. There are but few of us whose hearts have not been seared by the loss of dear ones, and soon we are to follow.