Friday, July 18, 2008
Civil War in Panama City - Part One
During the decades before the Civil War, the bayfront community of St. Andrew developed along the low bluff at this site. The area can now be seen along Beach Drive just west of Harrison Avenue in Panama City.
Much as Panama City Beach is today, St. Andrew was an important resort area for the residents of the interior counties of Northwest Florida, Southwest Georgia and Southeast Alabama. People came down to the bay to fish, swim and enjoy cool Gulf breezes. Unlike the modern visitors of today that prefer the white sand beaches directly on the Gulf of Mexico, antebellum tourists preferred the bayfront setting because it was a much cooler environment.
Although there were permanent residents of the community, it was primarily geared around "part-time" residents that came down from the plantations and communities of the interior to escape the intense heat and humidity of summer in the Deep South.
In addition to the resort area, St. Andrew Bay was also known as a fine fishery during the years before the Civil War. Small fishing boats worked on the waters of the area bringing in catches that were smoked for delivery into the interior or shipment out to larger ports. The bay area was also the site of a large sawmill operation and functioned as a minor port for commerce coming down by barge and poleboat from the farms in the Econfina settlements.
The entire area was then part of Washington County, as modern Bay County was not created for many years after the Civil War.
Our series on the Civil War in the Panama City area will continue.