Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Hogtown Bayou

Friday afternoon the Island King needed to drive out into South Walton County to deliver some photos to a client.

The boys and I were finished with school and the Island Girl was off an academic team trip so I decided it would be fun for us to do some exploring.

We ended up in a little area known as Hogtown Bayou.




In the very early 1900s a developer from Chicago named Charles E. Cessna discovered the natural beauty of the area. In case you're curious, Charles is not the Cessna airplane guy - that's Clyde Vernon Cessna.

The few locals who lived in the area had long since named it Hogtown Bayou, mainly because of the multitude of wild hogs roaming the woods.

Cessna bought the land and renamed the area Santa Rosa. He formed the Santa Rosa Plantation Company, advertised well and sold quite a bit of land.

It wasn't long before the community of Santa Rosa began to thrive. Homes, a church, a school and several businesses were built.

Timber was milled and turpentine farms ran plentiful.

As idyllic as it sounds, Santa Rosa living was hard. It's Florida which means it's hot and humid, mosquitoes are the size of cars, hogs and deer raided vegetable gardens and all of the old timers say rattlesnakes were everywhere.

And it was completely isolated. Destin was 20 miles to the west and the trip was made by horse or wagon along a sandy road. Our 20 minute drive took most of the day back then.

Mail and supplies were brought by boat from Freeport across the Bay to the north. Boats came from Pensacola and tourists enjoyed the Santa Rosa Hotel.

Despite all of this there were about 1,200 residents by 1910. They loved the area and seemed quite happy there.

But not long after 1910 much of the land had been logged and a few of the turpentine farms quite producing. In a community effort to continue to thrive an idea was formed to grow citrus trees.

Trees were imported and the logged land was turned into citrus groves.

Life went on until the winter of 1915 when disaster struck.

The citrus trees developed canker and were ordered to be burned by the Dept of Agriculture.

The timber was gone, the turpentine dry and there was no citrus. It was over for most of the Santa Rosa residents and within a short time they were gone.

But the land was fertile and a few stayed, grew their own food and survived.

It's interesting to ride down some of the roads now and see an old homestead off the road through the trees.

At some point the area resumed it's Hogtown Bayou name and thankfully hasn't seen much development.

It doesn't hurt that a lot of the area is surrounded by Point Washington State Forest and will always stay a little on the old Florida side.

The road running down into Hogtown Bayou ends, abruptly. The road just turns into a boat ramp - with very little warning. There is a sign about 5 feet from where the road ends and the ramp begins but if you were traveling at a high rate of speed you'd find yourself way out in Choctawhatchee Bay long before the words on the sign registered in your brain.



We got down to the water and then drove along a dirt trail next to the Bay. It is so beautiful out there.



There was a huge full moon out over the Bay



And I love the tall pines along the water's edge, mixed with the exposed roots and remnants from trees who have given way to the Bay.



The boys loved crawling across them.



It was a relaxing way to spend an early Friday evening and I have to say that I'd love to be able to travel back to old Santa Rosa for a day or so.

Hard as it was I'll bet they loved it.
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