On April 1, 1955, the town of Santa Rosa became known as Santa Rosa Beach. This story appeared on the front page in the Northwest Florida Daily News, then known as the Playground News.
Santa Rosa Once a Satsuma Center
By GEORGE ROBSON
It is fitting, that at this time I should make known that as of April 1, Santa Rosa became known as Santa Rosa Beach.
It's a long story how it came about and first of all would like to give you the story on Santa Rosa prior to the change of name and how it came to be named Santa Rosa and why.
First, let's look back into the history of what is now regarded as Santa Rosa: In 1492 when Columbus discovered the Americas, there were many expeditions of Spanish adventurers and proof of that is still evident today. Many pieces of pottery, armor and stone hammers have been found in the vicinity of Santa Rosa.
I have seen them during this past week and they are authentic and have been verified by no less person than John Hutchison of Panama City.
From stories handed down from old timers it seems also that Indians of various tribes frequented this area plus many freebooters and gentlemen of the high seas who made it their business to prey on the sea lanes.
Santa Rosa was their place of rest and a natural hideout. With the bay on one side and the gulf on the other side there was always an avenue of escape when a quick getaway was necessary.
Romance and adventure was aplenty in Santa Rosa but there were sad times, too, especially when Andrew Jackson came riding through this area rounding up the various bands of roving Indians for transportation to the Oklahoma reservation. Just thinking of Santa Rosa of those days must stir the imagination of any red blooded man, woman or youth.
From the resettlement of the Indians until the latter part of the 18th Century, Santa Rosa was known as Hogtown. It was called by that name because of the many people within a radius of 50 miles who used the area as a hog breeding ground. With hogs were cattle, but few settlers. It remained a free range for all kids of animals until two years ago when by an act of the Florida Legislature free range was abolished throughout the state.
Along about the beginning of 1900 settlers began coming to the Gulf Coast and also about that time there was much talk of a railroad, so much so that the U.S. government granted a right-of-way. If you'll recall that was the era of railroad-building all over the country, however, it never really got beyond the surveyors' drawing board. Why it was given up, I still cannot understand. The company formed to build a railroad did not make money-there is evidence of timber cut along the proposed line it was to take, but that is another story.
In 1905 or thereabouts, Charles Cessna had a dream, he dreamed of a town on the Choctawhatchee Bay and to that end he acquired hundreds of acres for a song by today's prices and started to promote the sale of homesteads and home sites, prices ranging from a few dollars to a few thousands depending on how many acres you wanted.
It was he who named the town Santa Rosa. The surveyor who platted the town of Santa Rosa was a Thomas Collins. Just a few years prior to that Santa Rosa was part of Washington County, and believe it or not, the county of Santa Rosa to the West of Highway 98 became a county just two years before Charles Cessna decided to name his development Santa Rosa.
It is not clear from my informants whether or not it was 1908 or 1910 that Cessna started his development. However, this much is common knowledge, the chief transportation to and from Santa Rosa was mules, horses and oxen.
As I asked questions around amongst those older residents as to the number and types of boats used, it appears that the Mississippi river or for that matter any other navigable waters had no monopoly on stern wheelers. Of course, there were the conventional screw type but the most interesting thing that I came up with was that we had a shipyard in Santa Rosa and one of the most attractive boats on the Pensacola run of those days was the SS Sarona.
Amongst those men who manned these ships were Capt. Jesse Sharon, now a Walton County commissioner. Other captains of yesteryears were Messers Tucker, Erickson, H. E. Houseman. Of these four, I believe at least two of them are still active and still retain their master's license.
Education was hard to come by in those days until Santa Rosa was annexed and made a part of Walton County, and Santa Rosa as a part of Walton got a school which was built in 1916. That same building still stands. It was about a year ago it was condemned as a school despite the fact that 76 pupils attended, but, from parents who have children of school age, they seem to be satisfied with the change to Point Washington, (they have to be) or else send their children outside the county and that is how the school situation stands at present.
Employment back in the days of the beginning of Santa Rosa was mainly poultry, eggs and of course fruit trees, that famous Satsuma orange that swept the country early in the century. The population grew to the great proportion of 1,500 families.
It kept growing until the so-called citrus blight started sweeping Florida, and to form a buffer against this disease, Santa Rosa was the site chosen. It was a sad day. Trees were uprooted and others were sprayed and destroyed. In all, it was a Donnybrook. The only trees that survived were those of Arthur Draper and Mrs. Mary Forrest of Mack Bayou. These individuals defied the destroyers and dared them to touch their trees.
Incidentally, I have tasted both the Forrest and Draper citrus fruit and I can assure you they are delicious. Incidentally also, Mr. Draper was born in London, England, and is 82 years young and still going strong.