No April Foolin': How Santa Rosa became a 'beach' town

Published: Monday, April 1, 2013 at 04:53 PM.

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. 

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