Santa Rosa — she holds the secrets of the history of South Walton

Santa Rosa

This picture is of the old Santa Rosa Beach Post Office, circa 1959. It was located at the corner of U.S. Highway 98E and County Road 393S, where Hancock Bank is now.

Special to The Sun
Published: Friday, June 27, 2014 at 12:18 PM.

While many come to visit our white-sand beaches every week, most give no thought to the area's history or past.

Before there was a 30A drawing folks from near and far, people came here long ago for a different reason — agriculture.

Around 1909 a man by the name of Charles Cessna of Chicago came here on his honeymoon and purchased a tract of land along the bay in what is now South Walton. He named it Santa Rosa Plantation for the bayou there, which was named by the Spanish. His idea was to develop it into a major agriculture town and grow sugar cane.

Cessna put his brother, Will, in charge and plats were laid out that stretched from Point Washington on the east to what is now Sandestin to the west, the Gulf of Mexico to the south, and the northern shores of the bay around Basin and Alaqua Bayous.

In 1910 Cessna's dream began to materialize. Stores, churches, warehouses, a post office, school, cannery, ice house, lumber mill, two turpentine stills, a sugarcane syrup factory, two hotels, ladies' social clubs, and other town developments were a reality.

Sugarcane grinders were set up where Sandestin is now and syrup that wasn't consumed here was shipped to Pensacola .

Promises of the good life brought Swedes, Germans, Irish, Scots, and others by steamboat from Mobile and Pensacola . It was a period of big immigration from Europe . However, the people who were already here, the ones working in turpentine and timber (Crackers) did not always get along with the immigrants.

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