Panama City, Florida - Historic Sites & Points of Interest
Panama City Beach
The World's Most Beautiful Beaches are known as a
playground built on white sand, but the area also
has a fascinating and remarkable history.
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Civil War in Panama City
An number of skirmishes and
naval raids took place in the
Panama City area during the
War Between the States.
Pirates of the Gulf
Pirates and privateers once
sailed the waters that now
attract those in search of fun
and sun.
Panama City, Florida - Historic Sites & Points of Interest
St. Andrew Bay & the Beach
Copyright 2014 by Dale Cox
All rights reserved.

Last Updated: March 23, 2014
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History on the Florida Gulf Coast
St. Andrew Bay
A popular resort stood on the
shores of St. Andrew Bay
during the antebellum era. It
was burned by Union forces.
Civil War Salt Making
This kettle near the shores of
St. Andrew Bay survives from
a vast salt making operation
run there by Confederates in
1861-1865.
End of the Seminole War
The final recorded raid of the
Second Seminole War took
place in the Panama City area
of Northwest Florida.
The sugar white beaches of Panama City
and Northwest Florida are among the most
historic and most beautiful in the world.

The flags of six nations have flown over the
St. Andrew Bay and Panama City Beach area
of Florida. Pirates sailed the coastal waters
and Confederate and Union troops fought for
control of the shorelines.

Panama City and Panama City Beach are the
centerpieces of the World's Most Beautiful
Beaches. Resorts, hotels, restaurants and a
wide array of other attractions greet hundreds
of thousands of visitors each year.

While the condos and hotels of Panama City
Beach tower against the sky, history can be
found underfoot and around every corner.

Archaeologists have found Indian mounds,
shell middens and village sites all around
the shores of the bays that give Bay County
its name. Prehistoric hunters and gatherers
arrived in the Panama City area thousands of
years ago and eventually the
Weedon Island
(Woodland) and
Fort Walton (Mississippian)
cultures flourished there.

Spanish explorers sailed the coastline in the
early 1500s and St. Andrew Bay appeared on
maps not long after Juan Ponce de Leon
discovered Florida in 1513. There is no
evidence that Spain planted a permanent
settlement in the Panama City area, but they
did explore the coastal waters and build forts
just to the east near Port St. Joe and Mexico
Beach.

The French explored the area in the early
1700s before building Fort Creveceour
("Broken Heart") on St. Joseph Bay. They
stayed only a few months before leaving
under threat from Spain, but the attempt to
settle the Florida Panhandle briefly marked
the eastern limits of French Louisiana.

There is disputed evidence that the British
planted a settlement named Wells on St.
Andrew Bay after they gained control of
Florida from the Spanish in 1763. The King of
Spain had sided with France in the French &
Indian War (also called the Seven Years War)
and lost his Florida colony as a result.

18th century maps of the Panama City area
show a symbol marked "Wells" on the site of
today's Naval Surface Warfare Center. With
deepwater access to the Gulf of Mexico, it
was an ideal place for a settlement.

Some scholars have suggested that Wells
was not really an English settlement, but
instead was noted on their maps as a site of
freshwater wells. Others, however, believe
that it was a settlement and point to the
presence of non-native ornamental plants
such as rosemary. The settlement was
abandoned when Florida returned to Spain in
1783 at the end of the American Revolution.

One thing is certain, pirates prowled the
coastal waters around Panama City during
the 18th and 19th centuries. The best known
of these adventurers was William Augustus
Bowles, who is remembered in nearby Fort
Walton Beach as the "Pirate Billy Bowlegs."

Bowles operated a flotilla of pirate ships from
the lower Apalachicola River and they used
the bays of the Florida Panhandle as hiding
places while they watched for vulnerable
merchant vessels. When a likely target was
spotted, they sailed out from the passes to
raid and attack.
Bowles eventually died in a Cuban prison
and his pirate ships sailed away or were
captured. The legends of his reign still linger,
though, and tales of buried treasure abound.

U.S. troops searched today's Panama City
area for refugee Creek and Seminole Indians
in 1818. Raids were launched into the area
during the closing days of the First Seminole
War as part of the Army's "mopping up"
operations.

The first American settlers arrived not long
after the end of the First Seminole War. A
store or trading post was built on North Bay
at the mouth of Econfina Creek (now a noted
paddling stream). The establishment of the
village of St. Andrews followed and by the
time of the War Between the States (or Civil
War) a peaceful resort community stood on
the bluff along today's Beach Drive near
downtown Panama City.

Fighting took place in the area during the
Civil War and the Union Navy shelled St.
Andrews. The village was burned to the
ground.

Despite the presence of Union warships
offshore and repeated raids fro them, the
Confederates built vast saltworks along the
shores of St. Andrew, West and North Bays.
Hundreds of tons of salt from the area
helped preserve meat for Southern troops.

Please click here to read more about the
Civil War in the Panama City area.

The 20th century brought dramatic change to
Panama City and the beaches. Tourism
surged and the economy boomed. The sugar
white sand beaches have been rated as
some of the best in the world.

Please click here to learn more about visiting
Panama City and the World's Most Beautiful
Beaches.

Learn more about the area's history here: