Port St. Joe, Florida Historic Sites & Points of Interest
|Port St. Joe, Florida
Located on beautiful St. Joseph Bay, the historic
city of Port St. Joe is an emerging destination for
tourists on the Gulf Coast of Florida.
Port St. Joe, Florida
Gateway to the stunning beaches
of Cape San Blas and the St.
Joseph Peninsula, Port St. Joe is
rich in Florida history.
Ghost City of the Gulf Coast
Crypts and tombstones are all that
remain of the great Florida ghost
town of St. Joseph. Fevers and
storms wiped it away.
PORT ST. JOE, FLORIDA
Historic Sites & Points of Interest
Gateway to Cape San Blas
|Copyright 2014 by Dale Cox
All rights reserved.
Last Updated: June 4, 2014
Northwest Florida Coast
The constitutional convention that
gave Florida its first Constitution
was held in the lost city of St.
Port St. Joe is a charming resort community
between Apalachicola and Panama City on
the Gulf Coast of Florida. It is the gateway to
the stunning beaches of Cape San Blas and
the St. Joseph Peninsula.
Built in the 20th century on the site of the lost
city of St. Joseph, Port St. Joe has a rich and
colorful history. Spanish and French soldiers
and explorers first settled these shores and
the St. Joseph Bay area is alive with tales of
tidal waves, yellow fever epidemics an the
War Between the States (or Civil War).
Prior to its transfer from Spain to the United
States in 1821, Florida was contested by
three major European nations: Spain, France
and Great Britain.
Spain built a fort on the tip of the St. Joseph
Peninsula in 1699, but held it for only a brief
time. France followed in 1717 when an
expedition reached St. Joseph Bay in a bold
attempt to extend French Louisiana into
The French outpost was named Fort
Creveceour ("Broken Heart" and stood on the
north shore of the bay. The outpost was build
of logs and earth and was a rectangular fort
with bastions on each corner. It stood just far
enough inland to be hidden from the view of
ships in the bay.
Spain immediately objected to the French
presence and they decided to evacuate
rather than risk conflict over the outpost. The
wooden parts of Fort Creveceour were
burned and France ended its claim to St.
A historic marker interpreting the history of
the French settlement can be found at Mexico
Beach and there is an exhibit on the fort at
the Constitutional Convention State Museum
in Port St. Joe.
Spain reoccupied the bay and planted a new
settlement on the Fort Creveceour site. A
small colony struggled to survive in the sandy
soil until the 1720s when it was evacuated
and materials from the fort used to build the
Spanish Presidio Santa Rosa at Pensacola
St. Joseph Bay played a little known role in
the War of 1812. The British Royal Marines
built a fort at Prospect Bluff on the lower
Apalachicola River in 1814, but the Royal
Navy had difficulty in getting supplies over the
bar at the entrance to Apalachicola Bay.
They moved their ships around to St. Joseph
Bay and met with success by portaging the
supplies over the narrow isthmus connecting
Cape San Blas to the mainland. From this
"haulover" as it was named on early maps,
the British used small boats and schooners
to move the cargo across Apalachicola Bay
and up to the British Post.
It was the "lost city" of St. Joseph, however,
that gave St. Joseph Bay its 19th century
fame. The city emerged as an important port
after nearby Apalchicola found itself
embroiled in the legal controversy over the
land claims of Forbes company. Rather than
risk total loss, some of Apalachicola's early
investors shifted to nearby St. Joseph Bay.
St. Joseph was founded by a handful of
settlers in 1835. Within three years its
population soared to more than 12,000,
making it the largest city in all of Florida.
Described by those who saw it as a beautiful
and well-planned city, St. Joseph attracted
investment from some of Florida's most
wealthy residents. The Territory's first railroad
connected it first to Lake Wimico and later to
Iola on the Apalachicola River, providing a
way for steamboat captains to avoid the long
journey all the way down to Apalachicola and
a means for moving cargoes of cotton
overland to the new port at St. Joseph.
Florida's Constitutional Convention met at St.
Joseph instead of Tallahassee in 1838. The
delegates drafted Florida's first constitution
there, clearing the way for the Territory to
become the 27th state.
Disaster, however, struck the new city. St.
Joseph simply could not compete with
Apalachicola on a commercial level and the
city's population dropped from 12,000 to
6,000 almost as quickly as it had grown.
The city rebranded itself as a health summer
resort, but that project died in the deadly
summer of 1841. Yellow fever ravaged the
community and by 1842 only 400 inhabitants
remained. Homes were moved by barge to
Apalachicola or raided for windows, shutters
The final blow came in September 1844
when a hurricane struck St. Joseph and
destroyed much of what remained. Soon the
great city on the bay was gone and all that
remains today are its historic cemetery and
the legends it spawned.
Stories of the yellow fever epidemic and
"Great Tide" that struck the city in 1844 are
embedded in the folklore of Northwest
Florida. Legend holds, in fact, that the old city
was so wicked that God sent a plague of
fever and then used a tidal wave to wash
away its sins.
The story of the lost city and the drafting of
Florida's first constitution can be explored at
Constitution Convention Museum Historic
St. Joseph Bay was the scene of some
activity during the War Between the States (or
Civil War). Confederates boiled salt on the
shores of the bay, only to be chased away
time after time by the Union Navy.
The charming coastal city of Port St. Joe now
stands on the site of old St. Joseph. It is the
gateway to beautiful Cape San Blas and
some of the most spectacular and best
preserved beaches in Florida.
T.H. Stone Memorial St. Joseph Peninsula
State Park across the bay from Port St. Joe is
one of Florida's most impressive state parks,
featuring white sand beaches, dunes, picnic
areas, hiking trails, cabins and more. Other
things to do include the Old St. Joseph
Cemetery, St. Vincent National Wildlife
Refuge, Constitutional Convention Museum,
great places to eat, accommodations, stops
on the Great Florida Birding Trail and more.
Please click here to learn more about visiting
Port St. Joe and Gulf County, Florida.
Cape San Blas Lighthouse
Built in 1884-1885, the historic
lighthouse is the fourth such
structure to stand on the "elbow"
of Florida's Cape San Blas.
St. Vincent Island
The national wildlife refuge is on
a beautiful coastal island just
across Indian Pass from Cape
San Blas. It is accessible by ferry.