Ever hear of St Joseph Florida? Likely not. Long before Miami in the roaring 1920’s and Key West in the 1890’s or even Arcadia as a frontier town in the 1900’s, what is currently Gulf County produced the first real boom-town with Florida as a part of the United States.
As a US territory, Florida was open to settlement from 1821 onward for people from the surrounding states. But Florida’s climate and lack of infrastructure was prohibitive to any massive development until technological advances changed things years later. St Joseph’s Bay however saw an exception to this general rule with remarkable settlement on its shores beginning in 1835. By 1837 St Joseph was the largest town in the Florida Territory boasting according to some sources upwards of 6,000 residents. In 1838, the town hosted Florida’s first Constitutional Convention which was aimed at the looming prospect of statehood, which would come in 1845.
St Joseph was connected to the Apalachicola River by railroads which allowed goods to flow from the rest of the country.
Unfortunately, a yellow fever epidemic wiped out or forced relocation of much of the population in 1841 and the town was finally wiped off the map by a Hurricane in 1843- the same storm that destroyed Port Leon in modern day Wakulla County, leading the founding of Newport in its place.
St Joseph became a ghost town after 1843 but eventually Port St Joe was founded two miles from the abandoned site. Port St Joe in 2010 had less people than St Joseph did in 1837, which gives you a perspective as to how large the town was.