History of Apalachicola, Florida

Apalachicola is one of the oldest towns in Florida. The town was first inhabited by Native-Americans before being settled by the Spanish in the early 1700s.

The following is a timeline of the history of Apalachicola:

2000 B.C.E.:

  • Paleoindians begin to inhabit the area.

Early 1500s:

  • Explorer Panfildo de Narvaez visits a location near present-day Apalachicola.


  • The Spanish build a military fort at the mouth of the Apalachicola River.


  • Florida is ceded to England and a British trading post called Cottonton is established at the mouth of the Apalachicola River.

1804 – 1811:

  • Panton, Leslie & Company makes a series of deals with the Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Cherokee tribes to purchase 1.4 million acres of land between the Apalachicola and Wakulla rivers to settle some debts.
  • Panton, Leslie & Company reorganizes as John Forbes and Company and the land purchase becomes known as the Forbes Purchase.


  • In December, John Forbes sells most of the land acquired in the Forbes Purchase to two merchants from Savannah and Cuba, Richard Carnochan and Colin Mitchel, for $66,666.
  • Carnochan and Mitchel later form the Apalachicola Land Company.

1818 – 1821:

  • The U.S. Army establishes a hospital camp in the area.
  • A customs office opens in the area.


  • The United States acquires Florida from the Spanish and the validity of the Forbes Purchase is challenged by the U.S. courts.
  • Congress authorizes the creation of a Board of Commissioners, for both East Florida and West Florida, to discuss the case.


  • The Board of Commissioners rules that the natives had no rights to the land they sold to the Forbes Company so they could not convey the land to the company.


  • The town is incorporated as West Point.
  • Colin Mitchel files suit with the Superior Court for the Middle District of Florida and argues that the natives did have the rights to the land they sold to the Forbes Company because they officially obtained them with the Treaty of 1784 and other treaties.


  • A post office is established in West Point.


  • West Point is renamed Apalachicola.
  • The Chestnut Street Cemetery is established on 6th Street.


  • The Cape St. George Lighthouse is built on St. George Island.
  • Dr. John Gorrie moves to Apalachicola.


  • Colin Mitchel’s suit makes it to the U.S. Supreme Court, in a case known as Mitchel v. United States, and the court decides in his favor.


  • The Mansion House Hotel is built on Market Street for Dr. John Gorrie.
  • The Apalachicola Land Company lays out the city’s grid plan.
  • Harrison and Raney build a cotton warehouse on Water Street.


  • Construction begins on the Trinity Episcopal Church on 6th Street.
  • Dr. John Gorrie is elected mayor of Apalachicola.


  • Construction is completed on the Trinity Episcopal Church on 6th Street.


  • The Raney House is built on Market Street for cotton commission merchant David Greenway Raney.
The Raney House, Apalachicola, Florida
The Raney House, Apalachicola, Florida
  • The Orman House is built on 5th Street for Thomas Orman.


  • The Trinity Episcopal Church is constructed on the corner of Avenue D and 6th Street.


  • The David G. Ranley House is constructed on the corner of Market Street and Avenue F.


  • A Yellow Fever epidemic breaks out in the city.


  • The Hansferd-Fry House, a Greek Revival-style house, is built on 5th Street.


  • The First United Methodist Church is built on 5th Street.


  • Dr. Alvan Wentworth Chapman, physician and internationally renowned botanist, moves to Apalachicola and builds a Greek Revival-style house on the West Corner of 6th St and Avenue E.


  • The Cape St. George Lighthouse is rebuilt on St. George Island.


  • On July 14, a Bastille Day dinner celebration is held at the Mansion House Hotel during which Dr. John Gorrie reveals his ice making machine invention.


  • On May 6, Dr. John Gorrie receives a patent for his ice making machine.
  • The Mansion House Hotel on Market Street burns down.


  • The Cape St. George Lighthouse is rebuilt on St. George Island.
Cape Saint George Lighthouse, St. George Island, Apalachicola, Florida
Cape Saint George Lighthouse, St. George Island, Apalachicola, Florida


  • On June 29, Dr. John Gorries dies in Apalachicola at the age of 52 and was buried in Magnolia Cemetery.


  • Early in the year, the state legislature abolishes the state militia and relocates Apalachicola’s cannons elsewhere, leaving Apalachicola defenseless.

1862 – 1865:

  • From March of 1862 to April of 1865, the city is evacuated by Confederate forces due to the ongoing American Civil War. Meanwhile, the Union navy sets up a blockade off the coast, cutting off all trade to and from the Port of Apalachicola.


  • In April, Union soldier David Bond escapes from Andersonville Prison in southern Georgia and flees to Apalachicola where local physician Dr. Alvan Wentworth Chapman, a Union sympathizer, offers him refuge in his home before bringing him on his boat to the Union blockade off shore.


  • The Franklin Guards, a local infantry company, build the city’s first armory on the corner of High Street and Center Avenue.


  • A monument for Dr. John Gorrie is erected by the Southern Ice Exchange in Gorrie Square.
  • On April 6, Dr. Alvan Chapman dies at the age of 89 and is buried in Chestnut Street Cemetery the following day.


  • On May 25, a fire breaks out in downtown Apalachicola and destroys around 70 buildings in the business district, including the armory and the First United Methodist Church.
  • The Fradozia Building is built on Market Street after the original building that stood on the spot was destroyed in the fire in May.


  • John H. Cook constructs two one-story wooden commercial buildings on the corner of Commerce Street and rents one out to a pool hall and the other to Cristo’s restaurant.
  • The Fort Coombs Armory is built on 4th street.
  • The First United Methodist Church is rebuilt on 5th street.


  • A steel water tower is built in the center of City Square.


  • The Franklin Hotel is built on Avenue C.
  • The People’s Ice and Cold Storage Company plant is established on the corner of Avenue G and Water Street by S. E. Rice, Jr.


  • John H. Cook hires his contractor George Marshall to move Cook’s two commercial buildings on Commerce Street to Avenue D.
  • John H. Cook builds the Cook Building, a two-story brick commercial building, on the corner of Commerce Street.


  • John H. Cook opens in the Cook Insurance Company in one of his commercial buildings on Avenue D.
  • The People’s Ice and Cold Storage Company plant closes.


  • The Dixie Theater is built on Avenue E.


  • Riverside Cafe is established on the corner of Avenue G and Water Street.


  • The Franklin Hotel is sold to the Gibson sisters, who change its name to the Gibson Inn.
  • A Post Office and Customs House building is constructed on Avenue D.


  • The U.S. Army begin using the Gibson Inn as an officer’s club and billets.


  • The John Gorrie Museum State Park is established and City Square is renamed Gorrie Square.
  • Gorrie’s remains are moved from Magnolia Cemetery to Gorrie Square.


  • The Gibson Inn is added to the National Register of Historic Places.
  • The 1906 steel water tower in Gorrie Square collapses during a hurricane.


  • The Hanserd-Fry House serves as the Apalachicola Museum of Art.


  • The Apalachicola Museum of Art moves to the Harrison-Raney Cotton Warehouse on Water Street.

“Florida’s Historical Markers Programs – Marker: Franklin.” Florida Department of State, apps.flheritage.com/markers/markers.cfm
“Harrison-Raney Cotton Warehouse.” HCA Apalachicola, apalachicolahca.com/about/cotton-warehouse/
“Gorrie’s Fridge.” University of Florida Department of Physics, phys.ufl.edu/~ihas/gorrie/fridge.htm
“The Secret Lives of Words Column: John Gorrie, Elagabalus, and a mountain of ice.” Brownwood Bulletin, 25 July. 2020, brownwoodtx.com/story/news/2020/07/25/secret-lives-of-words-column-john-gorrie-elagabalus-and-mountain-of-ice/42449097/
“Historic Plaque: Orman Building.” Downtown Apalachicola, downtownapalachicola.com/business/historic-plaque-the-orman-building/
“Dixie Theater.” Downtown Apalachicola, downtownapalachicola.com/business/dixie-theatre/
“Historic Plaque: Gibson Inn.” Downtown Apalachicola, downtownapalachicola.com/business/historic-plaque-gibson-inn/
“Chestnut Street Cemetery.” Apalachicola Historical Society, aahs.wildapricot.org/Chestnut-Street-Cemetery
“Museums on the Forgotten Coast.” Florida’s Forgotten Coast, floridasforgottencoast.com/things-to-see-do/museums/
“Forbes Purchase in Florida.” Clan Forbes Society, clan-forbes.org/post/forbes-purchase
“Apalachicola History.” City of Apalachicola, cityofapalachicola.com/history.cfm

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