A brief history of the Port of Port St. Joe

Published: Thursday, August 8, 2013 at 10:26 AM.

As told by historian Dale Cox, “In September 1844, a hurricane struck St. Joseph, destroying much of what remained of the community and driving away some of the last inhabitants.”

Except for occasional small supply ships in and out of the port, this natural deep water harbor remained idle and undeveloped until around 1910 when the railroad was again activated.  Piers jutting approximately 1,800 feet into the bay were constructed with rail road tracks so that ships could load and unload directly to the railroad cars parked alongside.

This design of the piers with tracks laid along the top was an efficient way to handle the incoming and outgoing cargo from the old sailing vessels as well as the new steam vessels that were increasingly taking their place.

The port again had considerable shipping activity which lasted until, as former postmaster Henry Drake noted, “The Wall Street crash of 1929 caused a sudden and sharp decline in foreign and domestic shipping.” 

This decline caused financial hardship for the Apalachicola Northern Railroad and as a result, it was sold in 1933 to the Alfred I. DuPont Company.  DuPont purchased the railroad line which now extended from Chattahoochee to Port St. Joe with the intent of using its infrastructure to build a modern paper mill that would utilize the resources from over 200,000 acres of timber land that was purchased along with the existing rail line. 

DuPont died in 1935 but, as a fulfillment of his vision, the St. Joe Paper Company was founded in 1936 as part of the Alfred I. du Pont Testamentary Trust.  The construction of the paper mill began in 1936 and was completed in 1938.

Also completed in February of 1938 were the new St. Joe Paper Company docks.  According to Henry Drake, they “were made of the latest type of sheet piling driven into the bay bottom”, and “the docks and wharves were capable of loading and unloading, simultaneously, five of the largest ocean-going boats in the Gulf of Mexico trade and still have room for a similar handling of two or more smaller and lighter draft vessels.”

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