Archaeologists from the University of South Florida are delving into the history and digging into the soil to investigate the lost town of old St. Joseph (1836-1841), which overlapped the south end of modern Port St. Joe. Said to have been the “wickedest” city in the south, St. Joseph was built up by antebellum speculators from Apalachicola and elsewhere who though they could do better as cotton merchants if they had a deepwater port accessible by oceangoing cargo ships. There were homes, warehouses, docks, saloons, hotels, churches, community spaces, and even race tracks, and the first steam railroad in Florida carried goods brought down the Apalachicola River from Iola to St. Joseph merchant warehouses. The investigators are searching for traces of material culture in the ground to document this old town in ways different from those of written history.
A program on the archaeology of the region and of the town in particular will be held on 10 a.m. until 12 p.m. ET Saturday, May 25 at the Corinne Costin Gibson Memorial Gulf County Public Library.
USF’s Nancy White and Chris Hunt will give a slide presentation at 10:30 a.m. on the archaeological background. They will then show some sample artifacts and hope that members of the public will bring their own artifacts to be identified. People with knowledge of features that might be in the ground are invited to share their information, and a map table will enable pinpointing of specific locales where some digging could be done, if people are willing to give permission—or even participate!
The library is located at 110 Library Drive next to the County Courthouse.