Wednesday, June 02, 2010

When you gonna be @ Carillon?
(not rilly~tee hee~Marlene Womack is!!!!)

Out of the Past: Life springs up around Lake Powell

Marlene Womack

from an article in the Panama City News Herald

With all the changes occurring in Bay County, some of the spots where early settlers were buried have disappeared. Others are being fenced off while development takes place around them creating new stories about the area. One site hidden from most lies across the jagged shoreline of Lake Powell, just north of the U.S. 98 bridge. It's known as Collins Cemetery. Burials in this Phillips Inlet settlement date back to the early 1900s. Back then Lake Powell was wild and pristine. North of the settlement, an old wagon road, dating back to pre-Civil War days, zigzagged its way through the wilderness from West Bay to Point Washington, a large, old community involved in the sawmill industry. This well-traveled road was used to carry this mail. It also served as the main artery of transportation until the Coastal Highway, U.S. 98, was constructed in the 1920s and the 1930s. Another road intersected this wagon road and ran north to Vernon, the county seat in the early days. This cemetery takes its name from the Ben Collins family who moved from Geneva, Ala., in the early 1900s to homestead this land. In the graveyard was an old wooden cross bearing the inscription “Queen Green.” Those living in the area have always wondered who this woman was and what caused her to die. They believed she either lived here for a short time or died while visiting this area. More graves were added to the small burial ground. Some others living in the area then were members of the Taylor, Miller, Marshal, Ogburn, Cain and Gainous families.

Salt works Children playing along the Lake Powell beach in the early 1900s, often found old salt kettles and boilers that were remnants of the time when salt making flourished here during the Civil War. Those making salt produced it by boiling seawater into brine and drying it in the sun. Men turning out 20 bushels of salt per day were exempt from conscription into the Confederate army. Kent's Salt Works, which consisted of three different camps, was located off the old wagon road with Lake Powell known as Lake Ocala at that time. Those employed at the camps used six steamboat boilers cut in half lengthwise and seven huge kettles. These boilers and kettles turned out 130 bushels of salt per day. On Dec. 2, 1863, Union forces raided these camps, sledgehammered the equipment and tossed all the freshly made salt into the lake. They sank two large flatboats, demolished six oxcarts and took 17 workers as prisoners, but paroled them after they swore allegiance to the United States.

Primeval wilderness After the salt makers left, the area surrounding Lake Powell returned to the wild. Big cats, bears and alligators frequented the land. In fact, the only place listed for hunting deer, bear and wild turkey in Washington County in 1878 was Phillips Inlet and the surrounding forest, according to the Sportsman's Gazetteer and General Guide by Charles Halleck. In his article, Halleck stated that “the greater part of the state is unsettled, much of it has never been disturbed by settlers, and here (Phillips Inlet) the sportsman will find game in all its primitive abundance.”

Life at Lake Powell For the most part, life at this lake in the early 1900s was isolated and lonely for the homesteaders who engaged in fishing for a livelihood. Supplies were ordered from Sears, Roebuck & Co. Settlers warmly welcomed farmers who came from Alabama in covered wagons to trade produce for salt fish in the fall months of the year.

It was common at this time to see travelers walking the nearby gulf beach from Grand Lagoon to Destin. Unable to afford a boat or horse, the majority of the people had no choice except to walk. When parched, these travelers dug deep into the sand until they reached water, which they thirstily drank.

For those living at the lake, a trip into town meant getting up at 3 a.m. and riding the wagon through the darkness to West Bay to catch the 6 a.m. launch to St. Andrews and later Panama City. The long boat trip down the open bay to these towns left only a few hours for shopping and conducting business. Arrival time back home was 10 p.m.

As late as 1927, residents hunted panthers at Phillips Inlet. Years earlier, two immense cats terrorized settlers from Grand Lagoon to Phillips Inlet. In her remembrances, Mae Gainous Allison, an early resident, recalled her mother's fright the day an 8-foot alligator bellowed at her, then chased her along the water. At times, the alligators annoyed settlers and dined on many a dog and hog.

Other remembrances In The Heritage of Bay County, Florida, sold by the Heritage Book Committee at the Bay County Public Library, Clifford Hilliard Cain added additional reminiscences about Lake Powell. He told of the six-bedroom Lake View Inn and two-room cottage built by his father, C.H. Cain. It had big hallways down the middle and a large front porch. The inn replaced the Phillips Inlet Hotel that burned in 1926. Cain wrote that this inn was the only hotel on the north side of the lake. But three other hotels existed on the south side of the lake and at Inlet Beach. Boines Beach was where Pinnacle Point stands today. Guests came to stay by the week or month. If all the rooms were taken, people slept on pallets, in wagons and porches, or out in the open. The Cain family often held dances on the inn's front porch, and one of the Cain boys took guests to the gulf in the mornings and evenings in their small launch. They took care to be gone only a short time so their guests did not get sunburned. The family lived in a log building, which had a separate dining room and kitchen, accessible by a boardwalk from the main building. The yard was fenced to keep out wild animals.

Cain stated that in the 1920s, the channel at Phillips Inlet was about 6 feet deep. Debris from shipwrecks, logs and felled trees often accumulated on the west side of the inlet. During that time, rumrunners could be seen passing in the gulf on their way to Camp Walton, now Fort Walton Beach.

Camp Helen Cain recalled Mrs. R.E. Hicks buying the vacant hotel on the west side of the lake and renaming it Camp Helen. Those running the camp built a pier for the enjoyment of the guests. About 200 people came through the pass daily during the summer months, according to Cain. He said fishermen could put a seine or net out for 200 feet, and a good channel remained during that period. Cain wrote that Pinnacle Point was built in 1977.

Hurricanes moved the pass west and filled it with sand and construction material from the condominium. From then on, no fish came into the lake.

The small, secluded graveyard is all that remains of the community that once existed on the shore of the lake. Over the years, families died out or moved closer to town. In 1979, Mrs. Bennye Rohmiller, a descendant of the Collins family, dedicated the two-acre plot as a cemetery in memory of her family and “Queen Green,” the woman whose identity remained a mystery.

It would be so kewl if I could get down there & show you




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