Uncategorized Bank of Perry, Bloodworth's, Civil War, Confederate Salt Works, Florida, Forestry Capital of the South, Governor Madison Stark Perry, Gulf Coast, LOP&G Railroad, Perry, Perrytown, Rosehead, Taylor County, Taylor County Historical Society No Comments
Last week I had the good fortune to be invited to Perry by the Taylor County Historical Society. I have to admit, I had driven through Perry many, many times on my way to other locations, but have never actually taken the time to get to know Perry. The folks at the historical society were so wonderful and sat down with me to discuss the history of the area. I learned a lot and found that although Perry may look small on a map, it’s role in Florida’s history is in no way small! Perry is located south from Tallahassee about an hours drive on US 27. I was surprised to find out that Perry had paved roads before the state capital did! Perry has played a significant role in history in many different ways. Today it is known for it’s tree and lumber industry and is known as the Forestry Capital of the South. The city was originally called Rosehead, named for the many wild roses that were found around the area. In 1875 the name was changed to Perrytown, after Florida’s fourth Governor, Madison Stark Perry. Later it became known simply as Perry.
While visiting with the Taylor County Historical Society I got to go out and visit some of the sites in the area. Some of the most fascinating sites that we visited were the Confederate salt works. To
the unfamiliar eye, these sites look like nothing more than small piles of lime rock rubble, but someone familiar with local history can spot these salt works from a mile away. Prior to the Civil War, the majority of the salt that made its way into the South came from Europe. Salt was important because there was no refrigeration and it was needed to preserve meat. It was also used for seasoning food, packing fragile food items and was an ingredient in many important products. During the Civil War Union blockades prevented salt from Europe reaching the Southern states. However, Florida’s Gulf Coast was ideal for producing salt and salt works were set up along the coast of Taylor County and other areas along Florida’s Gulf Coastline. In fact, salt production became so important that workers at the salt works were exempt from conscription into the Confederate Army. The workers would boil salt water in kettles to evaporate the water, leaving only the salt. During the Civil War the Union forces would frequently locate and attack these salt works in an attempt to cripple the Confederate forces, thus, working at these sites could be very dangerous. Today the remains of hundreds, if not thousands, of salt works dot the northwest coast of Florida. All that remains of these sites are piles of rubble where the kettle would have once sat. In high tide the water would wash in towards the salt works and then as the tide went out the workers would boil the water to get at the salt. They would do this day in and day out. These elevated, island-like features consist of limerock and brick rubble. Many times the only trees growing in an area are those that grow on top of these little islands.The elevated rubble provides the plants with some protection from the saltwater during the incoming tides. In some cases, the salt works might sit on top of Native American middens or mounds that were created a long time before the Civil War, and thus you might sometimes come across some Native American artifacts mixed in with the rubble. Many have been heavily looted for artifacts, and in some cases people have even taken the lime rock for use in modern construction. Very rarely will you find remnants of the actual cast iron kettle used to boil the saltwater.
At this point I have to put my “Archaeology Hat” on and remind my readers of the great loss that occurs when archaeological sites are unscientifically excavated, or “looted”. Studying these salt works could allow us to gain a greater understanding of the Civil War-era industry in this region. Without these sites we may never be able to gain an accurate understanding of the industry or those that worked at the salt works. It is also important to remember that many of these sites are located on private property
or on state and federal land. Please do not trespass onto somebody else’s property. During our visit we had permission from the landowner to access these sites and we took nothing but photographs.
In addition to the salt works, I became familiar with many of the historic buildings located in Perry. The Taylor County Historical Society is located in the old Bank of Perry
building. Bloodworth’s, established in 1904, was the second pharmacy ever opened in Perry and the sign is still painted on the side of the brick building. The historical society has been able to collect much of the local history and has an amazing collection of documents, artifacts and photographs. They also have very dedicated members that understand the importance and value of preserving one’s history. I could have sat with them for hours discussing old buildings, salt works, historic cemeteries and much more! I hope that in the near future I can work with the Taylor County Historical Society to help them preserve more of their history and record historic cemeteries and sites in their wonderful city!
The city has established a historic walking tour of the downtown area which highlights many of the historic buildings, including the historic Perry train depot situated on the Live Oak, Perry and Gulf Railroad. So the next time you find yourself driving along U.S. 27, be sure to stop in Perry and take some time to explore. In fact, try to do that in every small town you visit because you never know what you will come across!