The Apalachicola Traders’ Canoe: The Longest Dugout Recorded in Florida


This past Saturday we had the privilege of visiting the Apalachicola Center for History, Art and Culture , as they were host to a wonderful lecture on local history. While there we finally got to see the infamous Apalachicola

The 50 foot long Apalachicola Traders' Canoe is made of a single cypress log and is the longest dugout on record in Florida.

The 50 foot long Apalachicola Traders’ Canoe is made of a single cypress log and is the longest dugout on record in Florida. (Photo courtesy of the Florida Master Site File)

Traders’ Canoe. I have heard mention of it before and I have always been curious to see it. You are probably wondering why I would be so excited about a dugout canoe, right? What if I told you that it was the longest dugout canoe ever recovered, in one piece, in the state of Florida? It is over 50 feet long! 50 feet, 4 inches to be exact! Imagine trying to paddle such a beast upstream! This dugout was initially found in 2006 by two gentleman that were out bass fishing on the Apalachicola River. While they were loading their boat onto a trailer they noticed what appeared to be a board sticking out of the water. When their trailer struck it the object floated higher out of the water and they knew immediately they had come across an old dugout canoe. They attempted to pull it out of the water to load it onto their trailer, but soon realized it was too long. One of the gentleman operated a nearby sawmill, and so was able to arrange for a logging truck to transport it  to the sawmill for safe keeping. They then reported the find to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. They recognized the potential significance of their find and wanted to do the right thing by reporting it to the proper authorities. The dugout quickly became a local celebrity, receiving numerous visitors wanting to witness this behemoth firsthand. A few days after the initial discovery archaeologists from the Florida Bureau of Archaeological Research were able to visit the dugout and work with other state officials and the individuals who discovered the dugout to come up with a plan to make sure that it was properly cared for and preserved.

Archaeologists generally discourage people from removing dugouts or other wooden artifacts from water or muck. These objects are usually quite saturated and have been that way for a long time. The state usually receives calls about dugouts becoming exposed during drought events, when water levels drop and they are found sticking out of the mud.  Once they are removed they start to dry out quickly and can degrade into a pile of nothing more than saw dust quite rapidly. It takes a trained conservator to ensure that the wooden object is dried carefully and in a controlled manner so that damage is kept to a minimum. Additionally, in some cases various conservation treatments are applied to ensure that the cellular structure of the object remains stable for years to come. These treatments can be very lengthy and sometimes expensive, and until the object can be treated properly, it is best preserved in place. If you are ever in a situation where you  find a dugout canoe or any other archaeological remains, you may call the Florida Bureau of Archaeological Research to report it. You can also contact your local FPAN office, as all of us work closely with the folks at the Bureau of Archaeological Research.

After the the Apalachicola Traders’ Canoe was properly conserved, archaeologists could see tool marks on the boat which indicated that it was made using metal tools, but with techniques commonly used by Native Americans. The fact that metal tools were used, along with the shape of the canoe, suggest that it was manufactured sometime between 1750 and 1850. Dugout canoes had long since been used by Native Americans but the technology was adapted and modified to meet the needs of Florida’s many early European settlers. It is possible that it was made by Native American craftsmen under the direction of Americans, the British or  the Spanish.

The Apalachicola Traders' Canoe is currently on display at the Apalachicola Center for History, Art and Culture. (Photo courtesy of the Apalachicola Center for History, Art and Culture)

The Apalachicola Traders’ Canoe is currently on display at the Apalachicola Center for History, Art and Culture. (Photo courtesy of the Apalachicola Center for History, Art and Culture)

Hundreds of dugout canoes have been recovered from Florida’s lakes and rivers. Some of you may remember the dugout that was recovered from Lake Munson a few years ago. During the 2000 drought event, hundreds of dugouts and dugout fragments were recorded in Newnan Lake near Gainesville. Forty  wood samples were taken from the Newnan canoes and were found to be between 3,200 and 5,000 years old. Most dugout canoes measure between 18 and 20 feet. The traders’ canoe is more than twice that length! The traders’ canoe was also manufactured from a single cypress log. The majority of dugouts that have been recorded in Florida have been carved from pine logs, although cypress dugouts are not unheard of in Florida. It is quite possible that Florida has the largest concentration of dugout canoes in the Americans, possibly the world. Our state’s unique aquatic environment, complete with anaerobic muck river and lake bottoms, lends itself to the preservation of these delicate artifacts. In an anaerobic environment, few bacteria can survive and thus, they cannot contribute to the deterioration of organic material. In other words, there are less bacteria nibbling on the wooden artifacts and so objects that might otherwise degrade are preserved and provide archaeologists and the public a unique glimpse of our past.

If you want to check out the Apalachicola Traders’ Canoe for yourself, and I encourage you to do so, it is on display at the Apalachicola Center for History, Art and Culture! Their hours of operation are Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 12 noon to 5 PM.  It is located on the corner of Avenue E and Water Street in one of the beautifully restored cotton warehouses on the Apalachicola River.  You can make a day trip out of it and continue your forays into the local maritime culture by visiting the Apalachicola Maritime Museum as well!

Florida Seminole Wars Heritage Trail Booklets Now Available


The cover of the Florida Seminole War Heritage Trail booklet.

The cover of the Florida Seminole War Heritage Trail booklet.

We are so excited about the most recently published Heritage Trail booklet, Florida Seminole Wars Heritage Trail. This booklet is the most recent one in a long line of booklets. The Florida Department of State began publishing this series of booklets in 1991, and has since continued to add to the collection of titles. I have always liked the way these booklets are designed. They lend themselves well to heritage tourism. I actually keep a copy of a few in my car so that as I am traveling around the state I can look to see what is in the area. This has led me on quite a few impromptu little road trips and detours. Each volume lists historical sites throughout Florida, arranged by region, that are open to the public. The illustrations are always beautiful as well. They are great educational and travel resources! One thing that I have always enjoyed about the heritage trail booklets is the way they are organized because it makes for easy referencing when looking for a specific site or specific information.

For decades the Seminoles have shaped the history of Florida. The Seminole Wars are a very significant period in history, not just in Florida, but for the entire nation. Most historians agree that there were three Seminole Wars, but for the Seminoles it was seen as a 40 year continual struggle to fight for the right to stay in their homeland. This heritage trail booklet provides a well-balanced perspective on this time in Florida’s history. Not only does it have a comprehensive listing of locations that are associated with The Seminole Wars, but it also provides the reader with a background essay on the history of the Seminole Wars in Florida, information on who the Seminoles are,  a timeline, and some great sidebars on related topics and significant individuals. The sites listed include battlefields, monuments, museum exhibits, historic markers and sites.

This booklet was produced by the Seminole Wars Foundation, Inc., withe the support of a historic preservation grant provided by the Florida Department of State’s Division of Historical Resources. To view or download your copy of this booklet you can visit the website. Next time you are at a festival or FPAN event look for our booth to pick up a hard copy of this and other heritage trail booklets (when available).  Don’t forget to use your heritage trail booklets to learn about new places you can visit to learn more about Florida’s history!




Viva Florida Archaeology Month 2013!

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The front of the 2013 Florida Archaeology Month poster.

2013 marks the 500 year anniversary of Juan Ponce de Leon’s arrival on Florida shores and first interactions with Florida’s indigenous people. From that point on, Florida has seen the arrival of many people of different nationalities and cultures. The archaeology of Florida’s diverse legacy begins at these distant points and continues into the present day. Archaeologists seek to learn about the more recent past, like the beginnings of tourism and the development of urban centers, because it can also shed light on how our diverse heritage continues to impact and enrich our lives.

Florida’s diverse history and prehistory stretches back over 12,000 years. Every March, statewide programs and events celebrating Florida Archaeology Month are designed to encourage Floridians and visitors to learn more about the archaeology and history of the state, and to preserve these important parts of Florida’s rich cultural heritage. Plan to attend some of the many events throughout Florida during March 2013. You can find events in your area taking place during Florida Archaeology Month by visiting the Florida Archaeology Month website. A full listing  of events taking place throughout the year can also be found on the events webpages of the regional centers of the Florida Public Archaeology Network or the Viva Florida 500 website.

Florida Archaeology Month is coordinated by the Florida Anthropological Society (FAS), the Florida Public Archaeology Network (FPAN), the Florida Archaeological Council, Inc., and the Florida Division of Historical Resources. Additional sponsors include state and local museums, historical commissions, libraries, and public and private school systems. The 2013 Florida Archaeology Month poster is available through your local FAS Chapter, your regional FPAN office or can be acquired at various events sponsored by the participating organizations. You can find out more about Florida Archaeology Month by contacting your local FPAN regional center or your local FAS chapter.

The Florida Panhandle Shipwreck Trail: Florida’s Newest Underwater Cultural Attraction!

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Hey all you SCUBA divers out there in cyber land! Florida’s Panhandle has a new attraction for your underwater enjoyment! This month the Florida Bureau of Archaeological

YDT-4, one of the wrecks featured on the trail. This is one of two U.S. Navy diving tenders sunk as artificial reefs in 2002 off the coast of Pensacola.

Research, Division of Historical Resources and their many partners have launched the Florida Panhandle Shipwreck Trail. This underwater trail includes twelve shipwrecks off the coast of the panhandle from Pensacola to Port St. Joe. Each of these wrecks has a different, interesting story to tell and is home to a wide variety of marine life. The trail includes fascinating dive sites, such as the USS Oriskany, which is the world’s largest artificial reef, and the FAMI Tugboats, with one piggy-backed atop the other! The twelve wrecks are located in varying depths, and you can start the trail on any wreck and go in any order you would like. The official website, provides divers with all the information they need to plan their trip. It gives details about the site itself, the current weather conditions and much more. While there you can even get a glimpse of the site by watching video clips of each site! To help guide visitors along the Florida Panhandle Shipwreck Trail, an official passport is available at participating dive shops and charter boats. You can find the location of all participating dive shops and charter boats on the website as well.  The passport contains a dive log to record each stop along the trail and includes a place to validate your visit with an official sticker and signature! This makes a great souvenir of your underwater adventure along the coast of the Florida Panhandle.

You can pick up your own passport to commemorate your dives at any of the participating dive shops or charter boats!

You can also join the Florida Panhandle Shipwreck Trail’s Facebook page to share photos and stories of your visits to the various dive sites!

Of course, we want to ensure that these sites remain in pristine condition so that the marine life and other divers can continue to enjoy these beautiful resources. The Florida Panhandle Shipwreck Trail aims to promote underwater cultural heritage tourism and stewardship. It focuses on responsible diving and local stewardship to ensure that these resources will be sustainable and that we can all continue to enjoy them for years to come. Remember, take only pictures and leave only bubbles! So strap on your fins and suit up! The water is beautiful, so dive on in to your next underwater adventure along Florida’s Panhandle!

The Wacissa River Prehistoric Trail for Canoes & Kayaks

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All winter I have been cooped up unable to go kayaking. As an avid river rat I am so glad that it is starting to warm up a bit and the sun is poking out from behind all the rain clouds! You may recall an earlier post when I went out

The front of the trail guide brochure.

with a group of boy scouts to a site only accessible by boat. It was a wonderful project, but perhaps a little on the chilly side for paddling. Well, just in time for the warmer weather the Florida Department of State, Division of Historical Resources has has created at Prehistoric Paddling Trail along the Wacissa River, which is located in Jefferson County, Florida. I don’t know about you, but I am very excited about this! I love it when two of my favorite things – kayaking and archaeology – can be combined into a day long outing!

You can pick up your very own copy of the trail guide brochure at the Bureau of Archaeological Research or at the FPAN North Central Office. They are also available at the TCC Wakulla Center, located in Crawfordville. The brochure was funded in part, through a grant agreement from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Florida Coastal Management Program, and by a grant provided by the Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management.  This brochure is awesome, it is even printed on water resistant paper, so you can taking it along with you on your paddling trip!  It is a 15 mile trail, beginning at the springhead of the Wacissa River. There is also the possibility of making it a 10 mile trip and exiting the river at a place called Goose Pasture. Otherwise, you can take the whole trail to the end at Nutall Rise Landing. To get all the details you will need to pick up a copy of the trail guide.

Barbara Hines, FPAN Outreach Coordinator and Shovel Bytes author, on the Wacissa.

The Wacissa is a beautiful meandering river that will take you through some of the most significant arcdhaeological zones in North Florida.  Beginning in about 500 BC, the Wacissa and the Aucilla Rivers mark the boundary between the Northwest Florida and North Peninsular Gulf Coast archaeological culture areas.  People have been inhabiting this area for over 12,00 years! That is amazing when you think about it! This area provided them with an abundance of resources that can be found around the river and along the shallow coastal waters and shoreline. Need I say more? Really, if you like to  paddle and want to learn more about the archaeology and history of this area, well, you need to pick up your Wacissa River Prehistoric Trail for Canoes and Kayaks brochure today! Then load up your kayak or canoe, grab some friends and get paddling!

The Grove: Sweet Southern Style!

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Yesterday I was asked by an archaeologist with the Division of Historical Resources to assist in the excavation of a cistern at The Grove. I had heard a little bit about this place, but didn’t know the full history. So being me, after

The Grove, Tallahassee (photo courtesy of the Florida Division of Historical Resources)

saying yes to assisting with the excavation, I went home and immediately began my Google research of The Grove.  As an archaeologist, I know it is always easier to conduct an excavation if you are familiar with the site! As I researched it, I became fascinated with the history of The Grove. It never ceases to amaze me at the history we have here in Tallahassee. If only all these old historic structures could talk!

The history of The Grove begins with Richard Keith Call. Call was born in Virginia in 1792, and later in life joined with General Andrew Jackson on the march to Pensacola, Florida as an officer on Jackson’s personal staff. He then assisted Jackson with establishing his military headquarters at his home, The Hermitage, in Tennessee. Eventually Call established a law practice in Pensacola and in 1822 he was appointed to Florida’s first Legislative Council and then in 1823 he was appointed Brigadier General of the Militia by President Monroe. He was eventually elected as a delegate for the Territory of Florida to the United States Congress.

In 1824 Call married Mary Letitia Kirkman in Nashville. Andrew Jackson actually gave away the bride!  The newly married couple briefly lived in Washinton, D.C., and after Richard Keith Call retired from Congress he accepted the position of Receiver of Public Monies for Florida. In 1825 he moved to Florida, where he purchased 640 acres at $1.25 an acre in the Tallahassee area. Here he began construction of The Grove, with inspiration from The Hermitage in Tennessee. He served as his own architect and construction manager for this undertaking. The exact date when construction was completed is not known, but it appears that the family moved into their new residence in the early 1830s. Mary died shortly afterwards in 1836 and is buried in the family cemetery located on the property. Less than a month after her passing, Call was appointed to a three-year term as Territorial Governor by President Andrew Jackson. He quickly became a political, business and military leader and in 1841 President Harrison appointed him to a second term as Territorial Governor. The Grove became the center for public and political gatherings in Tallahassee. In 1845 Call retired from public service after an unsuccessful attempt to run for Governor of the State of Florida.

In 1851 he deeded The Grove to his daughter, Ellen, and he moved to another plantation nearby. In 1882, he returned to The Grove where he passed away. For years after that The Grove remained in the family, then in 1942 the house was put on the open market. However, Call’s great-granddaughter, Mary Call, and her husband LeRoy Collins were able to purchase the property. In 1942 the couple moved in, fulfilling a life-long dream of Mary’s. Unfortunately, by this point the house was in a state of disrepair. The Collin’s were able to restore the property and acquired additional family property that, though out the years, had been sold off. They were also able to purchase the family cemetery where Richard Keith Call and other family members had been buried.

Eventually, Mary’s husband and aspiring politician, LeRoy Collins was elected as Governor in 1956. As governor he advocated for education, tourism, environmental conservation and more! Civil rights and segregation were major issues during his time as Governor, and he was one of the first southern governors who opposed segregation.

In 2009 the Division of Historical Resources began the process of restoring The Grove. The goal of this restoration is to have the historic property used as a museum. The Call and Collins families both had a tradition of public service, leadership, innovation, community and family. The goal of this project  is to turn The Grove into a museum with themes and activities that capture the essence of the family’s history and life at The Grove in a compelling and engaging way for the public. In keeping with the family tradition of resourcefulness and innovation, DHR and the renovation team is attempting to restore The Grove in such a way that they are able to achieve LEED Gold Certification by the United States Green Building Council.

To further support historic sites and their preservation in Florida the Division of Historical Resources entered into a partnership with Winn-Dixie incorporated. As part of this partnership, Winn-Dixie recently released their Winn-Dixie Southern Style Sweet Tea featuring The Grove on the product label! If you would like to learn more about The Grove, the renovation or the partnership with Winn-Dixie incorporated,you can visit

The DeSoto Site: A Unique Piece of Tallahassee History!

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In 1987 B. Calvin Jones, an archaeologist working for the Florida Bureau of Archaeological Research was driving along Lafayette Street in Tallahassee. He noticed that land clearing

Calvin Jones excavating at the DeSoto Site (photo courtesy of the Florida Memory Project)

had begun near the entrance of the Governor Martin House property in preparation for construction activities. He asked permission to inspect the area and dig a few shovel tests. He had done extensive work on Spanish Missions in the Tallahassee area, and he knew that one mission site was known to exist near this neighborhood,  Myers Park, but had yet to be found.  Because of his past work relating to Spanish-era sites in the area, he was uniquely qualified to recognize the de Soto winter camp when he found it.

During the initial shovel testing he found artifacts relating both to the Apalache and the Spanish. Some of these artifacts included Apalache Fort Walton ceramics, Chattahoochee Brushed Seminole ceramics, a rusted cross bow dart and early style olive jar fragments. The cross bow was no longer in use during the Spanish Mission period in Florida and later style olive jars were used during the Spanish Mission period. Based on the artifacts it was confirmed that this site dated to an earlier time period than the Spanish Missions. This site dated to the early 1500s, during the period of Spanish exploration in Florida. The only two expeditions known to have been in the northwestern Florida area were the Narvaez expedition of 1527-1528 and the de Soto expedition in 1539-1540.

Calvin Jones met with the project contractor for the construction project to discuss the possibility of further study of this site. At this time, there were no Federal or State laws or local ordinances that required any change of plans, and the construction company had already obtained all of the required permits. The construction company was within their rights to deny Calvin Jones access to the property. Fortunately, the construction company was interested in learning more about the site, and granted Calvin Jones access to the property and adjusted project construction activities as needed to accommodate the archaeological investigation.

During the excavation it became evident that this site was likely that of Anhaica Apalache, where it is documented that the de Soto expedition spent the winter of 1539-1540. It just so happened that this site was discovered near the 450th anniversary of that exact event. The site took on a statewide, national and international importance as the only confirmed site of the de Soto expedition. Shovel testing was able to further confirm the presence of Apalache and Spanish artifacts. It was demonstrated by shovel testing and auger testing that the site was large enough to contain 250 Apalache structures, which was the same amount of structures chronicled by Spanish Explorers at Anhaica Apalache. These Apalache structures were circular or oval shaped with thatched roofs and clay plastered walls, commonly referred to as daub. The Spanish, when they arrived, constructed square or rectangular buildings using metal fastenings. These buildings were only meant as temporary structures. Evidence of both types of structures was found at this site. Also found at this site were early sixteenth century native and Spanish artifacts. In fact, over a thousand artifacts were recovered from this site!

It was proposed that the property should be acquired by the state. The construction company agreed to sell the property for use as a State Park. It is believed that the area acquired

Volunteers assisting with excavation of DeSoto Site (photo courtesy of the Florida Memory Project)

by the State of Florida represents the most advantageous part of the village area-the area where the chief’s house and where de Soto and his primary lieutenants were likely house during their stay.

In 2005 the Florida Bureau of Archaeological Research moved into the Governor Martin House, located on the de Soto property, and the Governor Martin House was co-named the B. Calvin Jones Center for Archaeology in recognition of his many outstanding contribution to Florida archaeology, including the discovery of the de Soto winter encampment site. Today three Florida Department of State, Division of Historical Resources, Bureau of Archaeological Research programs are headquartered at the B. Calvin Jones Center for Archaeology- Florida Public Lands Archaeology, Archaeological Resource Management Training and Underwater Archaeology. The property  is home to the North Central Regional office of the Florida Public Archaeology Network. An exhibit, featuring artifacts from the de Soto excavation, is open to the public at the Governor Martin House, B. Calvin Jones Center for Archaeology. So next time you are in the area, stop by and give us a visit!

Florida Archaeology Month is Upon Us!

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Happy Florida Archaeology Month everyone! That’s right, our wonderful state has a whole month dedicated to archaeology, and that month is March! This statewide event is held each year to allow Floridians  and visitors a chance to learn more about the archaeology and history of our state, and to preserve these important parts of our rich cultural heritage. Each year we have a different theme, and this year’s theme is “Native Plants, Native People”. It explores how native people in Florida used plants and how archaeologist investigate these plants that were used by prehistoric inhabitants of Florida. You can find a calendar of events at

Each year many organizations are involved in coordinating this statewide celebration, including the Florida Anthropological Society, the Florida Public Archaeology Network, the Florida Archaeological Council and the Department of State, Division of Historical Resources. Many local museums, historical commissions, libraries, and public and private schools also participate and support Florida Archaeology Month.

Each year there is also a poster that is created around the theme. This years poster is two sided and highlights some of the sites in Florida that have contained plant remains. It is a beautiful poster! Probably one of my favorites so far. If you would like to pick one up, just let me know. They are free and a wonderful educational tool. You can also view it at the website mentioned above.

Most people don’t think of plants when they think of archaeology, but the study of  plants can provide us with insight into what prehistoric people were eating, what medicines they were using, what tools they were making and their ceremonial activities. By studying sites that contain plants, such as Windover, Key Marco, Pineland, Hontoon Island and various others, we have learned that plants made up to fifty percent of the native diet and at least that much (if not more) of their material goods!  However, plant remains are very fragile, and it is very rare to find plant remains at an archaeological site, so these sites are very special and unique. In celebration of Florida Archaeology Month this year, we are going to explore the native plants of Florida and how they were used by prehistoric peoples with our “Plant of the Week” posts. Of course, it is very important to note that this information is just for INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES! Do not use the plants in the manner that we will describe. Native people had an intensive and vast knowledge of the plants and the individuals that were using them. We are just beginning to understand how these plants were used by prehistoric people, so remember, read and learn, but please don’t try! Even edible plants that are considered harmless can have undesirable effects on your body if you are not used to ingesting or using them in the manner described. We hope you will learn a great deal this month about our state’s unique cultural heritage. Hopefully this new knowledge that you gain this month will create a greater appreciation for our state’s cultural sites. So please, take some time this month to attend some local Florida Archaeology Month events in your area. You never know what you might learn! So, again, happy Florida Archaeology Month!

If you are in the Tallahassee area, you might consider joining the Panhandle Archaeological Society at Tallahassee tonight at the B. Calvin Jones Center for Archaeology (Governor Martin House-located at 1001 DeSoto Park Drive, off of Lafayette Street behind Olive Garden) starting at 7pm for a discussion on native plants and the prehistoric peoples of Florida. Loran Anderson and myself will both be presenting on this topic. It is sure to be a great time for all and a wonderful way to kick off Florida Archaeology Month.  Anderson&Hines