If you were to visit Apalachicola today, you’d quickly see that it’s a town that loves its seafood. It’s unique geographical position – nestled along the Apalachicola River and the Gulf of Mexico – allows easy access to deep sea fares as well as brackish water delicacies. It’s no wonder that oysters became Apalachicola’s first seafood industry. As early as 1836 oysters were harvested and sold by the locals. As the industry grew, oysters were packed in barrels and shipped further north and to neighboring states.
While the oyster industry was taking off in the Apalachicola area, so too was the sponge industry. By 1895 the local sponge trade ranked third in the state. Large vessels would sail out to sea for periods of 1 month or longer, laden with smaller boats. Each boat would set out into the water, in which a crewman, also known as a ‘hooker’, would sit in the bow of the boat scanning the sea floor for sponges. His job was to separate the sponges from the bottom of the sea with the use of a specialized sharp-pronged tool attached to the end of a long pole. Sponges were shipped all over the United States, including San Francisco and New York. In addition to its multifaceted sea fares, Apalachicola had a booming timber industry that emerged prior to the Civil War in the 1860s. Adding to an already thriving cotton trade, cypress and pine trees were regularly harvested, utilizing the Apalachicola River as a natural thoroughfare for shipments. The emergence of railroads to Northern Florida further fueled the timber industry as local mills would use cypress for railroad ties.
Shrimp were plentiful and commonly enjoyed by locals of Apalachicola but the industry was not commercially successful until around 1900. The change occurred when the haul seine was introduced. A haul seine is a large net utilized in commercial fishing that can encircle and capture schools of small fish or shrimp. The development of the trawl further advanced the shrimping industry for Apalachicola shrimpers. This allowed boats to drag a large net in the wake of the boat in order to catch large groups of shrimp – also referred to as a troupe of shrimp.
As Apalachicola continues to adapt and thrive, it’s no secret that the town is currently flourishing partially in thanks to the tourism industry. Apalachicola’s unique waterfront setting offers a picturesque destination for those looking to escape the overtly touristy side of Florida. The hope for many is that Apalachicola will continue to grow and flourish, but not to the point where it distorts its true Florida charm.
Are you looking to visit Apalachicola? Book the BeeHive! Located in downtown Apalachicola, it's a beautiful and convenient location allowing you to walk to the local shops, restaurants, and waterside park. Check it out on AirBnB: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/36229356?source_impression_id=p3_1646490154_M2S9PORURP1NAoFh
More information regarding Apalachicola’s extensive history can be found by visiting the official website for the City of Apalachicola: http://www.cityofapalachicola.com/history.cfm