Lecture Series

Apalachicola Lecture Series and Community Resource Outreach 

Overview: The City of Apalachicola, with funding from Visit Florida, partnered with several groups during 2013-14 and again in 2014-15 to help host and promote lectures, talks and programs about the historical, cultural and economic significance of the Apalachicola River to the City from its earliest days to present and future. During its 2014-15 grant cycle, the City received funding from Visit Florida to continue the lecture series and also build upon the program by adding a community involvement component that included seeking out historical images from residents. As part of that buildout, the City was able to acquire and share an invaluable photo resource from the Cook/Porter Family that document life in and around Apalachicola from nearly 100 years ago. Below is content from both years of lecture series and the newly added photo archive component.


Historical Photo Research

The Cook and Porter Family Photo Collection.

You can view the album by clicking here.


Lecture Series 2013-14

During 2013-14, the City partnered to help bring an exhibit and talk about the impact of the block ice era on the area, helped promote the Authors in Apalach event in which two noted historians gave talks on the area, sponsored a ACF Stakeholders event in which participants expressed their opinions about the Apalachicola River and water quality issues and hleped to sponsor an exhibit at the Florida Folk Festival in which noted UF scientist Dr. Andrew Kane spoke on the importance of the Apalachicola River to the bay and the seafood industry. Below are comments, recordings and a synopsis of the speakers.


The Big Chill - The Impact of the Block Ice Era Exhibit August 2013

Elli Morris, reknowned photographer and author of “Cooling The South: The Block Ice Era 1875-1975” is a 4th generation “ice woman”, whose family’s ice plant business, founded in 1880 in Jackson Mississippi, led her to research the history of the block ice era. What she found lead her to discover an entire region profoundly affected by the manufacturing transportation of block ice, and how valuable that industry was to early America, including Apalachicola. Ms. Morris presented an exhibition of her book and photography in August 2013 during the Water Street Festival of Ice at the Apalachicola Center for History, Culture and Art. Here are excerpts from her presentation and published articles on the subject.

The early ice trade
Natural ice was an extravagant commodity in the South during the 19th century. Harvested from the lakes in northern climates of New York, Michigan, and Maine, the ice arrived via sailing ships packed in moss for insulation. Southerners paid five cents up to $1.50 per pound. In northern climates where transportation costs were minimal, natural ice sold for thirty-three cents per one hundred pounds.

By 1847, nearly 52,000 tons of natural ice traveled by ship or train to twenty-eight cities across the United States. Although ice blocks were stacked within wood shavings and sawdust for shipping, the ice began its meltdown enroute and was greatly reduced in weight before it was unloaded at its destination. Harvested natural ice was a known, yet luxurious, commodity.

Dr. John Gorrie
We don’t think of ice today as “artificial” but back in the 1800’s ice came out of frozen lakes and rivers. That was until Dr. John Gorrie, invented the ice machine in 1845.

Dr. Gorrie was a physican from South Carolina who lived in Apalachicola during the early 1800s. During his efforts to combat yellow fever and other diseases, Gorrie noted how a fever patient benefitted from a drop in room temperature. He invented an ice-making machine and developed a process for cooling a room artificially. Gorried died in 1855 and was never able to secure enough backing to market his pioneering work in air conditioning but he is remembered today as the father of modern air conditioning.

Ice and the Seafood Industry
Before the advent of block ice, families ate the daily catch or they set it over a fire and smoked it dry to hold it over for rainy, stormy days. With the advent of block ice, boats would line up along the dock of a river to have block ice “blown” into their ship hulls. Fishermen could fish day and night, staying on the trail of a run that would fill up their icy-cold hull. Returning to shore when the run ran dry, waiting customers could buy the catch and use more block ice in their own home refrigerators to store the seafood for days at a time, no longer dependent on having to consume the catch that evening before it spoiled. As the seafood industry grew, so grew the block ice business.

The seafood industry along the entire Gulf Coast flourished with the use of block ice. Chipped block ice was blown into the ship hull, enabling fishermen to stay out for one or two weeks at a time. Seafood markets kept the catch cold on a bed of crushed ice. Railroad cars used ice to keep the seafood fresh during transit. Finally, the seafood was stored in the family icebox that used still more block ice. With such demand for ice, block plants along the Gulf Coast were very prosperous, including Apalachicola’s Ice House located along Water Street.

Those small ice coils on the rooftop machinery in the summer of 1848 in Apalachicola, Florida proliferated into an industry that eventually transformed an entire region and helped usher in the modern era, bringing health, happiness and comfort to all in its wake.


Early Apalachicola Life from history authors Dr. William Rogers and Dr. Harry P. Owens - Authors in Apalach March 15, 2014

Dr. William Rogers from Florida State University and Dr. Harry Owens from University of Mississippi were the special guests at the Apalachicola Muncipal Library Authors in Apalach event March 15, 2014. Each of the men have written historical books about the area and each were on hand to highlight excerpts from their writings and discuss Apalachicola as it existed more than 100 years ago and howthe Apalachicola River shaped the economic and social life of the community. 

Below are excerpts from their books.

At The Water’s Edge
By William Warren Rogers

“The fresh, constant current bears the river to the waters of the bay, and, early on, created there a strategic place for exporting and importing. Apalachicola became the major trading mart for an extensive agricultural kingdom whose hinterland included three large river valleys in Florida, Alabama and Georgia. The strong pull of the river to the bay’s saline waters soon carried the flow of commerce, and by the 1830s steamboats had the power to navigate upstream and create a double flow of trade. The geographical setting determined the charcter and culture of Apalachicola. Franklin Countyhad only a limited agricultural base but Apalachicola, although isolated from much of Florida, became the focus, the economic conduit for a large portion of the lower South. As a bustling trade center, the port was a door to cities throughout the United States and the world. It was an anmaly to much of Florida. Its people and their pursuits were diffeerent. Incongruously, Apalachicolans had not only provincialism and attractive manners of southerners, but a cosmopolitanism and world view that made them and their place unique.” 

Apalachicola Before 1861
By Harry P. Owens

“The potential commerce of the Apalachicola River system prompted the creation of a new customs district. The area between cape St. Blas and Charlotte Bay was called the District of Apalachicola and Charles Jenkins, surveyor and inspector for the port of Pensacola, was named collector for the new district.

During the decade and a half after Major Jenkins moved to the mouth of the Apalachicola River, a town grew up, and it held the promise of becoming one of the largest ports on the Gulf. The people there built homes, warehouses, offices, grocery stores, a drug store, a hotel and Dinsmore Westcott started the town’s first newspaper, the Apalachicola Advertiser. The merchants handled fifty thousand bales of cotton for the planters in the interior, and about fifteen river boats plied the river system. While this appeared impressive, Apalachicola was only a small town with no regular plan and the buildings were erected “...according to the notion of each person building.” 


ACF Stakeholders Reception - April 9, 2014

The City of Apalachicola hosted the Apalachicola, Chattahoochee, Flint River System Stakeholders meeting in Apalachicola April 8-9, 2014. Below is a video documentary of interviews following the meeting during a reception at Bay City Lodge. 

Click here to view video.


Florida Folk Festival Seafood Exhibit/Discussion May 30-31, 2014

The City of Apalachicola helped sponsor the Franklin County Seafood Workers Association and the Healthy Gulf Alliance attend the 2014 Florida Folk Festival May 30-31 at the Stephen Foster State Park in White Springs Florida. During the two event, the group of five oyster harvesters, along with UF researcher Dr. Andy Kane explain the importance of the Apalachicola River to the health and productivity of the bay. Click here to view the video.


2014-15 Lecture Series

During 2014-15, the City helped host a number of lecture series topics with a variety of partners including the Apalachicola Historical Society, Carrabelle Cares and the Forgotten Coast Cultural Coalition.


Bill McLean - The Mystery Boat of the Ochlockonee River - September 25, 2014

The Apalachicola Area Historical Society hosted a lecture on September 25, 2014 featuring Bill McLean who shared his research into the identity of an abandoned boat by the 319 bridge over the Ochlocknee River. McLean became aware of the craft, which is still visible at low tide, when he was a young boy and has spent years researching it. Bill McLean saw a paddlewheel boat abandoned in the Ochlockonee River when he was a young boy vacationing in Florida in the years just after the Second World War.  Once he retired he became interested in researching the history of this enigmatic vessel.  Mr. McLean recounted his multi-year search for the origins of this vessel.  It was a fascinating journey, leading him to talk to people from Washington State to Maine to Florida.  His research revealed that the boat was built in Apalachicola. 

Over several years, McLean first learned the name of the boat, Ed Ryan Hayes, and his continuing research led him to Bamburg, South Carolina and ultimately to Indiana. The boat, constructed in Apalachicola as a freight boat, was salvaged in the 1930s by a traveling artist who raised it and moved it upriver to rest beside the Ochlocknee River bridge where McLean discovered it. He later learned that a painting, salvaged from the wall of the boat, was one of only three works surviving by Charles Dana Deirdorf, who salvaged the boat.

McLean was able to provide the artist’s two surviving daughters, who reside in Indiana, with reproductions of the painting which features a boat and a light house. During the lecture, several members of the audience shared memories of the boat and nearby businesses that populated the area near the bridge in the early 20th century. McLean shared photos of the area and the bridge that preceded the bridge. One thing he has never found is a photo of the paddlewheel boat.


First Peoples of the Forgotten Coast - March 14, 2015
The Carrabelle History Museum, in cooperation with the City of Apalachicola and Franklin County Tourist Development Council, hosted a lecture event on Saturday, March 14, 2015 that discussed the archeology, lifestyle and tools of early area inhabitants. Archaeologists Dr. Jim Miller, Julie Byrd and primitive craftsman Ken Horne led the discussion with three separate discussions.

Jim Miller. According to Dr. Miller, pre-industrial cultures adapted to the regions different lands and waters in very different ways, as reflected by their sites, artifacts, architecture and religious beliefs. People and environments affected each other in complex ways, but over the millenia the balance has shifted dramatically; now the effects of people on environment are global in scale. By looking at some of the environmental changes in the past, Dr. Miller asserts that we can understand better how people and cultures might experience and respond to changing environments in the future.

Julie Byrd. Archaeological sites give us a glimpse into the past and th study of human cultures allows us to make inferences about how day to day life would have been. How were houses arranged in prehistoric villages? What were cemeteries like a thousand years ago? What roles did women hav in society and how do we know? How did hunting change over time? This lecture seeks to answer those questions.

Ken Horne. Ken has made many authentic items for museum exhibits including an all plan fiber fishing net. His knowledge of plant fibers and animal hides combined with a good engineering sense enables him to create strong ropes for net making or baskets, simple designs for snare traps and sharp tools for cutting and scraping. Ken is also skilled at the decorativ art of scrimshaw. He brings examples of implements he has fashioned from plant fiber, sinew, bone, wood and will demonstrates the process.




Jean Stern - May 7, 2015
Jean Stern, Executive Director, The Irvine Museum will lead a series of presentations on the plein air movement and its history. One Hundred Years of Plein Air,  Jean Stern, Art Historian and Executive Director of the Irvine Museum led a visual presentation focusing on the evolution of the plein air movement.


Florida Folk Festival Seafood Exhibit/Discussion May 2-25, 2015
The City of Apalachicola helped sponsor the Franklin County Seafood Workers Association and the Healthy Gulf Alliance attend the 2015 Florida Folk Festival May 23-25 at the Stephen Foster State Park in White Springs Florida. During the three day event, the group of oyster harvesters, along with UF researcher Dr. Andy Kane explain the importance of the Apalachicola River to the health and productivity of the bay.