9/3/10 Chick Huettel is a long-time Walton County resident, writer and artist. He is a member of a number of local organizations including the Emerald Coast Archeological Society. --------------------------------------------------------------------------- The area we live in around Santa Rosa Beach will be celebrated with a knock-out birthday party on Sept. 11 and 12 at Gulf Place located at County Road 393 and 30A. Santa Rosa Beach was wild in 1910. It was probably the hardest place to live in the Florida Panhandle because it was almost like the old Wild West silver boom towns. Within two years, steamboats from Mobile and Pensacola unloaded wagons, furniture, trunks, animals, whole families, and a steady stream of European settlers with dreams of paradise. Dr. Charles Cessna and his newly formed company out of Chicago used the press all over the north to entice the rush of immigrants to America’s shores. Here was where a new life of prosperity awaited, not to mention the perfect climate. Settlers established grape vineyards, egg farms, pig and cattle farms (not ranches), sugar cane fields, timber cutting and turpentine stills, a bountiful fishing and oyster bay, plus groves of Satsuma orange trees. One enterprising fellow raised terrapin turtles for tortoise-shell decorations! One major hotel along with another guesthouse plus two stores were the anchor of the town. Three church denominations served the pilgrims and various social societies sprung up. It all looked good for about seven years. Then the cracks came… bad cracks. Florida crackers (established residents) had trouble with people who could not speak English. The promise in newspaper ads of fertile ground seemed broken. Men spent more time digging out mule wagons from the sand than in the fields. Timber was cut out. Debts were unable to be paid. The steamboats, many realized, were the money-makers, bringing in supplies and exporting what the farmers could raise. The struggle with mosquito sickness, impassable roads, and hardly any electricity tried the best of families. And of course there were the hurricanes, which this fledgling community had never experienced. While it was a devastating storm that all but wiped out the hope of farming, it was a shotgun murder that broke the final straw with villagers. All these stories await you when you walk onto the centennial grounds. Historians will tell the good and the bad as they showcase never-before seen photos that will make you wonder how Santa Rosa Beach and its surrounding communities survived. You’ll see a 1910 vintage vehicle that the rich were able to drive. The menu will feature food with all the fix’ns. Saturday is the birthday party and will feature various entertainers and concessions that mostly reflect master old time craftsman. Sunday is Heritage Day, and the old time bands crank up on stage. Even the Walton County Sheriff’s Office will have a display showing photos of lawmen who were gunned down in Walton County. As I said earlier ... it was like the Wild West. So pack up the family on your mule wagon, ladies put on your favorite bonnet and come show off your new dress from your store-bought catalog. Don’t trust the snake oil salesman, they never cure anyone. Heck, we may even have a dentist there for pull’n teeth. Many of us from various historical societies will greet you when you arrive.