St. Joseph, Calhoun (now Gulf) County, Territory of Florida: 1838. Unbound. This manuscript certificate of seaworthiness measures 775” x 9.7”. It is in nice shape. Certificates of seaworthiness were—and still are—issued for before owners could obtain maritime insurance for their ships and cargo. This certificate reads in part: “Be it known that . . . the Portmaster for the Port of St. Joseph . . . and John Gray Ship master having been called on by . . . the Consigny of the Brig Favorite . . . to examine and survey the said brig to determine if she is sea worthy for her situation to take a Cargo of Cotton to Boston therefore Certify and state that after a thorough examination . . . find her perfectly tight and strong, her timbers sound and good, her spay Rigging and Sails in first rate order, and that she is in every respect with tackle . . . fit for any voyage.”. Very good. Item #009377
At the time, St. Joseph was boom town and the largest community in Florida. Founded in 1835, it was founded as the result of land dispute between a Scottish-owned trading company that had been authorized by the Spanish government to trade with the Creeks and Seminoles and the city of Apalachicola. The conflict was resolved but not before land prices in Apalachicola skyrocketed and many residents were forced to move west and resettle on the shores of St. Joseph Bay. As it turned out, the bay made for a far more favorable harbor than that at Apalachicola, and the cotton shipping business exploded after canal and railroad connections were established to the Apalachicola River. By 1837, St. Joseph was the largest community in Florida with an estimated population of up to 12,000. This document was issued at the height of St. Joseph’s boom. Unfortunately, a pair of sever storms damaged a number of ships and businesses by 1839. Worse, in 1841, a ship brought yellow fever to the port that killed many and drove the rest of the population to flee; by the beginning of 1841 less than 500 people remained. A monstrous hurricane, “The Late Gale of St. Joseph” struck the town in September and a follow-on forest fire burned much of what was left. By 1844, the town was deserted. A new city, Port St. Joe, was founded near the original site after the arrival of the Apalachicola Northern Railroad in 1909. The Brig Favorite out of Boston was possibly the same vessel that had served as a privateer in the War of 1812 and later as one of the last American slave ships. It was also known for having been the first ship to successfully transport a cargo of ice, when it carried a shipment of 130 tons from Boston to Martinique in the West Indies.