The French established a settlement at or near this place in 1718.
As the Spanish claimed this was contrary to a treaty agreement, however,
it was abandoned. The bay, protected from the sea and nearly inaccessible
from the land, later became known to eighteenth century pirates. For
many years St. Joseph Bay was used as a harbor for their ships, and the
beach, with the wooded knolls rising behind it, became a rendezvous for
these outlaws. Tales of buried treasures, linked with legends of gold-filled
chests, bear out the belief that this territory was a scene of many orgies
after successful raids on the lanes of sea traffic. It is known that after
piracy had been abolished, many pirates who were pardoned by the United
States came back here, where they lived until death.
On February 22, 1819, Spain transferred Florida to the United
States. Between 1804 and 1810, approximately 1,500,000 acres had been
purchase from Spain by Panton, Leslie and Company and its successor,
John Forbes and Company. Both were English trading firms, at Pensacola,
that had sworn allegiance to the King of Spain. The territory, known as
the Forbes Purchase, lay east and north of the site that later became St.
When Florida was ceded to the United States the company was
allowed to retain ownership of its land. The town of Apalachicola had
been started in 1821, in the southeast corner of this tract, and a bitter
dispute arose as to whether the company's title covered the land on which
Apalachicola was located. After years of litigation the case was decided
in favor of the company by the United States Supreme Court.