History of Bay County

History of Bay County


Alvirda Johnston  
The territory now included in Bay county does not seem that it has been settled very early. It is thought that a few Spaniards may have had their homes along St. Andrews Bay during the early part of the eighteenth century, because orange and fig trees were found growing at favorable locations about the Bay by the earliest settlers. The first mention that we find that may apply to St. Andrews is in a letter written in 1794 by Thomas Robinson who made a voyage from Pensacola to St. Marks. He describes a settlement the location of which much resembles St. Andrews Bay. Even in 1763 little was known of the coast of this section, but the finding of Spanish coins of early date gives some proof that the Spaniards did settle along these shores. 
During the English possession this section of Florida was governed by Commodore Geo. Johnstone of the British Navy. In November of 1764 he offered the first publicity to attract settlers to this section of Florida. The British Government made grants of land to officers and soldiers who had served during the late war and who were still in America. The size of the grant depended on the rank of the applicants. Many soldiers took the opportunity of locating in this section so that a town, Wells, developed on the West shore of St. Andrews Bay, becoming quite important during the English occupancy (1765-1781 or 1782). The first Masonic Lodge in what [is] now Bay county, and possibly the first in West Florida, was established at Wells under a charter of the Grand 


State Library of Florida, WPA - Historical Records Survey, County Histories


Brief history of Bay County, Florida collected by the Works Progress Administration's Historical Records Survey.

Note to Researchers: Though the WPA field workers included extensive citations for the factual information contained in these county histories, it should be noted that these historical narratives were produced in the 1930s by federal government employees, and might reflect the inherent social biases of the era.