The village of Bagdad developed as a lumber mill community in the early nineteenth century, and lumber remained the principal industry of the village until 1939. Strategically placed at the confluence of Pond Creek and the Blackwater River, the village became a major port. By 1900, the village shipped more yellow pine lumber than any other port in the world. An estimated 15 billion board feet of lumber was cut in West Florida during the nineteenth and early twentieth century, leaving a mere three billion by 1909. The longleaf yellow pine forests were a source of great wealth for Santa Rosa County, and most of the county's leading citizens made their fortunes directly from the lumber industry. This exhibit examines the history of Bagdad village, its native ecology, and efforts to protect and preserve the Bagdad Mill Site to help us better understand the place we call home.
Where Did Bagdad Get Its Name?
Bagdad conjures images of the ancient Persian city between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, but today the spelling is different (Bagdad vs. Baghdad). Legend holds that two different men named the village. The first story credits Joseph Forsyth. The second, makes a nod to Benjamin Overman, a millwright from North Carolina who joined the Forsyth and
Simpson Company. Regardless of who first proposed the idea, there
is no dispute that the village was named after the famous city in the Mesopotamian Valley that is now part of Iraq. The founders of the village of Bagdad hoped that this new town, at the confluence of the Blackwater River and Pond Creek, would enjoy the same advantages of its ancient sister city.
Left: Bagdad Sawmill from Lippincott's Magazine, 1882
Left, bottom: Blackwater Basin, 1830s
Right, top: Simpson and Company, 1890
Right, middle: Bagdad Land and Lumber advertisement
Right, bottom: Blackwater River