Blackwater River was first named Rio Del Almirante by Spanish explorers in the late 17th century. During Pensacola's British Period (1763-1781) it was called Middle River because of its location between the Yellow River to the east and the Escambia River to the west. In 1821, the river became known as Blackwater River because of its dark-colored water. In the 1830s, Blackwater Landing included the present-day cities of Milton and Bagdad. The City of Milton, which became the hub of the Blackwater River's lumber trade during the 1800s because of the river's prominent bluffs, was incorporated in 1844. Lumbermen referred to these bluffs as Blackwater Landing, Scratch Ankle, and Mill Town. Logs felled up river were floated in rafts to Blackwater Landing where they were loaded on barges and schooners for shipment around the world. Each day Blackwater Landing's docks were busy with local lumbermen, farmers, textile workers, and manufacturers who sold their goods to brokers from the Southeast and overseas ports. These goods included such items as bricks, lumber, buckets, marine parts, sashes, textiles, fresh produce, and raw cotton. This trade helped make Blackwater Landing a major hub of commerce for Northwest Florida.
A Florida Heritage Site
The advent of steam power around 1800 allowed cargo ships to travel farther up rivers and inlets, which resulted in an economic boom to Northwest Florida's inland towns. From them, merchandise was loaded onto ocean-going sailing ships and steamers for shipment around the world. When local vessels reached the end of their useful life, they were often scuttled and burnt to the water line. Remains of at least 15 commercial vessels are located in the Blackwater River near Milton and Bagdad. The Bethune Blackwater Schooner, located near the former Morton Brickyard and Mill, is well-preserved, with nearly its entire hull intact. Other shipwrecks include the Cedar Wreck in Wright Basin and the Snapper Ketch above Bagdad's Shipyard Point. The most visible shipwrecks are located in Shield's Cove near the historic Bay Point Mill. Ships sunk here, including the Palafox, Dinty Moore, George T. Locke and Guanacastle, transported lumber. In the 1920s, the passenger steamer City of Tampa caught fire, and was pushed from the Bay Point docks and sank in Blackwater Bay. These and other shipwrecks are part of Santa Rosa County's vibrant maritime heritage that made this region a center of commerce from the late 1800s through the 1930s.
A Florida Heritage Site