History Surrounds Gull Point – Pensacola Florida
By Alice Crann
Pensacola New Journal
Gull Point may be one of Pensacola’s smallest neighborhoods, consisting of six families, but history shows this area was once a very prolific and prominent region of northwest Florida.
The tract of land known as Gull Pint, previously known as Punta del Diablo or Devil’s Point, is located about seven miles northeast of downtown Pensacola on the Escambia Bay.
According to Lee Sutton, historical researcher and clerk of the circuit court, Mariana Bonifay received the original Spanish land grant at Gull Point as a gratuity from the Spanish king. She was one of the first business women of Pensacola from 1790 until her death in 1829. Bonifay, who was a building-contractor and involved in the brickyard business, was responsible for many of Pensacola first buildings built during the Spanish era.
Manual Bonifay, one of Bonifay’s 14 children, inherited her industriousness and became her business manager. Alongside his involvement in his mother’s various projects, he planted orange groves in different sections on the 251 acres of Gull Point.
Knowing his mother never wrote a will dividing the land among her children and realizing the complications that might arise at the time of his mother’s death, Manuel was concerned about getting the share of land where the orange trees were planted. The orange groves were quite a family business issue before Manuel died in 1827.
Because Bonifay never went through the proper legal channels stating how she wanted the Gull Point property divided among her family after her death, the courts sold portions of the 251 acres of Gull Point to different people. On Dec.31,1830 portions of Gull Point were sold to Juan de la Rua, who purchased three acres before Bonifay’s death and to Moses G. Yniestra.
Due to the large size of the Bonifay family and all the different people involved, the Bonifay land settlement was known as the Mariana and Manual Bonifay settlement. Nearly 100 years passed before the courts completely settled the estate.
During the year of 1822 while Juan de la Rua was mayor and living on Gull Point, Pensacola was chosen as the site for the first session of legislature. A local legend says because of the yellow fever epidemic that hit Pensacola that year, the first session of the legislature was held in the yard of the de la Rua home under a large oak tree. The legend also states it is likely one or two meetings of the delegates were held there, including the Andrew Jackson meetings. The large oak tree, which is still standing on Gull Point today, is known as Constitution Oak.
At the time of de la Rua’s death, the de la Rua portion of Gull Point was sold by his wife, Margaretta, to Judge John Cameron on May 6, 1833.
Cameron merged with Walker Anderson and Benjamin Overman in a stream saw-mill business which they built on Gull Point. Due to extended credit and excessive indebtness that accumulated while running the saw-mill, Cameron lost the business and the property on Gull Point.
At this point in the ownership of the Gull Point property the records are vague. It is possible Yniestra bought the Cameron portion of Gull Point at the time Cameron lost it.
Court records do show Dr. John A. Brosnaham did purchase the 251 acres of Gull Point around 1875 from Yniestra.
After Brosnaham bought the property, he had a photograph taken of the house which shows the orange trees planted by Bonifay some 50 years earlier. Brosnaham shipped the oranges in his own boat to Pensacola where he sold them in the old market house on Palafox and Main streets.
For the first time since the original Spanish land grant, the Gull Point property evolved from family ownership to corporate ownership. On Feb. 7, 1902, Brosnaham and his wife, Sallie, sold Gull Point to the Pensacola Tar and Turpentine Company for $3,500.
According to a deed recorded in the office of the Secretary of State, a corporation known as the Pensacola Tar and Turpentine Co. was forming in 1901. D.Y. McMillan, H.H. Boyer, B. Forbes, H.N. Roberts, J.M. Muldon, L.M. Levy and F.E. Mariner formed the company with a capital investment of $24,000 divided into shares of $100 each.
The Gull Point property would become the site for the construction of a flotation business and a community for its workers.
According to the late Professor H. Clay Armstrong, the Pensacola Tar and Turpentine Co. was the first plant built for the extraction of rosin, turpentine and tar from pine log stumps.
The company provided a very close-fitting community for its workers. Housing was built for both the white and blue-collar workers between 1902 and 1906. A train depot was built allowing the L&N railroad to make three mail deliveries a day. A company store offered the only provisions that could be bought with the coupons by which the employees were paid. Because all services were offered by the plant, people on both sides of the track were dependent on the company.
The war years hurt the port city, causing foreign trade to drop off in 1918. The hustle and bustle of the port picked up a little after the war, but Pensacola’s cypress trees were of little use in an age of steel ships.
Due to the decreased importance of lumber, the 1920’s and early 1930’s were a period of comparative stagnation in Pensacola’s economic growth. By the end of the late 30’s the method used to process the pine products had progressed.
By Feb. 23, 1927, the Pensacola Tar and Turpentine Co. had merged with the National Turpentine Co. of Jacksonville. On the following Feb. 13,1928 the National Turpentine Products Co sold out to the Wood Chemical Co. of Cleveland, Ohio for $1.
From 1927 to 1946 the original houses built by the Pensacola Tar and Turpentine Co. on Gull Point were rented from Sam Fletcher of Jacksonville. Not wanting to sell the land piece by piece, in 1946 Fletcher subdivided the Gull Point land and sold it to interested families.
Life on Gull Point has slowed down considerably in comparison to the Spanish era and lumber boom. The lush green woods and large oak trees festooned with Spanish moss keep the home-owners on Gull Point isolated in a nice way.
Now included in the city limits, the people of Gull Point are close to everything and want for nothing, especially privacy