Sand Pine, Scrub Pine (Pinus clausa) – An evergreen that grows from 25-40 feet tall. Shorter needles than the longleaf pine (2-3 1/2) and small cones grow in clusters. Grows best in sandy, undisturbed soil.
Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) – A woody, prolific climbing vine, the creeper may kill other vegetation by covering it and cutting the other plants’ ability to photosynthesize. Dark blue berries appear in clusters and contain oxylic acid, which is moderately toxic to humans and other
mammals, but provide birds with a vital winter food source.
Winged Sumac (Rhus copallinum) – A small tree or shrub that grows best in open areas, along roadsides or disturbed ground. It is prized for ornamental planting because of its lustrous dark green foliage which turns a brilliant orange-red in the fall. The tiny greenish-yellow flowers borne in compact, terminal panicles (loose, branching clusters) are followed by showy red clusters of berries which persist into the winter and attract wildlife. The sumac grows well in sandy, infertile soil.
Yaupon Holly (Ilex vomitoria) – An evergreen shrub that can reach 25 feet, growing in coastal areas in well-drained, sandy soil. The holly can be found on the upper edges of brackish and salt marshes, sandy hammocks, coastal sand dunes, inner-dune depressions, sandhills, maritime forests, nontidal forested wetlands, well-drained forests and pine flatwoods. The female holly is identified by small, bright red berries that persist through the fall and winter. The berries are an important food for many birds, including the Florida Duck, the American Black Duck, Mourning Dove, Ruffed Grouse, Bobwhite Quail, Wild Turkey, Northern Flicker, Sapsucker, Cedar Waxwing, Eastern Bluebird, American Robin, Gray Catbird, Northern Mockingbird and White-Throated Sparrow. Mammals such as the Nine-Banded Armadillo, American Black Bear, Gray Fox, Raccoon and Skunks also enjoy the berries, while the foliage and twigs are browsed by White-Tailed Deer.
Downy Serviceberry (Amelanchier arborea) – One of the first plants to burst into bloom each year, this small woody tree gets its name from the downy silvery-colored leaves. The “serviceberry” refers to the Appalachian tradition of honoring memorial services for the dead in January at the same time the serviceberry blooms in clouds of tiny white flowers. The small clusters of fruit are tart but edible and are very popular with birds. Considered a rarity in some parts of the U.S., serviceberries are common along our bays.
Southern Live Oak (Quercus virginiana) – A nearly evergreen tree that reaches heights of 50 feet, identified by its impressive size and horizontal branching. Often festooned with Spanish Moss and Resurrection Fern, live oaks were once prized by the U.S. Navy for shipbuilding. The Naval Live Oaks Reserve in Gulf Breeze (part of Gulf Islands National Seashore) was set aside by then-president John Quincy Adams in 1828 to ensure a continuous and future supply of the invaluable trees. Tall pines in the reserve were used for masts. Live oaks can withstand occasional floods and hurricanes, are somewhat salt tolerant and resistant to rot and decay. Excellent cover for owls and other birds; acorns provide food for birds and squirrels, while the leaves are the favorite food of the Polyphemus Moth Caterpillar.
Longleaf Pine (Pinus palustris) – An evergreen tree that can reach heights of more than 100 feet. Longleaf pine forests once covered most of the southeast with some specimens as old as 500 years. The forests were decimated by the lumber industry, but efforts were made to preserve remaining stands. Our area was once the center of a thriving turpentine industry that also used the sap.
Description: The bark is thick, reddish-brown and scaly. The leaves are dark green, needle-like, and occur in bundles of three. They often are twisted and remarkably long (up to 18 inches), the longest of all pine species native to North America. Seed cones can be up to 10” long. Essential habitat for the endangered Red-Cockaded Woodpecker.
This Oral History was presented January 30, 2012 at the Tryon Library on Langley Ave. by Michael Wernicke.
[Read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3]
I didn’t grow up at Gull Point. Shortly after I was born, my father and mother bought a house in Ferry Pass, where University Mall is now, at the other end of Creighton Road from Gull Point. But my grandfather and grandmother, Julius and Maleta Wernicke. lived in O.H.L.’s old house, and I used to visit them frequently, spending the night with them often. Their home was not air-conditioned, so on summer nights we left the windows open and used oscillating fans in the bedrooms. It was hot and humid, but there was compensations, because leaving the windows open allowed us to hear the crickets and katydids at night which made wonderful music to fall asleep by.
I remember the old Gull Point Post Office; my grandmother and I would walk to it to pick up the mail. It was a little square building, just one room basically, if I recall correctly. It had racks around the walls on which the postmaster placed the mail. For me the most exciting part was the mail crane that stood outside by the railroad track. All the mail to and from Gull Point was transported by train. The trains didn’t normally stop at Gull Point, so the incoming mail was just placed in a mail bag thrown from the train as it went by. But the outgoing mail from Gull Point was put in a special mail bag that was hung from the mail crane. As the train went by, they would swing a hook out from the door of the mail car, snatch the mail bag from the crane with the hook, and then swing it back into the car with the mail bag. I loved to climb on the mail crane, when there wasn’t a train coming, of course!
I also think I remember the old apartment houses that had been built for the workers at the plant. They stood on either side of the entrance between Scenic Highway and the railroad track. I can remember seeing people in the windows of the apartments as we drove by. I remember running through the old plant yard, which was gradually returning to woods and brambles, and finding evidence of the old plant,things like tanks and pipes, and the old fire stations, upright frames that once held fire hoses. The old concrete retort shells and the old concrete foundations and sumps were still there, indeed, the old retort shells still are there.
There used to be a cattle guard in the roadway to the houses. In those days there was a free-range law in Florida that allowed livestock to roam freely. If you didn’t want animals on your property, it was up to you to fence them out. As a result, most everyone out in the country had “hog-wire” fences around their homes and gardens, as well as cattle guards in the driveways. A cattle guard is a device made of rails, pipes, or bars laid parallel across a ditch in the driveway. Cars could drive over it, and people could walk across it, but it was supposed to discourage hoofed animals from crossing. The one at Gull Point was made of narrow-gage rail from the Tar & Turpentine plant. I can remember Grandma’s dog Ned, leaping into the air and sailing across the cattle guard as he raced ahead of our car on our way to the house.
One of my fondest memories is the flocks of seagulls that would gather and circle over my grandparents house late in the afternoon, making a big racket. My grandmother liked to feed the gulls beach in front of the house. They got used to this, and would start on the beach in front of the house. They got use to this, and they would start gathering early in anticipation. Every one on the point knew that the gulls were waiting for Grandma. Grandma bought stale bread from the bakery outlets in town. In the afternoon she would take a big basket of bread down to the beach, tear the slices of bread into pieces, and throw them on the ground for the gulls. What fun for children! Sometimes we would throw a piece of bread up into the air, and some of the gulls werevery good at catching it.
When I was a boy there was a grape arbor at Gull Point, which had scuppernong grapes planted in it. It yielded decent amounts of fruits, which we picked and ate. But I found out in earlier days, when my father and his brother and their cousins were boys at Gull Point, there were on occasion so many grapes that the boys fermented the grape juice and made wine. I am told that my great-grandfather used to buy whiskey from a bootlegger and keep it up in the attic. I think the bootlegger was a farmer over on the Santa Rosa Peninsula. The story goes that my father sold the wine he made to the bootlegger. The bootlegger then distilled the wine into stronger spirits, which he sold to his customers. The big glass jar that I brought to show, may have been one of the bottles which the bootlegger used to distribute his whiskey. There is also an old hydrometer on the table. It’s the long delicate glass instrument. It was used to verify the alcohol content of the whiskey they bought from the bootlegger.
Thank you for your interest in Gull Point and my talk. It has been a pleasure to have this opportunity to speak to you about Gull Point and my Family. Does anyone have any questions?
This is a copy of a presentation by Michael Wernicke on January 30, 2012 for Scenic Highway Foundation Oral History Series
This Oral History was presented January 30, 2012 at the Tryon Library on Langley Ave. by Michael Wernicke.
[Read Part 1, Part 2]
O.H.L. Wernicke had been born in Dixville, Wisconsin, in 1862. As a young man, he worked all over the Midwest and the plain states, selling agriculture equipment like binders and reapers whenever he arrived at a new place he would stack up the equipment crates and use them as display cases for the equipment. Family lore says that he noticed how convenient it was to use the stacked crates and soon realized that he could build stackable warehouse shelves and bins with similar design. In 1892 he incorporated the Wernicke Company to build sectional bookcases based on his design. In 1895 he resigned from the position in the agricultural equipment company to run the Wernicke Company full time. He moved the company to Grand Rapids, Michigan in 1897, and by 1899 had merged with the Globe Company of Cincinnati, Ohio, to form the Globe-Wernicke Company. Globe-Wernicke is the name by which his bookcase became most famous, and they were sold all over the world under that name. I am told that at one time people who purchased a subscription to National Geographic magazine would receive one shelf of a Globe-Wernicke bookcase to store their magazines in. Over time, if you kept up your subscription, you could build up a complete bookcase. The Globe-Wernicke Company prospered, but O.H.L. had a falling-out with Henry Yeiser, the president of the company, and in 1902 he resigned. From 1904 to 1916 he served as president of the Macey Company, a furniture manufacturer in
Grand Rapids, Michigan.
In the meantime, in 1905 O.H.L. had gone south to “cruise” timberlands for the Charles P. Taft Land Syndicate, which owned thousands of acres of timber land, largely in Louisiana. While in the South, he met Frank Mariner, who had been one of the organizers of the Pensacola Tar & Turpentine Company. Mr. Mariner described the new “destructive distillation” process used by the plant, which piqued O.H.L.’s interest as an engineer and inventor.
In 1916 Wernicke sold his interest in the Macey furniture company and bought a controlling interest in the Pensacola Tar & Turpentine Company. He moved to the manager’s house at Gull Point along with his wife and mother-in-law. He took over the management of the plant immediately began making improvements. In those days the process used by the plant was fairly crude, expensive, and wasteful. He remodeled the plant and improved the process. I have read that he turned it into one of the outstanding plants in the industry. In 1926, after ten years of his labors, the plant was very successful and O.H.L. sold his interest.
In 1927 Pensacola Tar & Turpentine Company merged with National Turpentine Products Company of Jacksonville, Florida. In 1928, National Turpentine Products sold out to Wood Chemical Company of Cleveland, Ohio. But the plant soon became obsolete, and after World War II the plant’s equipment was sold off supposedly to a company in South America.
From 1927 to 1946, the Wernicke family continued to live in the house at Gull Point, renting it from Mr. Sam Fletcher of Jacksonville. I assume that Mr. Fletcher must have been associated with the National Turpentine Products Company, since they both were in Jacksonville. In 1946 my grandfather and his neighbors at Gull Point bought the entire row of houses from Mr. Fletcher and divided the houses among themselves. My mother still owns and lives in the Wernicke house today. My Aunt Julia is co-owner of the old plant, along with the family of the late Dr. Alan Bell, an ophthalmologist.
In recent years the Florida Department of Environmental Protection has taken an interest in the plant site, because test wells revealed a high concentration of industrial chemicals in the soil. The final owners of the plant and their successors, including the Glidden Paint Company and Lyondell Chemicals, have paid for remediation projects to try to remove the chemicals or at least neutralize them. They don’t seem to have made a lot of progress, although the latest effort did remove a lot of the old concrete foundations and structure. However, the old concrete retort shells are still there. So the last chapter of the Pensacola Tar & Turpentine story remains to be written.
O.H.L. Wernicke did at least one more thing of importance in Pensacola. He became the number one booster for the three-mile bridge from Pensacola to the Santa Rosa Peninsula and for the bridge to Pensacola Beach. Before the bridges were built, the only way to get to the Peninsula and Santa Rosa Island was by boat, which kept a lot of people from ever going there. O.H.L. studied this situation and determined that a toll bridge across the bay would be profitable. He suggested this to the Chamber of Commerce and others, but no one was interested. So around 1925 he decided to make the financing and building of a bridge his main endeavor. He rented an office at 15 W. Garden Street and began traveling the state to drum up support. He looked into the new bridges being built in Panama City over the East Bay and the West Bay, and met the contractor’s a young engineer named R.G. Patterson. O.H.L. explained his idea for the Pensacola bridges to Patterson, who quickly became interested. When the bridges in Panama City were finished, Patterson came to Pensacola and began working to promote the project. In 1927 he moved the family to Pensacola, and they ended up living in one of the houses at Gull Point, where their descendants still live. With O.H.L. assistance, Mr.Patterson pulled together financing, got government approvals for the project, organized a bridge company, and started the work.
There were a lot of difficulties along the way, but in the end they got the bridges built. My grandfather, Julius Wernicke, Sr. moved down from New York to Pensacola in 1928 to work with his father on the bridge project and related business opportunities. He bought his wife, Maleta, and his two sons, Julius, Jr. and Roger. Julius, Jr. was my father. Roger became the husband of Julia Wernicke, which is how my Aunt came into the family. I also should mention that in
1921, O.H.L.’s older son, Carl, had moved to Gull Point with his wife and sons. Carl is the author of the journal that is on the display table. It includes a letter describing his first impressions of Pensacola and Gull Point. Carl died at Gull Point and his family moved to California.
O.H.L. also organized a motorcade from St. Augustine, Florida, to San Diego, California, over what was known as Old Spanish Trail. He did it to promote legislation to pave a trans- continental highway along this route. He personally led the motorcade across the country, but the strain of the trip proved too much for his heart, already overtaxed by a strenuous like. He died of a heart attack in August of 1930, before the three-mile bridge was completed and opened later that same year. He never did get to experience the thrill of a ride across the bridge. But his grandson, my father, participated in the opening ceremony for the bridge. He was one of the boy scouts who held the ribbon that was cut to mark the opening. It was around this time that my grandfather and his family moved into the Wernicke house at Gull Point.
Part 4 of the 4 part series will appear in March 2014.
This Oral History was presented January 30, 2012 at the Tryon Library on Langley Ave. by Michael Wernicke.
[Read Part 1]
The Gull Point area I have been describing was part of one of the great Spanish land grants, the Marianna Bonifay grant. I’m sure many of you know more than I do about Marianna Bonifay and the land grant, so please forgive me if I leave out something important or get something wrong! I am taking this part mostly from an article by Alice Crann some years ago in the Pensacola News. Ms. Crann said that Marianna Bonifay and her son Manuel planted orange groves around the Gull Point area. The original trees are all long gone, as far as I know, but I might point out that my mother Gilda Wernicke, recently planted a single orange tree which is doing very well, So I guess the soil and climate are good for oranges at the point.
After Marianna Bonifay’s death in 1829, the land was sold to Juan de la Rua and Moses Yniestra. Juan de la Rua was the mayor in 1822 and already living at Gull Point when Pensacola was chosen as the location for the first session of the Florida Territorial legislature. Legend has it that because of a yellow-fever epidemic in 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. Legend further states that Andrew Jackson may have participated in one or two of these meetings. The oak tree in question is still standing at Gull Point today in the yard of Tom and Lynn Hayes.
When Juan de la Rua died, His wife Margaretta sold his Gull Point land to Judge John Cameron in 1833. Cameron, together with Walter Anderson and Benjamin Overman, built a steam sawmill on Gull Point. But the business failed, and somehow the property passed into the hands of Moses Yniestra who already owned much of the Bonifay land grant.
In 1875 Dr. John A. Brosnaham purchased the 251-acre land grant from Yniestra. After he bought the property, Brosnaham took advantage of the orange groves planted by the Bonifays 50 years before. He shipped the oranges in his own boats to Pensacola, where he sold them in the market at Palafox and Main Streets. But in 1902 Brosnaham and his wife sold Gull Point to the Pensacola Tar and Turpentine Company.
Pensacola Tar & Turpentine
The Pensacola Tar & Turpentine Company had been incorporated in 1901. The founders were D.Y. McMillan, H.H. Boyer, B. Forbes, H.N. Roberts, J.M. Muldon, L.M. Levy, and F.E. Mariner. They put up a total of $24,000, divided into 240 shares at $100 a share.
After buying the land at Gull Point, they built the plant. It was a great location, with railroad service and water access. The company built a complete community for their workers, which was necessary because in those days Gull Point was pretty isolated. There was no easy road into Pensacola, and in particular there was no bridge across Bayou Texar. The little community of Gull Point even had their own post office, with mail delivered by the L&N railroad. They had a company store, where employees could buy provisions using the coupons with which they were paid. [Editor’s note: after the talk, a member of the audience informed me that the Pensacola Tar & Turpentine Company paid its workers with metal tokens, no coupons.] They built a row of houses along the bay shore for the managers of the plant. They built apartment houses for the workers on the other side of the railroad tracks.
The community had its own utilities, too. There was an electric generator to provide power for the plant and the houses. At that time Gull Point was one of the few electrified areas in Escambia County. Interestingly, the electric system was based on direct current, rather than the alternating current system that we use today. When Gulf Power took over electricity distribution to Gull Point, all the appliances in the houses had to be modified or replaced to accept AC power. I’m told that in my grandparents house, they kept the old refrigerator, and just replaced the DC refrigerating unit on top with an AC unit. There was a central water well and water system for the point. They even had a large in-ground reservoir near Scenic Highway for fire protection water. There is still a large pipe and valve sticking out of the ground my mother’s house that was intended for use with a fire hose.
The business of the Pensacola Tar & Turpentine Company was processing old pine stumps to recover the pine chemicals from them. The basic process was called “destructive distillation”, and it consisted of heating the stumps in an air-tight retort to extract useful products from the wood. This had the added benefit of retrieving economically valuable products from what was basically a waste product of the southern timber industry, the stumps left behind after the trees were cut. The company paid people to go out into the logged-over forests and dig up or blast out the stumps, and bring them to Gull Point. The stumps were then loaded into the retorts, where the wood was heated to drive off all the volatile chemicals in a gaseous form. The gases were condensed into liquids such as turpentine, pine oils, pine tar and so on. What remained of the pine stumps after processing was basically charcoal, which was ground into carbon powder and sold for the manufacture of gunpowder.
In 1916, my great-grandfather, Otto Heinrich Louis Wernicke (O.H.L. for short), bought a controlling interest in the plant and moved to Pensacola. Before I get into O.H.L’s work here in Pensacola, let me mention that your vice-president, Jean Wallace, tells me her father-in-law first came to Pensacola to work as a chemist at Pensacola Tar & Turpentine. So more than one of us owe our presence here to that old company.
Read part 3 of this 4 part series.