Perdido Beach Historic Overview
Perdido Beach is a close knit community and has over 100 years of recorded history. Many years ago, Perdido Bay was rendezvous for Pirates. Old Spanish coins have been found, also old guns, and it is reported that at least one pirate treasure has been found. It is certain that in the early days, smugglers sailed up Perdido Bay into Perdido River to the American, Mississippi and Alabama territory to escape the Spanish custom duty.
Evidence of Paleo and Archaic Native American tribes has been discovered near Perdido Beach that date back to 1500 BC. Shell middens and earthen mounds that are at least 12,000 years old have been found scattered along the banks of the Alabama Gulf Coast, including Perdido Bay. Skeletons, earthen pottery, tools and other rare artifacts have been excavated from mounds near Bear Point in Orange Beach, Alabama, by noted archaeologist Clarence Bloomfield Moore that date back to 1250 AD. The sub-tropical environment of southern Alabama and the countless number of waterways that branch off the Gulf of Mexico provided an abundance of food for the Native Americans, as indicated by the discovery of numerous shell middens found along these shorelines. Other mounds have been discovered along the banks of Perdido Bay near Josephine, Alabama. Perdido Beach in Spanish means “Lost” Beach.
1900 – 1936
In December 1900, Col. L.B. Hatch acquired a portion of land on the west bank of Soldier Creek, thus leading to the initial development of Perdido Beach with lot sales beginning in 1901. A number of towns were formed in South Baldwin County at the turn of the 20th century, platted as “cross-roads” towns to act as “service centers” for surrounding farm operations. In contrast, Perdido Beach was planned to exploit its waterfront amenities. The Perdido Beach plan shows some sophistication with its reservation of public right-of-way and the varying size and location of lots so as to appeal to a variety of potential buyers.
By reserving all beach frontage, (save for 3 lots) as public right-of-way, all 280 lots in the community would have access to the beaches, thus enhancing the appeal of interior lots for buyers interested in beach recreation. Seven larger lots would have an appeal to buyers interested in gardening or livestock and three large lots with direct water access to Palmetto Creek were suitable for marine commerce or industry that needed direct water access. A public park was reserved in a central location with three adjacent lots suitable for institutional or business use. Thus the plan for Perdido Beach not only provided an attractive place to live, but was so structured as to accommodate a variety of urban services and activities characteristic of a self-contained town of that day.
The first decade of settlement at Perdido Beach was strongly affected by the existing modes of transportation. Travel by land was over trails on horseback or wagon. Travel by water was much easier. The daily mail boat from Millview, Florida made trips to Perdido Beach carrying passengers and cargo as well as mail. Upstate families had reasonable access to vacation homes traveling via Pensacola, Florida.
Local people of the area were the first to buy and build homes at Perdido Beach. Later, vacation cottages were built facing Perdido Bay, and some around the wide part of Soldier Creek called Crystal Lake. By 1907, a schoolhouse was built to serve local children as well as children from Josephine. Soon there was a general store, a fish market, and a post office on the west bank of Soldier Creek pass, an ice plant which later became a bottling works, a sawmill and a shingle factory. Occupations included contractors, boat builders, loggers, farmers and commercial fishermen. The first church, Saint Andrews by the Sea, was built by community effort.
As is today, boating and fishing were the major recreation, although the boats were quite different and the fish far more plentiful. The daily arrival of mail became an occasion for people to gather, exchange gossip, and for some, play a little pinochle. Children would look forward to a bottled drink and hopefully, a Baby Ruth candy bar. By 1912 there were 30 buildings standing in Perdido Beach. Of these, 25 structures are still standing although few are visible from the road. Modest as the Perdido Beach buildings are, they represent a building technology and a way of life at the turn of the 20th century.
1936 – 2012
During the early years, arriving to or leaving from the Perdido Beach community was no easy task. Children attended school in the community, goods were sold and exchanged and with the help and cooperation of friends and family, the residents were able to sustain their everyday lives in close proximity to their homes and neighbors. As modes of travel improved and people were free to travel to and from the community, the overall nature and appearance of the community evolved from residential/industrial to mostly residential. The logging industry disappeared, the school closed and children went to school in Elberta and Foley, the hotel and Randolph’s store burned and the post office closed. Later added and existing today are the Volunteer Fire Department, a second church and various subdivisions.
On April 21, 2009, residents voted in favor of incorporation. On June 10, 2009 Baldwin County Probate Judge issued an order declaring the Town of Perdido Beach incorporated, making it Baldwin County’s fourteenth municipality. The first administration was elected without opposition and began its work after inauguration on August 20, 2009. There are many stories of success and challenge. Among the successes, the first administration passes on to the incoming administration the governing of a debt free municipality. The greatest challenge, without a doubt, to the Town and its residents, has been the managing of the physical, emotional and economic impacts on the community as a result of the Deep Water Horizon Incident.
In 2012 the appearance of the Town is mostly residential but one still finds the enduring spirit of self-reliance passed down from earlier generations, which is notable in the various home occupations and water related activities still present in the community. In contrast to the homes in the community is the Town’s one remaining industry, Resmondo Boat Works, established in 1956 and known nationwide for their custom built U.S. Coast Guard approved, Multi-passenger Sport Fishing Boats. As in the past, families, friends and neighbors find mutual support as valued members of a caring and nurturing community.
Many of the early families are now in their fifth, sixth or seventh generation and most have descendants living full time or part time in the community. Other residents have made their homes in Perdido Beach, moving from various parts of the country to join in community with the early family members. Whether full time or part time, old family or newly arrived, the residents have developed a special relationship of togetherness rooted in a common bond of intense appreciation for the place so dear to all, Perdido “Lost” Beach.
An extensive collection of writings and photographs representative of Perdido Beach history is located at the Perdido Beach Town Hall.