East Bound and Down: History and Archaeology of the S.S. Florida, A Mid-Nineteenth-Century Sidewheel Steamboat

Jeffrey T. Moates

          On the morning of 29 August 1856, the S.S. Florida entered St. Joseph Bay seeking shelter from an approaching gale. Later, the worsening wind and waves could not be avoided and the gale finally drove her aground near the tip of St. Joseph Peninsula. After surviving the wreck, all of the passengers and the crew employed themselves by gathering all that could be saved. Long known by local residents of Port St. Joe, Florida, the wreck site was documented by a team of archaeologists from the University of West Florida (UWF) in 2000. A follow up investigation in August 2001 identified the well-preserved lower hull remains and associated artifacts of the ill-fated steamboat. The primary goal of this report is to confirm that the shipwreck remains lying on the eastern shore of St. Joseph Peninsula are indeed those of the Florida. Her short-lived career is presented in relation to transportation and, more specifically, coastal steamboating in the Antebellum South. The site is presented through an analysis of historical accounts as well as the vessel's architectural and artifact remains. The result of the analyses traces the steamboat's history through time and interprets the site within the much broader context of an expanding domestic trade network.