Keep GOing ‘Getting Outdoors’ at Troy Deal Tract
The restrooms have not been replaced since Hurricane Michael, but parking is available. Keep in mind you will get stuck if you’re not careful. Procedure is same as other gates; you just walk around the gate to access the tract.
The information for this article is taken from interviews in 2003 with Mr. Troy Deal by Dr. Nancy M. White and her archaeology students from the University of South Florida.
Troy Deal brought his five children to enjoy the area and made a game of finding treasure left by pirates. He told them pirates had no banks, so they buried their treasures. That provided many hours of entertainment for his family.
One time while visiting, Mr. Fred Maddox asked him if those men found anything on his property. He asked what men? Then immediately went to the old tree. There he found a hole maybe six, eight feet long and four-feet-wide directly under the knob. If he had dropped a plumb bob from the knob, they would have found the treasure. What he found was the top of a box that had iron straps on it.
Mr. Deal decided to build a tower on the property. His intention with the tower was to have an apartment at the top for him and his children to enjoy. He started enclosing it and had bunk beds, but never got to the kitchen and bathroom. He also thought the public would enjoy having a place to view the gulf and the bay later on. That project was never completed; however, the view from the top of the tower was an awesome one.
Mr. Deal invited a Florida State University professor to visit and so some research on the property. Mr. Deal’s daughter had found some pottery at the tip of the spit (of the peninsula) and the professor was very excited about that discovery. His research efforts were concentrated at that location, rather than the Deal Tract.
The FSU professor called the site Old English Fort. During the course of his examination, adjacent to this area there was an indentation in the peninsula called Spanish Harbor. It was on the maps as Spanish Harbor. According to the FSU professor, Dr. H.G. Smith, originally, he thought it was Spaniards from St. Augustine expanding westward. He thought they had set up an outpost here. As it turned out from his research, that was not the case.
The settlement, named Fort San Jose, was manned for two years. Although a permanent base was not built, they did build a log facility and they could bring their ships in there. From there they explored the coast and decided Pensacola was where they wanted to build.
So, Dr. Smith concluded, the original landing of the Spanish in the North American continent was what became Fort San Jose on St. Joseph Peninsula. He did extensive investigations finding Spanish helmets, Spanish buttons, sword heels and other items.
Unlike today, traffic back then was slow or almost non-existent. In fact, the only person Mr. Deal saw (and not very much at that), was Mr. Fred Maddox, who had some wild cattle that he rounded up. He was happy to have Mr. Maddox checking on the cows and keeping an eye on his property.
The dock was built to be sturdy on concrete posts and built with 12-by-12’s, which is a big, big, piece of wood. It was very strong when built. The dock was big enough to drive out on it and put three cars on the T at the end.
Mr. Deal lived in Ocala area and would fly his children to the property on St. Joseph Peninsula. He put in a small airstrip to use. He loved to fly and had over 14,000 hours of flying time. He flew his family back and forth enjoying the summers especially.
One funny story about fiddler crabs involved his youngest daughter and catching the fiddler crabs. The design on the crabs intrigued his daughter and they would try to figure what each design was, such as castles or faces. “You know how kids are,” he said.
When she started school there was a show and tell time in class about “What did you do last summer?” She shared about the fiddler crabs and the designs on their backs.
His daughter came home crying. Mr. Deal got in his airplane, came out to the property, collected a bucket of fiddler crabs, took them to the school – and dumped the whole can of live fiddler crabs on the teacher’s desk. He said to the teacher, “Now, don’t call little girls liars anymore.” He stated that he was a little upset about the situation.
There are more stories about happenings in the area for more articles. Explore the Deal Tract for yourself.
The next Tram Trip will be on Friday, Nov. 6 at 9 a.m. This trip will be on Cattle Dip Road. Meet in the parking lot at the main gate. If you have questions or need directions call 850-229-1787.
A hike/walk on the Deal Tract will be later next year as the roads and trails covered in the articles in the Uplands will be enjoyed first. Weather is getting so nice for a walk or hike.