The town of Apalachicola was established in 1831. Shipping cotton was Apalachicola’s first big industry and it soon became the third largest port on the Gulf of Mexico. By the 1850s, the waterfront was lined with rows of three story brick warehouses and broad streets helped to handle the loading and unloading of cotton. Steamboats laden with cotton traveled down the Apalachicola River to town where they were unloaded. Small shallow draft schooners (lighters) then shuttled the cargo to ships moored offshore. The ships then took the cotton to Europe and New England for processing. The port was so prominent that a US customs house was opened in 1821, and the French established a consulate office to monitor their commercial interests.
As the railroads expanded throughout the United States making it more efficient to ship cotton by rail, a new industry took shape in the city. Home to large cypress forests, Apalachicola developed several large cypress lumber mills in the late 1800s. Lumber magnates built many of the magnificent historic homes that still line our streets.
By the end of the 19th century, oysters and seafood became the most important industry. Seafood processing houses offloaded millions of pounds of fresh shrimp, oysters and fish each year. Today Franklin County harvests more than 90 % of Florida’s oysters and 13 % of the oysters consumed in the nation. Shrimp, blue crab and finfish are also very important commercially, bringing in over $14 million worth of fresh, raw seafood to Franklin County docks annually. Excerpt from Apalachicola Bay Chamber of Commerce.