There was excited chatter in the Charles Whitehead Public Library after hours on Oct. 21 as the Wewahitchka Historical Group awaited Mimi Minnick’s announcement.
Usually, they meet in the Corner Café, which is owned by their president and vice president Ann and Mitchell Johnson. But last Thursday, the County’s librarian invited the group of 27 to the library under secret circumstances.
Light refreshments were distributed, the minutes from last month’s meeting were read, and the room was buzzing with excitement as Minnick stood to address the guests.
“We’ve been working on, some of you may have heard, a photo scanning project, encouraging people to bring their historical photos in so that we can scan them for research purposes or for use in a future exhibit,” she said.
“And we’re working on this larger idea of a 100th anniversary exhibit – either the 100th anniversary of Wewahitchka or the 100th anniversary of Gulf County.”
There were enthusiastic murmurs from the group. And when Minnick asked the group for ideas for the exhibit, ideas flowed.
Conversation from that point focused on one question: What made Wewahitchka? The Historical Group, most of whom were born and raised in the town, were excited to share their stories and those of generations before them in the interest of getting to the bottom of how their community was built.
Along the way, many recalled stories from their own pasts – happy memories of a town they called “the sweetest little city in Florida” and “the small town with a big heart.”
James Rish, whose family has been making honey in the area since the town was founded, remembered his grandmother’s first visit to the town.
“She was from the city, and she wasn’t used mosquitos and alligators and snakes and all that, and she said ‘this is a God forsaken place,’” he laughed. “She saw things a little differently to us.”
Minnick and Wewahitchka’s branch manager, Joyelle Linton, took detailed notes as audience members shouted out ideas or reflected on those who had passed on. When time ran out, participants were encouraged to add their thoughts to the pages posted for this purpose, and many did.
By the end of the meeting, they had defined Wewahitchka’s core values and named some of the key players in the small town’s complicated history.
Numerous suggestions were made, including Ancestry and FamilySearch classes (including classes on researching family history for Black and Native communities), lectures and author talks on local history topics.
Of particular interest was a suggestion to support the collection and archiving of oral history interviews with “old-timers.”
“This little town has been overlooked for too long, and we are finding lots to celebrate,” Minnick said after the event ended, glad to see the community engaged in the project and eager to take the next steps.
The library will be hosting the first Wewahitchka History Day at the library on Nov. 13, and they hope to grow it into an annual event. For more information about the library’s efforts to preserve the town’s history, or to contact a librarian, please visit their website at https://www.nwrls.com/charles-whitehead-public-library/.