There was excited chatter in the Charles Whitehead Public Library’s lecture hall as residents from around Wewahitchka gathered into the small space, cramped together, after rows of extra chairs were added for those in attendance.
They all had their own stories to tell – items they found on their property or pieces left to them by family members who have since passed. On Tuesday morning, they all came together to learn about these discoveries and place them in the region’s larger historical context.
Both Gulf County libraries welcomed University of South Florida Archaeology Professor Nancy White to present a brief history of two specific aspects of the county’s history that day – the area’s Native American history and the history of old St. Joseph, the town that predates Port St. Joe.
The former was the topic in the lecture hall that morning.
“Not every single one died out or was moved to Oklahoma. I know that many around here have Native American ancestors,” White said to the crowd in Wewahitchka, displaying photos of pottery that had been excavated in the area. “The artifacts can give us some clues as to how they lived, what they did, and we’re going to keep studying them for as long as we can.”
White has been doing specialized research on the region for decades. Her expertise stretched from the Apalachicola River’s basin into southwestern Georgia, where she has been searching for historic clues for most of her career.
Public outreach, White explained, is one of the most important aspects of her work. She named various Wewahitchkans who had helped her locate important sites over her many visits to the area.
“It’s not only my passion, but that of many of you,” she said to the group. “Without the help and interest of people who live here and know the land much better than I, I would not make discoveries. I would not be able to come back and tell you what they all mean.”
Many of the guests had brought their own discoveries along with them looking for answers, and as the lecture in Wewahitchka drew to a close, White made sure to take time to chat with them and provide any answers she could.