Anyone attempting to sketch a history of the community
of PACE today will miss the resource of Frank Penton. Until his death
a number of years ago he enjoyed sharing his memories and pictures that
were historical treasures. My personal friendship with Ashley (Dick)
Pace has also been very helpful. He is a grandson of James Pace, the
founder of the Pace Community. Dick provided relevant input that just
would not have been available from any other source.
Prior to 1818 while Pensacola was still occupied by the
Spanish, the Chumuckla Indians traded in the Floridatown area. One must
recall that Florida was then ruled by Spain while Alabama was governed
by America. We know that as early as 1814 Andrew Jackson was active here
quelling border incidents. He took Pensacola first in 1814, again in
1818 and the final time in 1821.
The 1818 Jackson Campaign gave birth to the legend that
Jackson himself camped with his troops and slept under a large oak still
called by some older residents Jackson's Oak. This is located in the
Floridatown area of Pace near the waterfront homes named Jackson Estates.
David Crockett's autobiography would seem to verify that
he was part of a contingent commanded by Major Uriah Blue. The wording
by M. Luther King in his "History of Santa Rosa County" would seem to
place the contingent in the Floridatown area. IF Major Blue was camped
at Floridatown it enhances the likelihood that Jackson would have been
encamped elsewhere. Penton and this writer believe Jackson himself was
encamped in the Cantonment area. None the less the Jackson legend has
persisted and a flamboyant political figure of the 1970s frequently dressed
as General Jackson and rode his horse at a gallop onto the sight of Political
Rallies where he was scheduled to speak.
When Spain began to loose her grip in the area many land
grants and sales were made to "beat the clock". One VERY significant
and interesting grant was made to Jacob Kelker. He was a mulatto son
of a Spanish nobleman and this grant was made just prior to American
control of the area. The Mulatto son received what is known as the Mulatto
Bayou Grant IE part of which we today call MULAT. The Kelker Grant included
the area today occupied by Air Products, which is certainly part if the
Floridatown had the initial growth, not just of the Pace
area but of Santa Rosa County. It was the early sight of trading between
the white man and the Native Americans. (A fact not forgotten in current
efforts by Native Americans to preserve some MARK of their heritage there.)
We know that as early as the 1820s the area became "fun area". Subsequently
business and government growth followed. The growth was enhanced in 1840
with the FERRY terminal. This became for years to come the tie between
Santa Rosa and Escambia County. STRANGE no one seems curious as to how
the area of FERRY PASS in Pensacola got its name.
After the Civil War Emory Fiske Skinner came to the area
and instituted a massive logging/lumber business. A story maintains he
found a loop hole in a law that made him rich. The law provided you could
claim land that you could see from a boat whereupon he put a rowboat
in a wagon and claimed the land he wanted. We found NO evidence that
he is part of the Skinner family lineage evident in Pace today. His mill
was in Escambia County in the Scenic Highway area. His book "REMINISCES" of
1908 suggests that he later regretted his practice of "strip logging" choice
pines. HOWEVER he indirectly determined the future of Pace for 60 years.
A hurricane devastated the Skinner mill and JAMES G.PACE
from Hazelhurst, Georgia, purchased what was left of Skinner's Operation
including approximately 100,000 acres of timber, and O.F. Skinner went
west. Some would call Skinner a carpet bagger and perhaps he was, but
his part in the Pace, Santa Rosa County history is very significant.
James G. Pace then re-built the mill in what today is the
community of Pace. It was located across Chumuckla Highway from the building
currently occupied by the Pace Furniture Store. Until 1993 this was a
BARNES SUPERMARKET. When his Grandfather is referred to as the founder
of Pace, Ashley (Dick) Pace modestly will say, "he just started a sawmill".
However James G. Pace operated in such a manner as to bring some structure
to the Community which bears his name. The area was called Pea Ridge
in the 1910 census but by 1912 it was known as PACE.
The sawmill provided employment for over 200 men from 1907-1927.
The sawmill operated its own narrow-gauge rail-road for logging. The
track ran through Santa Rosa County from Floridatown to Jay. The engines
and cars were brought to Floridatown by barge since
the railroad did not connect with any other line. Mr. Penton shared with
me his boyhood memory that in the mill the boilers were molded with the
inscription "SKINNER BOILER CO."
Mr. Pace established Company housing and a Commissary.
Pace Road which fronts Dixon Elementary School was the site of such housing
for supervisory level employees. Employees could elect to receive part
of their pay in script that could be used in the Commissary near the
mill, where their money went further.
Many blacks were employed at the mill and it has come down
word of mouth that Mr. Pace was known as a man who treated them justly.
His values in this regard caused him to use his influence to CAUSE OTHERS
to do so, who might not have otherwise been so inclined. One of the former
quarters of a Black sawmill employee is still an occupied building in
Pace. It is badly in need of a facelift but the need is obviously neglect
since the structure is sound. In the late 1920's J.G. Pace was sent to
France as a delegate of the U.S. Government, to study forestry methods.
Upon returning he put what he had learned into practice on this woodlands
in Santa Rosa County.
An Andrew Jackson hotel was for a significant
time an eloquent facility in Floridatown. It closed in 1966 a far cry
from its days of grandeur. The building was torn down in 1967 but fortunately
pictures show the Ladies with their parasols at the famous weekend dinners
and parties that drew large numbers from Pensacola and Officers from
The children of James G. Pace and Caroline Ashley Pace
in chronological order were Burgess who owned and operated the Andrew
Jackson Hotel, Myrtice who married E.F. Stone the FIRST Coast Guard pilot
who was the pilot of NC-4, the first plane to fly the Atlantic, (This
aircraft is on display at the Nation Museum of Naval Aviation) Ashley
D. one of the main founders of the paper mill in Cantonment, and John
C. who is well remembered since the U.W.F. Library bears his name. He
was an honored guest at the Pace High School dedication.
After the death of his wife, James G. Pace married Winona
Rabb. Their children were Mary Catherine, Virginia, James G. (Jim) Jr.,
Winona and Frances. Jim was a prominent and respected retired gentleman
in Pensacola at the time of his death a few years back. The daughters
of James G. Pace ALL married Naval Aviators which PERHAPS can be called
the beginning of the close tie of Pace with the Navy.
After the mill closed in 1929 a turpentine business continued
on the same location for a number of years but this did not have the
employment benefit the mill had. Some industry has come to Santa Rosa
County but the Pace community future as a bedroom community appears to
have been set by the closing of the mill and the ready access to Escambia
The rural atmosphere STRANGELY to this writer, for MANY
years did not appeal to many. For MANY years Pace continued with only
gradual growth. The Pace Civic Association has been in existence since
1958. Initially as a Civitan Club the group provided the leadership in
the development of the Pace Water System. This same group ATTEMPTED to
spearhead the development of a sewer system over twenty years ago. The
failure was for reasons beyond the control of their local efforts. The
same fate befell their effort to incorporate the Pace community, however
it is acknowledged errors were made that caused this failure. However
many community leaders came out of the Pace Civic Association.
One member of this group was Benny Russell who as Superintendent
of Schools perhaps contributed to the FANTASTIC growth Pace has experienced
recently. The reputation of Santa Rosa County schools is the reason MANY
give for moving to Pace. New sub-division developments have also attracted
rather affluent retirees to a community that just a few years ago many
people termed "Red Neck". This year (2001) Pace had a larger graduating
class than Milton. The largest Super Wal-Mart in Florida it appears will
be only the beginning of the change we will yet experience in PACE.
We are PERHAPS living in the closing years for example
of Spencer Field. This square mile Navy OLF (out lying field) will soon
be surrounded by homes. The Navy will find it easy to move further north
in Santa Rosa County and this close identity of Pace with the Navy will
be lost. One generation of Naval Aviators remembered PACE for the great
times at dances and other events they had at the Andrew Jackson Hotel.
Thousands more will remember mastering their skills as a helicopter pilot
at Spencer Field in Pace.
The History of Pace may not be SPECTACULAR by some measurements
but this writer believes knowledge of the history develops a greater
sense of Community.
PIONEER FAMILIES OF PACE, FLORIDA
by the same author will also be available exclusively to this WEBSITE.