Becoming the first permanent settler to make a home on the sandy shores of Destin during the 1840s Leonard Destin forever earned the title of The Father of Destin.
Hailing from New London, Conn., Leonard earned his title and new hometown under tragic circumstances.
While traveling, with his father, George Destin, his brothers and a cabin boy, on three fishing sloops — Gallant, Empress and Hero — from New London to Key West, a massive hurricane hit, killing everyone except Leonard and the cabin boy, Gaius Pomeroy.
Leonard is thought to have been marooned for some time after the hurricane before a group of fishermen rescued him, bringing him to what would be his new home, what is known as Destin's East Pass area today.
Paying homage to Leonard, and the entire founding Destin family, the Destin Library hosted a presentation Thursday night with guest speakers — many being relatives of the original Destinite.
Although not related to the Destin family, local author and photographer Tony Mennillo is a longtime Destin resident who is more than familiar with the clear blue water that runs through the gulf.
The author of the recently published, "Salty Memories...Along the Coastal Highway — Historical Stories of Destin and the Emerald Coast," Mennillo has researched and written extensively about Leonard and the rest of the Destin family.
Acting as the night’s master of ceremonies, Mennillo jokes about the Destin that Leonard washed up on more than 100 years ago, "Destin B.C. — Destin before condos."
Mennillo then introduced H.C. "Hank" Klein, a distant Destin relative through marriage. Klein and Mennillo worked closely while researching Mennillo's recently published book.
"Fishing was big business," said Klein. "Fishermen, like the Destin family, would travel south to fish, then sell their catch in Havana." Klein adds that trips out to sea usually lasted a minimum of two years.
Dewey Destin, Jr. and Patricia Sikes, both part of the Destin family were also speaking at the library on behalf of their city and their family name.
Dewey is the great-grandson of George Destin, Leonard's oldest son, and the owner of the iconic Dewey Destin's restaurant.
"It was a dirt road of beaches, it was a wonderful place to be a kid," said Sikes, recalling her and cousin Dewey's time as children growing up in Destin.
Sikes, who now lives in Pensacola, has been traveling to New London for more than 30 years researching her family whenever possible. Turning the research into a family affair, Sike’s Aunt Trisha was also helpful in digging up information about the Destin's.
"We were hooked — we didn't mean to be, but we were," Sikes said of the excitement they experienced whenever they found new information on the family.
As time went on unearthing new information became more difficult and harder to prove due to contradicting records. But, one piece of evidence is certain — records in New London and Destin show that the Destin's went on "at least 25" trips to sea before the tragic hurricane trip of 1835. The family made a living fishing and whaling.
Although Destin has only been an incorporated municipality since the 1980's, it long ago earned the nickname "The World's Luckiest Fishing Village," when Leonard and the Destin family, paved the way making it a home and vacation destination for people around the world.