When was East Pass First Named? (MAPS)

Staff Writer
The Destin Log

Another one of the History Mysteries of Destin is East Pass and how the location of the pass has changed over the years and when it first got its name.

Over the years East Pass, and for that matter, Choctawhatchee Bay and Moreno Point, have been called many things.  The words ‘East Pass’ actually describes the pass at the east end of the Santa Rosa Island.

Santa Rosa Island is the barrier island that runs from Choctawhatchee Bay to Pensacola Bay. Santa Rosa Sound that runs behind Santa Rosa Island was the main channel that vessels took to and from Pensacola and settlements to the east, like Camp Walton, Destin, Boggy, Four Mile Landing and settlements up the Choctawhatchee River into Alabama.

Based on a 1774 nautical chart, Moreno Point is described as Red Cliffs and Choctawhatchee Bay is called Santa Rosa Bay.  The inlet to the bay is not named and neither is Norriego Point.

A map from 1886 shows that the land where Destin is located today was called Moreno Point. The bay is called Choctawhatchee, and the east end of Santa Rosa Island is called Norriego Point. The Inlet is called Santa Rosa Inlet, not East Pass.

Over the years Norriego Point, Moreno Point Choctawhatchee Bay, and East Pass have gone by many names depending on who was drawing the maps or charts.

The first time we could find that East Pass was actually called East Pass on a map or chart was in 1864, as can be seen by a map drawn in February 1864 to guide Union troops as they patrolled the area from Pensacola to Vernon, Florida.  It clearly shows five families living at East Pass. They are the Lennin, McCullom, Lewis, Sanders, and Lewis families. The location of the Lennin family as shown on the map makes it clear the map maker means the Leonard Destin family.

Also, for the first time we see the inlet to Choctawhatchee Bay is called East Pass.  The pass was important to the Union Army in 1864 for two reasons. First, East Pass and Santa Rosa Sound were the “back door.” They were the bodies of water where a vessel could reach Pensacola, without approaching Pensacola Harbor from the Gulf of Mexico. Thus avoiding Fort Pickens, which was controlled by the Union throughout the Civil War.

Secondly, during the Civil War, the Union blockaded all southern ports. So the Union was concerned that southerners might move commerce (like salt, cotton, lumber, etc.) through the inlet at East Pass.

The next History Myster will look at how and why the location of East Pass has changed over the years.

H. C. “Hank” Klein is a Destin historian who visits often and lives in North Little Rock, Arkansas with his wife (the former Muriel Marler of Destin).  He also contributed historical research for Tony Mennillo’s recently published book “Salty Memories along the Coastal Highway – Historic Stories of Destin and the Emerald Coast.”  He can be contacted at klein@aristotle.net.