Historian writes new book on Leonard Destin

Annie Blanks | 315-4450 | @DestinLogAnnie |
"Destin's Founding Father" is the newest book by Hank Klein. The book talks about the early days of Destin founder Leonard Destin. SPECIAL TO THE LOG

Destin historian Hank Klein has written a new book about the history of early Destin centering on the town’s earliest settler, Leonard Destin.

Klein, who now lives with his wife Muriel (Marler) Klein in North Little Rock, Arkansas, is also the author of "Destin's Pioneer Settlers: A Land History of Destin, Florida from 1819-1940." For his newest book, Klein spent the past five years researching Destin and separating fact from folklore. He dug through newspaper articles and records from the 1800s and worked with direct descendants of the original resident to piece together a robust and surprising history of the world’s luckiest fishing village.

“Everybody knows the story of (Leonard Destin) being from New London, Connecticut, and being in a shipwreck off Florida, and his father and one brother died, and then he came to Destin,” Klein said. “That’s the story that everybody knows. But there’s whole lot more to the story to that.”

Klein uncovered several surprising facts about the earliest settler of the town, including that Destin wasn’t, in fact, the earliest settler of the town. Destin’s wife’s family, Martha McCollum, was here before Destin was, Klein found.

He also uncovered interesting and previously untold stories about early Destin and its settlers, including the Destin brothers’ whaling adventures and Civil War events that occurred right in the East Pass.

Dewey Destin, a descendant of Leonard Destin, worked with Klein throughout his research and was proud of the final product.

“Hank has done a tremendous amount of research, and I have worked with him to a very limited degree," Destin said. "He helps really fleshed out the story. I’ve been a supporter of his research, and I tried to help him whenever I can contribute any details.

“It sounds pretty accurate, I think he did a pretty good job. It took a lot of work on Hank’s part, and it was a labor of love,” he added.  

Klein said he thinks it’s important for anybody who has a vested interest in Destin to read the book and find out more about the rich history of what is now a bustling town on the Gulf of Mexico.

“I think Destin has certainly changed over the years and it’s no longer a sleepy little fishing village, although fishing is still very important,” Klein said. “(Destin is) the guy that started it all, and I think locals and visitors alike will enjoy reading about what life was like back then, and how he basically founded Destin.” 

Klein, together with local photographer Tony Mennillo, will be holding a series of historical presentations throughout January and February about his book. To find dates and locations, visit Books will be available for limited purchase at the presentations, and can be purchased staring in February at Dewey Destin's restaurants, the Destin History and Fishing Museum and the Magnolia Grill.