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HISTORY MYSTERY: Moreno Point, what we call Destin today

Staff Writer
The Destin Log
The Destin Log

The landmass that we call Destin today is actually Moreno Point. In fact, Moreno Point is the name of the entire peninsula that is south of Choctawhatchee Bay. There are many roads, condos, subdivisions, etc. that have the name Moreno attached to them. But who is Moreno and why is that name important to Northwest Florida? In our History Mystery this month we will explore the name of Moreno and its tie to Destin.

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The Moreno family was from Malaga, Spain. In 1778, the King of Spain sent Fernando Moreno Sr. to New Orleans, Louisiana. Fernando Sr. came with his wife and son, Fernando Moreno Jr., to be in charge of a Spanish colony in Louisiana.

In 1781, the Spanish navy captured Panzacola, and Fernando Moreno Jr. decided to join the Spanish navy in New Orleans. Note: Panzacola is the Spanish spelling of Pensacola, which is a Choctaw word meaning “long-haired people.” This referred to the Native American men and women who wore their hair long. Four years later, Fernando Moreno Jr. came to Pensacola from Havana as a mid-shipman on a Spanish schooner.

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When his enlistment was completed, he remained in Pensacola and studied medicine. He intended to become a surgeon in the Spanish army. Upon completion of his medical training, Fernando Jr. became a surgeon at Fort Barrancas. In 1788, Fernando Jr. married Florentine Sense of New Orleans. They had three children: Fernando III in 1789, Arthur in 1791, and Francisco in 1792. Next, we will learn about their third son, Francisco Moreno.

Fernando Jr.’s son, Francisco Moreno, was born in Pensacola on Nov. 25, 1792, when West Florida was owned by Spain and his father was the surgeon at Fort Barrancas. Over his lifetime he married three times, had a total of 27 children, 75 grandchildren, and 127 great-grandchildren.

Francisco first married Josefa Lopez of Pensacola in 1814. They had three children and Josefa died in childbirth on Feb. 8, 1820. Francisco then married his late wife’s sister, Miss Margarita Eluteria Lopez in 1821. They had 12 children. Margarita died on June 10, 1851. Then on July 3, 1852, Francisco married for the third and final time to Miss Mantoria Gonzalez. They had a total of 12 children from their union.

Francisco was a businessman; he bought and sold real estate. In 1828, the U.S. government bought 6.32 acres from him for $3,000 that is today part of the Pensacola Naval Air Station. In 1836, he became the Spanish consul of Pensacola, a post he held until the end of the Civil War. Also in 1836, he opened the first hotel in Pensacola, the Hotel de Paris. He was Pensacola’s first banker. He made loans (in gold) from a chest he kept under his bed.

That “Bankers Chest,” where Moreno kept his gold that he loaned out as Pensacola’s first banker, is on display today in the Quina House. This house was originally built in 1810 and is the oldest structure still standing in Pensacola. The house is now a museum and is located at its original site at 204 South Alcaniz Street in Pensacola.

Francisco Moreno died at the age of 90 on Nov. 19, 1882, just six days short of his 91st birthday. When he died his family was one of the most prominent families in the city, and he was considered the richest man in Pensacola. Moreno was affectionately known as the “King of Pensacola” and is laid to rest in St. Michael’s Cemetery in Pensacola. Francisco Moreno’s obituary appeared in the Wednesday, Nov. 21, 1882 issue of the Pensacola Commercial. It reads, in part:

“Don Francisco Moreno departed this life, at his residence, in this city, at 6 o’clock p.m., November 19th. Francisco Moreno, a citizen and resident here for the last ninety years…Francisco’s memory went back to a time when there were no railroads, no steamboats, no telegraph or telephone. He lived to see the network of wires and railroad tracks on the streets of our city and his funeral cortege was passed by the cars of the street railroad (streetcars) just completed, while the carriages drove over the buried gas pipes so soon to be put into operation. Industry, economy, probity, and purity of life, and the absence of excessive and intemperate indulgences, not only lengthened out his years but gave to his old age the quietness and peace that are so much coveted in our declining years.”

So as you can see, Moreno Point, the spot of land that Destin occupies today, was named after a very prominent family from Pensacola. The head of that family, Francisco Moreno, was considered by many to be the king of Pensacola.

H. C. “Hank” Klein is a Destin historian, author, and speaker on local history. He visits often and lives in North Little Rock, Arkansas with his wife (the former Muriel Marler of Destin). Klein recently published two Destin history books - DESTIN’S Founding Father…The Untold Story of Leonard Destin and DESTIN Pioneer Settlers...A Land History of Destin, Florida from 1819-1940. Both can be obtained from Amazon.com, The Destin History & Fishing Museum in Destin, Henderson Beach Resort in Destin, The Indian Temple Mound in Fort Walton Beach, and Sundog Books in Seaside. Klein can be contacted directly at klein@aristotle.net.