HISTORY MYSTERY: Ownership of Leonard Destin’s original home site

H. C. “Hank” Klein
Leonard and Martha Destin Homestead

The original Leonard Destin home site was located where the Captain Leonard Destin Park was recently built.

The Grand Opening and Ribbon Cutting of the park are scheduled for Thursday, May 13, at 10 a.m. It is exciting and historical for the original home site of the city’s founder to be saved and turned into a park whereby locals and visitors can visit the park and learn about the site’s history.

Our History Mystery readers might enjoy some history and background of the Leonard and Martha Destin home that was on this site until 2013.

Although Leonard Destin and Martha McCullom married on May 29, 1851, they first lived in Orleans Parish, Louisiana. It wasn’t until 1852 that Leonard and Martha permanently settled at Moreno Point Military Reservation and built their home on what would later be known as Lot 12. Because all of Township 2 south Range 22 west was a military reservation and owned by the War Department, Leonard and Martha did not own the land they built their home on but were squatters on an unused military reservation.

Leonard Destin died on July 25, 1884, and is laid to rest in the Marler Memorial Cemetery. Leonard founded that cemetery in 1868 when he buried his 10-year old son William after his death on Aug. 1, 1868. Martha Destin continued to live in their home for 12 more years until her death on Dec. 10, 1896.

The Grand Opening and Ribbon Cutting of the park are scheduled for Thursday, May 13, at 10 a.m.

Martha’s oldest daughter, Jane (Destin) Woodward must have moved her and her family in with her mother to take care of her after Leonard died because after the death of Martha Destin the Woodward family lived in the home. Two of Jane Woodward’s sons became important in the ownership of the home in later years. The first son, Edward Woodward, was born in 1876. He would have been 20 years old when his grandmother, Martha Destin, died. The other son of interest is Leonard Woodward, who was born in 1882 and would have only been 2 years old when his grandmother died.

Their mother, Jane Woodward, died on July 31, 1901, at the age of 45. Her husband Fred Harlow Woodward Sr., died on Nov. 2, 1908. Remember, up until this time the property where the Leonard and Martha Destin home site was located was still on military land. While the military was not using the land they still owned it and those living there were squatters.

After the death of their mother, Jane Woodward, in 1901 and father, Fred Woodward, in 1908, it is clear that the Woodward family had some interest in the Leonard and Martha Destin home site as two of Martha Destin’s sons, Alfred and Andrew, signed over their interest in both their father and mother’s estate to Edward Woodward.

The estate included one house, three dinghies, and one sloop boat. The documents were signed in late 1906 at Key West, Florida. There is a mystery as to why the Destins' youngest sons, Alfred and Andrew, would sign over their interest in their parents' home and vessels to their cousin Edward Woodward when Fred Woodward was the official administrator of the Destin estate.

Alfred, Andrew, and Edward were all living and working in the Florida Keys as lighthouse keepers in 1906. That may be why Edward became involved as no record can be found of his having any interest in the home, but War Department records do show his brother, Leonard Woodward, was living in the home.

In 1909, the War Department stepped in and surveyed lots where fishermen were living on Moreno Point Military Reservation and began leasing those lots. The property where the Leonard and Martha Destin home site was located was designated Lot 12 and contained 6.84 acres. On Sept. 1, 1909, the War Department leased Lot 12 to Leonard Woodward for five years. Then again, on Sept. 1, 1914, the War Department leased Lot 12 to Leonard Woodward for an additional five years. Then for a third time, the War Department leased Lot 12 on Sept. 1, 1919, to Leonard Woodward for another five years.

In 1926, the War Department got approval from Congress to sell the excess land the War Department was not using across the nation. That included Moreno Point Military Reservation. On July 15, 1930, Lot 12 containing 6.84 acres was sold for $342 or $50 an acre, to Leonard Woodward.

This was the first time that any of the land at what is Destin today was owned by anyone other than the War Department.

Leonard Woodward died on Dec. 3, 1930, at the age of 48 and his wife Inez Woodward continued to own the original Leonard and Martha Destin home. On Nov. 1, 1931, nearly a year after her husband’s death, Inez Woodward entered into a lease/purchase agreement with Tyler Calhoun of Cherokee, Alabama, for Lot 12, the original Leonard and Martha Destin home, for $1,500. From that point on the property known as Lot 12 left the Destin family and has been in private ownership ever since.

Lot 12, the land where Leonard and Martha Destin lived, is now owned by the city of Destin as a public park. The original Leonard and Martha Destin home site has been preserved as a historical park for all to enjoy and remember the first founding family of Destin.

H. C. "Hank" Klein

H. C. “Hank” Klein is a Destin historian, author, and speaker on local history. He visits often and lives in North Little Rock, Ark., 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.