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The ghosts walked at Chestnut

Editor’s note: Saturday night at Chestnut Cemetery was one of the most successful Ghost Walks ever. Overseen by the walk’s founder, Delores Roux, the event raised more than $2,100 for cemetery maintenance, as an estimated 370 people waited in line to learn about the characters who inhabit the cemetery. Caty Green, president of the Apalachicola Area Historical Society, coordinated the many volunteers, which included the Carrabelle History Museum’s Tamara Allen. “It’s so wonderful to have both organizations showing support for each other,” said Greene.

Regina Flatauer (Tina Robertson), wife of Adolph Flatauer came to Apalachicola in 1887, theirs was an arranged marriage, both immigrated from Europe. Daughter Freda, (Cassandra Robertson), the fifth child of seven, was crippled in a wagon accident, and in 1910 died from typhoid fever and is buried beside her sister, Theresa, who died in 1889 at just one month old. Regina died during the Spanish Flu epidemic in 1919, and because his wife’s death weighed on him and he ended his own life a year later is buried at Magnolia Cemetery.

Joseph Buzzett (David Adlerstein) was born in 1851 to Italian immigrants, and after divorce, his mother Anna came to Apalachicola to be near her sister, Victoria Cattanetti and her husband, Dominick, who raised Joseph. He became a bar pilot, guiding vessels coming into Apalachicola Bay to safe anchorages.

William Henry Austin (Steve Lanier) was born in 1853. His father was a pilot in Apalachicola Bay, which probably helped Henry obtain a job on a schooner employed by the U. S. Coast Survey in preparing hydrographic charts of St. George’s Sound.  In 1871, while returning to the ship, in a sudden squall, he and five mates drowned.

Marie Hickey (Mishele McPherson) was born in 1867. In 1907, news reported from Apalachicola that after cutting the throat of her husband, Mrs. Hickey killed herself. It was thought she was suffering from temporary insanity, and had only recently returned from a private asylum. The Hickeys were among the most prominent and wealthy residents of Apalachicola. A coroner’s jury probed into the case, first suspecting foul play, but returned a verdict of murder and suicide. Before her marriage she was the proprietor of the largest millinery establishment in the state.

Elizabeth Cooper Henderson (Sally Crown) was born in 1898, Her grandfather, William Marr, was killed during the Civil War in controversial circumstances while he was supplying beef to the Union blockading ships. Lizzie, as she was usually known, in 1926 married Sam Cooper, a Romanian immigrant, who owned a store in Apalachicola.  When he died in 1935, he left her financially secure, but it is said she blew through the money. She opened Past-Time Billiards in the Grady building on Water Street, and when the building was sold she moved her pool tables to the Chapman House, which she owned.  She rented out rooms and supposedly held continuous parties in the house.

Mercia Montgomery (Anita Grove) was born in 1888 in Chicago. In 1908 she married Samuel E Montgomery, son of the owner of Montgomery’s in Apalachicola. She was active in community organizations including Trinity Episcopal Church, the Florida Federation of Women’s Clubs, the Red Cross. With the Red Cross in WWII she oversaw services to troops at Camp Gordon Johnson and at the Apalachicola Army Airfield She was the first woman elected the county commissioners, from 1925 to 1939. In 1947 returning from Jacksonville her car ran off the road, and after six weeks in the hospital and undergoing serious surgery, she died. She is buried in Magnolia Cemetery, but her husband’s ancestors are buried in Chestnut Cemetery.

John G. Ruge (A.J. Smith) was born in 1854 in Apalachicola, a child of immigrant parents.  During the Civil War he fell out of a tree and broke his leg, and since the town had been evacuated there was not a doctor present to set the bone.  His father rowed John out to one of the Union vessels and had a Navy doctor set the broken limb. John and his younger brother George started the first successful oyster cannery in Apalachicola in 1886, and in the 1893-94 season produced 400,000 one-pound cans of oysters. John and his wife Fannie lived in the grand house on Bay Avenue at the corner of 10th Street. John had a gruff personality and tight with his money. He and Fannie did not have any children.  When he died in 1931 his fortune went to his wife.  She remarried and did not hesitate to spend the funds John had spent his life hoarding.

Richard Gibbs Porter (Kevin Begos) was born in 1809 in Philadelphia; his father died when he was only 12. In 1833 he came to Apalachicola, where his brother and their cousin, John G. Ruan, had established a cotton factor business and mercantile store.  Richard married Mary Salter in 1845, and the couple had seven children. The Porter family was closely associated with the Raneys, one daughter marrying onto the Porter family.

Braddock Williams (James Hargrove) was a lighthouse keeper, who came down with wife Sarah came down from Pike County, Alabama, in 1850. His son Arad became keeper in 1875, and was on Cape St. George painting the lighthouse tower when he fell and died, During the Civil War, he was the Confederate keeper, and after the war, he and his boys kept the light on the Cape until 1893. Four generations of Williams men served Uncle Sam in the lighthouse service until the Coast Guard took over in 1938.

This article originally appeared on The Apalachicola Times: The ghosts walked at Chestnut

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Meet the Editor

David Adlerstein, The Apalachicola Times’ digital editor, started with the news outlet in January 2002 as a reporter.

Prior to then, David Adlerstein began as a newspaperman with a small Boston weekly, after graduating magna cum laude from Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. He later edited the weekly Bellville Times, and as business reporter for the daily Marion Star, both not far from his hometown of Columbus, Ohio.

In 1995, he moved to South Florida, and worked as a business reporter and editor of Medical Business newspaper. In Jan. 2002, he began with the Apalachicola Times, first as reporter and later as editor, and in Oct. 2020, also began editing the Port St. Joe Star.

Wendy Weitzel The Star Digital Editor

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