Panhandle Pioneer Settlement struggling from pandemic and Hurricane Michael

The site was reopening this spring. (WJHG/WECP)
The site was reopening this spring. (WJHG/WECP)(WJHG)
Published: May. 21, 2020 at 9:43 PM CDT
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Visitors go to the Panhandle Pioneer Settlement in Blountstown to step back in time. However, the settlement itself is at a standstill.

“It’s going to take a lot of money and a lot of time to completely get things back to (how) it was working before the hurricane," Panhandle Pioneer Settlement co-founder Willard Smith said.

Hurricane Michael showed no mercy on the historical site, tearing down trees and tearing up roofs.

“People come in from out of the area and see the damage, and they cannot believe that there is still damage from the hurricane," Smith said.

Smith said the site was just reopening this spring, and then the pandemic hit.

​"And then we had to shut it down again. It's really affected us bad. I don't know when it'll be lifted," Smith said.

The site runs on donations, membership fees, and renting out space to parties, among other things. However, no visitors means no income.

Smith said they have already spent more than $100,000 on repairs from the hurricane. Now they plan to reopen the site in the fall.

Despite the setback, Smith is determined to keep Calhoun County's history alive.

“Well, we got to know where we come from so we know where we’re going," Smith said.

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