Red Fish Point
This is a historic community populated entirely by African American citizens, one of the first such communities in the state of Florida. It was located across the bay from Panama City where the red harbor-beacons warn shipping of dangerous waters.
Many residents of Red Fish Point made their living working in jobs on the mainland. Each morning at daybreak—regardless of weather conditions—an armada of skiffs crossed from Red Fish Point to Panama City for jobs. Some picked up clothes to be washed and returned them the next day.
The community was founded by Jose Massalina in 1832. He was a Spanish free black and made his way to St. Joseph as a stowaway on a merchant ship. He made his was across the peninsula and homesteaded at Red Fish Point.
When the treaty for the purchase of Florida between the United States and Spain was written in 1821 a clause was inserted that stated that all free blacks in Florida would be treated as free citizens. Jose was in this category. Later the Florida legislatures required that each free black have a guardian. W. A. Gainer of Econfina served as guardian for Jose.
Jose has a wife which he purchased as a slave from a plantation in Georgia. Jose sired eight children. The oldest was Narsisco Crespina Massalina, better known as Hawk. Hawk earned his nickname for his ability to spot fish, which he depended on for his livelihood. A daughter, Betsey, married Primas Gainer of Econfina. Primas was a freed slave of the Gainer plantation. Other families joined the Massalina’s to create the Red Fish Point community in 1866. Among them were Longs, Lees, Williams, Mack Winslett, and Roulac.
Hawk was caretaker for the cottages in Old Town St. Andrews during the Civil War period and was present during the bombing of that town in 1863. He escaped unharmed. He made his living fishing and one of his landings was in Massalina Bayou. He served as a guide for both Union and Confederate forces during the War. The name of Harmon Bayou was changes to Massalina in honor of Hawk and his family.
Hawk married a woman named Belle. They had no children. Later, after Belle died, Hawk married a resident of Campbelton, Florida. The couple had eight children.
Hawk had been keen wit. He once said, “I came to this area when you could step across the bay and the moon was the size of a dime, and there were no stars at all!”
Hawk moved to the mainland in 1941 along with most of the Red Fish Point residents. He died February 1948 at the age of 108. A cemetery was established at Red Fish Point. Primas Gainer was one of the first to be buried there. Adjacent to the cemetery was the New Judson Baptist Church which still stands today, protected by federal authorities as a reminder of this historic community.
Union authorities headquartered at Hurricane Island established a holding camp at Red Fish Point during the Civil War. Prisoners and refugees were quartered there until they could be transported to Key West.
Red Fish Point received a school in the early 1900's. The enrollment ran as a high as 60 children, these were 27 when the school closed in 1941 to become part of Tyndall Field Golf Course. Teachers identified with the school were Pearl Roulac, Effie Baker and Lucinda Williams.
Some of the residents of Red Fish Point citizens became well known and successful in Bay County communities:
Pasco Gainer moved to Panama City and started Gainer Funeral Home on Martin Luther King Boulevard. Walter Williams was a part of the well-known Williams Jackson County family. Mack Winslett tended a large orange grove at Red Fish Point. Bryant Lee’s son Ed operated a filling station in Panama City at Martin Luther King and 11th street. Robert Cain was a principal in several Bay County School. N. L. Long moved to St. Andrews and operated a general store on 15th Street. Tom Baker was employed at L. M. Ware Fish House. Tony Massalina was chef at the Villa and Oaks Hotels in St. Andrews.