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Exploring the Rich History of the Massalina Family

Learning the Legacy of the Massalina Family

The Massalina family is considered to be one of the pioneers of Bay County. Arriving to the panhandle in the early 1800s, patriach Jose Massalina is recognized as the first black man to settle in Panama City. A maritime merchant, Jose jumped ship in Port St. Joe before making his way to Panama City. He settled along what is today known as Massalina Bayou, setting up shop as a boat builder. A father of eight, Jose with the help of his eldest child Narcisco, combined their skills and established a settlement across the bay at Redfish Point. Together, with the help of 40 other black families, they built a community featuring a school, church, and several houses. Jose would remain in the area until his death at the age of 112.

Narcisco Massalina, like his father, was a man of many talents. He worked as a preacher, farmer, and boat builder. In addition to his many professions, Narcisco was also known to be a remarkable fisherman. His ability to spot a fish from a long-distance earned him the nickname “Hawk” Massalina. Hawk would continue to carry his father’s legacy at Redfish Point until he and the residents were forced to leave in 1941, due to the construction of Tyndall Air Force Base. Despite relocating, Hawk would continue to live in Panama City until his passing in 1948, at age 107.

How Massalina Bayou Got Its Name

Before it became the Massalina Bayou, it was referred to as just The Bayou. Due to the massive contributions by the Massalina family, The Bayou was officially name Massalina Bayou in 1886. Today, it’s still a bustling area with two marinas filled with sailboats, charters, a local seafood market, a dock and dine restaurant, and the last working drawbridge in Northwest Florida. In addition to the recreational activity and local business, many families still call the Massalina Bayou home, with residential homes built around the bayou.

See the Last Working Drawbridge in Northwest Florida

Located at Tarpon Dock / East Beach Drive, Panama City, FL 32401

In 1910, people called for a bridge to reach across the bayou into the Cove neighborhood. In 1928, it was replaced by a 35-foot-wide concrete “lift bridge”. The whole midsection of the bridge lifted allowing vessels to navigate between the bayou and the bay. The present Frank Nelson St. Bridge was constructed in 1951. It is considered to be one of the last operable drawbridges in northwest Florida. Locals frequently refer to it as the Tarpon Dock Bridge.

Explore Today’s Bustling Activity on Massalina Bayou

Dock and Dine at Bayou Joe’s Marina & Grill

112A East 3rd Court, Panama City, FL 32401

Whether you’re coming by boat or by car, Bayou Joe’s Marina & Grill is a local hidden gem loved by everyone. With 360 degree views of the water, this waterfront restaurant offers the best views of Massalina Bayou. If you’re spending the day on the water, Bayou Joe’s is the perfect place to dock and dine. Dock at the restaurant and step right off your boat into the dining room to enjoy the menu filled with coastal southern cuisine.

Find the Freshest Seafood at Tarpon Dock’s Seafood Market

234 E Beach Drive, Panama City, FL 32401

Experience the freshest flavors of Panama City at Tarpon Dock’s Seafood Market, nestled on the shores of Massalina Bayou. Here, the pulse of Panama City’s fishing heritage beats strong, with boats unloading their daily catch for the freshest seafood in town. Explore their selection of local, just-caught fish, or dive into their house-made specialties like smoked tuna dip and perfectly steamed shrimp. But Tarpon Dock’s reach extends beyond the market – their exceptional seafood graces the plates of Panama City’s finest restaurants, showcasing the true flavor of the Gulf Coast.

Tarpon Dock's Seafood Market on Massalina Bayou Panama City, Florida

Go on a Sailing Adventure

239 E Beach Dr, Panama City, FL 32401

Escape the ordinary with Emerald Coast Sailing Excursions, located in the Bristol Harbor Marina on Massalina Bayou. This family-owned charter promises a luxurious and unforgettable sailing adventure tailored to your desires aboard the comfortable and safe La Bella Vita. Captain Daniel Snapp and his passionate crew invite you to explore the bayside of Shell Island, venture into the open Gulf, or cruise around St. Andrews Bay for a sunset tour, all while keeping an eye out for playful dolphins. Discover the magic of sailing with Emerald Coast Sailing Excursions – where creating lasting memories is their mission.

Take a Dolphin and Wildlife Tour

112 E 3rd Ct, Panama City, FL 32401

Immerse yourself in the wonders of St. Andrews Bay with a thrilling dolphin and wildlife tour! Departing from Massalina Bayou, local charters like Anchor Charters and Flippin’ Awesome Adventures offer private excursions. Embark on an educational journey, spotting playful dolphins and diverse wildlife while learning about the bay’s vibrant ecosystem. Prepare for unforgettable memories as you explore the underwater world through snorkeling and gain hands-on knowledge from passionate guides.

Dive into the Local History

Intrigued to learn more about the Massalina family and other historical figures who shaped Bay County? Visit the museums of Panama City! These unique institutions offer a captivating window into the region’s rich past, from its earliest inhabitants to its vibrant present-day culture. Explore fascinating exhibits, uncover hidden stories, and gain a deeper appreciation for the people and events that have left their mark on Panama City.

Bay County Historical Museum

133 Harrison Ave, Panama City, FL 32401

Explore the history of Panama City and Bay County at the Bay County Historical Museum. It’s conveniently located in the heart of Downtown Panama City and a short walk from the Destination Panama City Visitors Center. Overseen by the Bay County Historical Society, this museum is dedicated to preserving and sharing the region’s rich history through engaging exhibits. The museum features a variety of permanent collections showcasing diverse topics, including the intriguing story of the Massalina family, and countless others who shaped the area’s unique identity. Whether you’re a history buff or simply curious about the area’s past, the Bay County Historical Museum is waiting to be discovered on your next visit to Panama City.

Panama City Publishing Company Museum

1134 Beck Ave, Panama City, FL 32401

Located in Historic St. Andrews, the Panama City Publishing Company Museum offers a fascinating glimpse into the city’s vibrant history. Originally the home of Panama City’s first newspapers, this building now stands as a testament to the legacy of George West, considered the city’s founding father, and his wife Lillian Carlisle West, who built the Publishing Company in 1920.

Venture inside to discover personal and business artifacts of the West family, witness the operation of vintage printing equipment, and explore the ever-changing monthly exhibit showcasing diverse topics. While you’re there, inquire about the intriguing friendship between George West and Hawk Massalina. For every history enthusiast and those simply curious about the city’s roots, the Panama City Publishing Company Museum is must stop museum.

History Class Brewing Company

6 E 4th St, Panama City, FL 32401

In the mood for a cold one and a captivating history lesson? Look no further than the History Class Brewing Company in Historic Downtown Panama City. This unique establishment isn’t just a pub; it’s a self-proclaimed “half brewpub, half museum,” offering an immersive dining experience that blends food, drinks, and local history into a one-of-a-kind dining adventure.

Occupying the former space of a beloved town appliance store for over five decades, History Class Brewing now brings the past to life through its ambience and menu offerings. Step inside and be transported by the remnants of Panama City’s history – church pews, salvaged floorboards from the high school gym, and even the stern of a retired fishing vessel adorn the space, each piece whispering a tale. But the storytelling doesn’t stop there. Their beer menu, aptly named after local historical figures and events, further elevates the experience, allowing you to savor a delicious brew while learning about the very fabric of Panama City. So, pull up a seat, grab a beer named after a local legend, and let History Class Brewing Company take you on a journey through time, one sip and story at a time.


Panama City, Florida, is located on shores of beautiful St. Andrew Bay on Florida’s Emerald Coast and sits just about in the center of Florida’s northern Gulf Coast. With an atmosphere distinct from the bustle of nearby beaches, this destination boasts historic downtowns of Panama City and St. Andrews with their beautiful parks and an exciting arts scene. There is a collection of dining options that feature local flare and fresh seafood, along with diverse shopping opportunities. Outdoor recreation includes myriad water activities with fishing and paddling leading the way year-round.