Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Legend of Tate's Hell

Jebediah Tate was a superstitious farmer that lived near Carrabelle Florida. He had one son who was born just before the war and named him Cebe. Jebediah was a Civil War veteran, and his wife was half Cherokee Indian. He bought 160 acres for $5 as a homestead grant after the war.

Cebe Tate helped clear his father’s land, chased cattle, and gathered pine oil. His mother died from scarlet fever sometime after the war. It was hard going, and Cebe’s father made a pact with a local medicine man for good fortune. As long as they stayed out of the tiny cypress forest and gave him one pig a year, they would have good fortune. 

For three years, they gave up a pig when the medicine man came around, and things were good. But in 1874, they decided to keep the pig and deny the old Indian. The Medicine man warned them that they would not only see hard times, but they would go through hell. That year Cebe’s father died from malaria, the pine trees gave very little oil, the sugar cane was stunted, and scrub cows started to disappear. But the pigs ate good, and multiplied so fast Cebe had to build two new pig pens in the fall.

 In the spring of 1875, Cebe got married to a mail order bride from New York City. She was a fiery German Immigrant. But there was a problem, Cebe only had pigs left, and she was of the Jewish Faith. She ate corn, potatoes, and pancakes with molasses, but she wanted beef. Cebe took off into the woods to find a cow, any cow, to quiet his bride. 

 Armed with a shotgun and accompanied by his hunting dogs, he journeyed into the swamp in search of a cow. His dogs took off chasing a panther, and he lost his gun in the mud. Tate was lost in the swamp for seven days and nights. He went into the Dwarf Cypress stand to escape the relentless bugs, and fell asleep against the trees that were protected by the Indian’s magic. He awoke when bitten by a snake and ran blindly thru the swamp, delirious from the bite and from drinking the murky waters. Finally he came to a clearing near Carrabelle, living only long enough to murmur the words, "My name is Cebe Tate, and I just came through Hell!" 

This local oral lore of Cebe Tate's adventure took place in 1875 and ever since, the area has been known as Tate's Hell, the legendary and forbidden swamp.

Tate's Hell State Forest is located in Franklin County, between the Apalachicola and Ochlockonee Rivers. The forest extends south of the Apalachicola National Forest and 1.5 miles northwest of the town of Carrabelle. Access Tate's Hell State Forest from U.S. Highway 98, County Road 67, or State Highway 65.

Blog Index

William Greenfield Center for Environmental Stewardship 

Boardwalks and Long Walks- the book 

Backwoods Institute for Wilderness Safety 


  1. i am interested in learning more about this legend and its connection with ohio historical society. My name is Steven Allen. 8508792631

  2. I'm from Carrabelle and found my way out of TH which is rather hard but I never heard any connection with Ohio Steven Allen.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. If you are referring to the Ohio Historical Society, then click on the picture and look at the bottom of it in the center. It shows "Ohio Historical Society" in the bottom center of the picture.

    3. Maybe the connection is that he really said, "My name is Cebe Tate, and I just came through Cleveland!" ;-)

  3. I'm from Carrabelle and found my way out of TH which is rather hard but I never heard any connection with Ohio Steven Allen.

  4. That's amazing! He should have kept his promise and given the medicine man the pig he promised, huh?

  5. The photo is not of Tate.

    "Elderly man and woman in work clothes by traveling photographer Albert J. Ewing. The photograph was likely taken in southern Ohio or W. Va., ca. 1890-1910"

  6. Lesson is, just because a Jew demands something of you, doesn't mean you have to give it to them.