I know I will most likely never venture into Tate's Hell in the very near future.....not because of the legend but because it is a long way from my area in Florida.
I still like the story of it though. Tate's Hell is located at 290 Airport Rd, in Carrabelle, FL.
Jebediah Tate was a farmer who lived near Carrabelle Florida. He only 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.
How did Tate's Hell get its name? I just bought the book Backroads of Paradise: A Journey to Rediscover Old Florida by Cathy Salustri. In the book, the author recounts how Tate's Hell Swamp got its name. Cebe Tate's adventure took place in 1875 and ever since, the forest has been known as Tate's Hell, the legendary and forbidden swamp.
She writes "Local legend has it that a farmer by the name of Cebe Tate, armed with only a shotgun and accompanied by his hunting dogs, journeyed into the swamp in search of a panther that was killing his livestock. Although there are several versions of this story, the most common describes Tate as being lost in the swamp for seven days and nights, bitten by a snake, and drinking from the murky waters to curb his thirst. 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 from Hell."
There was even a folk song written about Tate's Hell by artist Will McLean
Dark shadow move and the whippoorwill calls
Crickets chirp a tune
Wild turkeys fly to the branches high
And frogs do answer the loon.
The sounds of the swamp are mournful and true
And in this natural land
There lives a man—a gentle man
Who sings of the Florida sand, sings of the Florida sand.
They say his name is Will McLean
And he walks in the deep of the night
To the place in the glade where the wild deer wade
And the horned owls dance in delight.
A brute of a man—but a gentle man
Guitar held in his hand
As he goes along he sings him a song
He sings of the Florida Sand, sings of the Florida sand.
He sings of things he's heard and seen
Of the gator and wild hog
In song he'll tell—of old tate's hell
That damnable murky bog.
He sings of the deeds of beast and men
Of Osceola and his band
All through the night—when the stars are bright
He sings of the Florida sand, sings of the Florida sand.
Some day the swamp will be covered and done
Man will spoil this habitat
And all around will be heard the sound
The growl of the big iron cat.
But there is a man—a gentle man
Who'll remember this wonderous land
Will McLean will sing of many things
He'll sing of the Florida sand, sing of the Florida sand.
Lyrics by Jack Turner
Music by Paul Champion and Will McLean