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Tate's Hell: Carrabelle, Florida

Updated: Aug 26, 2021

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


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