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Oral Histories

The SFA oral history program documents life stories from the American South. Collecting these stories, we honor the people whose labor defines the region. If you would like to contribute to SFA’s oral history collections, please send your ideas for oral history along with your CV or Resume and a portfolio of prior oral history work to annemarie@southernfoodways.org.

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James and Betty McNeil

Indian Pass Raw Bar

James McNeill Jr. was born at Indian Pass, just west of Apalachicola, in 1924. His father, James McNeill Sr., was originally from North Carolina. Working the rivers rafting timber downstream, James Sr. eventually made his way to Florida. Soon after, he got into the turpentine business and eventually acquired some 13,000 acres of Florida wilderness. James Sr. passed away in 1941. In 1947 James Jr. married Betty Lane. Together, they established the Indian Pass Seafood Company. The McNeills also operated a commissary, a remnant of the turpentine camp days, catering to the families that worked for them and lived in the remote area. Today, the commissary is better known as the Indian Pass Raw Bar. James and Betty’s son, James McNeill III, came up with the idea for the restaurant. In 1985, after Hurricane Kate hit the Florida Gulf Coast, they turned the old commissary into the hangout known today. The turpentine and seafood businesses are gone. Hurricane Dennis wreaked havoc on the area in July 2005. But the McNeills have bounced back, yet again. The Indian Pass Raw Bar has been renovated. But the oysters are the same. They still come from water that laps up on the shores of Indian Pass.

SFA sadly shares that James McNeill II passed away on July 4, 2010. Betty McNeill passed away on March 13, 2020.

Date of interview:

Amy Evans

Amy Evans

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The Southern Foodways Alliance drives a more progressive future by leading conversations that challenge existing constructs, shape perspectives, and foster meaningful discussions. We reconsider the past with research, scrutiny, and documentation.


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