I use my mother a lot when I speak about myself because she has had such a profound impact on me. She and my father taught me to like maps, to like history, to like the stories of the people of today and of those that were pioneers, in our once great wilderness. And my mother, unlike me, is much more accepting of our area’s change. “It’s history,” she says….
I look at this 1839 map excerpt, I see so many changes, and I wonder if the history we are creating is going awry. This 1839 map was a war map because we were at war with the Seminoles pushing them further into the interior of the Everglades. They never surrendered….but we took most of the lands they lived on and changed them.
In 1892 we dug, by hand, the St Lucie Inlet, once Gilbert’s Bar, that had closed up since this map was drawn, creating the most bio diverse estuary in North America, as salt water and fresh water of the ocean, and St Lucie River/ Indian River Lagoon, mixed; in 1923 we dug the C-44 canal from Lake Okeechobee to the St Lucie River as an outlet for a “diked” lake that had been created for agriculture south of the lake, the first and “most important” industry in our state; in the 1930s and 40s we built C-23 and C-24 to drain the “useless” Alpatiokee Swamp meandering through “Martin and St Lucie Counties,” once known as “Mosquito County;” we “moved” the Indian River Inlet, creating the Ft Pierce Inlet; we built bridges, houses, roads, schools, churches and other places of worship, and finally we built shopping malls. We fought wars, had children, we had grandchildren, farmed, started businesses, went through desegregation and women’s rights. And along the way we loved and cherished what we had created, although it was hard: “a human paradise,” a veritable Garden of Eden.
And what do we have today? For me, it is still paradise, with a couple of caveats, a dying river, children who can’t swim or catch fish with out the possibility of a tumor or lesion, a lot of people on the road…. Can we turn back? Or is this change going to be constant? I think even my mother would say: “the river’s history, is a history to change.”