History is a window, a window into understanding why and where we are today. The Town of Sewall’s Point along the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon has some of the most wonderful historical descriptions of its original beauty, and I believe that is why we try so hard as a town to keep remnants of that historic beauty today.
The town is a “Tree City;” a bird sanctuary; and there are very strict fines for cutting down trees with over a two inch across trunk. Development rules are supposed to be protective of wooded uplands and wetlands, sometimes this does not seem to be the case.
Nevertheless, today I will quote from a “Description of Indian River County,” as it was called, from a Maine Journal , The East Coast Advocate, April 24, 1891 by Rufus King Sewall. This document was transcribed by my mother, historian Sandra Henderson Thurlow in 2009.
Here we go and remember 1891 was the year before the St Lucie Inlet was opened permanently so the river waters were fresher..
“At the Indian River Hotel, Titusville, we lodged for the night and were lulled with the song of two mosquitoes…at 5 a.m. the Indian River steamers called for embarkation south-bound and all aboard, most comfortable quarters in neat staterooms, spacious saloon and good service are found… The banks of the Indian River are general sops-wood, of cabbage palm, pine and cactus—uncleared because used as a screen against the fierce east winds which whip the orange and banana to death…Fine oysters, big trout, mullet, pompano, with channel bass abound…
The climate is the great charm of travel in the region. Within an hour of Titusville, the heavy, hot depressing , suffocating atmosphere of the interior of Florida suddenly changes to soft exhilarating, and cool refreshing inhalations, which the lungs expand to draw in with gateful sensation.
It was 2 a.m. when the whistles sounded for San Lucie Landing at Sewall’s Point starting to wing acres of and acres of sleeping ducks whirring, splashing and diving, in dismay, before the lights of the rushing steamer and we rested on shore, while the St Sebastian turned toward Jupiter below. The river scene and surroundings were enchanting , sea and shore burnished with tinted rays of a sunrise and indescribably grand and novel. The ducks had grouped in shoals on their feeding grounds.
Fish were leaping in the light and the hum of her life stirred the evergreen prospective with a marked absence of bird song. In the east across the sound tree miles away, over Gilbert’s Bar, the broad ocean stretched beyond sight, the pathway of big ships southward bound clear to the naked eye. In front, Mangrove Islands bounded the horizon whose channel fretted the outgoing tides of Jupiter Narrows. Northward and west the broad reaches and pitch-pine plains of the deep and wide San Lucia shut off vision.
Underfoot and around the rock-bound bluff of the Peninsula of Sewall’s point in gorgeous green and gold, of satin-wood, oak, palmetto and rubber forest trees dazed the eye.
All strange and primitive with novel tropical surroundings out of reach the peninsula separating the Indian and San Lucie waters is a rockbound elevated ridge with bluff frontage on San Lucie shores in L. N. 27 degrees 15 min.
It is crowned with tall grown palmettos with tufted tops of palm leaves, naked branchless stems like the mast of a ship.
The water is pure and good…The largest trout I ever saw abound and shoals of mullet.
Sharks and alligators abound in the waters, and turkeys, bear and deer on shore in their season. In the creek opposite Point Manatee the fishermen linger with nets and gun to catch the sea-cow as they feed along the shore….”
The airs and winds are soft and balmy expect the northwest, refreshing, grateful to the lungs with wonderful healing properties and purifying effect exciting to outdoor activity and stimulating to vital forces…The entire atmosphere environment pregnant with healing…
Interesting. Like poetry but for me “disturbing” as it talked about people hunting manatees. This at least highlights how we have changed historically, as manatee are protected today.
I hope you enjoyed that reading….
It was a beautiful world, there for the taking and we have taken it. For better or for worse we have. Let’s remember our history and that no matter what this place, this St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon is today, it has always been “a place of beauty.”
May we revive her waters and her shores in respect to that which created this sacred place, and for those who have loved and documented her before us. Thank you Rufus King Sewall.