As the jacket of her Sewall’s Point Book states:
“Sandra Thurlow was a resident of Sewall’s Point for twelve years before she became fascinated by its history. In 1986, the Town of Sewall’s Point commissioners ordered the demolition of a lovely old home that stood on a bluff overlooking the St Lucie River. Queries revealed that it was once the High Point Rod and Gun Club, a wildness retreat for a coterie of politically powerful Philadelphians. Further research uncovered a wealth of local history that needed to the shared and preserved. ”
As you may already know or have guessed, Sandra is my mother and the house was one the children of Sewall’s Point played in and got into trouble having lots of fun….And yesterday, we as a family honored Sandra’s 75th birthday and today she will be featured in my blog. 🙂
Even though she is my mother, it is my opinion that no one has done more for “Stuart’s” local history and no one has written more about the pioneer families who made their way along this wilderness, once known as “Santa Lucia” or the “Indian River Region.”
When I came back to visit Sewall’s Point and Stuart after graduating from University of Florida in 1986, I could tell things had really changed at the Thurlow house. My sister Jenny was getting ready to go off to school, I had been gone four years and our bedrooms were being transformed into offices. –Offices full of shelves and drawers of historic negatives, old maps from my father’s law office, abstracts, camera equipment, historic photos, taped interviews and the beginnings of what would become personal computers.
“Wow, ” I thought, “that’s cool, she and dad certainly will not suffer from empty nest syndrome when Todd leaves in another two years….”
As the years went on, she and my father, dove into the history of our area, and the history of our area is the history of the St Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon. A teacher by early profession and native of Gainesville, by 2008, my mother, with the help of my dad, had written and published four books: Sewall’s Point, the History of a Peninsular Community on Florida’s Treasure Coast; Stuart on the St Lucie; Historic Jensen and Eden on Florida’s Indian River; and together with my sister-in-law Deanna, Gilbert’s Bar House of Refuge, Home of History.
My mother taught me not to brag. But today I am bragging. It’s time. She has inspired and educated not only me but thousands of people. She has given talks, presented slide shows, worked with students in our local high schools, and has won state awards for her work.
I think she has helped make Martin County one of the “best documented histories” of our state. And through it all, whether she is writing about Captain Richards and his daughter Lucy of Eden struggling to grow pineapples in the sandy soil along the Indian River; or the first pioneers of Stuart trading with the Seminoles and calling their new-found paradise, “Stuart on the St Lucie;” or the early fish houses pouring over in Jensen Beach; or the shark fishermen in Salerno; or the lonely House of Refuge Keepers longing for the site of a ship or boat in river or ocean and who sustained themselves from the great riches of its waters; and even the documentation of the great detriment that came to this place through the false hope of canals and connection to Lake Okeechobee, she writes about the relationship of people to the land and the relationship of people to the water. The water is our history and we are the water, as that is why we came to this land….
Thank you mom for all of your work and happy birthday! Stuart is 100, you are 75 and I, your oldest, am 50. Time is flying, and the water that defines this place is still defining it as we fight to bring it back to health so that future generations can have some stories and write some books too.
Sandra’s books are available at Stuart Heritage, 161 Flagler Avenue, Stuart, FL 34994 in Downtown Stuart.(http://www.stuartheritagemuseum.com) and through Amazon and Barnes and Nobel.