The Intertwined History of Stuart and Belle Glade, St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

Bridges across the St Lucie River, ca. 1920. (Photo archives Sandra Henderson Thurlow)
Bridges across the St Lucie River, ca. 1920. The swing span (metal span) of the auto bridge was moved to Torry Island, Lake Okeechobee in 1938. (Photo archives Sandra Henderson Thurlow)
Location of Torry Island, Belle Glade, Lake Okeechobee where the St Lucie Bridge was moved to ca. 1940.
Location of Torry Island, Belle Glade, Lake Okeechobee where the St Lucie Bridge was moved to in 1938..

Few people realize that a little piece of Stuart history sits on Torry Island near the City of Belle Glade. Belle Glade of course sits south the man-made southern shore of Lake Okeechobee….I didn’t know about the bridge connection either, until I visited my mother last week.

When I got to her house, she handed me what appeared to be a gold leaf yearbook, but when I looked closer it read: “Florida Trails to Turnpikes 1914-1964, Florida State Road Department.” Page 216 was marked:

“The old original bridge across the St Lucie River had been built by E.P. Maule in 1917 with a twelve-foot-wide roadway swing span across the navigation channel. We moved that swing span of barges down the St Lucie Canal and down Lake Okeechobee to Torry Island. Should you cross from the mainland over the canal onto Torry Island today, you would cross on the old swing span of th abridge that originally went across the St Lucie River.”

“Wow that’s cool mom. Like you always say, we’re all connected.”

“Your father and I visited not too long ago. The Corbin family has been manning the bridge for generations. It’s a fascinating story that you should know about.”

A short history is explained here:

“The story of the bridge’s origins flow smoothly from Corbin… The 1928 hurricane that ravaged the Glades set in motion the chain of events that would bring the bridge to Belle Glade. The storm destroyed the original dike that surrounded the lake. To build the replacement dike, the federal government spooned out a canal, separating Torry Island from Belle Glade, and used the dirt for the dike. The new canal, called the Okeechobee Waterway, needed a bridge. In 1938, state contractors built the Point Chosen Bridge, replacing a pontoon bridge with a swing bridge that was built in 1916 and relocated from the St. Lucie River near Stuart. The bridge consisted of the movable portion and wooden trestles on each end.” Associated Press article, 2009.

The Corbin family has manned the swing span for many generations. Photo of a photo shared by Sandra Henderson Thurlow.
The Corbin family has manned the swing span for many generations. Photo of a photo shared by Sandra Henderson Thurlow.

“Very interesting. Do you have any pictures of your and dad’s field trip ?”

My mother disappeared and was back within minutes:

....
….Torry Island, Belle Glade, Lake Okeechobee.
.....
…..the bridge at Torry Island
...
…plaque
....
….Bridge at Torry Island with swing span
I took this of your dad with Lake Okeechobee behind him but it was not taken at Torry Island. The Lake just blended with the sky." Sandra Thurlow
I took this of your dad with Lake Okeechobee behind him but it was not taken at Torry Island. The Lake just blended with the sky.” Sandra Thurlow

“Thanks mom”…..as I read more about it, I learned that the bridge’s name, “Point Chosen Bridge,” was chosen because there used to be town named  “Chosen” located there. Chosen was one of the original towns along the shores of Lake Okeechobee. It was destroyed in the 1928 hurricane. So the bridge swing span from Stuart was chosen to rest at Chosen. Wow. An intertwined history  indeed….

Chosen:(http://www.pbchistoryonline.org/page/chosen)
Ghost Town (http://www.ghosttowns.com/states/fl/chosen.html)

Florida Trails to Turnpikes, 1964.
Florida Trails to Turnpikes, 1964.
Transcription via Sandra Thurlow from Florida Trails and Turnpikes 1964 about the St Lucie swing span being moved to Torry Island.
Transcription via Sandra Thurlow from Florida Trails and Turnpikes 1964 about the St Lucie swing span being moved to Torry Island.
Article, undated via Sandra Thurlow.
Article, undated via Sandra Thurlow.

Associated Press article on the Point Chosen Bridge at Torry Island and the Corbin family who has worked the bridge since 1938 : (http://www.tbo.com/lifestyle/states-oldest-swing-drawbridge-spans-history-72863)

City of Belle Glade (http://www.bellegladegov.com)

Belle Glade: (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Belle_Glade,_Florida)

Historian Sandra Henderson Thurlow:(https://jacquithurlowlippisch.com/2014/08/06/the-contributions-of-the-history-lady-sandra-henderson-thurlow-st-lucie-riverindian-river-lagoon/)

11 thoughts on “The Intertwined History of Stuart and Belle Glade, St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

  1. Take a close look at the bridge at the beginning of the blog. Look at all the oysters on the pileings. You can see the fresh water flow from ripples in the water. Are these oysters growing in totally fresh water? Look down the length of the bridge and imagine how much SOFT coquina rock was pulled out of the lagoon to make them. I think Henry Flaglers technique he used (making cement on the spot) to make the Ponce hotel was used all the way south to the keys.

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  2. Our lagoon was killed in 3 phases over time—the first phase was the Indians removeing mountains of calcium clam and oyster shells— the second phase was the road and bridge builders removeing more calcium . —- The third phase was our generation. When Saddam Hussain’s government saw they were not going to win the war in Kuwait they set the oil wells on fire — saying if I cant have then nobody is going to have them. Our state government did the same thing when courts ruled that commercial fishermen were not going to be able to take EVERYTHING and fishing laws were going to be the same for everyone. Our state government started dumping sewage and built every sewage treatment plant directly on the lagoon. They also graded all the remaining calcium roads so no calcium would run in the water. Then came the lies— the blameing people and the spending massive amounts of money to “fix” the lagoon,They say when you tell one lie you have to tell 2 more to cover it up and then 4 more to to cover to 2 lies up, pretty soon all you have is a mountain of lies which is where we are now, Thank you for letting my opinion be heard.

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  3. As I was getting my brakes fixed yesterday I talked to a lady who analized data at the space center. It started me thinking of the great sailing ships and what it must have been like looking for new worlds. Notice how the solar winds blow our magnetosphere. Regular winds could blow 1000 MPH and have no affect on magnetism but solar wind will push magnatism at the speed of light. What is needed is an electromagnetic sail to harness these winds. Then maby once again we can set off looking for new worlds.

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  4. A different kind of wind requires a different kind of sail. A comets tail is formed when ultraviolet light ejects electrons from the material on the comet.. This forms an INDUCED magnetosphere. The solar wind blows hard against this induced magnetosphere an tons of material are ejected and propelled through space eventually almost reaching the speed of light. We can collect and store unlimited amount of energy in space In the for of electricity. VCR tape is electromagnetic tape. Perhaps we can one day create an induced magnetic field (sail)out of this material and sail to far away places at the speed of light

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  5. I watched a documentary on the Fukashema meltdown in Japan. 4 core reactor meltdowns going on at the same time. I believe sea walls stopped the energy of the wave from tearing buildings apart but water did come in and flooded everything. Backup power generators were below water. They had no PLAN B or plan C. Pumps were all intact waiting to be energized to cool the core but no power. A quarter mile stretch of A!A could be raised in front of the Fort Pierce nuke plant to block the energy of the wave. Because there were no vents in building hydrogen built up and blew buildings apart. still things could have been saved if they only had power to pumps to pump water to cool the core and all the spent fuel rods being stored below water. There is 5 thousand miles of ocean off Fort Pierce. Volcanos—earth quakes—meteors all have caused tidal waves in the past. Whats your back up plan?

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  6. It is obvious that photo of 2 bridges is looking from south to north. The strong flow indicated by the ripples in front of the pileing can only be fresh water and I would imagine before 1920 they saw no need to build and dam to stop the flow after all most of Florida was a mosquito infested swamp. That would mean these oysters not only lived in fresh water but thrived. I have no doubt if calcium sand was spread out upstream oysters and everything else would once again thrive.

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