Like hard resin, stories of long-leaf pine and towering Florida forests are in me. Since my earliest days, I remember visiting my mother’s family and hearing tales around the dinner table:
“In the 1930s your Granddady and Uncle Gordy dove down to the bottom of the Withlacoochee River, chained those sunken water-logged giant trees, pulled them out with mules, put them on a train to Gainesville, milled them, and built this house by hand. Virgin long-leaf pine that had been on the bottom of that river for 90 years became our home. This house is history.”
At the time, the stories were just part of a lifestyle I did not lead living “down” in Stuart, Florida with the Yankees. In Gainesville we ate boiled peanuts, okra, gigantic breakfasts of bacon, eggs, toast, and homemade jelly. In Stuart, I ate Lucky Charms.
Now that I am becoming an old-pine myself, the story of the long-lost, long-leaf pine is more interesting to me. And “lo and behold,” although public records show the famous long-leaf forest stopping just north of Lake Okeechobee, recently my mother and I learned that they were, indeed, further south, right here in what today is Martin County!
This observation is based on a 1st hand account of 1910 by J.H. Vaughn in an Abstract of Title for Indiantown, Florida, No. 12386.
In the early days of our country, long-leaf pine forests covered approximately 90 million acres and stretched across the entire southeastern United States. These trees are documented to have stood from 80 to 175 feet tall and many were up to 400 years in age. Of course multiple animals were dependent on the forest for shelter and food and there were massive benefits to the watersheds. The cleanest waters in the world run off of forests. These amazing trees evolved to completely withstand forest fires, actually thriving in such conditions. Imagine if you would these remarkable trees of our Creator, cut to the ground with the same state of mind as today when mowing one’s lawn….By the 1920s only 3% of the forests remained.
So where were these trees in Martin County? Where do we fit into the incredible history of these magnificent conifers? J. H. Vaughn, a lumber man of the 1800s, negotiating a sale states in the abstract of title below:
“…there is an average of 2000 feet of Long Leaf Yellow Virgin pine per acre.. being on the eastern side of Lake Okeechobee…”.
(The Townships and Ranges listed are today’s Indiantown.)
I think it is incredible that we are part of the long-leaf pine odyssey. As today, the Nature Conservancy and people like M.C. Davies have dedicated their fortunes and lives to bringing back this magnificent species and the animal life that comes along with it. The situation is a lot like St Lucie River and Lake Okeechobee restoration. It’s a generational goal done so that our stories and our lives are remembered, and not “long-lost.”
M.C. Davis Devotes Life and Fortune to restoring Long-Leaf Pine forest near Pensacola, FL: http://www.npr.org/2015/06/17/415226300/gambler-turned-conservationist-devotes-fortune-to-florida-nature-preserve
Green Meadow Project: http://greenmeadowproject.blogspot.com/p/blog-page_22.html?m=1
Digital Earth Watch, Old Growth Forests: http://dew.globalsystemsscience.org/activities/investigations/what-is-a-digital-image/investigation-measuring-old-growth-forest-loss
Appalachian Woods, History:http://www.appalachianwoods.com/Heart-Pine-History.htm
12 thoughts on “Finding the “Long-Lost,” Long-Leaf Pines of Lake Okeechobee, SLR/IRL”
Makes me sad, thank goodness to forward thinking people like M.C. Davis, NFWF and others. Good reading in your Link/sources.
Thank Ezra. Yes MC’s story is a great one.
I recall stories about my grandfather and his brother doing some turpentining too! Very nteresting post! These postcards are amazing. Thanks for sharing!
My mom has some turpentining post cards too. Will have to post. Thanks Janet. Love hearing from you. Tell Vero hi!
I AM ADDICTED TO THIS SITE…… !!! “THANK YOU” Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch for keeping us all informed and up to date of your work and determination. You are making progress and waves in areas that have long been overlooked. The historical notes and pictures are just amazing as well.
A FAN from New Jersey:))
joan manahan Morristown, NJ / Indian River Plantation Stuart, FL.
Do you read Garden & Gun?
No. I see it on the shelves….should I?
http://gardenandgun.com/feature/the-longleaf-pine/ They have been into the Longleaf Pine for a while, check it ou
Wow, always interesting and educational in a want to learn way. Thanks for sharing history with them, not us, Yankees in Stuart!