The Gale of 1878, Ten Mile Creek, SLR/IRL

*Please note comments become public record.

Excerpt of a survey map, 1919, courtesy Mike Middlebrook, Natural Resources Manager, St Lucie County.

The following are two rare accounts of pioneer life documenting the extreme rain event of 1878. The first is from A. Hendry Sr., and the other by Emily Lagow Bell. These related families lived along the banks of Ten Mile Creek at the time of this flood. Their stories give us insight into a world we cannot even image today.

Historian Sandra Henderson Thurlow, (http://www.sandrathurlow.com)
had transcribed these accounts from old newspaper articles and a book. Apparently, the News Tribune had the wonderful idea of a “contest for old timers” and people wrote in.

Sandra, my mother, recently came across her transcriptions again, after I visited the Richard E. Becker Preserve in St Lucie County and started asking questions.

Today I put these valuable recollections out for all to read. I think you will find them as interesting as I do.

We must not forget that are living in a Land Remembered!

Ten Mile Creek and Five Mile Creek are visible on this 1884 map – look just south of Ft Pierce. These “creeks” are the northern headwaters of the St Lucie River. They have been drained, tamed, and destroyed by the C&SFP canal system C-23, C-24 and C-25.

TWO RARE ACCOUNTS

I.

Transcribed by Sandra H. Thurlow

News Tribune

Nov. 26, 1978

“Miley’s Memos”

by Charles S. Miley

 

  1. A. Hendry was one of the first settlers of this area, and one of the pioneer cattlemen.

Born near Bartow, he came here with his parents at the age of 14, when there were but a handful of settlers in the area. As was the case with most other early settlers, he engaged in the cattle business during his late youth hood and all his adult life, reportedly being among the largest cattle owners in the state. He and K. B. Raulerson established the East Coast Cattle Co., which later became the Raulerson Cattle Co., forerunner of some of the present-day cattle operations.

He died at the age of 87 and he and his wife are buried in the Fort Pierce cemetery.

A son, A. A. “Buck” Henry, Jr., presently lives at 3576 N. E. Skyline drive, Jensen Beach, but spent most of his life in Fort Pierce and is well known among many of our residents.

When the News Tribuneconducted an old timer’s letter writing contest in February of 1934, the senior Hendry wrote a letter relating some of his experiences as an early settler of the area.

Here is the letter.

 

Fort Pierce, Florida

February 20, 1934

Within less than eight miles of White City, where I hope this will be read as a prize-winning letter, has been my home for 62 years, one month and one week.

For early in January, 1872, my father and mother and eight children left Polk County with two wagons drawn by oxen. After two weeks slow traveling over the old government trail, Ft. Meade, Ft. Kissimmee, Ft. Drum, we arrived at Fort Pierce. We drove our cattle with us and camped where night caught us.

We settled on the south side of Ten Mile creek, where later was located the Lisk and Roden Gove, later owned by B. J. Selvitz.

Of my father’s eight children, seven are still living, three still in this neighborhood, Mrs. Frank Bell, John Hendry and myself.

At the time of our arrival Henry Parker lived in Fr. Drum and Elias Jernigan lived on what is now the Standard Growers grove at Ten Mile; on the south lived Lang on St. Lucie River bluff just south of White City, clearing what has since become the Edwards grove, now owned by Mr. Martin East was the trading post. of the old fort, run by Alex Bell (who had arrived the year before) and a Mr. Smith; on the north lived Jim Russel and the Paine family at Ft. Capron. Beyond these points, outside of possible wandering trappers and hunters, there were no settlers short of Ft. Bassenger, Ft. Jupiter, where lived Captain Armour and Mr. Carlin, and Sebastian, where Col. Gibson lived.

An occasional band of Indians stopped on their way to the “fort,” where they would swap deer skins and other hides for beads, cloth, ammunition, salt, etc.

Their main cooking was what they called “sofkee,” ─ a tick soupy mixture of meat, grits, meal, potatoes, beans, or anything they might happen to have, boiled in a copper kettle swung over a slow fire. When done, they would squat around the kettle and pass around the one big spoon for individual use or would gorge out a handful and pour or suck off their fingers. First the bucks would eat till they had enough, then the squaws and pickaninnies. They liked white man’s cooking and lost no opportunity to enjoy it. They were especially fond of milk, never having any milk cows of their own. They would always divide with us whenever they had anything to eat that we did not have.

These Indians were of Old Parker’s band. They were known also as the Cow Creek Indians.

There were about a hundred of them in all. Their headquarters were in the Indiantown section.

September 7, 8, 9, and 10thin the year of 1878, there was a gale with a heavy rain. The Ten Mile creek’s banks overflowed. When the water came up in the floor of our cabin I built a rough boat in the hall and poled my people across the creek to Asbury Seller’s place. Finding them gone, I became somewhat alarmed. Then I poled on east to John Sellers and spent the night there with their family. Next day we all took refuge on the “mound” ─ still standing, what is left of it, just south of the road about a mile west of Five Mile.

There were 32 of us men, women and children and we spent there two days and one night. We had no shelter and were drenched to the skin. We managed to build a fire which we kept going with driftwood. We brought provisions along but were gladdened by the addition of a deer which swam up and which we killed with a pole. On returning home we found the water had been up two of three feet in the house, according to the marks on the walls.

We lived a rough, hard but healthy life. Plenty of clean food and plenty of outdoor exercise getting it. We had no Sunday schools or churches for years. We soon had a few months school for the younger children and we older ones picked up reading and writing as best we could. Mail, at best, came once a week by sail boat, newspapers were scarce, and magazines scarcer.

I have seen and used ox carts, mule teams, horse and buggy, railroad cars and automobiles on land, and the rowboat, sailboat and steamboat on the water; and overhead the airplane. What next?

Yours truly,

A. HENDRY, SR.

 

II.

About the Williams Mound:

 

Emily Lagow Bell, My Pioneer Days in Florida, 1928

 

I have a copy of this rare book

 

Sandra Thurlow

April 26, 2003

 

page 21:

 

…Alexander Bell and family, also Mr. Archibald Hendry’s family, Mr. Sellers and family were living at Ten Mile Creek. This was the 1878 storm.

The gale lasted 24 hours and the creek began to rise and James Bell and brother, Frank, and others found they had to get something to save the women and children, so took the floor out of the house , made a raft, and the water was in the house then! Well, he took his mother and children first to an Indian mound, which I think is near Ten Mile creek yet. He had to make several trips before he got them all and forgot his horse, and it drowned in the yard.

There were cattle, hogs, deer, snakes, and coons, possums, turkeys all coming to the mound. Hundreds of stock and animals drowned. They built fires on the mound and the second day the water was receding and all came into Fort Pierce.

 

page 28:

 

…Then there were several men hunting the frostproof part of the state for new groves, and my father-in-law had died, and the family decided to sell the Ten Mile place and a Mr. Sid Williams came about 1894 or 1895, and he bought the place at a very low figure, something like five or six hundred dollars, and he built up something like one hundred acres of groves which sold for a fabulous price. Now it is owned by the Standard Growers.

 

 

8 thoughts on “The Gale of 1878, Ten Mile Creek, SLR/IRL

  1. I am a serious student of this, and the next storm that year. Hannibal D. Pierce, my GG Grandfather back at the homestead on Hypoluxo Island having served a couple years as Keeper at Orange Grove HOR. had recovered a longboat from the Providentia wreck Feb 1878. He sloop rigged it and took it on its maiden voyage to Titusville. Charles W. Pierce; On Wings of the Wind, unpublished manuscript.

    Cheap enough some would say, but there were some settlers who could not afford to spend any money buying nuts to plant; they needed what money they had to buy food and clothes. These people did not plant any coconuts from the wreck of the Providencia. But Hammon and Lainheart opened their hearts to Father after he bought 200 nuts for himself, 200 for Cecil Upton, and seven hundred for Captain Armour; they gave him the Providencia’s longboat. This boat was a heavy built round bottom boat, twenty feet long and six wide. …

    When Father got the Providencia’s longboat home, (Hypoluxo Island, today, under the Manalapan Club) he hauled it out at his east landing and planned to make her into a sloop. Uncle Will and Mr. [Ruben] Pease, who were good carpenters, helped with the work of putting in a centerboard and half decking her forward and along the sides. When rigged with a jib and a leg-o-mutton mainsail she made a pretty good sa

    It was the first week of September that Father announced his intention of making a trip to Titusville in his new boat, the Creole, for much needed supplies. … When Father had been gone about two weeks there came a hurricane. It was not a very bad one, but it lasted five days. A few days after the storm, the seas were calm and we looked for Father to return. But he did not show up and the weather became stormy again and there was no news from up river in all that time. No one came to the lake so there was no news of storm damage from up Indian River, nor any news from Father, and the family on Hypoluxo Island was worried and anxious.

    We kept on worrying and wondering as week after week went by and no word from Father or the Creole. I spent a good part of each day, when not hunting or fishing, in the top of an old rubber tree that stood on the west shore of the island south of the landing, with the old long spyglass resting over a limb I scanned closely the lake to the northward. While the magnifying power of the old telescope brought distant islands and shorelines into plain view, it did not show that which I most longed to see – Father’s boat coming home.

    One day as I climbed to my customary perch in the tree I was overjoyed to see a sail far up the lake. But a minute’s scrutiny with the spyglass caused my sudden joy to vanish; it was not Father’s boat, but a much smaller craft. It was a very small boat that had come from up river by way of the sawgrass route; they brought a letter from Father, who was at Jupiter waiting for a smooth sea to make the outside run to the lake. We were certainly pleased to hear that he was safe and well and so near home. But days and days went by and the wind continued to blow hard from off the ocean and then there came another hurricane, which lasted only a day and one night, but was most severe; the worst we had experienced since 1876. The wind was from the east-northeast on the first day and most of the following night, and how it did blow and rain. The rain was the most tremendous any of the settlers had ever seen before or since. The rain drove in through the sides of the house until the entire inside was afloat; boards had to be laid on the floor so Mother could attend to her work without wading. About two o’clock in the morning the wind shifted to the southeast and about an hour later began to slacken just a little. Up to this time it had been impossible for us to sleep on account of the roar of wind and rain and of the possibility the house might be blown down. When the wind shifted there was some protection afforded by a hammock to the southeast of the house, and knowing by the change of the wind that the hardest had passed, we “turned in,” as the sailors call going to bed.

    In the morning a scene of desolation met our gaze when we went to the door and looked out. Coconut trees blown down or their leaves whipped to threads, leaves and limbs scattered all over, bananas all flat on the ground, and not a whole tree or plant anywhere; and the lake – it was near five feet higher than before the storm. The whole back country was flooded by the September blow and now this had caused it to rise beyond all bounds. It flowed over the low spot in the spruce ridge to the north of Bradley’s through the pine woods into Lake Worth. And up across from the inlet it flowed into the lake from the back swamp in such a volume it created a large deep creek.

    A few days after the storm Father reached home in a skiff borrowed from Mr. Rogers, the lone settler at the haulover. The last hurricane having raised the water in the sawgrass to an extreme height and good northeast wind blowing, Father decided to try the sawgrass route from Jupiter to the lake. He found the swamp like a great open lake, and had no difficulty in its navigation in the Creole; he landed at the haulover only a few hours after leaving Jupiter. Here he had to leave the Creole until help could be found to haul her over the three hundred yards of hill and dale to the lake. Borrowing the skiff of Mr. Rogers, he rowed it to his home a distance of twenty miles.

    It was a week or so later that the tram road was built at the haulover, and the Creole was the first freight hauled by the new road from the swamp to the lake, and when she again rode anchor near her home dock, eight weeks had elapsed since her departure for Titusville.”

    I tell this story in the first person AS my Grandfather. The trip took nearly months to complete. As an aside, Emily Lagow (she MET Jim Bell who she later married on this trip) was but a day behind my Grandfather in Captain Abbotts trade boaton its first trip down the lagoon boat and rode the hurricane out anchored near Gilbert’s Bar HOR. Gramps was at Jupiter Light. Em Lagow even stopped and visited the Faber Brothers at Rockledge where my Gramps had weathered the 5 day storm while suffering the flu. Here is Em Lagow Bell’s account; From My Pioneer Days the above booklet Sandy shared with Jacqui;

    “We went on to the House of Refuge at Peck’s Lake, on the way to Jupiter. “We got the sails all down, for the clouds were black, and about four in the afternoon it began to rain and blow so that the spray came over on the boat, but we were in a good harbor and it was fierce all night, and lasted 24 hours. We were all right. That was my first experience of gales in Florida. I was so scared I couldn’t lie down or sleep till it was over.
    We started for Jupiter and arrived at noon, so glad to get ashore to walk around. ”

    My Gramps had left that morning up Lake Worth Creek to Mr. Rogers mentioned above. Jacquie, I transcribed this document years ago and not only have the story, but I indexed it also. Yours for the asking. Cheers!

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