Category Archives: History

Finding the “Long-Lost,” Long-Leaf Pines of Lake Okeechobee, SLR/IRL

A piece of long-leaf virgin pine from the windowsill of my Grandfather Henderson’s house in Gainesville, FL

Historic post card(s), long-leaf pine logging, courtesy Sandra Henderson Thurlow.

Grandaddy Russell Henderson as a young man, late 1920s Madison, FL. Family archives.
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 Swanee 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 bases on a 1st hand account of 1910 by J.H. Vaughn in an Abstract of Title for Indiantown, Florida.

Florida State Geological Survey 1927 belonging to my grandfather who worked for IFAS and UF in soil science.

This public photo off the internet gives scope of the size of the long-leaf pines.
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.

Digital Forest documentation of forest loss in the U.S.
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.”

No 12386

Page 5, original land survey 1855

Today’s map, as printed on-line August 2, 2017.

Newspaper article in about cutting of trees and lumber in Indiantown area, 1927. (Thurlow Archives)

My mother looking through a book on trees of Florida. 7/17 JTL

Kelly Morris, 2017
Links/sources:

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

NFWF: http://www.nfwf.org/whoweare/mediacenter/Pages/longleaf-gallery-16-0520.aspx

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

NWF: https://www.nwf.org/Wildlife/Wildlife-Library/Plants/Longleaf-Pine.aspx

The Everglades’ Boundary of 1910, and Today’s Toxic Lake Okeechobee, SLR/IRL

Historic map, Palm Beach Farms Company Lands ca. 1910 showing “edge of Everglades.”  Archives, Lawrence E. Will Museum of the Glades, Belle Glade, Fl.

Looking back gives us perspective when looking forward.

This old map showing the Palm Beach Farms Company Lands is interesting as is shows where people saw the “edge of the Everglades” when they were first developing around 1910.

Today it is hard to judge where we are and what “was” the Everglades…Some of us are literally “in it.”

Looking back, it is easy to see how  after over 100 years the waters of Lake Okeechobee are becoming more and more “toxic.” Kind of like a fish tank that can never be cleaned out….

One has wonder if the developers of the Everglades ever considered what would happen to the lake by building and developing farm lands right in the way of the natural flow, and then really blocking it by eventually putting a dike around the lake? In this map, the push was to develop lands further west beyond the eastern ridge…Think all all the development today out west beyond the ridge and into the historic Everglades!

Perhaps in their wildest dreams the early developers  would have never envisioned how many people live in south Florida today. Maybe they didn’t care. In any case, today we all here in South Florida are connected somehow to Lake Okeechobee, Florida’s  “liquid heart,” for drinking water, recharge, recreation, property values, and our health.

Over our history the human spirit has overcome greater threats than toxic algae; I am confident we will once again.

SFWMD satellite map South Florida. Red lines denote historic Everglades.
SFWMD
Lake O eastern shoreline, Port Mayaca, 7-21-17, JTL
Lake O, 7-21-17


LINKS:

Lawrence E Will Museum of the Glades: https://www.museumoftheglades.org

https://www.facebook.com/lawrenceewillmuseum/

Lake O acres today?/451,000: http://www.lakelubbers.com/lake-okeechobee-107/

Township and Range? the squares: http://www.jsu.edu/dept/geography/mhill/phygeogone/trprac.html

Palm Beach Farms Company Lands-History (-bottom of blog by Ginger Peterson, Boyton Historical Society: http://www.jsu.edu/dept/geography/mhill/phygeogone/trprac.html

No Fertilizer in This Wonderful 1925 Aerial, St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

Ariel 1925, SLR/IRL courtesy Archives of Sandra Thurlow as shared by Higgins Engineering WPB.

I have shared this 1925 aerial previously, but it is worth sharing again. What a wonderful photograph of a healthy confluence of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon!

Every time I see it, I see something new.

I see the white sands of the newly dug St Lucie Canal, today’s C-44 connected to Lake Okeechobee,  in the far middle distance; I see dark, prevalent natural vegetation; I see an undeveloped Sailfish Point, Rocky Point, Manatee Pocket, Sewall’s Point, and Stuart; there are a few roads, but no airport; no spoil islands along Sewall’s Point; there are no “bridges to the sea; ” I see shoaling, as the St Lucie Inlet had been opened/widened not too long before ~located just around the left hand corner of the photograph; I see beaches at Hutchinson Island with beautiful coquina sands that had not been “re-nourished;” I see lush seagrass beds, the nurseries of life,  cradled against the shoreline; I see Paradise…

What would we do as far as development in this paradise, if we had it to do all over again?Or would we do just the same?

How we develop lands,  of course, affects the health of surrounding waters. Today, what can we do to reinvigorate our rivers, our paradise? How can we help bring back the seagrasses especially? Well, we can do a lot.

Think of all the lawns that would be in this photo today!  All the development, and how when it rains everything on our streets, parking lots, and lawns  runs into our drainage  systems and into our river.

Yesterday was June 1st, the beginning of rainy season. The beginning of fertilizer restrictions that were especially inspired for the entire Indian River Lagoon by the work of Sewall’s Point, the first to have a strong fertilizer ordinance,  in 2010. I am proud of this and thank my fellow commissioners of that era.

Do what you can by not fertilizing your yard this rainy season, and if you haven’t considered changing out your yard to a more natural, Florida Friendly landscape, perhaps begin the process.

Every little thing we do, counts. And the more we do, the pressure we can put on the “big polluters” to do the same.

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BE FLORIDIAN program: “Saving Florida one lawn at a time”: http://befloridiannow.org/quick-start/

IRL Fertilizer Ordinances: https://sites.google.com/site/fertilizeruseintheirlwatershed/fertilizer-ordinances

Florida Friendly Yards: http://fyn.ifas.ufl.edu

Fertilizer Ordinances Martin County:https://www.martin.fl.us/sites/default/files/meta_page_files/Martin%20County%20Fertilizer%20Ordinance_FAQs.pdf

History of St Lucie River/IRL, development of canals, and Lake Okeechobee connection: by Bud Jordan, Rivers Coalition:
http://riverscoalition.org/reports-info/st-lucie-rivers-decline/

The Long Forgotten Wetlands of East Ocean Boulevard, SLR/IRL

 

 

4th Street/East Ocean Blvd 1957, Stuart, Florida, Arthur Ruhnke. Courtesy archives of historian, Sandra Henderson Thurlow.  
“See that white strip just below the wetland? That is the extension of Flamingo Drive that skirts the pond behind the old car wash. They just dug a retention pond and conducted the water to it. All of that pineland is covered with condominiums today.” (Cedar Point, Vista Pines, and Kingswood)~ Sandra H. Thurlow


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Today we drive over the Indian River Lagoon and St Lucie River surrounded by “civilization,” and forget that once it was once a wetland and pine forest full of wildlife. In the course of a lifetime, these things are long forgotten.

The above 1957 photograph hangs in my brother’s law office. When I visit him, I find myself staring at it for long periods of time. It is one of those rare photos that really puts things into  perspective. The road construction through the wetlands, (note it going through the pond, and pine forest) was all taking place around the same time that the “Bridges to the Sea,” from Stuart to Sewall’s Point, and Sewall’s Point to Hutchinson Island, were completed. It’s amazing to see what the landscape once looked like. The road in the photograph, Fourth Street, was renamed “East Ocean Boulevard” in 1960, and is a major thoroughfare to the  beaches today.

Jenny, Todd and I 1973, alligator in background.
I remember early East Ocean Blvd, although it was already quite changed by the time I was born in 1964. My family lived at 109 Edgewood Drive in Stuart, a short distance away from these wetland ponds under development. I recall Scrub Jays in our back yard and feeding them peanuts. By 1974 the family moved across the river to Sewall’s Point “growing and improving” with the changing landscape.

By 1979, when I was fifteen  years old, riding my bike over the bridge to Stuart to work at the Pelican Car Wash, the beautiful wetland pond had been relegated to a retention pond for run off.  Over the next two decades, you didn’t see wetlands and ponds anymore, or wildlife, just condominiums, office buildings, and shopping plazas. The state four-laned East Ocean Boulevard and built higher bridges to the ocean too.

Believe it or not, the pond in the aerial is still located behind a gas station that used to be the car wash. It is not even a shadow of its former self. Two days ago, I drove by and noticed that there was an extensive algae bloom in the pond backed up to the  parking lot and gas pumps; the water reflecting a sickly shade of green.

I sat there thinking about the long forgotten pond in the middle of East Ocean Boulevard in the photo I love in my brother’s office, wishing the developers had figured out a way to go around the pond. As the shortest distance between two points, over time, is not always a straight line.

East Ocean Blvd 1957, courtesy historian, Sandra Henderson Thurlow

Flamingo and retention pond at Flamingo and East Ocean 2017, once a wetland.
Google map of East Ocean Blvd. through what was once wetland and forest, 2017.
1940s Dept of Agriculture photographs of Martin County showing wetlands. Courtney Todd Thurlow and UF archives.
Overlay 1940 aerials over Google map today, Todd Thurlow.
USDA History of Wetland Development in Florida: https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detailfull/fl/newsroom/features/?cid=stelprdb1252222

Bridges to the Sea, Luckhardt Vignette TCPalm Series: http://archive.tcpalm.com/news/historical-vignettes–martin-county-bridges-and-bridge-tenders-ep-306449407-342336761.html

Governor Rick Scott Signs Negron’s Senate Bill 10 in Clewiston? SLR/IRL

Sweet!

Today, May 12th, at 9:45 A.M. Governor Rick Scott is scheduled to sign Senate President Joe Negron’s “Senate Bill 10” in of all places Clewiston. Clewiston is “America’s Sweetest Town” and the headquarters of U.S. Sugar Corporation…

According to the article in the Glades County Democrat announcing the signing: “Earlier this week Senate Bill 10, a move to secure funding for a water storage reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee was approved. In its amended form, Senate Bill 10 became a measure that we in the Glades could stand behind. The bill no longer stated that additional farmlands be taken out of production but rather the state would utilize the property that it already owns to create a reservoir with a much smaller footprint.”

Full article: (http://gladescountydemocrat.com/lake-okeechobee/governor-rick-scott-set-sign-sb10-clewiston/)

Although I am scratching my head, you know what? Sometimes you just have to be happy for what you get, no matter where you get it. I am tremendously thankful to Governor Scott for signing the bill ~ although I do wish he had decided to sign it in Martin County since we’ve worked so hard to get it.

When I read the announcement officially last night, it got me thinking about Clewiston before I went to sleep. It brought back memories of 2013 and famed paddle boarder Justin Riney’s idea to hold the Sugarland Rally in Clewiston on September 1st, 2013 to unite the movement.  This was one of the early rallies for the river during the devastation of the “Lost Summer.”

Since Governor Scott is going to sign in Clewiston I think it’s a good time to walk down memory lane and be proud of how far we’ve come and to get ready for how far we have to go! The point of the location of the Sugarland Rally was to “meet halfway.” Hopefully Governor Scott is thinking the same, in that Joe Negron helped us meet half way and we are all thankful.

Now let’s remember the past, enjoy today, and then take it to the finish line!

 

“The Sugarland Rally will unite the east and west coasts of Florida in a peaceful, historic demonstration to speak out against the pollution of our estuaries from Lake Okeechobee discharges. We support both immediate and long-term solutions, but ecosystems and communities along the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee Estuaries are in crisis. We cannot afford to wait for ecological and economic collapse. We urge all stakeholders–especially local, state and federal governments–to act immediately. We chose Clewiston as a central location to unify east and west at Lake Okeechobee, the source that is polluting our estuaries, and because we believe Florida’s sugar industry can be part of the solution. Please don’t misinterpret our intentions–we are NOT holding a rally at Clewiston to protest or point fingers at “Big Sugar.” It’s quite the opposite, actually. We invite Florida’s powerful sugar industry to join us in crafting an immediate solution to the ecological and economic crisis caused by discharges from Lake Okeechobee.” (Press release from Justin Riney, Aug. 2013)



SUGARLAND RALLY 2013

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Maggy Hurchalla, Comm. Taylor, and Mayor Roland
Don Voss!
Nic Mader, Jenny Flaugh and the River Kidz
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Eve Samples of TC Palm and Don Voss with crowd

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Press release on Sugarland Rally from 2013, in Clewiston, Justin Riney: http://www.supradioshow.com/2013/08/justin-riney-sugarland-rally-unite-east-west-coasts-florida-sup-radio/

9:35 am JTL