Category Archives: History

Remembering Lake Okeechobee’s Moonflower This Easter, SLR/IRL

Florida map 1500s
Moon flower, public image

Florida translates to “Flowery Easter” and was christened such by Ponce de Leon in 1513. Yes, we were a “land of flowers!”

Everglades Wildflowers: http://www.wildflowersearch.com/search?oldstate=gmc%3A25.32%2C-80.93%3Bgms%3A12%3Blocation%3AEverglades%3Belev%3A1%3Btitle%3AEverglades%20Wildflowers%3B

The wildflower I would like to remember in “all its glory” this Easter is the moonflower whose sweet fragrance used to fill Lake Okeechobee’s shores.

David Troxtell of the Marie Selby Botanical Garden in Sarasota writes:

Not too long ago, Florida’s giant Lake Okeechobee would fill with rainwater and flood its southern banks every year during the wet season. The water’s slow journey through the Everglades’ 100-mile long “river of grass” and out to Florida Bay and the Gulf of Mexico would take months.

At the very beginning of this journey would have been a floodplain covered in a massive pond apple forest, completely blanketed in moonvine. Pond apple is a native tree which grows in regularly flooded areas, and is a preferred host for the moonvine. It has also become a rare sight in the state outside of the Everglades due to development, mostly agriculture.

The massive forest of moonvine and pond apples covering 32,000 acres along the southern edge of Lake Okeechobee was destroyed in less than a decade…” (http://selby.org/moonvine-morning-glory-family/)

What is exciting is that there is a resurgence of interest in reestablishing the pond apple also known as the custard apple which would inadvertently include the moonflower. The Art Marshall Foundation worked on such, but many were destroyed in the hurricanes of 2004 and 2005. Sarah Brown, a local South Florida photographer, has a show presently at the Lawrence E. Will Museum of the Glades. Many of her photographs feature the few remaining custard apple trees and moonvines. Zachariah Cosner, a student at University of Miami, is writing a book on the subject and I will be featuring his work more in the coming months.

So on this sacred Easter, remember, there is hope of recovering some of Florida’s wildflowers for which we are named. May we once again be Florida, “land of flowers.”

Sarah Brown Images, http://www.sarahbrownimages.com

Nativeg8r, Pinterest image of moonflower
Moonflower center, Rebecca Fatzinger

“Holding on to the Old Ways,” Pitchford Camp~Still Alive Today, SLR/IRL

FullSizeRender 5
Boo Lowery

FullSizeRender_2 4.jpg

FullSizeRender_2 5.jpg
Courtesy of “Historic Jensen and Eden of Florida’s Indian River,” Sandra Henderson Thurlow

When I was kid growing up in Stuart, I remember seeing a lot of cottages. I loved these structures ~so simple, efficient, and adorable too. I remember cottages at Frances Langford’s Outrigger Resort just north of Sewall’s Point;  I remember cottages in Rio along Dixie Highway; and I recall the cottages along Indian River Drive in Jensen at the old Pitchford Camp. Somehow the more run down they were, the cooler they appeared. A reminder of days long past before Martin County developed and we were all brainwashed of the need to build bigger houses and complicate our lives.

Today, when one hears the name “Pitchford,” one may envision a Martin County Commission embroiled in a decade of controversy, but this wasn’t always the case. In fact in the early 1900s the name “Pitchford” was a family name that defined “good times” of fishing, dancing, and playing shuffle board along the beautiful and healthy Indian River Lagoon.

Recently, I was invited by long time friend of my parents, Boo Lowery, to see his modern-day, old-fashioned, fish camp.  Boo, himself, an “old-timer” is related to many of the early families of the Stuart area. Boo’s career as a respected contractor working closely with famed architect, Peter Jefferson, allowed him to become an expert in building, moving, and renovating homes.

In the 1980s when the cottages at Pitchford Camp were going to be demolished, Boo, who along with his wife Soo is a “lover of all things vintage” stepped in and saved five of the Pitchford Camp cottages. Over time, the little structures have been moved alongside land where a “borrow pit” (dug to build part of I-95) was located. This hole in the ground, today, is a serene pond in the middle of a pine forest, and a living museum housing the Pitchford cottages and of a way of life along our waterways that no longer exists.

It was so much fun going to Boo and Soo’s and today I am sharing some of my photos. While eating hush puppies and alligator, I told my husband, Ed,  “I could live in one these cottages.” That I wanted to live in one of these cottages! He looked at me like I was out of my mind… Perhaps, he thinks I’m too soft and spoiled by “progress.” Maybe I’m dreaming, but I think I’d love it. I think I’d be as “happy as a clam…”

In any case, enjoy the photos of this very special place and thank you Boo and Soo for holding on to the old ways and for keeping  our Indian River Lagoon history alive.

FullSizeRender 8.jpgIMG_0609IMG_0583.jpg

IMG_0612.jpg

FullSizeRender_3.jpgIMG_0606 2.JPG

IMG_0632.JPGFullSizeRender_5.jpg

“Robert McClinton, “Doc, ” Pitchford was the only remaining Pitchford brother after Herbert’s death in 1988. When Doc died in December 2001, it was the end of an era. Doc tried to hold on to the old ways and was quite successful. The Pitchford holdings were like a time capsule surrounded by computer-age progress. Although most of the original Pitchford Camp cabins were demolished….”

Boo saved a few!

FullSizeRender_4 2

(Excerpt and photo below from my mother, Sandra Henderson Thurlow’s book “Historic Eden and Jensen on Florida’s Indian River.”

FullSizeRender 10.jpg
Pitchford Camp, Jensen ca. 1930s