I have been looking though my collection of maps and other Florida things, and I came across this remarkable real estate ad by W. J. Willingham. I would think it is from the early part of the 1900s when Barron Collier and James Jaudon, “Father of the Tamiami Trail,” were developing South Florida. Apparently, Jaudon sold the land that became Pinecrest to Willingham.
What is of most interest to me is the tone of the ad, and how different is it compared to how we sell real estate today. For instance, the first section reads: “Hesitation:” On the plains of Hesitation bleach the bones of countless millions; some men are just plain quitters, but the most pitiable sight in the whole world of failures, is the man who will not start. Opportunity will knock at your door this week and give you a chance to start. You can deny yourself one or two simple luxuries, drop a useless habit or two, and the start is made. You can own a Pinecrest lot. You can be a true-born American and take a shot at it and if you lose, you can take your loss like a real man. On the other hand, if Pinecrest makes a wonderful town, you can enjoy the pleasures invariably comes when a man uses his head and wins. My friend, it is up to you. Will you hesitate? Or will you start? W.J. WILLINGHAM
Holy cow. This must have been the way one sold land in the Everglades in the old days, before political correctness, equal rights, and other things. Interesting to ponder, don’t you think? Maybe that’s why they mowed everything down.
Looking at the rest, Mr Willingham’s rant continues:
Here’s another duzzie: “Nerve.” That word nerve spells success. I was looking through some of old papers the other day and I ran across and old advertisement I put in a Florida newspaper a few years ago. At the at time I tried my level best to persuade someone to buy a certain property for $11,000. No one seemed to have the nerve. Finally I persuaded my brother to go in with me and buy it. All that was required a small cash payment and just a little nerve. Now to make a long story short, we recently sold a part of that property for $137,000 and we have some o the property left. In a few short years you will wonder why you did not accumulate just a little nerve when Pinecrest was just starting. Pincerest has a mighty bright future. I am going to give you an opportunity to pick up a few Pinecrest lots at auction. W.J. WILLINGHAM
This is a good one, today we would write “Do you know of anything that has destroyed America’s Everglades more than Tamiami Trail?
W.J. Willlingham’s final words are a harsh motivator as well: “J.J. Hill Said:” James J. Hill, one of the greatest builders this county has produced, designated thrift as the one qualification without which no man could succeed. He said: If you want to know whether you are destined to be a success or a failure in life, you can easily find out. The test is simple, and infallible. Are you able to save money? In not drop out. You will lose. You may think not. But you will lose as sure as you live. The seed of success not in you.” W.J. WILLINGHAM
The seed of success not in you? Hmmmm. I agree with being thrifty, but how the “seeds of success change.” To be successful, the new developers of South Florida will have to adapt to our new world of rising seas, stronger storms, climate change, and the subtleties of selling to modern society. This could be a challenge; we may have to get some advice from the gators who have around a long, long time.
Pinecrest went on to be a very successful community. I wonder what the ads in the future will look like as it goes underwater…
“Eager salesman from the Florida Fruit Lands Company crossed the country, promoting the Everglades as a “Garden of Eden”, a “Tropical Paradise,” “The Promised Land”. These “swamp boomers” enticed potential buyers with sales literature quoting government officials who extolled the possibilities of the Everglades…”
For years, Ed and I have flown over the Bolles Canal, just south of Lake Okeechobee in the Everglades Agricultural Area, and for years, I wondered who the east/west canal in the EAA was named for…
Just goes to show, even if you become famous, or even “infamous,” over time, chances are, even people who should know your name may not have a clue…
Like Hamilton Disston, Richard “Dicky” J. Bolles was a millionaire of the late 1800s and early 1900s set up to help Florida get out of debt and grow an empire out of this “swamp.”
We get the picture here:
“Bolles founded the first of his Florida enterprises, the Florida Fruit Lands Company, to dispose of 180,000 acres in Dade and Palm Beach Counties. The company divided the lands into 12,000 farms of varying size and designated a townsite, ‘Progreso’, with plans for streets, factories, schools, churches, and public buildings. For the price of $240, a buyer could purchase a contract from Florida Fruit Lands Company, entitling them to bid on a farm and town lot through a scheduled auction. This same scheme was employed by other sales ventures pitching swamp land in Florida, including Okeechobee Fruit Lands Company, which dealt in Bolles’ remaining 428,000 acres around the shores of Lake Okeechobee….
Eventually, Federal prosecutors initiated a case against Bolles and his cohorts, producing a 122-page indictment and more than 100 witnesses from across the country. Bolles was arrested on December 18, 1913 and tried the following March — he was found to be “an honest man”… ~Library of Congress, http://everglades.fiu.edu/reclaim/bios/bolles.htm
It’s fascinating to look at the Okeechobee Fruit lands map and imagine what would have happened, what could have happened, if Dicky J. Bolles had been successful in his underwater private swampland “scheme.” Look at his plan for this multicolored plat map!
Instead over time, the Great Depression set in, and the Federal Government, ACOE, came in just over a couple of decades later to help save us from Mother Nature and from ourselves, creating unified protections of the EAA under the 1848 Central and Southern Florida Plan, House Document 643.
My mother gave me a late birthday present: antique post cards and a bottle once filled with “Florida Water,” a popular tonic sold for health and beauty around the world. Believe it or not, “Florida Water” is still selling across the globe, and has been since 1808 ~for 210 years!
It was poignant to receive such a rare and special gift from my mother because if Murray & Landman began marketing Florida water today, the product would not be so romantic; in fact, the branding would more look like war.
We are up to page 10 in our history lesson and today’s photos are some of my favorite. The first is an aerial of the St Lucie Inlet entitled “Stuart on the St Lucie River.” Since its earliest day’s, Stuart has always been defined by its proximity to the river. Below the aerial it boast: “World Famous For its Fishing, Provides an Ocean Entrance for Small Craft.” And by today’s standards, a rather comical or un-comical plug can’t be missed: “Where the Waters of Lake Okeechobee Meet the Atlantic.”
It is also fascinating to note the shape of the south side of the St Lucie Inlet as today it has shifted and filled in. I am sharing my brother’s Time Capsule Flight used in former posts as it is so interesting and shows the various inlets of this area and land shapes as documented on various historical maps. Although today, we try to make barrier islands, beaches, and inlets permanent, by watching my brother’s video the message is clear: “the only constant is change.”
As we continue our historic journey, today we view pages 8-9 of the 1937 Stuart Daily News. Today’s ad for the City of Stuart is so large that it is featured side-to-side rather than top to bottom in the publication. Proudly, because of the completion of the Stuart to Ft Meyers Cross-State Canal, Stuart has branded itself as “the Atlantic Gateway to the Gulf of Mexico,” particularly for the nation’s yachtsmen.
Although this image below was not in the publication, I wanted to include it because one might drive by and not recognize this recently renovated, now officially registered historic structure in Rio for what it really is, ~a monument to the cross-state canal!
Of course also in the ad Stuart lauds itself as a fishing mecca touting: “Florida’s finest fishing in adjacent waters.” The truth of the matter is that the quality of the St Lucie River and Southern Indian River Lagoon, as documented by local fishermen, had been deteriorating since the opening of the St Lucie Canal to Lake Okeechobee in 1923. (Sandra Henderson Thurlow, Stuart on the St Lucie) Nonetheless, the rivers and ocean remained “marvelous” fishing arenas as this 1938 Chamber of Commerce Fishing Guide shows.
Today, the City of Stuart remains the vibrant and beautiful heart of Marin County, but it no longer brags about being “the Gateway to the Gulf of Mexico.” As much as the St Lucie Canal has caused issue with our local waterways, I do think the Stuart to Ft Meyers connection, and being a starting point for a historic boat trip across the state is worth re-boasting about!
Today, Ft Pierce’s deep water port is the star of the 1937 Stuart Daily News historical newspaper commemorating the completion of the Stuart to Ft Meyers cross-state canal. The port has a long been one of the more developed areas of the Indian River Lagoon and has an interesting start-stop history that is best documented by St Lucie County:
Port Authority History, St Lucie County web site: The Port of Ft. Pierce first came into existence in 1920 when a manmade opening, the Ft. Pierce Inlet, was cut through the land barrier between the Atlantic Ocean and the Indian River Lagoon. St. Lucie County became the Port Authority in 1918 and a continuum of legislation has named the County as the Authority since that time. In 1918 a special act of the Florida Legislature established a taxing district to fund this project. Approximately 65 percent of St. Lucie County was in this Ft. Pierce Inlet District, which was empowered to sell bonds to finance the project and to satisfy bond obligations through real property tax revenues. The Florida Legislature abolished the Ft. Pierce Inlet District in 1947 and replaced it with the Ft. Pierce Port Authority, which retained the same power but was also granted the legal right to acquire and lease real estate. In 1961 a Special Act of the Florida Legislature replaced the Ft. Pierce Port Authority with the Ft. Pierce Port and Airport Authority, both of which were run by St. Lucie County. In 1989 the name of the Authority was changed to the St. Lucie County Port and Airport Authority. In 1997 the Florida Legislature provided reorganizing, updating and clarifying provisions for the Authority. In 1998 the Legislature dissolved the St. Lucie County Port and Airport Authority and transferred its assets, liabilities, and responsibilities to the Board of County Commissioners of St. Lucie County.
Today, the Port of Ft Pierce is ready for more expansion and will be loading more than fruits and vegetables in the near future. I wish them all the best. This portion of the Indian River Lagoon south of Harbor Branch to Ft Pierce Inlet is known as the “healthiest” part of the ailing IRL so may the developers be delicate with their planning and execution! We must save what we love!