Tag Archives: 1881

St Lucie Connections – Lost Through Time

Excerpt from 1839 Map of the Seat of War in Florida compiled by order of Brid. Gen. Z. Taylor principally from the surveys and reconnaissances of the Officers of the U.S. Army.

The following of which you will recognize many names and places, was shared from my mother, Sandra Henderson Thurlow. For years it lie dormant in her history files.

Written in 1881 as an article in an old time newspaper, The Florida Star, the article describes the location of pioneers living near the river and the extent of the St Lucie River itself. It is told that the South Fork of the St Lucie was connected all the way “westward of the Jupiter Lighthouse having its origin in the Everglades.”  Since 1881, we have drained so much of Florida that we only know its remnant. Imagine what it was like. Read, dream, and enjoy! 

From The Florida Star, Titusville, Florida, February 23, 1881, “Indian River” by Elias B. Wager, transcribed by Sandra H. Thurlow 

One mile south of Judge Paine’s is the mouth of Taylor Creek; on the left bank of which is the residence of Mr. Alex. Bell. Opposite the creek the oyster bars decrease. Two miles south from Bell’s is the old parade ground at Fort Pierce some of the of which are yet visible, extending quite a distance back to where was a watch tower commanding an extensive view of the river. Here is a fine spring of water bursting out from under the river-bank. Here also is the site of a store kept by Mr. Hogg. Going southward from Fort Pierce and passing several old places along the  skirted western bank, we find Herman’s Grove about eleven miles from Fort Pierce. This grove, a valuable piece of property is owned by a man living at Key West. About two miles from Herman’s Grove, is the clearing and home of Mr. T. E. Richards, late of Newark, planted to orange trees and the pine-apple. He has a clearing on the east shore of the river also, for growing vegetables, etc. Six miles from Mr. Richards is Mount Elizabeth, crowned with hummock of Cabbage Palmetto, the home of J. S. Fowler, late of New York. The river at this point is some two and one-half or three miles wide. Nearly opposite Mount Elizabeth and on the east bank of the river is the “Old Cuban’s Place.” Here grows the bananas very luxuriantly. The distance from the eastern shore of the river to the beach, is some three or four hundred yards. The river from Indian River Inlet to the Narrows is called St. Lucia Sound. Some three miles south from “Old Cuban’s Place” is located House of Refuge No. 2. Four miles south of Mt. Elizabeth and on the west side of the river is the mouth of the St. Lucie River. This river has a North and South Branch. Some ten miles above the meeting of the Branches, the North Branch separates into three streams, called Five, Ten, and Eleven Mile Creeks, indicating the distance from Ft. Capron to the several Fords used in the Seminole war.  The South Branch comes from away down to the Westward of Jupiter Lighthouse, having its origin in the Everglades. It has two branches from the Westward which have their sources in the “Big Cypress” and are called Big and Little Cane Creeks, and abound in black bass.

Florida Classics Library, Everglades’ Historical Destruction, St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

One of Val Marin's favorite books, "Everglades of Florida," first printed in  1911, and reprinted as "South Florida in Peril," 1988. Florida Classics Library.
One of Val Marin’s favorite books, “Everglades of Florida,” first printed in 1911, and reprinted as “South Florida in Peril,” 1988, by Florida Classics Library.

Florida Classics Library
Florida Classics Library

When I was a kid in the 1970s and 80s, there was a bookstore called VAL’s BOOKS. It was located on East Ocean Boulevard across from the Martin County Courthouse. My parents were very fond of Val and we would often visit, browse, and buy. Visiting the bookstore was an escape from the wonderful but limited world of early Stuart.

Years passed, and the businesses along East Ocean changed, and the beloved owner of Val’s Books, Mr Val Martin, moved his bookstore to Hobe Sound. Today you will see it if you drive south on Dixie Highway from Stuart to Bridge Road. It is located at a fork in the road and is a large, attractive spanish style building. The sign reads FLORIDA CLASSICS LIBRARY.  (http://www.floridaclassicslibrary.com)

This bookstore is the absolute coolest for the “river enthusiast,” River Warrior, the person who appreciates Florida history or just wants a break from the norm.

There are copies of very old maps, old books, out of print books that have been reprinted by Mr Martin, and a great selection of children’s books as well. All have to do with Florida.

1856 War Map of Florida Everglades, Florida Classic Library.
1856 War Map of Florida Everglades, Florida Classic Library.

It was at this bookstore that I first found maps and books that would give me great insight and historical reference for the destruction of South Florida and our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. Val has fought for the Indian River Lagoon himself since the early days and you will see his name now and again in a Letter to the Editor. At the bookstore, he is a great “guide.”

The first book he called to my attention was the one in today’s featured photo, A Study in Bureaucratic Self-Deception, South Florida in Peril-How the United States Congress and the State of Florida in cooperation with land speculators turned the River of Grass into a billion dollars sand bar.

It’s cover photos features a poor alligator in the Everglades struggling to find water in a culvert in the same “land” its ancestors thrived.

The book itself is a collection of documented congressional and state meeting minutes/summaries. Reading it is sometimes a collection of  nauseating run on sentences but very educational and mind-blowing.

For instance on page 21, in an excerpt from 1881, entitled: Note 2, Agreement Between *Hamilton Disston and Trustees of the Internal Improvement Fund for the Reclamation of overflowed Lands, the book reads in discussion of Lake Okeechobee, the St Lucie River, and the Caloosahatchee:

Drainage map of Florida 1911. Florida Classics Library.
State/Federal drainage map of Florida 1911. Florida Classics Library.

“…by cuts or canals, including both those already patented as well as those that may hereafter be patented to said State by the United States, the said lands are to be reclaimed and drained and rendered fit for cultivation by permanently lowing and keeping reduced the waters of Lake Okeechobee, and thereby permanently lowering and keeping reduced the high water level of said river, and by thus lowering the waters…it being understood and agreed that the drainage, reduction of lowering of the waters of Lake  Okeechobee may be made by a series of canals or cuts from the waters of said lake to the Caloosahatchee River on the west and by cuts and canals from said lake eastwardly to the waters of the St Lucie or other available point…”

For me, it is hard to believe this conversation took place in 1881!

The book goes on to document the state’s efforts to introduce sugar cultivation into south en Florida around the fertile muck lands of Lake Okeechobee and is a documentary record of “those efforts at both the State and National level to ditch, dike and reclaim the Everglades for agricultural production which ultimately resulted in the legacy of destruction of ecosystems across the south region of Florida and its adjacent seacoast.”

Oh well…

The only way to change history is to know history. A visit to Val Martin’s Florida Classics Library is a great place to start!


The address of Florid Classics Library is: 11300 Se Dixie Hwy, Hobe Sound, FL 33455.  Here is the website from which you can also “browse:”(http://www.floridaclassicslibrary.com)

*Hamilton Disston was the first successful “drainer” of our state, it is widely believed that despite his “success” and great riches, he ended up committing suicide in a bathtub because of the repercussions of the “Financial Panic of 1893;” some reports say it was heart trouble. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hamilton_Disston)