Tag Archives: disston

The History of the “EAA” Along the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, St Lucie Gardens

This image shows St Lucie Farms separated from the entire land purchase of reed from Disston. (overlay created by Todd Thurlow)
This image shows St Lucie Farms separated from the entire land purchase of Disston to Reed. IRL east and PSL west.(Overlay created by Todd Thurlow)

 

St Lucie Gardens...overlay by Todd Thurlow.
Lands purchased by Sir Edward J. Reed from Hamilton Disston, as platted in the late 1880s/early 1900s. This land includes areas of Martin and St Lucie Counties…overlay on Google map by Todd Thurlow.

It all started with a recent comment by Bob Ulevich, at a Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council meeting.  In the course of his presentation and questioning on the history of the water management districts, Bob noted that the EAA, the Everglades Agricultural Area, was not historically “just located” where it is today, south of Lake Okeechobee, but basically included all of Disston’s lands. Are you kidding me? “Gulp”….

TCRPC meeting excerpt, no video, just sound: (http://youtu.be/acP_ri2vElc)
Mr Ulevich’s powerpoint: (http://www.tcrpc.org/council_meetings/2015/SEPT15/Final_Reports/Water_Presentation.pdf)
 

The red colored blocks south of Lake O. are the EAA-700,000 acres of sugar lands and vegetables. South of the EAA are the STAs and water conservation areas .(SFWMD map, 2012.)
The red colored blocks south of Lake O. are the EAA-700,000 acres of sugar lands and vegetables. South of the EAA are the STAs and water conservation areas .(SFWMD map, 2012.)

Hamilton Disston. Remember him?  The “savior,” “the drainer” of our state—-who basically bought the entire state from a bankrupt entity, the Internal Improvement Fund? (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hamilton_Disston)
The more I read and think about it, I think what Bob meant was that almost of all the swamp lands sold to Disston and then others were marketed for people to purchase and farm….basically creating a giant Everglades agricultural area…but it wasn’t always so easy….

Orginal everglades document of the state of Florida. (TT)
Orginal Everglades document of the state of Florida. (Downloaded by TT)
TT
Ddisston’s AGCCOL Co. (TT)

When I was trying to figure all this out, I went back to a map I had seen before, reread a chapter in my mother’s Jensen and Eden book, and contacted my brother, Todd,  to help me answer a question.

Map
Map of Disston’s lands.

“Todd, why isn’t St Lucie Gardens in pink on the Disston map? …And wasn’t this area supposed to be farmland?”

St Lucie Gardens was a huge subdivision in the region of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon including the savannas filed in 1911 by the Franklin Land Company of Jacksonville. According to my mother’s book, “the land was advertised as far away a Kansas and a few families bought land and tried to make a living farming. However land that had been pine flat woods continued to have cycles of flooding a drought and was impossible to farm profitably. The families that came to farm in St Lucie Gardens either gave up or turned to other ways to make a living.”

St Lucie Gardens...overlay by Todd Thurlow.
St Lucie Gardens…overlay by Todd Thurlow.
St Lucie Gardens plat map 1881. MC Property appraiser, via Todd Thurlow.
St Lucie Gardens plat map 1910. MC Property appraiser, via Todd Thurlow.
The Waters family promoting St Lucie Gardens 1910. (Photo Reginald Waters Rice) from Jensen and Eden by Sandra Henderson Thurlow.
The Waters family promoting St Lucie Gardens 1910. (Photo Reginald Waters Rice) from Jensen and Eden by Sandra Henderson Thurlow.
Draining the savannas around St Lucie Gardens, 1911. Franklin Land Co. (Reginald Waters Rice) Jensen and Eden, Sandra Henderson Thurlow.
Draining the savannas around St Lucie Gardens, 1911. Franklin Land Co. (Reginald Waters Rice) Jensen and Eden, Sandra Henderson Thurlow.
Page listing lands of Disston, mind you county boarders were different at this time. Matin was Brevard.
Page listing lands of Disston, mind you county boarders were different at this time. Martin was Brevard. (TT)

Todd and I never found our why those lands of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon were not included on the 1881 Disston lands map, and the people who created it are not around to ask, but Todd did create the awesome visuals at the beginning of this post and he did find the deed of the purchase of the lands in our region. To have this document is an incredible part of our history.

Deed of Disston lands sold to Reed, 1881. (TT)
Deed of Disston lands sold to Reed, 1881, page 1. (TT)
Page 2. (TT)
Page 2. (TT)
Disston 4,000,000 acres from the state of Florida in 1881, which included much of the land within the savannas. ( Public map, 1881.)
Disston bought 4,000,000 acres from the state of Florida then sold half to Reed. Some of those lands included land in the SLR/IRL region. These lands are not shown on this map. ( Public map, 1881.)

And the EAA? With all the water problems we have today, I am glad it does not include everything in pink and green on the map and that something remains of our Savannas along the Indian River Lagoon.

____________________________________

An interesting email from Todd; Thank you Todd for all the research!

Jacqui,

It was fun to go through some of the stuff on my computer tonight. I just downloaded this publication “Disston Lands of Florida”, published 1885. I attached the intro page.

Disston had the pick of ALL the public lands owned by the state. It took three years to make the selection. Perhaps the pink area had been picked as of the date of the map and St. Lucie Gardens had not yet been picked?

Or maybe the St. Lucie Gardens land is not shown in pink on the map because Disston directed that the St. Lucie Gardens property be deeded directly from TIIF to Sir Edward James Reed. The Florida Land and Improvement Company never took title.

The TIIF deed that we pulled up for Sir Edward James Reed (attached) is dated 6/1/1881. In includes a little more land (21,577 Acres) than ended up in St. Lucie Gardens (e.g. Section 1, of T36S R40E is not part of St. Lucie Gardens but is included in the deed.)

Disston Lands of Florida: https://archive.org/details/disstonlandsoffl00flor
St. Lucie Gardens Plat: http://plat.martinclerk.com/St%20Lucie%20County%20Plat%20Books/BK%2001%20PG%20035-001.tif

Todd Thurlow (http://www.thurlowpa.com)

Caloosahatchee River, A Cub Club Fly-In, St Lucie River, Indian River Lagoon

Caloosahatchee River.
Caloosahatchee River, courtesy of the CRCA.

THIS ARTICLE WAS WRITTEN FOR MR LARRY ROBINSON AND HIS “CUB CLUB” THAT WILL BE FLYING INTO HISTORIC BUCKINGHAM FIELD AIRPORT CLOSE TO THE CALOOSAHATCHEE RIVER IN LEE COUNTY; I THOUGHT THIS MIGHT BE OF INTERESTS TO ALL.

Cub Club
Cub Club of Florida

When flying into Buckingham Airport near Ft Meyers, one will surely get a view of the beautiful Caloosahatchee River that runs from Lake Okeechobee to the Gulf of Mexico.

The river, named after the warlike Calusa Indians,  has a great history and is unfortunately under great pressure due to man-made changes in its surrounding hydrology. The original lands of the watershed allowed for the waters of the Kissimmee Valley,  near Orlando, to move south through the then winding Kissimmee River, into Lake Okeechobee,  and then slowly make their way to the Florida Everglades. 

Historic flow of Lake Okeechobee
Historic flow of Lake Okeechobee. (Map courtesy of Everglades Foundation.)

Before the late 1880s, the Caloosahatchee was not truly connected to Lake Okeechobee; its headwaters started at Lake Hicpochee, west of today’s Clewiston. Marshlands filled from Lake Hicpochee to Lake Okeechobee in times of heavy rain “connecting” the waterway but this was not lasting.

In the late 1800s investor and land owner, Hamilton Disston, following an old Calusa Indian canal, connected the river permanently to Lake Okeechobee by digging a wide canal. This was done in order to drop the level of the lake and drain the surrounding lands for agricultural development.

Disston was not completely successful but he did inspire others to complete his work in the early 1920s.

redirection of the waters of Lake Okeechobee through the Caloosahatchee and St Lucie Estuaries.
Redirection of the waters of Lake Okeechobee through the Caloosahatchee and St Lucie Estuaries. (Map courtesy of Everglades Foundation.)

People had been farming in Florida south of the Lake Okeechobee since the late 1800s as the muck was very rich and produced wonderful crops. But flooding was a constant issue.

After the horrific hurricanes of 1926 and 1928 that completely flooded the area south of the lake and took thousands of lives, the state of Florida begged the federal government for flooding assistance which resulted in the Cross State Canal being built from Ft Meyers to Stuart and the building of the Herbert Hoover Dike around southern Lake Okeechobee.

The canal allowed not only for east west navigation across the state, but also redirected the waters of Lake Okeechobee that traditionally flowed south to be sent east and west through nearby estuaries:  the Caloosahatchee on the west and the St Lucie River/Southern Indian River Lagoon on the east.

After another great storm and flood in 1948, and repeated outcry of the state and public, the Army Corps of Engineers “improved the system” through the Central and South Florida Project by widening and deepening already constructed canals and by building many more. 

By the 1960 the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA), south of the lake, became the number one sugar and vegetable producer of the state and one of the top in the nation; fortunes were made in the post-wartime era.

Simultaneous to the success of the EAA, development exploded along the two estuaries, the Caloosahatchee, and St Lucie/Southern Indian River Lagoon. Both of these areas depended heavily on fishing, tourism, and real estate values for their economies so when Lake Okeechobee would overflow and billions of gallons of fresh water would pour into the estuaries disturbing the brackish balance, killing seagrasses, destroying fishing stock and wildlife, of course these cities along the coasts complained.

Over time, even more people have moved the Caloosahatchee and St Lucie areas, and the massive population of Orlando has complicated the situation as “Orlando’s”  polluted water full of nitrogen and phosphorus from fertilized lawns and farmlands travels south filling Lake Okeechobee. Since the water cannot go south, it is redirected to the estuaries. As a result, the Caloosahatchee and St Lucie estuaries experience toxic algae blooms during heavy destructive discharges. 

This “health and safety” situation came to a head recently during the summer of 2013 when the Army Corps released from Lake Okeechobee for five months straight: May 8th- October 21st. This time became known as the “Lost Sumer” as health departments warned citizens and pets to stay out of the water for months on end.  

 Due to public outcry,  Florida Senator Joe Negron, chair of the Appropriations Committee, organized a “Senate Hearing on the Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee Basin” that included studies of both estuaries. Congressman Patrick Murphy invited citizens to Washington DC.

The east and west coasts and many politicians unified during this time, thousands rallied, and news of the toxic waters was told by local, state, national and global media.

The Florida governor, state legislature, US Congress,  along with “water managers,” Army Corp of Engineers and the South Florida Water Management District, felt tremendous pressure to find alternative ways to store water and clean water north of the lake and to “send more water south.” 

Under the 2013/14 state legislative sessions the state legislature and federal government designated monies for both estuaries to help abate these issues. Part of the Tamiami Trail was even “opened” to allow more water to flow south and plans are being made to lift and open more areas in the future. University of Florida water experts are studying the issue.

Unfortunately, in spite of what can be done, this  is just the tip of the iceberg as the amount of water that needs to be redirected away from the estuaries is enormous, truly beyond comprehension. This is why many believe Everglades restoration plans are taking entirely too long and that we must find a way to fully restore the Kissimmee River and create a third outlet south of the lake.

_______________________________

South Florida Water Management District: Caloosahatchee River: (http://www.sfwmd.gov/portal/page/portal/xweb%20protecting%20and%20restoring/caloosahatchee%20strategies)

Dept of Environmental Protection: Caloosahatchee River or C-43: (http://www.protectingourwater.org/watersheds/map/caloosahatchee/)

Caloosahatchee River Citizen’s Association, CRCA: (http://crca.caloosahatchee.org/about/?show=legacy)

Central and South Florida Project: (http://www.evergladesplan.org/about/restudy_csf_devel.aspx)

Images of Toxic Algae Blooms Caloosahatchee River: (http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=toxic+algae+blooms+caloosahatchee+river&qpvt=toxic+algae+blooms+caloosahatchee+river&FORM=IGRE)

ACOE Everglades Restoration: (http://www.evergladesplan.org)