Tag Archives: Eden

West of Eden, SLR/IRL

“Eden,” the name says it all. Wouldn’t it be cool to say you lived in Eden?

Today there is a historic sign, but there is no longer a town. In 1879 “Eden” was named by Captain Thomas E. Richards who decided this spot along the high ridge of the Indian River would be a good place to grow pineapples.  According to historian, Sandra Henderson Thurlow,  “Richards felt he had arrived in a tropical paradise, and named his new home Eden.”

In Sandra’s book, “Historic Jensen and Eden on Florida’s Indian River,” she talks about how today’s Jensen Beach evolved from both the historic communities of Eden and Jensen, but over time, while Jensen had room to grow, Eden faded, as it was hemmed in by the wet, fragile ecosystem of the savannas. This marshy savannas system once stretched along the lagoon for over a hundred miles, but today, the only remnant lies right behind the lost town of Eden, and to the north and south of close-by extending lands.

This very special photo was given to my mother, historical Sandra Henderson Thurlow, by Capt. Thomas Richards’s great-granddaughter, Mary Simon.
The town of Eden was located between the IRL and the wet savannas, Ruhnke/Thurlow Collection. “Historic Eden and Jensen on Florida’s Indian River,” by Sandra Henderson Thurlow.

These rare lands known today as Savannas Preserve State Park, “encompass more than 5,400 acres and stretch more the ten miles from Jensen Beach to Ft Pierce containing  the largest, most ecologically intact stretch of freshwater marsh in southeast Florida.” Remarkable!

If you haven’t ever seen it, I can promise, “Eden awaits you…”

This past weekend, my husband Ed and I put on our wet weather gear, and walked from Jensen Beach Blvd to “west of Eden. ” It is amazing to have this treasure right in our own backyards, a study in plant and animal life that “used to be.” ~A study in what we can bring back, if we want to…

Website, Savannas Preserve State Park: https://www.floridastateparks.org/park/Savannas

Where Jacqui and Ed walked, “west of Eden,” Google maps
Savannas Preserve State Park, photos 6-10-17, JTL.

Savannas from the air in 2013, JTL 

Eden, St Lucie Co.: https://sites.google.com/a/flgenweb.net/stlucie/history/old-communities/e

Eden Ghost Town: http://www.ghosttowns.com/states/fl/eden.html

Jensen WIKI: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jensen_Beach,_Florida
Jensen Chamber of Commerce: http://www.jensenbeachflorida.info

History Demolished, The Train Depots of Stuart and Martin County, SLR/IRL

The Jensen train depot ca. early part of 1900s, photo courtesy of Seth Bramson, via Sandra Henderson Thurlow.)
The Hobe Sound Depot with engine ca. early part of 1900s, photo courtesy of Stuart Heritage.

I was recently reminded of train depots while reading a front page “Stuart News” article showing an artist painting a mural of the old Hobe Sound Train Depot….All Aboard Florida being rammed down our throats has the Treasure Coast very unhappy about “trains…” yet our area has a history of trains that we may know a bit better if the rail service and the government hadn’t demolished most of the depots that once peppered the Indian River Lagoon Region from Volusia to Palm Beach counties.

As the daughter of a historian, I was fortunate to hear many stories during my youth that if nothing else “made me think.” One of these stories was about how lonely it was to be pioneer here in Stuart’s early days. My mother would say….

Stuart Train Depot, photo courtesy of Historical Society of Martin County, Elliott Museum via Sandra Thurlow.
Stuart Train Depot, photo courtesy of Historical Society of Martin County, Elliott Museum via archives of Sandra Thurlow.

“Jacqui, for the people, for the women especially, this was a very lonely place.”

The daily train used to alleviate that loneliness and give the people a place to meet, gossip, and share. Kind of like today’s Facebook. As my mother Sandra Thurlow notes in her book, “Stuart on the St Lucie,” “Town life centered around the arrivals and departures of passenger trains that also brought the mail.”

Sound familiar? “YOU’VE GOT MAIL!”

Jensen Depot. Photo courtesy of Seth Branson via Sandra Thurlow.
Jensen Depot. Photo courtesy of Seth Bramson via Sandra Thurlow.
Train depot
Train depot in Hobe Sound, courtesy of Seth Bramson via archives of Sandra Thurlow.

From my reading it sounds as if most of the construction and the use of depots and lesser “flag stops,” (a flag was raised if they needed the conductor to stop?)….was between 1894 and 1935. The Hurricanes of 1926 and 1928 coupled with the real estate crash of 1926 was a big part of the railroads’ demise as was the fact that wholesale fishing industries waned from unwise over-fishing, and pineapples had to start competing with Cuba. So basically, in about one generation, the railroads depots and the railroad of Henry Flagler along the Lagoon had seen their “best days.”

In the 1960s and before, the aging, remaining, cute-little, aging stations were demolished by order of F.E.C. Railway officials. As my mother writes about the Stuart Depot: “The depot that was once the center of the community’s activities was demolished without fanfare during the 1960s.”

And so “it goes,” and “so it went”….. THERE GOES THE TRAIN!

The passenger train is gone, along with the depots….today we have too much car traffic, roads are everywhere, All Abroad Florida threats purport a bleak future, Florida’s population is expanding, Panama Canal freight is coming…

Well, at least we have Facebook or we can stay home and text…..


What will the future bring? 🙂

Walton Flag Stop, with people happy to see each other and get the mail. Photo. (Photo courtesy of Reginald Waters Rice and Sandra Thurlow's book "Historic Jensen and Eden on Florida's Indian River."
Walton Flag Stop, with people happy to see each other and get the mail. Photo. Photo courtesy of Reginald Waters Rice and Sandra Thurlow’s book “Historic Jensen and Eden on Florida’s Indian River.”

Great link shared by Rick Langdon of Walton Flag Stop and what wonderful things came of it: (http://rickinbham.tripod.com/TownOfSIRD/SIRD_Homes_11090RidgeAve.html)
(In Martin and southern St Lucie counties, there were stations in Jensen, Stuart, Salerno, Hobe Sound, and “Flag Stops” in Walton, Eden.)


Salerno Depot, courtesy of Seth Bramson via Sandra Henderson Thurlow.
Salerno Depot, courtesy of Seth Bramson via Sandra Henderson Thurlow.
Train route along Indian River/St Lucie. Map Sandra Thurlow's book "Jensen and Eden..."
Train route along Indian River/St Lucie. Map Sandra Thurlow’s book “Jensen and Eden…”
Eden's Flag Stop. (SHT)
Eden’s Flag Stop. (SHT)
Inside cover of Stuart on the St Lucie, Sandra Henderson Thurlow shows train depot in downtown.
Inside cover of “Stuart on the St Lucie,” Sandra Henderson Thurlow. Photo shows train depot in downtown, Stuart.

Thank you to my mother, Sandra Henderson Thurlow, for sharing all the photos for this blog post.



Giant Eden, Savannas, Rattlesnake along the Indian River Lagoon

Giant Eden Rattlesnake 11' 4" long and 112 pounds.
Man holding giant Eden rattlesnake documented as 11′ 4″ long and 112 pounds, caught west of Indian River Drive in the savannas,  just west of the Indian River Lagoon. Southern St Lucie County, year unknown. (Photo historical  archives of Sandra Thurlow.)

Growing up in Stuart, my parents taught me to respect nature and not to fear it; this included snakes. I remember coming home from school and my mother having a captured or rescued non venomous snakes, opossums, raccoons, birds, turtles, squirrels, and other wildlife  for my brother, sister and I to look at,  learn about, and sometimes nurse, before releasing the animal. We got out our pocket sized,  $1.00,  Golden Nature Guides and pretend we were Jr. Scientist.  It was fun and in fact these experiences remain some of my favorite memories of growing up along  the Treasure Coast. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_Guide)

My brother, sister and I were taught that snakes were God’s creatures, as all animals were, however frightening, dangerous or strange; that all animals held a miraculous and important place in the web of life and food chain that made the world work. 

Truly,  I don’t remember seeing many venomous snakes  growing up in the 60s, 70s and 80s, just indigo, black racers, and orange and black rat snakes. Although there was one incident on Arbor Day in fifth grade at Jensen Beach Elementary School, when we were planting a class tree and a diamond back rattlesnake was warning us of its presence in nearby palmettos. The teacher fearfully huddled all the kids, and a maintenance man was called to behead the reptile. No explanation. No thought. Typical.

Now for the picture…

The above  photo is one that my parents acquired in the early 2000s when looking at a piece of property on Indian River Drive in the 12,000 section. Properties in this area were once known as the  historic Indian River Lagoon town of “Eden.”

My mother, a historian, often talks about how Eden could never fully develop, as Jensen did, as Eden backed up to the easterly savannas which are underwater a good portion of the year.

The gentleman who gave my parents the above photo,  saw them walking around in the savannas behind the house, shared the photo, and warned them “to be careful.”


When I recently asked my mother to share this photo, she said “although she usually I likes to have more than one person’s story in regard to such matters, she did not  think the photo was a hoax.” She also mentioned, she believes there is a photograph of a large rattlesnake killed by John Miller, who owned the property where the photo came from, at the St. Lucie County Historical Museum.

True or untrue, with all the development, and mankind’s propensity to kill snakes, there are probably very few of these giant rattlesnakes remaining anywhere in Florida. So  a photo like this one is worth “remembering.”

One thing no one would question is that both the savannas and the Indian River Lagoon, are just shadows of what they used to be!

Venomous snakes of  Florida: (http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/herpetology/fl-guide/venomsnk.htm)

Savannas State Park: (http://www.floridastateparks.org/resources/doc/individualparks/brochures/sav-brochure.pdf)

Pioneer Churches Still Praying for the Indian River Lagoon

Stained glass windows from St Paul's Episcopal Church of Eden, later St Paul's' Church of Walton, now at St Mary's Church, Stuart. (Photo Sandra Thurlow)
Stained glass windows from St Paul’s Episcopal Church of Eden, later St Paul’s Church of Walton, now at St Mary’s Episcopal Church of Stuart. (Photo JTL)

According to my mother’s book, Historic Eden and Jensen on Florida’s Indian River,  there were a  number of pioneer churches along the Indian River Lagoon.

One that strikes a special cord for me is St Paul’s that was built in 1898 but destroyed in the hurricane of 1949 as pictured below. (Photo courtesy archives of Sandra  Henderson Thurlow.)

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Thankfully the stained glass windows were saved, and today they are the backdrop for the altar at St Mary’s Episcopal Church in Stuart that was built in 1949, the year of the storm.

According to My mother’s Jensen/Eden book,”there were no churches for the earliest settlers of Jensen and Eden to attend,” but it was the African American community of Tick Ridge, along Savannah Road, that built the first in 1890. This church eventually took on the name “St Peter’s African Methodist Episcopal Chapel,” and is located between the Savannas and the Indian River Lagoon. A newer church, a CME, or Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, stands on the same location today.

A second church rose in 1899, also in Tick Ridge; it was baptist in denomination.

In 1898 the beautiful All Saint’s Episcopal Church and Cemetery (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/All_Saints_Episcopal_Church,_Waveland_(Jensen_Beach,_Florida)  was built, still stands today, and is the oldest longstanding church in the area according to its Wikipedia write up; this is the church that can be seen on the west hill just north of Rio when traveling on Indian River Drive.

In 1903 the Eden Union Congregational Church was built and is still standing in old downtown Jensen; it the one with the really cool concrete blocks and once was painted bright yellow; and finally, the Community Church of Jensen was organized in 1938,  eventually moving to its stunning and “heavenly” location on one of the highest sites in the county, Skyline Drive, Jensen Beach. 

In the hard times of Eden/Jensen pioneers, people set priorities and organized to worship. In one form or another, most of these churches are still standing today. What an accomplishment to the spirit of the men and women who built and loved our area and have passed on.

I believe with out a doubt, they’re all still praying, and and thank God they are, because we all know, the Indian River Lagoon needs nothing short of a miracle!