Every time I post, I learn something. After reading “The Once Great Forests of Indiantown,” Stuart’s multi-generational resident, and dear friend of my mother, wrote:
“Jacqui, about 1968-9 my 4 hunting buddies and I went hunting in Indiantown in the Barley Swamp, there were huge cypress trees laying over?? Also walking through woods we came up on a mountain,”large Indian mound.” I have never found anyone who knew about the mound. Mid 70s I built a house that all the interior was don w/cypress from Barley Swamp, a sawmill north of Okeechobee cut it. Years later I was talking to a man I built for and he said his brother worked for FPL digging the dike, when digging, he found a carved stone face about 3x2x10 that “I thought looked like images found in Mexico and south,” I guess FPL might have dug up that mound…”
I’d like to thank Boo for his comment questioning why there were gigantic felled cypress trees in Barley Barber Swamp as late as 1968/69. I had written in my blog that according to a 1930 Stuart News article, most of the cypress and pine trees five miles NW of Indiantown were timbered from 1920 through the later years of the 1930s.
Well, my brother Todd and I went back and tried to deduce a theory. The theory is that the timber companies, as reported in the July, 19, 1930 Stuart News article, had cut most of the trees “five miles west of Indiantown,” but no matter how they tried, their trams and tracks and axes and saws could not reach the deep interior of the swamp. Its heart! So some of the largest trees, as Boo, notes, were felled later, leading up to Florida Power and Lights digging, construction and diking of its Indiantown cooling reservoir.
For perspective, Todd shades below the visible dark river shape of Barley Barber Swamp over a 1940s Department of Agriculture aerial. The shaded area is 3078 acres or 4.81 square miles.
Below, in these Florida Department of Transportation aerials from 1971, at a lower altitude, we can clearly see the Barley Barber Swamp and encroaching agricultural lands that have already been cleared and de-stumped.
The remaining and distinctive thimble shape of Barley Barber Swamp remains today as seen in the 1971/Google Earth 2023 comparison. This would have been just two or three years after Boo Lowrey and his hunting buddy visited the area in 1968/69 and witnessed the giant cypress trees lying on their sides.
Todd also created a remarkable slider for comparison.
By 1974, the remaining cypress forest of the once great Barley Barber Swamp was being burned, smoke rising to Heaven, to make way for the reservoir as can be viewed and compared in the slides below.
Heartbreaking. But as I am often told such is “progress.” I disagree.
And the Indian Mound? Of course it was right were the FPL reservoir was today. Boo saw it before most of it was drowned. It is no reach to make this deduction as Big Mound City is known worldwide as “the largest prehistoric Native American earthwork in southeastern Florida.” It was huge and lies a few miles south from Indiantown, not far from the lake, in J.W. Corbett Wildlife Area. These were ancient “cities” along Lake Okeechobee. In fact, when Indiantown was named “Annie” in 1915, long after the native people were gone, the year the St. Lucie Canal was started, there was actually an Everglades Drainage District survey documenting the road from Annie to Big Mound City. Indiantown to Big Mound City? Not far at all.
Flight over Big Mound City just south of Indiantown
I hope this sheds light on the history of the heart of the “once great forests of Indiantown,” and unfortunately, how they were killed.
*Thank you to Boo Lowrey and Todd Thurlow who made this post possible!
From FPL’s website. I came across this after I wrote my blog post and felt I should share.
Also a great image showing how the swamp lay right in the middle today’s FPL cooling pond-from Wikipedia’s article on Barley Barber Swamp.