Tag Archives: georges valentine

The Once Beach-Jungle of Hutchinson Island

Looking south in the direction of today’s St Lucie Inlet. Former home of Hiram and Hattie Olds, 1907, Hutchinson Island, in what became Martin County, Fl. Courtesy Agnes Tietig Parlin, achieves Sandra Henderson Thurlow and Deanna Wintercorn “Gilbert’s Bar House of Refuge, Home of History.” 

Olds Homestead Hutchinson Island, 1862

The more I learn about water, the more I want to know about the land. Inexorably connected – as the lands change, so do the surrounding waters. 

Don’t you love this above photograph?

The lone high-house rising through thick vegetation reminds us of what the beach-scape of today’s Hutchinson Island, Martin County, Florida, used to look like. Cradled between the Atlantic Ocean and the Indian River Lagoon, the home belonged to Hiram E. and Hattie Olds who made application for homestead with the United States Government in the early Florida year of 1862. The photo above spotlights the natural beauty and native vegetation; it was taken in 1907 – forty-five years after the original homestead. With almost a half century passed, like a protective cape over the sandy dunes, the Indian River Lagoon/Hutchinson Island vegetation remained in tact. What an incredible and rare photograph! It almost feels like Africa or some far-off exotic place. 

There must have been so many hiding places for birds and other wildlife. Rain percolating through sandy soils to ocean and estuary. Only a shadow of this vegetation remains today, although Hutchinson Island remains a beautiful place. 

This second photograph reveals the same house in the distance, the Olds’ homestead, granted in 1862-but structure built ca. 1894 -that later became the Yacht Club. From this perspective we are now looking south from the House of Refuge -built in 1876.  It is clear from this Thurlow Archives photograph that  the Georges Valentine shipwreck had recently occurred thus this photograph must have been taken around October 16, 1904 – the fateful night of the ship’s destruction. Again, look at the thick high curve of vegetation along the western edge of the Indian River Lagoon. Fabulous! 

With these 1904 and 1907 photographs we can, for a moment, go back and imagine what Hutchinson Island looked like. It was not just an Anastasia rocked shoreline, but a Beach-Jungle! A jungle that protected wildlife and waters of our precious Indian River Lagoon. 

In our next blog post, we shall learn how the Olds homestead and the House of Refuge were “connected,” not just via fantastic vegetation, rocks, and dune lines, but also through claims of property rights  to the United States Government. 


If you are interested in restoring native beach vegetation please see this link. It is a great way to help our wildlife and our waters. 



Finally Embracing Being Florida’s “Treasure Coast!” SLR/IRL

Map of "Shipwrecks of Florida" and the most famous lie along Florida's Treasure Coast! (map Stuart Heritage Museum)
Map of “Shipwrecks of Florida” and the most famous lie along Florida’s Treasure Coast! (map Stuart Heritage Museum)

Gold coins found recently off Ft Pierce, as shared for publication by Queens Jewels LLC. (Public photo)
Gold coins found recently off Ft Pierce, as shared for publication by Queens Jewels LLC. (Public photo)

In 2008, when I was first elected to the town commission of Sewall’s Point, I was appointed to be on the Treasure Coast Council of Local Governments, and sister entity, Treasure Coast Regional League of Cities. These wonderful organizations consist of elected officials from Indian River, St Lucie, Martin and Okeechobee Counties–counties on, or connected to, the Indian River Lagoon.

As is my style “as a new member,” I tried to keep my mouth shut until I could figure out the “politics” and the players of the game. But in 2008 the winds of fate would not have such…

One of the first discussions for the “League” was organizing to change the name of our region from “Treasure Coast ” to “Research Coast.” The goal at the time, in the wake of the Great Recession, was to attract research companies to our area, and this name change was believed to facilitate this goal.

As the daughter of a historian, I broke my “keep your mouth shut early member rule” and as  politely as possible relayed that I thought changing the name from Treasure Coast to Research Coast was a  “terrible idea in line with gutting our history and identity, not to mention years of branding…”

"George Valentine" public photo.
“Georges Valentine” public photo.

Georges Valentine wrecked off the House of Refuge in Martin County in 1904. "The earliest settlers used the lumber that washed up on the beach to construct their homes." (Photo courtesy of Agnes Tietig Parlin via historian, Sandra Henderson Thurlow.)
Georges Valentine wrecked off the House of Refuge in Martin County in 1904. “The earliest settlers of our area used the lumber that washed up on the beach to construct their homes.” (Photo courtesy of Agnes Tietig Parlin via historian, Sandra Henderson Thurlow.)

The discussions lasted months and finally the idea to change the name was dropped. Treasure Coast prevailed. Many others held my sentiments; the discussion had been going on for a while before I got there.  It was controversial to say the least. In the end, I  felt we’d “won,” but others felt we’d lost an opportunity.

The recent findings of gold treasure off of Ft Pierce by Queens Jewels LLC as reported by the Brinson family is just what is needed to reinvigorate our “Treasure Coast” identity and tourism is big business!

As we all know, Sebastian, Jupiter, Martin, Vero, and others have a rich history in unearthing treasures from along our shores and not all of it is gold. Lumber, pottery, gems, pearls,—the remaining ship itself and the swimming sea of creatures that have made these wrecks their home is enough for me!

Years ago, I went snorkeling off of the House of Refuge to see the Georges Valentine ship. It was fun and very near shore. You could always see the House of Refuge.  I think I’ll get my husband to take me again to celebrate the findings off of Ft Pierce, and to pay homage to those over one-thousand souls who died in ships bound for Spain during a relentless hurricane 300 years ago this past July weekend.

Maybe you’ll go too? Have you already been? Did you find any gold?

If you want a simple map to get started, Stuart Heritage Museum at 161 SW Flager has a great one and it’s great for kids. Entitled “Shipwrecks of Florida and the Eastern Gulf of Mexico,” it gives a great visual history of all….to see why we are and always will be THE TREASURE COAST!

Map of ship wrecks along Florida's Treasure Coast. (Stuart Heritage.)
Map of ship wrecks along Florida’s Treasure Coast.(Stuart Heritage)

Shipwrecks of Florida....
Shipwrecks of Florida….

Stuart Heritage Museum and info: (http://www.stuartheritagemuseum.com)

Orlando Sentinel Rare Find: (http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/breaking-news/os-florida-family-finds-rare-gold-coin-20150727-story.html)

The Republic: (http://www.therepublic.com/view/story/c4131fbbd61845fba16830be4ed6d850/FL–Treasure-Hunters)