Tag Archives: Hutchinson Island

Unknown, Sacred Indian Mounds of the Indian River Lagoon

Ancient Aye Indian mound and gravesite, possibly 3000-4000 years old overlooks the Indian River Lagoon at Ft Pierce but is but is unrecognized. The park is known today as "Old Fort Park."
Ancient Ais Indian mound and gravesite, possibly 2000-4000 years old overlooks the Indian River Lagoon but is but is unrecognized. The park is known today as “Old Fort Park,” Ft Pierce. (Photo Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch)

When I was a teenager, one time my mother, a historian, pulled the car over on the side of the road near “Old Fort Park” in Ft. Pierce. She said,” Let’s get out of the car, we are going to look for Indian shards.” “Cool,” I thought, but how could that be? We were driving right along Indian River Drive in a residential area just outside of downtown Ft. Pierce. I’d been here a thousand times….

So anyway, she parked the car and we actually walked across the street, closer to the river, and right there lying on top of the pushed up earth, were discarded oyster and clam shells and splinters of pottery that my mother explained belonged to an ancient mound building culture.  I was amazed. Later, we walked up the remains of the forty foot midden, turned around  and looked out over the beautiful Indian River, through gigantic gnarled oak trees. I imagined I was an Ais Indian, looking out for the British or Spanish and their Indian collaborators  who one day would destroy me and the Indian River too. (http://indianrivermag.com/LIVE/index.php?module=pagemaster&PAGE_user_op=view_page&PAGE_id=136)

According to the Florida Anthropologist 2002, Volume 55 3-4, a total of 49 shell middens, circles or graves have been found in Martin County and were determined to be in much better condition than the ones  that had been plowed down in neighboring and over developed Palm Beach County. These Indian mounds were determined to be anywhere from 3000-4000 years old, possibly older, and belonged to various Florida mound building tribes. In Martin County they were named the Ays or Ais. (http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00027829/00090/1j)

The “Old Fort Park” is in St Lucie County, but Martin County’s most well known Indian midden is known today as “Tuckahoe.” The mound was once 60 feet high and overlooks the Indian River as well. I learned that  many of the Indian mounds, even parts of Tuckahoe, were all or partially bulldozed and the shells  used to pave the early streets of the area. (http://www.mansionattuckahoe.com/htm/mansionHistory.htm)

How resourceful? How horrendous and completely unthoughtful.

This partial map below shows where some of the major coastal and interior mounds in Martin County are located: Mount Elizabeth or Tuckahoe; Hutchinson Island; House of Refuge; Rocky Point; St Lucie Inlet; Joseph Reed Shell Ring; Peck ‘s Lake Complex; Banner Lake Complex; Hobe Sound Complex; Jupiter Sound Complex; Jupiter Inlet Complex; Indiantown and Barley Barber.

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A few years ago after a big storm, the Indian Mound on Hutchinson Island was opened up by the sea. Bones and artifacts were found, studied and reburied because today we have a deeper respect for these grave sites, these sites of culture that  many of our ancestors, like mine,  destroyed.

Perhaps the spirt of the Ais Indians broke forth that day, and in the rolling waves was brought back to the shoreline. Maybe they are somehow helping us who care and empathise save what’s left of their Eden – the beautiful,  the sacred, the Indian River Lagoon.

Photos: (https://www.google.com/search?q=indian+mounds+photos+florida&client=safari&rls=en&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=5LE5U-CeD63gsATZvYHADQ&ved=0CCgQsAQ&biw=1598&bih=803)

Killer Gerard Schaefer and the Indian River Lagoon

Blind Creek is located on Hutchinson Island just north of the St Lucie  Power Plant.
Blind Creek is located on Hutchinson Island just northeast of the St Lucie Power Plant, in St Lucie County and is where serial killer and Martin County Sheriff’s officer, Gerard Schaefer, tortured and killed two young women in 1973.

The subject of serial killer, Gerard Schaefer,  is one I certainly never indented to write about, but with Tyler Hadley’s murder trial in the paper every day I am reminded of another terrible murder story that occurred “in  Stuart” along  the Indian River Lagoon, North Hutchinson Island.

When I was  nine years old, growing up in Stuart, a Sheriff  in our county  of 28,000 people was arrested for allegedly killing and torturing two girls on Hutchinson Island. Over time, it was learned he had killed over thirty women in towns  across America. This smiling killer is one of the most atrocious  serial killers of all time. He worked and lived right here; as mentioned, his  name is Gerard Schaefer.

As with Tyler Hadley, it  didn’t make any sense. Schaefer came from a “nice family,” in Wisconsin, was raised Catholic,  graduated from Florida Atlantic University, in Broward County worked as a teacher and in law enforcement, he was married,  his mother also apparently lived with the young couple. As time went on things didn’t go so well in Broward, so he decided to apply for a Sheriff’s position further north in Martin County.

What was even more bizarre for me to grasp in my youth, was the fact that this serial killer’s public defender, Elton Schwarz,  also working in Martin County, ended up marrying Gerard Schaefer’s wife, twenty four years Schwartz’ junior, while Schaefer was in prison.  After divorcing Schaefer and marring Schwartz, the couple was  happily married for thirty years. (The Early Lawyers of Martin County 1925-1965, Thomas Thurlow Jr, 2011.) Schaefer, on the other hand, was murdered by a fellow inmate while in prison in 2005.

The Schafer trail went on for years, long past my high school days, and  definitely tainted my teenage mind.

I don’t know if it made me any more careful, in fact it may have made me more defiant, as I remember jogging along North River Road’s sidewalk at night in Sewall’s Point and being reprimanded by Chief Savini, even brought home; but, I know for sure that it  certainly affected the way I view authority and “the world.”

“Things are not always what you think they are; don’t trust what you see.”

Today most people don’t even remember serial killer Gerard Schaefer, but I think as uncomfortable as it is, it  is important that we do. Presently as Tyler Hadley is on trial in neighboring Port St Lucie, we are faced to confront demons even here along the beautiful Treasure Coast.

And most important, by remembering, there is a  better chance that history will not be allowed to repeat itself.

Link to 2010 story by Stuart New’s Tyler Treadway: (https://www.tcpalm.com/news/2010/nov/28/former-martin-county-deputys-killing-spree-in-of/?print=1) Subscriber link: (https://www.tcpalm.com/news/2010/nov/28/former-martin-county-deputys-killing-spree-in-of/)

Black Bears of Hutchinson Island, Our Wild Past

Mr Reginald Waters with black bears killed on Hutchinson Island, around 1930.  (Photo credit Sandra Thurlow, Sewall's Point," A History of a Peninsular Community on Florida's Treasure Coast"/Reginald Waters Rice)
Mr Reginald Waters with black bears killed on Hutchinson Island, around 1930. (Photo credit Sandra Thurlow, Sewall’s Point,” A History of a Peninsular Community on Florida’s Treasure Coast”/Reginald Waters Rice)

When I was a kid, I had a favorite stuffed animal; he was orange bear with blue eyes and his name was “Beary Bear.” I carried him around until his eyes fell off and my mother sewed new ones back on. Over the years, all of his fur came off  so he was bald.

There wasn’t a whole lot “to do” growing up in Stuart in the 1960s and 70s so a kid had to rely on the freedom of empty lots, friends, and  his or her imagination to have any fun.

Before dinner, I used to climb to the top of a giant cedar tree in our back yard and look at the ocean and Indian River Lagoon from our house in St Lucie Estates, in Stuart. I carried Beary Bear up about forty feet with me and we talked about the black bears out there on Hutchinson Island and how there were just a few secret ones left,  a few Mr Walters and the other pioneers couldn’t catch, and didn’t kill. That was fantasy.

According  to historian Alice Luckhart, the black bear population on Hutchinson Island was completely wiped out by about 1930.  (http://www.tcpalm.com/news/2012/feb/03/historical-vignettes-when-bears-roamed-hutchinson-/)

Before modern man came and planted bean fields and produced honey, the bears ate turtle eggs, palmetto berries and the riches of the Indian River Lagoon and St Lucie River. But they they became a problem, so we “wiped them out.”

Isn’t it amazing to think of where we  really live? A land where not too long ago a panther may have swum across the St Lucie Sound;  or a black bear happily frolicked along the Indian River Lagoon? Where fish were so plentiful they kept you awake at night. What I don’t understand is why we “wiped them out.” I guess times were harder then and the mentality was 100% “man over nature” but it’s fun to imagine what it would be like if we hadn’t killed them all,  or somehow, we brought them back.

Well, Beary Bear is long gone, and the bean farms have been replaced with million dollar homes and unimaginative condominiums. But I still have my imagination and somewhere out there, there’s a bear;  I’m sure of it.