Tag Archives: Jensen

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

Hurricanes, Discharges, and Monitoring Seagrass Loss in the Indian River Lagoon, SLR/IRL

IRL in Jensen, ca. 1948 Seymour Gideon property, courtesy Sandra Henderson Thurlow Archives. (Note clear water and abundant seagrasses.)

This photo is on page 23 of my mother’s book Historic Jensen and Eden on Florida’s Indian River. The insert reads:

“This photograph of the Seymour Gideon property was made after 1948 when Arthur Ruhnke started taking photographs locally, and before the August 26th 1949 hurricane that destroyed the fish houses. A trail leads to the ridge called “Mt. Washington” (Killer Hill, Skyline Drive today) by the pioneers. The watery expanses of the Jensen Savannas are in the distance. Notice the clear water and the abundance of river grass.” (Thurlow/Ruhnke Collection)

It is a beautiful photograph….isn’t it? Certainly after the Hurricane of ’49 hit the seagrasses of Jensen in the Indian River Lagoon were impacted too!

~Wind gusts reached 160 mph (260 km/h) at Stuart. 

~Stuart (Jensen)  experienced the most severe damage from the storm in south Florida; hundreds of homes, apartment buildings, stores, and warehouse buildings lost roofs and windows. Interior furnishings were blown through broken glass into the streets. 

WIKI 1949 Hurricane: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1949_Florida_hurricane

Jeanne, September 25, 26, 2004. NOAA image.

When hurricanes Frances and Jeanne hit within three weeks apart in 2004, entering both times at my hometown of Sewall’s Point, there was reported loss not only of property, but also of seagrasses in the Indian River Lagoon. Seagrass is very slow to recover…

Photo by Lauren Hall, SJRWMD, showing healthy seagrasses in the IRL. (From Save the Manatee Website)

As some locations of the grasses were experiencing recovery, they died back again due to the extreme discharges and toxic algae blooms in 2013 and 2016 ~linked to Lake Okeechobee, and canals C-44, as well as C-23, C-24 and C-25.

Canal and basin map SLR/IRL. (Public)

The South Florida Water Management District reports periodically on not overall numbers but rather “patch dynamics” at certain locations of the lagoon. (For Martin County: Boy Scout Island and Willoughby Creek.) I feel this is limited. The best way to see seagrass bed coverage is from the air. I am hoping in the future there will be money in the budget or the District could coordinate with local pilot for aerial seagrass surveys. Another way to approach this is though Google Earth mapping/aerials, and my brother Todd Thurlow and Mark Perry of Florida Oceanographic are working on this now.

Hurricanes, discharges, fertilizer from our yards…Seagrasses are as important as property as they are the nurseries of the oceans and keep the lagoon “living.” Look at the aerials below to see the losses, so that we may be inspired to work for and better document a recovery.



Frances, September 4, and 5th 2004. NOAA image.
Aerial of seagrasses in 1977 in and between Sailfish and Sewall’s Point, courtesy FOS, Chris Perry.
Murky greenish water could be seen in the area of the Sandbar, between Sailfish and Sewall’s Point,  and some remaining sickly looking seagrass beds were visible, 3-15.  (Photo JTL.)
5-25-16 remaining seagrasses with algae on top SLR/IRL between Sewall’s and Sailfish Point, JTL
5-7-17 blue water but no visible seagrasses between Sailfish and Sewall’s Point,  JTL SLR/IRL

See page 14 of Water Resources Advisory Commission, (WRAC) for seagrass report in SLR/IRL, presentation by Dr Susan Gray, 5-31-17: https://apps.sfwmd.gov/webapps/publicMeetings/viewFile/10633

List of all Hurricanes of US, including 1949: http://www.aoml.noaa.gov/hrd/hurdat/All_U.S._Hurricanes.html

Waters off of Sewall’s Point in August 2013 during high levels of discharges from Lake Okeechobee. Seagrass beds between Sewall’s and Sailfish Point used to be the lushest in the southern lagoon…(photo, JTL)

“Holding on to the Old Ways,” Pitchford Camp~Still Alive Today, SLR/IRL

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Boo Lowery

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Courtesy of “Historic Jensen and Eden of Florida’s Indian River,” Sandra Henderson Thurlow

When I was kid growing up in Stuart, I remember seeing a lot of cottages. I loved these structures ~so simple, efficient, and adorable too. I remember cottages at Frances Langford’s Outrigger Resort just north of Sewall’s Point;  I remember cottages in Rio along Dixie Highway; and I recall the cottages along Indian River Drive in Jensen at the old Pitchford Camp. Somehow the more run down they were, the cooler they appeared. A reminder of days long past before Martin County developed and we were all brainwashed of the need to build bigger houses and complicate our lives.

Today, when one hears the name “Pitchford,” one may envision a Martin County Commission embroiled in a decade of controversy, but this wasn’t always the case. In fact in the early 1900s the name “Pitchford” was a family name that defined “good times” of fishing, dancing, and playing shuffle board along the beautiful and healthy Indian River Lagoon.

Recently, I was invited by long time friend of my parents, Boo Lowery, to see his modern-day, old-fashioned, fish camp.  Boo, himself, an “old-timer” is related to many of the early families of the Stuart area. Boo’s career as a respected contractor working closely with famed architect, Peter Jefferson, allowed him to become an expert in building, moving, and renovating homes.

In the 1980s when the cottages at Pitchford Camp were going to be demolished, Boo, who along with his wife Soo is a “lover of all things vintage” stepped in and saved five of the Pitchford Camp cottages. Over time, the little structures have been moved alongside land where a “borrow pit” (dug to build part of I-95) was located. This hole in the ground, today, is a serene pond in the middle of a pine forest, and a living museum housing the Pitchford cottages and of a way of life along our waterways that no longer exists.

It was so much fun going to Boo and Soo’s and today I am sharing some of my photos. While eating hush puppies and alligator, I told my husband, Ed,  “I could live in one these cottages.” That I wanted to live in one of these cottages! He looked at me like I was out of my mind… Perhaps, he thinks I’m too soft and spoiled by “progress.” Maybe I’m dreaming, but I think I’d love it. I think I’d be as “happy as a clam…”

In any case, enjoy the photos of this very special place and thank you Boo and Soo for holding on to the old ways and for keeping  our Indian River Lagoon history alive.

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“Robert McClinton, “Doc, ” Pitchford was the only remaining Pitchford brother after Herbert’s death in 1988. When Doc died in December 2001, it was the end of an era. Doc tried to hold on to the old ways and was quite successful. The Pitchford holdings were like a time capsule surrounded by computer-age progress. Although most of the original Pitchford Camp cabins were demolished….”

Boo saved a few!

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(Excerpt and photo below from my mother, Sandra Henderson Thurlow’s book “Historic Eden and Jensen on Florida’s Indian River.”

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Pitchford Camp, Jensen ca. 1930s


“Too Unthinkable,” the Complete Destruction of the St Lucie River, SLR/IRL

"Too Unthinkable" sits in the algae waters of the St Lucie River. JTL
“Too Unthinkable” sits in the algae waters of the St Lucie River-with Evinrude motor. JTL 6-26-16

The blue-green algae, the cyanobacteria–sometimes toxic— that we first saw in aerial photos over Lake Okeechobee weeks ago, is not only here,  it is everywhere…our river has been made completely fresh by our government. Now the algae is blooming fluorescent green-blue, dying a putrid brown-green, flowing out of our inlet, and poisoning not only or rivers’ shores but our beaches.

On the widest level, this is a health hazard brought upon us by a “knowing government.” Our state, federal, and local governments  have seen this coming for years. The slow and steady destruction of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon is well documented.

The St Lucie River was first declared “impaired” by the state of Florida in the year 2002. I have been blogging about this for four years.

Now, in 2016, all of Martin County’s beaches and the southern most beach of St Lucie County are closed. Palm City; Stuart; Rio; Sewall’s Point, Jensen. All waters are off limits. “Don’t Touch the Water.” –A health, safety and welfare issue for the people, a nightmare for local government, and a complete environmental and economic disaster for us all.

Included for purposes of documentation– to be added to the thousands of other posts on social media this weekend— I share the following, some that were shared with me…Divided into 8 sections: 1. Algae in the waves at Bathtub Beach, by JTL; 2. algae aerials at C-44, S-80, and S-308,  by Dr Scott Kuhns; 3. Lake Okeechobee and St Lucie River’s extensive algae bloom, by jet pilot Dave Stone, and local pilot Ron Rowers; 4. Rio, a residential disaster, Jeff Tucker; 5. Sewall’s Point as seen from the Evan’s Cray Bridge with a river full of algae by walker Tracy Barnes; 6. Rebecca Fatzinger’s duck eating algae;  7. my Uncle Dale Hudson’s lead to Snug Harbor’s Marina “a multimillion dollar disaster,” and 8. Really blue-algae at Central Marina, Stuart/Rio.

The outpouring of the public is immense, and the powers that be, must look our way. Document, call, write, demand, and VOTE.



I. Bathtub Beach, JTL

Algae rolling in the tide at Bathtub Beach on Hutchison Island, 6-26-16, JTL
Algae rolling in the tide at Bathtub Beach on Hutchison Island, 6-26-16, JTL

Link to video: (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bYo6RNg3a1Y)


II. Photos by Dr Scott Kuhns Lake Okeechobee, Port Mayaca (S-308), St Lucie Locks and Dam (S-80) and C-44 canal. All aerial photos taken 6-25-16.

St Lucie Locks and Dam 6-25-16 Dr Scott Kuhns
St Lucie Locks and Dam 6-25-16 Dr Scott Kuhns
East side of Lake O north of Port Mayaca 6-25-16, SK
East side of Lake O north of Port Mayaca 6-25-16
S-308 structure at Port Mayaca, heavy glare on Lke Okeechobee--bloom visible on bottom side of photograph.
S-308 structure at Port Mayaca, heavy glare on Lke Okeechobee–bloom visible on bottom left area of photograph.
C-44 Canal connecting to St Lucie River
C-44 Canal connecting to St Lucie River
C-44 canal
C-44 canal
C-44 canal
C-44 canal
Near Fuge Street in Martin County approaching Palm City
Near Fuge Street in Martin County approaching Palm City from C-44 as it connects to the South Fork of the St Lucie River where original curves still can be seen.


III. Professional jet pilot Dave Stone coming from Lee County to Martin County  6-26-16.

Aerial Video St Lucie River approaching North River Shores at 700 feet.

Link to video: (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8WLU6uLUKHo)

Lake Okeechobee from 13,000 feet, Dave Stone 6-26-16.
Lake Okeechobee from 13,000 feet, Dave Stone 6-26-16. Mr Stone said algae on the top of the lake is visible as far as the eye can see.
Near the Harborage Marina in Stuart, Roosevelt Bridge in background
Near the Harborage Marina in Stuart, Roosevelt Bridge in background


Rio approaching Roosevelt Bridge from Sewall's Point
Rio approaching Roosevelt Bridge from Sewall’s Point
Sewall's Point SLR
Sewall’s Point SLR
Sewall's Point
Sewall’s Point
Floridian on west side of SLR–the border of Martin and St Lucie Counties.


IV. Jeff Tucker, Rio

Rio St Lucie River, Jeff Tucker
Rio St Lucie River, Jeff Tucker 6-24-16
…green algae turning blue=toxic.

Video link Jeff Tucker, Rio: (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9DG687c8mgc)


V. Tracy Barnes walking over Evans Crary  Bridge from Stuart into to Sewall’s Point

Shoreline of Sewall's Point, Tracy Barnes 6-25-16
Shoreline of Sewall’s Point, Tracy Barnes 6-25-16

Video of Sewall’s Point walking over bridge. River full of algae.
Link to video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6pEg9OPuN2w )

VI. Rebecca Fatziner’s duck in SLR

Duck in St Lucie River's bloom, Rebecca Fatzinger 6-24-16.
Duck in St Lucie River’s bloom, Rebecca Fatzinger 6-24-16.

VII. Dale Hudson, alerted Ed and I to Snug Harbor Marina where we took these photos yesterday.

Snug Harbor Marina, JTL Ed looks on.
Snug Harbor Marina, JTL Ed looks on.
blue on wall
blue on wall
dead oysters
dead oysters

VIII. *Central Marina, Rio/Stuart blue algae

Central Marina blue green algae
Central Marina blue green algae
Green algae turning blue at Central Marina.
Green algae turning blue at Central Marina 6-27-16.


“Too Unthinkable”

"Too Unthinkable" sits in the algae waters of the St Lucie River. JTL
“Too Unthinkable” sits in the algae waters of the St Lucie River, 6-26-16. JTL
SFWMD canal and basin map. C-44 canal is the canal most southerly in the image.
SFWMD canal and basin map. C-44 canal is the canal most southerly in the image, Lake O is released into the SLR through the C-44 canal. All canals and the lake destroy our estuary.  The water must be redirected south and stored north and south. Fill the canals in; they have killed this area. JTL

Blog from 2014 on impairment of SLR: (https://jacquithurlowlippisch.com/2014/03/26/impairment-of-the-st-lucie-riverindian-river-lagoon/)

*blue algae photos, #8, added to this post later in afternoon on same date this was originally published. JTL

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.



Love, Along the Indian River Lagoon…

Indian Riverkeeper, Marty Baum and River Warrior, Robin Pittman were wed December 20th, 2014, at Jensen Beach Christian Church, in Jensen, along the Indian River Lagoon.
Indian Riverkeeper, Marty Baum, and River Warrior, Robin Pittman, were wed December 20th, 2014, at Jensen Beach Christian Church, in Jensen, along the Indian River Lagoon. (Photo by Keri West, Keri West Studios, 2014)
Congregation Union Church 1912
The Congregational Union Church’s lands were a gift of the Tilton family; the church was built in 1912. (Photo courtesy of historian Sandra Henderson Thurlow’s book , “Jensen and Eden on Florida’s Indian River.”)

Recently, the 1912 Jensen Congregational Union Church was the fabulous setting for a very special day. –A day of marriage, for Indian Riverkeeper, Marty Baum, and his beautiful bride, River Warrior, Robin Pittman.

The quaint, lagoon, pioneer-church, that saw so much happiness this day, has known many names, and many faces throughout its many years: 1912, Congregation Union Church; 1933, Jensen Community Church; and 1969, Jensen Beach Christian Church.

It has been a sanctuary along the Indian River Lagoon for 102 years…

Love is Spoken Here hangs above the door of the old church.
“Love is Spoken Here” hangs above the door of the historic church. The bell is rung to announce the marriage! (Photo Keri West.)

The 2014 ceremony was a real “tear jerker.” The entire River Warrior community came together to make this union happen for Marty and Robin. –The perfect sanctuary; bright, beautiful flowers; fashionable hair styling; sumptuous food;  decorations; a classic wedding dress; river invitations; bubbles to blow; a guest book; a river cake; and at the end of the day, pink rose petals on the bed of a romantic river cottage….

Photographer, Keri West and videographer, Kenny Hinkle Jr. documented the entire event; eloquent organizer, and preacher for the occasion, Jo Neeson, led the ceremony with many, many others giving their support.

At one point, the Reverend Guy Calvert  looked upon the congregation stating:

“The church welcomes the River Warriors to this house…”

I sat between my parents and my husband, fighting back every tear. Thankfully, Gayle Ryan had knowingly handed me a Kleenex on the way inside.

I sat there thinking about my own marriage, and about how at the end of our life journey, love is really all we have to take with us.

“To find love along the Indian River Lagoon, I thought….this is wonderful…”

At the pulpit with Rev.
At the pulpit with Rev.Guy Calvert. (Photo courtesy of Rebecca Fatzinger.)

As Marty and Robin said their vows, I felt a deep sense of history, and how the Indian River has always brought people together, in fact for hundreds of years.

—The river is in us; it is us, and we are her…

It was a beautiful ceremony and I am thankful to have been there. Through the love of Marty and Robin, may the “living waters” of the Indian River Lagoon flow, renewed, once again for all of us….

The pews of the church were given by Henry Flagler.
The pews of the church were given by Henry Flagler.
Congregation welcomes Mr and Mrs Marry Baum!
Wedding Song, Peter, Paul and Mary
Wedding Song, by Peter, Paul and Mary and sung by the congregation.
Organ also from Mr Henry Flagler.
Historic organ,  also from Mr Henry Flagler.
A happy day!
A happy day!


Please support our Indian Riverkeeper, Mr Marty Baum: (http://www.indianriverkeeper.org/index.html)

How Times Change, The 1850’s Swampland Act, St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

1907 map in A.B. Clark’s “Drain the Everglades.”

In my readings, I come across quite a few interesting old maps.

The one above, is most unusual because it is labeled “Jensen” rather than “Stuart” as to where the canal draining Lake Okeechobee was to go in the early 1900s.

I found the map from a write-up that is part of the “Digital History Project.” This piece was originally published by A. B Clark in 1907. Here is the link for the full write-up in case you are interested: (http://www.digitalhistoryproject.com/2011/08/draining-florida-everglades-lake.html)

When reading such work form the late 1800s and early 1900s, it mind-boggling to think of how our perceptions have changed and how we as a society are constantly dealing with the decisions of our ancestors, who helped get us here, albeit today, possibly considered “politically incorrect.”

Take for instance the Swamp Land Act of 1885.

Let’s read about its encyclopedic history:

“The Swamp Land Act of 1850 was US federal law and essentially provided a mechanism for transferring title to federally owned swampland to private parties agreeing to drain the land and turn it to productive, presumably agricultural, use. This gave broke states like Florida an opportunity to make money and for people to buy very cheap land and make it “productive…”

This law was primarily aimed at the development of Florida’s Everglades, and transferring some 20 million acres (31,000 sq mi) of land in the Everglades to the State of Florida for this purpose.

The law also had application outside Florida, and spurred drainage and development in many areas of the United States, including areas around Indiana’s Kankakee River, Michigan’s Lake St. Clair’s shores, and elsewhere, and encouraged settlement by immigrants arriving in the United States.

Much later the law was considered to have been ecologically problematic.  Many of its provisions were in time reversed by the wetland protection acts in 1972 and later legislation, but its historical effects on U.S. development and settlement patterns remain.”

I was born in 1964, so wet land protection is ingrained in me. Nonetheless my great grandparents were taught to think of wetlands or swamps as useless….

When reading through the piece by A.B Clark, he lists the counties as Lee, Desoto, Dade and St Lucie as the primary ones to be drained. One must note of course that the county lines were different then. For instance my parents live in Indialucie in Sewall’s Point and my mother created a sign and nailed it to a cabbage palm. The sign reads: “Brevard-Dade”
“St. Lucie-Palm Beach.” The sign represents the county line between the counties. St. Lucie was created in 1905 and Palm Beach in 1909.

We have gotten quite a kick out showing guests this sign over the years!

Old stuff is cool.

Here are some old public Florida county line maps. They are fascinating to look at too. The lines have gone back and forth and changed over the years.

Wonder what they will read in the future with rising seas, higher populations, and wetlands now known for their importance to water supply and water quality?

Florida 1850
Florida marked as 1883
Florida 1850
Florida marked as 1850

They say “the only constant is change.” How true this is….


Swampland Act, Wikipedia: (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swamp_Land_Act_of_1850) 

UF IFAS Florida’s wetland protection history: (http://soils.ifas.ufl.edu/wetlandextension/protect/legislation.htm) 

Historic Mistreatment of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

This is a photo of a sewer pipe going straight into the Indian River Lagoon. (ca. 1950 photo courtesy of Sandra Henderson Thurlow.)
This is a photo of a sewer pipe going straight into the Indian River Lagoon. (Royal Poinciana Cottages, Jensen, ca. 1950 photo courtesy of Sandra Henderson Thurlow.)
Draining oil, changing oil, over the IRL. Jensen 1930s. Photo courtesy of Thurlow archives.
Changing oil over the IRL, Pitchford Filling Station, Jensen 1920/30s. (Photo courtesy of Thurlow archives.)

As bad as things are today for the St Lucie/Indian River Lagoon, in the past we did things that today would be inconceivable, like having sewer lines drain directly into the river, or draining oil into the lagoon from a car…. For centuries people have put waste into the water so it could just “flush away.” Things  like this were done when very few people lived along the river and the waterways  could actually handle this misuse. Today with over a million people living along the 156 mile lagoon such ignorance  is not an option; we know better now. It is interesting to wonder what photos from today will look so atrocious as these above  in the future? Lake Okeechobee and canal releases full of filth? Fertilizing one’s yard? Herbicide and pesticide use by the water?  Septic tanks? Only  time will tell… and it always does.

The 1908 Great Jensen Fire, and the Benefits of Fire, along the Indian River Lagoon

"Jensen, Florida, After the Fire, May 3,1908." (Photo page 145, Historic Jensen and Eden on Florida's Indian River, by Sandra Henderson Thurlow.)
“Jensen, Florida, After the Fire, May 3, 1908.” (Photo page 145, Historic Jensen and Eden on Florida’s Indian River, by Sandra Henderson Thurlow.)

The front page of today’s Stuart News, reads: “40 Acres Burn in the Savannas.” The wind shifted causing a prescribed burn to jump control lines. Unfortunate. There have been other fires in the history of our area too, like the great fire of Jensen in 1908.

"Jensen in Ruins," Florida Photographic Concern, courtesy Sandra H. Thurlow.)
“Jensen in Ruins,” Florida Photographic Concern, courtesy Sandra H. Thurlow.)

Here is an anonymous account of the 1908 fire in my mother’s book. The account was published in the Jensen Beach Mirror in 1962.

“The town of Jensen is burning down this morning. The fire rages up and down Commercial Street, from the river to the railroad tracks and beyond. It seems certain that each of the seventeen stores…will be consumed. Jensen has no fire department. Men are trying to stem the holocaust with buckets of water and what little power can be built with hand pumps and windmills…”

The fire’s location at C.H. Munch & Co. was determined but the reason for the fire never was… Jensen business was slow to rebuild after the 1908 fire and two years later another fire brought down the iconic Al Fresco Hotel that was located closer to the river just off of Main Street.

Historic post card of the Al Fresco Hotel, Jensen, late 1800s. (Courtesy of Sandra H. Thurlow.)

Historic post card of the Al Fresco Hotel, Jensen, late 1800s. (Courtesy of Sandra H. Thurlow.)

Many fires in Florida and in Martin/StLucie Counties are made by Mother Nature and not humankind. Fire is actually a heathy and needed part of our area’s pine, scrub, hammock, and swamp system.  Fire naturally rejuvenates the land and habitat of  the native animals and birds. Many native trees and animals have evolved over thousands of years to live in harmony with this fire system. Gopher turtle holes can be very long and deep, providing protection during fires to many species.  Palmettos, sabal palms, and pines trees are “fire resistant.” Fire is nature’s way to bring nutrients (fertilizer) to the plants in a way that does not hurt the river as ash holds in the soil, and shortly after fires, a very obvious “rebirth” occurs.

This Florida Forest Service chart shows how frequently fires would occur if mankind was not suppressing them.

Chart by USDA showing frequency of wildfire in Florida if there were no human intervention.

Chart by Forest Service showing frequency of wildfire in Florida if there were no human intervention.

Prescribed burns are an attempt to help nature, not hurt it. Unfortunately, when playing with fire, things can get out of control quickly. At least we did not have a fire like the Great Jensen Fire of 1908. ___________________________________________________________________

University of Florida/Florida Wildfires/Forest Service: (http://www.srs.fs.usda.gov/factsheet/pdf/fire-considering.pdf)

Alice and Greg Luckhardt’s historical vignette of the Jensen Fire:  Google  “Jensen Fire Luckhardt” for a great story I cannot get to link to this page.

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!