The “Crying Cow Report” was of interest to many readers, so today I continue down that timeline, in fact, a bit before…
After reading the report, my mom, historian Sandra Thurlow, shared the following note and images from one of her many files. The small booklet is entitled, “Palm Beach County Florida,” and was published with a colorful tropical-farm cover around 1920. You’ll see that it was written to entice others. Also, one must remember that until 1925, Martin County did not exist and was part of Palm Beach County!
~For me, it is so interesting to read these old publications within the context of where we are ecologically today: “Nature’s Masterpiece; Man’s Opportunity.” It sure was! Now we have an opportunity to clean up the lands and waters made impaired by our dreams.
Please view below:
“Jacqui, I enjoyed reading about your viewing the Crying Cow booklet. It made me look in my rare booklet box and when I looked through this little 4 1/2 by 6 inch booklet I thought you’d like to see it. I chose these pages to scan. It is undated but it cites 1920 numbers and was published before Martin County was created in 1925. I wonder if Hector Harris Ritta is connected to Ritta Island? Mom”
From my brother Todd, after he read this post. 🙂
“Good Stuff. Yes definitely “Ritta” refers to Hector Harris’ home town, like the others. The town of Ritta can be seen clearly on the map you included – at Ritta Island. Interesting notes about Ritta:”
Like hard resin, stories of long-leaf pine and towering Florida forests are in me. Since my earliest days, I remember visiting my mother’s family and hearing tales around the dinner table:
“In the 1930s your Granddady and Uncle Gordy dove down to the bottom of the Swanee River, chained those sunken water-logged giant trees, pulled them out with mules, put them on a train to Gainesville, milled them, and built this house by hand. Virgin long-leaf pine that had been on the bottom of that river for 90 years became our home. This house is history.”
At the time, the stories were just part of a lifestyle I did not lead living “down” in Stuart, Florida with the Yankees. In Gainesville we ate boiled peanuts, okra, gigantic breakfasts of bacon, eggs, toast, and homemade jelly. In Stuart, I ate Lucky Charms.
Now that I am becoming an old-pine myself, the story of the long-lost, long-leaf pine is more interesting to me. And “lo and behold,” although public records show the famous long-leaf forest stopping just north of Lake Okeechobee, recently my mother and I learned that they were, indeed, further south, right here in what today is Martin County!
This observation is bases on a 1st hand account of 1910 by J.H. Vaughn in an Abstract of Title for Indiantown, Florida.
In the early days of our country, long-leaf pine forests covered approximately 90 million acres and stretched across the entire southeastern United States. These trees are documented to have stood from 80 to 175 feet tall and many were up to 400 years in age. Of course multiple animals were dependent on the forest for shelter and food and there were massive benefits to the watersheds. The cleanest waters in the world run off of forests. These amazing trees evolved to completely withstand forest fires, actually thriving in such conditions. Imagine if you would these remarkable trees of our Creator, cut to the ground with the same state of mind as today when mowing one’s lawn….By the 1920s only 3% of the forests remained.
So where were these trees in Martin County? Where do we fit into the incredible history of these magnificent conifers? J. H. Vaughn, a lumber man of the 1800s, negotiating a sale states in the abstract of title below:
“…there is an average of 2000 feet of Long Leaf Yellow Virgin pine per acre.. being on the eastern side of Lake Okeechobee…”.
(The Townships and Ranges listed are today’s Indiantown.)
I think it is incredible that we are part of the long-leaf pine odyssey. As today, the Nature Conservancy and people like M.C. Davies have dedicated their fortunes and lives to bringing back this magnificent species and the animal life that comes along with it. The situation is a lot like St Lucie River and Lake Okeechobee restoration. It’s a generational goal done so that our stories and our lives are remembered, and not “long-lost.”
Sometimes it seems there is not a piece of land that doesn’t have the mark of modern-humans on it…but then, we have been leaving our mark for thousands, and thousands of years…
On a recent trip with renowned South Florida photographer Edward Carr, my husband Ed and I flew over the contiguous Dupuis and J.W. Corbett Wildlife Areas ~ “bordering” Martin and Palm Beach counties.
It was quite a view, and I felt embarrassed that I did not know more about these wonderful remaining lands located so close to home. So interesting to see them in a more natural state. The circles of trees, dome-like, standing in shallow water. Shades of green, brown, and blue changing and reflecting with every turn. An animal running into the bush. What was it?! A deer? A panther?
I have to admit, chasing toxic algae sometimes overtake me!.. I must remind myself “to stop and smell the pond apples!”
Mr Carr was photographing for a documentary on “Big Mound City” the most remarkable of places our human ancestors called home. These native people of Lake Okeechobee’s Belle Glade Culture, built mounds to get above the swamp rather than trying to drain it….as sea level rises, we many have to consider this once again just like the FEMA project in Sewall’s Point!
I find this entirely fascinating…history repeating itself…
I tried to get Ed later in that week to go with me into Corbett for a hike and to explore, but he said it’s too hot right now, he rather fly. It would be “torture in there.” Well, when the weather cools down, I am taking him. What a wonderful piece of natural history to have right in your own back yard.
I have often wondered why Port St Lucie is inland. Where’s the port? Well apparently the name “Port St Lucie,” had been around before the City of Port St Lucie was incorporated in 1961, as originally Port St Lucie was going to be a town that would have been in today’s Martin, not St Lucie County.
The above ad ran around 1913 and was part of Henry Sewall and Hugh Willoughby’s Sewall’s Point Company’s original development campaign to develop Port Sewall and Golden Gate as the “Great Port of Stuart.” At the time, this area was Palm Beach County but became Martin County in 1925.
Under the ad’s photo it reads: “Looking across one of the Lakes toward the St Luice River and the Inlet.” I imagine the lake was either North or West Lake, still located in today’s Willoughby Creek area. The ad also states that the location of Port St Lucie will be “directly opposite the St Lucie Inlet.” Viewing a copy of the 1911 Port Sewall promotional map below, one can see exactly where that is located, Old St Lucie Boulevard, Stuart.
The advertisement in the long winded style of the day continues:
“The lands west of the railway is laid out in tracts for FARMS and GARDENS. East of the railway are the business lots and large residence lot for the PORT OF ST LUCIE and the WATERFRONT is divied into lots of about two acres each for FINE RESIDENCES and WINTER HOMES. Ten acres are reserved for a PARK and five acres for a large TOURIST HOTEL on the water front. Situated at the junction of the St Lucie and Indian Rivers and St Lucie Inlet with a climate tempered by the soft breezes from the GULF STREAM and every month in the year a GROWING MONTH and FRUITS, FISH, FLOWERS and VEGETABLES in abundance….TENNIS, FISHING, MOTOR BOAT, SAILING RACES, CRUISING INLAND WATERS.
The kicker phrase: PROFIT AND PLEASURE combined in an IDEAL LOCATION…
Well, the land bust and the Great Depression came to Florida in the mid 1920s so the “Town of Port St Lucie” and its great port were never built, but let’s fast forward to 1961 a bit north in St Lucie County, and the “City of Port St Lucie” surely did!
Believe it or not, today Port St Lucie is the 9th largest city in the state of Florida. With their high population they are a bigger political player than Martin County and I am thankful for their commission’s support of strict fertilizer ordinances and pro river issues in this year’s legislative session. Port St Lucie is a key player today and in the the future for the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. The county has also been very supportive!
Back to our history lesson…
Before the 1950s, Port St Lucie was mostly ranch and fishing camp lands as this photo from Bud Adams for the publication Port St Lucie at 50, A City for All People, by Nina Baranski shows.
The story goes that in the 1950s the wilderness favored by hunters and anglers was discovered by Mike Cowles whose company published Look Magazine and also had ties to the Ft PierceTribune. Cowles was “taken by the beauty of the St Lucie River and the land along its banks” buying eighty-five hundred acres south of Ft Pierce. In 1953 through his “St Lucie River Land Company,” he filed the River Park plat, and began to develop and promote it. (Port St Lucie at 50, A City for AllPeople, Chapter 2.)
Cowles eventually traded his land holdings for stock in, newcomer to the game, General Development Corporation, (GDC), becoming chairman in 1959. After acquiring more ranch tracks, GDC made plans to incorporate into a city and with “hardly any residents” did so with full support of the legislature in 1961. And as we know, the rest is history…..
It’s interesting to note that the history of Martin and St Lucie Counties has always been intertwined, and that whether 1913, 1961, or today, it is the beauty and attraction of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon that on a core level connects us all. Our future long-term job, together, is to save it.
This photo is not great quality but allows one to see how undeveloped St Lucie County was…This photo is courtesy of Sandra Henderson Thurlow, and is on the inside cover of “Port St Lucie at 50.” It is a rare aerial of the southern portion of St Lucie County taken in 1957 before its incorporation and development.