Tag Archives: russell henderson

Finding the “Long-Lost,” Long-Leaf Pines of Lake Okeechobee, SLR/IRL

A piece of long-leaf virgin pine from the windowsill of my Grandfather Henderson’s house in Gainesville, FL
Historic post card(s), long-leaf pine logging, courtesy Sandra Henderson Thurlow.

Grandaddy Russell Henderson as a young man, late 1920s Madison, FL. Family archives.

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 Withlacoochee 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 based on a 1st hand account of 1910 by J.H. Vaughn in an Abstract of Title for Indiantown, Florida, No. 12386.

Florida State Geological Survey 1927 belonging to my grandfather who worked for IFAS and UF in soil science.
This public photo off the internet gives scope of the size of the long-leaf pines.

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.

Digital Forest documentation of forest loss in the U.S.

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.”

No 12386

Page 5, original land survey 1855

Today’s map, as printed on-line August 2, 2017.
Newspaper article in about cutting of trees and lumber in Indiantown area, 1927. (Thurlow Archives)

My mother looking through a book on trees of Florida. 7/17 JTL
Kelly Morris, 2017


M.C. Davis Devotes Life and Fortune to restoring Long-Leaf Pine forest near Pensacola, FL: http://www.npr.org/2015/06/17/415226300/gambler-turned-conservationist-devotes-fortune-to-florida-nature-preserve

NFWF: http://www.nfwf.org/whoweare/mediacenter/Pages/longleaf-gallery-16-0520.aspx

Green Meadow Project: http://greenmeadowproject.blogspot.com/p/blog-page_22.html?m=1

Digital Earth Watch, Old Growth Forests: http://dew.globalsystemsscience.org/activities/investigations/what-is-a-digital-image/investigation-measuring-old-growth-forest-loss

Appalachian Woods, History:http://www.appalachianwoods.com/Heart-Pine-History.htm

NWF: https://www.nwf.org/Wildlife/Wildlife-Library/Plants/Longleaf-Pine.aspx

The “Pig” of the Indian River Lagoon, SLR/IRL


Photo of sow along IRL, by John Whiticar, 2015.
Photo of happy, prancing, sow along IRL, by John Whiticar, 2015.
John Whiticar, sow looking forward, IRL 2015.
John Whiticar, sow looking forward, IRL 2015.
A beautiful photo of the sow enjoying the sunrise along the IRL. John Whiticar, 2015.
A beautiful photo of the sow enjoying the sunrise along the IRL. John Whiticar, 2015.

I have a soft spot for pigs, or any animal related to a “pig.” Pigs, you may remember, sat upright at the table in George Orwell’s classic novel ANIMAL FARM; they became like humans…

For me, pigs are part of my family history as my grandfather Henderson won a scholarship to the University of Florida for his famous 1926 pig “Charlotte.” This launched a very successful career for him as an agriculture man at the University of Florida.  My grandfather’s brother, my uncle, became a wealthy “pig-farmer” in Madison, Florida. I loved visiting there as a kid! The most fun ever! When my family arrived, Uncle Gordy would run out into the fields almost before saying “hello,” and bring back piglets for my brother, sister and I. They were adorable coming in all different colors and patterns. Their small noses scrunching, we were allowed to hold them, and later return the piglets to an irritated, snorting mother. At the time, I didn’t think much about their fate of “becoming bacon….”

My grandfather, Russell Henderson Sr. who became famous as a young man in the state of Florida for his breeding of the best pigs. He received a scholarship for his work and has a long career at UF in soil science and headed IFAS.
My grandfather, Russell Henderson Sr. at 17, in 1926, Madison, Florida. My grandfather became “famous” as a young man in the state of Florida for his breeding of the best pigs. He received a scholarship for his work and had a long career at UF in soil science and worked for the IFAS Extension Office in Gainesville.

As I got older, I realized that often pigs get a “bad wrap”as they are “dirty.” Again, just like humans….They are also very smart, just like humans too. I read somewhere that they are smarter than dogs. Maybe that’s why George Orwell chose them to take over Manor Farm.

Anyway, I have been wanting to write a post on pigs, or wild boars, (males) or sows, (females) since I recently saw marina owner and photographer John Whiticar’s photos of a wild sow he photographed along the Indian River Lagoon.

What great shots and thank you John for allowing me to share! I have seen sows with their piglets on Savanna Road in Jensen at night foraging.  I have also seen wild pigs more recently at Billy’s Swamp Safari in Big Cypress. Here a baby pig got separated from its mother and fellow piglets and it followed the mother’s scent very far zig-zagging perhaps a quart mile to find her. And he did! We followed and all clapped when the family was reunited.

“Wild pigs” were brought to Florida by the Spanish in the 1500s, and today they wreak destruction on the environment, just like humans. We have so much in common! It’s amazing! Seriously though, for me, they are one of God’s creatures, and should be treated humanely as all animals. Popular since the early days of Florida, they appear on many of my mother and father’s historic postcards below.

It you see a sow or a boar, know that you are staring Florida history right in the face, and that some might say that we are even “related.” Also remember, like George Orwell’s satire states, unfortunately: ALL ANIMALS ARE EQUAL, BUT SOME ANIMALS ARE MORE EQUAL THAN OTHERS…. 🙂

Historic post card, courtesy of Thurlow Collection.
Historic post card, courtesy of Thurlow Collection.
Postcard back 1914.
Postcard back 1914.
Another historic post card with a wild pig or sow. (Thurlow Collection)
Another historic post card with a wild pig. (Thurlow Collection)
Back of postcard reads 1912.
Back of postcard reads 1912.
Historic post card, Thurlow Collection.
Historic post card, wild boar, Thurlow Collection.


University of Florida. Hogs in Florida, Ecology and Management: (http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/uw322I)

Animal Farm, a novel by George Orwell, 1946: (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Animal_Farm)