Tag Archives: Sandra Thurlow

A Funny Story: “Well Anyhow, He has the Oldest Fish in Town,” by Ernest Lyons

From Bill Lyons, Ernest Lyon’s son, in communication with my mother, historian Sandra Henderson Thurlow: “Hi Sandy. Here’s a photo (jpg) of Dad’s “oldest fish.” It’s from the Eocene Green River Formation in Wyoming and is about 50 million years old (if you can believe those pointy-headed paleontologists). The Green River Formation was (is) famous for the abundance, variety, and preservation of its fossil freshwater fishes. The fossils were available for sale some decades ago (I don’t know about now), but I imagine Dad was right in boasting that he had the oldest fish in Stuart at that time. If you want to learn more about Green River fish fossils, you can Google Green River Formation Fish.” Bill

Today I share a humorous column by our beloved local hero and inspiration, Ernest Lyons, The piece is about “wishing for something.” For years, my mother, local historian Sandra Thurlow, has shared old columns from her transcribed works of Mr. Lyons’ writings about the old days along the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. With patience and love, mom types out these old columns buried in the micro-fiche chambers of our local library so we can enjoy them today. Here is a new one she found. Timeless, funny, and classic Ernie, enjoy!

 

Ernest Lyons’ Column: https://flpress.com/hall_of_fame/ernest-lyons/

Stuart News

January 9, 1969

“Well Anyhow, He Has the Oldest Fish in Town”

If you want anything intensely enough, somehow you will get it, but that’s no guarantee it will be good for you.

The high voltage of your desire produces the results. Weak wishers get nowhere.  Back when I used to enjoy catching plain, ordinary fresh fish, Chuck Schilling called up one Saturday morning and said that he was bringing Jason Lucas to my home that evening “so you can get acquainted. You know about Jason of course.”

“Oh, Sure,” I said. “He’s on the staff of Sports Afield Greatest authorities on black bass in the United States probably the world. Catches them in those big western impoundments. Catches them in Minnesota when it’s freezing and no one else can. I have his book. Love to meet him.”

But in truth, I was seized with an awful wish. I suddenly desired to catch a bigger black bass than ever before in my life‒maybe not bigger than Jason had, but one that would give him a run for his money. While I was running around getting my tackle ready, my wife noticed the gleam in my eye. “You’re wishing again,” she accused. A high-powered wish can no more be hidden than the evil eye. “And whatever it is,” she said sadly, “it’s not going to do what you think it will.”

I brushed her aside. My desire pulled me with the intensity of a laser beam to a little backwoods pond covered with bonnets. I paddled out in a tiny bateau only seven feet long and two feet wide, the sort in which you have to part your hair in the middle to keep it from capsizing. Unerringly, I pushed my way to the edge of the only clear hole in the mass of vegetation.

I sat quietly for five minutes by the edge of that hole, which was not much larger than a dining room table, knowing that it held the big bass I was going to catch. It would be impossible of course to check the run of a large fish once it started off through that maze of bonnet stems. What’s impossible? I took one cast the surface of the hole welled up in a tremendous strike and I struck back. The giant bass leaped in air two feet from the bateau and I grabbed it by the jaw in mid-leap.

I sat on it all the way back to shore. A monster bass over 12 pounds not under 14, (I never weigh my bass) just exactly what I wished for. While we were sitting in the living room that evening, I artfully led the conversation around to how small bass would occasionally strike plugs. Jason Lucas agreed. “Why just today,” I said, “a little old minnow-sized bass hit my plug and gill-hooked itself so deeply that there was no use releasing it. I brought it in to show you.”

I went to the icebox, walked back into the parlor and held that giant fish under my guest’s nose. Did you ever in your whole life,” I asked, “see a smaller bass than this hit a plug?”

Well, I made my point all right but my wife remarked later that she didn’t think I had made a hit with Mister Lucas.

“But it proves,” I said, “that if you want something bad enough you can get it. Like if you were stranded on a desert island and you really, really wanted some ice cream, a yacht would come along, rescue you and the first thing you would get would be a big heaping dish of ice cream.”

“And, it would probably make your teeth ache,” she said. “As long as you’re wishing, why don’t you wish for something important, like a beautiful home on the river, a big bank account or an income for life?”

“Because it won’t work if you’re selfish” I replied. “It has to be something of peculiar value only to yourself.” She said she couldn’t see any difference but I can. I wish real hard for two early editions of Jonathan Dickenson’s Journal. Within a week, two sixth editions showed up printed in archaic English around 150 years ago. Then I wished real hard for some Cape of Good Hope triangles for my British Colonial collection. A dealer in London wrote that he was liquidating a philatelic estate and sent me a dozen for practically nothing.

My horizons widened, I announced that I deeply desired a fossilized fish. “Of all things,” said my wife.  “And why would you want a fossilized fish. What earthly good would it be? I replied that the important thing was wanting it, that I was wanting it harder and harder every day and pretty soon it would appear.

It did. All wrapped up neatly in a package from the Collector’s Shop of the Cincinnati Museum of Natural History, a gift from a special friend of mine up there. There was a little note. It went two live million years old was the best I could do. Thanks, Beano, you don’t know what this means to me.

My Fossil fish is from the Green River Shales of Wyoming. Its silvery body fluttered down in a long-vanished sea mid-way in the Oligocene Epoch. Its bones are delicately imprinted eons before the appearance of primitive man on earth. Nature’s tip-off to Gruenberg.

Someday, some fisherman is going to come into the office bragging about his catch and I am going to ask slyly, “But how old was your fish?” I can’t help it, I’ve got to do it. I’ve resisted so far but one of these days, I will completely, absolutely floor whoever it is. Else what use is there in having the oldest fish in town?

Well Anyhow PDF file, original

Links, Green River Formation:

USGS: https://pubs.usgs.gov/pp/0496a/report.pdf

Wiki: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green_River_Formation

Ernie Lyons’ St Lucie Places of Magic, by Bill Lyons

The creative seed for this blog post dates back to 2011. On November 1st in 2011, my mother forwarded Bill Lyons, son of famed Stuart News conservationist and newspaperman, Ernest Lyons, an email that had been sent to me by Mrs. Sheri Anker of the St Lucie County Conservation Alliance. Sheri had come up with an idea to erect a series of signs throughout the St Lucie River highlighting the favorite spots that “Ernie” so passionately and lovingly wrote about throughout his career.

The following essay is Ernie’s son Bill’s response to my mother’s inquiry for guidance on creating a historic Ernie Lyons’ St Lucie River tour, as Sheri envisioned: “Travels with Ernie on his Rio de Luz.”

Bill’s reply was insightful, poetic, and bittersweet. Bill updated the piece in 2014 -after reading about the St Lucie’s “Lost Summer” of 2013, the tipping point causing a tsunami river movement resurgence that even from the grave, through republished essays in the Stuart News, was inspired by the spirit of Ernie Lyons. Recently my mother rediscovered Bill’s essay in her files and now seems like a good time to rethink the sign idea.

It is my wish that after we read Bill’s tribute to his father, we follow through on Sheri’s idea for signage along the St Lucie River. Indeed, it is difficult to mark what is “favorite” when you love it all, but one thing is certain, we must ensure that our beloved river and the spirit of Mr. Ernest Lyons continues so that “progress” in the future won’t mean a bulldozer.

 

Favorite Places on the River, by Bill Lyons

Ernest Lyons, my father, first came to Stuart, Florida in 1913 and lived there for most of his life. He worked at the Stuart News for 40-some years, retiring as editor in 1975. Dad loved to fish and above all he loved the St. Lucie River, an affection evident in his writings. A few years ago an admirer of that writing suggested erecting signage at Dad’s favorite places on the River. This is my response.

Ernie Lyons as a boy

Dad’s favorite places changed with the moods of the River. For instance, I’m fairly sure North Fork Bay wasn’t his favorite place the day he couldn’t find shelter there from what he called a Blue Norther. He had gathered my mother, my sister and me in his boat and set off up the River to look at a piece of land. It rained and blew all the way up the River, abated for a while as he walked over the property, and then poured buckets all the way back to Stuart. Dad never owned a boat with a cabin or a cover, and I don’t recall that Mother ever got into one of his boats again.

Classic Ernie Lyons as a newspaperman, Stuart News

Dad really did love the North Fork, though. Willard Kiplinger commissioned Florida artist Beanie Backus to do a painting for Dad – “Just contact Beanie and tell him what you want” — so Dad requested a view from the shore where the narrow North Fork opens out into North Fork Bay. Beanie took a boat out there, sketched the scene, and the finished painting hangs in our home today. Many times in the nineteen forties and early fifties, Dad drove us to Burt Pruitt’s Fish Camp, rented a skiff, and motored down to where two branches of the North Fork converge. The River then was alive with fish and birds and alligators, but by the late fifties, it was gone. Drainage from the Rim Ditch Canal (C-24) did so much damage to that part of the River that it lost its sparkle. I don’t think Dad ever went back to the North Fork; after that, he just lived with the memories.

Bean Backus, “The narrow North Fork opening out into North Fork Bay.”

When Dad wrote about festoons of asters along the banks and sprays of orchids hanging from oaks over the River, he was thinking of the South Fork in summer. He took me there many times and we caught lots of fish, but the magical memories are of the flowers and of the tarpon and manatees that came rolling by while we sat quietly watching. During summer, sheet-flow from the Allapattah Flats converged in tiny rivulets into a deep pool with a sand bottom, the first of a series of pools connected by shallow streams of clear water that formed the headwaters of the South Fork. Dad loved that place, not just for its beauty but for its solitude. It could only be reached by Jeep during the wet season, so we hitched rides with the local game warden, who would drop us off and return for us later. Clyde Butcher’s photos of the upper Loxahatchee River are the nearest thing I’ve seen to what once was the upper South Fork. Then in the fifties, construction of the Florida Turnpike cut off the flow of freshwater to the River. Soon saltwater intrusion crept up the South Fork, impeding the spawning of its fish, and the River began to die. In 1962, a friend and I drove to the former site of the headwaters. The area had been bulldozed and the pool had become a cattle watering hole.

Fork of the St Lucie, Sandra Thurlow

Dad loved many places on the River. Some nights he would drive over to Lighthouse Point (the one with the restaurant on US 1, not the development). He took a lantern, a single-tined spear, and a croaker sack and went wading for flounders. He knew just where they would be, hanging at the edge of the bar waiting for unwary fish and shrimp to wash by. A few hours later he would come home, dump a bag of flounders into the kitchen sink, and start cleaning them. Then the mud from Lake Okeechobee washed down the River and the flounders went away.

https://www.savebromeliads.com/floridas-bromeliads

Dad loved the widest part of the River, where vast schools of mullet gathered along the north shore. Tarpon and snook, seatrout and jack crevalle would attack the mullet and drive them grey-hounding in waves across the River, often all the way to the shores of Stuart. Interactions between Plains wolves and bison were no more dramatic. Much of the action happened at night as we lay in our beds, listening to the mullet thundering across the River. When hurricane season approached, immense schools of fingerling mullet moved down the River, sometimes taking several days to pass Stuart. They too ran the gauntlet of snook and jacks, and residents flocked to the shore to fish. Who then could not love the River, unless he were a mullet?

Burt Pruitt’s Fish Camp, North Fork. St Lucie River

In my early years, Dad loved the lower St. Lucie around Hell Gate, that part of the River that separates lower Sewall’s Point from Port Sewall. Again, it was the fishing that brought him there. When winter storms blew, he could find shelter in the lee of Sewall’s Point, and that’s where he would be, trolling for bluefish or bottom-fishing for weakfish. After the months-long runoff from the ’47 and ’49 hurricanes, though, the fish did not return.

Where the River rounds Sewall’s Point it meets the Indian River Lagoon and together their waters flow over large seagrass beds on their way to St. Lucie Inlet. Dad loved casting for large seatrout on the grass flats, and it was there that he and I were fishing in Dale Hipson’s iconic photo that graces one of Dad’s books.

And of course he loved the inlet, where the River meets the sea. Dad was enchanted by the place he called the Sun Parlor, the channel that hooked north around Sailfish Point and spread out to feed the adjacent grass-beds. Ancient black and red mangroves hung in the water along the channel, and sheepshead and snappers could be seen swimming among the snags in the gin-clear waters on flood tides. Sharks were not uncommon in the channel, and queen conchs and large horse conchs lived in the grass-beds. If you wanted to see a roseate spoonbill in Martin County in the fifties, that’s where it would be. Dad spent countless hours in the Sun Parlor. Then the developers came in the late fifties, and it was lost.

“Ernie with son Bill and Pudge pop-corking at the Crossroads off Sewall’s Point, 1950s” Photo courtesy of Dr. Dale Hipson. Cover of The Last Cracker Barrel by Ernest Lyons

Dad loved Bessey Creek, a tributary of the lower North Fork, and once in the early fifties he accompanied me and two other boys on a camping trip to the upper reaches of the creek. Around the campfire at night, Dad told us of a remote pond connected to the main creek by a hidden stream that he found in his youth. We boys searched until we found it, and we took Dad back there to fish. Judging from the abundance of hungry bass in that pond, I don’t think anyone had been there for decades. There were no houses on Bessey Creek then, and we could spend days without seeing another human being. But around 1960 the county built a new road to extend Murphy Road across C-23 Canal. The road cut across upper Bessey Creek virtually on top of our old campsite and passed within 100 yards of the hidden pond. When I returned from the Army in 1962, I walked across a sand lot from the road to the bank of the pond and gazed at the empty bait cups and beer cans on its shore. Humpty Dumpty was off the wall.

Aerial maps suggest that Mile Lake and a few adjacent lakes in southern St. Lucie County may be ox-bows, formed as part of the North Fork but pinched off as the River meandered away. In his boyhood Dad camped and fished around Mile Lake, and he took me there many times. I don’t know if Dad knew Mile Lake had once been part of the River, but it may explain his affection for the place. He loved the River in all of its many parts, but I don’t know how he’d have felt about Mile Lake surrounded by homes and golf courses as it is now.

Ernie Lyons with Bass, possibly Mile Lake

Dad had a love/hate relationship with the St. Lucie Canal. Its discharges damaged the River downstream, and he campaigned tirelessly but futilely for the Army Corps of Engineers to manage it responsibly. Still, when many of his favorite places were gone, fishing remained good in the canal, and Dad could drive out and fish along its banks. Then, testing found some of the nation’s highest readings for pesticides and heavy metals in fish from the canal. That’s when Dad gave up fishing.

If anyone were to put up signage at Dad’s favorite places on the River, they would need lots of signs. And the signs should say “This was one of Ernest Lyons’ favorite places, a place of magic, until progress did it in. Sit quietly, look closely and try to imagine the sparkle that once was here.” If you can’t see the sparkle, it just looks like water. Or, more recently, like guacamole.

~Bill Lyons, son of Ernest Lyons

A mullet jumps at sunset, St Lucie River off of North River Shores, photo Todd Thurlow.

Biography of Bill’s father, Ernest Lyons

Florida Newspaper Hall of Fame, Ernest Lyons, 1994

Lyons began working as a reporter for The Stuart News in 1931. He also worked as an advertising salesman, printing salesman, then as advertising director for the paper. He became editor in 1945, serving until his retirement on March 1, 1975. He died April 6, 1990, at age 85.

Under Lyons the paper grew from a tiny independent weekly to a lively Scripps Howard daily. As editor, Lyons practiced community journalism at its best. He had a keen sense of what local people wanted to read and a zeal to guard their interests. Fearing that rapid population growth and urbanization might ruin coastal Florida, Lyons fought for  protection of endangered water resources and wildlife habitats.

In 1965, his newspaper columns won the nationwide Edward J. Meeman Award for conservation writing. His writings, some composed 30 or more years ago, still are quoted by conservationists because they ring with enduring concepts and timeless values.

The Gale of 1878, Ten Mile Creek, SLR/IRL

*Please note comments become public record.

Excerpt of a survey map, 1919, courtesy Mike Middlebrook, Natural Resources Manager, St Lucie County.

The following are two rare accounts of pioneer life documenting the extreme rain event of 1878. The first is from A. Hendry Sr., and the other by Emily Lagow Bell. These related families lived along the banks of Ten Mile Creek at the time of this flood. Their stories give us insight into a world we cannot even image today.

Historian Sandra Henderson Thurlow, (http://www.sandrathurlow.com)
had transcribed these accounts from old newspaper articles and a book. Apparently, the News Tribune had the wonderful idea of a “contest for old timers” and people wrote in.

Sandra, my mother, recently came across her transcriptions again, after I visited the Richard E. Becker Preserve in St Lucie County and started asking questions.

Today I put these valuable recollections out for all to read. I think you will find them as interesting as I do.

We must not forget that are living in a Land Remembered!

Ten Mile Creek and Five Mile Creek are visible on this 1884 map – look just south of Ft Pierce. These “creeks” are the northern headwaters of the St Lucie River. They have been drained, tamed, and destroyed by the C&SFP canal system C-23, C-24 and C-25.

TWO RARE ACCOUNTS

I.

Transcribed by Sandra H. Thurlow

News Tribune

Nov. 26, 1978

“Miley’s Memos”

by Charles S. Miley

 

  1. A. Hendry was one of the first settlers of this area, and one of the pioneer cattlemen.

Born near Bartow, he came here with his parents at the age of 14, when there were but a handful of settlers in the area. As was the case with most other early settlers, he engaged in the cattle business during his late youth hood and all his adult life, reportedly being among the largest cattle owners in the state. He and K. B. Raulerson established the East Coast Cattle Co., which later became the Raulerson Cattle Co., forerunner of some of the present-day cattle operations.

He died at the age of 87 and he and his wife are buried in the Fort Pierce cemetery.

A son, A. A. “Buck” Henry, Jr., presently lives at 3576 N. E. Skyline drive, Jensen Beach, but spent most of his life in Fort Pierce and is well known among many of our residents.

When the News Tribuneconducted an old timer’s letter writing contest in February of 1934, the senior Hendry wrote a letter relating some of his experiences as an early settler of the area.

Here is the letter.

 

Fort Pierce, Florida

February 20, 1934

Within less than eight miles of White City, where I hope this will be read as a prize-winning letter, has been my home for 62 years, one month and one week.

For early in January, 1872, my father and mother and eight children left Polk County with two wagons drawn by oxen. After two weeks slow traveling over the old government trail, Ft. Meade, Ft. Kissimmee, Ft. Drum, we arrived at Fort Pierce. We drove our cattle with us and camped where night caught us.

We settled on the south side of Ten Mile creek, where later was located the Lisk and Roden Gove, later owned by B. J. Selvitz.

Of my father’s eight children, seven are still living, three still in this neighborhood, Mrs. Frank Bell, John Hendry and myself.

At the time of our arrival Henry Parker lived in Fr. Drum and Elias Jernigan lived on what is now the Standard Growers grove at Ten Mile; on the south lived Lang on St. Lucie River bluff just south of White City, clearing what has since become the Edwards grove, now owned by Mr. Martin East was the trading post. of the old fort, run by Alex Bell (who had arrived the year before) and a Mr. Smith; on the north lived Jim Russel and the Paine family at Ft. Capron. Beyond these points, outside of possible wandering trappers and hunters, there were no settlers short of Ft. Bassenger, Ft. Jupiter, where lived Captain Armour and Mr. Carlin, and Sebastian, where Col. Gibson lived.

An occasional band of Indians stopped on their way to the “fort,” where they would swap deer skins and other hides for beads, cloth, ammunition, salt, etc.

Their main cooking was what they called “sofkee,” ─ a tick soupy mixture of meat, grits, meal, potatoes, beans, or anything they might happen to have, boiled in a copper kettle swung over a slow fire. When done, they would squat around the kettle and pass around the one big spoon for individual use or would gorge out a handful and pour or suck off their fingers. First the bucks would eat till they had enough, then the squaws and pickaninnies. They liked white man’s cooking and lost no opportunity to enjoy it. They were especially fond of milk, never having any milk cows of their own. They would always divide with us whenever they had anything to eat that we did not have.

These Indians were of Old Parker’s band. They were known also as the Cow Creek Indians.

There were about a hundred of them in all. Their headquarters were in the Indiantown section.

September 7, 8, 9, and 10thin the year of 1878, there was a gale with a heavy rain. The Ten Mile creek’s banks overflowed. When the water came up in the floor of our cabin I built a rough boat in the hall and poled my people across the creek to Asbury Seller’s place. Finding them gone, I became somewhat alarmed. Then I poled on east to John Sellers and spent the night there with their family. Next day we all took refuge on the “mound” ─ still standing, what is left of it, just south of the road about a mile west of Five Mile.

There were 32 of us men, women and children and we spent there two days and one night. We had no shelter and were drenched to the skin. We managed to build a fire which we kept going with driftwood. We brought provisions along but were gladdened by the addition of a deer which swam up and which we killed with a pole. On returning home we found the water had been up two of three feet in the house, according to the marks on the walls.

We lived a rough, hard but healthy life. Plenty of clean food and plenty of outdoor exercise getting it. We had no Sunday schools or churches for years. We soon had a few months school for the younger children and we older ones picked up reading and writing as best we could. Mail, at best, came once a week by sail boat, newspapers were scarce, and magazines scarcer.

I have seen and used ox carts, mule teams, horse and buggy, railroad cars and automobiles on land, and the rowboat, sailboat and steamboat on the water; and overhead the airplane. What next?

Yours truly,

A. HENDRY, SR.

 

II.

About the Williams Mound:

 

Emily Lagow Bell, My Pioneer Days in Florida, 1928

 

I have a copy of this rare book

 

Sandra Thurlow

April 26, 2003

 

page 21:

 

…Alexander Bell and family, also Mr. Archibald Hendry’s family, Mr. Sellers and family were living at Ten Mile Creek. This was the 1878 storm.

The gale lasted 24 hours and the creek began to rise and James Bell and brother, Frank, and others found they had to get something to save the women and children, so took the floor out of the house , made a raft, and the water was in the house then! Well, he took his mother and children first to an Indian mound, which I think is near Ten Mile creek yet. He had to make several trips before he got them all and forgot his horse, and it drowned in the yard.

There were cattle, hogs, deer, snakes, and coons, possums, turkeys all coming to the mound. Hundreds of stock and animals drowned. They built fires on the mound and the second day the water was receding and all came into Fort Pierce.

 

page 28:

 

…Then there were several men hunting the frostproof part of the state for new groves, and my father-in-law had died, and the family decided to sell the Ten Mile place and a Mr. Sid Williams came about 1894 or 1895, and he bought the place at a very low figure, something like five or six hundred dollars, and he built up something like one hundred acres of groves which sold for a fabulous price. Now it is owned by the Standard Growers.

 

 

Building New Bridges, Remembering the Old: 1934, “Franklin D. Roosevelt Highway Bridge,” SLR/IRL

I continue to share my mother’s historic documents for those who love and appreciate history. Today’s original 1934 Stuart Daily News publication is very impressive, oversized, with aerial photographs and pride-filled words lauding the City of Stuart, and her  Roosevelt Bridge as part of  the new “Gateway to the Gulf of Mexico.”

This gateway, of course, was the Cross State Canal that was federally funded through “navigation” with the dual use to discharge Lake Okeechobee water, that Nature would have flowed south to Florida Bay, into the northern estuaries enhancing “Fishing, Hunting, and Sports on the Beautiful St Lucie….Lake Okeechobee, and Caloosahtchee River….”

In 1934, an era of Man Over Nature, both men and women did not know their determination to control the environment  and its waters would, eventually, kill almost everything they loved.

And here we are today…

But as my hero Ernie Lyons, editor environmentalist of a later newspaper, the Stuart News said: “What men do they can undo.”

I believe this.

New bridges must be built. Not just of concrete but of the heart.

Bridges between people and politics. Bridges between corporations and children. Bridges between agriculture giants and fish. Bridges between developers and a new way to live. Why? Because like it or not, we are a Florida Water Family. All connected. All bridged together by depending on this place.

#FLWaterFamily

I will end with words from my mother, historian, Sandra Henderson Thurlow:

“Jacqui, This is a very large book that was published to celebrate the dedication of the original Roosevelt Bridge on January 8, 1934.  The pages are supposed to face each other so “Stuart–‘Atlantic Gateway to the Gulf of Mexico'” run together. The sentence at the bottom should be “The City of Stuart Invites You to Winter on the Beautiful St. Lucie River.” A gentleman who lives in Rio, Richard Lewis Miller,  shared the original in honor of his father, Alvin Richard Miller 1906-1976.” Mom (http://www.sandrathurlow.com)

Links:

Sandra Henderson Thurlow, website:http://www.sandrathurlow.com

Joe Crankshaw, Transformation of Stuart, TCPalm, http://archive.tcpalm.com/news/in-10-year-span-roosevelt-bridge-transformed-sleepy-little-stuart-ep-405274002-349339071.html/

Former Blog post on subject, JTL: https://jacquithurlowlippisch.com/2018/04/12/city-of-stuart-atlantic-gateway-to-the-gulf-of-mexico-1937-staurt-daily-news/

Historic Photos of Mosquito Control Along the Indian River Lagoon

Mosquito Ditch Digging, c.1920

The photograph above is one of those rare images that tells you everything even without a caption. This photo, shared by my mother, historian, Sandra Henderson Thurlow, (http://www.sandrathurlow.com) was given to her by Mrs. Elizabeth Early, a pioneer of Stuart, “Stuart on the St Lucie.” The photo is entitled “Mosquito Ditch Digging,” and the subjects are unidentified. My mother believes the photo was taken in our region around 1920.

Mosquito truck, Florida Memory.

Mosquitos…such an integral part of Florida ~as is our war against them. Some have even gone as far to call the mosquito our “state bird.” As a kid, growing up in Sewall’s Point, in the 1970s, I remember having to run in place at the bus stop so as not to be attacked. Forever it seemed, I had white scars covering my tan scrawny legs. Another classic mosquito tale is gleefully riding my bike, along with my friends, behind the fog of the mosquito trucks. When we heard the trucks coming  we ran from our houses, meeting in the street, quickly negotiating who got to be first behind the blower.

In any case, the mosquito ditches, the mosquito control districts, and the small green and white metal markers along Indian River Drive reading “MC” for Mosquito Control are not something we think too much about anymore, but for the old timers, mosquitos, and our war against  them, and thus against Nature, defines this place.

My mother’s photos from her “Mosquito Control” file tell part of our local Martin County tale below. The lands are almost unrecognizable. In 1948 when the “Bridges to the Sea” were constructed over the Indian River Lagoon onto Hutchinson Island’s beaches – everything changed. The wetlands, the scrublands, and the old bean farms from early pioneers were ditched and diked, laced through and through like a pearl necklace. The government and owners organized with the goal to control those pesky mosquitos so the land would be fit for fill and for sale.

Over time, the mosquitoes lessened, and more and more people came to replace them.

According to my mother,  some of the very early mosquito control worked by allowing fish  into ditches to eat the larva; this not-so-intense mode was later replaced by other more stringent methods, including chemical means using DDT. As so often is the case in Florida, we are “successful,” successful at the expense of the environment.

Today we drive over the the Indian River Lagoon and forget the wars we’ve waged to live here, and instead, we wage a war to put our environment back into place.

Like little pearls, dragline scoops of white sand are deposited along the sides of freshly dug mosquito ditches, the idea being for the fish to come in from the lagoon and eat the mosquito larva. In this photo the Stuart Causeway is being constructed form Sewall’s Point to Hutchinson Island. This area is where the Marriott’s Indian River Plantation and Marina are located today. (Thurlow collection, photo by Arthur Ruhnke, Ca 1948.)
10-16-57 photo Aurthur Ruhnke, Thurlow Collection.  Athough one cannot see the piles of sand as well, they are there. This broad aerial shows all what is today’s Marriott, Indian River PlantationMarriott along Ocean Boulevard, Stuart Beach, The Elliott Museum, Florida Oceanographic and Publix.
Mosquito ditches Hutchinson Island, 1952, (Thurlow Collection, Aurthur Ruhnke) In the 1980s this area was developed by Mobile Corporation as Sailfish Point. Note natural ponds. After the mosquito ditches dug were, over the years, red mangroves already growing along the shoreline would move into the interior of the land via the dug canals. Note visible lush seagrass beds inside of Indian River Lagoon, this area was the epicenter of our SLR/IRL being the most diverse estuary in North America. This information is rooted in a conversation my mother had with, Grant Gilmore, an expert in area fisheries and in the IRL itself.
Mangroves -1956, Hutchinson Island, Thurlow Collection, Aurthur Ruhnke. Note straight lined mosquito ditches. Today this area is in Jensen Beach just north of Jensen Beach Blvd., were a large swath of mangroves has died that inspired my mother to share these photos today.

Links:

“Large Swath of Dead Mangroves, but Why?” Blog that inspired toda’s post: https://jacquithurlowlippisch.com/2018/09/11/large-swath-of-dead-mangroves-but-why-slr-irl/

“Human Eradication of Mosquitoes, San Francisco, and the Destruction of the Indian River Lagoon: ” https://jacquithurlowlippisch.com/tag/mosquito-stuart-history/

UF/IFAS: http://mosquito.ifas.ufl.edu/Florida_Mosquito_Control.htm

Smithsonian: http://www.sms.si.edu/IRLSpec/Impoundments.htm

Martin County: Mosquito Conrol:https://www.martin.fl.us/MosquitoControl

Dept of Ag. & Consumer Services: https://www.freshfromflorida.com/Consumer-Resources/Health-and-Safety/Mosquito-Control-Directory

Bathtub Beach Historic Photos; “The Only Constant is Change.” SLR/IRL

Bathtub Beach has become a preoccupation this week, and its story “teaches us.” I asked my historian mother if she had any historic photos. Of course, she did, along with insights of this special place in Martin County.

The first thing she said was, “I have been fascinated with the giant black mangroves that used to appear when the Bathtub’s sands eroded. I have a bunch of these photos…”

In my childhood days, this sometimes appearing ancient forest was a conundrum, then a lesson, that things are ever-changing, and barrier islands really are moving. “How could there have been a forest there?” I’d ask my mother, “It’s in the sea?”

This part of Hutchinson Island was developed early on as “Seminole Shores” and there is one photo below that clearly shows the water washing out over the road way back then in the 50s (sepia colored aerial.) Interesting.

From the aerials, one can see how developer, James Rand added the marina we know today as part of Sailfish Point. This type of construction was later outlawed in the 70s due to its serious environmental ramifications. Many of our older area marinas were built this way.

Some may remember famous “Rand’s Pier” that withstood the ocean’s occasional violence for many years. It was still there in the photos towards the end of this blog post that I took in 2007. It has since washed away…

The circular, unusual, worm-reef, giving Bathtub Beach its name, is most beautiful. Although people are not supposed to walk on it, they do; and today’s constant/desperate re-nourishment sands washing back into the ocean must certainly have a negative effect.

As a kid I swam over the reef at high tide catching tropical fish with a net my mother made by hand. Once a moray eel put its face on my mask and I learned not to put my hand in a hole!

Look at photos closely and you will notice many details.

In the first photo, you will see there is no Wentworth house falling into the ocean, and then it appears; the ancient forest foreshadowing its fate.

The final aerial is recently dated and from a tourist website, shared by my life-time friend Amy Galante. This photo packages Bathtub Beach as we all envision it. Airbrushed. Restored. Never changing. And “perfect.”

Fortunately, or unfortunately, perfection takes constant change.

November 22, 1992, before the Wentworth house was built. Erosion reveals ancient black mangrove forest. Photo, Sandra Thurlow.
December 6. 2003, after the Wentworth house was built, also showing ancient black mangrove forest. Photo, Sandra Thurlow.
“This one is good because it shows the reef.” Photo, 1994, Sandra Thurlow.
“The date of the Seminole Shores photo that shows the pool, etc. was, July 6, 1959. They started dredging the marina in October 1957. The washout below would have been a little before then when they were improving the road to Seminole Shores.” Photo, archives of Sandra Thurlow.
“This photo shows the position of pier in Seminole Shores and a close up of added  marina in IRL ca. 1950s. Today’s Bathtub Beach is just north of the pier.” Photo archives of Sandra Thurlow.
“As mentioned, the washout would  have occurred when they were improving the road to Seminole Shores. (Look to southern portion of scraped and treeless area for washout over road.) Although this photo is the most detailed I have of the area,  unfortunately there is not an exact date on this Ruhnke aerial. It is before they began to develop Seminole Shores. Perhaps that log looking thing in the water is the first part of the dredge?” Photo, archives of Sandra Thurlow
1957, construction of Rand’s Pier. Again, Bathtub Beach is just north of this area. Photo, archives of Sandra Thurlow.
Dated, 6-26-49, this Ruhnke aerial reveals much from an earlier era: the St Lucie Inlet, the shoreline of south Hutchinson Island, the Clive House built behind the dune and Anastasia Rock formation, road cut through heavy vegetation, and reflecting coquina sands.  Drowned trees in the distance are visible in the crescent of the shoreline showing the remains of the black mangroves. Notice the dark peat underneath them along the shoreline. At low tide the worm rock reef is revealed creating what came to be know as Bathtub Beach. Photo, Ruhnke Collection, Thurlow archives.

The photos below were taken by me in 2007.

Bathtub Beach 2007, JTL Remains of black mangroves  in ocean looking towards worm reef is revealed by Mother Nature once again…
Bathtub Beach 2007, JTL
Bathtub Beach 2007, with tree trunks. JTL
Bathtub Beach 2007, JTL
Bathtub Beach’s famous worm reef, 2007, JTL
Bathtub Beach,  worm reef growing on ancient black mangrove trunk. This area fills with sand and then naturally erodes based on tides and storms.  2007, JTL
Bathtub Beach 2007, remains of Rand’s Pier. JTL
Beach re-nourishment, Bathtub Beach 2007, JTL
Erosion, roots hold in sand. Bathtub Beach 2007, JTL
Bathtub Beach 2007. Structures and walkways have been replaced many times due to erosion over the years. JTL
Worm reef grows on ancient black mangrove trees. Bathtub Beach 2007, JTL

Bathtub Beach aerial —

Airbrushed and in “all her glory.” 2016 advertisement for Martin County’s Bathtub Beach: http://florida-wilderness.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/bathtubbeach.png

Earlier blog post “Bathtub Beach Bye-Bye” https://jacquithurlowlippisch.com/2017/11/14/bathtub-beachbye-bye/

History Seminole Shores:

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 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.

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
Links/sources:

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