See the house in the distance in the above photograph? It was the Olds’ homestead that I mentioned in my previous post about Hutchinson Island. I had thought when I read about and discussed a property dispute between the Olds and the U.S. Government -that built the House of Refuge- that the Olds’ property was built first, as they were making a claim against the building of the House of Refuge-saying that they owned the land it was built upon. But that was incorrect; the House of Refuge was built first, but built on land that mistakenly later was homesteaded to the Olds. Confusing!
In thinking about this story the above photograph helpful because it shows part of the long strip of land that was homesteaded to the Olds as well as the proximity of House of Refuge -apparently built about in the middle of what became the Old’s very long parcel of land. The survey and documents below will help us unravel all this and why in the end, the Olds had to get an easement to access their own property with the Gilbert Bar’s House of Refuge like an island in between.
To clarify the dates that I got confused about in my previous post, the Olds’ homestead was formally granted by the U.S. government in 1894 (as you can see below) and they built shortly thereafter. My reference to 1862 comes from the date of the Homestead Act itself. The House of Refuge was built in 1876. In spite of the dates, or the paper issuing of the homestead, somehow the Hutchison Island property was deeded to the Olds even after the the House of Refuge was built on it. (See History of Martin County below.) The House of Refuge was the first house built in today’s Martin County, but there is more to the story than just “being first.” Next time you visit this wonderful place, remember that even in the 1800s things could get very mixed up.
“The Olds homestead shows well on this map.” Sandra Henderson Thurlow.
Email exchange after my prior blog post:
Mom : “Jacqui, The Homestead Act of 1862 was what provided for Hiram Olds homestead claim of 1894. It is strange that he homesteaded after the House of Refuge was already standing but it happened. It was an error that it was granted and the government had to make amends later. The House of Refuge was the first build we know of in this area.”
Jacqui: “So the Olds house wasn’t built first? Shouldn’t I still mention 1862, the first year of the U. S. Homestead Act?
Mom: “I don’t think 1862 should even be mentioned. It throws people off because it is a date when the country first was open to homesteading. Our first homestead was no earlier than 1883.”
Jacqui:” It seems to me, if they had rights to the land they must have gotten those rights prior to 1894 or there would not have been a conflict with the US Govt. regarding their construction of the House of Refuge in 1876. Right? It was granted afterwards? Strange. I’ll figure something out.”
Below: Explantation from page 52, The History of Martin County, Historical Society of Martin County, Florida.
Looking south in the direction of today’s St Lucie Inlet. Former home of Hiram and Hattie Olds, 1907, Hutchinson Island, in what became Martin County, Fl. Courtesy Agnes Tietig Parlin, achieves Sandra Henderson Thurlow and Deanna Wintercorn “Gilbert’s Bar House of Refuge, Home of History.”
The more I learn about water, the more I want to know about the land. Inexorably connected – as the lands change, so do the surrounding waters.
Don’t you love this above photograph?
The lone high-house rising through thick vegetation reminds us of what the beach-scape of today’s Hutchinson Island, Martin County, Florida, used to look like. Cradled between the Atlantic Ocean and the Indian River Lagoon, the home belonged to Hiram E. and Hattie Olds who made application for homestead with the United States Government in the early Florida year of 1862. The photo above spotlights the natural beauty and native vegetation; it was taken in 1907 – forty-five years after the original homestead. With almost a half century passed, like a protective cape over the sandy dunes, the Indian River Lagoon/Hutchinson Island vegetation remained in tact. What an incredible and rare photograph! It almost feels like Africa or some far-off exotic place.
There must have been so many hiding places for birds and other wildlife. Rain percolating through sandy soils to ocean and estuary. Only a shadow of this vegetation remains today, although Hutchinson Island remains a beautiful place.
This second photograph reveals the same house in the distance, the Olds’ homestead, granted in 1862-but structure built ca. 1894 -that later became the Yacht Club. From this perspective we are now looking south from the House of Refuge -built in 1876. It is clear from this Thurlow Archives photograph that theGeorges Valentine shipwreck had recently occurred thus this photograph must have been taken around October 16, 1904 – the fateful night of the ship’s destruction. Again, look at the thick high curve of vegetation along the western edge of the Indian River Lagoon. Fabulous!
With these 1904 and 1907 photographs we can, for a moment, go back and imagine what Hutchinson Island looked like. It was not just an Anastasia rocked shoreline, but a Beach-Jungle! A jungle that protected wildlife and waters of our precious Indian River Lagoon.
In our next blog post, we shall learn how the Olds homestead and the House of Refuge were “connected,” not just via fantastic vegetation, rocks, and dune lines, but also through claims of property rights to the United States Government.
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!
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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
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 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!
TWO RARE ACCOUNTS
Transcribed by Sandra H. Thurlow
Nov. 26, 1978
by Charles S. Miley
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?
A. HENDRY, SR.
About the Williams Mound:
Emily Lagow Bell, My Pioneer Days in Florida, 1928
I have a copy of this rare book
April 26, 2003
…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.
…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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.”
I have shared this 1925 aerial previously, but it is worth sharing again. What a wonderful photograph of a healthy confluence of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon!
Every time I see it, I see something new.
I see the white sands of the newly dug St Lucie Canal, today’s C-44 connected to Lake Okeechobee, in the far middle distance; I see dark, prevalent natural vegetation; I see an undeveloped Sailfish Point, Rocky Point, Manatee Pocket, Sewall’s Point, and Stuart; there are a few roads, but no airport; no spoil islands along Sewall’s Point; there are no “bridges to the sea; ” I see shoaling, as the St Lucie Inlet had been opened/widened not too long before ~located just around the left hand corner of the photograph; I see beaches at Hutchinson Island with beautiful coquina sands that had not been “re-nourished;” I see lush seagrass beds, the nurseries of life, cradled against the shoreline; I see Paradise…
What would we do as far as development in this paradise, if we had it to do all over again?Or would we do just the same?
How we develop lands, of course, affects the health of surrounding waters. Today, what can we do to reinvigorate our rivers, our paradise? How can we help bring back the seagrasses especially? Well, we can do a lot.
Think of all the lawns that would be in this photo today! All the development, and how when it rains everything on our streets, parking lots, and lawns runs into our drainage systems and into our river.
Yesterday was June 1st, the beginning of rainy season. The beginning of fertilizer restrictions that were especially inspired for the entire Indian River Lagoon by the work of Sewall’s Point, the first to have a strong fertilizer ordinance, in 2010. I am proud of this and thank my fellow commissioners of that era.
Do what you can by not fertilizing your yard this rainy season, and if you haven’t considered changing out your yard to a more natural, Florida Friendly landscape, perhaps begin the process.
Every little thing we do, counts. And the more we do, the pressure we can put on the “big polluters” to do the same.
This week, with a short reprieve from politics, I have been sharing historic photos and videos of the once wetlands and ponds of East Ocean Boulevard. Land use changes interest me as land use is of course directly connected to the water quality and health of our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.
After reading yesterday’s blog, historian and family friend Alice Luckhardt, shared the remarkable 1947 photo above. I wanted to make sure everyone saw it as well! Look at the size of that pond that once was at Stuart Middle School! I remember it; do you? Now it’s gone.
The question posed to Alice in a conversation thread on Facebook was “why was the school board allowed to drain and build over the pond?”
It appears “the powers that be” had been eyeing the land under the pond for some time…
Alice has included two old news articles, featured below, explaining how students, two different times, did save the pond from destruction in both 1964 and 1971, but no one spoke up during the real estate boom era of the 2000s when the “new Stuart Middle School” was built. Why didn’t the adults save it?
Now I must state that I love Stuart Middle School as I attended there as a student and taught there as a teacher, but this disappearing pond act is incredible and should be noted. At the time I saw it happening, I did write a personal note of concern and disbelief to the current principal who did not write me back. Now that I am a “politico” person, I understand the principal does not make these decisions.
Many locals who grew up here still have memories of the pond. My Dad does as he went to hight school here in the 50s. Generational Stuart resident Boo Lowery says:”Jay Davey and I fished in that pond a lot 1949-53, we caught a lot of bream.. there were two islands then, –they later connected them to shore; I guess to make mowing easier.”
Yes, the goal is always to make it “easier,” for we humans, unfortunately over time this adds to the desolation of our St Lucie River…Easier is not the answer.
Well enjoy Alice’s articles below! Thanks, everyone; see you at the fishin’ pond.
JULY 16, 1964, THE STUART NEWS, SCHOOL POND IS TO BE ‘SAVED’ BY CONSERVATIONIST GROUPS The pond at Stuart Junior High School will not be filled. Instead, its water level will be restored, its banks will be graded to stop erosion and it will again be the habitat of water lilies and fresh water fish. Martin County School Board Monday night approved a plan advanced by six local conservation groups: Garden Club of Stuart, Izaak Walton League, St. Lucie-Indian Rivers Restoration League, the Historical Society, Junior Conservation Club and U. S. Soil Conservation Service. Charles Kindred, president of the Isaak Walton League, detailed the plan, which involves grading of the banks with county equipment, stabilizing them with Bahia grass and other plantings, installation of a well and one and a quarter-inch pump, operated by the city, to maintain the water level at three or four feet during drought periods and the planting of bream and bass.
JAN 10, 1971, THE STUART NEWS JUNIOR HIGH POND IS DUG OUT
The pond on the campus of the Stuart Seventh and Eighth School is in the final stages of renovation. Assistant Superintendent of Schools Jack Smouse said that the pond is somewhat of a landmark in the community and that it has been here “as long as I can remember.” School officials have intended to update the pond for some time, Smouse said and with the cooperation of the city and the county the work has been done. The county donated a dragline and the city provided fill for the project. The pond was originally designed with two separate islands in the center. Smouse said the design made maintenance difficult. Transporting mowers and other equipment from one island to the other was virtually impossible without a boat. With the fill which the city provided, the two islands have been connected. Smouse said the pond was originally dug to provide fill for other areas and that the spoil taken from the recent work will be used on the campus. Moves to fill in the pond in the past were blocked by local conservationists, Smouse said. They felt that if the pond is eliminated the city will lose one of its areas of beauty. The digging is now completed and the next step is to clear the area of cattails and other debris. When this work is complete the area will be planted and stocked with fish. Smouse said it will provide a fresh water pond for the area and will be used primarily as a “classroom” by the science department at the school. The pond is filled by surface water from the campus. In the past, storm sewer drainage went into the pond, but with the present drainage system this is impossible, Smouse explained. With the present low water table the surface water will be the only method of fill in the pond. Smouse said that eventually the school hopes to erect a flagpole at either end of the island with a school sign.
“See that white strip just below the wetland? That is the extension of Flamingo Drive that skirts the pond behind the old car wash. They just dug a retention pond and conducted the water to it. All of that pineland is covered with condominiums today.” (Cedar Point, Vista Pines, and Kingswood)~ Sandra H. Thurlow
Today we drive over the Indian River Lagoon and St Lucie River surrounded by “civilization,” and forget that once it was once a wetland and pine forest full of wildlife. In the course of a lifetime, these things are long forgotten.
The above 1957 photograph hangs in my brother’s law office. When I visit him, I find myself staring at it for long periods of time. It is one of those rare photos that really puts things into perspective. The road construction through the wetlands, (note it going through the pond, and pine forest) was all taking place around the same time that the “Bridges to the Sea,” from Stuart to Sewall’s Point, and Sewall’s Point to Hutchinson Island, were completed. It’s amazing to see what the landscape once looked like. The road in the photograph, Fourth Street, was renamed “East Ocean Boulevard” in 1960, and is a major thoroughfare to the beaches today.
I remember early East Ocean Blvd, although it was already quite changed by the time I was born in 1964. My family lived at 109 Edgewood Drive in Stuart, a short distance away from these wetland ponds under development. I recall Scrub Jays in our back yard and feeding them peanuts. By 1974 the family moved across the river to Sewall’s Point “growing and improving” with the changing landscape.
By 1979, when I was fifteen years old, riding my bike over the bridge to Stuart to work at the Pelican Car Wash, the beautiful wetland pond had been relegated to a retention pond for run off. Over the next two decades, you didn’t see wetlands and ponds anymore, or wildlife, just condominiums, office buildings, and shopping plazas. The state four-laned East Ocean Boulevard and built higher bridges to the ocean too.
Believe it or not, the pond in the aerial is still located behind a gas station that used to be the car wash. It is not even a shadow of its former self. Two days ago, I drove by and noticed that there was an extensive algae bloom in the pond backed up to the parking lot and gas pumps; the water reflecting a sickly shade of green.
I sat there thinking about the long forgotten pond in the middle of East Ocean Boulevard in the photo I love in my brother’s office, wishing the developers had figured out a way to go around the pond. As the shortest distance between two points, over time, is not always a straight line.
If we look into the mirror of history, we begin to see…
We begin to see how we destroyed one of the most famous and beloved inland fishing waters in North America and how we learned to do better. And if we are able, in time, not only to do better, but to return “health and glory” to the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, it should be the tarpon, not the sailfish, that becomes our symbol, our king.
The first formal fishing club documented in Stuart was the 1916 St Lucie River Tarpon Club. The late 1800s and early 1900s were an era of great fame for the St Lucie River, build upon President Grover Cleveland and other presidents fishing trips to the area. Yes, the St Lucie was known as the “Fishing Grounds of Presidents.”
Ironically, at this same time, the Commercial Club, that evolved into today’s Chamber of Commerce, was promoting not just Stuart’s remarkable fishing, but also enthusiastically encouraging and awaiting the completion of the St Lucie Canal.
“Once the muddy water flowed into the St Lucie River, they began to realize that the canal was not the blessing they envisioned,” writes Sandra Henderson Thurlow. Historian Alice Luckhardt more directly notes, “at one time tarpon were often caught in the St. Lucie River, but “disappeared” from those waters soon after the opening of the canal system to Lake Okeechobee in 1923.”
Ingeniously, and with more insight, in the years following the loss of tarpon and other river fish as seen in the McCoy map above, the ocean-going sailfish was marketed to replace the tarpon and become “the most prized fish of all…” as well as in time the symbol for both the city and county governments.
The magnificent Silver King? Just a dying memory, or no memory at all…
By the mid 1930s the Chamber of Commerce began publishing the “Stuart Fishing Guide.” In 1941 the largest sailfish run in Florida’s history occurred off the St Lucie Inlet. Remarkable! More than 5000 sailfish were caught in a 90 day period. “Thousands were slaughtered only to be dumped in the river, carted off by garbage collectors, and used for shark bait.” Stuart as the Sailfish Capital of the world was affirmed, but as my mother states, if “Stuart’s fame was to endure, so was the need for conservation of the species.”
The idea for conservation/protecting the industry had been in the works, the Sailfish Club had been talking about it and a few sailfish were returned to the ocean…. But after the sailfish run of “41, the idea of an organized conservation effort was solidified, and Sailfish Club of ’31 updated their charter in “41 “to further and promote sports fishing and conservation in the waters of the City of Stuart and Martin County.” Visiting sportsmen were awarded and inspired to work for the most coveted bronze, silver, and gold lapel pins based on the size of the sail they caught and released, not killed.
This is a great story, but what of the tarpon?
I can see his giant, ancient, dorsal fin rising from the waters of a healthier St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. For me, no fish will ever compare. As we restore our rivers, it is he who shall be KING! 🙂
One of my favorite aerial photographs from my mother’s history books on Martin County is of the infamous Hugh Willoughby flying over the St Lucie River at Sewall’s Point and Willoughby Point. In more familiar terms for boaters, this location is known as “Hell’s Gate” due to the bottle-necking of the rushing tide.
Mr Hugh de Laussat Willoughby, one of the “early birds” of aviation, and a resident of Sewall’s Point, (http://earlyaviators.com/ewilloug.htm) had the idea of locating the New York Yacht Club at the southern tip of the peninsula as envisioned in the map below. It is difficult to see in the aerial, but the insignia of the New York Yacht Club is on the side of the biplane.
The yacht club never materialized as the market crash of the late 1920s and following depression of the 1930s dashed that dream. Today many local pilots fly over the St Lucie River at this same location to photograph a different dream. –By showing the devistation, inspiring a dream for our state and federal agencies, of clean water…
Would Mr Willoughby ever have imagined his paradise would be one of controversial pollution? Never in a thousand years….
This year, the ACOE has been discharging from Lake Okeechobee since January 29th 2016; in 2013 they released May through October, and in 2014 nothing…
May the photographs or today’s ailing river inspire change, and may the spirit of Mr Willoughby keep adventure and love alive in our hearts—and the wind— ever at our backs.
If you ever drive the easterly location of Indian Street in Martin County, you are in the historic subdivision for the proposed Town of Port Sewall. According to the “History of Martin County,” in 1910, Hugh Willoughby and Captain Henry Sewall established the Sewall’s Point Land Company which developed Port Sewall–of which Golden Gate is part.
I was taken by these old aerials from 1954 showing the straight roads of the Golden Gate section of the development with Sewall’s Point and St Lucie Inlet in the distance; I wanted to compare the photo to a cool old plat map and a Google map of today.
I love this old area of Martin County. So much history. It is fun to drive along Old St Lucie Boulevard and through Golden Gate. There are still remnants of the past. To visit the old Golden Gate building on Dixie Highway now getting a new life as the office of House of Hope—that was once a real estate office…..an awesome old Whiticar Boatworks from a bit later…
One of the long forgotten thing about this area is that Sewall and Willoughby’s vision for this development was a deepwater port off of Sewall’s Point. According to historian Sandra Thurlow, “The port was to be established at the junction of the waterways known today as the Crossroads. It would be called “Port Santa Lucia” and would handle the vast amounts of produce that would be shipped out of the interior of Florida via the cross state canal.”
The cross-state canal in this reference? Yes, the cross state canal of the 1920s was the dreaded St Lucie Canal or more lovingly know today as C-44…the canal that connects Lake Okeechobee to the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.
Willoughby and Sewall’s development and the Port of Santa Lucia never succeeded as the Great Depression of the 1920s killed that dream. But unfortunately part of the dream of that era lived on. Today the cross state canal or since named “Okeechobee Waterway” (C-44 in Martin County) does not transport vast amounts of fresh produce, but rather is used to “manage” the waters of Lake Okeechobee and to send sediment and nutrient filled Agricultural run off to feed algae blooms and destroy the property values of Sewall’s Point, Port Sewall, Golden Gate, and the rest of Martin County.
It clearly allows us to see “where we have come from,” and “how we got to where we are today”–especially in regards to our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon region.
In the early decades of the 1900s, Chapter 298 of Florida Statues allowed for Drainage Districts to be created, (most still exist today), by early settlers across the state so they could begin the hard work of “settlement.” These early Floridians often chose areas around rivers for their location, riches and soils.
Nonetheless, “drain baby, drain!” was the mantra.
Drainage of small tributaries of the forks of the rivers such as the St Lucie created rich farmlands and the ability to develop the lands. This was expected of settlers. During this same era, giant public works projects such as the St Lucie Canal, (C-44), linking Lake Okeechobee to the South Fork of the St Lucie River, were dug through the cooperation of state and federal governments to create what would become the Everglades Agricultural Area, or EAA, south of Lake Okeechobee.
“The rest is history…”
As we sit here today with news of a substantial blue-green algae bloom in Lake Okeechobee, and cringe as the ACOE dumps it into our estuary, I find this small booklet my mother came across recently “a through looking-glass” —–of the mentality of the times when all this over-drainage was the goal and the repercussions were not understood.
Counties all over our state had such little booklets. As you can read, this one is from St Lucie County connected to the North Fork of the St Lucie River. These hard-working people of the day dug their canal around 1936 so it would “veer to the southeast and then east to the St. Lucie River….” certainly they were not thinking about toxic algae blooms or water quality at this time. It did not even cross their radar. But it does ours….What will our little booklets look like for future historians to read ? Well, that’s for us to decide.
Today I will share an historic aerial photo along Willoughby Creek together with a brief history lesson by my mother. Following, there are recent Google Map photos to compare…Stuart is still “paradise,” but sometimes I wish I were born 100 years ago. 🙂
“Jacqui, I came across this in my computer and thought it might be interesting for you to see. The date is Feb. 26, 1949. You can see Marvista… I think the house in the middle is the one that became Lee Rasch’s home. Patty Irons Child’s mother, Marge Irons was Lee’s second wife. The house at right was originally “Lagunita” built by Hugh Willoughby, Sr. (There is a big write-up on it on page 158 of the History of Martin County.) It later became a small hotel-like place call “Inlet Tides.” Both of the structures on the right side have been demolished… I am sure you know that Marvista was built by Hugh Willoughby, Jr. in 1924-25.”
—-Sandra Henderson Thurlow, Historian
You may have to “look” a bit, but if you do you will find Marvista and Lagunita today.
This amazing 1925 aerial photograph of the confluence of the St Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon tells a story….I found this photo looking back through some old emails between me, my mother, and my brother dated 2010. At the time, I did not catch all of the nuances in the photograph….
For instance, look at the beautiful, healthy seagrasses hugging the elbow of the shoreline of Hutchinson Island; what about the dock in the midst of the seagrasses that is no longer there; the gentle, crashing waves over a thriving reef at “Bathtub Beach;” the entire area so pristine with extensive natural vegetation. Look at the wispy sandbars forming in the river… Nearby the St Lucie Inlet had been permanently opened, (1892), but also much “improved,” as 1925 was just before the real estate crash, great depression, and two hurricanes that altered Florida’s history forever.
In 1925, community leaders were actually planning a port, Port Sewall, one to complete with Miami and Jacksonville right in this area! In fact they dug a turning basin for ships just off the southern tip of Sewall’s Point and created Sandsprit Park with the fill. Can you imagine?
Back to the photo…
Notice there were no spoil islands off of Sewall’s Point–no Archipelago or Island Addition…Notice the sparse development of Stuart and the lack of an airport. Notice the basically undeveloped peninsula of Sewall’s Point, Rocky Point, and the even less developed— later named— “Sailfish Point.”….The Manatee Pocket just east of and beyond Sewall’s Point shows some signs of the coming future but not many….Do you see anything else?
For me the most interesting thing of all was caught by my brother Todd’s keen eye.
“What is that huge white stripe on the horizon??” He said. “It’s looks like a giant 20-mile-long spaceship runway. Well, it’s the spoil from the freshly-dug Okeechobee waterway. See it in the attached comparison from Google Earth.”
Looking upward and beyond in the 1925 photograph to the right of the clouds, Todd noticed the piled up sands of the C-44 canal—a long curving snake connecting Lake Okeechobee to the South Fork of the St Lucie River. Can you see them?
Of course we all know that this canal along with others and extensive development, over time, destroyed the healthy seagrasses, great fishing, negatively altering the beautiful paradise of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon..
It’s fun to look back, but its even more fun to think about how we have the ability to improve things in the future.
Certain photographs become imprinted in our minds, affecting us on an emotional level–conjuring up images and memories again and again….
One such photo for me is this late 1800s image of Captain Henry Sewall’s Post Office and home. The picture graces the cover of my mother’s book “Sewall’s Point, A History of a Peninsular Community on Florida’s Treasure Coast.” This photograph was often laid out on our family dining room table and we kids listened to mom tell stories of the house and the people from that era of history.
The first time I ever saw the photo it was like I was walking along the long, crooked dock myself to say “hello” or go pick up the mail. I could imagine a gentle breeze blowing, the sun shining, the birds flying over, the fish jumping, and yes, maybe a mosquito or two….
In my imagination, I also thought about how happy I would be to say “hi” to the Sewalls and to maybe get some mail…My mother in her years of writing the books repeatedly pointed out how “lonely” it was for the pioneers, and that the post office played a social role in the community as well as one of function.
With no roads, the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon—were the roads—the only means of transportation to greet a neighbor, get supplies, or pick up the mail. The river brought people tougher, just like it does today.
Yesterday, when I drove to today’s Stuart Post Office from Sewall’s Point to drop off Ed and my Christmas cards, I thought about how much things have changed.
But I have to say, that even though I did not recognize anyone at the post office, the holiday mood and bustle of mail led to many smiles just as it must have in the days of Captain Henry Sewall. The post office, even with all of the world’s changes, still holds the heart of “greetings and hellos,” especially during the holidays.
SEWALL POST OFFICE/HOUSE TIMELINE
1889: Capt. Henry Sewall builds a house on Sewall’s Point
1891: Sewall’s Point post office established in the house
1913: The house is moved by barge to Port Sewall
2006: The house is moved by barge to Indian RiverSide Park with unanimous support from the Martin County Commission and advocacy of historian Sandra Thurlow, Stuart Heritage, the Historical Society of Martin County and others. A large donation is made to support the move by Mr. Fred Ayers.
2012: Restoration of the house is completed/the house is listed as one of 11 properties on the Martin County Local Historic Register of Historic Places.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!
All of Sandra Thurlow’s books can be purchased at the Stuart Heritage Museum (http://www.stuartheritagemuseum.com) on Flagler Avenue, the Elliott Museum, or ordered on Amazon.
Having trouble thinking of a holiday or Christmas gift? Consider one of my mother’s four books…
1. Stuart on the St Lucie
2. Historic Eden and Jensen on Florida’s Indian River
3. Sewall’s Point, A History of a Peninsular Community on Florida’s Treasure Coast
4. Gilbert’s Bar House of Refuge
All of these books have tremendous historic value with fabulous old stories of pioneer families, photos, maps, surveys, charts and advertisements. As you know, I pull much of what I write about in my blogs from these books.
The sands of time….shifting, reforming, just like my childhood memories. 1977–Seventh grade—I remember riding my bike with my best friend, Vicki, out to Hutchinson Island. No traffic. Along the way we would take our hands off the handle bars holding them over our heads, laughing and shouting “look mom!”
A veritable paradise and giant playground we left our bikes at Stuart Beach not locking them and jumped into the ocean.
This photo was taken in 1957, twenty years before Vicki and my bike ride, but it was still relatively undeveloped at that time. If my memory serves me correctly Indian River Plantation’s first condo, The Pelican, went up in 1976 and later in the 1980s the establishment filled out to its final glory. Later sold to the Marriott these lands, though altered, remain a beautiful part of Martin County with public beaches for all to enjoy.
I got ahold of this photo from my mother asking her what kind of vegetation pre-development was on the island. This was her reply:
“This aerial was taken on October 16, 1957. The causeway was under construction as were improvements to Stuart Beach. It is hard to tell what kind of trees are there. They were probably a variety of things, oak, salt bush, cabbage palms, palmetto and Australian pine. The later were growing at the House of Refuge at this time so they were no doubt popping up everywhere. It was “disturbed land” since patches of it had been cleared for farming. Mangrove would be growing along the water but I doubt they had reached inland yet. You can see the new piles of sand indicating mosquito ditches had recently been dug. Notice the little Beach Road.” Historian, Sandra Henderson Thurlow
Thinking a bit more about this area I asked my brother, Todd Thurlow, if this area formed “the fan” because it was once an inlet, such as the Gap, he talks about so much. He sent me this:
“The steady forces of long shore drift have operated over the eons to produce not just the current BI and previous BIs such as the ACR on the mainland, but even the peninsula of Florida itself (Schmidt 1997). The strong linearity of the east central and southeast Florida coastline, its low fractal dimensionality (Rial n.d.), indicates the steadiness and consistent directionality of these forces. Chaotic events like storms, on the other hand, produce drastic BI and lagoonal modifications via overwash and tidal inlet cuts, and leave chaotic, or irregular (“squiggly”) backbarrier shorelines, the former producing overwash fans, and the latter producing flood tidal deltas (Figure 3-6).
Figure 4-19. Cartographic signatures of geomorphic stability and instability. Map to left is most north, right map is most south”
Alan Brech, NEITHER OCEAN NOR CONTINENT: CORRELATING THE ARCHAEOLOGY AND GEOMORPHOLOGY OF THE BARRIER ISLANDS OF EAST CENTRAL FLORIDA, 2004.
Translation: Breaks occurring during storms create overwash fans. (e.g. IRP and Sailfish Point). Tidal inlets produce flood tidal deltas, somewhat like the old Gilberts Bar. BI = Barrier Island; ACR = Atlantic Coastal Ridge. —-Todd Thurlow, “Time Capsule Flights:”(https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLDaNwdmfhj15bmGNQaGhog9QpkQPAXl06)
The shifting sands of time… So many wonderful memories, and so many more to make as times and sands continue to change.
The ironies of life in Stuart and Martin County are grand.
Here are a few:
Business tycoon, Henry Flagler, is said to have first planned to run his railway through and develop Sewall’s Point and then across the St Lucie River to Rocky Point rather than developing Palm Beach. Title problems with the Hanson Grant, of which Sewall’s Point encompassed, led Henry to change the path of his railroad, instead taking it through Potsdam, later named Stuart.
Stuart’s orignal seal, adopted in 1914, shows only the railroad going through Stuart as there was no “auto bridge” at that time. The docks sticking out into the St Lucie River can be seen on the seal due to their importance to property and commerce at that time in history. —The St Lucie River was important to “commerce” like the train at that time.
Stuart was first on the north side of the railroad over the St Lucie River. When leaders wanted to change the name to “Port St Lucie” the railroad company “denied” this as there was already a town by the same name north. So the clever leaders of the town just moved the train station over the river to Potsdam and changed the name to Stuart. When things don’t work, smart business men take another path…
All Aboard Florida and East Coast Railroad, Henry Flagler’s company, is now owned by Fortress; their plan to expand Mr Flagler’s business is likely to fail.
Today proposed All Aboard Florida is not following Henry Flagler’s one famous quote: “To help others is to help yourself,” in the age of paternalism such was the justification of the railroad….not today… Fortress Corporation is doing nothing to help others, like putting a stop at every pineapple plantation, but rather figuring how much money they can make for themselves barreling right through and then failing for bigger and better things…like Panama Canal freight. Luckily their plan is falling apart.
The following information was simplified and explained by Mr Len Sucsy, of CARE, Citizens Against Railroad Expansion. He is a business expert. He gives us the inside scoop in layman terms we can understand.
You probably know about the Martin County and Indian River County lawsuits that are pending, but the specifics of All Aboard Florida’s failing business deal makes its vulnerability easier to understand:
“All Aboard Florida is having difficulty selling their $1.7 billion tax exempt, junk bond issue. Municipal bond investors are being quoted in Bloomberg, the Chicago Tribune, and other media sources as being “uncomfortable” with the business model not only because no passenger train in the history of the country has been profitable but also the real estate above and around some train stations is speculative and yet to be built. Other freight rail cash-flowing services are also future events and speculative. The high leverage of the deal is also been noted…. a problem. A well known muni manger of a $36 billion fund passed on the deal for “credit risk” reasons.
Fortress, Inc., parent company of All Aboard Florida and Florida East Coast Railway, is closing its flagship macro hedge fund. At its peak, it managed $1.6 billion which now stands at $400 million due to investor flight. Last year the fund lost .6% and this year is down 17.5%. Managing partner and billionaire co-founder of Fortress, Michael Novogratz will leave the firm. The company share price (FIG, NASDQ) has dropped 32% this year…”
AAF CAN’T SELL ITS BONDS. THEY ARE A BAD DEAL. SPREAD THE WORD. WRITE IT ON FACEBOOK. CALL YOUR FRIENDS UP NORTH. PUT UP A SIGN.
Maybe our sign should read: “HENRY FLAGLER WOULDN’T HAVE BOUGHT AAF BONDS.”
Today I am going to share some aerial photographs that showcase development in Sewall’s Point during the 1960s, specifically, Isle Edition and Archipelago. To give reference, I was born in 1964. During this time and before, the bulkheading of spoil islands was fashionable. Due to environmental restrictions that were put into law in the 1970s, development on such a scale is no longer allowed.
Bulkheading is basically when one creates a seawall. In the case of a some of the islands off the Town of Sewall’s Point, they were cleared, bulkheaded, filled with sand, and then developed. In some instances the fill is high enough that these islands are not completely in same flood zones as surrounding areas.
According to my mother’s book, “Sewall’s Point, A History of a Peninsular Community on Florida’s Treasure Coast:”
“High Point’s “Isle Addition” was developed by Bessemer in 1966, during the same years Perry Boswell developed Archipelago. Both subdivisions are on bulkheaded islands that were augmented by dredge-and-fill operations. Since laws no longer allow this type of development, there will never be another one on Sewall’s Point.” -Sandra Henderson Thurlow
The islands I am referring to are spoil islands. They are not natural islands. These islands were created by the ACOE. The 156 mile long Indian River Lagoon has 137 spoil islands; they were formed from 1953 to 1961 when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dredged the Intracoastal Waterway — the main channel through the center of the lagoon. The Corps left behind heaps of sand on either side of the channel.
I am including this video my brother Todd created about the spoil islands from an earlier blog as it is most fascinating as is the coast history of our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon region. Enjoy!
The words of Ernest F. Lyons, famed fisherman, environmentalist, and veteran editor of the Stuart News, can be used over, and over, and over again…
Lyons grew up in Stuart in the early 1900s and witnesses first hand the destruction of his beloved St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. In the 1940s and 50s, for “flood control” and EAA interests, he watched St Lucie Locks and Dam, C-44, and S-80 be “improved,” by the ACOE and SFWMD—-destroying fishing grounds that will never be replaced…He witnessed canals C-23, C-24 and C-25 be constructed to scar the land and pour poisonous sediment from orange groves and development into the North Fork and central estuary.
But even amongst this destruction, Lyons never stopped seeing the miracle of the world around him. And no where did life continue to be more miraculous than along his beloved river.
This week so far, I have written about things that bring light to the destruction of our rivers, I must not forget that in spite of this destruction, beauty and life still exist….To do our work as advocates for the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon we cannot become negative, we must be inspired….one of the best ways to achieve this is to recall the work and words of our forefathers….to “recycle inspiration.”
Although Ernie Lyon’s work was first read on the pages of the Stuart News, my mother historian Sandra Henderson Thurlow, has clipped old pages, been in touch with Ernie’s children, and transcribed many of Lyon’s columns as part of the work of Stuart Heritage. Stuart Heritage helps keeps our rich “river-heritage” alive. After all, our founding name was “Stuart on the St Lucie.”
“What a Wonderful World”
I get an indescribable “lift” from the habit of appreciating life.
All of us, even the most harried, have moments when we are fleetingly aware of the glory that surrounds us. Like moles that occasionally break throughout their tunnels, we infrequently catch a glimpse of the natural beauty and awesome majesty outside the corridor within which we have bound ourselves.
And pop back into our holes!
The habit of appreciation—–the cultivation of the sense of awareness—are forgotten roads to enrichment of personal experience. Not money in the bank, or real estate, or houses, or the exercise of power are true riches. By the true tally, the only value is “how much do you enjoy life?”
All around each of us are the wonders of creation—the shining sun, a living star bathing us with the magic mystery of light…we look to the heavens at night and wonder at the glittering panoply of suns so distant and so strange, while accepting as commonplace our own.
We live in a world of indescribable wonder. Words cannot tell why beauty is beautiful, our senses must perceive what makes it so.
What we call art, literature, genuine poetry, and true religion are the products of awareness, seeing and feeling the magic which lies beyond the mole-tunnel view.
One man, in his mole-tunnel, says he is inconsequential, a slave to his job, of dust and to dust going. Another, poking his head our into the light, realizes that he is a miraculous as any engine, with eyes to see, a mind which to think, a spirit whose wings know no limitations.
The mole-man is bound to a commonplace earth and a commonplace life. He lives among God’s wonders without ever seeing them. But those who make a habit of appreciation find wonder in every moment, and every day, by the sense of participation in a miracle.
They see the glory of the flowers, the shapes and colors of trees and grass, the grace of tigers and serpents, the stories of selfishness or selflessness that are written on the faces men and women. They feel the wind upon their faces and the immeasurable majesty of distances in sky and sea.
And in those things there is the only true value. This a wonderful world. Take time to see it. You’re cheat yourself unless you appreciate it.—–E.L.
Ernest F. Lyons: (http://www.flpress.com/node/63)
It all started with a recent comment by Bob Ulevich, at a Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council meeting. In the course of his presentation and questioning on the history of the water management districts, Bob noted that the EAA, the Everglades Agricultural Area, was not historically “just located” where it is today, south of Lake Okeechobee, but basically included all of Disston’s lands. Are you kidding me? “Gulp”….
Hamilton Disston. Remember him? The “savior,” “the drainer” of our state—-who basically bought the entire state from a bankrupt entity, the Internal Improvement Fund? (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hamilton_Disston)
The more I read and think about it, I think what Bob meant was that almost of all the swamp lands sold to Disston and then others were marketed for people to purchase and farm….basically creating a giant Everglades agricultural area…but it wasn’t always so easy….
When I was trying to figure all this out, I went back to a map I had seen before, reread a chapter in my mother’s Jensen and Eden book, and contacted my brother, Todd, to help me answer a question.
“Todd, why isn’t St Lucie Gardens in pink on the Disston map? …And wasn’t this area supposed to be farmland?”
St Lucie Gardens was a huge subdivision in the region of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon including the savannas filed in 1911 by the Franklin Land Company of Jacksonville. According to my mother’s book, “the land was advertised as far away a Kansas and a few families bought land and tried to make a living farming. However land that had been pine flat woods continued to have cycles of flooding a drought and was impossible to farm profitably. The families that came to farm in St Lucie Gardens either gave up or turned to other ways to make a living.”
Todd and I never found our why those lands of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon were not included on the 1881 Disston lands map, and the people who created it are not around to ask, but Todd did create the awesome visuals at the beginning of this post and he did find the deed of the purchase of the lands in our region. To have this document is an incredible part of our history.
And the EAA? With all the water problems we have today, I am glad it does not include everything in pink and green on the map and that something remains of our Savannas along the Indian River Lagoon.
An interesting email from Todd; Thank you Todd for all the research!
It was fun to go through some of the stuff on my computer tonight. I just downloaded this publication “Disston Lands of Florida”, published 1885. I attached the intro page.
Disston had the pick of ALL the public lands owned by the state. It took three years to make the selection. Perhaps the pink area had been picked as of the date of the map and St. Lucie Gardens had not yet been picked?
Or maybe the St. Lucie Gardens land is not shown in pink on the map because Disston directed that the St. Lucie Gardens property be deeded directly from TIIF to Sir Edward James Reed. The Florida Land and Improvement Company never took title.
The TIIF deed that we pulled up for Sir Edward James Reed (attached) is dated 6/1/1881. In includes a little more land (21,577 Acres) than ended up in St. Lucie Gardens (e.g. Section 1, of T36S R40E is not part of St. Lucie Gardens but is included in the deed.)
This past Friday, I attended a Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council meeting and was treated to a wonderful presentation entitled: “A Brief History of Florida Water Management 1800-2000 Ponce to CERP.” The talk was given by Mr Bob Ulevich, president of Polymath Consulting Services, L.L.C. ” (http://polymathconsultingservices.com). Bob” is a beloved man who has a long history himself as senior water resources project manager for the South Florida Water Management District. Bob is considered the “father of water farming.”
His presentation left me speechless, once again being reminded of the history of agriculture in the state of Florida and its deep intertwinement with the state’s government and politicians….basically they are one in the same. This is how it is….St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon and every inch of the rest of the state. “We” may not like this, but we must accept this…
With rumor that Adam Putnam, the Commissioner of Agriculture, could be our next governor, it is critical to refresh our memory on this historic relationship. Today I will share a book a from my historian mother’s shelf and also post the raw iPhone footage of Bob speaking before the council. It is my belief that we have got to learn to understand this historic relationship along with the power agriculture yields and “work with it,” in our quest for better water quality. They too are “naturalist” at heart….they are. Some of them in our South Floirda region have just “morphed,” and need some help getting back to their roots. 🙂 They hold the key to Florida’s water future.
The first page of the booklet talks about “getting back to nature” as farming is deeply intertwined with nature. Unfortunately today many of the intense practices of farming destroy nature and our water resources.
This is an another excerpt from the book:
….the independent countryman’s life must appeal, for he is a free man, master of himself, is conversant with nature in its many moods, enjoys the first fruits of the earth with the gleam still on them, and all its first impulses and pleasures….”
“No wonder, then, the cry of today is, “Back to the back and nature.” And back we must and will go, for this threatening catastrophe is too appalling to be passed by unchallenged.”
The catastrophe Mr Waldin is speaking of is that so many people were leaving America’s lands to go to the cities, that the “vitality of our nation was being drained proportionately…” Mr Waldin feared the lands would be empty and all would move to the cities…..It basically has happened, hasn’t it!
Below are the links to Mr Ulevich’s presentation, his presentation does not encompass the little book. I added that. Bob speaks on “A Brief History of Water Management 1800-2000 and although my “Jacqui home videos” are poor quality, you can hear the message. I had to break the videos up into 15 minutes sections as my You Tube account is not set to post anything over 15 minutes…Bob’s presentation is excellent. For those of you who have time to listen, you will enjoy it very much and learn a ton! Bob will finish his presentation next month covering approximately from 1910 to today.——– And that’s where we get to hear “the rest of the story….” 🙂
I love animals whether they walk, fly, hop, slither, swim, run, or trot…
As a young person growing up along the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, one of my very finest memories is riding horses along the beaches of Hutchinson Island. My friend Michelle White whose father still lives on McArthur Boulevard, had horses at their ranch in Palm City and would often bring them to —keeping them under the shade at the “beach house.” Michelle and I would get up at the crack of dawn and ride these horses bareback along the beach. It was wondrous. Obviously, the laws were not as restrictive then. We even got our picture in the Stuart News!
Today, I will share a story sent to me by blog reader Stan Field, A.K.A. Anthony Stevens who is a professional writer who lives in Rio and friend of my family.
When he sent me this excerpt about the beach horses of WWII, I wrote back: “I do hope none of the horses were hurt jumping off the Jensen Beach Bridge.” He assured me all were fine. Here is his amazing story:
Horse Patrols on Hutchinson Island “Early in the war, it was decided that they needed to maintain regular patrols of the Atlantic beaches. Someone in Washington thought that horse patrols would be a good idea.
“In September 1942, horses were authorized for use by the beach patrol. The mounted portion of the patrol soon became the largest segment of the patrol. For example, one year after orders were given to use horses, there were 3,222 of the animals assigned to the Coast Guard. All came from the Army. The Army Remount Service provided all the riding gear required, while the Coast Guard provided the uniforms for the riders. A call went out for personnel and a mixed bag of people responded. Polo players, cowboys, former sheriffs, horse trainers, Army Reserve cavalrymen, jockeys, farm boys, rodeo riders and stunt men applied. Much of the mounted training took place at Elkins Park Training Station and Hilton Head, the sites of the dog training schools.” – US Coast Guard One of these horse patrols groups was stationed on Hutchinson Island. What is not generally mentioned is one of those horrible snafus that always happen during wartime. Well, they arranged for a large herd of horses to be delivered by the Florida East Coast Railroad and a corral and stables was built on Hutchinson Island, near the old wooden bridge in Jensen. Seaman from the Coast Guard base in Fort Pierce would be stationed there and at the House of Refuge and they would patrol the entire island. Now since there were no roads on the island from Jensen north, this seemed like a great idea. The soft sand was murder on jeeps and mounted riders would be able to cut around swampy areas and investigate in the woods, if needed. They asked for volunteers for the first herd and there was only one real cowboy in the base. There were only a few more who had pleasure riding experience. Well, everyone was pretty excited when the big day came and several railroad cars were delivered to the siding just north of Jensen Beach Blvd. A temporary corral had been built there to hold them for inventory and basic tack was in the back of trucks, ready to mount the animals and ride them over to their permanent duty station, on the island. There was an immediate problem when they opened the doors, however. In its infinite wisdom, the Government had decided that purchasing trained horses was too expensive. And since a lot of wild horses lived for free on Government land out west, they just rounded up a herd of wild ones, packed them onto cattle cars and shipped them to Jensen. Not one of them had ever been in close contact with a man before… much less a saddle. Riding them to the island was out of the question. So the one loan cowpoke arranged a ‘drive’ and the entire community was drafted into helping with the operation. Well, things seemed to be going pretty well, until they got to the old wooden bridge that led to the island. This was more than a mile and a quarter long, two narrow lanes wide and the decking has ½” gaps between each plank. The horses did NOT want to cross it! About half of them were driven over by the shoving, shouting crowds behind. The other half jumped the sides of the bridge and the banks of the Indian River and swam for freedom. Most of the next couple of days was spent with the Pitchfords and other boat owners chasing them around the river and running them down on land. Eventually they all made it to the island and the serious breaking and training started. The one loan cowhand and the base officers appealed to the locals for help once more and older cowhands, both male and female, volunteered to teach the Coast Guard people how to break and train the wild herd.
There is not a lot of information available on the mounted patrols of World War II. They did setup training facilities in Hilton Head, SC.” —-written by Anthony Stevens, in a letter to JTL August, 2015
Wow. Can you imagine all those poor horses jumping off the bridge into the Indian River Lagoon? Crazy! And wild ones at that. Wonder what happened to them all after the war?
Well today horses are allowed on the beaches in St Lucie County and horseback riding is a very popular and extremely well rated experience. When my husband Ed flys the cub looking for pollution plumes in the Indian River Lagoon and area inlets, he often sees horseback riders from his plane. There is some romance left in the world…
—–Right here along the Indian River Lagoon…I wonder if any of those horses’ ancestors patrolled the beach? If only a horse could talk!
Today’s blog was inspired by a question on Facebook by beloved Stuart News reporter, Mr Ed Killer.
Yesterday in my blog post, I wrote that I would be going to Apalachicola this week with the UF Natural Resources Leadership Institute. “Ed” commented and this is what he said:
“Tcpalm Ekiller: I want you to think of something while in Apalachicola Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch : That industry is about a $2 mill /yr industry statewide, with most of that impact in that area. While it stinks for the oyster men that lack of water is a problem, we haven’t been allowed to eat an oyster from our estuary since the 1970s because the DEP downgraded the health of our water to class D. We have (FOS & a few other groups) have added more than $2 million in oyster shell projects to the St. Lucie River to help clean our water knowing we can never harvest the oysters.” Ed Killer
This got me thinking, and I thought, “Yeah, what really did happen to our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon oysters and what is their history? In fact, if I think about it, we are surrounded by mounds of ancient oysters, “Indian mounds” that attest to how plentiful they used to be…
Did you know?
Mt Elizabeth, better known today as “Tuckahoe,” at Indian Riverside Park, is said to stands around 40 feet tall. It is a shell mound built up over thousands of years. It consists of oyster shells and some clam shells that come from the Indian River Lagoon region. You can still see the ancient oysters in the dirt under the modern landscaping today.
The native people of our area did not have to hunt game full-time or at all as they had all they needed from the riches of the estuary. In those days the natural inlets opened and closed on their own as they broke through “Hutchinson Island.” Oysters would have been more plentiful when the inlets broke through as they live in brackish waters.
*Note that the first 1882 chart describes Mt. Elizabeth (Tuckahoe) as located at what is now the top of Skyline Drive (Mt Washington) at the location of Jensen Beach Community Church. The 1883 (lettered 1888) map locates Mt. Elizabeth at what is now Indian Riverside Park at the Tuckahoe Mansion. This can be confusing.
Front page of Todd’s video showing a historic view of seeing Mt Elizabeth from the Shoal off shore in the ocean. Some early sailors mixed up Mt Elizabeth (Tuckahoe with Mt Washington (Sky Line Drive).
So what about after the Native Americans? I remember my mother telling me stories of pioneer accounts, after the St Lucie Inlet was opened permanently in 1892, of people eating oysters “as big as a man’s hand.” One a meal in itself!
Obviously the oysters would grow most plentiful by the inlets, like near Sewall’s Point and today’s Hutchinson Island.
So yesterday I wrote my historian mother, “Mom, do you have any information on oysters in IRL?
And she sent a fabulous historic survey, an old post card from Sewall’s Point, and account from the House of Refuge. Basically at that time too, a lot depended upon the inlets. I am including a lot of information, and more than likely “just a read for the history hardcore,” but you’ll get the idea.
But then the decline….
—it began in the 1920s with C-44 and the connection to Lake Okeechobee and then was exacerbated by C-23, C-24 and C-25. “Canals of Death…”We over drained the land, we built houses and scraped the wetlands for agriculture fields….we threw poison and fertilizer on the lands so things would grow and pests would go away…slowly, ever so slowly it drained back into the rivers….For a time, we “flourished,” but it has caught up to us, and our rivers are dying, as Ed Killer said in we’ve been “downgraded to a Class D.” Oysters can’t live in that…
May we bind together and turn things around because no one is going to do it but us. Nature, just like people can heal. We just have to give her a chance.
I. An 1898 excerpt from a magazine of the day about oyster stew made right at the house of Refuge...shared by Sandra Thurlow.
by John Danforth
Excerpted from “Florida Sport” an article in Shooting and Fishing
December 15, 1898
I have decided on one which happened in 1898 in Dade County, Florida. My wife and myself, in company with Ben Crafts, were living on board a twenty-five foot cabin sloop, which had all the conveniences of a shore camp. We cruised on the Indian River, but most of the time we spent on the St. Lucie River and its tributaries.
Our sloop was built by the Bessey brothers especially for cruising the in Florida waters. The Bessey brothers are educated gentlemen, who have modeled and built nearly all the sailing craft owned by the Gilbert’s Bar Yacht Club, and in our sloop they seemed to get as near perfection as one could ask. We had plenty of room for cooking, eating, sleeping and to carry fresh water, provisions, and tackle of all kinds. We had an outfit, so we could leave the sloop anchored, with the cabin locked, and go for a cruise in the woods for days. My object in securing such a boat was not for catching and killing all we could find, but to better support myself and family by becoming a guide for gentlemen who visit Florida for sport.
At the time of which I write the Caribou (our sloop) lay at anchor about a half mile off the mouth of Hup-pee creek in the full moon of June. I had planned to be on the ocean beach at night to welcome the big turtles which come there to deposit their eggs in the sand where they hatch. When their work is done they disappear and are not seen again until the next year at about the same time. From where we lay at anchor to the U. S. Government house of refuge was eight miles across the Indian River. At the house of refuge it was only a stone’s throw from the Indian River to the Atlantic Ocean. The wide sand beach extended north and south as far as the eye could reach was a good place for turtles to come.
We hoisted the mainsail, then the anchor, and as the Caribou moved out Ben set the jib. With the stiff breeze that was blowing we were soon bowling along at lively speed, and it was only a short time when I called Ben to let go the jib. We hove to just off the house of refuge, took in the mainsail, let go the anchor, and soon had things snug for the night. Ben shelled oysters, my wife lighted the gasoline stove, and in a short time we had an oyster stew that was what Ben called “real filling.”
II. 1883 Historic survey as shared by Sandra Thurlow, compliments of surveyor Chappy Young.
S. Coast and Geodetic Survey
E. Hilgard, Superintendent
Topographical Sheet No. 1652
Locality: South End of Indian River
1883 Chief of Party:
S. Coast and Geodetic Survey Office
Washington, Feb. 7th, 1883
Plane Table Sheet No. 1652 Scale 1/20,000
East Coast of Florida Indian River
From Eden Post Office or Richards Southward to Pecks Lake, and including St. Lucie River
Surveyed by E. L. Taney Aid USC&GS in 1882-83, B. A. Colonna Asst. C&GS. Chief of Party
S. Coast and Geodetic Survey
E. Hilgard, Superintendent
On the west Shore of Indian River the ground rises eighty feet above the level of the ordinary height of water in Indian River the higher ridges give quite a pretty land fall when seen four or five miles off shore quite overtopping the land and forest between Indian River and the ocean. On the east shore of Indian River and between it and the ocean the mangrove swamp is about on a level with the water in the River at ordinary stages and near the beach is from 3 to 15 feet above ocean high tide. I had a signal scaffold 45 feet high on top of a hill 82 feet high on the West Side of Indian River (Blue Hill?) from this scaffold I had a fine view of the county to the westward which consisted of numerous parallel ridge of sand with intervening saw-grass ponds the major axis of all of which extended in a northerly & southerly direction. Cattle-men that I met at the St. Lucie P. O. informed me that it was a succession of these ridges back to Okeechobee and that the old government wagon road which ran north and south and was back about 4 to 12 miles from the river was still passable and ran for the most of the distance along such ridges. Nearly all of this country rest on a foundation of marine conglomerate called Cochina [coquina] which is at various depths but occasionally crops out rising from 3 to 5 feet above mean ocean tides. This cochina differs very much in structure from that of Beaufort N. C. and other places north of here, large shells are seldom found in it and some of it presents the appearance of course white or yellow sand stone. When burned it makes a fairly good shell lime and when wet can be readily cut into building blocks with an axe. The sand of which the soil is almost exclusively formed is white or yellowish, it underlies all of the streams, saw-grass ponds, mangrove swamps & two or three feet generally bringings (?) the white sand even in mangrove and other swamps. It is impracticable to dike any of the low grounds because the water on a rise would come in from the bottom. — Whenever pine is indicated there will be found a growth of underbrush of various kinds and ranging in height from 1 to 10 feet. The pine timber itself is of little or no value being of stunted growth and the underbrush is scrub oak, whorttlebun (?), low saw-palmetto etc. etc. Where hard wood is depicted, except the mangrove swamps, the land is always best for cultivation, such hard wood land is called “Hammock-land by the natives and seems to owe its fertility to the fact that cochina lies near the surface and like an impermeable clay holds those chemicals that are gathered from the decaying vegetation, among the trees growing in these hammocks are those locally known as Palmettos, Mastics, Rubber trees, Live Oaks, Iron wood trees, the Crabwood trees and a great variety of others. There are various course grasses growing along the Ocean shore, and several varieties of running cactus, prickly pear in se and mixed in every when, a decided feature on the level sand wastes and elsewhere along the ocean side and occasionally west of the Indian River is the Scrub palmetto, a species of palm that although it has a trunk from 4 to 8 inches in diameter and from 3 to 20 feet in length runs along the ground like a vine and among them progress is very difficult for their trunks cross each other in mast confusion and their leaves are just about 5 feet high and have sharp edges. On the west side of the river among the pines and in the lands along the edges of the saw grass ponds there was nice tender grasses on which deer feed, and I never ate more delicious venison than here. The Indians of whom there are 3 or 400 back in the Glades, remnants of the Seminoles, always burn off the underbrush as much as they can about January or February. The saw grass ponds to which I have alluded are of fresh water generally very shallow and cut up by narrow sloughs or streams, these streams are seldom over 4 feet deep and have hard sandy bottoms on which various water grasses grow. The sawgrass itself has generally in the dry season only 3 or 4 inches of water about its roots but in the wet season the water rises 2 or three feet, the blades of this grass are from 3 to 10 feet long, about an inch wide and their edges are serrated, touch and very sharp. They rapidly cut out the clothing. If there is any hotter place than one of these saw grass ponds when the sun shines down and the myriads of mosquitoes swarm in our face stinging by tens and twenties, I hope it is not on top of the earth. Wherever these saw grass ponds run parallel to the River and within a mile or so of it excellent water can be had had by setting a flour barrel at the river side along the foot of the bluff. But on the east side of Indian River and between it and the Ocean good water is unknown for when fresh it is so strongly impregnated with lime that it is far from wholesome. —The mangroves grow to a greater height here than elsewhere within my experience. The natives divide it into two varieties, the Black and the red. I had the black mangrove cut down from one of the lines of sight that measured 85 feet from roots to top. When season[ed] the mangrove wood looks much like mahogany and is very hard, it takes a high polish. When burned the ashes are very strong in potash, a fact that may prove of value some of these days because the trees are so assessable. The old Gilbert’s Bar entrance, now closed, is shown on this sheet. Whenever the salt and fresh waters meet the mangrove flourishes and such has been the case at Gilbert’s Bar. Once fine oysters grew there and all kinds of fish belonging in these waters were abundant but since the inlet closed the oysters have died and the fish are gone except a few bass and catfish. Just outside however and along the old Gilbert’s Bar (Cochina Reef) there are lots of them Barracuda, Pompano, Bluefish, Cavallies, Green Turtle, Mullet, Sea Bass and a beautiful fish much resembling our Spanish mackerel but having more beautiful colors and very game. Trolling them I have seen them take the hook and bound 5 to 10 feet clear of the water. I had thought the blue-fish game and the taking of it fine sport but one of these beauties far exceeds any thing I ever saw for punk rapidity of motion and beauty of form and color. From October to April the climate is delightful and Indian River is the boatman’s paradise, from May to Sept. the heat although seldom above 85˚ and the mosquitoes and other insets are very troublesome. In all of the waters represented on this sheet eelgrass grows luxuriantly and it is the favorite food and principal feeding ground of the manatee. I have seen a heard of ten feeding in the St. Lucie at one time, they go to bottom, eat, rise, blow the water in a spray from their nostrils and in a few seconds they sink again. Like other grazing animals they feed early in the morning and late after-noon principally. They are very careful of their young and I never saw one turn to flee until the calf was well started. There are a great number of Coots in these waters in the fall & winter and a few ducks. In the woods there are quail, or partridge, and wild turkeys. Very many small birds of various colors migrate from these shores to the Bahama Ids., every winter returning about the first of May. The country in 1880 had but one settlement, it now has several and the tide of immigration seems to be setting towards it. Settlers have located up the St. Lucie near the forks and they are prospecting in every direction. The influences of ocean tides are not felt within the limits of this sheet in the Indian River. During rainy season the water rises one or two feet higher than in the dry season and at all times the prevailing wind exercises great influence— A Northern making high water, a South Easter or S. Wester— making low water. The mean rise and fall of the ocean tide is about 1.8 foot and the prevailing current along the coast is to the Southward. The edge of the Gulf Stream is only 2 or 3 miles off shore and an easterly wind throws it much nearer in-shore the prevailing Southerly current is supposed to be the eddy from the Gulf Stream. The limit of this sheet marks what is probably the northern limit of the successful growth of the Cooco Nut Palm, Oranges, Pineapple, Bananas and sugar cane flourish. The tomato and other vegetables ripen in April, Sweet Potatoes grow the year round and I have eaten from one which I was informed was of two years growth. There was not a horse, an ox, a mule within the limits of this sheet, broken to harness in 1882-3.
House of Refuge No. 2 was the best dwelling within the limits of the sheet and Doctor Baker; was the only place that look[ed] like a home. The Rattle Snake and the largest I have ever seen being from 6 to 7 feet long but they are not very numerous, Alligators are no longer numerous and they have learned to be very shy. Raccoons and opossums are so thick that it is difficult to raise domestic fowls. The wild cats from about 4 ft. 6 ins. from tip to tip when extended, Black Bears come to the beach every year from about the 1st of June and comb it for turtle eggs. When they arrive they are nice and fat and are very good eating but after running (?) up and down the beach so much they get very thin. We were told that a bear could be seen almost any night and once we went over and got one but the mosquitoes were so bad that we did not try it again.
The prettiest land on this sheet is the peninsula laying between the St. Lucie River and the Indian River from Mt. Pleasant South to the point. It is high hammock land, with coquina, foundation and covered by a heavy growth of hard wood and underbrush with now and then a pine. This country had quite a population in it once, just before the Seminole outbreak, and for a time after it, the settlers had oranges, lemons and limes, some of the old trees are still to be found in the vicinity of Eden P. O. and the limes are very fine but the oranges are bitter and the lemons not bearing.
Asst. U. S. G & C. S.
Chief of Party
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….
“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!”
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…..
I recently heard a great story from Doug Bournique who is executive vice-president of the Indian River Citrus League (http://ircitrus.wpengine.com). He told me he accidentally stepped on a sawfish! Doug is very vocal about “leaving a legacy” for the Indian River Lagoon. He advocates at government meetings for the reconnection of the waters of the North Fork of the St Lucie River and the St Johns River, as well as “water farming.” He grew up along our Treasure Coast and loves fishing, especially in the area of Sewall’s Point.
Doug was excited to see a sawfish and I was excited to hear about it. Seeing an endangered sawfish is a “good sign” for the river.
I have written about sawfish before, and recently I came across the photo at the top of this post in my mother’s book “Stuart on the St Lucie.” This time, with Doug’s story in mind, I looked at the photo a little differently.
It is a curious photo, isn’t it?
The “boys” all dressed up in coats and ties, the younger one on the far right, hand on hip, gazing to the horizon like a Norman Rockwell painting….The gigantic, contoured, muscular, sawfish hanging from a hook like a piece of meat in a butcher shop….in 1916 a common nuisance perhaps. Today an endangered species…
The photo says a lot about people, about Florida’s history, about humankind, about culture, about sportsmanship, and also about how times and perceptions change…
All sawfishes are now critically endangered. Scientists say they don’t reach sexual maturity until maybe 12 or 14 years old. Their reproduction number increase is very slow like many sharks to which they are related. The are nocturnal. They are remarkable and ancient. They are awesome. They have been overfished.
What if we could find a way to use the sawfish to protect the Indian River Lagoon? What if we could use it as an “endangered species”? This may be difficult as they adapt and can live in both salty and fresh water…
“Single species management” is taking a beating lately as we know. The Cape Sea Side Sparrow, the Everglades Snail Kite, the Florida Panther….Many say when you manage an ecosystem, especially water, for a single species, it is at the expense of all the other animals in the eco-system. Of course the animal we are always most concerned about is really ourselves. It’s hard to give anything up when you at the top of the food chain….
But that is why being human is so different from being a dinosaur. We can think. We can reason. We can dream. If we want to, we can save the sawfish and the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon..let’s pick up our sword and win!
Sometimes you just need to take a break! I will be “blog-breaking” to spend time with my husband; I will return 7-15-15.
In review, before I stop blogging, thus far 2015 has not been a particularly rewarding year for river advocates— mostly because of the state legislature’s tumultuous session, their interpretation of Amendment 1, and their refusal to consider the purchase of the US Sugar’s option lands in the Everglades Agricultural Area.
To top it off, the ACOE began releasing from Lake Okeechobee into the St Lucie River very early this year, starting January 16th and continuing until just recently–the end of May. There may be more coming this rainy season….
The ACOE and the SFWMD decided to “dump” because the lake was “too high” to be safe for the Herbert Hoover’s Dike and its surrounding farms and communities. This is “understandable,” but at great expense to our SLR/IRL economy and ecosystem.
Ironically, ample water supply is now a concern for “users,” such as agriculture, with Lake Okeechobee down to 12.20 feet and rapidly evaporating….((http://w3.saj.usace.army.mil/h2o/currentLL.shtml))You may have heard that Miami is already in a drought…on top of this, the Caloosahatchee needs some lake water right now to keep its salinities from going too high but they are not getting it…
It always seems more likely that South Florida will have a hurricane, and that Lake O could fill up quickly with 3-4 feet in one week, too much to dump fast, so the agencies prefer the lake lower during summer’s rainy season… There is that chance though—that it won’t rain, and dry conditions will parch our state as occurred in 2006/2007.
Wouldn’t that be something? After all that water being released? South Florida going into a drought? The farm fields dying? The ecosystem and its animals in danger? And people not having enough water?
It may seem an odd thought, but it is one that is not the “stuff of science fiction”— that one day, in the future, after an extended drought or a climatic shift, people could be fighting over the billions of gallons of fresh water that is wasted to the Atlantic Ocean through the C-44 basin, the St Lucie River, and Caloosahatchee during storm events…
We need to prepare for this. We must not give up our advocacy. We must keep more of this precious water on the land and going south for the Everglades.
On a positive-personal note regarding the year thus far….
You may have noticed—-
I am enjoying collaborating with my family. To have my mother’s history and most recently my brother’s “flying time capsule maps” to share is very rewarding. I have linked some of Todd time capsule flights below. They have been very popular!
Todd is six years younger than me as you can see from the photo above. My sister, Jenny, is four years younger. Growing up, Todd and Jenny were more together, and I was kind of “old.” I was out of Martin County High School where as they attended during the same time. Now, the years seems fewer in between…. 🙂
In closing, thank you very much for reading my blog; I wish you a good couple of weeks enjoying the Indian River Region, and I’ll see you soon!
Above: Google Earth/Historic Maps Overlay Flights shared on my blog, created by my brother Todd Thurlow, (http://thurlowpa.com) These flights using Topo and other historic maps combined with today’s Google Earth images flashing between “yesterday and today” give tremendous insight into the water and land changes due to drainage for agriculture and development that have occurred in our region. JTL
In case you are interested to view, I realized my previous post sent out small versions of the 1885 wood cut map of the St Lucie River. These images below are larger if you wish to click to view. Have a good weekend.—Jacqui
Homer Hine Stuart, Jr. for whom Stuart is named, had a little wood cut map that was about 4 by 2 1/2 inches and looked like one of those address stamps we use today made. Maps made from the wood cut were used to show his the location of his property and his bungalow “Gator’s Nest” to his family in New York and Michigan. This image was made from a photograph of the wood cut. It is printed is reverse so the writing, etc., isn’t backward. You can see that there was 20 feet of water depth between the peninsulas that would later be connected by bridges. The date of the map would be around 1885.” –Sandra Henderson Thurlow