Tag Archives: The Real McCoy

Our Honest Law-Breaker Common Ancestor, The Real McCoy. SLR/IRL& Glades

1921

 

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Bill McCoy

Glades Road Trip Series: 

Remember phone books?

When looking through old ones you can find clues to Martin County’s historical ties with The Glades. Finding things in common is important as we work to improve relations, communications, and our waters.

My mother, historian, Sandra Henderson Thurlow, came across this ad, when looking in a 1921 Stuart City Directory. She writes: “The McCoy Brothers became rum-runners and owned what is now Sailfish Point. What is interesting to me is that in the 1920s, they were taking passengers and freight across the state through Lake Okeechobee via the West Palm Beach Canal.”

As we are learning from our Road Trip series, the West Palm Beach Canal was built in 1917 and intersects with Lake Okeechobee at Canal Point. What we might not know is that the McCoy’s Hutchinson Island land then known as “Coral Strand” became today’s Sailfish Point.

The brothers knew and loved the St Lucie Inlet area well enough to buy this land and establish their business there. The “Everglades Line” was probably one of many. Perhaps the brothers drank ice tea on their way from Sailfish Point down the Indian River Lagoon to Lake Worth’s entrance to the West Palm Beach Canal and through Lake Okeechobee? Although they were famous rum-runners, the most well-known brother, Bill, did not drink!

His obituary notes:

William Frederick McCoy (1877 – December 30, 1948): Bill McCoy was an American sea-captain and rum runner smuggler during the Prohibition in the United States. In running alcohol from the Bahamas to the Eastern Seaboard, he became world-famous as his merchandise was uncut and clean. Thus the saying the “Real McCoy.” McCoy himself never touched liquor and was considered an “honest law-breaker.” He also took pride in the fact that he never paid organized crime, politicians, or law enforcement for protection.

I think we can consider Bill McCoy a Glades/Martin County honest law-breaker common ancestor. “The Real McCoy” a symbol and foundation for building better relations from the Coast to the Glades?

I don’t know about you, but I can’t  think of a better place to start. 🙂

Map-of-Canals-1924-St-Archives 2
Map of Canals 1924 Florida Archives.
Coral Strand
1950 map by Ben McCoy of the “Coral Strand” and its riches, today known as Sailfish Point.
Sailfish Point Cropped
South Hutchinson Island aerial showing mosquito ditches through mangroves and other vegetation. 1952 courtesy of Thurlow Archives.
IMG_8594 sailfish
Google map showing Hutchinson Island with Sailfish Point south next to St Lucie Inlet. East is Atlantic Ocean and west is the Indian River Lagoon and Sewall’s Point.
Lake O
Lake Okeechobee.

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What A 1920s Road Trip Can Teach Us About #GladesLivesMatter, SLR/IRL

Road Trip Series: 

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Public Photo

Recently, in response to Senate President Joe Negron’s proposal to purchase 60,000 acres of land south of Lake Okeechobee, a movement began called #GladesLivesMatter. This group is concerned for the future of their communities due to the intensifying coastal cry: “Send the water south!”

Tension or misunderstanding between the Glades and the Coastal Communities is not a new theme. As we’ll learn, with creativity and determination it has been overcome before. Maybe we can learn something from the past and try to achieve this too?

In 1917, the year the West Palm Beach Canal was constructed and roads were first available from the coast to the Glades, Palm Beach County Chamber of Commerce president, T.J. Campbell wrote a Post article urging his readers to “take a growing interest in the people who live in rural communities, and make their living from the products of the soil.”

According to Palm Beach County historian James D. Snyder, Campbell’s article was unintentionally patronizing  in that, “it chastised the urbanite for too often viewing the ruralists with feelings not unmixed with contempt or at least a certain pride of superiority.”

Sound familiar?

After some ruffled feathers, deliberation, and discussion it was decided that Campbell was making a point and that both sides needed each other, and both sides misunderstood the other.

So with the new transportation routes a motorcade (road trip) was organized to Belle Glade.  It was a success and the coastal residents were amazed. To show good will, in the months following, the American Legion of the Glades traveled to the coast and marched in the 1921 Palm Beach County parade. They performed a song-poem as the “Muck Rats” and were the hit of the parade!

I’m from old Lake Okeechobee,

Where they raise gators,

Beans and pertaters,

Catfish and termites and Prohibition haters,

Custard apple, moon vine, 

Catfish and moonshine, 

All the time!

Even if the main thing in common was that many of the Coastal and Glades residents were “Prohibition haters,” of which we’ll learn about tomorrow, this effort of goodwill bettered relationships. And in the end, both sides made the effort. Why not take a drive? A road trip? You just might be amazed… 🙂

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Glades Lives Matter, US Sugar: http://www.ussugar.com/news/icymi-glades-lives-matter/

Florida Politics/ Joe Negron: http://floridapolitics.com/archives/218759-joe-negron-says-hell-push-funding-buy-land-south-lake-o