Tag Archives: Tom thurlow

Stuart, Florida: From Izaak Walton to River Warriors, SLR/IRL

By Ernest Lyons, 1957 Stuart Chamber of Commerce Fishing Guide, courtesy of historian Sandra Henderson Thurlow

I continue to share now historic advertisements of Florida. Today’s is from my hometown of Stuart, Florida. My mother, historian Sandra Henderson Thurlow, has a trove of these things, and they are interesting to view ~thinking about how much our area has changed.

This 1957 Chamber of Commerce Fishing Guide advertisement, written by Ernest Lyons is entitled: “In the Tradition of Isaac Walton.” So let’s start there: Who was Isaak Walton? !

I had to refresh my memory as well, so don’t feel bad if you did not remember. He is famous for writing  the Complete Angler in 1653,  a book “celebrating the joys of fishing” that inspired thousands of sportsmen, and remains a classic for both men and women today.

Mr Lyons, who was the editor of the Stuart News and an award-winning environmentalist of his era, begins his composition:

“Stuart, Florida means sports fishing in the tradition of Izaak Walton,” and then proceeds to talk about good living, home building, and retirement in a community where the “best things in life are free.”

Fun for me to see, in the collage below, my Aunt Mary Thurlow Hudson is photographed far right playing tennis, and my father, her brother, Tom Thurlow Jr., #7, is shown making a basket for Stuart High School baseball team. Awesome! Those were the days!

My Aunt Mary Thurlow Hudson is photographed far right playing tennis and my father Tom Thurlow making a basket for Stuart High. “Those were the days!’

But we know that nothing is really for free. Stuart, and Florida at large have paid a price for moving so many people here since 1957, and trying to “feed the world” from our rich agriculture fields.

Sixty-one years have passed since 1957. I am now over three times the age of my father and my Aunt Mary pictured here…

Our youth can still golf, play tennis, ride a stallion at a rodeo, play baseball, and football, but water-skiing and fishing? Maybe not.

Before recreating, we must first ask :”Is there cyanobacteria in the water?”

Or God forbid, before going to the beach:  “Is there red-tide?”

The local Chambers of Commerce have not written a fishing guide for years. But if they did the topic sentence would not be, Stuart, Florida means sport fishing in the tradition of Izaak Walton, but rather:

“Stuart,  Florida means fighting for your waters in the tradition of a River Warrior…”

My do things change.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Izaak_Walton

https://www.audible.com/pd/The-Compleat-Angler-Audiobook/B0038CCZ2I?source_code=GO1GB907OSH060513&gclid=CjwKCAjw3qDeBRBkEiwAsqeO7iOWzzDQ17u9sRDjb0rNzBSnaeeNAjgIBDEZPHBwe95rMgpxxoivfBoCQE8QAvD_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds

Martin County Chamber of Commerce 2018:https://www.stuartmartinchamber.org

Havana or Bust! Swamp to Sugar Bowl; the Changing Politics of the Everglades, St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

My father's photo of his Senior Trip for Stuart High, 1954. (Photo Tom Thurlow)
School bus reads HAVANA OR BUST! My father’s Stuart High senior trip for Stuart High, went to Cuba in 1954. (Photo Tom Thurlow)
My father's 1954 senior class, Stuart High School, Martin County, Florida. (Photo Tom Thurlow)
My father’s 1954 senior class, Stuart High School, Martin County, Florida. My father is in back row, far right second from end.(Photo Tom Thurlow)
The book Swamp to Sugar Bowl was written in 1968 by Lawrence E. Will. (Borrowed from the library of Sandra Henderson Thurlow, historian.)
The book “Swamp to Sugar Bowl” was written in 1968 by Lawrence E. Will. (Borrowed from the library of Sandra Henderson Thurlow, historian.)

It is good to learn about the history and issues of the Everglades, South Florida, and our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon so that one day, in spite of the difficulties we face today, we will be able to fix our problem in the future…

Perhaps the greatest reason the our former Everglades are now overflowing with sugarcane fields is due to politics between Cuba and the United States. My father graduated from Stuart High School in 1954, and believe it or not, his senior trip was to Havana! Soon after, Castro’s revolutionaries took over Cuba in 1959. And as they say the “rest is history…” as the growing sugar fields blocked the flow of water south to the Everglades, the fate of our precious St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon seemed forever doomed. But it is not, as nothing lasts forever.

This weekend my mother handed me a book entitled “Swamp to Sugar Bowl” by historian, author, businessman, and politician, Lawrence E. Will.  I read the little book with great enjoyment.  Although many things have changed since the book was written in 1968, it provides great insights.

This week I will be sharing some aspects of the books. Today I  will quote a few excerpts from chapter 22, “Florida’s Sugar Bowl.”

“Brother if you’re addicted to using sugar you should come here to these Everglades. Sugar and molasses bring in 110 million to these glades each year, so let’s take a quick look at this sugar bowl. Back in 1922, at Moore Haven, the first feeble attempt was made at producing sugar, but the following year in Canal Point the first successful mill began to operate.

There used to be 33,000 acres of pond apple trees lining the southern rim of Lake Okeechobee. They were cut down to access the rich much soil below them. (Laurence E. Will)
Map showing Canal Point. (Laurence E. Will)

This company was taken over by Southern Sugar Company, now the U.S. Sugar Corporation which ground its first cain in Clewiston in 1929. Although this company owned some 100,000 acres of the best land around the lake, under the US government’s regulation, the state of Florida was permitted to produce only nine-tenths of one percent of this nation’s needs.

However when Fidel Castro took over Cuba, the Everglades reaped the benefit.  For a short time our government permitted the unrestricted planing of sugar cane. Oh brother, you should have seen how cow pastures and vegetable fields were plowed up and planted! Now we have 189,500 acres of sugar cane in the Glades.” –Lawrence E Will, 1968

US Sugar and Florida Crystals map ca 2008.
US Sugar and Florida Crystals map ca. showing ownership of lands, and option to buy lands for state of Florida, 2008.
Stats of Sugar in Florida, 1991, Source Hazen and Sawyer, 1993)
Stats of Sugar average in Florida, 1991, Source Hazen and Sawyer, 1993)

I am not certain how much land U.S. Sugar Corporation owns today, but the Everglades option map from 2008 and IFAS statistics from 1993 show over 450,000 acres combining US Sugar and Florida Crystals.

Sugar has been grown in the glades since the 1920s but it exploded in the glades in the 1960s and became heavily supported by the US government due mostly to political reasons.

Reasons that may be ending soon.

Stuart News front page, 4-11-15.
Stuart News front page, 4-11-15.

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US Sugar Corporation: (http://www.ussugar.com)

History of Cuba: (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Cuba)

A great book on this topic, Raising Cane, by Gail M. Hollender: (http://www.amazon.com/Raising-Cane-Glades-Transformation-Florida/dp/0226349500)

UF IFAS: (http://ifas.ufl.edu)

The Contributions of “The History Lady,” Sandra Henderson Thurlow, St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

Sandra Henderson Thurlow, historian and author has written four books about the pioneer culture along the St Lucie River/IndianRiver Lagoon.(Photo, Tom Thurlow, 2010)
Sandra Henderson Thurlow, historian and author, has written four books about the pioneer culture along the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. (Photo, Tom Thurlow, 2011.)

As the jacket of her Sewall’s Point Book states:

“Sandra Thurlow was a resident of Sewall’s Point for twelve years before she became fascinated by its history. In 1986, the Town of Sewall’s Point commissioners ordered the demolition of  a lovely old home that stood on a bluff overlooking the St Lucie River. Queries revealed that it was once the High Point Rod and Gun Club, a wildness retreat for a coterie of politically powerful Philadelphians. Further research uncovered a wealth of local history that needed to the shared and preserved. ”

As you may already know or have guessed, Sandra is my mother and the house was one the children of Sewall’s Point played in and got into trouble having lots of fun….And yesterday, we as a family honored Sandra’s  75th birthday and today she will be featured in my blog. 🙂

Even though she is my mother, it is my opinion that no one has done more for “Stuart’s” local history and  no one has written more about the pioneer families who made their way along this wilderness, once known as “Santa Lucia” or the “Indian River Region.”

When I came back to visit Sewall’s Point and Stuart after graduating from University of Florida in 1986, I could tell things had really changed at the Thurlow house. My sister Jenny was getting ready to go off to school, I had been gone four years and our bedrooms were being transformed into offices. –Offices  full of shelves and drawers of historic negatives, old maps from my father’s law office, abstracts,  camera equipment, historic photos, taped interviews and the beginnings of what would become personal computers.

“Wow, ” I thought,  “that’s cool, she and dad certainly will not suffer from empty nest syndrome when Todd leaves in another two years….”

As the years went on, she and my father, dove into the history of our area, and the history of our area is the history of the St Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon. A teacher by early profession and native of Gainesville, by 2008, my mother, with the help of my dad, had written and published four books: Sewall’s Point, the History of a Peninsular Community on Florida’s Treasure Coast; Stuart on the St Lucie; Historic Jensen and Eden on Florida’s Indian River; and together with my sister-in-law Deanna, Gilbert’s Bar House of Refuge, Home of History.

Book covers of the local history books written by Sandra Henderson Thurlow.
Book covers of the local history books written by Sandra Henderson Thurlow.

IMG_7423 IMG_7417

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My mother taught me not to brag. But today I am bragging. It’s time. She has inspired and educated not only me but thousands of people. She has given talks, presented slide shows, worked with students in our local high schools, and has won state awards for her work.

I think she has helped make Martin County one of the “best documented histories” of our state. And through it all, whether she is writing about Captain Richards and his daughter Lucy of Eden struggling to grow pineapples in the sandy soil along the Indian River; or the first pioneers of Stuart trading with the Seminoles and calling their new-found paradise, “Stuart on the St Lucie;” or the early fish houses pouring over in Jensen Beach; or the shark fishermen in Salerno; or the lonely House of Refuge Keepers longing for the site of a ship or boat in river or ocean and who sustained themselves from the great riches of its waters; and even the documentation of the great detriment  that came to this place through the false hope of canals and connection to Lake Okeechobee, she writes about the relationship of people to the land and the relationship of people to the water.  The water is our history and we are the water, as that is why we came to this land….

Thank you mom for all of your work and happy birthday! Stuart is 100,  you are 75 and I, your oldest, am 50. Time is flying, and  the water that defines this place is still defining it as we fight to bring it back to health so that future generations can have some stories and write some books too.

75 birthday SHT
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Sandra’s books are available at Stuart Heritage, 161 Flagler Avenue, Stuart, FL 34994 in Downtown Stuart.(http://www.stuartheritagemuseum.com) and through Amazon and Barnes and Nobel.

“Port St Lucie” Originally Planned for “Martin County” Along the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

Port St Lucie
An ad for the town of “Port St Lucie,” by Sewall’s Point Land Company that ran around 1913. It reads: ” Sewall’s Point Land Company is developing the new town of PORT ST LUCIE  in the northeasterly corner of Palm Beach County at the junction of the St Lucie and Indian rivers, directly opposite the St Lucie Inlet.” At the time, this area was Palm Beach County, today it is Martin. (Ad courtesy of Tom Thurlow)

I have often wondered why Port St Lucie is inland. Where’s the port?  Well apparently the name “Port St Lucie,” had been around before the City of Port St Lucie was incorporated in 1961, as originally Port St Lucie was going to be a town that would have been in today’s Martin, not St Lucie County.

The above ad ran around 1913 and was part of Henry Sewall and Hugh Willoughby’s  Sewall’s Point Company’s original development campaign to develop Port Sewall and Golden Gate as the “Great Port of Stuart.” At the time, this area was Palm Beach County but became Martin County in 1925.

Under the ad’s photo it reads: “Looking across one of the Lakes toward the St Luice River and the Inlet.” I imagine the lake was either North or West Lake, still located in today’s Willoughby Creek area. The ad also states that the location of Port St Lucie will be “directly opposite the St Lucie Inlet.” Viewing  a copy of the 1911 Port Sewall promotional map below, one can see exactly where that is located, Old St Lucie Boulevard, Stuart.

port sewall

The advertisement in the long winded style of the day continues:

“The lands west of the railway is laid out in tracts for FARMS and GARDENS. East of the railway are the business lots and large residence lot for the PORT OF ST LUCIE and the WATERFRONT is divied into lots of about two acres each for FINE RESIDENCES and WINTER HOMES. Ten acres are reserved for a PARK and five acres for a large TOURIST HOTEL on the water front. Situated at the junction of the St Lucie and Indian Rivers and St Lucie Inlet with a climate tempered by the soft breezes from the GULF STREAM and every month in the year a GROWING MONTH and FRUITS, FISH, FLOWERS and VEGETABLES in abundance….TENNIS, FISHING, MOTOR BOAT, SAILING RACES, CRUISING INLAND WATERS.

The kicker phrase: PROFIT AND PLEASURE combined in an IDEAL LOCATION…

Well, the land bust and the Great Depression came to Florida in the mid 1920s so the “Town of Port St Lucie” and its great port were never built, but let’s fast forward to 1961 a bit north in St Lucie County, and the “City of Port St Lucie” surely did!

Believe it or not, today Port St Lucie is the 9th largest city in the state of Florida. With their high population they are a bigger political player than Martin County and I am thankful for their commission’s support of strict fertilizer ordinances and pro river issues in this year’s legislative session. Port St Lucie is a key player today and in the the future for the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. The county has also been very supportive!

Back to our history lesson…

Before the 1950s, Port St Lucie was mostly ranch and fishing camp lands as this photo from Bud Adams for the publication Port St Lucie at 50, A City for All People, by Nina Baranski shows.

PSL ranches

The story goes that in the 1950s the wilderness favored by hunters and anglers was discovered by Mike Cowles  whose company published Look Magazine and also had ties to the Ft Pierce Tribune. Cowles was “taken by the beauty of the St Lucie River and the land along its banks” buying eighty-five hundred acres south of Ft Pierce. In 1953 through his “St Lucie River Land Company,” he filed the River Park plat, and began to develop and promote it. (Port St Lucie at 50, A City for All People, Chapter 2.)

Cowles eventually traded  his land holdings for stock in, newcomer to the game, General Development Corporation, (GDC), becoming chairman in 1959. After acquiring more ranch tracks, GDC made plans to incorporate into a city and with “hardly any residents” did so with full support of the legislature in 1961.  And as we know, the rest is history…..

It’s interesting to note that the history of Martin and St Lucie Counties has always been intertwined, and that whether 1913, 1961, or today,  it is the beauty and attraction of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon that on a core level connects us all. Our future long-term  job, together, is to save it.

Southern PSL 1957

This photo is not great quality but allows one to see  how undeveloped St Lucie County was…This photo is courtesy of Sandra Henderson Thurlow, and is on the inside cover of “Port St Lucie at  50.” It is a rare aerial of the southern portion of St Lucie County taken in 1957 before its incorporation and development.

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The book Port St Lucie 50 Years, A City for All People, by Nina Baranski, can be purchased at the Historical Society of St Lucie County (http://www.stluciehistoricalsociety.org)