Tag Archives: Treasure Coast

A Child’s Dream -A Hunt for the 1715 Treasure Fleet’s Riches

It started about two years ago when Ed’s young niece and nephew, Capri and Cole, came to visit. On our trawler, Adrift, they found the map “Shipwrecks of Florida and the Eastern Gulf of Mexico.” They stared asking about shipwrecks and treasure and pirates. Ed and I had to study up.

“…The 1715 Treasure Fleet was returning from the New World to Spain. At two in the morning on Wednesday, July 31, 1715, seven days after departing from Havana Cuba, all eleven ships were lost  in a hurricane along the east coast of Florida. Today, we refer to this area as the Treasure Coast.

Every time Ed and I saw Cole and Capri thereafter, they asked again about the pirates, the gold, the ships at the bottom of the sea. So this time when the family came for Thanksgiving I told Ed it was time we lead a treasure hunt and then visit Mel Fisher’s Treasure Museum in Sebastian. We could teach the kids about the famous Treasure Fleet of 1715 featured in the 1965 edition of National Geographic where Kip Wagner and Mel Fisher’s Sebastian, Vero, and Ft. Pierce finds created “treasure fever” all over the world. I ordered an inexpensive treasure chest, false pieces of eight, and colorful costume gems. I visited thrift stores for beads. I thought about how the pieces of silver and gold were stamped in Peru and Mexico and that the Spanish had colonized these areas only steal the riches back to the crown…

Ed’s first job was to crate a treasure map. He drew the figures and I wrote the history and clues. Ed even tore, crinkled, and burned the edges of the paper to make it look old.  WRITTEN ON MAP

History: the most famous shipwreck in the world happened here. The 1715 Treasure Fleet and over 1500 souls perished in and off the reefs from Sebastian to the St Lucie Inlet area. To this day, lie millions of dollars of gold, silver, and bullion for those who can find it.”

Clue #1 Find Where the Sailors took Refuge
Cule #2 Find the Anastasia Rock. Look for the Blow Hole. Turn around and walk fifteen paces. Look for the pirate flag. Start digging for the Pieces of Eight.

Ed’s second job was to go ahead of me and his family and bury the treasure chest at the House of Refuge. Ed did a heck of a job. Such a great job that once the kids found “X-marks the spot,” they dug, and dug, but could not find the treasure!

I was looking at Ed. I was glancing at Ben (Ed’s nephew) and Kelly (Ben’s wife). I couldn’t believe it!

“Ed!!!” I bellowed!

Although it was November, and Thanksgiving time, it was hot and humid.  A fog hung over Hutchinson Island as we drove over the Indian River from Sewall’s Point.

Now we all were getting nervous and Ed and Ben started digging for the treasure box. The kids stood by spellbound. It wasn’t as if they hadn’t given it a good shot.

-Ed and Ben taken over…-Cole tries to help.-Capri holds a map up for Ed to get a clue..“Well the kids moved the pirate flag and the metal bar I put over where I marked the booty.”  Ed whispered, so the kids would not hear. “Just find it! I replied.  “Keep the dream alive!”

Ben and Ed dug. And they dug. And they dug. This went on for at least fifteen minuets or longer. The hole was getting deep and I knew this is a “no-no” due to nesting sea turtles. I kept making Ben and Ed fill the hole back in. I heard a voice and realized the Keeper of the House of Refuge, Michael Philips,  had left his historic post to come outside and see what we were doing. I explained, apologizing. He laughed and was very kind.

Then it dawned on me that we may never find the treasure box. That it would sit and rot here at the historic house of refuge under the sands of time forever. The irony was unbelievable.

Sweaty and tired, Ed looked at me: “You’re going to kill me, aren’t you?”

I laughed and hugged him. “No, it’s actually very funny.”

Right at this moment Ben struck the treasure box. “Thump.” Cole and Capri screamed with joy and resumed their digging. Gold and silver coins were strewn across the sand as the kids fought to hold the bullion.  Success! Certainly a dream kept alive and that is all that matters.

Field Trip post treasure hunt:

-Mel Fishers Treasure Museum, Sebastian, Florida about an hour drive north of Stuart. You can take AIA where all the ships lie off shore! -The museum offer kids a fill in the blank treasure hunt questionnaire and once completed the kids get to choose a small gift from the gift shop. Carpi chose tiny binoculars and Cole chose a pirate ring. They also saw real pieces of eight and how expensive and beautiful the pieces were. This facilitated a lot of historical and present day conversation. -Capri and Cols stand before the 1876 House of Refuge, Hutchinson Island, Martin County. This setting was wonderful for our treasure hunt. Thank you!

-A scholarly article by Rick Crary about the 1715 Treasure Fleet. 

Finally Embracing Being Florida’s “Treasure Coast!” SLR/IRL

Map of "Shipwrecks of Florida" and the most famous lie along Florida's Treasure Coast! (map Stuart Heritage Museum)
Map of “Shipwrecks of Florida” and the most famous lie along Florida’s Treasure Coast! (map Stuart Heritage Museum)
Gold coins found recently off Ft Pierce, as shared for publication by Queens Jewels LLC. (Public photo)
Gold coins found recently off Ft Pierce, as shared for publication by Queens Jewels LLC. (Public photo)

In 2008, when I was first elected to the town commission of Sewall’s Point, I was appointed to be on the Treasure Coast Council of Local Governments, and sister entity, Treasure Coast Regional League of Cities. These wonderful organizations consist of elected officials from Indian River, St Lucie, Martin and Okeechobee Counties–counties on, or connected to, the Indian River Lagoon.

As is my style “as a new member,” I tried to keep my mouth shut until I could figure out the “politics” and the players of the game. But in 2008 the winds of fate would not have such…

One of the first discussions for the “League” was organizing to change the name of our region from “Treasure Coast ” to “Research Coast.” The goal at the time, in the wake of the Great Recession, was to attract research companies to our area, and this name change was believed to facilitate this goal.

As the daughter of a historian, I broke my “keep your mouth shut early member rule” and as  politely as possible relayed that I thought changing the name from Treasure Coast to Research Coast was a  “terrible idea in line with gutting our history and identity, not to mention years of branding…”

"George Valentine" public photo.
“Georges Valentine” public photo.
Georges Valentine wrecked off the House of Refuge in Martin County in 1904. "The earliest settlers used the lumber that washed up on the beach to construct their homes." (Photo courtesy of Agnes Tietig Parlin via historian, Sandra Henderson Thurlow.)
Georges Valentine wrecked off the House of Refuge in Martin County in 1904. “The earliest settlers of our area used the lumber that washed up on the beach to construct their homes.” (Photo courtesy of Agnes Tietig Parlin via historian, Sandra Henderson Thurlow.)

The discussions lasted months and finally the idea to change the name was dropped. Treasure Coast prevailed. Many others held my sentiments; the discussion had been going on for a while before I got there.  It was controversial to say the least. In the end, I  felt we’d “won,” but others felt we’d lost an opportunity.

The recent findings of gold treasure off of Ft Pierce by Queens Jewels LLC as reported by the Brinson family is just what is needed to reinvigorate our “Treasure Coast” identity and tourism is big business!

As we all know, Sebastian, Jupiter, Martin, Vero, and others have a rich history in unearthing treasures from along our shores and not all of it is gold. Lumber, pottery, gems, pearls,—the remaining ship itself and the swimming sea of creatures that have made these wrecks their home is enough for me!

Years ago, I went snorkeling off of the House of Refuge to see the Georges Valentine ship. It was fun and very near shore. You could always see the House of Refuge.  I think I’ll get my husband to take me again to celebrate the findings off of Ft Pierce, and to pay homage to those over one-thousand souls who died in ships bound for Spain during a relentless hurricane 300 years ago this past July weekend.

Maybe you’ll go too? Have you already been? Did you find any gold?

If you want a simple map to get started, Stuart Heritage Museum at 161 SW Flager has a great one and it’s great for kids. Entitled “Shipwrecks of Florida and the Eastern Gulf of Mexico,” it gives a great visual history of all….to see why we are and always will be THE TREASURE COAST!

Map of ship wrecks along Florida's Treasure Coast. (Stuart Heritage.)
Map of ship wrecks along Florida’s Treasure Coast.(Stuart Heritage)
Shipwrecks of Florida....
Shipwrecks of Florida….

Stuart Heritage Museum and info: (http://www.stuartheritagemuseum.com)

Orlando Sentinel Rare Find: (http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/breaking-news/os-florida-family-finds-rare-gold-coin-20150727-story.html)

The Republic: (http://www.therepublic.com/view/story/c4131fbbd61845fba16830be4ed6d850/FL–Treasure-Hunters)

Advertising for Clean Water Along the Indian River Lagoon

An ad running on the west coast of Florida in the area of Lee County, put together with the collaboration of interested parties and local governments, 2014. (Shared by former council lady Marsha Simmons, Bonita Springs.)
An ad running on the west coast of Florida in the area of Lee County, put together with the collaboration of interested parties and local governments, 2014. (Shared by former council lady Marsha Simmons, Bonita Springs.)

Billboards, radio ads, and commercials for clean water. They are already on Florida’s west coast and they may be coming to The Treasure Coast. Lee County and generally the west coast of a Florida have been the leaders in this promotion for educating the public to vote and act out of habit  for “clean water.”

I smiled a few years ago when I saw a Facebook post of a billboard on the west coast of a lady in a bikini standing in a pool of algae water holding it in her hands, the caption read ” Why won’t Florida’s politicians protect our water?”I believe Earth Justice, a law firm for the environment, and the Sierra Club helped fund the ad along with private monies.

Lately local governments themselves are helping create and fund these ads, like the one above for fertilizer. “Don’t Feed the Monster,” teaches the public not  to over fertilize. It was Sanibel and Sarasota on the west coast that started the strong fertilizer ordinances in their cities, somewhere around 2007. It caught on. In 2009 on Florida’s east coast,  the City of Stuart passed the first “state endorsed” fertilizer ordinance and then in 2010 the Town of Sewall’s Point went one step further and passed a “strong fertilizer” ordinance not allowing fertilizing during the rainy season with product containing phosphorus and nitrogen, the nutrients that “feed” algae blooms in our waters. Martin County and others followed and then this strong fertilizer ordinance idea, originally from the west coast, went up the entire treasure coast and beyond. Remarkable!

Will the next move be for Martin, St Lucie and Indian River Counties to have a couple of billboards? Martin County  is promoting the “Be Floridian” program or getting ready to….this fertilizer education program came out of Tampa Bay. Their ad is pink flamingos! At the beginning of every rainy season the city hall puts hundreds if not thousands in front of their building and around the city. These pink flamingos remind the public to “not fertilize during rainy season June-September.” The “Be Floridian” program promotes Florida Friendly yards with less turf grass and less fertilizing. It has been wildly successful and Tampa Bay has recovered 45percent more of their sea grasses than they had after World War II since the programs’ inception which occurred around ten years ago.

These ad programs are working and educating for clean water and putting pressure on politicians and agriculture to get more “on board.”

I think the ads are coming to the St Lucie/Indian River Lagoon Region soon, so if you have any clever ideas please share. But one thing for sure, if I’m involved,  I will not be wearing a bikini! 🙂