The Myth of Knollwood Groves – BUSTED!

Knollwood Groves, which was located on Lawrence Road in Boynton for over 75 years, was the last of the old-time Florida attractions in Palm Beach County. I went there often as a child, and was lucky enough later to live adjacent to the groves during its last years of existence. If you never visited the place, it was a true classic Florida-style attraction – a gift shop, free orange samples, an alligator wrestling show, fruit shipping, and a wagon train ride through the groves and hammock.

Knollwood Groves Wagon Ride

Which brings us to the myth. When you took the wagon train ride, the story of the founders of Knollwood Groves was told, that the groves were founded in 1930 by the actors who played the “Amos and Andy” characters on radio, Charles Correll and Freeman Gosden. In the few articles still on the web about Knollwood Groves, there is always reference to the Amos and Andy founding tale.

I wanted to find out more about this tale, as it must have been big news at the time, that the most famous comedy team in the nation was going into the citrus business in Palm Beach County. So  I researched the historic archives of the Palm Beach Post. Nothing about this was ever mentioned, which I found very strange. I then did a general search on farms in Boynton, and came across an interesting article (see below) and the myth began to unravel. The article mentioned that there was a farm in Boynton owned by Kenneth G. Smith, president of the Pepsodent Toothpaste Company (his father Douglas had invented the formula for Pepsodent). Pepsodent sponsored the Amos and Andy radio show, and Smith named his farm the “Amos and Andy farm” in their honor – could this be Knollwood Groves? The article only mentioned that the farm was located in northwest Boynton.

1939 Article from the Palm Beach Post

The only way to answer the question was to search the official records of Palm Beach County.  I started online at the Clerk of Court website, but saw that records online are only available back to 1968. I did learn the legal description of the land, which is the holy grail in a land search – the section, township and range.  Off to the courthouse I went and found the original handwritten registry books where all transactions were recorded. I was actually surprised that I was allowed to handle these original records. Each book weighed about 20 pounds. The original deed to the land was awarded to the Florida East Coast Railway company, so as I had written in an earlier post, this is land that Flagler got for free for building the railroad. The company sold the land to many individuals, and eventually Frederic Foster Carey and his wife Madeliene bought the land. Mr. Carey was a wealthy stock broker and the Careys had a mansion in Palm Beach (“Villa Vinca”).

The sheer number of land transactions recorded  in the 1920s land boom was staggering; the land was sometimes changing hands several times a year. But by 1930, the bust was in full swing. The Careys  formed a corporation in 1930 called Papaya Groves, then changed that to Tranquillity Farms and the land was held in corporate name. A warranty deed sold the property to Smith May 4, 1933, the day before Mr. Carey died (probably some sort of inheritance move).   Smith either sold the farm in 1945 to Knollwood Groves, Inc., or moved the property from his name to the corporate name.  In 1937, sponsorship of the Amos ‘n Andy show moved from Pepsodent to Campbell Soup, so he would have to rename the farm. It is possible that he called it “Knollwood” for the famous golf course north of Chicago, his home town.

Registry Books where land transactions were recorded

I can understand how the story got a little twisted and people thought the Amos and Andy characters founded the groves. As time went by and Knollwood Groves changed hands many times, it was down to about 35 acres. The hurricanes in 2004 were the final blow, as the fruit trees and buildings were badly damaged. The land was sold to DR Horten for a housing development. Sadly, the beautiful hammock was not preserved and was bulldozed to make way for the houses. The development is known simply as Knollwood, and I doubt many of the residents know anything of the long and storied history of the land. The track of land adjacent to Knollwood (where the Lawrence Oaks and Fox Hollow developments are located) was also owned by the Florida East Coast Railway. The first purchaser was M.A. Lyman (the Lymans founded Lantana) and the deed was recorded September 1, 1910, almost exactly 100 years ago to the day! The price paid for almost the entire section – $500. The Lyman corporation sold tracts of land until it was dissolved in 1942.

Doing this kind of land search was actually much easier than I imagined. All you need to do this kind of search on your land is the section/township/range of your property (click here for a map) and a few hours at the Palm Beach County Courthouse, 4th. Floor. The staff there were very helpful. Sometimes the information in the registry books can give you enough information, but if you want the detail, you can note the book/page and type of document, and they can retrieve the original document from microfilm for $1.00 per page.

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4 Responses to The Myth of Knollwood Groves – BUSTED!

  1. Excellent and impressive research. I grew up in Boynton Beach and visited Knollwood Groves many times. In 2004 I was visiting Boynton (I now live most of the time in California) and heard that Knollwood was selling off momentos and such. I bought some interesting items. One was a beautiful large hand carved wooden Seminole mortar and pestle used for crushing grain (the pestle is five feet long). Both now reside in the corner of the den in my Ocean Ridge home.

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  2. Sabrina Olson Carle says:

    What a great article! I first visited Knollwood Groves when we moved to Boynton in 1973, but really came to appreciate it when I had children of my own. We brightened many a day with rides in the wagon through the groves and the hammock, past the boars to the little zoo where Martin Two-Feathers handled the alligators. The ride wound around front to the pond where huge freshwater turtles were lured to us with bread. We finished the adventure with orange samples from the fruit barn and Bernice’s yummy fudge from the gift shop. Maybe we’d pick up a scrumptious apple pie to take home from the stand under the giant ficus. Remember the hand-made signs on the trees out front? One adorns the “Royal Palm” room at my house. Thanks for the memories.

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  3. Ray says:

    Yes. I too have several momentos from the closing of Knollwood. I have several tin signs from the trollies, as well as the “Beware gators” sign that was posted near the canal on the property and also a few more wooden signs, such as “Snack Bar”, etc.
    Knollwood offered a nice diversion for visitors to South Florida. However, suring the trolly rides, Martin Two Feathers used to tell stories of the grove’s history (Ams & Andy) and also of the Seminole Indians. This was ALL pure bunk of course, and also, he was not a Seminole himself (as portrayed), but from Montana or somewhere similar…
    However, if one is ignorant of true history, or if one is a child, the stories at least added local “flavor” to the excursion around the grove.

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  4. TropiGal says:

    After a short time out of state and a move to Broward County, I was saddened when I took an auld lang syne drive down Lawrence Road and discovered the groves were gone.

    Thank you for this wonderful article giving the true history. It’s a shame that the charmingly old must make way for the new — but so it goes.

    Does anyone know what happened to the bakery? Are those fabulous apple pies available anywhere?

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