What’s in a Name? The Curious Case of Deweese Road

This blog has so many twists and turns it is really difficult to know where to start. While researching how Palm Beach County acquired the land that would become Palm Beach State College, John Prince Park, and Lantana Airport, I found an article that stated the western border of the acquired land was “Deweese Road.” That had me stumped as there is no Deweese Road on a current map. After researching the Palm Beach Post archives, a much more complex story began to unfold. It made me realize once again how much things have changed, the past paved over and forgotten. Deweese Road was a dirt road that went from Second Avenue North to what would become Sixth Avenue South in Lake Worth.

George W. Deweese, his wife May, and daughter Flora came to Lake Worth in 1926 from Poplar Grove, Missouri. Deweese was a jack of all trades, being listed at various times as machinist, builder, farmer, and plasterer. He bought the land and put in the dirt road sometime in the late 1920s and sold lots and tracts. Twelve residences were along the west side of the road, and the area was considered “West Lake Worth.”

As the Depression took hold, Palm Beach County had federal Works Project Administration (WPA) money for road improvements. According to an April 11, 1939 Palm Beach Post article, a new road would be built with WPA funds that would extend the existing Congress Avenue, from Belvedere Road to Lake Worth Road, some four miles.

New Road

New Road to be built

But they needed a bridge for the new road across the West Palm Beach Canal. So they reused a bridge that was being replaced in Boca Raton, rather than demolish it. The Camino Real bridge was being replaced, which spanned the Intracoastal Waterway and was probably made of wood. The same article mentioned the road would be on the west side of “Engle Field” in Lake Worth. Engle Field? Did Lake Worth have an airport? Who was “Engle?”

Engle was Arthur B. “Pop” Engle, born in 1880 in West Virginia. He and wife Emilie had purchased a tract of land in April of 1937 from J.I. Keller to open his own private airport for small planes and flying lessons, mostly using Piper Cub aircraft. Many articles refer to the place as “Engle’s Field” or “Lake Worth Airport.” According to the obituary for Emilie Engle, who died in 1984 at the age of 96, the Engles came to Lake Worth in 1922 and operated an ice plant and managed the LaVerne Apartments.

They were flying enthusiasts, and taught hundreds of new pilots to fly. It became more difficult to operate a private airport during World War II, due to the need for armed security.screen-shot-2016-09-17-at-1-57-42-pm

The 1949 hurricane destroyed what was left of the airport. Finally, the Engles sold the property in 1953 and it is now the Englewood Manor subdivision east of Congress between Second Avenue North and Tenth Avenue north.

Back to Deweese Road. That name stuck until the late 1940s – many references to selling livestock, chickens and other farm goods were found in old classified ads. Even a circus stopped by, held on the present day site of Palm Beach State College in 1951. A 1940 Department of Agriculture photo shows Deweese Road and some of the airfield buildings along Second Avenue. The Deweese family did have many heartaches over the years; their house burned to the ground in 1931, and their 32 year-old daughter Flora died in 1944 of a sudden illness.screen-shot-2016-09-17-at-1-57-09-pm George Deweese also knew sign language as he was asked to be an interpreter in court in a case involving hearing impaired litigants.

In later years, the Deweese Road name was lost to Congress Avenue, as Congress was expanded through the years to stretch all the way to Yamato Road in Boca Raton, through what was then cow pasture and woodlands as it meandered south. Both the Deweeses and the Engles are interred at Lake Worth in Pinecrest Cemetery. Very few, if any, persons living in Lake Worth today would have any memory of these places. But next time you venture down Congress, think of the vast open spaces of what was considered the “country” part of Lake Worth.

1940 Aerial Photograph

1940 Aerial Photograph

When Curiosity Changes your Life

Curiosity has solved many mysteries and helped spin many tales. But how a simple question could evolve into such a story that changed my life and how I view history and time is the subject of this blog posting. I had become interested in land research and how our current landscape came to be. For my city, Boynton Beach, the question was quite simple – where was the Boynton Beach hotel exactly located on the oceanfront? My history

The Boynton Hotel

The Boynton Hotel

readings told me that Major Boynton had built a large hotel on the beach and he had founded the town located to the west. But when I reviewed Palm Beach County Court records, a different story was told. Records did confirm Major Boynton’s hotel and its location on a plat map, but the town site records told a very different story. A different name emerged that was to send my co-author and I on a journey of discovery, inspiration and meaning.

Birdie S. Dewey was that name.  I was intrigued that a woman was selling all the lots in the Boynton town site. The name didn’t ring any bells for me, but it did for my co-author, Janet DeVries. She knew the name. She knew that Birdie S. Dewey was an author. We then embarked on a research effort that eventually resulted in the publication of our book “Pioneering Palm Beach: The Deweys and the South Florida Frontier.”

Our research reconstructed the lives of Byrd Spilman Dewey and her husband Fred S. Dewey from their early days of marriage in Illinois to their adventuresome move to Florida, from newspaper articles, letters, land records, court documents and most

Byrd Spilman Dewey

Byrd Spilman Dewey

important of all, Mrs. Dewey’s writings. Her books provided the insights and clues that unraveled the mystery of their lives and roles they played in Palm Beach County and the founding of Boynton Beach. Being the “true founders” of Boynton is firmly established and supported by the historical record.

But the Dewey’s personal story is much more compelling and had a profound affect on me. Being forgotten to history and time is certainly sad, that our contributions to the community and its development can become covered over by circumstances as they occur.

What we build in our lives –  houses, farms or buildings – completely disappear with development, especially here in South Florida. What stood for decades can be gone in minutes when the bulldozers wipe the land clean of our existence. So the realization of the temporary nature of all of our creations hit home with me. There are but a handful of

1893 Tea Party

1893Tea Party

buildings in West Palm Beach left from when the Deweys lived here – St. Anne’s Church, a few buildings on Clematis, and scattered homes.  All else has been lost to hurricanes, fires and most of all – development and redevelopment. Which means the South Florida we know and recognize today will also not exist in the next century – we too will be demolished and paved over with something bigger, better and more massive.

Our book resurrects those pioneer times; their wildness, adventure and bravery. That time has been paved over, literally, by our high rises and parking lots. The majestic Dewey home, as it stood on Lake Worth, was expanded and reimagined by its subsequent owners, the Baldwins, as a fine home on South Flagler Drive, which had its direct ties to the shores of Lake Worth cut in 1952 when Flagler drive was completed. The house survived until 1971, when the bulldozers sounded its death knell early one morning. In its place, a 19

The Dewey-Baldwin House in the 1950s

The Dewey-Baldwin House in the 1950s

story Rapallo condominium was built, and a parking lot sealed over the footprint where the house once stood.  No one who lives there now even knows the house existed.  And that is cruelest fate of all – to be forgotten. So in some small part, we did our best to make sure the Deweys would not be forgotten again. A book does that. Words are put to paper and become a part of the permanent history, to be read and remembered, to be archived and preserved. Mrs. Dewey’s books played that role in our research, providing the timeless tale that had to be retold.

Palm Beach’s Pioneer Author – Lost for more than a Century

Among all the people, stories and places I have researched over the past few years of this blog, one captivated me more than any other, a story that was hidden beneath a soaring 19 story tower that shadows over an old West Palm Beach neighborhood. Fred S. Dewey and Byrd Spilman Dewey were adventurers in every sense of the word. I discovered them while researching land records for the Town of Boynton, intrigued by the fact that a woman had owned the land that made up the original town core. The land had been bought under the name of “Birdie Dewey” in 1892. As I searched for that name on the Internet, it opened a magical box that had been shut for almost a century, revealing a unique and wonderful story about the beginnings of Palm Beach County.

Byrd Spilman Dewey

Frederick Sidney Dewey and Byrd Spilman Dewey had arrived in Florida in 1881, spent some years in Central Florida attempting an orange grove which failed, and had heard of the “Lake Worth Country,” the frontier to the south that bordered the famed Everglades. The Deweys arrived in 1887 and settled on 76 acres bordering Lake Mangonia where their nearest neighbor was more than a mile away. That neighbor, Reverend Elbridge Gale, was the subject of my last blog for his cultivation of the mango. On their land, the Deweys built a small cottage and started “pioneering.” Mr. Dewey was a bookkeeper and carpenter, while Mrs. Dewey was an author. She sat alone each day, completely isolated, and wrote magazine articles for publications such as Good Housekeeping and the Christian Union. After a time they bought five acres along Lake Worth, and built the famous home “Ben Trovato” which was the cultural and literary center of the west side of Lake Worth before West Palm Beach was even a thought. On the site now stands the 19 story Rapallo Condominium.

After a year and a half of researching and writing, the book Pioneering Palm Beach: The Deweys and the South Florida Frontier  has been published by The History Press. The research took me and co-author Janet DeVries to many locales including Eustis, Jacksonville, Zellwood, Miami and even the National Archives in Washington DC. Along the way we met many wonderful helpful people, which was the most energizing part of the research. Once we started digging for information on the Deweys, it became a treasure hunt where each piece of evidence led to another discovery. The Deweys had no children, so distant relatives were tracked down in Illinois and North Carolina who provided photographs and letters.  Although the Internet is much maligned, it is the greatest information and research tool ever developed. We discovered documents and letters through so many meticulously maintained databases in archives all throughout the United States. As Mrs. Dewey wrote in a fable, “Who seeks finds” and we found many a gem tucked away in old scanned books, magazines and newspapers on the Internet.

I think the thing that has amazed me the most throughout all the research and writing is how this inspiring story remained hidden for so long – how can someone write a best-selling book, as Mrs. Dewey did in Bruno, then be completely forgotten? How could an entire book she wrote about pioneering in Palm Beach County in the 1880s, be lost to historians? It was as if I dug in my own backyard and came across a treasure chest – in this case the chest was filled with Mrs. Dewey’s writings, the Dewey’s history and their role in the cultural emergence of Palm Beach County.

So if you love local history, pick up a copy of the book at Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, or attend one of the upcoming presentations and book signings. Events are listed on my Author Central Page at Amazon.com – click here.

Reading the book will transport you back in time to a Palm Beach County of more than a century ago, to an unspoiled paradise still walked by bear and panthers. All the pioneer’s hardships and perseverance created the place we all call HOME.

The Mango and the Reverend

Mango season is in full swing in South Florida, and the sweet succulent fruit many call the “peach of the tropics” has a long history in Palm Beach County. The fruit, native to the Indian sub-continent, has traveled across the planet and is grown in all tropical and sub-tropical regions. Henry Perrine was the first to attempt to grow mangoes on his immense plantation in what today is southern Dade County. Perrine had brought mango trees from Mexico, but the trees died after the plantation was abandoned in the 1830s. D.G. Watt made another attempt at growing mangoes, this time in Tampa. The trees arrived from India in poor shape; only two survived and were growing nicely, but a freeze soon did them in.

Elbridge Gale

Reverend Elbridge Gale

Enter Reverend Elbridge Gale. Gale was born on Christmas Day, 1824 in Vermont, and became a Baptist minister. He preached in several churches, before settling in Manhattan, Kansas. He preached until 1870, when he was offered the chairmanship of the horticulture department at Kansas State Agricultural College, where he was also chair of the Kansas Horticultural Society. His health beginning to fail, Reverend Gale arrived in the Lake Worth region in 1884 and homesteaded land in what would become the Northwood section of West Palm Beach. Two of Gale’s children came too; George Gale was a leading citizen and daughter Hattie Gale became the area’s first schoolteacher.

The United States Department of Agriculture sent several mango varieties to the region to be grown by local farmers, including Reverend Gale. All the trees died except one – a tree of the Mulgoba variety that Reverend Gale cared for during the many freezes of the 1890s. In the late 1890s, his mango tree was the only one growing in South Florida. The healthy tree and its delicious fruit drew attention throughout South Florida, and farmers up and down the coast took seeds or cuttings from Reverend Gale’s tree. Gale was so enamored with the fruit that he named the area “Mangonia,” which survives today in Lake Mangonia and in Mangonia Park. Mango fever hit, and new residents wanted their own mango trees.

JOhn Beach

John Beach

John Beach, a fertilizer salesman from Melbourne, established his first nursery and began selling trees. When a freeze hit Melbourne, he moved further south to West Palm Beach and started his nursery in 1894 along Dixie Highway. Beach eventually moved his nursery west of Parker Avenue.

In 1902, Captain John J. Haden planted mango seedlings he had obtained from Reverend Gale on his Coconut Grove farm south of Miami. As the trees grew and matured, one tree in particular produced a delicious fruit. The trees were tended by Haden’s wife Florence as Captain Haden had passed away only a year after planting the trees. The Haden mango was an accidental cross between the Mulgoba mango from Gale and a “turpentine” mango, a variety with poor taste and texture, but excellent root stock. The Haden cultivar is still a popular backyard variety, but disease and fungus stopped commercial production many years ago.

John Beach’s Ad in the Tropical Sun, 1898

Many other Palm Beach County growers went into the business, including the Garnett brothers in Hypoluxo, and James Miner in Boynton. Miner planted mangoes on his property where Miner Road is today along US 1, and planted trees further west along Boynton Beach Boulevard.  Several packing houses shipped mangoes all over the country as South Florida was the only source of the tasty fruits.

All of these larger groves have been lost to development, but mangos are still grown in Palm Beach County on a few small farms. The most notable farm is “Hatcher’s Mango Hill” on Hypoluxo Road. Located on the high ridge, this four-acre farm has survived development and remains a family-run farm. John Hatcher developed the cultivar in the 1940s ,and it is most likely a cross between the Haden and Brooks mango. The Hatcher family ships the fruits by mail order all over the nation.

Hatcher’s Mango Hill

The best place to experience the mango is in the Redlands, the area near Homestead that is home to the Fruit and Spice Park and Fairchild Farm (part of Fairchild Gardens in Coconut Grove). This too has a tie to Reverend Gale, as Dr. David Fairchild’s father was president of Kansas Agricultural College, and Fairchild knew Reverend Gale as a boy growing up in Kansas. He visited Reverend Gale in 1898 at his West Palm Beach home. Reverend Gale passed away in 1907 at his daughter’s home in Mangonia. The Industrialist, Kansas Agricultural College’s journal, wrote “In short, his was an active and useful life, and thousands of pioneer Kansans and  former students at College are indebted to the kindly old man, now buried on the beach of his new home state, Florida.”

To celebrate the fruit, Fairchild Gardens is holding its 20th Annual International Mango Festival, July 14 and 15th, 2012 at its Coral Gables location, 10901 Old Cutler Road, Coral Gables, 305-667-1651. Please see the website at www.fairchildgarden.org for a complete event schedule for the two-day festival.

And next time you bite into a juicy, sweet mango, thank Reverend Gale.

Reverend Gale with wife Elizabeth

Señor Major Boynton? Hotel owner had Spanish Roots

With the release of the 1940 census, another chapter of American history can be explored and our ancestors found. All census records from 1850 forward are available through various websites such as Ancestry.com, FamilySearch.org and Fold3.com. Some the censuses are more complete than others; for example much of the 1890 census data was

Major Nathan S. Boynton

lost in a fire. Recently I was helping a friend with some research on her family history, and I thought it might be interesting to see if I could find some more information on Major Nathan S. Boynton, who founded and owned the Boynton Hotel on the beach and for whom the associated town is named.

I first found Major Boynton on the 1860 census, living near Cincinnati, Ohio. He was 23 and listed his profession as “Physician.” I had heard he intended to study medicine after working in the grocery business (“mercantile”) for a few years. As the Civil War broke out, he returned to Michigan and enlisted in the cavalry. He rose in rank to Major, and mustered out in 1865 and relocated to Marine City, Michigan. In the meantime, he  married and several children were born. On the 1870 census, he is listed as being an “editor”, with wife Annie in the household along with children Charles, Annie, George and Frances. He did indeed purchase the local paper and served as editor. I did not find an 1880 census record for the family, and as mentioned, the 1890 census is pretty much gone.

It was the 1900 census that presented some interesting information. Census forms changed over the years; one of the changes was the requirement to list the place of birth of the parents of each of the persons in the census. And in Major Boynton’s line on the census, place of birth for his mother was listed as Spain. I knew that Major Boynton’s wife was from Germany, but I had never heard his mother was born in Spain. A bit of looking found a biography of Major Boynton and it listed his mother as being named Frances Rendt Boynton, daughter of “Old Captain Lewis Rendt.” In looking at Captain Rendt, his actual name was Johann Ludwig Rendt, and he was born in 1773 in Germany. He was a Hessian soldier who was in service of the British army. The British would “lease” entire battalions of Hessian soldiers to join their side in various conflicts; Captain Rendt had fought for the British in the war of 1812 against the United States. As part of his payment, he was granted land in the province of Ontario, very near the Michigan border. He married Joaquina Josephina Sophia Arliano from Cadiz, Spain and together they had eight children, born in Spain, Malta, and Canada. Among them was Frances Margaret Rendt, Major Boynton’s mother. She married Granville F. Boynton in Port Huron, Michigan. Granville died in 1845, and Frances remarried, to a Jonathan Graves. They had two sons together, who were half brothers to Major Boynton.

In today’s terms, that would make Major Boynton “Hispanic,” although such a categorization was unknown at the time. Major Boynton’s father was of English heritage, so Major Boynton certainly illustrates the melting pot of America as people of all lands sought its shores. You just never know what the census may reveal.

Lights! Camera! Action! Palm Beach’s First “Moving Pictures”

A few weeks ago the Academy Awards were held, and I wondered, what was the first movie ever filmed in Palm Beach County? The Palm Beach County Film Commission maintains a list of films shot in Palm Beach County, but it only goes back to the 1960s. Then I got a clue from the book “Loxahatchee Lament”, a collection of pioneer tales from

Dorothy Dalton

the Jupiter area. One of the articles in the book was based on excerpts from a scrapbook kept by Mrs. Frank Shuflin. In the scrapbook she clipped an article about a “moving picture”being filmed in the Jupiter area in 1923 starring Dorothy Dalton, a major star of the silent film era. In the movie being filmed, they needed a tropical swamp for a scene. The article describes how they could not find a suitable location in West Palm Beach, so they headed up to Jupiter for filming. They filmed at the Pennock Plantation and the Lainhart orange grove west of Jupiter.

The article did not mention the title of the film, but did mention the director, Irvin Willat.

Fog Bound Movie Poster

A bit of Internet searching revealed that the film was entitled “Fog Bound.” The AMG movie guide provides the following synposis: “Pretty Dorothy Dalton co-stars with the handsome but not as stellar David Powell in this action-packed Paramountdrama. The wealthy but idle Roger Wainright (Powell) finds himself falling in love with Gale Brenon (Dalton), a modern, independent young lady who manages several Florida orange groves. While Wainright is enjoying himself at a local gambling resort, the place is raided by revenuers and Sheriff Holmes (Jack Richardson) is killed in the ensuing gun fight. Wainright escapes and Gale hides him, later helping him to escape into the swamp. But the dead man is her father, and when she discovers that Wainright is suspected of being the one who discharged the fatal shot, she leads the posse to him. At the last moment, her love for him causes her to weaken, but he turns himself in anyway. A friend, Mabel Van Buren, reveals that she witnessed the killing, and that it was another officer, Deputy Brown (former matinee idol),who did the dirty deed. Evidence backs her up, and Wainright and Gale are reunited.”

The Heart Raider Still

The Heart Raider Movie Still

Further searching in the Palm Beach Post provided two more movies made in 1923. A comedy called “The Heart Raider” starring Agnes Ayres, was shot in Palm Beach.  Time Magazine provides a short summary of the film: “Agnes Ayres proceeds through this picture as a society siren against whose heart of gold other hearts, of lesser, masculine metal, shatter themselves by scores. Then one day in walks a misogynist. On board his yacht heart-of-gold meets heart-of-iron.The cast is pleasantly supplied with Mahlon Hamilton as the misogynist and Charles Ruggles as supplementary clown. All in all the results justify two hours expended in their inspection.”

The third film to shoot that spring was “The Exciters” starring Bebe Daniels. This comedy’s plot is as follows, from Moviefone “The Exciters is the old one about a footloose heiress who must marry by the age of 21 or forfeit her fortune. The girl (Bebe Daniels), an

The Exciters Lobby Card

inveterate thrill-seeker, chooses as her mate a handsome gangster (Antonio Moreno). Lots of thrills and laughs occur as a result of this shaky union. The gangster eventually reveals that he’s an undercover cop, and the girl finally agrees to curb her craving for excitement. Veteran scenarists Sonya Levienand John Colton adapted The Exciters from a novel by Martin Brown.” Bebe Daniels returned in 1926 to film “The Palm Beach Girl”, where many locals served as extras at a train station scene in the movie. Another scene with a train was shot in Jupiter, where a train rammed a prop car.

I wish I could provide clips from these films, but only The Heart Raider exists in a private

The Palm Beach Girl Movie Poster

collection.  It is estimated that 60-80% of the silent movies filmed are no longer in existence (http://www.silentera.com/lost/index.html). Films of this era were made with a type of material called cellulose nitrate, which was extremely flammable. Old black and white movie film also contained quite a bit of silver, so thousands of movies were destroyed for their silver content. This kind of film is no longer used; it was replaced by “safety film” which was still stamped on film and negatives well into the late twentieth century. The George Eastman House has a Czech copy of The Heart Raider in its collection, and it would be interesting to see the Palm Beach and West Palm Beach of 1923.  I don’t know if indeed these are the oldest movies ever made here, but they certainly are among the earliest.

Palm Beach County’s Lost Towns – The Complete List

Back in November, I was at the Old Key Lime House in Lantana for lunch. On the wall near the front of the restaurant was a great old map that was labeled “New Sectional Map of Florida” and dated 1920. I looked at the map and traced down the east coast of Palm

Farm for sale in Ameron

Beach County. And then my finger just stopped. Right above Boynton was a town I had never heard of – Ameron. A bit of searching in the Tropical Sun, the area’s first newspaper, revealed it to be a farming community to the north of the present day Boynton Beach.

That got me to thinking – how many other towns or settlements have dissapeared or been renamed in Palm Beach County? I started a list back in November, and it has been growing ever since. The following list was compiled from many sources including the websites listed at the end of this blog posting, and the online Palm Beach Post and Tropical Sun historic archives. From the best that I can tell, this is the most complete listing of lost towns ever published for Palm Beach County. Is it 100% complete? No. I am sure I will come across more with continued research. This list does not include towns and cities that exist today. The ones listed below are either towns or settlements that have completely disappeared or been renamed, so the town’s original name appears here. If one of the entries below has dates, that indicates the years in which a post office operated. Each of these could really be a story on its own, and it provides a glimpse of the many broken dreams and abandoned places that could have been.

UPDATE – March 10, 2011 – Added four additional towns – two that were planned and became Lake Worth (Lucerne and Osborne), and two towns in the Glades area (Sand Cut and Fruitcrest).

***

Ameron (1900-1903) – Farming community of mostly tomatoes, pineapples and strawberries that was located between Hypoluxo and Boynton Beach along Lake Worth. Settlers include J.M. Carroll, Dan Smith, George Smith, S.W. Kratzer, John Griffith, Freeman Griffith, George Lyman, Frank Palmer, Charles Carroll, C. R. Baker, the Forrey Brothers and Joe Prescott.

Azucar (1930-1946) – Sugar-based town with housing for workers. Mentioned in an April 7, 1938 article from the Palm Beach Post about a barbecue held there. Later it was renamed Bryant in honor of Harold Bryant (See Lucerne entry).

Bacom Point (1918-1925) – Along Lake Okeechobee. Established by William “Dad” Bacom as a vegetable and catfish farm.

Bare Beach (1920-1925) – Along Lake Okeechobee near Lake Harbor. Lawrence E. Will in A Cracker History of Okeechobee relates: “This Bare Beach settlement, as I’ve said, was once an important place. It really got its start in 1916 when William C. Hooker from Arcadia, together with his brother Steve and the Alderman Brothers from Wauchula began to raise tomatoes there. The next year Isaac H. Stone, another Wauchula man, farmed, financed other farmers, and built a store. The winter of 1921-22 was the biggest and last season here, for after that the high water compelled everybody to leave, then later on the sugar company gobbled up the land so there was no place left to farm. Before it was drowned out, Bare Beach supported the stores of Charles G. Price, who had fished here in 1911, Charlie Hurd from Moore Haven, J. W. Putnam and Ferrell Revels, besides the drug store of Dr. Harbin, later run by Penick Suther, Bohannon’s garage, four tomato packing houses, a light plant, a post office, two church houses and a school. It even had a cemetery, too. “

Bean City (1936-1973) – Started by former Belle Glade mayor Arthur Wells in 1916, wiped out in 1928 hurricane, became a sugar cane area, a few buildings and residents remain. An extensive May 12, 1970 Palm Beach Post article tells the story of Bean City, which indeed, was mostly supported by green beans.

Bocaratone (1899-1923)– Original name of Boca Raton – one word with an “e”

Boynton (1896-1941)– Original name of Boynton Beach.

Bryant (1946-1959)– Second name for Azucar settlement. Bryant was located on the east side of Lake Okeechobee near Pahokee. F.E. Bryant founded the Lake Worth Drainage District, and is for whom Bryant Part in the City of Lake Worth is named. Bryant started the Southern Sugar Company and the town was platted by the United States Sugar Corporation to house workers. All the streets and signs remain and the site can be visited today as a “ghost town”.

Ghost Town of Bryant

Ghost Town of Bryant

Chosen (1921-1955) – Founded by J.R. Leatherman, a preacher from Virginia. From the Biblical reference of being the ”chosen” land. Chosen was on the site of a Calusa Indian mound which was excavated in the 1930s by the Smithsonian Institute. It was located on the east side of Lake Okeechobee and a few buildings remain. The town was destroyed in the 1928 hurricane.

Connorsville/Connorstown – A September 7, 1947 article from the Palm Beach Post explained what happened to Connersville. W.J. Conners, from Buffalo, New York, bought over 12,000 acres of land in the Glades through many purchases. He built the Connors Highway toll road in the early 1920s at the cost of $2 million to the Glades, which the state bought in 1932 after Connor’s 1929 suicide. It was located on the south side of the West Palm Beach canal about three miles from the lake. Only thing left in 1947 was a well dug on the property.

Connors Highway Toll Gate in Canal Point

Deem City– Deem City is still listed on some maps as being on US 27 right at the Palm Beach-Broward county line. The sign said “Deem City – population 2.” There was a gas station there and a tiny house where the owner operated the Super Hamburger stand. Numerous code violations piled up and eventually the owner died. The buildings were demolished in 2008.

Delray (1898-1928)– Third name of Delray Beach.

Earman (1918-1923) – Earman was located near where Lake Park stands today. John Earman served as the first mayor of West Palm Beach. The family owned a hotel near West Palm Beach called The Earman House.

Figulus (1886-1891) – Estate on Palm Beach owned by the Charles Bingham family on the old Potter homestead land on Palm Beach, south of the present day town. Figulus is Latin for Potter.

Fort Jupiter (1855-1856) – Oldest post office and settlement in Palm Beach County by the lighthouse.

Fruitcrest – Another Thomas Will dream that ended up being a nightmare. The land could be purchased at $20 an acre, but the 1928 hurricane destroyed the town, which was southeast of Belle Glade. Today the land is sugar cane fields.

Sign advertising Fruitcrest

Geerworth – H.G. Geer and C.C. Chillingsworth bought 16,000 acres east of Belle Glade; much of the land was bought by British settlers. Continual flooding doomed the small community.

Gladecrest (1915-1917) – The Tropical Sun reported on February 4, 1915 of the new town site on the Hillsboro Canal south of Lake Okeechobee. The Holland & Butterworth Company sold land claiming that one acre could support a family; it couldn’t. The peak population was 72; the town was abandoned by 1921.

Hillsborough Canal Settlement – Original name for Belle Glade. A tourist remarked how the settlement was the “belle of the Glades” and that was chosen as the name of the new town.

Hongry Land – Not really a settlement, but the area of land west of Jupiter to Lake Okeechobee. Supposedly several Seminole Indians were starving in the area during the Seminole Wars.

Jewell (1889-1903)– Original name of Lake Worth, which was named to be the “Jewell” along Lake Worth. The town was changed to Lake Worth, and that has always led to the confusion between the City of Lake Worth and the body of water known as Lake Worth, which stretches from North Palm Beach to Boynton Beach. Settled by Samuel and Fannie James, Mrs. James ran the post office while Mr. James was a carpenter and farmed. The other names she considered were “Deer Park” and “La Paz” but she settled on Jewell.

Juno (1890-1903) – Became Juno Beach. The town was located slightly south of present day Juno Beach. Terminal southern stop on the Celestial Railroad, the town was the county seat for Dade County from 1890-1899. Mostly pineapples were grown, and the town consisted of the courthouse, newspaper office where The Tropical Sun was published, and seven houses. The county seat was moved back to Fort Dallas (Miami) and the courthouse building was moved to Miami via a barge. The remainder of the town burned in 1899.

Pineapples in Juno

The Old Dade County Courthouse in Juno

Kelsey City (1921-1939) – Original name of Lake Park. Founded by Harry Kelsey, a Boston entrepreneur, who at one time owned 100,000 acres in Palm Beach County. Town was never built as originally planned due to the land bust in the late 1920s.

Kraemer (1918-1932) and Kreamer (1932-1936) – Agriculture and fishing community on a small island in Lake Okeechobee. Damaged in the hurricanes and pretty much flooded after the dikes were built around the lake.

Inlet – This reference came from a 1919 Tropical Sun article on a school census which listed children attending school at “Inlet.” My best guess is that this would become Riviera Beach, as it was called the “Inlet City”, but there may be a better answer somewhere.

Linton (1895-1898) – Second name of Delray Beach, named for pioneer William S. Linton, a Michigan Congressman who bought the land and laid out the town plat. Name was changed after Linton defaulted on loans.

Long Beach – Former name of Canal Point. First it was called New Town, then Long Beach, then Canalpoint as one word, then Nemaha, and finally Canal Point. See http://www.pbcgov.com/pzb/Planning/hrrb/canal_point_history.pdf for a very informative history of Canal Point.

Lotus Cove – Several small articles were published in the Tropical Sun on Lotus Cove. Based on those descriptions, this is the cove north of Lantana point along the west side of Lake Worth between Lantana and Hypoluxo. Today it is considered Lantana. One of the first settlers was Edwin Bradley, who came to the area in 1877 from Chicago.

Lucerne – This was a planned townsite platted by the Bryant Brothers and William Greenwood. If you bought land out in the Glades through the Palm Beach Farms Company, you received a “free” 25 foot town lot in Lucerne. They held a land auction in 1912 and hundreds bought land at $250 for a five-acre plot. Of course, when they saw the land out west it was very much under water. When they went to register the name as a post office (renaming Jewel) the name Lucerne had already been taken in Florida so they settled on the name Lake Worth. The name “Lucerne Avenue” in Lake Worth is from this plan.

Mabry (1922-1923) – Mabry was the original name of the settlement on Ritta Island in Lake Okeechobee.

Mangonia (1894-1906) – Areas north of West Palm Beach, what would be called Northwood today. The name was derived from mango growing in the area.

Mosey – This was listed on a map as being north of the then Kelsey City (Lake Park). Nothing more is known.

Munyons Island (1903-1905)– Island that is now in the John D. MacArthur Park on Singer Isand. The island was originally called Nuctsachoo by the Seminoles, which means “Pelican Island” . The Pitts family bought the island in 1892, built a house and grew many types of fruit. They then sold the island in 1901 to Dr. James Munyon and he built the Hotel Hygeia. Named after the Greek goddess of Health, the five story, twenty-one room hotel followed trends of the time with having spa-like hotels for wealthy clients. The cure-all was “Dr. Munyon’s Paw-Paw Elixir”, which was a patent medicine consisting of fermented papaya juice, which he bottled on the island. The hotel burned to the ground in 1917. The landing can still be seen on one side of the island.

Osborne – The Osborn family was the original owner of Lake Osborne and all the surrounding lands (somehow the “e” was added through time). They platted a townsite at where 12th Avenue South is today as part of Lake Worth. A few people still refer to that area as Osborne.

Nemaha – A platted “metropolis” as it was called in the Palm Beach Post that would have replaced Canal Point. L.M. Simons and G.A. Walker from Kansas named the city from their home county in Kansas. It was never built to their plans.

Neptune (1895-1908) The name of the post office at the Carlin Hotel and terminal north station of the Celestial Railroad. One item from the Tropical Sun mentions a wedding in the hotel at Neptune. The hotel closed after the railroad ceased operations. What is interesting too is that when the railroad was dismantled and sold, the right-of-way was purchased for $10.00. In subsequent years this prevented some development of the land along US 1 on the east side. The land now belongs to Palm Beach County.

The Celestial Railroad

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Celestial Railroad trail still visible today

The Celestial Railroad trail still visible today

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oak Lawn (1889-1893) – Hotel and resort located where the Port of Palm Beach is today. The hotel, built by Judge Allen Heyser, was situated on a very large Indian mound overlooking Lake Worth in what today is Riviera Beach. The large Indian mound was trucked away for road fill and never properly excavated.

The Oak Lawn House

Okeelanta (1915-1929)– Okeelanta was a planned community, started in 1913 by Thomas Will. The name was derived from combining “Okeechobee” and “Atlantic.” Pioneers included R.A. Little, S.A. Hughes, Herman Walker and Lawrence Will. Despite many problems by 1920 Okeelanta had 200 residents, a school and town hall. Potatoes, corn, beans, tomatoes, and eggplant were grown and shipped north via a packing house that was located at where Southern Boulevard and I-95 are today. Okeelanta was flooded and destroyed by the 1928 hurricane. Thomas Will attempted to rebuild the community, however due to lack of financial backing The Okeelanta Corporation declared bankruptcy.

Palm City (1887-1887) – Original name of Palm Beach – had to be renamed as there was already a Palm City. There is also a Palm City in Martin County that still exists.

Pelican Lake (1939-1964)– Also called Pelican Bay, this little community on Lake Okeechobee had hundreds of deaths from the 1928 hurricane. Newspaper articles from the time speak of finding 200 bodies one day, and 200 more the next. In 1932 a farmer’s cooperative purchased 1,000 acres of land from the state under the name Pelican Lake Farms, Inc. Newspaper accounts tell of the boxcars full of beans grown in the area that was taken north to sell. I think most people who worked the farms lived in Pahokee.

Plumoses City – This was an off-shoot from Jupiter where in 1929 residents along Center Street resented the town’s taxes so they formed their own town. It was abolished in 1959 and again is a part of Jupiter. The name came from the ferns that were grown for the floral industry.

Prairie – This was a small community located where the RCA buildings are today on PGA boulevard. It was a saw mill and was listed in the 1919 school census.

Ritta (1912-1931) – An island at the southern end of Lake Okeechobee. The Ritta Hotel was located there and owned by Richard Bolles, the Everglades land speculator who sold swamp land to thousands of unsuspecting people at his March 1911 land auction The island was covered by custard pond apple trees which were cleared for farming. All the buildings were destroyed in the 1928 hurricane.

Ritta Hotel

The Ritta Hotel on Ritta Island

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Riviera (1919-1942) – Original Name of Riviera Beach.

Rood (1915-1934)– The Rood family moved from Wisconsin and bought a 20 acre tract in the Philo Farms district west of Jupiter. Mrs. Rood ran the small post office, and the family took mail all the way out to Indiantown along the old Jupiter Grade road. Edgar Philo had subdivided the land and ran a small hotel on the property.

Sand Cut – This tiny migrant village town was recently vacated to allow expansion of the dike surrounding Lake Okeechobee. It was located on Connors Highway (US 98) north of Canal Point.

Scratchankle – Another Lake Okeechobee settlement founded by John Tyner in 1912, and sometimes called Tynersville.

Shawano Village – A small farming community that was southeast of Belle Glade, sometimes called “Brown’s Farm.” It was a large peanut farm founded by the Brown Paper Company of Portland, Maine in 1924. The company suffered through the Depression and the village was dissolved in 1931.

Torry Island (1917-1921) – One of three islands in southern Lake Okeechobee with Ritta and Kreamer. It was covered with the same Pond Apple trees which were cleared for farming. The Cromartie family were among the first pioneers. Ivey Cromartie went on to marry Frank Stranahan, the modern founder of Fort Lauderdale.

Tustenegee (1877-1879) – The earliest post office in Palm Beach, before there was a Palm Beach. In all likelihood a Seminole Indian word meaning warrior.

Venus – Stop on the Celestial Railroad. J.B. Wells and his three cats were the only residents by the loading platform – primarily a pineapple growing region. Town was platted in 1893, but no lots ever sold. Now part of preserved lands.

Wyman (1902-1907) – The area north of Boca Raton had a post office. This same land became the Yamato Colony. Nearby Lake Wyman retains the name.

Yamato (1907-1925)– This colony of Japanese immigrants farmed pineapples and vegetables. Most of the settlers returned to Japan. One who stayed was George Morikami, who bought land west of Delray Beach and donated the land to the county. Much of the eastern lands became part of the Army Air Corp Base at Boca Raton.

Zion (1888-1892)– Original Name for Delray Beach – the Orange Grove House of refuge was manned by several keepers over the years. Annie Andrews served as post mistress and the post office had two patrons – Annie and her husband!

Orange Grove House of Refuge

Sources:
www.ghosttowns.com – Great website for ghost town information.
www.postalhistory.com– Website that had a very comprehensive lists with dates of the former post offices in the county – thanks to Janet DeVries at the Boynton Beach Library for the link.
http://news.google.com/archivesearch – Google news archive with many newspapers including the Tropical Sun and Palm Beach Post
http://www.pbchistoryonline.org – Lots of information on Palm Beach County history.

Thanks also to Janette Campbell, a native of the Glades, who helped out with some of the Lake Okeechobee entries.

West Boca’s Secret – It was to have been Farmville…except for that water thing…

It is funny how stories sometimes find their way to me. At Thanksgiving dinner, a friend asked if I would research the land history of her parent’s house. I thought in all likelihood I would find the old aerial photos of Western Boca Raton along State Road 7/441 showing the land underwater and unused, being that far west. I was wrong. The first aerial photo in 1947 showed the area in the vicinity of State Road 7/441 and Judge Winikoff Road to be all subdivided into neat little squares. I then found the present legal description of the properties, and the records indicated that the land was originally platted in 1911 – in plat book number 1 of Palm Beach County. What on earth were people doing out there in 1911?

The original plat provided the first clue. A company called “The Florida Fruit Lands Company” had subdivided the land into three large plats. The land tracts were in varying sizes from 10 acres to 640 Old Platacres, and I could see these were substantial holdings, entire sections and miles of land. A Google search of The Florida Fruit Lands Company told the never-ending story of American ingenuity, greed and dashed hopes.

The Florida Fruit Lands Company was owned by Richard J. Bolles, a New Yorker born in 1843 and a real entrepreneur. At age 23, he was already a member of the New York Stock Exchange. He went West, as many young men of his time did, and bought vast land tracts in Colorado and Idaho, and subdivided the land on a promise that irrigation would be provided…but that never happened.

At the 1908 Democratic National Convention, Bolles met former Florida Governor William Jennings Bryan and the Governor at that time, Napoleon Broward. Broward was very passionate about getting

Picture

Bolles and others at a drainage canal

the Everglades drained  to provide a spark to the post-Civil war blues from which the Florida economy suffered. The men cut a deal so that Bolles would agree to buy 500,000 acres of swamp, 180,000 of which were in Broward and Palm Beach Counties. He paid the state $2 an acre, and the state agreed  it would pay to have the land drained through the digging of canals.

Bolles had a real knack for sales, and sent salesmen all over the country to tout the Florida Paradise armed with pamphlets that showed how wonderful and easy Florida farming would be. The Midwest area in Missouri was especially targeted by Bolles’ men. A New York Times article in 1912 reported that the land was cut into 12,000 tracts – two tracts of 640 acres (1 square mile), eight tracts of 320 acres, 20 of 160 acres, 100 of 80 acres, 250 of 40 acres, 8,620 of 20 acres and 8,000 of 10 acres. Each person had to pay the salesman $240 (equivalent to $5,500 today) to buy a chance at a drawing to see what track you would get and its location. Whatever tract you ended up with, the price was $24 per acre, so Bolles was to make twelve times his original purchase price. In addition, each “winner” would receive a free town lot in a proposed town called Progresso, to be located just north of where Fort Lauderdale is today. The town was platted, complete with schools, shops, factories, churches and lots. This filled in a piece of my own puzzle as my grandfather once owned hundreds of lots in Progresso that he bought for 2 or 3 dollars a piece during the Depression.

In March 1911 thousands flocked to tiny Fort Lauderdale for the big land drawing. All the hotels were filled, and many slept in tents. When the event started, the “drawing” was cancelled and the buyers told that tracts of land had already been selected for them and they were expected to just sign the deeds. Many did, but many cried foul when they realized they couldn’t pick out their land, and worse yet, it was still very much underwater. The most famous quote about the swamp land came from an Iowan – “I have bought land by the acres, and I have bought land by the foot; but by God, I have never before bought land by the gallon.”

Many looked at Bolles as a swindler as he certainly knew the land was underwater. He blamed the state, as his contract did give the state of Florida the drainage responsibility, which proved much more difficult than originally thought. Charges were brought against Bolles and other company officers, but they were all found not guilty in Federal Court. Further charges were filed in Kansas City regarding

Dredge

Dredge used to dig drainage canals

Bolles running an illegal lottery, but he beat those charges as well. Bolles was allowed to keep the $1.4 million he had already collected, so he did profit on the deal. He sold some holdings in Palm Beach and Broward (J.F. Scullen bought 113,000 acres in 1919), and let the rest revert back to the state (large holdings around Lake Okeechobee). He died in 1917, while aboard a train in Palm Beach. Thus, Palm Beach County’s first land boom had come to an end. Eventually, the land was drained (not until the 1930s) and many dairys and large vegetable farms were located on the lands until the 1970s, when housing developments began in earnest.

The people who bought the land had that dream of either making fast money by flipping the land, or actually wanting to start a farming enterprise. Innocent dreams are what tycoons like Bolles feed upon, and they exist in all times. The games may be different today, but the winners and losers are the same.

Notes: This story was researched through the New York Times archives, a web page at http://everglades.fiu.edu/reclaim/bios/bolles.htm and the book “The Swamp – The Everglades, Florida and the Politics of Paradise” by Michael Grunwald. The book is a rich history of the Everglades and the attempts to kill and then revive this one-of-a-kind ecosystem.

The Road less traveled – the first road to Miami

In an earlier post, I reviewed the history of Military Trail, which is a mid-county road (one time trail) to Fort Lauderdale. But as most of the population in the 1890s was along the coastal areas, getting to Miami was no easy manner. It was common, although not inexpensive, to take a steamer or sailboat from Jupiter or Palm Beach to Miami along the ocean. For those who couldn’t afford it, like the US Postal Service, you could walk along the beach and get there, as the famous “Barefoot Mailman” did. Just watch those inlet and river crossings with their hungry crocodiles and alligators.

Its hard to imagine but in the 1890s the area that today comprises Martin, Palm Beach, Broward and Dade counties was one huge county called Dade County. Miami was then known as “Fort Dallas” and had held the county seat. That changed in 1889 when the county seat and courthouse was moved to Juno, which had more population and the only railroad line in Dade county (the Celestial Railroad from Jupiter to Juno). The total population in Dade county was about 1,000. As commissioners and other officials from Miami had to trek up to Juno on the water, they realized that some sort of stage coach line would be more reliable. This was also prompted too for a better mail route after a barefoot mailman (Ed Hamilton) was eaten by alligators during a river crossing.

So it was decided that a road would be built from Hypoluxo south to what was called “Lemon

Bridge

Crossing the Hillsboro River

City” (today’s north Miami). The trip from Juno to Hypoluxo was quite manageable by way of Lake Worth via boat,  so a road was not needed for that part of the route. Charles W. Pierce, in his book “Pioneer Life in Southeast Florida” provides a very detailed description of the road and why it was built. He writes in his book that a more reliable way was needed for people and mail to reach Miami. Pierce was appointed to the “road commission”, which met a total of two times. They put a request out for bids to survey and plat out the new road to Miami, designed of course not for cars, since they had not yet been invented, but for a mule wagon, or as he refers to it, a hack. The road was all of eight feet wide, and built along the natural sand ridge adjacent to the barrier islands on the peninsula.

This was no speedy form of travel. Pierce stated that because of the soft white sand, the speed was little more than a slow pace of about 2-3 miles per hour. At that rate, it was a two-day tripto Miami, but still better than walking the beaches. Bridges were built over smaller waterways such as the Hillsboro

Sand Road in Boca Raton

River. It took 14 hours to travel from Hypoluxo to the New River in Fort Lauderdale. Once you reached there, you camped with Frank Stranahan in some tents. According to Pierce, “He was the general manager, cook, dishwasher, chambermaid, and entertainer for the guests.” The next day you would cross the river by boat, then enjoy another seven hour ride to Miami. In all references I can find to the road, it is always just referred to as the “Sand Road.” The Sand Road brought the time of the Barefoot Mailman to an end.

There is not an accurate map of the exact route that the Sand Road took, but it is believed that large parts of it became the Dixie Highway and U.S. 1.  You can actually walk the only remaining portion of the Sand Road that is still sand. The northernmost portion of the Sand Road is located within the Hypoluxo Scrub Natural Area on Hypoluxo Road and U.S. 1. This land was never built on and only has had some light agricultural use over the years.

In this aerial photo from 1953, the sand road is clearly visble down the middle of the tract.

1953 Photo the Sand Road in Hypoluxo

 

Today, the returning vegetation is reclaiming the road, but service vehicles in the park still use the road.

The Sand Road in 2010

Take a walk through the Hypoluxo Scrub area and experience for yourself the road of a bygone era, the road that helped people “get there from here.” The Park is open sunup to sundown seven days a week and admission is free.

Take a ride on my time machine (kinda sorta)

A few weeks ago, I wrote about wanting a time machine to go back and see how Palm Beach County looked decades ago. I have often thought how cool it would be to have “ancient” Google-maps, to be able to have a bird’s eye view of your property. Well, you can. Thanks to a project by the University of Florida, you can find out what your property looked like decades ago. Depending upon where you live in the county, there are maps posted from 1940, 1953 and 1968.

I stumbled across the link on the Palm Beach County Property Appraiser’s website. I looked first at the property where my house resides. I was lucky in that there is a house along Lawrence Road that was built in 1940, so I could use that as my reference point. I scrolled over to see what was on Congress Avenue at that time. I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong, but I could not find it. Then it dawned on me. There was no Congress Avenue in Boynton Beach in 1953. I did a search through the Palm Beach Post Archives and found that Congress Avenue stopped at Lantana Road. It was extended to Hypoluxo Road in 1964, then to Boynton West Road in 1965 (today’s Boynton Beach Boulevard). In later years, it was extended down to Yamato Road, where it terminates.

The search tool at the University of Florida website uses Google Maps so you can enter an address from today. Using GIS technology, it finds which aerial photos matches those coordinates and draws a red circle where your house would be on the old photos. When you examine these photos, you realize how things have changed and see the incredible building boom that has occurred.

Here is an example of what these maps can show:

Palm Beach State College - 1953

Palm Beach State College – 1953

Palm Beach State College – 2010

In the 1953 photo, the dark line along the bottom is not 6th Avenue South, but the drainage canal. 6th Avenue South was not extended to Congress Avenue until the early 1970s. The aerial photos are in black and white, but the resolution is not bad for seeing detail. In my neighbhorhood, I was able to find some oak trees that still exist.

The University of Florida website is located at: http://ufdcweb1.uflib.ufl.edu/ufdc/?a=flap

Use the MAP SEARCH feature to find your location on a modern map. Once you have found your house, please answer the poll question:

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If you want to see other parts of the nation, check out Historic Aerials at http://www.historicaerials.com/Default.aspx and see what they have. The site has a few neat visual tools like the ability to see a split screen using the “compare” tools. You can move the arrow to “swipe”across and see how things changed. Here is Meadows Park in Boynton Beach just south of Hypoluxo Road. The property was a dairy – the dots you see near the bottom of the photo are cows.

Split view of Meadows Park in 1968 and 2007

This picture was so special to me as it confirmed a memory I had from childhood about this dairy. In the front of the dairy was a small bridge on Congress Avenue that allowed the cows from the east field to get over to the dairy on the west side of Congress.

So take a fly around the county through the decades. If you find something neat or solved some old mystery about what was where when, leave me a comment.