A Rich Historical Heritage

The "Origins & History of the Palm Beaches" information site is a retrospective look at the history of Palm Beach County, and how its past has influenced the present. This blog is a companion site to "Palm Beach County Issues & Views." Both sites are edited by Robert I. Davidsson, retired manager of the Palm Beach County Library System's Government Research Service (GRS), and author of the book "Indian River: A History of the Ais Indians in Spanish Florida" and related articles about Florida's past.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Fort McRae: A Frontier Outpost on Lake Okeechobee

By Bob Davidsson
        Fort McRae was a hastily built wooden frontier outpost on Lake Okeechobee serving the U.S. Army as a supply depot and reconnaissance reporting station during both the Second and Third Seminole Indian Wars.
        It was one of only two blockhouses built by the Army to observe movements by the Seminole tribe around the big lake. Fort McRae was established about five miles north of Port Mayaca in Martin County. Its sister outpost, Fort Center, was a stockade built 40 miles due west across the lake near the mouth of Fisheating Creek in Glades County.
        Based upon later 19th century reports, the ruins of Fort McRae were located on the Okeechobee Ridge, a natural barrier that formed the original shoreline of the lake. The ridge separated the lake from low marshlands to the east. A small stream entered Lake Okeechobee near the fort, according to 1838 military maps.
        A May 20, 1882, article published in Jacksonville's "Florida Dispatch" newspaper, entitled "Lake Okeechobee and the Caloosahatchee Canal," provided a detailed description of the topography of the land near the ruins of Fort McRae during the late 19th century.
        "On the east side of Lake Okeechobee is Fort McRae, the newspaper reported, "which is on the borders of the lake and inside the sawgrass, which is two miles wide. The country is low prairie, with cypress, pine and cabbage palmetto islands."
        "From Fort McRae, north to the mouth of the Kissimmee (River), there is a large body of hammock bays, that are immensely rich, covered with live oak, red bay, cypress and cabbage palmetto," the article concludes.
       The history element of the "Dupuis Natural Area Future Management Plan, 2008-13, describes Fort McRae as "little more than a rough cabbage palm trunk stockade designed to store supplies and house a small garrison to defend the supplies."
        In fact, there is much more to report about the history of Fort McRae and the people who built and served in the frontier outpost during two Indian wars.

Fort McRae in the Second Seminole War
        Fort McRae was built as a supply encampment during Gen. Thomas Sidney Jesup's failed winter campaign of 1837-8 to bring the Second Seminole War (1835-42) to a close. His military strategy was to trap hostile Seminoles in a pincer movement between his east coast and interior armies. The plan almost worked.
        As Jesup advanced south from Fort Pierce, down the Indian River to the Jupiter Inlet, a second force under the command of Col. Zachary Taylor moved south along the east bank of the Kissimmee River to the north shore of Lake Okeechobee. The Seminoles made their stand near a stream that would later be named Taylor Creek
        The ensuing Battle of Okeechobee was fought on Christmas Day, 1837. It was a pyrrhic victory for the U.S. Army. The federal troops and militia won the field of battle, but sustained higher casualties and allowed their hostile adversaries to escape along the eastern shore of Lake Okeechobee.
        Col. Taylor pursued the Seminoles as far south as the ancient Big Mound City site in western Palm Beach County before halting his offensive. Along his march, he ordered the construction of the supply depot that was christened Fort McRae.
        For the past 180 years there has been uncertainty and confusion about the naming of the military post. Who exactly was "McRae"? Adding to the confusion were two other military bases in Florida sharing the same name.
        The best known Fort McRae (or McRee) guarded the entrance to Pensacola Bay during the Civil War. For a brief period, there also was a blockhouse named Fort McRae near the Turtle Mound site in Volusia County during the Second Seminole War.
        No military document has been found recording the dedication of Fort McRae. Based upon the Army's tradition of naming forts in honor of fallen war heroes, it is likely the outpost was named for Major Archibald McRae of the Second Brigade, Florida Volunteers.
       Captain McRae of Hamilton County enlisted with the Mounted Company, Second Regiment of the East Florida Volunteers on June 20, 1837. His enlistment document  stated he joined the state militia with two servants and three horses.
        McRae was promoted to the rank of major on July 20. His Florida Volunteers joined Col. Taylor Nov. 29 during his winter offensive. The militia officer was one of the casualties of this campaign.
        After the Battle of Okeechobee, the Seminoles retreated before Col. Taylor's force and eluded their pursuers in the Loxahatchee Slough. They joined several other bands west of the Jupiter Inlet in time to fight in the Battle of Loxahatchee against advance units of General Jesup's eastern army on Jan. 24, 1838.
        Once again the Seminoles were forced into a temporary refuge in the Loxahatchee Slough, with Col. Taylor to the west, General Jesup to the north, and a new "Military Trail" cleared to their east by Major William Lauderdale during his advance south to the New River.
        General Jesup offered the Seminoles enticements if they surrendered at the newly built Fort Jupiter. Medicine chief Sam Jones (Abaika) flatly refused, and slipped past the Army's tightening pincer with his followers into the sanctuary of the Everglades. However, 527 Indians, the majority women and children, surrendered at Fort Jupiter. They were transported to St. Augustine then deported to Oklahoma.
        In February 1838, Lt. W.G. Freeman, the officer in charge of the Seminole captives, was so concerned about the number of prisoners overflowing available facilities at Fort Jupiter that he sent 100 Indians under escort to Fort McRae. They were detained at the outpost until transports arrived to deport them.
        General Jesup's failure to end the conflict resulted in his reassignment in May 1838. He was replaced by none other than Zachary Taylor, who likewise failed to win the Seminole war after two years as the Army's commanding officer in Florida.
        Unlike Jesup, Taylor escaped the endless war with his reputation intact. He was hailed as the hero of the Battle of Okeechobee, received a promotion to the rank of general, and earned the endearing public moniker of "Old Rough and Ready." The Florida war was a stepping stone on the trail leading to his election as President of United States in 1848.
        As for Fort McRae, its usefulness as a supply base waned as the Army discontinued large military campaigns in favor of small raids by picked units. The post was abandoned and fell into disrepair before the end of the war in 1842.
        Capt. Martin Burke of the 3rd Artillery Regiment used the deserted outpost, which he described as the "old palmetto fortification" of Fort McRae, as a base of operations for three days during his September 1841 expedition to Lake Okeechobee.
        In February 1842, Navy Lt. John Rodgers led an expedition of 87 sailors and marines to the site of Fort McRae. Midshipman George Preble described the event in his "Diary of a Canoe Expedition into the Everglades."
        "At 4:30 p.m. (Feb. 22, 1842), left the Everglades," his diary states, "passed through a narrow belt of cypress swamp, hauled (the canoes) over a sandy ridge, and launched our canoes in the waters of Lake Okeechobee or Big Water."
        "We camped under what was once Fort Dulray (McRae)," the midshipman reported, "a cabbage tree log fortress. The lake spread before us, and to the west the sun went down, no land visible."
       
Fort McRae in the Third Seminole War, 1855-58
        The same year the Second Seminole War ended, Congress passed the "Armed Occupation Act of 1842" as an incentive to encourage settlers to move into the thinly populated Florida peninsula. The act granted 100 acres of unsettled land to any head of a family.
        Some of the grants were on land formerly occupied by the Seminole nation. The tribe was not consulted prior to the passage of the act. Many members of Congress and the Florida Legislature hoped new settlements would pressure the Seminoles to move to reservations in Oklahoma.
        In the months prior to the renewal of the Seminole war, the U.S. Army further pressured the Seminole and Miccosukee tribes by reactivating Forts McRae and Jupiter on the fringes of their Everglades sanctuary. The "Memoir of Lt. Col. John T. Greble," published by author Benson J. Lossim in 1870, describes the rebuilding of Fort McRae.
        The Memoir states, "Late in February (1855) Lt. Greble was ordered to Fort McRae, on the eastern shore of Lake Okeechobee, where a blockhouse was being built. He left Fort Myers with 10 men."
        "The journey by land and water was wearisome," the Memoir continues. "They went up the Caloosahatchee to Fort Thompson, thence across the wet prairie to Fisheating Creek, and down the stream into and across Lake Okeechobee, a sheet of water covering about 1,200 square miles. They had a rough and perilous voyage across it, and found inhospitable camping grounds on its margin, for dreary swamps pressed close upon its border."
        "They reached Fort McRae in safety and were then joined by another party detached for similar duty. The blockhouse was soon built, and the eastern shore of the lake explored and mapped," the Memoir concludes, "and Lt. Greble and his party returned by the way they went, reaching Fort Myers on the fifteenth of March."
          The Greble Memoir is supported by a military record entitled "A Letter from Brevet Col. John Munroe to Col. Samuel Cooper and Col. Lorenzo Thomas, Fort Brooke, July 15, 1855." The report summarizes the second expedition sent to Fort McRae for its restoration.
        "After having established his command at Fort Deynaud." the report states, "Major Mays will detach an officer with a party of men to construct a blockhouse upon the Fisheating Creek, near the site of old Fort Centre. Another blockhouse will also be constructed upon the east side of Lake Okeechobee and as far south as practicable."
        "While these operations were being carried on south of the Caloosahatchee, the military record continues, "blockhouses had been constructed near the sites of old Forts McRae and Centre by a detachment under command of Captain Allen and Lt. Vincent, 2nd Artillery, the former completed early in April and the latter in February (1855), and both were garrisoned until the season was so far advanced as to render their temporary abandonment advisable."
         Military posts during the Seminole wars were abandoned and reoccupied based upon the season of the year and needs of military commanders. The campaign season was fall, winter and spring. Due to diseases spread by insects, garrisons were often reassigned during the summer months.
        Fort Denaud, located on the Caloosahatchee River, served as the supply base for the Lake Okeechobee outposts at Forts McRae and Center. Fort Brooke, built in 1824, was the main base of operations for west coast and interior regions of Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades during the Third Seminole War. Fort McRae was supplied by boats sent from Fort Denaud.
        The Army sent armed surveying expeditions into the Everglades sanctuaries of the Seminole tribe. One surveying unit raided a plantation owned by Chief Billy Bowlegs, which sparked the beginning of Third Seminole War in December 1855.
        During the war, Fort McRae was garrisoned by a company of the Florida Mounted Volunteers. As the war progressed, the U.S. Army relied heavily on Florida militia units to man its outposts. During the seven-year Second Seminole War, for example, 6,854 Florida volunteers were activated as U.S. militia units.
        The Army's plan of action was to confine the Seminoles to the Everglades in South Florida by building a chain of forts, spaced about 20 miles apart, between the Jupiter Inlet and the mouth of the Caloosahatchee River. From east to west, garrisons were posted in Forts Jupiter, McRae,  Shackleford, Center, Thompson, Denaud,  Myers and Dulaney.
        Communications between its scattered Army outposts was key to the success of military operations during the Third Seminole War. The route used between Forts McRae and Jupiter is described in the April 1856 "Memoir to Accompany a Military Map of the Peninsula of Florida South of Tampa Bay," published for use by the U.S. Department of War.
        The 26-page report includes the following narrative: "The only continuous route between the eastern shore of Lake Okeechobee and Fort Jupiter, that has so far been traversed and reported upon, leads nearly west from Fort McRae to the General Eustis Road and along that road to the fort."
        Gen. Abraham Eustis (1786 - 1843) served as an Army surveyor and military mapmaker in Florida. He supervised the construction of several Florida military roads later used during the Second and Third Seminole Wars.
        "The old bridge at the crossing of the Lochahatchee (Loxahatchee River) being now impractical, it is necessary to ford the stream at a place a mile above. The present site of Fort Jupiter being to the east of the new road leaves the old trail to the left and crosses the creek at a point three miles south of Fort Jupiter."
        "The crossing is easy, and the remainder of the distance is over good country," the 1856 Memoir concludes.
        The U.S. Department of War declared the Third Seminole War at an end on May 8, 1858, following the surrender and deportation of Seminole leader Billy Bowlegs (Holata Micco) to Oklahoma aboard the steam ship "Grey Cloud".
         The Army's network of forts, including Fort McRae, were abandoned to the elements. The wooden blockhouses became the domain of termites, with their ruins erased by wildfires and the ravages of time.
(c.) Davidsson, 2018.
 *NOTE: See related article about "Fort Jupiter" below, and additional articles archived in Older Posts.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Fort Jupiter During the Third Seminole War, 1855-58

By Bob Davidsson
        Unrelenting heat, an overextended supply line, swarms of mosquitoes and sand flies, debilitating "Jupiter Fever," and the constant threat of Indian raids made garrison duty at Fort Jupiter one of the least popular Army postings during the Third Seminole War, 1855-58.
        The Army post was the second to bear the name Fort Jupiter. The original Fort Jupiter was established in 1838 following two pitched battles near the Loxahatchee River between U.S. Army and Navy units against the Seminole tribe in the Second Seminole War, 1835-42.
         When the "Old Fort Jupiter"  was decommissioned at the end of the seven-year conflict in 1842, the Jupiter Inlet was without a military presence until Congress approved funding for a lighthouse in 1853. Lt. George G. Meade, an Army engineer, designed the brick and mortar tower and selected the site where construction began a year later.
         Work on the Jupiter Lighthouse was interrupted by renewed warfare between the United States and the Seminole nation on Dec. 20,1855. The direct cause of the Third Seminole War was a foolish raid on an Indian plantation by an Army surveying party deep in the Seminole's Everglades sanctuary.

The Building of 'New Fort Jupiter'
        In the months prior to the renewed hostilities, New York native Major Joseph A. Haskin and the First Artillery Regiment were stationed in Key West. Haskin received orders to sail to the Indian River Inlet with Company D and assume command of Fort Capron.
         Haskin was an 1839 West Point graduate. During the Mexican War, he was cited for bravery after losing his left arm in battle. Despite his disability, Haskin continued his military career until 1870, serving as the general officer in charge of artillery fortifications outside of Washington, D.C. during the Civil War.
        On Jan. 14, 1855, Major Haskin received a letter from Lt. Ambrose Powell "A.P." Hill reporting his observations about the best site for the construction of a second Fort Jupiter. Lt. Hill was sent from Fort Capron on a scouting mission to survey the inland water route to the Jupiter Inlet and report on the status of the old fort.
        He reported "Old Fort Jupiter" was "bare of timber and further away from the Jupiter bar (inlet) than the new post, which is a half a mile nearer, has a convenience of timber, good soil for gardening, loading and unloading of boats, and preferable to Old Fort Jupiter or any other location in the vicinity."
       After completing his mission, Lt. Hill was employed as an engineer-surveyor by the U.S. Coastal Survey from 1855-60. He joined the Confederate army a year later and served as one of General Robert E. Lee's division commanders during several of his campaigns.
        Major Haskin received orders from Col. Thomas Haines, assistant adjutant at the Headquarters of Troops in Fort Brooke, to sail south with Company D of the First Artillery and establish the new outpost. Its purpose was to observe the activities of Indians and provide protection to civilians during the construction of the Jupiter Lighthouse.
        The Feb. 2, 1855 orders for Major Haskin stated, "In accordance with instructions from the War Department, the Colonel Commander directs you to move with your command to Old Fort Jupiter, or such other point in the vicinity as you deem advisable."
        "It is hoped that after you arrive at Fort Jupiter," the letter concludes, "more frequent and expeditious communications may be established  with you via Fort Myers and Lake Okeechobee."
        An advance force of three officers an 38 enlisted men arrived at the Jupiter Inlet in February 1855 to begin construction of a stockade at the site recommended by Lt. Hill. Within eight months the garrison was at full strength, and a small contingent marched across the state to supplement the Army units at Fort Myers.
        A field artillery company in the 19th century consisted of 100 officers and enlisted men when under full authorized strength. The actual muster rolls were often less than the maximum. A company was commanded by a captain or "brevet major" in the case of Major Haskin.
        During most of the 1850s, Jupiter Inlet was sealed by sandbars and closed to shipping. Both Major Haskin and lighthouse workers had to use an inland water route to reach their destination.
        The route used by the Fort Jupiter garrison was to sail and paddle south of Fort Capron along the Indian River to the mouth of the St. Lucie River. They then had to navigate a torturous tangle of mangroves in a shallow estuary known as "the Narrows" until reaching Hobe Sound.
        In April 1856, Capt. A .A. Humphries and Lt. J. C. Ives of the U.S. Army Topographical Engineers published a 26-page "Memoir to Accompany a Military Map of the Peninsula of Florida South of Tampa Bay" for use by Secretary of War Jefferson Davis and the U.S. War Department during the Third Seminole War.
        The document contains a descriptive profile of the Jupiter Inlet and the military paths and waterways connecting Fort Jupiter to other outposts in southern Florida and west of Lake Okeechobee. The Memoir includes the route used by Major Haskin and the U.S. Army to supply Fort Jupiter.
        "The Sound (Hobe Sound) is sufficiently exposed to the wind to admit the use of sails," the Memoir states, "and is in most places easily navigated by vessels of four feet draught. It extends for eight miles to Jupiter River, from the mouth of which it is about two and half miles to the site of Fort Jupiter."
        "The total distance from Fort Capron to Fort Jupiter is 40 miles," the Memoir continues. "The Mackinac boats sometimes employed upon this route are said to be unsuitable for the transportation of troops and supplies between the two posts; having to lay by during high winds and under most favorable circumstances requiring four days to complete the trip."
        "The kind of vessel recommended, as likely most serviceable, is  a small sloop, not drawing over three feet in water fully loaded, and most after the pattern of the old surf boats used during the Mexican War at Vera Cruz," the Memoir concludes.

Life at the Second Fort Jupiter.
         Both the new Fort Jupiter and future Jupiter Lighthouse were built within the 9,088-acre Jupiter Military Reservation. The military zone was established during the Second Seminole War, and was located northwest of the inlet.
        The 1856 Military Memoir states, "Half a mile distant from the old fort, upon an eastern point made by the creek and river, is the new post, now called Fort Jupiter. Here the pine land is still more elevated and continues for five miles back; the timber coming down to the water's edge, and water itself being of sufficient depth for small boats, close to shore."
        "Abundance of wood, suitable for building purposes, can be conveniently obtained," the Memoir continues. "The soil is fertile. There is an excellent anchorage and a good place for loading and unloading boats, making the site at the present fort preferable  to that of the old one or any other location in the vicinity."
        A post office was established at the fort, and a mail carrier was assigned to carry correspondence between Forts Capron and Jupiter, and south to Cape Florida.
        The commencement of the Third Seminole War delayed work on the Jupiter Lighthouse for three years. Lt. Meade, the chief engineer for Florida's lighthouse projects, was so concerned about the safety of his civilian workers that he petitioned the Key West Navy Base commander for arms and ammunition on Jan. 7, 1856.
        Just 12 days later, Meade informed the U.S. Light House Board of his decision to store supplies for the Jupiter Lighthouse on Key Biscayne and "postpone for the present the commencement of the work." He then boarded a ship in Key West and departed Florida, never to return to the Jupiter Inlet.
        Seven years in the future, Meade would command the U.S. Army of the Potomac at the Battle of Gettysburg, and while serving under Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, continued to lead the army during the final two years of the Civil War.
       The garrison at Fort Jupiter patrolled the waterways in boats between Fort Capron to the north, and south to Fort Dallas near Miami, searching the lakes and rivers along these routes for Seminole encampments.
        The closing of the Jupiter Inlet by sandbars in the 1850s disrupted the natural tidal flows and flushing of its estuaries. As a result, some of the waterways near the fort became stagnant. Health conditions at the outpost were poor. The problem was analyzed and reported in the 1856 Memoir.
        "The closing of the inlet causes the locality - at other times salubrious - to be an unhealthy one," the Memoir states, "the water on the inside of the bar thus becoming fresh, and inducing a rapid growth of vegetable matter, which decaying taints the atmosphere and engenders disease."
        The disease cited in the Military Memoir was called "Jupiter Fever". The ailment encompassed a number of infectious diseases spread not by "the atmosphere," but by a plague of mosquitoes and sand flies at the fort. "Jupiter Fever" may have been an outbreak of malaria or possibly yellow fever.
        At one point it was reported 60 of the 68 soldiers in the garrison were listed on sick call. A visiting Army surgeon in May 1855 also reported two cases of "scorbutus" (scurvy) at Fort Jupiter caused by poor diet.
        Due to the unhealthy conditions at Fort Jupiter, its officers and enlisted men were often rotated between Fort Jupiter and Fort Capron, where there were better medical facilities and fewer insect carriers of disease.

Efforts to Open the Jupiter Inlet
        One solution to the unhealthy conditions at Fort Jupiter was to reopen the Jupiter Inlet. The garrison attempted  to dig a channel twice without success.
        The 1856 Military Memoir reported, "Objections exist to it (Fort Jupiter) now as a military position, from the fact that the inlet is closed, and the post rendered inaccessible from the sea to the smallest coasting vessels."
        According to the Memoir, the inlet stayed open until 1847, when it closed. During the year 1853 it briefly opened itself, but "remained in that condition only a short time."
        "In 1855, Major Haskin, First Artillery, in command of the post endeavored again to clear the channel," the Memoir reports. "Sand hills of considerable size which had accumulated were cut through, and the attempt would have doubtless been successful but for the low condition of water during an unusually dry year."
        "A small amount of labor expended under favorable circumstances would in all probability  effortlessly open the inlet," the Military Memoir concludes, "and render the harbor one of the best upon the eastern coast. At times it has admitted vessels drawing eight feet, and the entrance is protected from north winds by a ridge of rocks."
        In his history of the "First Regiment of Artillery," William L. Haskin, the son of Fort Jupiter's first commander, wrote the following commentary: "The Florida war brought little glory to any unit taking part in it. The climate was an enemy more successful than the Seminoles, and its victims counted not by single files, but by platoons if not battalions."
        In February 1858, Lt. Charles H. Webb of Company E, First Artillery, took command at Fort Jupiter during the final months of the Third Seminole War. The conflict was declared over by the U.S. Department of War on May 8, 1858, following the deportation of tribal leader Billy Bowlegs (Holata Micco) to Oklahoma on the steamer "Gray Cloud".
        It is estimated less than 300 Seminole and Miccosukee Indians remained in the Everglades. Fort Jupiter was permanently evacuated a short time after the war's end.
(c.) Davidsson, 2018.
*NOTE: This article also was published in the Nov. 29 edition of the Jupiter Courier and the Gannett/USA Today Treasure Coast Network. See additional articles archived below and in Olders Posts.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

WPB Episcopal Church Becomes Historic Landmark

By Bob Davidsson
        For more than 100 years, the St. Patrick's Episcopal Church has served the spiritual needs of its congregation in the predominately African-American Northwest Historic District of West Palm Beach.
        By an ordinance unanimously passed by the West Palm Beach City Commission on Oct. 22, the church itself became a municipal landmark by its inclusion on the city's Local Register of Historic Places. The city's staff recommendation states, "For the last 90 years, the church has served the community as a beacon of religious and community support."
        "St. Patrick's Episcopal Church derives its significance from its architectural style, its function as a religious organization with targeted community engagement, and its importance to the Northwest District," the city's staff report concludes.

Bahamian Community in the Palm Beaches
         Bahamian settlers and their descendants have been an important element in the history of the St. Patrick's Episcopal Church from its beginning.
        In the late 19th century, Bahamian fishermen sailed to the Palm Beaches where they helped establish the region's early fishing industry. Camps were set up on Singer Island for use by the estimated 12 to 25 fishermen.
        A sharp decline in agricultural production in the Bahamas in the 1890s hastened an influx of Bahamian migration extending from the Palm Beaches south to the Florida Keys. White Bahamians, primarily from Eleuthera Island, settled in the Keys and Key West. Most black Bahamians migrated to the fledgling communities along Henry Flagler's Florida East Coast Railway.
        By the turn of the 20th century, between 75 and 100 Bahamian families formed settlements on both shores of the Lake Worth Lagoon. These included the Coconut Grove, Inlet Cove, Inlet City, Acrehome Park and Santry communities in the then unincorporated area north of West Palm Beach.
        An early nick name for Riviera Beach, incorporated in 1922, was "Conch Town". Bahamian migrants in South Florida were commonly  called "Conchs" by other native Floridians. In the Florida Keys, the name became a symbol of self-identification and pride. However, in the Palm Beaches, it was considered pejorative and most residents self-identified as Bahamians.
        By the year 1922, an estimated 75 Bahamian families, both black and white, resided in "Conch Town," where they were employed in the thriving commercial fishing industry. Fish processing and distribution began in Riviera Beach in 1919, via the new FEC Railway, to destinations as far north as New York City. The Richardson's market, R.R. Recou & Sons and Riviera Fish Company were established in the 1920s.
         Bahamian migration to the Palm Beaches continued through the boom years of the 1920s, then declined during the Great Depression. The Bahamian ties to the history of the Palm Beaches were acknowledged by Riviera Beach in 2012 when it become an official sister city of Freeport on Grand Bahamas Island.
        As former subjects of Great Britain, many of the Bahamian settlers were members of Anglican and Episcopal parishes. They brought their religious traditions with them to the Palm Beaches.

St. Patrick's Episcopal Church Established
        The black Episcopalian congregation originally met on the island of Palm Beach as part of the Missionary District of South Florida. It was affiliated with the Bethesda-by-the-Sea Church, established in 1889. Due to segregation policies in the early 1900s, separate services were held for African-American members of the Episcopal church.
        The congregation's first church in West Palm Beach was built in 1921 and served the parish for seven years. The original church building was destroyed by the Hurricane of 1928.
        A new "Gothic Revival" style church was designed by the local architectural firm of Harvey & Clarke of West Palm Beach. It was built at its current location of 418 Sapodilla Avenue in 1929.
        St. Patrick Episcopal Church was one of 11 historical buildings designed by Henry Stephen Harvey and L. Philip Clarke in West Palm Beach. It would become the final project completed by the architectural firm before the company was dissolved during the Great Depression.
        Other local historic landmark buildings designed by Harvey & Clarke during the 1920s included the Pine Ridge Hospital, the West Palm Beach Train Station on Tamarind, the former Pennsylvania Hotel, the Comeau Building and the Alfred Comeau house.
        As an historic landmark, the city staff report stated the church is "associated with events that have made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of the city's history."
        St. Patrick's Episcopal Church is part of the worldwide Episcopalian Church and Anglican Communion. The Anglican/Catholic parish celebrates a high mass on Sundays, with the Rev. Canon Winston B. Joseph, rector, and the Rev. Hal O. Hurley currently officiating.
        In addition to meeting the spiritual needs of its congregation, for many years St. Patrick's has sponsored a Seniors Activities Center, and provides a Community Youth Program and weekly "Soup Kitchen" for those in need.
(c.) Davidsson. 2018.
NOTE: See additional articles below and archived in Older Posts.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Close Encounters with Cryptid 'Skunk Apes': 1972-78

By Bob Davidsson
        During the 1970s, more than a dozen sightings of the elusive "Skunk Ape," the Everglades version of the Himalayan "Yeti" and Oregon's "Sasquatch" (Bigfoot), were reported in suburban Palm Beach County.
        Why the legendary creature was observed in such large numbers during the decade of the 1970s is a mystery. However, not unlike the rash of reported UFO encounters in the 1960s, one Skunk Ape sighting tends to fuel the overactive imaginations of other observers.
        Another factor contributing to the upswing of Skunk Ape encounters was the widespread news coverage of the sightings by the Palm Beach Post, Miami Herald and especially in Lantana's National Enquirer and Weekly World News tabloids.
        The decade also was a period of rapid population growth in Palm Beach County, with developers creating many communities west of Military Trail and in the new Village of Wellington. Loss of natural habitat confines wildlife to smaller green spaces and increases human contacts.
        The Everglades Skunk Ape has many nicknames - Swamp Cabbage Man, Swampsquatch, and the Florida Bigfoot. Eyewitnesses claim the creature measures six to eight feet in height and weighs an estimated 500 pounds. It has a shaggy coat of fur ranging from rust color to dark brown.
        Unlike Florida's black bears, the Skunk Ape walks upright on two legs. Observers say it could move rapidly when frightened or pursued. As its name implies, the Skunk Ape is best known for its rank odor. Eyewitnesses describe the stench as a cross between a skunk and aged road kill.
        The Skunk Ape is classified as a "cryptid". A cryptid is "an animal where its existence or survival to the present day is disputed or unsubstantiated by the scientific community," according to the Oxford English Dictionary.
        As such, the Skunk Ape joins the company of  such cryptid celebrities as the Loch Ness Monster, the Florida Keys Devil Men and the recently observed  Lake Worth Lagoon Muck Monster.
        Eyewitnesses who have encountered a Skunk Ape disagree with the scientific experts. So do "crypto zoologists" - alternative pseudoscientists and adventurers whose aim it is to prove the existence of entities from the folklore records and evidence reported about the Skunk Ape.

Strange Cryptid Encounters in Palm Beach County
      In 1977 a bill was introduced in the Florida Legislature that would make it illegal to "take, possess, harm or molest anthropoids or humanoid animals." It failed to pass.
      Reports of Skunk Ape sightings were so common statewide in the 1970s that even our Florida lawmakers took notice. Palm Beach County had more than its share of alleged close encounters with the Everglades creature.
        For example, in 1972 a Skunk Ape sighting was reported in the Meadowbrook subdivision of West Palm Beach,. The same year a Pahokee resident said he and his dog fled from a "hairy eight-foot monster" in western Palm Beach County.
        In June 1974, farmer Buddy Sterrett reported a Skunk Ape picked up one his 110-pound hogs and attacked it. He said," It had the smell that would make the hair on the back of your head stand up."
        Thee months later, security guard Cary Kantor said he shot at a Skunk Ape in the Wellington construction site where he was posted. "It smelled like it had taken a bath in rotten eggs," he reported. In the autumn of 1974, a Greenacres family reported seeing strange footprints outside of their home left by the Skunk Ape.
        Two workers reported seeing a "seven-foot tall hairy creature" in 1977 as it was drinking from a lake at a suburban Delray Beach golf course. They notified the Palm Beach County Animal Control of their sighting. No report was filed.
        In 1978 a Lantana resident said he spotted a creature at 5 a.m. in his back yard. He was alerted by the barking of his dogs. The same year two Boca Raton youths reported to police "a creature resembling the notorious Skunk Ape" stalking in the woods by the Hillsboro Canal.
        The prestigious "Smithsonian" journal published a feature article in March 2014 entitled "On the Trail of Florida's Bigfoot." The story highlighted the "Skunk Ape Research Center," established in 1999 by Dave Shealy, an eyewitness and true believer in the Skunk Ape, near the tiny Everglades community of Ochopee.
         His collection of artifacts includes alleged photographs of the Skunk Ape, which many cryptid critics believe look more like a fugitive orangutan than an Everglades monster. Whether fact or fiction, the legend lives on in Florida today.

Key Largo: An Island Paradise for Cryptids
       Without question the most famous and widely investigated Skunk Ape encounter was the month-long ordeal experienced by the Charles Stoeckman family of Key Largo. Among those investigating the bazaar series of encounters were the Monroe County Sheriffs Office, the Florida Marine Patrol, a team from the Florida Technical Institute, photographers from the National Enquirer, and interested news media from Palm Beach County to Key West.
        The island of Key Largo forms the southeastern tip of the so-called Bermuda Triangle, which may help explain preternatural sightings of the "Devil Men," seen floating over Florida Bay prior to electrical storms, or visions of the Virgin Mary in a grotto near the St. Justin Martyr Catholic Church.
        One enthusiastic resident in 1978 even claimed to have discovered the lost city of Atlantis just offshore of Key Largo. However, upon close inspection at low tide, his "Atlantis" turned out to be an ancient reef of consisting of fossilized brain coral.*
        Charles Stoeckman, his wife, and three children lived in a home at mile marker 94.5 Oceanside on Key Largo. On July 14, 1977 Stoeckman and his son saw what he said was an eight or nine-foot tall Skunk Ape while they were collecting rare bottles in the mangroves near his home.
        "It had a huge head and shoulders," he later reported, "long fur all over, and he stank like a dirty wet dog. The noise he made was a high-pitched wailing."
        Stoeckman cleared 30 feet of brush from around his home to discourage a return visit by the Skunk Ape. It didn't work. The Skunk Ape returned for several night visits. Mrs. Stoeckman and her children fled to Homestead after seeing the creature outside her window.
        Responding to terrorized pleas for help were Monroe County Sheriffs Deputy Bill Haase and Sgt. Randall Chinn from the Plantation Key Substation. Florida Marine Patrol Capt. Jack Gillen also inspected the Stoeckman property. No trace of the Skunk Ape was found.
       Charles Stoeckman remained at his home for about a month, armed with a shotgun. He later joined his family in south Dade County.
        A short time after the Stoeckman encounter, four Tavernier residents formed a Skunk Ape posse. Armed with flash lights, lanterns, a camera and snake bite medication they began what a local newspaper called a "Skunk Ape Safari". The posse met at Harry Harris Park in Tavernier and followed the shoreline north to the Dove Creek Estates.
        As with all Skunk Ape adventures, the Everglades monster eluded its pursuers.
(c.) Davidsson. 2018.
*NOTE: This article also was published in the Oct.31, 2018 edition of the Okeechobee News. The author of this article was a reporter for the Florida Keys Keynoter from 1977-80. See additional articles below and archived in Older Posts.       

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Summer of 'Rockreation' in Palm Beach County: 1970

By Bob Davidsson
        On Nov. 28, 1969, Palm Beach County law enforcement and pubic health agencies were stretched to the limit by the sudden arrival of more than 40,000 young people at the old Palm Beach International Speedway to attend the "First Annual (and only) Palm Beach International Music and Arts Festival."
        The determined Baby Boomers braved near record-cold temperatures and heavy rains  to hear Iron Butterfly, Jefferson Airplane, Sly Stone, Janis Joplin and the last-minute arrival of the Rolling Stones for the three-day event.
       Most of the young music fans attending the festival paid the $20 entry fee. However, many opted to swim across an alligator infested canal for free access to the concert.
        It is estimated promoter Dave Rupp lost between $300,000 and $500,000 sponsoring the rock festival. County taxpayers picked up much of the tab for emergency Fire-Rescue medical services to treat 130 drug overdoses and 42 cases of intestinal disease caused by poor sanitation. Security and traffic control required 150 Sheriffs Office deputies.
        The county attempted to deny Rupp a permit to hold the music festival, but the concert promoter prevailed in an appeal. Ironically, less than six months later, the County Commission would reverse its policy by supporting summer rock concerts in several of its public parks.

The Summer of 'Rockreation'
        The lingering image of 40,000 young Baby Boomers assembled en mass at one venue left a lasting impression with county leaders. Record numbers of the post-World War II generation were attending county high schools and colleges in 1969-70.
        When the school year ended in June 1970, would thousands of idle but socially active young people be content with another summer of love, beaches and surfing, or would it become a season of discontent sparked by the endless Vietnam War and unresolved societal issues.
        The County Commission approved a unique cure for their summertime blues - "Rockreation".
        An editorial first published in the Palm Beach Post, then reprinted in the Boca Raton News for the benefit of south county readers on March 20, 1970, reported, "The County Commission rightly gave a boost to youth by arranging facilities for ad hoc Sunday rock concerts in county parks."
         "Commissioners agreed to make electricity available at some county facilities each Sunday between 1:30 and 5:30 p.m. As little as that is, at least Palm Beach County youth now have a popular form of recreation on county property."
          The editorial concludes, "The county has earned plus marks for its decision. Now if it could bend a little further to provide even more activities for its residents who are too old for seesaws and too young for night clubs."
        The loose-knit events actually began a number of weeks prior to the county's decision. Local bands got together for jam sessions at John Prince Park. The number of spectators increased weekly. Occasionally, the musicians would rent group barbecue pavilions to obtain access to electricity.
         The County Commission wisely codified an activity already taking place in its parks.

The Violent End to 'The Peoples Park'
        In sharp contrast to the county's policy of toleration in the use of public parks by area youths, the City of West Palm Beach cracked down on unauthorized gatherings of young people through strict enforcement of city policies.
        The main target of the West Palm Beach Police was a colony of Hippies and their cadre of weekend student supporters encamped at the so-called "Peoples Park".
        The Peoples Park was an open area at Phillips Point, fronting Flagler Drive. It was across the street from "The Hut," a favorite counter-culture eatery and gathering place during the 1960s and early 1970s.
        After more than a month of clashes between the Hippies and police over noise, drug use and zoning violations, on July 7, 1970 the police swept into the Peoples Park, arresting 64 young people and closing the area to public use.
        "Keep Off" signs were posted at the park site. The city passed an ordinance closing all city parks at 9 p.m. to prevent future gatherings of young people.
        In a 1978 Palm Beach Post interview, former West Palm Beach Police Chief William Barnes recalled, "The park was a damned national disgrace - pot smoking, hell raising, fornicating on the ground, bottle throwing. You name it."
        The editors of the Palm Beach Junior College "Beachcomber" student newspaper had a different perspective on the closing of the Peoples Park. Their lament was published  in a Aug. 31, 1970 column entitled "Summertime Blues".
        "The violent purge in the Peoples Park at The Hut, the shutdown of the Summerfaze in Miami, the demise of live rock Sundays at John Prince Park, when will it end," the editorial stated. "When will people be allowed to gather in free assembly granted by our Constitution?"
        The County Commission's experiment with "Rockreation" ended with the beginning of the 1970-71 school year. While the music died, impromptu weekend gatherings (Happenings) by young people continued in the John Prince and Phil Foster parks well into the fall and winter.
        So ended the summer of 1970 in Palm Beach County. Today, outdoor rock concerts have become a regular feature along the West Palm Beach waterfront, at Bryant Park in Lake Worth and venues across the county.
(c.) Davidsson. 2018.
NOTE: The author was a junior at Lake Worth High School in the summer of 1970. He attended events at John Prince and Phil Foster parks. See additional articles archived below and in Older Posts.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Dutch Privateers Prowl the Treasure Coast: 1627-28

By Bob Davidsson       
        For a period of two years in 1627-28, fleets of Dutch warships used the Jupiter and Indian River inlets as a staging area and source of provisions for raids on Spanish treasure fleets entering the Florida Straits.
        Although Spanish authorities in St. Augustine and Havana considered these Dutch interlopers as pirates, the squadrons of warships lurking in Florida coastal waters were not the typical freebooting buccaneers of the 17th century.
        In 1621 the Dutch West Indies Company (WIC) received a charter to establish colonies and promote trade in the Caribbean and Brazil. To finance their operations, the Dutch merchant-adventurers targeted Spanish and Portuguese shipping with the goal of eliminating their competition.
        By the year 1627, the new United Provinces of the Netherlands and the Spanish Hapsburg empire were engaged in the 59th year of the bloody Dutch War of Independence, a conflict commonly called the "80 Years' War (1568 - 1648)."
        The West Indies Company expanded the war to the New World by licensing privateers to prey on merchant shipping flying the flag of the unified Kingdom of Spain and Portugal (1580 - 1640). The crews of the Dutch privateers were the descendants of the "Sea Beggars," fishermen turned nautical freedom fighters defending the flooded estuaries and canals of Holland and Zeeland from Spanish invaders in the 16th century.
        Most of the privateers were Calvinists, adding a religious element to the conflict. The Dutch sailors held a special hatred for their Spanish Catholic opponents - a feeling shared by their adversaries in this pitiless war at sea.

The Dutch Fleet Arrives in Florida
        The directors of the West Indies Company were aware of the routes used by Spanish silver fleets from Mexico known as the "Flota," and convoys carrying the gold mined in South America annually and transported in the "Galleones" along the east coast of Florida.
        In the year 1598, Dutch historian John Huigehen Van Linschoten reported, "Gold and silver wherewith the Indians trafficke, they had it out of ships which fall on ground upon the Cape of  Florida (Canaveral), because most of the ships lost here are lost on this said coast..."
        In anticipation of future raids by Dutch or English pirates, Florida Governor Luis De Rojas y Borja (1624-29) wisely recommended the establishment of a fortified sentinel station at Jupiter Inlet in his Feb. 13, 1627 "Letter from the Governor of Florida to his Majesty."
        "I should warn and advise your Majesty to build a fort at the bar (Jupiter Inlet)," he wrote, "at a place they call Jega (Jeaga), it being a place where vessels all come to cast anchor when they want to take on water, wood and wait for the merchant ships they wish to capture."
        "A fort at this place would act as an sentinel and guard against their landing and helping themselves," the concerned governor reported. "It would also be well to have it in case of vessels being wrecked upon this coast, as so many are, to be able to rescue and save the crews and passengers, who so often perish at the hands of pirates and cruel Indians..."
        This sage advice was ignored, at great cost and loss to the Kingdom of Spain.
        In the spring of 1627, Spanish Captain-General Thomas Larraspuru sighted a fleet of 13 Dutch warships in the Florida Straits while escorting a convoy of ships to Havana. He reported the Dutch withdrew as he prepared for battle near Coximer, Cuba.
        In fact, the Dutch privateers, under the command of Piet Heyn (1577-1629), remained in Cuban waters until July, charting Spanish trade routes and capturing prizes. Larraspuru stated 55 vessels  were boarded or sunk by Dutch "pirates" in 1627.
        On their return voyage to Holland, the Dutch ships anchored offshore of the Indian River inlet, near the main village of the Ais Indians called "Jece". As the Dutch landed, the Indians fled their village until enticed to return by gifts offered  by the privateers.
        The Dutch remained at the village, gathering wood and barrels of water for the long journey home. A few of the Ais villagers, loyal to the Spanish, traveled to St. Augustine to request help from Governor Rojas.
        It so happened that the presence of the Dutch fleet off the coast of Florida prevented the Spanish from sending the "Situado" or annual royal subsidy to St. Augustine. The subsidy supported the garrison and administration of the Florida outpost and was main source of hard currency in he colony.
        Governor Rojas dispatched a small frigate, also known as a "presidio boat," to Havana to inquire on the Situado's delay. The Spanish frigate discovered the 13 Dutch warships at anchor and fled north to report their presence to the governor.
        The report by the excited crew confirmed the story told by the friendly Ais Indians. Governor Rojas mustered a force of 150 Spaniards and 300 Indians and marched south to confront the Dutch interlopers. He was too late. The Ais told the governor that the Dutch fleet had already set sail.
        In his 1628 report, Governor Rojas wrote, "And they (the Indians) have come to give me the news that there were enemy on the coast. And on two occasions when they landed to obtain water, they abandoned their places and withdrew into the woods, and others came to give the report and to ask for help."

Piet Heyn and the Spanish Silver Fleet
        Encouraged by profits made in the 1627 expedition to the Florida Straits, the West Indies Company dispatched  four squadrons of warships to the Caribbean in 1628. They were led by Captains Pieter Adriaanszoon Ita, Witte de With, Joost Benckert (known as the Scourge of the Portuguese), and the return of Piet Heyn.
        Captain Ita was the first to appear off the coast of Cuba in May 1628. The privateer captured two great galleons bound for Cuba from Honduras with 12 barges and several smaller vessels under their escort.
        The Spanish galleon "Nossa Senhora de Remedios" was boarded as a prize and sailed with the Dutch privateers to the southeast coast of Florida. Following the example of the 1627 fleet, Ita provisioned his ships for the voyage back to Holland.
        The captured "Remedios" was unfit for further sailing, so its cargo was transferred to the Dutch warships. Captain Ita scuttled the "Remedios" one mile off the Treasure Coast of Florida and set sail for home.
        The privateer captain arrived in Holland in September 1628. His captured cargo was valued at 1.2 million guilders.
        With the departure of the Dutch squadron, the governor of Cuba assumed it was safe for the annual silver fleet to make the voyage from Mexico to Spain. It was a fatal decision.
        On July 27, 1628, Piet Heyn gathered 31 Dutch warships near Hispaniola, including the squadrons of Witte de With and Joost Benckert, and sailed for the Florida Straits and the northern coast of Cuba. Joining the Dutch fleet was the buccaneer Moses Cohen Henriques, an exiled Portuguese Sephardic Jew wanted by the Spanish Inquisition for piracy but never caught during his 30-year illicit career at sea.
        Their unexpected arrival caught the Cadiz-bound silver fleet at anchor in the Bay of Matanzas, Cuba, on Sept. 9. Captain-General Juan de Benevides fled to the mainland and his fleet surrendered after just token resistance.
        For Piet Heyn the victory was especially sweet. It was the same Captain Benevides who was the sailing master of a ship where Heyn rowed as a captive galley slave between the years 1598 and 1602. For his cowardice and loss of the silver fleet, Benevides was imprisoned in Cuba.
        The 17 ships captured in Matanzas Bay yielded a silver haul valued at 11.9 million guilders. It marked the first and only time an entire  Mexican silver Flota was captured intact.
        Piet Heyn's fleet was sighted by curious Ais and Jeaga Indians on Sept. 30 as it assembled for one last time off Florida's Treasure Coast for the voyage home. The privateers followed the Gulf Stream to Europe, arriving in Holland on Jan. 9, 1629. The Dutch fleets never returned to Florida.
        Ironically, Piet Heyn was allotted little time to bask in the glory of his victory. After a promotion to vice admiral, he was killed a few months later in a naval battle against his Flemish co-religionists in the service of Spain.
        The capture of the Spanish silver fleet financed the beginning of Holland's golden age of commerce and world colonization. However, the Dutch were never able to repeat their total victory at Matanzas Bay. Spain upgraded the quality and number of warships escorting future Flota treasure convoys to Spain.
        With the loss of the silver fleet, King Phillip IV could not pay his armies and many creditors in 1629-30. The Kingdom of Spain was bankrupt.
(c.) Davidsson. 2018.

Friday, August 10, 2018

The British Expedition to the 'Hobe River': April 1772

By Bob Davidsson      
       Upon his arrival as the first chief administrator of the new British colony of East Florida, Governor James Grant (1763-71) poetically described its primal coastal frontier as a "New World in a State of Nature."
        Nine years later, in one of his last acts before returning to England, the ailing Scottish governor authorized an expedition to explore the Indian River, and the inland estuaries between the St. Lucie Inlet and Biscayne Bay. The official report forwarded to Governor Grant includes a rare 18th century look at the Jupiter Inlet and Loxahatchee River basin, referred to as "Hobe River," during the British colonial period (1763-83),
        The colonial official charged with leading the expedition in the spring of 1772 was Frederick George Mulcaster (1739-97), the newly appointed Surveyor General of East Florida. He also held the rank of lieutenant in the British Army's Royal Engineers at the time of the journey.
        Mulcaster's orders were to examine the potential of the vast coastal wilderness for future farming and colonization. He specifically was assigned the task of evaluating the 20,000-acre tract of land acquired by William Legge, the second Earl of Dartmouth, at Biscayne Bay.

The Dual Identity of Frederick George Mulcaster
        Lt. Mulcaster was born in the year 1739. His March 12, 1739 christening was recorded at St. James church, Westminster, Middlesex, England. It lists William and Jane Mulcaster as his parents.
       Throughout his life, it was rumored that Mulcaster was in fact the illegitimate son of his royal namesake - Frederick, Prince of Wales, the eldest son of King George II. If the rumor was true, his half brother was none other than the future King George III of England.
        William Mulcaster was an officer in the household of Prince Frederick, so there was ample opportunity for a secrete liaison between his wife and the amorous Prince of Wales.
        The royal family refused to acknowledge Frederick Mulcaster's kinship, so any claims to royalty were judged "illegitimate".  He began a career in the military as a Mulcaster instead of a member of the British Hannover dynasty when he graduated from the Royal Military Academy in Woolwich, England.
         The young engineer was posted to British East Florida. Governor Grant appointed him as the deputy to East Florida's first Surveyor General, William G. DeBrahm. Mulcaster married DeBrahm's daughter in 1769, and succeeded his father-in-law in 1770 as Surveyor General when Governor Grant removed him from office.
        Mulcaster was stationed in East Florida at the beginning of the American Revolution in 1775. East Florida remained loyal to the British crown and Mulcaster served as an officer in the British army. He would file several reports on rebel activities in Georgia and South Carolina as the war progressed.
        Lt. Mulcaster left the province of East Florida in March 1776 to begin active military service. He resigned his post as Surveyor General, and set sail to Charleston, South Carolina.
       His career in the British army continued after the American Revolution. Mulcaster retired with the rank of a major-general, a rare achievement for a "commoner" in class-conscious 18th century England.

The British Expedition to South Florida
        Lt  Mulcaster began his three-month expedition at the Minorcan settlement of New Smyrna, established in 1768 near the Mosquito (Ponce de Leon) Inlet 80 miles south of St. Augustine. He was accompanied by several sailors hired to man his two vessels.
        The larger ship was a schooner used as the supply vessel for the expedition. Within its cargo hold were food and cooking provisions, axes, surveyor measuring chains and two horses. A smaller shallow-draft, sailing skiff also was acquired for navigating the Indian River and other tidal estuaries encountered during the journey.
        The Surveyor General ordered the schooner to sail south along the Atlantic coastline, then wait for a rendezvous with its smaller companion vessel at the St. Lucie Inlet. Mulcaster portaged the skiff across the narrow "Haulover" separating Mosquito Bay from the Indian River and sailed south along the 100-mile inland waterway.
        The two vessels reunited at "Point St. Lucea" where Mulcaster established a base camp. He left two of his men, the horses and a catch of supplies for the return journey, then sailed south along the Atlantic coast to Biscayne Bay.
        Lt. Mulcaster reported, "I reached the Bay of Biscayne on the 13th of March with both boats, having left my horses upon the Point of St. Lucea about a hundred miles  to the northward of this bay and about 140 miles to the southward of Captain Ross's plantation."
        Mulcaster remained in Biscayne Bay for nearly four weeks, exploring coastal estuaries in Dade and Broward counties as far north as the mouth of the "New Hillsborough" (New) River in what is today Fort Lauderdale. He surveyed tracts of land suitable for future plantations.
        The Surveyor General was impressed with the region's natural abundance, and reported in his journal; "Everything carried the face of  spring." With supplies running low, Mulcaster sailed north in his two vessels. The next stop in the voyage was Jupiter Inlet.
       "The 10th of April at 10 at night I passed the barr (at Jupiter Inlet), Mulcaster reported, "the schooner following me the day after and having a fair wind I got into Jupiter's Inlet at the mouth of the Hobe River the next afternoon."
        In his report, Mulcaster used the geographic names of Jupiter Inlet and the Hobe River to describe the Jupiter Narrows and Loxahatchee River. He did  not call them the "Grenville Inlet and Grenville River," names that appeared on later British maps.
        The Surveyor General makes no mention of the Grenville plantation on the north shore of Jupiter Inlet. The brothers George and Richard Grenville acquired the site as a land grant and sent a team to survey the site in the late 1760s. The plantation project was abandoned after the death of George Grenville in 1770.
        In his description of the Hobe River, Mulcaster reported, "This river divides itself in three branches. The south river I examined on my way to the southward. It runs almost parallel to the sea, has fine fresh water and plenty of fish."
        "The middle branch I could not now examine, the Surveyor General reported, "having been away from my people and horses (at the St. Lucie Inlet) fifty days, which was longer than I expected. I was therefore anxious to get to them for fear they might suffer from want of provisions."
          "The north branch (Jupiter Narrows) is rather an arm of the sea, with banks and shoals which leads to the south head of the Indian River, Mulcaster recorded. "I therefore ordered the schooner to the Indian (River) Inlet and came by that way up to St. Lucea to meet me which took place, which place I arrived at the 13th (of April) at 11 at night, but the horses and people were gone."
         With supplies exhausted at the St. Lucie base camp, the two frightened men headed north to St. Augustine with the horses. They scratched a message with a penknife on a sable palm frond describing their plight and decision to leave.
        "I therefore gave up all thoughts of looking at St. Lucea," Mulcaster wrote, "which I had all along determined to strictly search and make the best of my way along the banks of the river to look for them."
        "I therefore set off at one-o-clock in the morning and the same day met the schooner and directed her to go to the Mosquito (inlet) and wait my arrival. I proceeded myself up the Indian River and about 50 miles south of the plantation of  Capt. Ross saw a blue flag on the shore. Upon going nearer I perceived  it as an Indian blanket and saw the Indians beckoning me."
        Relations between the British and the lower Creek nation in Florida (soon known as the Seminole) were generally cordial. Governor Grant met with 50 chieftains at Fort Picolata in November 1765 and signed a treaty allowing settlement along the St. John's and Indian rivers.
        Mulcaster reached "Capt. Ross's Plantation" on April 25. Capt. John Ross was resident foreman for two land grant tracts south of New Smyrna owned by London merchant William Eliott which were under cultivation as a sugar cane plantation. After a brief stay, Mulcaster sailed north to St. Augustine, completing his expedition.
        Lt. Gov. John Moultrie (1771-74) was serving as interim governor of the East Florida colony when Mulcaster returned. The Surveyor General forwarded a copy of his report as a letter to absentee Gov. James Grant in England on May 6, 1772.      
(c.) Davidsson. 2018.
NOTE: See additional articles below and archived in Older Posts.