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.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Palm Beaches during the Spanish-American War: 1898

By Bob Davidsson
        Guarding the intersection of Okeechobee Blvd. and Parker Avenue, shaded under a row of palms at the northwest corner of Howard Park in West Palm Beach, stands an eight-foot statue, commonly called "The Hiker." It stands as a memorial to the men and women who served in the armed forces or as volunteers during the Spanish-American War.
        The bronze monument, tarnished by age and the South Florida climate, depicts a foot soldier marching to battle. He wears the Army fatigues of the 1890s infantry, with knee-high boots, a supply satchel at his hip, and a Rough Rider campaign hat resting on his head. In his arms he carries a Springfield rifle used by many volunteers during the war.
        A "Hiker" is the name used by soldiers of the U.S. Army infantry to describe themselves during the Spanish-American War.
        The West Palm Beach monument is one of 50 copies of a statue designed and sculpted by artist Theo Alice Ruggles Kitson (1876-1932). The Spanish-American War memorial was cast by the Gorham Manufacturing Company, and dedicated in Howard Park on Aug. 12, 1949.
        A placard placed on the memorial reads: "This monument is presented by Public Subscription to United Spanish War Veterans of Florida to commemorate the valor and patriotism of the men who served in the War with Spain, Philippines Insurrection and China Relief Expedition (Boxer Rebellion), 1898-1902."
        It is a proper setting for a memorial. There are 48 Spanish-American War veterans buried in the city's Woodlawn Cemetery. Two additional veterans rest in the Boca Raton Cemetery. Most were men who enlisted in state volunteer regiments. Just 15 were U.S. Army and Navy veterans.
        Four of the veterans buried at Woodlawn were members of the 1st Florida Volunteer Infantry, according to the Spanish-American War Centennial research site.
        The Spanish-American War began with a declaration against Spain April 25, 1898, following a mysterious explosion and sinking of the battleship "U.S.S. Maine" in Havana, Cuba. Spain was engaged in crushing the latest in a series of revolts in its colony of Cuba. The brutality of these conflicts was widely reported in the American press, contributing to America's decision to go to war.
        When war was declared, the Palm Beaches were still part of Dade County. It required less than one day of sailing for a warship under full steam to travel from Havana to the fledgling cities of Juno and West Palm Beach. While there were no battles fought on Florida's southeast coast, residents of the scattered coastal villages of Dade County lived in fear of bombardment or possible landing of troops from passing Spanish warships.
        This wartime anxiety was well deserved. The anchorage of Palm Beach was used by at least three American gun-running vessels in the years prior to the Spanish-American War. The filibustering captains transported rifles, ammunition and Cuban rebel fighters to isolated rivers and harbors along the northern coast of Cuba.

Florida Filibusters and Gun-runners to Cuba
        During the 1890s, the Palm Beaches did not have a port-of-call for ocean shipping. The Port of Palm Beach did not exist. The Jupiter and Boca Raton inlets were too shallow and treacherous for ocean vessels. Several attempts to dig a navigable Lake Worth inlet failed during the 19th century.
        Railroad tycoon Henry Flagler had a plan. He would build an anchorage, consisting of a docking pier and breakwater, extending from the island of Palm Beach eastward more than 1,000 feet out to sea. It would be directly linked to the Palm Beach spur of his new Florida East Coast Railway.
        On Sept, 25, 1895, Captain J.D. Ross received the contract from Flagler to build the platform later known as the "Breakers Pier". It was located offshore of the Palm Beach Inn which soon became the site of the Breakers Hotel.
       His ocean "port" became the terminus of Flagler's short-lived "Palm Beach-Nassau Steamship Line," established on Oct. 19, 1895. The steamer "Northampton" began passenger service to the Bahamas on Jan. 18, 1896. A U.S. Customs House opened the same day to keep a record of vessels using the new port.
        A second steamer under contract with Flagler acquired a more sinister reputation. The "Biscayne," formerly named the "J.N. Sweeny," was used as a passenger ferry to transport workers and customers of Florida East Coast Railway as it advanced down the southeast coast of Florida.
        Initially based in Lake Worth, the "Biscayne" carried passengers from Palm Beach to Fort Lauderdale in 1896, then from Fort Lauderdale to Miami as the rail service moved south. When no longer needed by the railroad as a transport, the "Biscayne" began a new career as a smuggling vessel.
        The steamship was seized twice while attempting to smuggle arms to rebellious Cubans in their fight for independence from Spain. In June 1897, the New York Times published three articles about American gun-runners. One headline screamed, "The 'Dauntless' and 'Biscayne' May Be Libeled and Their Officers Placed Under Arrest."
        The gun-runner "Dauntless" set sail from Palm Beach in October 1896, carrying four rail carloads of ammunition and medical supplies for the rebels in Cuba. A special train from Jacksonville met the "Dauntless" at the Breakers Pier where for four hours Cuban fighters and munitions were transferred to the steamer.
        The vessel was shadowed from its home port of Jacksonville by the U.S. revenue cutters "Boutwell" and "Winona". Eight hours after the "Dauntless" left Palm Beach, the pursuit was joined by U.S. Navy ships based in Key West.
        The "Dauntless" completed a safe voyage and landing on the coast of Pinar del Rio, Cuba. However, the steamer's luck ran out while carrying its fourth illegal cargo off the southeast coast of Florida.
        The "Dauntless" was overtaken by the cruiser "U.S.S. Raleigh". The "Raleigh" fired on the gun-runner when it attempted to escape. The captured vessel was turned over to the U.S. Marshal's Service.
        The "Dauntless" was one of four gun-runners based in the St. Johns River near Jacksonville. They became known as the infamous "Cuban Fleet" of American filibusters. Its sister ships were the "Commodore," "Kate Spencer" and the "Three Friends".
        The "Three Friends" was a seagoing tug built in 1895 and owned by Napoleon Bonaparte Broward, a future Florida governor; his brother, Montcalm Broward; and their friend, George DeCottes. The future Democratic governor and U.S. Senator for Florida later claimed to have made eight runs to Cuba beginning 1896 as the captain of the "Three Friends".
        A "filibuster" is defined as an American civilian who seeks to overthrow a foreign government without the consent of U.S. Congress and the President. Broward used his fame as a filibuster to gain political offices in Jacksonville and the State of Florida after the end of the Spanish-American War.
        On its maiden filibuster voyage in 1896, the "Three Friends" loaded Winchester (Model 1890) rifles, 500 pounds of dynamite, 500 machetes, and one million primer caps for ammunition. The cargo was labeled as "groceries".
        Captain Broward sailed to the Ballast Point docks in Key West, where he picked up pilot Herbert Peck to safely guide the gun-runner to Cuba. The "Three Friends" was paid $10,000 in advance per gun-running mission, with a $1,000 bonus after each voyage.
        On Dec. 13, 1896, the "Three Friends met the gun-runner "Commodore" outside the three-mile territorial waters limit of Florida. A cargo of 3,500 rifles, ammunition and a Hotchkiss gun (a light cannon) were transferred to the tug. The "Three Friends" eluded the "U.S.S. Raleigh," on patrol off the coast of Key West, and once again landed on the north coast of Cuba.
        A Spanish patrol boat spotted the "Three Friends" and opened fire on the Cuban rebels unloading the vessel. The filibusters responded by firing their Hotchkiss gun at the patrol boat to keep it at bay until the last of its cargo was safely deposited on shore.
        Upon its return to Jacksonville on Dec. 26, U.S. Customs authorities briefly impounded the "Three Friends" for violation of federal neutrality laws. Spain pressed the charges, and warned that if the tug returned to Spanish waters in Cuba, the crew would be treated as pirates. The "Three Friends" continued its gun-running missions for more than a year.
        There are two documented reports of the "Three Friends" making stops in the Palm Beaches. A U.S. Army Corps of Engineers 1897 survey of the Palm Beach anchorage states, "An inquiry of the deputy collector of Customs as to commerce of Palm Beach develops the following trade between the dates of January and November 1896: "U.S.S. "Raleigh," the tug "Martha Hale," the tug "Three Friends," and several yachts of which no records had to be kept."
        While returning from its final gun-running adventure in the winter of 1898, the "Three Friends" anchored off the coast of Manalapan to assist the beached Norwegian sailing barque "Lofthus". The tug was unable to free the shipwrecked vessel from the coastal reef, and resumed its voyage to Jacksonville.
        During the Spanish-American War, the "Three Friends" was chartered by the New York World newspaper and used as a dispatch courier to relay news stories from correspondents Stephen Crane, Richard Harding Davis and Ralph Paine from Santiago, Cuba, to the nearest newswire service in Key West.

Palm Beachers Prepare for War with Spain
        With a long history of gun-running from eastern Florida to Cuba, the scattered, undefended coastal communities had good reason to fear retaliation from Spain following the declarations of war. Fortunately, Spain was on the defensive during the short 10-month war with battles fought by land and sea in Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines.
        In April 1898, Captain Enoch Root formed a militia regiment in West Palm Beach. A total of 140 local residents signed up as volunteers for the defense of the Palm Beaches. Responding to a call to arms in The Tropical Sun newspaper editorial, many households on the island of Palm Beach armed themselves with Springfield rifles to protect their homes.
        The Jan. 24, 1899 edition of the Lake Worth Daily News reported, "The signal tower near the (Palm Beach) Inn is being painted. This tower belongs to the Flagler property, but it was used last spring by the government as a signal tower when there was a threat to the possibility of a Spanish descent on the American coast."
        Residents living in the "Celestial Railroad" villages of Juno and Jupiter were surprised to see the American battleship "U.S.S. Oregon" anchored off the Jupiter Inlet on May 24, 1898. The battleship had just completed an epic 14,000-mile voyage from San Francisco, around Cape Horn, to the coast of Florida to join the war against Spain.
        According to the New York Times, once local residents overcame their initial fear, they signaled the "Oregon" and relayed news of its arrival to Washington, D.C. The "Oregon" sailed south to Key West, then joined the American fleet blockading Santiago, Cuba.
        Several U.S. Navy ships used Flagler's Palm Beach anchorage as a port-of-call during and after the Spanish-American War. This provided a temporary but welcomed boom to local businesses. Apparently, wartime censorship did not exist in 1898, because local papers gave detailed descriptions of transport cargos and troop movements.
        The Jan. 20, 1899 Lake Worth Daily News reported, "The U.S. Navy's converted yacht "Yankton" appeared off the pier for three hours on the way from Newport to Santiago, Cuba. The paymaster and crew came ashore to get newspapers and notify the Department (of War). Besides Captain Dyer, the yacht carried 100 men and seven guns. The party had dinner at the Poinciana."
        Eleven days later, the newspaper reported, "The U.S. transport "Chester" stopped at Palm Beach several hours on Sunday, and some of her officers came ashore to send dispatches. The "Chester" was bound for Havana and had on aboard a Michigan regiment of volunteers, and a few other soldiers, making 1,100 in all."
        At the southern end of Dade County, "Camp Miami" opened as a military staging area June 20, 1898, but was abandoned just six weeks later due to poor sanitary conditions. During its short life, 7,000 volunteers from Alabama, Louisiana and Texas passed through the camp en route to the war.
        Henry Flagler was a supporter of the camp. The use of his railroad to transport troops was good for business. His Miami "Royal Palm Hotel" served as an officers quarters during the war. As the war progressed, Spanish prisoners also were shipped to the Port of Miami, then distributed to camps across the country.
        Admiral George Dewey, the hero of the naval Battle of Manila Bay, attempted dock at the Breakers Pier after returning to America. Sadly, the "U.S.S. Mayflower", his flagship, could not anchor due to heavy surf. Using naval flag signals, the admiral of the U.S. Asiatic Fleet apologized and said "The sea is too rough to make a landing."
        After the end of the Spanish-American War, Flagler decided relocate his "Palm Beach-Nassau Steamship Line to Miami. By then, he had a new vision of linking the City of Miami to Key West via an "Overseas Railroad".
       His Breakers Pier was severely damaged by the 1928 hurricane, and soon after dismantled. Today, sections of the pier can still be seen when exploring the Breakers Reef, offshore of Palm Beach.
        During the 1903-04 academic year, a 30-foot, doubled-ended lifeboat was used to transport children living along the Loxahatchee River to the old Jupiter School. The boat was christened the "Maine" in honor of the battleship that sank in Havana Harbor.
        Several early pioneers claimed the lifeboat once belonged to the ill-fated battleship prior to its sinking. Whether fact or fiction, the "Maine" served the community as a school ferry, and as such became part of the early history of the Town of Jupiter.
       The gun-runner "Three Friends" resumed an honest career as a working tug boat in the Port of Jacksonville for more than 50 years after the end of the Spanish-American War. Old age and disrepair resulted in the "Three Friends" sinking into the silt of the St. Johns River in the late 1950s.     
       The Broward family and local historians were raising funds needed to save the tug as floating memorial to a bygone age in the history of Florida. They missed their opportunity by a matter of weeks.
        The year 1898 marks a turning point in the history of the United States. As a result of the Spanish-American War, the U.S. acquired Puerto Rico, Guam, the Philippines and the Navy base of Guantanamo, Cuba. The same year, the U.S. annexed the Hawaiian Islands. America became an empire.
(c.) Davidsson. 2017.
NOTE:  A related guest editorial entitled "The Palm Beaches in the Age of Empire" is published in the June 15, 2017 edition of the Jupiter Courier. See additional articles below and archived in Older Posts.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Local Shipwreck Site One of 12 'Museums in the Sea'

By Bob Davidsson
        From Pensacola to Key West and north to Jacksonville, hundreds of shipwrecks rest in the coastal waters of Florida, but only 12 have been designated and honored as official state undersea  "Museums in the Sea," with one site located offshore of Palm Beach County.
        The wreck of the 19th century Norwegian sailing barque "Lofthus" rests in 15 to 20 feet of water, about 175 yards off the shoreline of Manalapan. Divers can still view a debris field, measuring 300 feet by 50 feet, with deck beams, mast and iron plates exposed above the sand of the sea floor.
        Beginning in 1987, the Florida Department of State's Bureau of Archaeological Research began selecting shipwreck sites of significant historical value as undersea parks to manage and protect for future generations. So far, 12 shipwrecks have been selected, including the "Lofthus".
        The "Lofthus" is registered by the Florida Division of Historic Resources as "State Underwater Archaeological Preserve #8." The 12 undersea preserves are promoted as the state's "Museums in the Sea." The "Lofthus" was designated as an historic site in 2004, when a plaque was attached to its anchor.
        To become an undersea museum, the selection process requires "the shipwrecks are the recorders of a moment in time" and a "microcosm of history vital to understanding the people who used Florida's waters before us."

Ship Listed on National Register of Historic Places
        In addition to becoming a State of Florida underwater preserve, the National Park Service certified the shipwreck in the National Register of Historic Places on Jan. 6, 2004.
        After evaluating the site, National Park Service (NPS) staff reported, "The shipwreck is one of the few examples of iron-hulled sailing vessels that plied the waters of Florida, and the world, in the late 19th century. 'Lofthus' represents an element of the tramp sailing commerce that skirted, and occasionally wrecked upon, the shores of Florida."
        The vessel history states, "The 'Lofthus' represents a late 19th century collection of  wrecked vessels that accumulated on the shallow coasts of the state. These shipwrecks became targets for the wrecking and salvage industry in southern Florida, and today are important and integral elements of  extant turn-of-the-century maritime cultural resources."
        For most of its maritime life, the "Lofthus" sailed under a British flag as the merchant ship "Cashmere." About one year before its demise on the coast of Palm Beach County, it was purchased and renamed by a Norwegian firm.
        "Norwegian shippers were major buyers and operators of old sailing vessels, both of wood and metal," the NPS vessel history states. "Norway lacked the capital, banking and resources to build large vessels of their own, but the country did have an abundance of skilled maritime manpower to operate ships."
        "Their ships, including the 'Lofthus,' hauled bulk goods across the oceans of the world," the vessel history concludes.

Maritime History of the 'Cashmere' and 'Lofthus'
        The vessel's 30-year sailing history began with its christening and launching as the "Cashmere" Oct. 5, 1868 at builder T.R. Oswald's shipyard near Liverpool, England. The "Cashmere" was owned by Liverpool Shipping Company, and managed by Henry Fernie  & Sons for the East Indian trade route.
        The merchant ship had an iron-riveted hull measuring 222.8 feet in length, with a beam of 36.7 feet and a depth of 22.7 feet. It was rated as a 1,277-ton vessel with two decks and a cemented bulkhead, according to its Lloyds insurers report.
        By the late 1860's, most iron-hulled ships were converted to steam power. However, in an effort to reduce fuel and engine costs, the owners designed the "Cashmere" to sail as a three-masted barque.
         The east Asian trade route plied by the "Cashmere" included India, the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia) and Hong Kong. This included sailing past the islands of Java and Sumatra. During the 19th century, the islands were one of the last bastions of piracy.
        The Sultanate of Ache, located along the northern coast of Sumatra, was known as the main base used by fast-sailing pirate ships to board lightly armed merchant vessels that ventured in their waters. The shipping of all nations was targeted by the corsairs.
        Following the capture of an American ship, the United States dispatched its "First and Second Sumatran Expeditions" in 1832 and 1838 to suppress the piracy. Three American Navy frigates, and their Marine landing parties, briefly curtailed but did not end the scourge.
        Dutch colonial navy units fought a prolonged campaign against the Sumatran pirates from 1873 to 1904, when the threat to coastal shipping finally ended. The "Cashmere" sailed in these dangerous waters for more than 20 years.
        To discourage pirates, the crew of the "Cashmere" painted 24 black gun ports along both sides of the ship, giving the vessel the illusion of an armed British brig-of-war. The trick worked. The "Cashmere" was never boarded while passing the Dutch East Indies.
        In 1897 the "Cashmere" was sold to Norwegian J.A. Henchien, representing the "Barque Lofthus Actierederi," of Lillestrand, Norway. The ship was renamed the "Lofthus" and transferred from the East Indian to American trade zone.
        Less than a year after its purchase, the ill-fated "Lofthus" sailed from Pensacola, bound for Buenos Aires, Argentina, with a cargo of cut lumber. While passing through the Florida Straits, the ship was rocked by a coastal storm Feb. 4, 1898 and driven northeast onto a beach in central Palm Beach County.
        Captain Fromberg and his Norwegian crew of 16 were unable to free the heavily-laden vessel from the pounding surf. A seagoing tug, the "Three Friends," recently returned from a gun-running mission to Cuba, also tried and failed to free the stranded "Lofthus".
        The beached ship was soon declared a total loss. Local salvors offered to purchase its cargo of 800,000 feet of lumber at an agreed price of $1,000. Captain Fromberg abandoned the ship to its fate and gave the ship's dog and cat to a local family.
        In September 1898, the salvors blasted a hole in the iron-riveted hull of the "Lofthus" to gain access to its cargo. This action hastened the ship's destruction, and its sinking into the sea, where it has rested for the past 120 years.
(c.) Davidsson 2017.
NOTE: See additional articles below and archived in Older Posts.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Local Church Has Its Roots in Arctic 'Saami' Ministry

By Bob Davidsson
        There is a place of worship in the Palm Beaches with a unique legacy dating back to the 19th century "Laestadian" religious revivalist movement that originated among the native Finnic Saami (Lapp) people of the northern Arctic provinces of Sweden, Norway and Finland - the "Lake Worth Apostolic Lutheran Church."
        Finns have lived in the greater Lantana-Lake Worth area of Palm Beach County since the 1920s. After World War II, the area hosted the second largest population of a worldwide diaspora consisting of first and second-generation families, Finnish pensioners and retirees, and seasonal residents.
        In Lake Worth's Bryant Park, there are two monuments placed by members of the Finnish community. The "Memorial to Finnish Immigrants" consists of two bronze geese soaring over a marble base with a map of Finland etched on its face. The migratory birds symbolize the journey of Finns and all immigrants to Lake Worth. It was donated by Thor and Saimi Soderholm, a local Swede-Finn couple, and dedicated in 1985.
        A second monument, often overlooked by park visitors, is a granite block once part of the Finnish Mannerheim Line and used as a crude barricade to stop invading Russian tanks. The monument is a memorial to veterans and war dead of all nations. Many retirees in Lake Worth were veterans of the Winter War (1939-40) and Continuation War (1941-44) against the Soviet Union, and the Lapland War (1944-45) against Nazi Germany.
        The population of Finnish emigrants and their descendants peaked at about 25,700 in South Florida during Census year 2000, then it slowly declined due to natural mortality, assimilation and changing lifestyles. The local Finnish community established three churches which have helped preserve their language, traditions and religious beliefs.
         The "St Andrew's Lutheran Church," located on South E. Street in Lake Worth, was founded in 1953 as part of the Finnish "Suomi Synod". It joined the Lutheran Church of America (LCA) in 1963, and today is a part of the nationwide Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA). The church began offering services in both Finnish and English in 1960.*
        The current "All Nations Church," located on High Ridge Road in Lake Worth, was established in 1971 as the "Finnish Pentecostal Church of Lake Worth" to serve the local Finnish community. It was not until 2009 that church services were offered in English in addition to Finnish. In an effort to broaden its outreach, it became the "All Nation's Church" in 2011.
        The "Lake Worth Apostolic Lutheran Church," was built by its parishioners on Kirk Road in suburban Lake Worth. It is one of 57 autonomous Apostolic Lutheran churches in the U.S., serving congregations with a total membership of 9,000, and the only one located in Florida.
        The Apostolic Lutheran Church of America dates back to the year 1872, and is one of several religious branches of the Laestadian revival movement founded by a 19th century Swedish Lutheran Church reformer, scientific botanist and explorer named Lars Levi Laestadius.

Laestadius and His Mission to the Saami People
        The Saami (often called Lapps by the Swedes and Finns or Kvens by Norwegians) are the native inhabitants of northern Norway, Sweden, Finland and the Kola Peninsula of Russia. They are nomadic reindeer herders with a hunter-gatherer society which until recently retained its traditions unchanged for more than 4,000 years.
        The Saami speak six dialects of the Finno-Ugrian (Uralic) language related but not identical to modern Finnish. By contrast, their more sedentary Swedish and Norwegian neighbors to the south speak languages rooted in a northern Germanic (Old Norse) lexicon.
        Historically, relations between the two distinct populations have ranged from friendship and beneficial trade in the best of times, to ongoing land disputes and cultural genocide at its worst. It was at a time of widespread poverty, alcoholism and forced cultural assimilation that Lars Laestadius began his mission among the Saami.
        Lars was born Jan. 10, 1800 in the northernmost Swedish county of Norrbotten. He was the son of a ne'er-do-well hunter and mine operator named Carl Laestadius and his Saami wife, Anna Magdalena. Despite the family's poverty, he was able to attend Uppsala University in 1820 through the financial assistance of an older brother.
        He majored in theology at Uppsala, and upon graduation was ordained as a Lutheran minister in 1825. He was posted as a regional minister of the State Church of Sweden in his native province of Swedish Lapland.
        He soon married a local Saami woman, Brita Cajsa Alstadius, and together they raised 12 children. Laestadius lived and worked in the Pajala parish of Swedish Lapland from 1849 until his death in 1861.
        For most of his adult life, Laestadius would self-identify as a member of the Saami community. He could speak two regional Saami dialects, as well as Finnish and Swedish. Later in life, he would use a Finnish text for his sermons to reach his scattered followers.
        The minister's favorite pastime was botany. He was an assistant in Uppsala University's Botany Department, and is credited with the discovery and identification of three plants in northern Scandinavia which are named in his honor.
        His notoriety as a botanist and linguist among the Saami communities resulted in an invitation from the French Admiralty to join the "La Recherch√© Expedition of 1838-40" and explore the islands and Arctic coastline of Scandinavia. He was awarded the French "Legion of Merit" for his service.
        It was during this adventure that Laestadius began writing his "Fragments of Lappish Mythology," describing traditional Saami religious beliefs at time when the Swedish government and high church officials were discouraging the practice of Saami shamanism. For nearly 150 years, the priceless manuscript was lost. Fortunately, the document was rediscovered in France and belatedly published in 1997.
        As a missionary, Laestadius searched for the key to spreading Christian doctrine in a manner acceptable to the religious traditions and culture of the Saami people. His prayers were answered when he met a poor Saami woman named Milla Clementsdotter, later known to his Laestadian followers as "Mary of Lapland".
        Laestadius was moved and inspired by what he called "her spiritual journey through life to the living faith." He would later write that the encounter led to his own religious experience when he "saw the path that leads to eternal life."
        His "spiritual awakening" became the basis of the Lutheran "Laestadian Movement". The liturgy is based on Lutheran doctrine with an emphasis on forgiveness and a life journey of faith leading to a personal "salvation experience" shared with the congregation.
        Laestadius spread his revival theology among the scattered Saami communities by training lay clergy to live and travel with the nomadic herders. His clergy were not college educated, but rather selected for ordination "by a call by God to preach the word."
        Within his lifetime, the Laestadian Movement spread beyond the frozen tundra and taiga of Lapland to communities in Finland, Sweden and Norway. Wisely, both the State Church of Sweden and Lutheran Church of Finland would eventually accept Laestadianism as an apostolic branch of the Lutheran Church.
        Laestadius was not expelled from the State Church of Sweden, but was required to provide traditional Lutheran services at his parish, in addition to apostolic sermons to his followers. After he died in 1861, the movement continued under the leadership of one his followers, John Raattamas.

The 'Great Laestadian Migration' to America (and Florida)
        Between 1864 and 1895, thousands of Laestadians immigrated from Finland, northern Sweden and Norway to America. They wanted the freedom of worship without the dictates of a centralized state church. They also sought to escape the hopeless poverty of northern Scandinavia in the late 19th century.
        Without the central authority of a state-sponsored American Lutheran Church, the Laestadian Movement splintered then reformed in the U.S. Laestadian congregations were formed in mining and agricultural communities in Michigan, Minnesota, South Dakota, Oregon and Washington.
        After World War II, descendants of the Laestadian Movement came to Palm Beach County, where using their traditional architectural style, they built their current unadorned rectangular apostolic church with whitewashed walls suited to meet their spiritual needs.
        Today, there are an estimated 200,000 followers of Laestadianism worldwide. Within the borders of the four nations that make up "Sapmi" (Lapland) where the movement began, there are between 80,000 and 135,000 native Saami inhabitants.
        The informal Laestadian greeting, dating back to the time its founder, is "Jumalan terve" - God's welcome.
*NOTE: The author served as the pastor's assistant and acolyte during the dedication of the new St. Andrew's Lutheran Church in 1965. See additional articles below and archived in Older Posts
(c.) Davidsson. 2017.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Wartime POWs, 'Spy' Reports in Palm Beach County

By Bob Davidsson
        World War II came to the home front of Palm Beach County by way of U-boat attacks at sea, a POW internment camp in the Glades, and numerous unverified reports of espionage by enemy spies along its coastline.
        A total of 122 soldiers, sailors and airmen from the Palm Beaches were casualties of war, including 62 killed in action (KIA) and 43 deaths not in battle (DNB), as recorded in the June 1946 "World War II Honor List of Dead and Missing" for Palm Beach County.
        While this casualty list may seem small, keep in mind the total population of Palm Beach County was just 79,989 in 1940, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Small cities from Jupiter to Boca Raton still hugged the coast, while the agricultural range line extended east of Congress Avenue.
        The war began badly in the home waters of the Palm Beaches and the Treasure Coast.  The German Kriegsmarine unleashed a second wave of U-boats as part of Untermehmen Parkenschlag (Operation Drumbeat) on Jan. 11, 1942. Their destination included the southeast coast of Florida.
        Three "Ace" undersea boats - U-504, U-564 and U-333 - sank eight ships off the Gold and Treasure coasts during the first nine months of war. They were joined by the Italian Regia Marina Calvi-class submarine "Enrico Tazzoli (TZ)" which claimed four allied ships in the Bahamas Channel.
        The U.S. Navy was unprepared for this "Second Pearl Harbor" in our coastal waters from January through August 1942. An "Official Blackout Order" was not issued for the Palm Beach County coastline until April 11, 1942.
        The State of Florida responded by establishing the quasi-military "Florida Defense Force" consisting of civilian volunteers. Civil Air Patrol (CAP) wooden "Watch Towers" were constructed on Boca Raton's beach and elsewhere along the coast to report U-boat sightings, while small single-engine airplanes spotted surfacing submarines by air.
        Morrison Field in West Palm Beach, and new Boca Raton Army Air Corps field west the city, became training centers for thousands of Army airmen and communication technicians. The Lantana Airport opened in December 1941 as an auxiliary field for the Florida Defense Force and CAP anti-submarine flights.
        A secret submarine monitoring "Station J" was established at the Jupiter Inlet military
reservation as early as April 1940 to intercept U-boat transmissions to and from Germany. With the outbreak of World War II, this "Strategic Observation Post" was expanded to track both German and Japanese naval units.
        By the autumn of 1942, the "Second Happy Time" for U-boat captains in southeast Florida coastal waters was over, but fears among the uninformed civilian population grew as the actual threat by enemy submarines dissipated.
        With U-boats lurking just a few miles offshore, rumors of nocturnal visits and spy missions by German Kriegsmarine crews spread throughout the county, and were even reported in newspapers after he war. None were verified and no arrests were made by the FBI for spying.

The Enemy Spies NOT Among Us
        At Boca Raton's Palmetto Park Beach Pavilion, located near the round-about at the end of Palmetto Park Road, visitors will find the bronzed "Sanborn Wall Historic Marker." The marker presents the strongest case for the belief that German espionage teams landed from their U-boats in Palm Beach County.
        The Sanborn Wall memorial states, "On this spot in World War II, spies from German U-boats landed an occupied Dr. William Sanborn's home built on this spot in 1937. "
        "The sailors deployed during World War II, as part of Hitler's Operation Drumbeat, torpedoed tankers and freighters traveling the east coast shipping lane carrying vital supplies to the U.S. and England." The marker summarizes, "The Germans sank a total 397 ships and killed 5,000 people. Twenty-four ships were sunk off the coast of Florida, 16 between Cape Canaveral and Boca Raton."
        Doctor Sanborn was in his home state of Michigan when apparently several unknown persons entered his winter residence, using the clothing, shower, bedding and food supplies found in the residence. Neighbors reported unusual activity at the home. Military police entered the home in June 1942 in search of a signaling device.
       They discovered a telescope and signs of recent activity in the home, but neither spies nor local vagrants were found. Neighbors were questioned "if any shining lights were cast out to sea" at the Sanborn residence.
       The case file remained open, but no arrests were made. Today, "Sanborn Square" in downtown Boca Raton is named for the doctor and is a reminder of this unresolved World War II mystery.
        For several years, local legends were told, and reported by the news media, of German sailors frequenting restaurants and bars in the Town of Palm Beach. Apparently, when not sinking allied shipping, U-boat crews took time off and came ashore to get hot meals and a beer in an enemy city.
        Another popular myth claimed U-boat crews operated out of a secret base in the Jupiter Inlet. A second version of the tale was spread of the Germans actually capturing the inlet. The source of this local legend was probably misinformation about the top secret U-boat monitoring station at the inlet, operated by the U.S. military.
        There were rumors of a German family using the George Washington Hotel in downtown West Palm Beach as a spy base of operations to signal U-boats using lights on the roof. A German butler also supposedly operated a short wave radio from a seaside Palm Beach estate to signal U-boats.
        The unnamed butler allegedly was killed in gun battle with FBI agents, although the federal agency has no reports to support this rumor or any of the other faux espionage incidents in the Palm Beaches.
        In truth, German and Japanese resident aliens living in Palm Beach County during the war years were not spies, but instead targeted by law enforcement under tight restrictions placed on foreign nationals by the federal government.
        The FBI often entered the homes of German and Japanese nationals in search of propaganda books, firearms and U-boat signaling devices. Enemy aliens could not travel outside of Palm Beach County without special FBI permits.
        Permission also was required for foreign nationals to withdraw large amounts of money from their bank accounts. This created business hardships for German and Japanese residents and their employees.
      While law enforcement agencies closely monitored enemy aliens, it should be noted no arrests for espionage were made in Palm Beach County.
        One dark chapter in the county's history is the treatment of the few remaining Japanese Yamato agricultural colony farmers during World War II. The Yamato colony was established 1903 in the northwestern section of what is today the City of Boca Raton.
        For three decades the farming community provided pineapples and other produce to local markets. The Great Depression made their farms unprofitable and many of the Japanese settlers quit farming and either returned to Japan or moved to California.
        Henry T. Kamiya, one of remaining leaders of the Yamato colony, was detained at the beginning of World War II while visiting his daughter in California. He was warehoused against his will at the Manzanar Japanese Internment Camp throughout the war.
        When he returned to Palm Beach County after the war, he discovered his land and that of several other former Yamato colony property owners was taken by the federal government in May 1942 for the construction of the Boca Raton Army Air Field.
        Hideo Kobayasi, another Yamato colony member, was ordered to vacate his land for the airfield. Compensation for his property was deferred and payment received only after the land was vacated. After losing his property, he moved to Broward County.
        Both Kamiya and Kobayishi were eminent domain victims of the "Second War Powers Act of 1942," a law passed by Congress to allow the "emergency condemnation" of land determined to be appropriate for military uses during World War II. The same law also placed the tight controls on activities by resident aliens.
POWS in Palm Beach County
        Following the surrender of the German Afrika Corps in Tunisia during May 1943, an influx of 371,683 German prisoners of war were transported to America and placed in internment camps. They were joined by 50,273 Italian and 3,915 Japanese POWs during the war.
        By May 1945, the number of POWs held in the U.S. peaked at 425,891. They were housed in 175 internment camps distributed throughout the country.
        A total of 10,000 prisoners were assigned to Florida. The Belle Glade Camp was located near the Everglades Experimental Station site. It became one of 22 rural work camps in Florida housing German prisoners from March to December 1945.
        German POWs were processed at Florida's Camp Blanding, where guards attempted to separate Nazi loyalists, often elite U-boat crews and Afrika Corps veterans, from the nonpolitical prisoners, most of whom were captured after the Normandy invasion.
        A total of 250 prisoners of war were sent from Camp Blanding to the Belle Glade "branch camp" for the purpose of relieving labor shortages for agricultural harvesting and processing in Palm Beach County. The U.S. War Manpower Commission was the federal agency that determined the need and use of POW contracts to meet labor demands.
        German prisoners at the Belle Glade Camp worked as sugarcane cutters, and in a local bean canning factory. Labor crews also were used to repair the Herbert Hoover Dike along Lake Okeechobee. German officers were exempted from work crews.
        The treatment of POWs was governed and observed by the U.S. military under the Geneva Convention of 1929 guidelines. The international law required prisoners receive the same "food, shelter, medical care and clothing" as garrison troops.
        The U.S. Department of War hoped good treatment of German prisoners in the U.S. would influence Germany to abide by convention rules for American POWs held in their military concentration camps.
        POW work crews at the Belle Glade Camp worked from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. They earned 80 cents a day in camp coupons for their labor. The camp commissary included writing supplies, soap, censored newspapers and magazines, soda, tobacco, and occasionally beer.
        Roll call and breakfast began at 5:30 a.m. Lunch was usually served at the worksite. After dinner, the POWs had free time until lights out by 10 p.m.
        "Firm but fair" was the policy of camp guards and garrison troops in Florida. Due to a shortage of guards, camp administrators also relied on German officers and NCOs to maintain camp discipline.
        The Belle Glade Camp made national news headlines when its POWs went on strike on April 4-5, 1945 and refused to report for work assignments. The strike was sparked by a reduction in the camp's ration of cigarettes.
        Camp supervisors responded to the strike by limiting POW food rations to bread and water until they returned to work. The new "no work, no eat" policy was successful and the German prisoners ended their strike after just two days.
        As an aftermath of the strike, 39 "troublemakers" were shipped back to the main POW stockade at Camp Blanding. Cigarette distribution from Morrison Field was restored and life returned to normal at the work camp.
        POWs were detained at the Belle Glade Camp until December 1945, when transport and conditions in a defeated Germany allowed the return its soldiers and sailors. The camp was closed and its flagpole was later donated to the American Legion Post No. 20 in Belle Glade.
(c.) Davidsson. 2017.

NOTE: See also "Battle of the Atlantic Comes to the Palm Beaches" archived in Older Posts.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

John Prince's Memorial: A County Park for the People

By Bob Davidsson
        In Palm Beach County's 107-year history, few elected officials serving on the County Commission contributed more to the future welfare of its citizens than Lake Worth pioneer John Prince.
        Palm Beach State College, the Palm Beach County Air Park, the Club Managers of America Therapeutic Recreation complex, a Golf Learning Center, and the 726-acre park and campground dedicated in his honor, are all located on land obtained for the county by Commissioner Prince for the benefit of the public.
        The John Prince Memorial Park, located west and north of Lake Osborne, is visited by thousands of county hikers, boaters, joggers, campers, fishermen and picnickers each year, but few residents know the life story of the political leader who made this future leisure and recreational center a reality.

Early Life and Military Service       
        John Prince was born in the year 1892 in Manhattan and raised in New York City. He moved to Lake Worth as a 19-year-old youth during the winter of 1912, the same year the town was formally incorporated.
        In the summer of 1912, the town completed its first survey, with a master plan designed to accommodate 55 miles of streets and 7,000 housing units plated for future development. There was a need for skilled workers to build roads and housing throughout Palm Beach County.
        Prince began his career as an employee of Greynold and Monroe, Inc., at that time one of the largest road construction companies in South Florida. In addition to contracts with Lake Worth, Greynold-Monroe paved sections of Old Dixie Highway (U.S. One), and developed  Southland Park in West Palm Beach, Greynold Heights in Lantana and Monroe Heights in Riviera Beach.
        The young engineer also was a member of the Florida National Guard. His Florida 2nd Infantry Regiment was federalized in 1916-17 as a reserve unit deployed during the Mexican Revolution border crisis.
        Raids by Mexican revolutionary leader Pancho Villa at Columbus, New Mexico, and Glenn Springs, Texas, resulted in the "Punitive Expedition" by the U.S. Army in northern Mexico, and the need for increased garrisons and military patrols along the U.S.-Mexico border.
        At the peak of the conflict, more than 100,000 reservists were called upon to support regular army units. The 2nd Florida Infantry was mustered out of the campaign in March 1917, but was soon recalled following the declaration of war against Germany and the U.S. entry into World War I.
        The 2nd Florida Infantry was re-federalized and entered the war as the 124th Infantry Regiment. Second Lieutenant John Prince joined his unit on Nov. 13, 1917, and was transported with his regiment 10 months later to the Western Front in France.
        According to his U.S. Army service record, Prince was assigned to 131st Engineers Company of the 124th Infantry. He served overseas from Oct. 17, 1918 to July 15, 1919. Prince was promoted to the rank of first lieutenant in July 1918, and received an honorable discharge with his regiment Aug. 2, 1919.
        His military service did not end with World War I. Although nearing age 50, Prince volunteered as a civilian with Company E, 7th Battalion of the "Florida Defense Force" during World War II.
        He flew as a "spotter" with the local Civil Air Patrol squadron, stationed at the new Lantana Airport as Coastal Patrol Base 3. The squadron patrolled coastal waters by air in search of German U-boats during the Battle of the Atlantic.
        Prince  was a founding member and first commander of the local Carl Vogel Post 47 of the American Legion. He was a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and became an advocate for veterans. Strong support from veterans would later help Prince in his political career and with future plans to create a county park.

Prince's Career in Local Government
        After his discharge from the U.S. Army, Prince returned to Lake Worth to continue his career as an engineer. According to the 1920 Census, he temporarily lived as a boarder at the Frank Herald residence in Lake Worth.
        He married Mary Elese Rouse, the daughter of early Lake Worth settlers Ira and Irene Rouse, in 1924. Their daughter and only child, Margaret Irene, was born in 1926.
        He worked for several years as an assistant engineer for the Palm Beach County Engineering Department. One of his projects was assisting the Lake Worth Drainage District with its water control program for farmlands west of Lake Osborne.
        Prince became familiar with the freshwater chain-of-lakes ecosystem extending from Lake Clarke south to Lake Ida in Delray Beach. He saw the potential of Lake Osborne as a future water shed and resource for Palm Beach County.
        The engineer was active in the local Democratic Party. Prince became chairman of the Palm Beach County Democratic Party Executive Committee. He used his knowledge of county government, with the support of veterans groups, to win a seat on the Board of County Commissioners (BCC) in 1934.
        There were no Commission term limits at that time, and Prince served on the board for the next 17 years. His district included his home town of Lake Worth and unincorporated areas west of  the city.
        Using the power of his office, Prince began lobbying his fellow commissioners, landowners and Florida Governor Fred Cone (1937-41), a fellow Democratic Party official, for the acquisition of land on the undeveloped western shore of Lake Osborne.
        To his credit, through a combination of persuasion, political arm twisting and land donations the county eventually acquired nearly 1,000 acres for public use, and filed the titles of donated tracts with the Florida Internal Improvement Board, placing the lakefront property under county management.

The John Prince Memorial Park
        The land acquired by Palm Beach County extended from Lantana Road north to Lake Worth Road, and west from Lake Osborne to Congress Avenue. This included the west and northernmost shores of Lake Osborne totaling more than 35,200 feet of lake frontage, and 336 acres of submerged land in the lake itself.
        Prince and his fellow commissioners envisioned this property for a variety of public uses. The Lantana Airport (the future Palm Beach County Air Park) was built on 304 acres of land north of Lantana Road, between the lake and Congress Avenue.
        The tract was donated to Palm Beach County under the condition that the site would "serve the public good." The county airport opened on Aug. 20, 1940, and was used as an auxiliary "reliever field" for the U.S. Army Air Corps base at Morrison Field (Palm Beach International Airport) during World War II.
        The Civil Air Patrol began anti-submarine flights from the Lantana Airport in December 1941, and for 78 years the CAP has continued to fly search and rescue missions from the airfield. Today, the general aviation field is operated by the Palm Beach County Airports Department.
        Another public use of the acquired county land in the 1940s was the establishment of campgrounds for the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts along the west shore of Lake Osborne. The Girl Scouts Camp was named in honor of Mary Prince after her untimely death at age 44 in 1949.
        A 48-acre public campground was founded in 1956. The site included "Camp Osborne" which was donated to the county by the Gulf Stream Council of Boy Scouts of America.
        For many years after its founding, Palm Beach Junior College was known as the "Little Orphan College" without a permanent home. Some of its temporary sites were a former Morrison Field surplus airport building and the Lake Park Town Hall.
        In 1956, Palm Beach County donated 114 acres of the land from the Lake Osborne tract acquired by Prince for the college's main campus. The junior college was renamed Palm Beach State College in 2010, with a campus extending from Lake Worth Road south to 6th Avenue South.
        While serving his third year as the chairman of the County Commission in 1951, Commissioner Prince announced his resignation from the board due to poor health. In March 1951, he was struck by a car while crossing Dixie Highway in Lantana.
        Prince died of a stroke in June 1952. He was age 62 at the time of his death, and was buried near his wife in Lake Worth's Pine Crest Cemetery.
        His friends and fellow veterans petitioned the County Commission to establish and name a park in his honor. John Prince Memorial Park was dedicated on Veterans Day, 1952. A park marker is located near its north entrance.
         Today, John Prince Memorial Park, the second oldest county public park established in Florida, continues to meet the recreational needs of the public. It is operated by the Palm Beach County Parks and Recreation Department.
        It seems only fitting that the administrative offices for the county park system are located on land acquired through the dedicated efforts of John Prince.
(c.) Davidsson. 2017.

NOTE: See additional articles below and in Older Posts.  

Friday, December 23, 2016

True Tale of 'Captain Gus' and the Old Palm Beach Pier

By Bob Davidsson
        Today, two fishing piers extend more than 900 feet out to sea in Palm Beach County, but for 44 years they were joined by an older and longer oversea platform - the "Palm Beach (Rainbo) Pier".
        Lake Worth's "William O. Lockhart Municipal Pier," named in honor of a former pier master, and the Juno Pier, a county-owned facility near Juno Beach Park, attract more than 275,000 fishermen and visitors annually to their 20-foot-high nautical fishing decks.
        The Lake Worth Municipal Pier opened in January 1960. After the structure was decimated by hurricanes Frances and Jeanne in 2004, it was rebuilt at a cost of $3.4 million. It reopened and was  dedicated under its new name in 2009.
        The Juno Pier opened in 1949. It was originally privately owned and operated. The pier was destroyed by the Thanksgiving storm of 1984. Palm Beach County rebuilt the 990-foot pier at a cost of $2.5 million in 1999. Pier services are leased by the county.
        The 1,005-foot "Breakers Pier" was the first structure built on the island in 1895. Captain J.D. Ross was commissioned by railroad tycoon Henry Flagler to build a pier and breakwater extending east from the Breakers Hotel and out to sea.
        Flagler's vision was to use the pier as a "Port of Palm Beach" for his "Palm Beach-Nassau Steamship Line." For a short time, the pier was connected by rail to Flagler's East Coast Railroad.
        The project failed and pier was used solely by a few coastal vessels at the turn of the 20th century. The Breakers Pier was severely damaged by the 1928 hurricane and soon after demolished. Today; sections of the pier can still be seen on the Breakers Reef, offshore of Palm Beach.
        The Palm Beach Pier opened in 1925 as "Rainbo Pier," part of a privately-owned sports fishing and swimming complex located at the east end of Worth Avenue in the Town of Palm Beach . Today, standing near what was once the base of the pier, is the city's Clock Tower.
        The Palm Beach Pier was demolished in 1969. A Florida State Historical Marker, resting on a concrete pedestal, was sponsored and placed near the pier site in 1991 by the Palm Beach Board of Realtors.
        The bronze marker reads, "Erected and opened to the public in 1925, the pier extended 1,095 feet out to sea. For over 40 years, it was a favorite town attraction, featuring a coffees hop, cocktail lounge, tackle shop and fishermen's lockers."
        "A series of successive storms and hurricanes gradually eroded the structure," the historical marker records, "causing it be removed in 1969."
         Missing from the historic marker is the true story of the legendary creator and owner of the Palm Beach Pier and its adjacent bathing center - "Captain Gus" Jordahn.

'Captain Gus' Jordahn: A Man of Vision and Action
        Peter Gustav "Gus" Jordahn, the son of a Danish father and Swedish mother, was born April 10, 1881 in Kolding, Denmark. As a youth, he chose a military career and served as an officer in the Danish army.
        After his discharge from the army, he became a seaman. His life-long love of the sea, together with his military background, earned him the nickname "Captain Gus".
        Captain Gus emigrated from Denmark to the U.S. in 1904. He passed through the Ellis Island immigration station in New York harbor with a life savings of just $72 in his pocket.
        He worked as a lifeguard on Coney Island for several years, where he became a local legend. The lifeguard is credited with rescuing 28 bathers in a single day after they were caught in deadly rip currents, according to archived news reports.
        Captain Gus first visited the Town of Palm Beach in 1911 while on a honeymoon with his new wife, Johanne Rasmussen. They were charmed by the seaside allure of the village and soon made it their home.
        He managed the Breakers bathhouse and swimming facilities for the grand hotel until he could establish his own business.  Captain Gus opened "Gus' Baths" bathing casino and apparel shop near the intersection of  Worth Avenue and South Ocean Blvd. It featured two heated saltwater pools for adults, a diving platform, steam cabinets, and a wading pool for children.
        The Gus' Baths complex eventually included a two-story Mediterranean-style building with 16 apartments on the second floor, three palmetto-covered Seminole-style gazebos, and a boardwalk. A tunnel was dug connecting the pool area to the public beach.
        Work on the "Rainbo Pier," the crowning achievement in the career of Captain Gus, began in 1924. It opened on Labor Day, 1925. Admission to the pier cost a dime per person for fishing or sightseeing. It featured a tackle shop for fishermen, and hosted the Palm Beach Anglers Club.
        The former New York lifeguard was an avid swimmer his entire life. Captain Gus celebrated his 50th birthday in 1932 by swimming across the Lake Worth Lagoon to West Palm Beach, then back to the island of Palm Beach.
        He founded both the "Palm Beach Swimming Club," and "Cowboys-of-the-Sea," a trained volunteer lifeguard unit to patrol the town's beaches in 1924. A favorite stunt performed for visitors was diving off the end of the Rainbo Pier and hitching a ride on the back of a passing sea turtle.
        An advertisement, posted by Captain Gus in local newspapers in 1926, promoted the Rainbo Pier Tackle Shop as offering "everything for the fisherman," and the "very latest styles in beach and bathing attire, including satin, wool, an rubberized caps" sold at Gus' Baths.
        The swimming complex soon attracted both seasonal visitors and  residents from West Palm Beach. Swimmers could pay admission fees on a daily, weekly or monthly basis to use the facilities at Gus' Baths.
        Captain Gus was civic-minded and a strong supporter of his adopted town and country. Gus's Bath served the community by opening its pools to area high school swim teams. It also provided swim classes for Boys and Girls Scouts and sponsored weekly dances.
        Captain Gus was one of first resident police officers sworn in by the Town of Palm Beach. He patrolled the beach, and occasionally cited the unclothed for "nude bathing".  Later in life, he also served terms on both the Palm Beach Town Council and Palm Beach County Commission.
        Near the entrance to Gus's Bath was posted the owner's favorite slogan, which he often repeated to visitors in person: "Welcome to Our Ocean."
        Captain Gus placed a flagpole on his seaside property and was often observed by neighbors raising the American flag early in the morning. Whenever a ship passed close to shore, he would dip the flag as a salute and wait for the vessel to return the honor with a blast of its steam horn.
        As an entrepreneur, Captain Gus drew on his nautical knowledge to design an innovative life preserver patented as the "Sug-ooter," but commonly called the "Palm Beach Roll". In his 1921 U.S. Patent Office application, he described his water wing as " a device to be used  in learning to swim consisting of a long flexible open-ended tube adapted to encircle the body of the wearer..."
        In March 1931, he even tried to patent a "Sea Shell Whistle" consisting of a "sea shell of the species Nerita Peloranta." Essentially, he sought ownership rights and royalties for the use of shells common to Florida and Caribbean to sell as whistles. The venture failed.
        The biggest threat faced during his lifetime was the Category 5 "Hurricane of 1928." The storm battered his new fishing pier and pushed a surge of seawater over the dune and South Ocean Blvd., then down Worth Avenue.
        Captain Gus gathered 38 residents and guests at Gus' Baths and rode out the hurricane in a cellar located behind one of his pools. After surveying the damages to his swimming complex and Rainbo Pier, he may have had second thoughts about the wisdom of operating seaside recreational facilities in Florida.
        His pier was supported by wood pilings driven into the sand, with a deck consisting mainly of wooden planks. It was vulnerable to the waves, winds and whims of the sea.
        The 1928 Hurricane arrived the same year as the stock market crash. Profits plunged as the Great Depression impacted customers. Facing future foreclosure, Captain Gus sold his interest in both Gus' Baths and the Rainbo Pier to the "Bath and Pools Operating Company" for $50,000 in 1931.

Lido Pools and the 'Palm Beach Pier"
        The Bath and Pools Operating Company was jointly owned by local businessmen William D. Gray and Hedley Gillings. They had ambitious plans for both the pier and swimming complex.
        Their first action was a promotional name change. The Rainbo Pier became the "Palm Beach Pier" in 1931. Gus' Baths swimming center assumed a new identity as the "Lido Pools". In addition to the existing pools, they added a solarium, badminton and table tennis courts.
        To increase tourism and profits, the business duo added a new coffee shop, liquor store, cocktail lounge, and restaurant on the pier with a deck for dancing at night. Nature gave the new operators of the Palm Beach Pier a reprieve until the summer of 1948.
        Hurricanes in both 1948 and 1949 generated huge waves which tore off the end of the Palm Beach Pier. Property ownership changed hands several times in the 1950s and 1960s as the pier continued to be battered by both tropical and winter storms.
        Repair costs increased while profits from the pier declined. Hurricanes Cleo and Isbell turned the Palm Beach Pier into dangerous wreck in 1964. The pier became more of a city hazard than tourism attraction.
        Two powerful winter storms in 1969 ended plans for the pier's revitalization. The Town of Palm Beach ordered the demolition of the pier. A company called the "Pier Corporation" presented a plan to build a new pier in 1972, but the Town Council denied their venture, and sent them packing.
        The Lido Pools site consisted of 287 feet of prime oceanfront property between Worth and Hammon avenues. In the late 1960s, a new developer acquired the valuable site, and the Lido Pools became the Winthrop House Condominium.
        Captain Gus did not live to see the sad end of his Rainbo Pier and Gus' Baths of Worth Avenue. He contracted a severe case of pneumonia in February 1938 and died at age 58. He was buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in West Palm Beach, where he rests in peace today.
(c.) Davidsson. 2016.

NOTE: Additional articles below and archived Older Posts.  

Thursday, November 3, 2016

The Last Campaign of Major William Lauderdale: 1838

By Bob Davidsson
        The early histories of the Town of Jupiter and the City of Fort Lauderdale are forever linked by a "Military Trail" cleared across the future Palm Beach and Broward counties during the 1838 expedition of Major William Lauderdale and his Tennessee Mounted Infantry.
        The accomplishments of Major Lauderdale and the Tennessee Volunteers are memorialized by two historical markers placed near Jupiter. A statue of the military officer, sculpted and bronzed by a West Palm Beach artist, also was unveiled in 1988 to mark the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Pine Island, and a military outpost called "Fort Lauderdale," in Broward County.
        The "Tennessee Volunteers and  Militia Camp" memorial was placed in 1991 along Winding Lake Drive in Jupiter. The historical marker reads, "During the Second Seminole War, after the Battle of Loxahatchee, Jan. 24, 1838, Tennessee Volunteers and Militia camped at this site. They camped one mile east of  U.S. Army regulars established at Fort Jupiter."
        The "Military Trail Historic Marker" is located near Perry Avenue and West Indiantown Road in Jupiter. It was dedicated as a Florida Heritage Site in 2008, and is sponsored by both the Jupiter Town Council and the Florida Department of State.
        The memorial includes the following passage: "Because Major Lauderdale blazed a trail covering 63 miles through overgrown terrain in only four days, the route was designated as 'Lauderdale's Trail.' It was used for military operations through the end of the Third Seminole War in 1858, and became known as 'Military Trail'. Today, it remains a major highway in Palm Beach County."
        The equestrian statue of Major Lauderdale stands near the entrance to the Forest Ridge community, located off Pine Island Road in the Town of Davie. It was commissioned by Forest Ridge developer Charles Palmer. After the statue was unveiled, he said, "A statue of a historical figure kind of adds a sense of history, timelessness."

Major Lauderdale's Life Journey to Florida
        William Lauderdale was a descendent of the ancient Maitland-Lauderdale family, related by marriage to both Scottish King Robert I (the Bruce), and Sir William Wallace, whom together liberated Scotland from English occupation in the early 14th century.
        His grandfather, James Maitland Lauderdale Sr., was the younger son of the Scottish Earl of Lauderdale (i.e. Lauder's Valley). As a younger son, he received neither a title nor land inheritance and immigrated to England's American colonies in 1714 to improve his opportunities in life.
        William's father, James Lauderdale Jr., served in George Washington's Continental Army during the American Revolution. Like many army veterans, he received land grants in lieu of cash payments for their service during the war. His land grant was in the frontier territory of Tennessee.
        William was born c.1782 in Virginia, and moved with his parents to the new land grant in Sumner County. He was the third son of James and Sarah Lauderdale. He married twice, raised five children, and lived most of his adult life at his Goose Creek plantation west of Hartsville, TN.
        As fate would have it, a neighbor was none other than the future military hero and U.S. President Andrew Jackson. The two planters became friends, and more than once he responded to calls for "volunteers" to serve in Jackson's military campaigns.
        General Jackson commissioned Lauderdale as a first lieutenant in 1812. In the campaign of 1812-13, Lauderdale's militia regiment served under Jackson in the "Red Sticks War" against the Creek Indians. He received a field promotion to captain from Jackson, and earned a reputation as a "no quarter" Indian fighter.
        During his 1814-15 southern expedition against the British in the final year of "War of 1812", Jackson assigned Lauderdale as "Chief Quartermaster of  the Tennessee Volunteer Infantry." William's older brother, Colonel James Lauderdale, later died at the Battle of New Orleans.
        When the war ended, Lauderdale mustered out of the militia and operated a successful plantation for two decades. While recovering from a chronic respiratory illness in the Smokey Mountains, he once again responded to a "call to service" from his old military mentor, Andrew Jackson, in 1837.
        After two years of inconclusive fighting between the United States and the Seminole tribe in Florida, Major General Thomas Jesup, commander of the U.S. Army of the South, sought the advice of former President Jackson as to the best way to win the Indian war.
        The old war hero replied by letter, "I know of but one man that I think can raise a battalion, and who can and will beat the whole Indian force in Florida."
        Given the rank of  U.S. Army major, Lauderdale raised five companies of "Tennessee Volunteers" for the Florida campaign. General Jesup enlisted a battalion of 500 "Tennessee Mounted Infantry," under the command of Major Lauderdale, for the advance to Jupiter Inlet in the winter of 1838.
        In the ensuing Battle of the Loxahatchee, fought Jan. 24, 1838, the U.S. Army of the South drove the band of Seminoles under medicine chief Sam Jones (Abaika) from their refuge west of the Jupiter Inlet. Major Lauderdale's Tennessee Volunteers formed the left flank of Jesup's battle line during the attack.
        The Tennessee Volunteers camped one mile east of the U.S. Army regulars as they built a new outpost called Fort Jupiter. Major Lauderdale was ordered to blaze a military road connecting the new Jupiter Inlet stockade with Fort Dallas, an encampment on the Miami River.

A Military Trail to 'Fort Lauderdale'
        The "Military Trail" memorial reads; "After the second Battle of Loxahatchee, Major General Thomas S. Jesup directed Major William Lauderdale, commander of the Tennessee Battalion of Volunteers, to cut a trail south from Fort Jupiter to Fort Dallas (Miami). Lauderdale's mission was to capture Seminoles who escaped the Loxahatchee battle."
        As the Army completed Fort Jupiter at Pennock Point, scouts discovered an Indian trail leading south from the field of battle. Major Lauderdale received his orders on March 2, and led 233 Tennessee Volunteers and a unit of "construction pioneers," consisting of the U.S. Army Third Artillery Regiment, Company D, under the command of Lt. Robert Anderson.
        The "Military Trail" memorial continues, "The U.S. Third Artillery Regiment moved south, following the Seminoles. To avoid swamps and lagoons, they kept to the higher coastal palm ridge that extended from Fort Jupiter to the New River, where Lauderdale built a fort (Fort Lauderdale), and moved on to Fort Dallas."
        The 63-mile supply trail wisely followed a natural ridge of high ground, averaging five miles in width, extending from the Indian River south to Dade County. Army typographer Frederick Searles is credited with first naming the road "Lauderdale's Trail". After 20 years of use by the U.S. Army during the Second and Third Seminole Wars, it was commonly called the "Military Trail".
        Major Lauderdale arrived at the shore of "The New River" on March 5, and built a military post at a site that today is Southwest 9th Avenue in Fort Lauderdale. The outpost was a two-tiered, 30-foot log stockade, built among a cluster of oak trees, at the forks of the New River.
        Impressed by the rapid four-day completion of the military road and encampment on the New River, General Jesup issued his Special Order No. 74, naming the stockade "Fort Lauderdale" in honor of its commander.
        After the Battle of Loxahatchee, medicine chief Sam Jones led his followers to the long-established Seminole village on Pine Island, located in southwestern Broward County. Army scouts located the village. On March 22, Major Lauderdale ordered the 600 soldiers under his command to attack the village.
        Between 50 and 100 Seminole warriors traded shots with the Army, as women and children fled the village. Once they safely disappeared into the Everglades, the elusive Sam Jones and his warriors escaped the pursing soldiers and joined them in the swamps.
        There has been much debate as to whether Major Lauderdale was present at the Battle of Pine Island. By the end of March 1838, he was suffering from the final stage of a pulmonary disease which restricted his breathing.
        After an eventful 100-day tour of duty in South Florida, Lauderdale requested medical leave and left Florida in failing health, just 13 days after the skirmish at Pine Island.

Death Followed by Bronzed Immortality
        Major Lauderdale's Tennessee Volunteers enlisted for a six-month campaign. After fighting two battles in less than two months, they were eager to return to their families in Tennessee. The battalion was sent to Tampa Bay, where they boarded a ship bound for Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
        Major Lauderdale joined his volunteer regiment for their final salute. He died May 10, 1838, on the very day set aside for the honorable discharge of the Tennessee Mounted Infantry battalion. The event became a funeral for their commanding officer.
        One of his soldiers later wrote his death was the result of "over-fatigue from long marches." The official cause of death was a pulmonary disorder. He was age 56 at his time of death.
        At his funeral, one witness reported, "In the presence of a riderless horse, the band played, colors were presented, and a barrage of artillery and muskets fired a salute."
        However, there is more to the story. The Battle of Pine Island was fought on a 2.5-mile ridge of limestone and sand which today is the highest natural site in Broward County. It was there, 150 years after Major Lauderdale's final battle, that an unusual statue honoring the fallen warrior was unveiled in the Town of Davie.
        The nine-foot tall equestrian statue portrays a weary soldier at ease, astride an equally war-worn horse with its head sagging almost to the ground. By the foot of the horse a native bobwhite quail is cast in bronze - a symbol of peace, not war.
        The 2,000-pound statue was sculpted and bronzed by West Palm Beach artist Luis Montoya of the Montoya Art Studio. The statue rests on a pedestal that raises it 16 feet above the ground. He used 1,600 pound of clay, cast into a plaster mold, and covered by two tons of bronze.
        At the time of its unveiling, the artist reflected, "I created a person coming out of the woods, tired and greeting somebody. That's the kind of image they wanted, to create a peaceful type of situation."
        There were no paintings or photographs taken of Major Lauderdale during his lifetime. The artist used his great-grandson as the model for the sculpture. In this way, the legacy of Major Lauderdale and his family continues to this day.
(c.) Davidsson. 2016.