Title: Interview with Lillian Frederica Voss Oyer (May 17, 1988)
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00006675/00001
 Material Information
Title: Interview with Lillian Frederica Voss Oyer (May 17, 1988)
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Publication Date: May 17, 1988
Spatial Coverage: 12099
Palm Beach (Fla.) -- History.
Funding: This text has been transcribed from an audio or video oral history. Digitization was funded by a gift from Caleb J. and Michele B. Grimes.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00006675
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: Samuel Proctor Oral History Program, Department of History, University of Florida
Holding Location: This interview is part of the 'Palm Beach' collection of interviews held by the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program of the Department of History at the University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: PBC 51

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Full Text

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Interviewee: Lillian Voss Oyer
Interviewer: Harvey Oyer II
May 17, 1988

HO: It is Tuesday May 17, 1988. It is 8:30 p.m. at the Harvey

Oyer residence at 227 S.W. 15th Avenue in Boynton Beach.

Mother, will you please give your name and where you were


LO: My name is Lillian Fredricka Voss Oyer. I was born on the

Pierce Homestead on Hypoluxo Island on October 27, 1896. My

father, Fred Voss, bought ten acres of land over on the west

side of the lake on Hypoluxo and we lived there. They moved

there when I was about two years old. At that time, all of

the area through here was part of Dade County.

HO: Can you tell when your father came here and where he was


LO:' He came here in 1888, I think, and he was from Bath, Maine..

He was born and grew up there and studied to be an engineer

at the Bath Ironworks and he was a marine engineer, though

he did some farming later on. He also built and captained a


HO: Who was your mother?

LO: My mother was Lily Pierce. She was the first white girl

born between Jupiter and Miami.

HO: Where was she born?

LO: At the lifesaving station on the upper part of Delray

Beach. The stations had just been put in for the rescue and


help of shipwrecked people. My grandfather was the first

keeper there.

HO: Now, was this known as the Orange Grove House of Refuge?

LO: Yes, it was.

HO: Who was your grandfather?

LO: Hamphill Dillingham Pierce and he was from Maine, also,

though they did not know each other until they met down

here. He was from an old family up there in Maine, but he

did not like it there very well. He ran away and went to

sea when he was sixteen years old and sailed on some of

those big clipper ships and also on some of the whaling


HO: Where did he go on the clipper ships and whaling vessels?

LO: Well, I do not know exactly. I think Australia--I do not

think he went to the Orient but I think he was in the South

Pacific and in the Pacific Ocean as well as the Atlantic.

HO: Did he go anywhere else before he came to Florida?

LO: Yes. He was on a ship that was wrecked off of Chicago,

Waukegan there and Great Lakes. So he was up there and that

is where he met my grandmother, in Chicago.

HO: Who was your grandmother?

LO: Margretta Louise Moore.

HO: Where was she from?

LO: Well, she lived there in Waukegan, Illinois but she was born

at an Indian post out in Wisconsin.

HO: Do you know whether your grandfather served in the military?


LO: Oh, yes. He was in the Civil War and they came down here

soon after the Civil War. I do not remember now his rank or

in the army.

HO: Now, what are some of the first memories you have as a


LO: My very first memory was a dream that I had. I was just a

little thing, I must have been three or four years old and I

have remembered it all these years. I dreamed that Mama was

making a stew for dinner--I can even smell it cooking--and a

big black man came and picked me up and started off with me

and I began screaming and calling for Mama and she just

turned around and waved at me and I waked up.

HO: Do you have any other early memories?

LO: Well, I remember my mother and grandmother talking about a

friend of theirs that they had seen his boat out on the lake

up towards West Palm Beach and when somebody went out, they

had to investigate. They found him dead in the boat. They

said he was struck by lightening.

HO: Did you have any playmates as a young child?

LO: Imaginary ones. I was the oldest one in the whole

neighborhood. As I grew older, of course, I had playmates,.

but I did not as a small child.

HO: Who were the neighbor children?

LO: Well, the Andrew Garnetts, Earl and Roy; Louis was just a

little fellow; he did not count. And Mariel Garnett and

William and Henry Porter and later on, when I got to be ten


or twelve years old, something like that, the Demicks moved

down here to Hypoluxo and they had a girl about my age,

Louise Demick, and we were quite good friends. We did live

quite a ways a distance from each other.

HO: Who was Louise's parents?

LO: Gene Demick and his wife was Mita.

HO: Was Gene Demick a brother of Cap Demick?

LO: They were related but I do not know how. Cap Demick, had a

daughter Belle and a son Frank, and there was some more

Demicks, and Mrs. Baker that I did not know, and Belle Reese

Demick and Mrs. Gene Demick. There were quite a few of


HO: Do you remember when you first went to school?

LO: I was nine years old when I first went to school. The

nearest school was in the north part of Lantana and it was

just a one-room school. There were not very many pupils

there and the reason I was nine years old before I went was

because I had to ride my bicycle up a long, lonely road to

Lantana from Hypoluxo and I was too little to go until I was

about nine years old. But my grandmother taught me to read

and taught me some simple number work so I was put in the

third grade when I went to school.

HO: Do you remember who your teacher was or some of the other

children with you?

LO: My first teacher was Neila McLaughlin and in another year or

two I had Myrtle Miller and Noreena Greer and the only


children that I can remember were the Lyman boys, Walter and

Frank, and the five Kelly children--John, Hattie, Jesse (he

was a boy), Josephine and Sadie.

HO: Now, were the Kelly's not also known as McCarley's?

LO: They were later on in these last years. They were Kelly's

as long as I went to school with them.

HO: Did any of the Garnett children go with you or the Porters?

LO: Two or three years later on because I was older than they.

William Porter went and Earl Garnett but I do not think that

Gloria and Henry went there. Then when I was in the seventh

grade, the new schoolhouse was built between Hypoluxo and

Lantana and it was called a Lantana/Hypoluxo School and our

teacher was Jesse Miller. We had quite a few children by

that time. Because the ones in Hypoluxo are growing up and

then more had moved into the neighborhood, Laura Austin of

the Austin family.

HO: When you were in the seventh grade you would have been about


LO: I do not know. Maybe in the eighth grade.

HO: Did your cousin, Chuck Pierce, got to school with you

here or just in the high school?

LO: He went to Boynton School and we went together to high


HO: Can you tell us about high school?

LO: Well, the first year we went to school, there were several

of them from Boynton and Louise and Howard and me from


Hypoluxo and Clara Anderson, I think it was, from Lantana,

and we all went on the train. There was a train that went

up going north about 7:30 in the morning and another

passenger train that came south at 3:30 in'the afternoon.

So that was just ideal for us. We went on the train and

when we got to West Palm Beach, the school had some sort of

"a conveyance that met us and took us down to school. It was

"a horse and kind of a van or something with a red haired

woman driving it. And we just clattered from the north end

of West Palm Beach down to Hibiscus Avenue and then we all

went back that same way to get the train in the afternoon.

HO: This is what was known for years as Palm Beach High School?

LO: Yes, it was.

HO: It was the only high school in the county?

LO: Yes, it was.

HO: Who were some of your teachers or your principal?

LO: The principal was I.I. Hines and the different teachers we

had, we had Miss Green. She was a nice, quiet, soft-spoken

little woman and we had her for French. And then we had

Miss Chester for English one year--she was only there for

one year. Then we had Miss Ingram who was not quite as

pleasant and a little bit difficult to get along with but

she surely could teach English.

HO: What were the other courses that you took?

LO: I took algebra and Latin, French, English, and biology.


HO: Do you remember who the other students were in class with


LO: There were thirteen of us. It was the biggest class that

high school had ever had and two of them did not graduate.

Eleven of us graduated but there was thirteen of us in the

class. Claude Reece, Chuck Pierce, Marjorie Potter, Clara

Mae Allen, Rynita Wood, Esther Clark, Laura and Agnes Smart,

Catherine Decamer, Louise and Howard Demick. Louise and

Howard and Majorie Potter and Claude Reese were all cousins.

HO: What kind of clothes did you all wear?

LO: That was the time when we were all wearing middy blouses so

we wore blue serge skirts and white middy blouses.

HO: Did you have a cafeteria or what did you eat?

LO: Oh, no, there was not any cafeteria, we took lunch and we

all ate in our room. I do not know what the rest of them

did but Catherine and Clara Mae and different ones of us all

ate in our homeroom and we used to sometimes go down to

Majorie Potter's for dinner. She would ask us down there,

Clara Mae and Louise and Howard and Claude and me.

HO: What kind of food did you eat for lunch?

LO: Sandwiches. I have not the slightest idea except that I

used to sometimes take a piece of mulberry pie in my lunch

and that is where--I had never had any mayonnaise or any

olives until I went to school in West Palm Beach and we

would trade lunches or trade little bites of something and I


learned to eat mayonnaise there because Catherine Decamer

particularly always had mayonnaise on her sandwiches.

HO: What kind of clothes did the boys wear?

LO: Just the clothes that boys wore.

HO: Do you remember ever going to church or Sunday School when

you were young?

LO: Yes. They did not have a church here in Boynton, which was

the nearest place to go and we shared a minister with Delray

and we used to have, first when I was very small, we had

preaching in the afternoon, a Sunday afternoon in the school


HO: Was that school house in Boynton?

LO: Yes, the old school house in Boynton. Then, later on, we

had preaching every other Sunday and the other Sunday he was

in Delray. And they were always kind of old minister, at

least they looked old to me, and I do not remember when we

got the first church. It was a concrete block building down

on the highway on the corner of Ocean Avenue and Federal and

we had that for several years until the traffic got so bad

that we just knew we were going to have to move.

HO: Did you ever do any boating or swimming when you were young?

LO: No, the swimming part. We went in the lake sometimes, just

sometimes. We had to be careful about the stingrays and of

course we knew that they were very dangerous things but they

would be around and we would just take an oar and push them

out of the way and just paddle around in there, in the lake


sometimes as a small child. And later on, we would go over

to the ocean but it was too much of trouble to go very

often. We would go down and Pop would have to row us across

in the rowboat to the Ocean Bridge and then go through the

bushes and grass and shrubs on the ocean beach to get down

to the water.

HO: What does a stingray look like?

LO: Well, it is kind of light brown and it is flat like a plate

and has this long stiff needle-like thing that extends from

I do not know what part of its body and one boy got killed

by one.

HO: What was his name? Do you remember?

LO: He was one of the Baker boys. He was Louise Demick's cousin

and I was to go down there and we were going to paddle

around the lake. And there came up a thunder storm that

afternoon and Mother would not let me go. She said you

could not go in water if you could not see the bottom and

you could not see on account of the condition of the

atmosphere and that was the afternoon that the stingray

stuck his stinger in the jugular vein in his throat.

HO: Do you know who the Baker family was?

LO: Well, their mother had been a Demick. I do not remember the

rest of it.

HO: Were they related to the Sheriff Baker?

LO: No, not that I know of.

HO: What was the lake like at the time?


LO: It was very clear and fresh water and everybody had an

oyster bed on their land. You could take the branch of a

tree or a board or something of that sort and lay it on the

bottom of the lake and after a while, the oysters would

begin getting attached to it and almost everybody had an

oyster bed. Then when you got ready for some oysters, Papa

used to take a rowboat and go out just a little ways off the

shore and take a rake and'pull them up with the rake, get a

lot of them in the boat, bring them ashore and then shuck


HO: How did your father make a living?

LO: Papa was a marine engineer and he had worked at that up

until after he was married and he went into farming there

for a while, but when I was a girl, he used to go north

every summer about the first of May and work as an engineer

on a boat and then come back and farm in the winter. He had

quite a good farm and later on he put in oranges and

different kinds of citrus fruits. We had quite a variety

and sold them to.... People from Palm Beach used to come

down and order fresh fruit and buy fruit and we had

different kinds. It was a quite a business. We had one of

the first fruit stands out by the highway. We had quite a

good stand of bananas, too. We used to sell those, great,

big, beautiful bunches of bananas. They were so good.

These ones you buy cannot compare with them. It was years

before I could eat a bought banana.


HO: Do you know where he got his first orange seedlings or trees


LO: No I do not. I had a tree, my own tree, and Mama found an

orange rolling around in the surf when she was a girl and

she picked up the orange and took it home and they took the

seeds and planted the seeds of the orange.

HO: Was that on the Pierce Homestead on Hypoluxo Island?

LO: Yes. And later on when I was a little girl, they budded a

tree from that tree. We never knew what orange it was. It

was a delicious orange.

HO: Do you remember being much on Hypoluxo Island?

LO: I was never on there.

HO: Were you not born on it?

LO: Yes, I was born there but after we left there when I was

around two years old or so, we never went back.

HO: Did your grandfather not die when you were about two?

LO: Yes. I think that was the reason. Now, that was the south

end of the island. The north end was Uncle Will's place.

He homesteaded the north end of Hypoluxo Island and I was

over there. We used to go over to visit them.

HO: Who was Uncle Will's wife?

LO: Aunt Jewel is who she was. 'She was a short, kind of round

little person and homely but she could certainly make

donuts. When we used to go over there on Sunday to have

dinner, she always had fried sausage, it came in a can,


round sausage, and potatoes and I do not remember what else

except mince pie, always mince pie, and donuts.

HO: Was Uncle Will not your grandmother's brother?

LO: Yes, he was. He was the youngest.

HO: Did he not serve as a bugler in the unit that your

grandfather was in in the Civil War?

LO: I do not think they were in the same unit, but he was a

bugler. He went in at about sixteen.

HO: Mother, did you have a lot of bugs and mosquitos?

LO: Oh my word, yes. Mosquitoes, sometimes they would come in a

regular black cloud. You could just see them coming across

the air. A mule got killed from mosquitoes. So many

mosquitos got on him and began sucking the blood; they

sucked the blood out of him.

HO: Whose mule was that?

LO: I do not remember now.

HO: How did you protect yourself against mosquitos?

LO: We did not have any bug spray at that time. We had screens

in the windows and doors and some people had mosquito nets

around their beds. When I came along, by that time, they

were not quite that vicious or quite that many because we

did not have mosquitoes but I think that Grandma used to

sometimes have a mosquito bar.

HO: Did you make smudge pots?

LO: Oh, yes. We would take a coffee can top or something like

that and put a little bit of paper and some leaves on it and


set fire to the paper. It would burn and then the leaves

would make it smoke. You could use cloth for it but the

smell of the burning cloth was not too pleasant, we did not

use it very often. We would put those smudge pots out in

front of the door and put them in the windows and every year

in the spring, Grandma would have somebody go out and cut us

some Palmetto fans. The scrub palmettos that grow all

through the land here and she would shred those up and make

mosquito brushes and we would keep one outside the door.

The idea was that if one came along you would briskly brush

the door and then you brushed yourself, especially your

back, and then you slipped in the door, opened the door and

slipped in just as fast as you could.

HO: What about bugs in the food?

LO: Well, I do not know. We had what we called safe and I think

other people had them. It was kind of like a box with sides

of screening and you had to have four legs on them and the

legs were set in cans of oil or water. But a whole row of

ants would go across on that water to get on the legs, so

that you had to put some oil in and we kept that to keep

food in. We called it a safe. We had a large one there at

home. It was one my grandfather had made. It was several

feet long and high and the story was that when he was making

that one morning, he was working it when some Indians came

to call and they stood around and looked at it a while and

one of them said, "Pierce, what you make?" My grandfather


kept on working, he said, "Cage, to keep papoose and squaw."

The Indian looked at that and looked at it and looked at him

and he said, "Pierce, you just lie too much." But you could

keep your bread and of course you kept your sugar in air

tight containers and it kept it cool for the screen that was

on it and it kept the bugs and ants out. I had one and I

still got it, right on my back porch where we kept the

things away from the bugs.

HO: Where did you get your bread?

LO: Well, back in the olden days we made it. But mother purely

rejoiced when she found that she could buy bread. I think

we used to go to Boyntonm to buy bread. Boynton is about

three miles from Hypoluxo.

HO: Where did you buy your other groceries?

LO: Well, back in the olden days, my grandfather and

grandmother's day, the only place you could buy things was

Titusville and they used to take their boat and sail up to

Titusville and buy a barrel of flour and a half barrel of

sugar and things of that sort and sail back again. It took

about three weeks to make the round trip so they only went

once or twice a year. Later on they had a store in West

Palm Beach, over in Palm Beach it was because West Palm

Beach was not settled up until long after Palm Beach was.

In my day, we had a store in Lantana, the Lymans had a store

and we got our groceries there.


HO: What kind of items did you normally eat? Did you have a

garden and did Grandpa raise his own vegetables?

LO: Well, some of them, but he raised the crops to ship and it

was eggplant, tomatoes, peppers and patapan squash. They

were the round, white ones, and they were two or three

inches thick. They are not like the northern squash at all.

But we did have a little bit of a garden sometimes with a

little cabbage. But we used a lot of canned goods--canned

tomatoes, canned roast beef, canned corned beef, a lot of

salt pork.

HO: What about milk?

LO: Well, if you were not fortunate enough to have a cow, you

got it out of a tin can.

HO: Did you all have a cow?

LO: Yes, we did, most of the time.

HO: Did Grandpa not operate a small diary and deliver for a


LO: Oh, I had forgotten about that, yes he did and it was one of

the first dairies around. He delivered milk, I guess it

must have been West Palm Beach because Lake Worth was only

just starting then.

HO: Do you remember Lake Worth starting?

LO: Yes, about the time I started high school they were grubbing

out the stumps to make it through from the Town of Lake

Worth and they had regular experts, professionals working on

it. Sales people and also as it began to sell and get a few


houses there, they would bring down excursions from the

middle west out through Ohio and Iowa and some of those

states there. They had excursions and they had big land

sales there. It was quite an interesting performance.

Interviewee: Lillian Voss Oyer
Interviewer: Harvey Eugene Oyer III
June 25, 1988

HO: Saturday June 25, 1988. My name is Harvey Eugene Oyer, III,

the grandson of Lillian Fredericka Voss Oyer who is called

Frieda by her friends. Tell me about your grandfather, H.D.

Pierce. We have established that he is from Maine and he

sailed on the clipper ships and on the whaling vessels in

both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and wound up

shipwrecked in Lake Michigan. How did he meet your

grandmother, Margaretta Moore?

LO: My grandmother was living with her married sister at the

time and her brother-in-law came in one time and said,

"There is a shipwreck over here and different ones were

bringing home some of the sailors to stay. I am going to

bring home a young man. Now, Maggie, do not fall in love

with him." But when this black-haired, black-eyed young man

from Maine came in, they fell in love with each other right

away. And that was how I got my grandfather.

HO: Now where was this at, near Chicago?

LO: Yes, it was, I think it was in Waukegan right by Chicago.


HO: At what time did H.D. Pierce and his new wife come to

Florida and by what way did they get to Florida.

LO: They came down here in 1871. They had been married several

years and he had been in the Civil War in the meantime. But

they had lost three little girls from diphtheria,

Florabelle, Lottie and my little Mae, as Grandma always

said. They were very pretty little things from the

pictures, but they all died from diphtheria and they thought

that it was because of the climate and they had a little

boy, Charles and they thought that if they came down south,

perhaps that they could same him. And of course they did.

He was Charles Pierce.

HO: Charles Pierce was your mother's brother so your mother was

not born yet. It was your older brother and she had had

three older sisters that all died of diphtheria. How old

did they live to be before they passed away?

LO: I would say that they were around from maybe five and six,

eight years old. They were very little girls yet and they

came down here in a sloop, sailing down the Mississippi from

Chicago and they were all packed up, ready to leave and the

boat was in the slip there at the docks when the.Chicago

fire broke out that night and boats on both sides of their

boat burned but theirs was not touched. They left right

away and came down the Mississippi and were frozen in for a

little while at some place there, I do not recall, and came

across the north part of the state. Sold their boat with


was named the Fairybelle and came across the north part of

Florida. I do not know much about the rest of it except

when they came down here.

HO: Now, who came down? It was H.D. Pierce, his wife,

Margaretta Moore, those are your two grandparents; their

young son, Charles--how old would he have been?

LO: I think that he was about eight years old. I am not sure.

And Grandma's youngest brother, William Moore, was on.[on


HO: So there were four of them that came down the Mississippi.

After they got to Florida, where at in Florida did they sell

their boat and how did they get from that point down to


LO: I do not know where they sold the boat. It was on the west

coast of Florida, somewhere and they came across the upper

part of the state, and I do not know. I do not remember.

HO: So we know that H.D. Pierce and his family made it to

Jupiter by 1870, if not earlier. Why did he go to Jupiter?

LO: He got a position as assistant lighthouse keeper and he said

it was just like heaven to come down to those white cottages

and civilization and people because they had been burned out

and they had been through a hurricane and suffered a great

deal, and Jupiter just looked like heaven to them.

HO: Now they came down from another northern city on the east

coast of Florida, but you do not recall which city, do you?


Okay, once they got to Jupiter, what was his position there

or why did he go?

LO: He was the assistant lighthouse keeper.

HO: Who was the lighthouse keeper in Jupiter at the time he


LO: Captain Armer.

HO: Now, Jupiter had already been settled, correct.

LO: Yes, it had been settled before the Civil War. Of course

the light house, the light was turned off during the war.

HO: Why was the light turned out during the war?

LO: Just on general principles, I guess.

HO: So the Jupiter area was settled, but that area south of

Jupiter which is now Palm Beach County, was that settled?

LO: No, there was not anyone here except one man that came down

to escape the Civil War and when he found out the Civil War

was over, he went back north.

HO: So how long was H.D. Pierce an assistant lighthouse keeper

in Jupiter?

LO: I do not know. He came down here to the lake in about 1871

and Mama said that her father and mother said it was just

beautiful coming down from Jupiter into the Lake Worth there

and all the plants and vegetation and the clear beautiful

water and the island there that they settled on. It was all

verdant and it was all just beautiful.

HO: So if they moved to Hypoluxo Island by 1871 and any previous

settlers had left, this would make H.D. Pierce and his


family the first permanent settlers of Palm Beach County

south of Jupiter, correct.

LO: Yes. They were the first couple to homestead in the Palm

Beach area.

HO: Did H.D. Pierce buy the land on Hypoluxo Island or was this

part of the Homestead Act where if you just came and

homesteaded on the land, you could have it after a period of


LO: That never came up in my lifetime to talk about but I think

it was the Homestead Act.

HO: Now, H.D. Pierce settled the south part of the island, who

was on the north part of the island?

LO: William Moore settled the north part of the island.

HO: And William Moore was your grandmother's brother. Did he

ever have any children?

LO: No, he did not.

HO: How did Hypoluxo get its name?

LO: It was just called the island at first and one afternoon,

Grandma was there by herself and some Indian women came in

and the Indians were all very friendly. They never had any

trouble with the Indians, they were all just very, very

fine. In talking, Grandma said, "What is the name of this

island in your Indian language?" And they said, "Hypoluxo.

Big water all around and no get out." So that afternoon

when my grandfather and some of the others came in for the

evening, she told him about it, and they said that was a


good name and they started to spell it the way it sounded

and so they said Hypoluxo and they said we will spell that

"i" with a "y" because they cannot change that, it will have

to be a "y". If we put it "Hip" they can owe it to the

hippo or something but "Hy" they cannot change so they

spelled it just as it sounded--HYPOLUXO. But the name got

attached to the shore over on the island, the west shore.

That was always called Hypoluxo and it is still Hypoluxo and

the island never got called Hypoluxo Island until a few

years ago but Hypoluxo was the name of the settlement on the

west side of the lake.

HO: When you were two years old, your grandfather, H.D. Pierce

died. What did your grandmother do at that time? Did she

stay on the island or did she come over to the main part of

Hypoluxo and live with you and your parents?

LO: Grandma came over in Hypoluxo and lived with us.

HO: Now what happened to the homestead on Hypoluxo Island at

that time?

LO: Well, it had been mortgaged and nobody had enough money at

the time to pay off the two or three hundred dollar mortgage

so they lost it through a mortgage.

HO: And who held the mortgage?

LO: Captain Demick, and he was very fair about it. He offered

them all kinds of chances to redeem it but they did not take



HO: Do you think if they had the money they would have kept the

land or did they see the land as not being very valuable


LO: I imagine they would have kept it but of course nobody saw,

in those days, what it was going to be like now.

HO: Who eventually would up buying that land?

LO: Well, the first I ever heard about it was when the

Vanderbilts came down and began buying--the Vanderbilts and

the Balsams. I do not know who owns it now.

HO: Was it not the former Consuelo Vanderbilt who had been

married to the Duke of Marlborough and then remarried a

Balsam and it was Consuelo Vanderbilt and her husband Balsam

who bought the old Pierce homestead on the south part of

Hypoluxo Island.

LO: Yes it was.

HO: When H.D. Pierce and his family first came and became the

first permanent settlers in what is now Palm Beach County,

they brought their son, Charles, with them. When and where

was your mother born?

LO: Mother was born in the Orange Grove House of Refuge in the

upper part of Delray Beach. The house is gone now. It

burned a few years ago and there is a marker there at that

place telling about who the first keeper was and giving her

name as being born there. She was the first white girl born

between Jupiter and Miami. My grandfather was there as a

keeper. He just wanted some extra money, some cash, and


they were offering a few hundred dollars a year for keeper

for the house of refuge and so he took the position.

HO: Do you know how long he served as the keeper?

LO: I think it was about two or three years.

HO: Then did H.D. Pierce go back to his home on Hypoluxo Island?

LO: Yes.

HO: So how many years younger was your mother, and her name was

Lily Elder Pierce Voss. Voss was her married name. How

many years younger was she than your uncle Charles?

LO: I think she was twelve years younger.

HO: Where did your uncle Charles live?

LO: He lived at home until he married and then he lived in


HO: When was Boynton settled?

LO: A little bit before 1896 because Charles Pierce was born in

1986 and he was the first boy born in Boynton and they were

living here and had a little general store, but I do not

know when the first settlers came.

HO: Charles' son Charles was your first cousin and he was the

first boy born in what is now Boynton Beach. Who settled

Boynton Beach?

LO: Well, Major Boynton was instrumental in settling it. He

came from up north somewhere. Major Boynton and Colonel

Linden came down here together to invest in some land and

they hired my father with his launch to take them down the

lake in the canal and that was in--Mama and Papa had just


been married so it must have been 1894. He saw this nice

green-looking place with all the pretty trees and vines and

flowers and all and he said, "This is the land I want." And

that is where he started Boynton.

HO: So your father, Captain F.C. Voss, brought Boynton down on

his boat to what is now Boynton Beach?

LO: Yes.

HO: When your first cousin, Charles, was being born in Boynton

in 1896, you were born at almost exactly the same time on

Hypoluxo Island. What is the difference between your age

and his age?

LO: Well, Mama and Papa were up in Maine that summer and she

hurried back down here to have the first grandchild but when

she got here, Charles was born five days before I was, much

to her regret and sorrow. She wanted to have the first

grandchild. So he is five days older than I.

HO: Your uncle Charles was one of the first postmasters in

Boynton and he was also one of the famous Barefoot Mailmen.

What is the story behind that?

LO: The mail was brought down from West Palm Beach to Hypoluxo

and Mama was just about a teenager and she rode the mail

carrier over across the lagoon from the island to the ocean

beach and they walked the ocean beach down where the sand

was wet where the waves washed up because it is much easier

walking on that solid sand than on the loose sand and the

mail carriers took off their shoes and socks and tied them


and slung them over their shoulder and carried the mail

pouch on the other arm and they always wore big straw hats.

The pictures you see of the barefoot mailmen show them with

the cap but they never wore a cap on account of the sun

being so hot and they were walking so many hours in the sun,

they wore straw hats. Anyway, this man, Hamilton, had to go

on down the beach and down at Hillsborough they kept a

rowboat just for the mail carrier. When he went down, the

boat was on the ocean side and he would get in it and go

across to the mainland and when he came back from Miami, he

would get in the row boat at the main land and come across

to the ocean*beach side and leave the boat there. But one

time, somehow, somebody--nobody ever knew who it was--had

taken the boat and rowed the boat over to the main land and,

supposedly, Hamilton tried to swim it and they never found

him again, or anything about him. Just his clothes were

there in the tree and the boat on the other side of the


HO: So Hamilton was supposedly killed or he was never seen or

heard from again. Who took over the mail duties after

Hamilton was killed.

LO: Uncle Charlie took one and I have forgotten who the other

one was but they were the ones that had signed security for

his job and they finished out his term of service.

HO: What do you mean they signed security for his job?


LO: Well, they had to have two people to sign sort of a

testimonial saying that he was a proper person, that he was

trustworthy and so on.

HO: So because they had co-signed Hamilton's job as mail

carrier, that meant that your Uncle Charlie and this other

gentleman had to take over the duties of Hamilton after he

was killed.

LO: Yes.

HO: So in all the famous pictures and paintings and so forth of

the barefoot mailman of Hypoluxo, who does that resemble?

Does that resemble Hamilton or your Uncle Charlie or is that

just a fictitious face that they made up?

LO: It really resembled Uncle Charlie.

HO: Why would it resemble Uncle Charlie instead of the more

famous Hamilton who was the first one?

LO: Well, he was not famous while he was living and besides, the

artist did not see him. He was talking to Uncle Charlie

while he was sketching it.

HO: So your uncle Charlie continued as postmaster in Boynton

Beach for many years. After he passed away, who took over

the duties as postmaster in Boynton Beach?

LO: His wife, Ethel Simms Pierce. She was a Simms from Jupiter

and she had been postmaster up there before she was married

to Uncle Charlie.

HO: Now how did Uncle Charlie and Ethel Simms meet?

LO: At a postmasters' convention, that is where they met.


HO: So she had been the postmaster in Jupiter and she met him

and decided to move down to Boynton and be what, an

assistant postmaster?

LO: Yes, she was an assistant for a long time. There was a

period of time in there when the government would not have a

relative working in the same office so she had to give up

her work then but she went back in as assistant postmaster

and she took the examination for postmaster after his death

and was postmaster for some years.

HO: What year did Uncle Charlie die?

LO: 1939.

HO: Grandma, do you remember any of the hurricanes when you were

a little girl?

LO: Yes, I remember one very vividly. We were living in the

house about halfway between the lake and U.S. Highway 1,

Federal Highway, and my father was gone that summer working

as an engineer on a ship and Mama and my grandmother and my

little four-year-old brother and I were living there at

home. It began raining and the storm, it was not raining so

hard as the water began to rise, the lake began to come up

and just before dark, we decided that we had better leave

there and go up to the Porter's house that was on higher

land beyond the railroad. So we all started out, I was

holding Grandma's hand and Mama was holding Charlie by the

hand. The water was coming up around the house. On the way

up there, Grandma fell. I do not remember anything about


the way it happened or anything, but she broke her arm when

she fell. We went on up to Porter's and they other people

there in the neighborhood began coming up there. I remember

the Andrew Garnets rowed their boat up almost to the highway

with Mrs. Garnet and the baby in it. The Wilkinsons came up

there and several other families and we children had a

wonderful time all night long with all the people there. My

poor grandmother was sitting there suffering all night.

The next morning, when it was daylight and the storm had

passed over, Mama got someone to take her horse and buggy

and drive Grandma to West Palm Beach and they found that her

arm had been broken and she laid there all night during that

hurricane with a broken arm. When we got back to the house,

the water was still up quite higher and all of our chickens

and hens that we had were all floating around dead on the

water out back of the house and my little brother came in

and opened the west window and put out a pair of shoes and

he said, "Look, Mama, they are floating. Look, Mama, they

are floating." And they were my Sunday shoes.

HO: How old were you at this time and how old was your little


LO: I was about eight and he was about four.

HO: Now this is your little brother Charlie, not to be confused

with your uncle Charles and his son Charlie.

LO: No, this was my brother Charlie.


HO: Okay, your uncle and your cousin were down in Boynton Beach

by this time.

LO: I think that was about the time that Uncle Charlie was

working down on the extension on a boat, on the railroad

extension and Aunt Yellis and my cousin Charlie had to go on

down to Key West to visit and were coming back to Miami and

they got caught in this storm and the boat they were on

sunk. Aunt Yellis could swim, fortunately, and a man took

Charlie, my cousin, on his back and swam with him and they

got to an island where there was a kind of a shed there and

it had not blown down and they stayed in that shed overnight

and all the next day. I think it was the second day that

they were discovered there and rescued. All they had to eat

during that time was cocoa plums. Of course there was

plenty of water to drink. That was quite an adventure, I

thought. Some years later, when Charlie was commander of

the American Legion post in West Palm Beach, a man came in,

a stranger, and when the time came for people to make

remarks during the ceremony, he got up and said, "I want you

to know I am the one who saved your commander's life by

taking him in my back and swimming him to an island during

the hurricane."

HO: Your aunt and your cousin Charlie were coming back from Key

West, but your uncle Charlie was still down in the Keys

helping Flagler build the extension to Key West?

LO: He was captain of one of the steamers.


HO: Do you recall your parents or grandparents ever telling

stories about any shipwrecks off the coast?

LO: Well, the only one I remember was when I was about three

months old and we were living over there in their home on

Hypoluxo Island and it was on January 30, 1897 and my

grandfather came in and knocked on the door and said, "Girl,

there is a shipwreck on the beach." And mama put a pillow

in front of me to keep me from falling off the bed and went

over to the shipwreck and they went onboard the ship and it

was so far onto the beach that they could walk over there

onto that ship without getting their feet wet and the

captain had their dog on the ship and the ship's cat and the

cat and the dog got to be quite friends and, anyhow, after

the shipwreck, Mama took the dog and the cat and the kittens

over to their place and the cat died and that dog, Beauty,

she was a little cocker spaniel, a black dog, and she raised

those kittens.

HO: Did your mother or your grandparents ever salvage any of the


LO: A while back, I do not know when it was, it was before Mama

was born, that they got burned out. They lost a lot of the

things that they had brought down with them and soon after

that, there were a shipwreck but I do not know where they

were. I do not think they were in Hypoluxo or Boynton.

There was a shipwreck and they got back just so many things

off that ship, things that they needed and they said that


her bolts of dry goods that their ship was carrying and it

was wound around the boards and planks and things and so

that they never got off more than a yard or two of it at a

time. It was all cut up so being wound by the force of the

waves around the timbers.

HO: Did the boat captain or any of the crew live?

LO: I do not know anything about it. I never heard anything.

HO: Are there any articles still in the family that ever came

off one of those ships.

LO: We had a ship's clock that we had for a long, long time and

when our homestead was broken up and one of my brother's got

the clock.

HO: Do you remember which brother got the clock?

LO: I think it was Gilbert and he said that Walter took it apart

one time to fix it and never got it together again.

HO: Now what shipwreck was this clock from?

LO: I do not know. One ship went on January 30, 1897 and the

other went on the next year the same date, January 30. They

came on those big, hard northeast storms and I know one was

named the Loftus and the other ship was the O Kim Soon,

Chinese name, and I do not know which one it was from.

HO: Were there local people that were salvagers that went out

and tried to salvage the cargo or did your father try and do

that with his boat?


LO: I do not know. I think that the clock was just given to

them by one of the officers for salvage. I .just do not

know. I never knew anything about it.

HO: Do you recall any stories of your grandparents ever

salvaging any boats and using the material from any of the


LO: Well, when my grandfather built their house over on Hypoluxo

Island, I think the lumber came from a shipwreck and he had

to take it on his sailboat to Titusville, I think it was, to

have it sawed into regular lumber but their house that they

built was built with shipwrecked lumber and the house is

still standing over there. I do not know who owns it now

and I think it has been built onto so it has lost all of the

individuality it had. I saw it one time, just one time in

my life but there had been something built onto it that it

was not like the pictures we had.

HO: Is this the same house that you were born in?

LO: Yes.

HO: So the original house that H.D. Pierce built when he settled

Hypoluxo in 1871 is still standing today?

LO: Well, he did not build it right away. He had a temporary,

very bad looking little spot it looked like and they lived

there for a while and Grandma cooked outdoors under a banyan

tree with an open fire and then they had a little temporary

thing. But.this house he built, later on it is still

standing as far as I know it was a few years ago.


HO: Is that chandelier hanging in your living room off of a


LO: No.

HO: What is it from?

LO: I think it was from Uncle Charlie's house. I do not know

where he got it.

HO: What about the sewing machine that you have?

LO: Oh, no. We bought that from Paul Moore's wife.

HO: So none of the older articles in your house ever were handed

down from your grandparents or parents or were from any of

the shipwrecks.

LO: They are not from any of the shipwrecks. Oh, I think that I

have a glass--what they used to call a spoon holder--that

they used to, years ago, wash the teaspoons and put them in

a glass jar and set them on the table. I have a glass jar

with a little piece broken out of it. Everybody is wanting

me to throw it away because it is broken but I will not do

it because it came off one of the shipwrecks.

HO: Where is H.D. Pierce buried at?

LO: His grave is under the northwest corner of the Norton

Gallery of Art. Originally it belonged to the pioneers,

that land did, and the old cemetery was there and when the

new cemetery of Woodlawn, across the highway, was built,

they offered to move all the graves of the pioneers that had

been buried in the old cemetery. I do not know how many of

them were, but Mama would not have my grandfather's grave.


She said there would have been nothing left of it through

the years and it did not have the steel caskets or anything

like that. There just were not much of anything so she

would not have it touched and he is still there, underneath

the Norton Art Gallery.

HO: The pioneers or the descendants of those pioneers still have

a picnic every May, is it in May?

LO: Yes, and there is another woman there who is older than I

am, an Anthony, but she was not there this year so I got the

flower for being the oldest person at the Pioneer Picnic.

HO: So the descendants of these pioneers who were originally

buried in the Pioneer Cemetery are allowed to have a picnic

every spring at the Norton Gallery of Art.

LO: We sold them that land and that is where they wanted to

badly to have it with the understanding that every year we

would-have our picnic there and we could use their


HO: Who built the Norton Gallery or who wanted the land?

LO: Mr. Norton, I do not remember his name, but he wanted it,

and also they are supposed to have a safety deposit box, a

big safe there, to keep their records and things in.


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