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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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?
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
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?
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
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
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?
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
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
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
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?
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
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
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.