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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida.
St. Lucie Tapes 37 DS
TAPE 3: Judge J. R. Knott
A lease, a five year lease on the Mosquitoe Control building on the
beach. It will be remodeled and we have the floor plan already drawn up
and in the hands of the county commissioner as well as the city on the
arrangement of artifacts and articles of interest, historical interest
that we will have. Now I'm sure that each one of you have something
that's of historical value. You can let us have that on a loan basis and
anytime you wish to come and claim it, it's yours, or any of your heirs
later on would like to reclaim that article, it could be, it will be
yours right on. But we will have the use of it. We need it because we
are going to have a lot of room. This building is 147 feet long, and we
will have a wonderful museum when this is completed, and the building is
all cleaned up and turned over to us. Now, we need things, and we will
have places for it and things of interest and it will be a museum that
will be a credit to our community. We hope in the fall, at the present
time the museum is closed for the summer months, the attendance is so
small, when school is out we don't have all those school children coming
in. so we resent that or close it for the summer. But in September, we
hope to open our new museum and we're going to need some of your beauti-
ful things that you have and we hope to open up with a wonderful cele-
bration, you might say, open house, and we hope that all of you will
help us to build this museum. We will have this lease for five years,
with the option to renew. So come and help us to build a better museum.
Judge Knott is here tonight and I have asked him if he could help us on
tabulating and indexing and setting up files and things so he's goine to
recommend some materials for us that'll helD us.
who most of you already know it- that we do have a very
active program committee and a publicitv committee. I'm quite sure all
of you received your notices much the same as I did, and I'd like for
them to know that we appreciate their efforts and that there efforts
are accomplishing something. To get back to the program chairman, I
think at this time I should turn it over to T. H. Dandy Sanders. The
fellow that the north bridge, the Dandy Sanders Bridge, is named after.
That's what the radio man says every day and my wife says, "yeah, I know
it." And I guess the rest of you do too, but, Dandy has gotten us a
speaker tonight and I would like for Dandy to introduce the speaker to
S: Thank you. Mr. President. Indeed a pleasure for me tonight to have
the opportunity to introduce to you a real Floridian, native born.
Sell you where he's from, but it's Leon County. Some of
you know ____ where that is, but it happens to be
Tallahassee. And he has lived in West Palm Beach;for the last 21 years.
He is judge of the circuit court, I think he said the ninth district. He
is about to ... historical work in ___ plans. He's been president
of the states' Historical Society. He's president now of the Historical
Society in West Palm Beach, and I know there isn't anything more that I
can say about him that I'm eoina to let him do the rest. It's my plea-
sure to present to you, Judge James R. Knott.
K: Thank you. Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen... Mr. Sanders men-
tioned that your Society was having a series of talks on lower eastcoast
history, and suggested that I discuss the history of the Palm Beach County
area. He told me that my friend, Judge McCarty had given a talk on Fort
Pierce, and that my distinguish colleague,Judge Sample was to address
you soon, with I believe a two hour speech. outlining a few of the impor-
tant achievements of the Sample family. I don't see how Judge Sample can
do-that'in just two hours. Every other person that I've met in Fort
Pierc n the past the time seems to be either Dr. Sample or Judge Sample,
or Colonel Sample or Professor Sample, or some other prominent member of
the Sample family. At any rate, I feel myself surrounded here by an oral
prestige that will be difficult for me to live up to. It might be inte-
resting to review the past background of Palm Beach County as a political
annity. Palm Beach County used to be in the same county as Fort Pierce.
They were both in Mosquito County. Now this name was changed about 1844,
and they both became located thereby in Levard County, and of course,
later in St. Lucie County. Palm Beach became a part of Dade County about
1874, and remained in Dade County until 1909, when the legislature created
Palm Beach County. When I speak of Palm Beach County therefore and dis-
cussing its past history, you will understand of course that I mean the
Palm Beach County area, because actually the county itself had not come
into existence until 1909. The history of the Palm Beach County area can
be divided into four general periods. The first period might be said to
end in 1873, when the first permanent white settlers arrived in that area.
The second period extended from 1873 to 1893, when what could best be
termed the "Flager Era", started. And the third period, the Flager
Era, extended from 1894 until the Florida Boom. I think that's a con-
venient way to terminate it. Our modern history since the boom, I think,
may be regarded as current history, and I will not attempt to touch on
that very much tonight. Incidentally, after we conclude this discussion
on my part, if any of you have some questions which you would like to ask
me about the Palm Beach County historical background, I'll be glad to
try-- to answer them. I can't guarantee it'll be correct in all my an-
swers, but I'll do the best I can.
The first resident known by name in what is now Palm Beach County,
was the Indian chief. Chachi, who lived in a village near Lake Magonya.
That's a peculiar name. I'm sure that most of you must believe it, must
be a corruption of Magnolia, but it comes from the mango, Lake Magonya.
This village was located about a mile or so west of West Palm Beach.
Chachi became a scout for the United States Army during the Seminole
Indian War, in 1841. It was during this war, which lasted from 1835 to
1842, as most of you know, that the army built a roadway from Jupiter
south to Fort Lauderdale, called the military trail, which is still a
site of a highway today. During the Seminole Indian War,Zachary Taylor,
who was then colonel in the United States Army, had command of a troop
which fought a battle with the indians south Okeechobee city on Christ-
mas day, 1837. He had eleveqhundred men under him, and lost a hundred and
thirty-eight in this battle, killed or wounded. Zachary Taylor was pro-
moted to general for his services in this battle. And was later
in supreme command of the United States Army forces in our war with Mex-
ico, which led directly to his election as president f the United
ion as president of the United
States. As late as 1872, there was no one living between Fort Pierce
and Biscayne Bay, except at Jupiter where the lighthouse began operation
in 1860, with the lighthouse keeper and his two assistants and their
family in attendance. During the early 1860's, a man named August
who was said to have been the head gardener for the king of Saxony, came
to Palm Beach, the island of Palm Beach, and established a farm. Lake
Worth, which is twenty-two miles long, was in a fresh water lake.
August Lang dug the first inlet, which caused salt water to enter Lake
Worth, killing the fresh water fish. The inlet later filled over and
the fresh water killed all the salt water fish. The stink, or perhaps
I should say smell, of the dead fish was said to have been too much for
Mr. Lang, and he left that year, about 1868, and moved to a new farm
west of Fort Pierce. about ten miles west of Fort Pierce, where, I regret
to say, he was murdered. A legend has it that Mr. Lang was a draft dod-
ger from the confederate army and came to the isolated Palm Beach area to
escape imprisonment, but this story is not substantiated.
The first permanent settlers came to Palm Beach about 1873, when I
say Palm Beach I mean the whole area. And at the end of that year ten
people lived on shores of Lake Worth. Practically all of them, either in
what is now Palm Beach, that is the island on the ocean, or south, and
another island in the lake called The ocean inlet to Lake
Worth was destroyed by a storm in 1878. Nineteen men and their families
by that time had settled on the shores of Lake Worth, and all nineteen
gathered to redig the inlet. During the same year, an important event
occurred which effected the future of Palm Beach, consisting of the wreck
of a small spanish brig, called the Providential, which had as part of
its cargo, twenty thousand coconuts. This small ship which weighed
only a hundred and seventy eight tons was wrecked on, in the middle
right near where the pier is now, the middle of what is now Palm Beach.
And the settlers all hustled over to gather the coconuts and plant them
with the results that the tropical beauty of that area became so enhanced
that it impressed Mr. Flager, with its unique loviness, and caused him to
establish Palm Beach as what became a world famous winter resort, which
is the next subject that we will discuss. Prior to the wreck of the Pro-
vidential, sometimes we're asked whether Palm Beach had palm trees. The
answer is yes it did, but it didn't have them in profusion. And the
enormous number of Dalm trees which later grew in Palm Beach was due to
this wreck. There's no question about that. There are estimated are,
about twenty years agp they were estimated to be about a hundred and
seventy-five thousand palmtrees in Palm Beach. This is for those of you
who may like statistics, and about two hundred and thirty thousand palm
trees in West Palm Beach. Early Palm Beach had three post offices which
were necessary because travel, even for short distances, was possible
only by water, atleast it was very difficult except by water. The first
post office was established in the northern part of the island and was
called Lake Worth. It had no connection with the present city of Lake
Worth which is south of West Palm Beach, and was established much later.
It was of course named after the lake, Lake Worth, which separate Palm
Beach from West Palm Beach. And Lake Worth itself, was named after
Colonel William Jenkins Worth, who was a prominent military figure in the
Seminole Indian War with headquarters at Jupiter, at Fort Jupiter, at the
head of the military trail, which I mentioned a few minutes ago. The
second postoffice is called Figureless, and was opened in 1886 in the
southern part of the island, just south of where the and Tennis
Club is now located. The third postoffice was, finally, Palm Beach and
was opened in 1887 in the store of Mr. on Point,
where White Hall, the Flager Museum, is now located, in the very
heart of Palm Beach. Figureless and Lake Worth were later discontinued
as post offices, although as I mentioned of course, many years later a
new town called Lake Worth came in to existence south of West Palm Beach.
The first hotel in Palm Beach opened in 1885, thbeCoconut Grove House,
which was formed by additions to home of Cap, he was called, Cap E. M.
who was later to become the first mayor of Palm Beach after it
was incorporated many years later. Tourists came to this hotel from all
over the United States. It had about fourty-two rooms, and of course it
didn't have accommodations for large numbers of people, but nevertheless,
it had people registered there from all over the country, and even from
Canada, because we have the hotel registers in our Historical Society.
West Palm Beach came into existence after Palm Beach did, and was in-
corporated, indeed it was first started and first settled in 1894 with
the coming of the railroad. As nearly all of you know Mr. Flager ex-
tended the railroad south, from this area to West Palm Beach, arriving
there in 1894, and in doing so he displaced a short little railroad which
we call now the Celestial Railroad, which extended for only eight miles.
Extending from the Indian River of the mouth of the River at
Jupiter, down to Juno, and provided a method to get from one boat jour-
ney to begin another boat journey at the head of Lake Worth. This was
the purpose of the little eight mile railroad which had only one loco-
motive, and that railroad as I said was discontinued with the building
of the big fine new railroad, the Florida Eastcoast Railway by Mr. Flager,
which came to West Palm Beach in 1894, and eventually to Miami in 1896.
And that was the year that Miami was incorporated, when the.railroad got
there although it had had a post office for years before that, there
were very few settlers there. Now at this time in 1894, we begin in the
Palm Beach County area with a third historical period of what might be
called the Flager Era, which is probably the most glamorous and the most
stored, let's say, era in our local history down there. Mr. Flager, who
had made a fortune in-theroil business with John D. Rockefeller, and had
been Mr. Rockefeller partner, in fact, he was senior to Mr. Rockefeller
in years. They had been partners in Cleveland. And by 1879, the Stan-
dard Oil Company, which they formed, was said to control 95% of all the
petroleum business in the United States. Mr. Flager tired of the oil
business and sought new interest, and came to Florida, first as a vaca-
tioner and then as an investor. His first trip was in that year in 1879.
He first came to St. Augustine and did much to develop St. Augustine as a
resort with the building of two great hotels there and the purchase of a
third hotel, and he operated all three. And St. Augustine was of course
a very famous resort largely on that account. And later he acquired the
Orman Beach Hotel and he came to the Palm Beach area, extended the rail-
road down here, built the Royal Hotel, which was the largest
resort hotel in the world with over a thousand rooms, and accommodations
for nearly two thousand people. He built the Royal Hotel
and the Hotel the following year. And with the easy access pro-
vided by the new railroad, people came and drove to Palm Beach, tourist,
winter hotel residents. And among these people were some famous names
socially, financially, politically, in the United States, and these
people helped to make Palm Beach famous. And they gave it an attraction
for other well known names which it has continued to have to some extent.
Palm Beach, for a good many years after these hotels ere opened, remained
a hotel community. The entire island and most of the people who lived
there were devoted to the business of taking care of the winter visitors
who lived in the hotels. But as time passed and World War I approached,
people began to build winter homes and the first one who built a winter
home there was Mr. Flager himself, who opened the way to the building of
the great homes in Palm Beach, with one of the greatest of all the pri-
vate homes in the United States known as White Hall, which is now the
Flager Museum. Most of you have doubtless been to White Hall, those of
you who have not been there, I think would find it extremely interesting.
As I say operated as a museum. Now, a great many people during this so
called Flager Era, came to Palm Beach to spend the winter. And they
would bring the families, a lot of the men were retired, they were all
financially people of means, they had to be, because these were not mo-
dest boarding house price places. They were quite expensive, even in
that day when money meant something entirely different from what it does
now. It said that some of the accommodations at the Royal _were-as
high as a hundred dollars a day. These winter residents, hotel visitors,
who came to Palm Beach were entertained constantly of course as they are
today in some hotels by programs of events. They had dances, they had at
least two orchestras at the Royal fact, the Royal
Hotel had an orchestra for the help alone. They had 400 waiters and with
the dining room seating 1600 people,sthey had enough help to have an or-
chestra to be needed occasionally, I suppose. But, at any rate, they had
a constant program of things to do. They had the alligator farm, they had
an ostrich farm, all right there in Palm Beach. They had the Jungle Trail,
which led down into where the Evergladesgolf course is located now, and
they had these wheel chair rides up the side of the lake, the western side
of the island, along Lake Worth known as the lake trail, extending for
several miles, and they had a pretty good time. Some people envisioned
Mr. Flager's house as a kind of, they looked on Mr. Flager's house as
the kind of house that they would like to have, and some of them had
money enough to build that sort of house, and later on theyAbuild houses
which were some what to White Hall. This started about
1916. In 1918 Singer, who was the son of the sewing machine man,
came to Palm Beach, sick, to see if he could be cured. And he met there
an architect named Addison Mysner, and they formed a sort of loose
partnership in which Mr. Singer provided the money and Mr. Mysner pro-
vided the ideas and architectural designs, and they built the Everglades
Club, which was the first outstanding Spanish architectural piece in
Florida that we know of. And several of the members of the Everglades
Club which immediately became extremely popular among the winter people,
decided to hire Mr. Mysner as their architect to build houses for them.
Among them was Mrs. of Philadelphia, whose husband was a
partner and the head of Morgan Drexal Company in Philadelphia, one of
the leading bankers of the United States. And Mrs. and her hus-
band built a great mansion in the spanish style, and this was imitated
by a great many others who fancied the spanish architecture, and formed
the basis of a trend which we still have in Palm Beach County and in fact
also in Miami. And you find it in Boca Raton where Mysner designed the
Boca Raton Club, when it was first known as The Clusters. It was in a
private club and later developed into the Boca Raton Hotel & Club.
Mr. Mysner continued this program of designing houses for the wealthy dur-
ing the twenties and lined ocean Boulevard, he and others like him, lined
Ocean Boulevard and many of the other streets in Palm Beach with these
spanish type mansions. Many of which is still there. And they...there
popularity lasted, I believed, until the thirties when the West Indies, the
Bahamian style of architecture began to become popular. West Palm Beach,
as most of you know, has grown with Palm Beach in a different way. There're
some people who believe that West Palm Beach was always inhabited by
people who worked for people in Palm Beach, but this is not correct in my
opinion. West Palm Beach is a normal business community, much as any
other east coast town is, which depends very largely onAtourists and win-
ter people for economic benefits and to some extent on Palm Beach. But
most of the people who work, at least as servants, in Palm Beach don't
live in West Palm Beach. They're brought down there with the owner of the
houses in which they work, and that applies also to 'the hotels. The ho-
tel help has always been brought to Palm Beach from outside, and it's only
the extra incidental help that has been hired locally. The Royal
Hotel always had special trains.which brought its employees down to Palm
Beach for the winter, and then took them back at the end of the season.
Now, I've tried to mention some of the highlights of Palm Beach and
West Palm Beach history and a little bit about the county, of course, all
of you know about the wonderful economic/of Palm Beach, and some what fol-
lows your own area in regard to farming. We have a very famous and pros-
perous farming area in the growing of winter vegetables, so that Belle
Glade, that calls itself the winter vegetable capital of the United States.
I don't know whether that's warranted or not, but they, they think it is,
so we encourage people to believe in it, as of course. I think that this
about covers most of what I had to say, and I wonder if some of you don't
have questions about some particular matter which might interest you. I
don't want to talk to long.
Q: I would like to ask one question for the benefit of the whole audi-
ence here. Would you mind telling us what days your museum is open, what
charges, and highlights of what might be expected to see in Palm
Beach? Get a chance to your museum.
K: Alright, sir, good. The Flager Museum is open every day of the week,
except Monday, and that includes Christmas day, July the Fourth, any-day
in the year, unless it happens to fall on Monday, any holiday or any other
day. There is an admission fee of one dollar, but free days are, I believe,
Wednesday and Fridays. There's no admission fee on Wednesdays and Fri-
days, and of course, that's subject to change. It might be a good idea to
check that before you went down there. Take that day with a large
but I think that you'll find that free days are Wednesdays and
Friday. Now, the home, the museum, whichI said was opened in 1902, and
has been termed the Marble Palace, which is not strictly accurate. Its
not really made of marble. It has a marble hall, which is about 110 feet
long. It's very imposing and beautiful, as most of you know. The home
was lavishly furnished, let's say, during Mr. Flagers' life time which
ended in 1913. And after his death, his widow inherited the house and
she left it to her niece. Her niece invited all of her friends to visit
White Hall and take what they might need for their own home, in St. Augus-
tine in particular, because she was living there at that time, and she
also lived in Virginia. But, anyway, many of her friends took advantage
of this and a lot of the furniture was removed and never has been re-
covered. She sold the building later, and it became a hotel. It became
a hotel in 1927. It was a very famous hotel, and advertised itself as
the most expensive hotel in the world. And, apparently people were proud
to recognize that and become associated with it, because it always had a
lot of people there, until after World War II. When its popularity dimin".
ished, Palm Beach was becoming less and less a hotel town, and eventually
Flagers' granddaughter bought the hotel and converted it into a museum in
honor of her grandfather, Mr. Flager, and removed the hotel portion, the
additional rooms, 300 rooms.which had been built adjacent to an oval part
of the original home. And left only the original home left with part of
it facing ground structure of the hotel in the rear. And, so she operates
it, or trust operates it rather, as a museum and I think it's well worth
seeing. They've recovered a great deal of the furniture, including the
rug in the entrance hall which is a very large oriental carpet. It's said
to be the largest one ever loomed of its particular kind. And the rooms
have a great deal of interest in them, a great deal of rare silver, china.
Not all of it was there in Mr. Flagers' day. Some of it has been donated
to the museum and it is genuinely valuableA Any other questions?
: Anyone? Don't be bashful. Now is your chance, you got him here.
Anyone else have anything?
Q: I noticed he didn't mention the hOvfe- rnrifdlN-ar Was that before,
when did that come in?
K: The k0oreo4 mail man route, route-I think is more correct, started
in 1885, and Mr. Pierce who has been your speaker up here, the late Mr.
Pierce, Chuck Pierce of Fort Lauderdale. His father was one of the -;Lp.iP
mail man. He wasn't one of the regular ones but he served for a while
because he was on the bond of the mailmen. The mailmen
was a term applied to the postman who carried the mail from Palm Beach to
Miami on the beach. And to be more comfortable, he removed his shoes, and
he got to be tagged with this name, the barefoot mailman, which Theodore
Pat made famous with a novel called the Barefoot Mailman. The, one of the
famous stories, true stories, incidents, which occurred in connection with
the barefoot mailman, was the death of James Hamilton in 1887. He was
carrying the mail from Palm Beach to Miami on the beach, and his clothes
and shoes and the mailbags were found on the north side of the inlet, the
Hillsborough inlet. And that was all that was ever recovered of it. It
was theorized that he had to swim across the inlet to get the boat, which
is a very likely possibility that someone might had taken the boat, and
left it at the south side of the inlet. And it's believed that he was
attacked by crocodiles, which did exist in this part of Florida then, and
were found there in large numbers at that time, or sharks or something.
He met his death in that way. The barefoot mailman mail route was dis-
continued when a shell road was built between West Palm Beach and Miami,
which was about 1893. Between 1892 and 1893. Any other questions? Well...
: No one has anything else? Not anybody? I never saw so many women
in one place that couldn't ask a question.
K: Yes, mam, what was his name?
K: Well they certainly do. What was your grandfathers' name?
K: I see.
K: Well thank you for telling us about that. That's extremely interest-
ing and unusual in this part of Florida where we live to have one of our
own people whose ancestre goes that far back, in the same area. Mr. Pierce,
our Mr. Pierce,that I just mentioned, his father wrote this manuscript
about his boyhood when his father was assistant lighthouse keeper at JU-
piter,A1872. And he tells about a shipwreck there, and what they recovered
from the shipwreck, and what the Indians got, and how they it a-
round between themselves and the indians, and how people came by, other
people from outside came to buy and And also about how people
were sent up Key West to investigate the shipwreck and the possibility-
of recovering what could be selvaged. And of course, the people who lived
there alreadyAselvedged everything possible to be selvedged but they let
the selvedgers go in and try to get whatever they could. They got so
little that ___of London, who had insured the vessel, sent an-
other group of people out from Key West, who they thought would know bet-
ter how to selvedge something. And they returned empty handed too.
That was, I believe, the Victor, the steamship, Victor. Any other
questions? Well, it's been very pleasant to be here with you and I would
like to say that I think you have a wonderful record here, and accomplish-c
tng so much in such a short time. By a short time I mean anytime less
than fifty years. I mean, you're going to have your own museum build-
ing, in fact, you already have one, I believe, but you're _having-
another one now and which will be yours permanently, and all you need to
do is get in there and put some interesting exhibits, which you already
have, and invite the public to come in, which they'll want to do and
you're all ready for business. I think it's wonderful. You've got a
large interested intelligent group, and that's the idea, I think,of every
Historical Society to have. So I certainly congratulate you. And I
think you've done extremely well, and you really should be the envy of all
the rest of us who try to do that and don't always succeed. Thank you
so much for inviting me up here.
: I'm sure that everyone here appreciate the visit from Judge Knott.
I would like to say that you are welcome here, and your wife, at anytime.
We'll be glad to have you with us and I'm sure the commissioner would be
glad to get two assistants on the cataloguing and so forth, that we will
have to gp through. We have made a lot of progress. We got a lot fur-
ther to go. There's going to be times when somebody is going to be
asked to help. Keep it in mind, it might be you. It might be any of
you, and let's remember, we can all do something that would be of help.
Now if there isn't anything else, I'd like to say that, you get tired of
hearing me say this but, if there is anyone who hasn't paid their dues
and would like to...