Interview with L. W. Halbe

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Interview with L. W. Halbe
Halbe, L.W. ( Interviewee )


Subjects / Keywords:
St. Lucie County Oral History Collection ( local )
Spatial Coverage:
St. Lucie County (Fla.) -- History.


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.

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Samuel Proctor Oral History Program, Department of History, University of Florida
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This interview is part of the 'St. Lucie County' collection of interviews held by the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program of the Department of History at the University of Florida
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St. Lucie Tapes // DS

TAPE 1 L. W. Halbe

Fort Pierce in 1924, as one of the developers of the Melvillas

Subdivision. Subsequent projects with his associates included the

purchase of the gws Tribune which he managed for a time. Another project

was the organization of the First Federal Savings and Loan Association

which he operated as h4Ae first secretary. He has membership in three

local veterans organization and an award the So iers of the iAp

in France. Other affiliations include the American Bar Association,

MAdica- Association of American and thFort Pierce Board of Realtors as

a charter and honorary member. For many years he was active in the

Real Estate and Mortgage Business Mortgage Loan and Insurance

Business and aleled-te devot full time to the appraisal and property.

Along with this, what I think iethe most important thing he done, he was

one of the organizers and the first president and director of the St. Lucie

County Historical Society, chartered November 25,1955. It is my pleasure

to give you this man of many accomplishments, Mr. L. W. Halbe.

H: Thank you, Mr. Sanders. Mr. President, friends, members of the as-

sociationb his is such a generous build-up, I find my self probably

having difficulty in eingmoest in my remarks, but I hope I won't be

quite so modest as one man I heard of who found it desirable to sell a set

of encyclopediasgaand-he advertised it for a sale in this manner. He said

bor ale, a complete set of encyclopedias, cheap) brand new, has never

been used. My wife knows everything.


H: Life in the earlier days here in Fort Pierce and St. Lucie County

was relatively simple as compared with our present complexities and

income taxes, gift taxes, rules, regulationsand laws. As an example,

if you,wanted to convey a piece of property, for instanceT you might

want to sell a lot for five or ten dollars or convey some land at a

dollar or two an acre or possibly" you might want to convey a dwelling

to a newly married daughter or son to give them a start in life. So

about all you needed to do was to get somebody that could use a type-

writer to type out a deedand that was that, no revenue stamps or

nothing else. You didn't even need a typewriter in those days. I have

before me a conveyance all written ur Handwritten by John L. Jensen,

a bachelor, to George E. Hood conveying ten acres on the Indian River

for eight hundred dollars. The date of this is January 12, 1889.

Nowadays, however, most of us run on the necessity of getting someae-

with a little experience to make out our conveyances. Not only that,

but from the first day of the year in 1968, it has become illegal for

anybody to make out a deed and file it of record unless he is a lawyer.

Now if you syudl al, you might say well, that's just a law to make busi-

ness for the lawyers.\ But it isn't quite as simple as that_ in fact, f te-

law doesn't specifically say that you can not write up a deed and file

it, but the law does require that you certify on each document you offer

for recording that this deed was prepared by and you better put

on who it was prepared by. If you put your own name on. or the name of

some member of the family, or some friend who isn't a lawyer, the law is

that he is practicing law without a license^ and he is in trouble right


there so the effect of it is that you can not record a deed unless it

is prepared by a lawyers but let's go a little bit further and not be too

critical of attorneys, because after all I'm pretty sure you have goae

aed found most of them pretty busy if you wanted some work done, and

probably would not want them.. Ak fC/ro'L deed prepared at five or ten
& A-
dollars a piece that they might charge you. But there are other things

involved. They probably make more money straightening out ill-prepared

deeds than they would make by fees in preparing them themselves. Now to

get back to the modern days, many of us are not accustomed to conveying

property very many times and often it is a first time that one goes into

a lawyer's office and say I would like to have a deed prepared I want

to convey a house we own, an extra house to our daughter who is getting

married. And you would expect a lawyer to call in his secretary and say,

there, please type this up and bring it in and we'll just wait for it.'

But that isn't what happens at allnowadays. The first thing he would

probably ask you is how much is it worth. Well, et-first you might have

wanted to say its none of your business& but there is a real reason
involved because the next thing he is going to say. iswhat about gift

tax? And unless you had a little experience in that, you'd probably say,

well what's that? Well, if the lawyer has time and patience he'll say
Vwel1 you can't give away more than there thousand dollars worth of property

in a year without paying a tax on it. You can give away up to thirty

thousand dollars during your whole lifetime, Dow you'd better decide do

you want to give away that whole thirty thousand dollars in this one deal

or most of it or do you want to deferr that or give part of it or give


part of the three thousand this year and maybe another three thousand
next year. in that one transaction, it might involve more than three

thousand dollars? That is only one of the complexities we run into

in this modern day and age. But you might say yell, that doesn't

happen very much often perhaps. But, let me tell you of an incidence

that was settled just this year 1968, a few weeks ago. A man conveyed to

his daughter, his daughter-in-law and his son in St. Lucie County back

in 1957,58and 59, some parts of land out of a good deal he ownedand he
paid a gift tax on it based on what he determined to be a reasonable

evaluation, no intent whatever to lower the value. But the government

said it was worth a whole lot more than that and soaked him for a pretty

heavy tax on that. Well, then it came to the process of having it

appraised and justify 4 the appraisal. That involves several years

time, since it didn't come up right away for trial but it did come up

in the Federal Court this year .and by that time the attorney for the
government decided it might be a big waste of time, rather they might

save a lot of time and money both for the government and all concerned)

"i- they settld -it. And the result was a settlement, unde]rhich the man

had to pay some more money but nothing like he asked to pay in the first

place. Now instead of that being a rather unusual case, its rather typical.

And the government is, I wouldn't say cracking down, but they're scru ti-

nizing gift transactions, no, and that involves-a good deal of scrutiny

and appraisal work, and legal work. Just another little incidenttoo,

Vp pending at this time: in an adjoing county, this twenty-two thousand

ranch for which a man psaTd a hundred dollars an acre, two million two


hundred thousand dollars. Just a couple of years ago, he conveyed it

under the gift tax law, and he paid a gift tax on the value of two

million two hundred thousand dollars. That should have ended it, but it

didn't. The government claimed that it was worth double that. Now when

you talk about gift taxes that runs into money pretty fast. The gift

tax on .-, that would probably run over a million dollars that's at

stake and that is in the federal court right now. It was to come up not

long ago but the government attorney found that the owner had an appraisal

who was ready to testify and decided that the government would get it an

appraisal also so now the trial has been postponed and is still pending.

It's in the hands of a New York lawyerand office of the owner in St.

Louis. But there are some of the complexities that are rather common now-

adays. I could cite a half a dozen or a dozen just one right after

another. I will only mention one more set of complexities and problems,

involving a man who passed away a few years ago. A well-known man in an

adjoining county. His estate amounted to about two million dollars and

it doesn't take an awful lot of property nowadays to amount to a million

dollars C. two million dollars. But the point was -et he died with-

out a will and a friend told me about how he had urged that man to make

a will and provide for the inheritance taxes being equalized a little more.

And in a short time that man who told me that passed away himself without
J-lkno -Fqv -
a will and left a similar estate a- well -4d timeh- re pretty much

a matter of record but I know we don't want to ban any names around

Short time after that another member of pioneer family passed away with

an estate about the same amount and also without a will. Now I know a


good bit of the details of this, /nd in this last case the ____'_

tek-e-t hie- deposit box in the bank and found about six hundred thou-
/xYL Y-(^ -5e) Y-4,
sand dollars in cash a-rEt sounded wonderful. So you might jmet

say well, now that's just wonderfulei)ow that took care of the inheri-

tance taxi but it didn't. It took about a hundred thousand dollars

more than that. Some of our well-known local beloved people are well

let us say, are out a large portion of some seven hundred thousand dollars

because of the fact that it wasn't handled by way of trustee ship or

will or something of that sort. And again as I say those are rather

typical circumstances that happen all adthe time, and things like that

4lU keep offices like mine pretty busy, and result in some of us having to

give up part of our business as Mr. Sanders showed) Were in a good

many people in here remember me perhaps better as being a real estate

business some years ago, and perhaps understand the need nowadays so

much for experienced appraisers. Now to get back to some of the earlier

records, I showed you read to you a deed handwritten in the early days.

And I might mention that many many deeds of conveyance in this area were

made around that year in the 1887's and 88sand 189Qsaround in there.

That's rr ran-my P our well-known families began their ownership of

property around those years. Now you can find all of those records

down in the clerk's office, Roger Portruss's office in the old Melburne,

in the old &ragyt from Titusville, from old Brevard County which

St. Lucie was a part at one time. There're indexed rather poorly, you

have to do some digging to find themtbut it's interesting to look them

over. Now the portion of clerk's office where these records are, you're jce,


free to go in there anytime you want to and ask somebody where they are,

and they'll point them out to you. You can open them up and look at

them? nobody else is bothering those old records at this time very much.
And the deputy clerk in charge of this particular department, which is

in the north wing of the clerk office, that large office, is Mrs. Jim

King, Dian King, a local girl who is very familiar with those. You ca-

go in there and ask her where those old records are, a-e point

tem out tn you, you can look them over, and she'll help you with any

details if you wanted er to. Yesterday I looked over some old maps iq &

0r and I asked her, Diane, if she would ke a xerox copy of an old map.

I have it here, made in 1854 township 37, range 37) St. Lucie County,

which is a southwest township in this county. On that old map is some-

thing that many are -ee familiar with. I wonder how many are aware
K Va 1~- %t t I^
there was an old Fort iakewzw=la in St. Lucie county. It is shown on

that map and you can look up there and not find it.because township 3. YA

37 i net- listed and the pen doesn't show it. But here it 4e show

Old Station supposed Fort li I've been down there I was

down there with Jim itus one time and there are some 3 ait that

could be dug up around there. If you go there you can readily imagine

that was oe- place befeQe- the stream there-eed- also this old map shows

dotted lines which was probably the trail of Fort C.-. Just to be a

little bit more detail ,location is on the north boundary f section 33-

37-37, being also the south boundary of section 28. So there is some-

thing that is available for anybody to look at, and search out and seek,

and find to be very much of interest, and probably not to be found

elsewhere. Now for Fort Pierce itself, some of the old maps show the


location pf-the different places we'ree familiar with finding it. This

port that is being exevaed or has been exevaaed on the Indian River

drive south of the courthouse is one place that's on, but another one

shows Fort Pierce to be about a thousand feet south of Florida Avenue,

which is a different location,. f course which we know isn't right but

there it is. That also can be found in the record. I have a descrip-

tion of that book and page too, but I won't elaborate on a lot of details.

"2iee .-here in the files if anybody wants to look at it, These old

records, as I said, go back around 1887, a little earlier perhaps in

some cases, and in the 18909s and from then on as to conveyances in

this county. But I found another one there which intrigued me a little

bit consist!4 of some twenty six pages, all handwritten too. Of course,

they didn't have typewriters in those days. This document convey

twenty thousand acres from Fleming to noonwile under the date June 9,

1937. It's recorded here in the clerk's office. But also a reference

is made to the ownership of that property confirmed under the date of

September 24, 1816. The other date was June 9, 1837, I might have said

19, but it's 1837 and 1816. It's interesting, I didn't =r over all

Those twenty-six pages, but if anybody is interested it's interesting,

it would be worthwhile to read it all. It involved some litigation that

went to the Supreme Court of the United States in order to confirm the

title. Twenty thousand acres extends from the Indian River to St.

John River and south to the Indian River and north to some boundary.

The consideration, I'm not sure that is given, but maybe it is& 1837,

1887... I don't find that but a dollar an acre,of course was a high

price in those days for land. 1837 ;a 1937, twenty-six pages.


I don't see the consideration here, but some of the consideration is

Ssi in a good many of these documents. prevard Counts Well, you

': -asked a question there. This is from Cynthia Fleming, widow/of

George Fleming AitM to Charles Downing of the territory of Florida.

I guess i* was t county at that time. Twenty4 thousand acres on the

banks of river St. Sabastian to the south of Indian River, between

eastern coast of Florida and river St. John' The title was granted by

Governor to the ancestor George Fleming on September 24, 1816,

and confirmed by the superior court of the United States. Now when it

comes to early history, I will mention briefly a little bit of later

history concerning this organization because I believe the date of the

charter was given by Mr. Coyburn, and I have a file on that. I will

merely mention a prelude to that, which is a letter that was addressed

by me to the Florida. Historical Society in St. Augustine, in January

11, 1944, n which I said' ome local citizens including myself are

interested in a possibility of organizing a local historical society)
_. '_-ee
I have conferred with Mr. W. -ea, who suggested I write you. Do you

have any suggestions available as to how this might be accomplished?

I understand you have a quarterly review and would like to know more

about the cost of a-penny a copy. A very nice letter from the Florida

Historical Society follows subsequent to that was the appointment of

a committee of the Fort Pierce Library Association of which Mr. E. C.

Collins was president at that time. He appointed a historical com-

mittee on October 27, 1952, to organize a local historical society.

And this resulted, now the names of those aren't very many.i t'l a


David T chairman, E. C. Collins ex-officio, Josephine
Humphrey'm (I d U -, b Clara
Humphrey 0t I Oral Burney, R. L. Halbe, Helen Le ,ee, Clara

Register, Emma Sanders, Pearl Dewey Crawford, Betty mul AA.

I mentioned a prelude to this charter that you were kind enough to

mention a while ago. Now, in connection with this history of the com-

munity, there are various ways by which we acquire knowledge of history.

Of course it's elementary that it is sometimes foree4 upon us in

school, sometimes unwillingly to the extent that one little boy was in

class an his teacher was telling him some of the history of Cesear, and

mentioned to the class that at one point Cesear swam the Tiber River

three times. Little Johnny began to snicker at that you know, and the

teacher couldn't understand -4 'i r K a,&. said, Johnny what's
S/e s id P _'
the matter. said, "I was just thinking,]f Cesear swam the Tiber

River three times, he wasn't back on the side where his clothes were."

Then of course we participate in history right along in connection with

war and national elections as well as local elections. And some of us
wk^A4t _4- th>Ve a- t-
have occupations whire we do have history pressed upon us as part of

our daily chore. And in the appraisal of property here in Fort Pierce,

I've had occasion to run into history now and then. Very recently, I

was asked to appraise a two-story dwelling at 209 on the south side of

avenue D, right on the railroad and east side. This was for the estate

of Mary Minftick, or M= Now it's both ways fe. the

family; I don't think either way is right and the other is wrong, ut

both of the sons, who are still living of that family, apparently

pronounce it both ways. I don't know which wa is right. But


Mr. John Minerick died some years ago, and was a barber here as many

old-timers know. But in connection with that appraisal, I put right

in the report that it was acquired by John Minerick or Manarick and

wife Mary E. Min4rick from Murray E. Hall and wife Sara B. Hall in

1926, 4rrem tu oFB Sanders family. The Hall s acquired it from

George W. 'byaui and wife in 1925, and George W. Dreatt

acquired it in 1918 from Juilia Davis. A. C. Dimarz and wife had

conveyed to her in 1896. Julia Davis was a maternal grandmother of

local businessman Albert J. White, who was born in the dwelling in

1910, he wasn't modest about revealing when he was born. And it says

that the aaessors record indicate the original north portion of the

structure of two-stor was constructed in 1900. It said to have been

used as a city hall and jail for the community, then known as Edgar' own,

and also used as a meeting place for church services. Ba&y Sanders

disputes some of those details a little and probably has a better idea

than I have from these rough notes as to what did take place. I believe

he said the Masonic Hall too, and I think probably one or two of these

statements are not accurate, although it is exactly as it was told to

me. So that is what we run on to, and it is quite interesting to find

some of these old records in the atpet that we find it our duty to

examine the appraisal of property. I will mention just one more in-

volving property at 615 North Second Street. That was in the family

of the iT t. and was said to have been constructed about in
I V&olvd
the 1900 s. Also it ejaf&s upon me to appraise some property in-

volving some of the family in the northern part of the county in con-


nection with the drainage project that you might have read about in the

Miami Herald recently, involving the Fort Pierce Drainage District.

There's some property that is going to be taken by condemnationand ?f,

hat'e-s ome infoarmLo.- of some of the things you run on to. I had

occasion, a few years ago, to stop at this same property I'm now ap-

praising, knock on the door to determine the ownership of that particular

land, just a casual inquiry. A young woman came to the door/very pe==

f al a woman I had known for quite awhile, and always known for

being very cheerful in her attitude in greeting people. I got the in-

formation I needed from her as to the ownership of the property, and

that was the last I saw of her because, she and her husband were the

victims of a shotgun as it was shown in the paper not long after that.
64 woms-) COM-8
So, reports of this kindbe endless. I don't want to be in the posi-

tion of the man who was asked to speak at wou organization, and the

chairman asking him how long would it take. "Well' he said, "to

cover that subject, I think it would take an hour and a half." Of

course the chairman was pretty much put out at the prospect of a talk df

one hour and a half during the allowed twenty or thirty minutes. So,

quite diplomatically he tried to reason with him and wondered if he

could cut it down a little. But the man was a little insistant that

the subject just couldn't be covered in less than perhaps an hour. He

said,"what do you think7" Well, the chairman felt impelled to suggest

that Jesus did a pretty good job in the sermon on the Mount in only

twenty minutes. And another parallel was that Lincoln was able to

give the Gettysburg Address in only about four minutes. So it al

worked out in a friendly way, and the man did not -gover t4 "- t


time and neithe--de I intend to do it Now in losing this, I will

only mention a little bit casually just a few exhibits I'm not going

to relate them all here, but tell you a few that I have before me. One

is a map of Fort Pierce which is dated, I think this is copied from

the previous map but the date of the original map of Fort Pierce 40 u)!
i 44
January 1888. -Asd. course, many of you know the street names were

v:sy different, Second Street was Orange Avenuewani has

never been changed. Another exhibit I have here is a file, which some

of you have seen before, a dollar bill. This W. L^^, dollar bill, 5

autographed, is for chartered membership dues the Saint Lucie

Historical Society. Now, in order to clear my records as to what became
ofth mne 4urI& saifn thI
of the money I said rin -u of this w depesita one dollar cash by

L. W. Halbe personally in the St. Lucie Historical Society checking

account. So here it is as a souvenir and you are not out any money

by being here. Now I have before me/ a picture of the Ft. Pierce,

Florida public school. I think perhaps some of you have seen this before,

but here it is, just one or two more items. Here some more pictures

of Pine Streetand a report card showing the grades in school of Barbara
k 40Jl4
Ant ny and Harold Antny. Now I don't know that I eae reread the grades,

4tmight be good or bad. But that was given to me, historical items,

from Fletcher Russell. I don't know where he got them but there they

are. And I guess last on the list/ is a file from Mr. Antony gave me

some items the- copy of the Spanish War Veterans Charter, and some

other things like that. I'd also mention two more items. I obtained

without charge a 9 from the battleship Maine when they pulled it

out of Havana harbor a good manyyears ago. The government offered to


make a ae free of charge to organizations such as ours. I obtained

one, I don't know where it is now; I suppose it could be traced. Also,

the Spanish American War Vets turned over to the St. Lucie Historical

Society their colors and their charter. Now I believe I could trace

it my records where they are, but I recollect, I believe that one of

our veterans organization obtained them thruIproper channels from the

Historical Society, and perhaps that is a little more appropriate for

them to have it. So, in trying to adhere a little more closely to the

Gettysburg Address, for example, I will close and appreciate the op-

portunity of talking to you here. c

S: Does anybody here have any questions they'd like to ask Mr. Halbei

Q: Safasiitt that the grant he was talking about was known as the l

grant, and was in the Sabastian areaeandall of the land of course went

by-section except this grant, and it was ab olutely v 4 7pc4.

d I said,'do you still have the F -DM,, grant,u and he said,5e still do.:

H: That's a good question) there and this might or might not have been

the Fleming grant, but you run on to these grants as you say- There's

a Fleming grant up there aroung Sabastian, there's another Spanish

grant around Titusville, one in Martin County, and as you say there

is difficulty when you run on to those. Now I might just mention one
incident C
incident heset -f conveyances. We are used to thinking of a section

as having six hundred and forty-acres and being a mile square. -Nw if

you go in Okeechobee County you'll find some sections are triangular in

shapeand some are slender and long and everything else. Another little



S: We thank you, Mr. Halbe. Your talk was really educational and

edifying to me. I can go back to 1900 and I don't go back of that,

but you really out a me. And I think that-yE- was very

interesting to everyone here. Of course I've found out when you go beLot-

in the oth history of Fort Pierce, I started some time ago and I

couldn't get five people or sometimes two to agree on where the first

po6, alfr-, where was the first anything. Brothers wouldn't agree to

it. So those things to me are very interesting, but I don't know,like

that one particular deal about the old corner property there. That

happen to be I know at one time John Michael and uncle Al Michael had

a store there, and he had a daughter. Her name was Della Michael, and

that was my first love. She is a very beautiful blonde girl. I took

up rigih- tn br- and she was about sixteenand I was about ten. I liked

her very much for the fact that she would slip a little knife or some-

thing to me on credit. And that worked 'l-rgh until her uncle found

out about it, and that was the credit stopped right there. And I still

thank you for your talk and I hope that can be with us again.