Interview with Bill Jorgensen, January 19, 1967

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Interview with Bill Jorgensen, January 19, 1967
Jorgensen, Bill ( Interviewee )
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St. Lucie County Oral History Collection ( local )

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University of Florida
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St. Lucie Tape #8A
Bill Jorgensen
January 19, 1967
Page 1

The first thing this evening I want to take advantage of this opportunity

to present two daughters of our speaker. I want Mrs. Dorothy Jones and

Mrs. JoAnn to stand and be recognized. I'll have to admut

that I thought I knew Bill and his family, but he's got these two

daughters and raised them and they got married and I didn't even know

it. Our speaker this evening is very unusual in very many ways. The

most unusual thing about him is that he's an office holder that you can't

call a politician. He was smart enough most, much smarter than I was

to know when to quit running. He says the County Commissioner __ for

fourteen and a half years and when the time come up to be re-elected

he was smart enough to do what I wasn't smart enough to do. And that's

why I think he is a good and a good office holder. I have known him,

just like the rest, that's the ones I pick that I've known a long time

and I know more on them than they know on me so they can't talk about

me. I am proud to introduce to you William Jorgensen, White City.

and he'll tell you what the rest of it is.

B.J. Thank you, Talkd like I'd have been beat if I'd have

run again, but I don't agree with you on that. I've ha3 so much build

up here I'm afraid I may dissappoint you. I

want to give you a little arithmetic problem to start on so if you get

bored with what I say you can work on this problem. Way back in the old

days of White City we had, White City was a Danish colony. We had a

Dane who had a very fine cow which he said was seven quarter Jersey. The

best I could ever figure on it was two hind quarters and and the four

front quarters and would six quarters. Now you be working that while

I tell you the rest about white City. The organization of White City

St. Lucie Tape #8

Page 2

and that's what I'm going to talk about mostly, became about because of

the Dane who lives over in central Florida which was established long

before the east coast and populated long before the east coast. He was

writing very fine stories in the newspaper that all the Danes in the

United States read called the Danish Pioreer. I guess it's still published.

And he was writing such articles in this paper that the Danish

people of the Midwest organized and decided to start a colony in Florida.

Well at the same time the Flagler Dinner Room received enormous land

grants,branches to establish colonies in Florida. So they cooperat:,ed

with the Danish people in the westband they went to far with the organization

that they sent three men, six men as scouts to florida from the Midwest.

The railroad was only as far as Titusville, so they came down Titusville

by steamboat to Jensen Beach Florida. At Jensen Beach these six men, and

I'll give you the names of them. Of the six men I was only able to get

the names of four. I spoke to this society several years ago and before

I spoke I went around to all the old original settlers that were living

at that and four names was all I could get: Leo Peal, William Carlson,

he's the man I was named for, Andy Hanson and a Mr. Bottleton were

the men that got to Jensen and wrote, rented rowboats at Jensen and I

guess they mist have had camping equipment because they rode up the

river from Jensen up the St. Lucie River past what is now Stuart up the

north fork of the St. Lucie River, stopping along the way to explore and

looking for :a sight to found a colony. Well it must have taken them

two days at least. Anyway, when they got to the south outskirts of what

is now White City, or the place known to almost everyone as the old

homesite. William Calson says "This is as far as I

go. Let's settle here." So the rest of them agreed and that's how

St. Lucie Tape #8

Page 3

White City started. Now this group of the Midwest Danes, a lot of

them have been to Chicago to the World's Fair and there was a portion of

that World's Fair that was called White City. They were very much

impressed by this so they decided to name the new colony, townWhite

City. They went along so far in their planning in the north. It was

very complete. They had, were sure they had an artisanin every trade.

They had bricklayers. They had druggists. They had bakers,

and bricklayers. Of all things they actually tried brick making with

our clay, but the old bird was way too much for them to cope

with and the clay didn't make good bricks but they tried -it. One thing

that's always amazed me. They planned this town to have five thousand

people and they brought along a streetcar motorman because they figured

on having streetcars. Most of you know the, you know this man I know I'v e

seen a lot of the old white city folks here, Andrew Christianson who was

the postmaster at one time at White City. And he was the motorman for

the streetcar. The limits of White City in the old days are not what they

are today. I may have never considered the limits. In the south they

went to just about where River Park line is today. The last place down

there, known for many years as the old Charlie Edwards Road, it's still

there. But the last man to live on that area at that time, the name was

Lang. The north limits were a little north of what is now Edwards Road,

there were two pine trees. There was nothing but a dirt road. There wasn't

even a straight road as quick as it could be because they sought the

highest ground and they dug palms and they ddged heaVy/palmettoes and stuff

so they'd quit their growing. They were known as the gates in White City.

Considerably west of present day Sunrise Boulevard and they came into

Fort Pierce out west of the oh, probably Eighteenth and Twentieth Street.

St. Lucie Tape #8

P ge 4

That was the main road from White City. Now the very first road

before there were any bridges was way out east of even U.S. 1 that

we go on today they had to ford all of the creeks, Flat Creek and

were impossible for the horse and wagon in those days

and they forded those streams. The west boundary line was about one mile

west of the St. Lucie River and White City was considered to go to the

Indian River on the east and the station at White City, in the old days

was called White City. There's a little story it was changed later.

I know here knows about it. I don't know how many of you know

about it. It was changed several years later to Carson. People wonder

how that happened. Well, Mr. Carr lived up the river and his house

is still there and Bill Robinson lived right at the corner of what's

tbday Midway and Indian River Drive.'y the way he was the cussingest

man. He never hit St. Lucie County. He couldn't talk without cussing.

While I'm about it I'll tell you one little story about him. Our

pineapples as they grew older gradually degenerated and became very

small in size and they used to ship to find out Commission

men throughout the north. One of the Commission wrote Robinson a letter

complaining about the size of the pineapple. He wrote them back a

letter and said, "Hell, we raise, we plant pineapples. We don't ."

When White City started they had a great influx of people and there

wasn't anything in White City except a little saw mill and maybe one or

two people working. The saw mill was directly north of Midway just

as close to the river as it could get. It didn't last very long. Evidently

what lumber they cut they were shipping out down the river to points

up and down the east coast because there was no one out there. So one

of the first things they did after the new colony of White City was

St. Lucie Tape #8

Page 5

organized was to build an immigrant house. They called it an

immigrant house. That was a house where when you came in,,families

began to come in, It belonged to the railroad company, the

It was staying there free for a very limited time until you could

at least get a kitchen built in your permanent house. The administrator

of White City, I got the names of these. I went before I spoke the other

time. I went out and saw the Mrs. Schultz. I mention that because

she's one of the originals. I saw Mrs. Carl __. She's dead.

Her name's Christianson. I think she spoke here one time and I saw

my mother. She was one of the originals and I got an awful lot of

information from the man I used to work for when I was a boy named

Hans Knutson, Uncle Hans Knutson. He was one of the very first

settlers. And then the Danish people had a custom of having what they

call surprise parties. They observed Danish customs. And every Sunday

they had a party. And it's funny. They never brought pie. It was always

cake and coffee. And at these parties, and they had one every Sunday

whoever had a birthday nearest that Sunday was a honoree. And I heard

many,, many of the stories of the old colony because I was born in 1896

in White City, the first boy. I wasn't the first child first boy.

Annie Carlson was the first child born in the Danish Colony. So these

administrators, they told me I there was Mr. Myers. Lt.

Boll. I don'tdwhether a Lt. in the Danish service or a Lieutenent in

the United States. I found-out who the surveyor was by looking at

an old That was Christienson, most people call it, but the

DAnish call it Christiaanson because that has an I-A-N- in it. And then

there was a Mr. Austin, D.E. Austin, and there'd be plenty of you here

who know him. He remained land agent for White City for a great many

St. Lucie Tape #8

Page 6

years and well I guess up until 1917 or 1918. There was man named

Ricks, who was also an agent, an administrator. He didn't last very

long though. He drowned with a boy named Walter Peterson. Fell in

the St. Lucie River just to the left, west of the bridge, present

bridge. And when he fell overboard to rescue a boy named Walter Peterson,

he hit his head on a submerged pile and evidently was enough to knock

him out for he drowned. Now out of these administrators one of them was

a crook. He must have been a politician, huh? Anyway, he absconded with

everyone' money, and he took the company money and he took the settlers'

money. So that brought on quite a problem, but the Flagler interests, they

were good. They really did what they could to promote Whtte City. They

made this good, not returning the money, but they gave the people food

and straightened out deeds, and anything that was wrong, why, they

straightened it out. Because that fella left an awful mess. They allowed,

the Flaglers had a commissary to begin with where you could buy your

groceries but when they, when this guy absconded with the money they

allowed each married couple five dollars a month to live on and a

bachelor got three. I thought that was pretty good -----------------

the man sits right here and the guy that works in pineapples in 1917

Indian River living for a dollar and a half a week we could live high.

So I asked my mother how in the world they could live on that. She said

that they got along fine. People it didn't take long before they had

a garden and the gardens weren't all full of bugs and have to be sprayed

everyday. Everything grew nice. Since the got lower it

got affected by the nematodes and it became hard to raise anything

anymore and of course you know that the gardens all were, how the bugs

were and she said there was plenty of game and the fish were very plentiful.

She said that salt por k was five cents a pound or five pounds for a

St. Lucie Tape #8

Page 7

quarter which would be five cents a pound. The coffee, and

I know there are plenty of you here know about old green coffee,

the kind you roasted yourself and ground up, five cents a pound. And

everything else was of course probably cheap. One of the big problems

when they started White City was clearing the land. That was something

you had to do by hand with a grubbing hoe and an axe and shovel and

plowing. But the plowing was something that you couldn't do by hand so

to begin with there was one old man that had one mule and he broke what

land he could with a little single one horse plow, but the Flaglers

came to the rescue again. They sent somewhere in the north and brought

down two teams of mule and two wagonsand plows, and what they call a

You'll never see one today. And there wasn't much of a

I can tell you that. Fdr the colonists, the first team of

mules, or the one team of mules went to Jim Nelson. Some of you may know

Victoria That was her father and he was the farmer for the

east side of the river. The other team of mules, my dad got one. We

lived on a place about a mile west of the St. Lucie River on Midway. My

dad got one mule and a man named Carl Stein got the other, but they lived

side by side. Both mules were need to break land and that was a tough job

with a team of mules, when they were available. The team of mules came

into Fort Pierce way late at night and '-r. Nelson and Mr. Stein had to

meet the train and they had to assemble the wagons, hitch up the mules,

and by that time it was nearly midnight. And on the same train that the

mules came in on, Mrs. Carl came in. Now that was a long

time ago, before 1893. Well of course Fort Pierce wasn't anything and

she didn't know where to go but she saw these two men and mules and she went

up to them and they offered, they knew her father and offered her a ride

to White City but that was before the bridge or ferry were put in across

St. Lucie Tape #8

Page 8

the St. Lucie River, so she was still stuck with the problem but these

two men with her brought her out a neighbor who lived nearby who owned

a rowboat. He rowed her about a half a mile up the river to the

place which went to the river but once she got there she still

had to walk a quarter of a mile'to her house, and way after midnight she

and she surely did surprise me. One thing that always

intrigued me and I got this information from Mrs. Louise Schultz, and

maybe some of you know her, she's still living in White City, There were

no roads to White City, well, the railroad hadn't of course, come to

White City yet when White City started, and there were no raods out to

what is now, well, what used to be the White City station. That was a

busy place at one time during the pineapple season and fruit season. It

took agents to handle the business there. Today I don'-+thin the trains

even stop. But the train service was available to White City,

They had two steamboats that operated on the St. Lucie River from about

Sewall's Point up to White City and the landing was right close to what

is now the bridge across the river at Midway. The name of the steamboat

was Verillion and the captains name was Hale and the engineers name was

Harry Schultz. Well, if there's anyone here from Jensen they will know

Harry Schultz because he finally went down there. The other steamers name

was Della. The captain was Mattson and the engineer was Lawrence Christianson

who later married and just north of the present bridge

ferry had not operated, of course, just pulled

across -by ropes. The ropes about a thousand feet north of the bridge

and it landed on a low level on the east side. Wouldn't do any good in

the rainy season. Then as soon as they could they built a bridge across

St. Lucie TApe #8

Page 10

the river, volunteer, and in the meantime, Henry Larson, who lived

on the west side of the river, saw mill_

and a man named Campbell had one out on the highway. The one that

originated in White City went out of business so Larson cut the lumber

for the bridge. And at that:time he wouldfind,it hard to find lumber

for a hundred dollars a thousand and the volunteer labor got the piling

but then came this problem .of driving the piling with no machinery of

any kind so they made a hand operated winch and Mr. Larson, who was an old

country blacksmith, very ingenious, he could do anything, he fixed some

sort of a tripping attachment up at the top of the hois tthat when you

pull the black, that was a big pine block, .- to the top as a releasing

rope and the block would drop free. I don't know how it worked because

I wasn't even born, but men used to talk about it a lot. They built that

bridge but it was only a single lane bridge. So if you were coming from

the wed: and someone was coming from the east, whoever got on there first

had the right-of-way and the other fellow had to wait. The bridge was built

at the level the present bridge ----------- probably not

six inches difference. But in those days it was a big difference. The

east side of the bank was a lot higher than the west so on the west side

of the river they had to build a sort of a ramp like approach and the

planks and it would get slippery and the horses didn't like

it. They had an awful time sometimes getting them over. It was easier

to build like that than it was to fill. Now the old roads, you're familiar

with Midway and White City to get to the west side in the old days you

had to go north way over then across the swamp and the

creek which is about ten feet wide but it was the highest of the low

ground they could find. Later on they remedied this and put the road

St. Lucie Tape #8

Page 11

to the south side of the main bridge, right on the river bank. The river

was awful crooked and it didn't work. It today that was all straightened

out by canals but the old river went around the edge of White City Park.

There was, now it's filled up. You wouldn't even know that

the river was there, hardly. There was a lagoon came off that and it was

so muddy that if yon sink a piling in it it would just drop out of

sight so they, because of the other road that's across the river, being

so low the county had organized, and was St. Lucie County by that time, that

happened they built a bridge over the little lagoon that you crossed

Midway across the bridge on the left you see two sets of piling and

maybe wonder why. Well the first set we wiggled down because the mud

was so soft. It dropped out of sight almost and they thought that they

could wiggle them down enough that they, could establish a bridge. They did

all right, but as the heavier loads of wood and stuff went over, the bridge

became so uneven that you couldn't hardly drive over and it was possibly

unsafe. Well then the county was new and there was no machinery available

so they took a new, made a new pile driver, hand operated winch and put

in more stable piling and had a good bridge and then you could cross the

the lowland on the west side of the river at all but just the

short periods in the highest flood season. But before that there was

weeks, three and four months at a time when you couldn't get across the river

unless you swam or took a boat because of the high water, the

high water. There was a man named Mel Hanson one of the scouts that

came down and a fellow named Sam Samson took a boat at the White City

River bridge .They went out Midway until about what is now U.S. 1 just

before you come to College Park. There's a little ridge in there. They

took this boat and went right in, down Midway, U.S.1 and turned north

St. Lucie Tape #8

Page 12

just a little ways and skirted that little ridge, came back on Midway

and rode, paddle the boat all the way to Savannah. People today have no

idea how high the water got. Now when I was a boy, this commissary that

the Flaglers started finally turned into a store, was first and

then _Many a time, and the other old timers out there too

tied their boat to a porch and even then sometimes the water would be

so high that they'd have to pack stuff up on the counter because it

was all over the floor. I've take a boat from what's now the St. Lucie

River Bridge from White City on Midway all the way up to what we knew

in the old days as second branch of Flat Creek. Right up Sunrise Boulevard

and you wouldn't believe it today but that was the condition before they

had drainage. One day I was up there and I Mrs. Platt's,, you see

Norman and Phillip, Mrs. Platt's was the mother. On her way I think

she went to Michigan. My mother used to bake bread for the boys and I

loved to take it out to them. This time I had to take it out in a boat

and as I was crossing Flat Creek right up Sunrise Boulevard, now, I met

Eric Gustavuson, used to be City Manager and he's over six feet tall. He

was wading across Flat Creek. The on Flat Creek was up to water

this deep and he says,"I'll give you a dollar if you'll take me to my

daddy's house," which was the landing sight where the people of White

City, scouts in White City stop. Of course, I'd have taken him for

nothing but paid for a quarter but a dollar and I only

had to take him to the White City store. His father was up there for

groceries. The White City Bridge; after it was established, was quite

an important bridge. Now to the west of us we had Ocheechobee which was

Tanti in the old days and Bassinger and Fort Drum, and south you had

everything from Jupiter south and the only way you could get to

those places was to come over the White City Bridge because I mean

St. Lucie Tape #8

Page 13

before now they had bridges at Stuart. This was the very early days and when

at Fort Pierce was a port and Florida had a lot of forts there were a lot

of military routes, army roads they called them, army trails, and there

was one west of White City, from Fort Pierce to White City and Fort Pierce