St. Lucie Historical Society, Inc.
P.O. Box 578
Fort Pierce, Florida 34954-0578
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Saint Lucie County History
It is believed that the name "St. Lucie" was first introduced to the area by the Spanish. In 1565 Fort Santa Lucia was built by the Spanish, at the Jupiter Inlet. Construction for this fort began on December 13th, the feast day of the Roman Catholic Saint Lucia. Pedro Menendez de Aviles established a colony in 1567 called "Santa Lucia" somewhere between Vero Beach and Stuart. Old Spanish maps identify the area as Santa Lucia.
The current Saint Lucie County was known as East Florida in 1810. In 1821 the area was renamed St. Johns County. St. Johns was split into several counties in 1840 and this area became Mosquito County. Ten years later the Mosquito County area is slashed into two new counties and our area becomes St. Lucie for the first time. Thirty more years pass and in 1880 the borders are again changes and we become Brevard County. On July 1, 1905 St. Lucie County, Florida is established with Fort Pierce as the county seat. Portions are stripped away over the years, first in 1917 western acres are taken away to become Okeechobee County. In 1925 a northern chunk of land is removed and becomes Indian River County and the southern part of St. Lucie as well as a portion of Palm Beach County become Martin County that same year.
19th & Early 20th Century Communities
Named for Dr. John Fletcher Ankeny who purchased land eight miles south of Fort Pierce, along Indian River, in April of 1883. He built a small house on the property. His brother Rollin Valentine Ankeny migrated in 1902 and built a home on Indian River Drive which is still inhabited.
At the start of the 20th century this area hidden deep in the Savannas was the only place that people of color could go for recreation. A merry collection of bars, casinos and brothels the music and revelry could be heard miles away. The local sheriff tolerated this frivolity until rumors implied that northern outlaws were hiding there. The sheriff formed a posse and arrested everyone present. The posse burned the thatched roofed huts to the ground.
In the late nineteenth century, the area along the south bank of Moore's Creek, (modern day Avenue A and Indian River Drive) went by this name because of a large seafood canning plant located there. The plant was closed in 1896. The building was purchased by Peter P. Cobb and converted into a general store. Can Town became part of the new city of Fort Pierce in 1901.
The folks in the area north of Fort Pierce established this community. It is now called Oslo. It had a post office, schools and was a flag stop on the Florida East Coast Railroad. Now part of Indian River County.
Captain Thomas E. Richards, a shipbuilder from New Jersey, started a pineapple plantation along the Indian River. He thought the area was so beautiful that he named it Eden after the Garden of Eden. The plantation at one time had it's own railway depot and a dock which extended 1,500 feet into the river. A wonderful collection of letters written by Lucie Richards between 1880 and 1888 and compiled by Raymond Richards Brown, titled "Memories of Eden" allows the reader to "see" early pioneer life along the Saint Lucie River. Available at the Saint Lucie County Historical Museum Gift Shop or write to Raymond R. Brown, 2373 Stone Haven Court East, Orange Park Florida 32065.
This pineapple plantation was built in the late nineteenth century, by William Merwin, an oysterman from Milford, Connecticut. The pineapple industry collapsed at the end of World War I and the plantation was converted to a nursery and fernery. After World War II it was refurbished and became one of the most popular restaurants on the Treasure Coast in the 1950's.
Located on the north side of Moore's Creek, (present day North 2nd Street and Avenue D), Edgartown was the site of the first settlement of what was to become Fort Pierce. It was named for Edgar Bowman, the grandson of one of the early settlers. Because there were no docks in the area, the wood used to construct the original buildings had to be pushed into shore by swimming construction workers.
Named for Lucius Eldred. Mr. Eldred purchased land for a pineapple plantation in 1879. He sent his daughter and son-in-law to live in the house he had built there. The area is between modern day Midway Road and Palm Cemetery on Indian River Drive.
The Seminole Tallahasse Chipto with his wife and daughter, circa 1910 Lt. Col. Benjamin K. Pierce
The second Seminole War began in 1835 and the U.S. Army commenced efforts to establish military posts throughout Florida. Lt. Col. Benjamin Kendrick Pierce, commander of the 1st Regiment of Artillery, and brother of the future President Franklin Pierce, proceeded down the coast with a detachment of troops. The troops spent two uncomfortable nights on the east side of the river, just south of the inlet. On the morning of January 2, 1838, they crossed to a bluff on the west side, about four miles south of the Indian River Inlet. They began to erect a block-house, much like many others, but this one was made from palmetto logs. After construction, finding it in need of a name, they chose that of their worthy commander. The fort was built near an Ais Indian mound and had a natural sweet water spring. The fort was abandoned by the military at the end of the war in 1842. A settler named Dr. Weedon became the proprietor of of the buildings and used them as temporary accommodations for newly arriving families. On the night of December 12, 1843, a fire began in the fort's kitchen and quickly spread destroying all the buildings.
A notice was posted on December 29, 1900 calling all registered voters to assemble at Davis Hall, Fort Pierce, Brevard County Florida, on February 2, A.D. 1901, for the purpose of organizing a municipal government. On that date, 54 of the 66 voters who resided in the proposed village area, met, voted to incorporate. They elected A.C. Dittmar as mayor, decided that there would be five alderman, and elected D.L. Alderman, A.Y.W. Hogg, P.P. Cobb, L.L. Carlton and F.M. Tyler. H.I. Klopp was elected as city clerk and D.S. Carlton as marshal.
This area north of Fort Pierce, originally a portion of Viking and known in the first part of the 20th century as Fort Pierce Farms, was renamed by Mrs. Edward Binney (wife of the inventor of Crayola Crayons), she combined the first three letters of the word "Indian" with the Spanish word for river "rio". Edwin Binney built his home called Florindia there, as did his daughter Dorothy Putnam, whose home is known as Immokolee. Most local folks now think of this scenic area as part of Lawnwood Park.
Originally settled by August Park, from Danzig, Germany in 1865. Park became tired of traveling to Titusville to shop and opened a store. Thomas New a resident, became the first Postmaster in 1874. It became an important trading center and a regular stop for river steamers. The communities name was changed from New Haven to Sebastian in November of 1884. Now part of Indian River County.
Captain Frank Forster was the first permanent settler, coming down the river in the 1880's in his sloop and taking up land to the north of the present day river bridge. A post office was established at his place in 1887. The Florida East Coast Railroad reached here in 1893 and Wabasso became the permanent name of the settlement. Now part of Indian River County.
On March 17, 1902, the Woodley post office was renamed Quay, in honor of U.S. Senator Mathew S. Quay of Pennsylvania. He had put through the Congress an appropriation for $15,000 to improve the channel of the Indian River. This community is present day Winter Beach, Indian River County.
St. Lucie Village
The homestead of Major James Paine, who settled there after completing his tour of duty at Fort Capron. His forty acres were along the west bank of the Indian River about one mile south of the fort. His family joined him in 1857. Around 1872, Alexander Bell brought his family and homesteaded from Taylor Creek south, the Paine family were his neighbors. Over the next 20 years the area became known in the north as a "Sportsman's Paradise", Paine rented rooms to visitors for $3.00 per day. During the 1870's St. Lucie was the capital of Brevard County. In the 1890's Mathew Quay a Republican Senator from Pennsylvania built a large winter retreat near the Paine home, to which he added a private railroad siding to accommodate his friends' personal railroad cars. Ten of his political allies enjoyed the area so much they formed the St. Lucie Club and built a clubhouse in 1902. This became a center for national Republican politics.
A small pioneer community which was located in the present day Norseman's Harbor area, of Port St. Lucie. At the turn of the century it had it's own schoolhouse and post office. All that remains is a small cemetery with a marker inscribed, "Spruce Bluff Early Pioneer Settlement 1892" with the names or description of the seven people buried there.
In 1843, eight settlers founded the first European community, they called it Susanna, located about 3.5 miles south of present day Fort Pierce. The settlers and several new arrivals stayed there until 1849. Fearful of an Indian uprising they abandoned their homes and fled to St. Augustine.
This south county community was the northern section of Eden. It was named after L.P. Tibbals who owned the nearby Beulah Plantation. Later renamed Walton.
An area between Winter Beach and Sebastian that flourished. Farming of beans, strawberries and citrus were the main sources of income in 1893. William H. Wigfield, father of five daughters became the first Postmaster, his home became the post office. Now part of Indian River County.
Settled originally in 1892 by Major B. Daniels. He was joined three years later by Jens Helseth, who like Daniels began growing pineapples. As the tiny village grew, it came to be known as Viking, due to the preponderance of Scandinavians living there. The settlement was located north of St. Lucie Village. A portion of the area is now called Indrio. It had a post office, a school and was a flag stop on the Florida East Coast Railroad.
In the early 20th century Tibbals was renamed Walton in honor of Izaak Walton, a seventeenth century English author and fisherman. With the change in name they seceded from their southern neighbor, Eden.
A planned Dane community it began a little south of pioneer Frank Bell's ranch. Sadly, settlers made down payments for lots to a banker, Colonel Myers, who left town with those payments as well as their savings. Many left when their crops failed in the winter of 1894-95. Those who stayed worked off their indebtedness and gained deeds by improving the land and the interest due by building roads.
Named for the large plantation established by J.T. Gray, an early settler. He was of the Georgia aristocracy and named his plantation Woodley. Re-named Quay in 1902, it is the present day Winter Beach, Indian River County.
Photos courtesy/copyright of Saint Lucie County Historical Museum.