Señor Major Boynton? Hotel owner had Spanish Roots

With the release of the 1940 census, another chapter of American history can be explored and our ancestors found. All census records from 1850 forward are available through various websites such as, and Some the censuses are more complete than others; for example much of the 1890 census data was

Major Nathan S. Boynton

lost in a fire. Recently I was helping a friend with some research on her family history, and I thought it might be interesting to see if I could find some more information on Major Nathan S. Boynton, who founded and owned the Boynton Hotel on the beach and for whom the associated town is named.

I first found Major Boynton on the 1860 census, living near Cincinnati, Ohio. He was 23 and listed his profession as “Physician.” I had heard he intended to study medicine after working in the grocery business (“mercantile”) for a few years. As the Civil War broke out, he returned to Michigan and enlisted in the cavalry. He rose in rank to Major, and mustered out in 1865 and relocated to Marine City, Michigan. In the meantime, he  married and several children were born. On the 1870 census, he is listed as being an “editor”, with wife Annie in the household along with children Charles, Annie, George and Frances. He did indeed purchase the local paper and served as editor. I did not find an 1880 census record for the family, and as mentioned, the 1890 census is pretty much gone.

It was the 1900 census that presented some interesting information. Census forms changed over the years; one of the changes was the requirement to list the place of birth of the parents of each of the persons in the census. And in Major Boynton’s line on the census, place of birth for his mother was listed as Spain. I knew that Major Boynton’s wife was from Germany, but I had never heard his mother was born in Spain. A bit of looking found a biography of Major Boynton and it listed his mother as being named Frances Rendt Boynton, daughter of “Old Captain Lewis Rendt.” In looking at Captain Rendt, his actual name was Johann Ludwig Rendt, and he was born in 1773 in Germany. He was a Hessian soldier who was in service of the British army. The British would “lease” entire battalions of Hessian soldiers to join their side in various conflicts; Captain Rendt had fought for the British in the war of 1812 against the United States. As part of his payment, he was granted land in the province of Ontario, very near the Michigan border. He married Joaquina Josephina Sophia Arliano from Cadiz, Spain and together they had eight children, born in Spain, Malta, and Canada. Among them was Frances Margaret Rendt, Major Boynton’s mother. She married Granville F. Boynton in Port Huron, Michigan. Granville died in 1845, and Frances remarried, to a Jonathan Graves. They had two sons together, who were half brothers to Major Boynton.

In today’s terms, that would make Major Boynton “Hispanic,” although such a categorization was unknown at the time. Major Boynton’s father was of English heritage, so Major Boynton certainly illustrates the melting pot of America as people of all lands sought its shores. You just never know what the census may reveal.

Lights! Camera! Action! Palm Beach’s First “Moving Pictures”

A few weeks ago the Academy Awards were held, and I wondered, what was the first movie ever filmed in Palm Beach County? The Palm Beach County Film Commission maintains a list of films shot in Palm Beach County, but it only goes back to the 1960s. Then I got a clue from the book “Loxahatchee Lament”, a collection of pioneer tales from

Dorothy Dalton

the Jupiter area. One of the articles in the book was based on excerpts from a scrapbook kept by Mrs. Frank Shuflin. In the scrapbook she clipped an article about a “moving picture”being filmed in the Jupiter area in 1923 starring Dorothy Dalton, a major star of the silent film era. In the movie being filmed, they needed a tropical swamp for a scene. The article describes how they could not find a suitable location in West Palm Beach, so they headed up to Jupiter for filming. They filmed at the Pennock Plantation and the Lainhart orange grove west of Jupiter.

The article did not mention the title of the film, but did mention the director, Irvin Willat.

Fog Bound Movie Poster

A bit of Internet searching revealed that the film was entitled “Fog Bound.” The AMG movie guide provides the following synposis: “Pretty Dorothy Dalton co-stars with the handsome but not as stellar David Powell in this action-packed Paramountdrama. The wealthy but idle Roger Wainright (Powell) finds himself falling in love with Gale Brenon (Dalton), a modern, independent young lady who manages several Florida orange groves. While Wainright is enjoying himself at a local gambling resort, the place is raided by revenuers and Sheriff Holmes (Jack Richardson) is killed in the ensuing gun fight. Wainright escapes and Gale hides him, later helping him to escape into the swamp. But the dead man is her father, and when she discovers that Wainright is suspected of being the one who discharged the fatal shot, she leads the posse to him. At the last moment, her love for him causes her to weaken, but he turns himself in anyway. A friend, Mabel Van Buren, reveals that she witnessed the killing, and that it was another officer, Deputy Brown (former matinee idol),who did the dirty deed. Evidence backs her up, and Wainright and Gale are reunited.”

The Heart Raider Still

The Heart Raider Movie Still

Further searching in the Palm Beach Post provided two more movies made in 1923. A comedy called “The Heart Raider” starring Agnes Ayres, was shot in Palm Beach.  Time Magazine provides a short summary of the film: “Agnes Ayres proceeds through this picture as a society siren against whose heart of gold other hearts, of lesser, masculine metal, shatter themselves by scores. Then one day in walks a misogynist. On board his yacht heart-of-gold meets heart-of-iron.The cast is pleasantly supplied with Mahlon Hamilton as the misogynist and Charles Ruggles as supplementary clown. All in all the results justify two hours expended in their inspection.”

The third film to shoot that spring was “The Exciters” starring Bebe Daniels. This comedy’s plot is as follows, from Moviefone “The Exciters is the old one about a footloose heiress who must marry by the age of 21 or forfeit her fortune. The girl (Bebe Daniels), an

The Exciters Lobby Card

inveterate thrill-seeker, chooses as her mate a handsome gangster (Antonio Moreno). Lots of thrills and laughs occur as a result of this shaky union. The gangster eventually reveals that he’s an undercover cop, and the girl finally agrees to curb her craving for excitement. Veteran scenarists Sonya Levienand John Colton adapted The Exciters from a novel by Martin Brown.” Bebe Daniels returned in 1926 to film “The Palm Beach Girl”, where many locals served as extras at a train station scene in the movie. Another scene with a train was shot in Jupiter, where a train rammed a prop car.

I wish I could provide clips from these films, but only The Heart Raider exists in a private

The Palm Beach Girl Movie Poster

collection.  It is estimated that 60-80% of the silent movies filmed are no longer in existence ( Films of this era were made with a type of material called cellulose nitrate, which was extremely flammable. Old black and white movie film also contained quite a bit of silver, so thousands of movies were destroyed for their silver content. This kind of film is no longer used; it was replaced by “safety film” which was still stamped on film and negatives well into the late twentieth century. The George Eastman House has a Czech copy of The Heart Raider in its collection, and it would be interesting to see the Palm Beach and West Palm Beach of 1923.  I don’t know if indeed these are the oldest movies ever made here, but they certainly are among the earliest.

Palm Beach County’s Lost Towns – The Complete List

Back in November, I was at the Old Key Lime House in Lantana for lunch. On the wall near the front of the restaurant was a great old map that was labeled “New Sectional Map of Florida” and dated 1920. I looked at the map and traced down the east coast of Palm

Farm for sale in Ameron

Beach County. And then my finger just stopped. Right above Boynton was a town I had never heard of – Ameron. A bit of searching in the Tropical Sun, the area’s first newspaper, revealed it to be a farming community to the north of the present day Boynton Beach.

That got me to thinking – how many other towns or settlements have dissapeared or been renamed in Palm Beach County? I started a list back in November, and it has been growing ever since. The following list was compiled from many sources including the websites listed at the end of this blog posting, and the online Palm Beach Post and Tropical Sun historic archives. From the best that I can tell, this is the most complete listing of lost towns ever published for Palm Beach County. Is it 100% complete? No. I am sure I will come across more with continued research. This list does not include towns and cities that exist today. The ones listed below are either towns or settlements that have completely disappeared or been renamed, so the town’s original name appears here. If one of the entries below has dates, that indicates the years in which a post office operated. Each of these could really be a story on its own, and it provides a glimpse of the many broken dreams and abandoned places that could have been.

UPDATE – March 10, 2011 – Added four additional towns – two that were planned and became Lake Worth (Lucerne and Osborne), and two towns in the Glades area (Sand Cut and Fruitcrest).


Ameron (1900-1903) – Farming community of mostly tomatoes, pineapples and strawberries that was located between Hypoluxo and Boynton Beach along Lake Worth. Settlers include J.M. Carroll, Dan Smith, George Smith, S.W. Kratzer, John Griffith, Freeman Griffith, George Lyman, Frank Palmer, Charles Carroll, C. R. Baker, the Forrey Brothers and Joe Prescott.

Azucar (1930-1946) – Sugar-based town with housing for workers. Mentioned in an April 7, 1938 article from the Palm Beach Post about a barbecue held there. Later it was renamed Bryant in honor of Harold Bryant (See Lucerne entry).

Bacom Point (1918-1925) – Along Lake Okeechobee. Established by William “Dad” Bacom as a vegetable and catfish farm.

Bare Beach (1920-1925) – Along Lake Okeechobee near Lake Harbor. Lawrence E. Will in A Cracker History of Okeechobee relates: “This Bare Beach settlement, as I’ve said, was once an important place. It really got its start in 1916 when William C. Hooker from Arcadia, together with his brother Steve and the Alderman Brothers from Wauchula began to raise tomatoes there. The next year Isaac H. Stone, another Wauchula man, farmed, financed other farmers, and built a store. The winter of 1921-22 was the biggest and last season here, for after that the high water compelled everybody to leave, then later on the sugar company gobbled up the land so there was no place left to farm. Before it was drowned out, Bare Beach supported the stores of Charles G. Price, who had fished here in 1911, Charlie Hurd from Moore Haven, J. W. Putnam and Ferrell Revels, besides the drug store of Dr. Harbin, later run by Penick Suther, Bohannon’s garage, four tomato packing houses, a light plant, a post office, two church houses and a school. It even had a cemetery, too. “

Bean City (1936-1973) – Started by former Belle Glade mayor Arthur Wells in 1916, wiped out in 1928 hurricane, became a sugar cane area, a few buildings and residents remain. An extensive May 12, 1970 Palm Beach Post article tells the story of Bean City, which indeed, was mostly supported by green beans.

Bocaratone (1899-1923)– Original name of Boca Raton – one word with an “e”

Boynton (1896-1941)– Original name of Boynton Beach.

Bryant (1946-1959)– Second name for Azucar settlement. Bryant was located on the east side of Lake Okeechobee near Pahokee. F.E. Bryant founded the Lake Worth Drainage District, and is for whom Bryant Part in the City of Lake Worth is named. Bryant started the Southern Sugar Company and the town was platted by the United States Sugar Corporation to house workers. All the streets and signs remain and the site can be visited today as a “ghost town”.

Ghost Town of Bryant

Ghost Town of Bryant

Chosen (1921-1955) – Founded by J.R. Leatherman, a preacher from Virginia. From the Biblical reference of being the ”chosen” land. Chosen was on the site of a Calusa Indian mound which was excavated in the 1930s by the Smithsonian Institute. It was located on the east side of Lake Okeechobee and a few buildings remain. The town was destroyed in the 1928 hurricane.

Connorsville/Connorstown – A September 7, 1947 article from the Palm Beach Post explained what happened to Connersville. W.J. Conners, from Buffalo, New York, bought over 12,000 acres of land in the Glades through many purchases. He built the Connors Highway toll road in the early 1920s at the cost of $2 million to the Glades, which the state bought in 1932 after Connor’s 1929 suicide. It was located on the south side of the West Palm Beach canal about three miles from the lake. Only thing left in 1947 was a well dug on the property.

Connors Highway Toll Gate in Canal Point

Deem City– Deem City is still listed on some maps as being on US 27 right at the Palm Beach-Broward county line. The sign said “Deem City – population 2.” There was a gas station there and a tiny house where the owner operated the Super Hamburger stand. Numerous code violations piled up and eventually the owner died. The buildings were demolished in 2008.

Delray (1898-1928)– Third name of Delray Beach.

Earman (1918-1923) – Earman was located near where Lake Park stands today. John Earman served as the first mayor of West Palm Beach. The family owned a hotel near West Palm Beach called The Earman House.

Figulus (1886-1891) – Estate on Palm Beach owned by the Charles Bingham family on the old Potter homestead land on Palm Beach, south of the present day town. Figulus is Latin for Potter.

Fort Jupiter (1855-1856) – Oldest post office and settlement in Palm Beach County by the lighthouse.

Fruitcrest – Another Thomas Will dream that ended up being a nightmare. The land could be purchased at $20 an acre, but the 1928 hurricane destroyed the town, which was southeast of Belle Glade. Today the land is sugar cane fields.

Sign advertising Fruitcrest

Geerworth – H.G. Geer and C.C. Chillingsworth bought 16,000 acres east of Belle Glade; much of the land was bought by British settlers. Continual flooding doomed the small community.

Gladecrest (1915-1917) – The Tropical Sun reported on February 4, 1915 of the new town site on the Hillsboro Canal south of Lake Okeechobee. The Holland & Butterworth Company sold land claiming that one acre could support a family; it couldn’t. The peak population was 72; the town was abandoned by 1921.

Golfview (1937-1997) – This small community was named due to its proximity to West Palm Beach’s first municipal golf course. That golf course eventually became a part of Palm Beach International Airport, and the municipal course moved to its present location on Forest Hill Boulevard. Airport noise caused the land and houses to be purchased by the Airport Authority. The town entry gates were moved to Yesteryear Village at the Palm Beach County Fairgrounds.

Hillsborough Canal Settlement – Original name for Belle Glade. A tourist remarked how the settlement was the “belle of the Glades” and that was chosen as the name of the new town.

Hongry Land – Not really a settlement, but the area of land west of Jupiter to Lake Okeechobee. Supposedly several Seminole Indians were starving in the area during the Seminole Wars.

Jewell (1889-1903)– Original name of Lake Worth, which was named to be the “Jewell” along Lake Worth. The town was changed to Lake Worth, and that has always led to the confusion between the City of Lake Worth and the body of water known as Lake Worth, which stretches from North Palm Beach to Boynton Beach. Settled by Samuel and Fannie James, Mrs. James ran the post office while Mr. James was a carpenter and farmed. The other names she considered were “Deer Park” and “La Paz” but she settled on Jewell.

Juno (1890-1903) – Became Juno Beach. The town was located slightly south of present day Juno Beach. Terminal southern stop on the Celestial Railroad, the town was the county seat for Dade County from 1890-1899. Mostly pineapples were grown, and the town consisted of the courthouse, newspaper office where The Tropical Sun was published, and seven houses. The county seat was moved back to Fort Dallas (Miami) and the courthouse building was moved to Miami via a barge. The remainder of the town burned in 1899.

Pineapples in Juno

The Old Dade County Courthouse in Juno

Kelsey City (1921-1939) – Original name of Lake Park. Founded by Harry Kelsey, a Boston entrepreneur, who at one time owned 100,000 acres in Palm Beach County. Town was never built as originally planned due to the land bust in the late 1920s.

Kraemer (1918-1932) and Kreamer (1932-1936) – Agriculture and fishing community on a small island in Lake Okeechobee. Damaged in the hurricanes and pretty much flooded after the dikes were built around the lake.

Inlet – This reference came from a 1919 Tropical Sun article on a school census which listed children attending school at “Inlet.” My best guess is that this would become Riviera Beach, as it was called the “Inlet City”, but there may be a better answer somewhere.

Linton (1895-1898) – Second name of Delray Beach, named for pioneer William S. Linton, a Michigan Congressman who bought the land and laid out the town plat. Name was changed after Linton defaulted on loans.

Long Beach – Former name of Canal Point. First it was called New Town, then Long Beach, then Canalpoint as one word, then Nemaha, and finally Canal Point. See for a very informative history of Canal Point.

Lotus Cove – Several small articles were published in the Tropical Sun on Lotus Cove. Based on those descriptions, this is the cove north of Lantana point along the west side of Lake Worth between Lantana and Hypoluxo. Today it is considered Lantana. One of the first settlers was Edwin Bradley, who came to the area in 1877 from Chicago.

Lucerne – This was a planned townsite platted by the Bryant Brothers and William Greenwood. If you bought land out in the Glades through the Palm Beach Farms Company, you received a “free” 25 foot town lot in Lucerne. They held a land auction in 1912 and hundreds bought land at $250 for a five-acre plot. Of course, when they saw the land out west it was very much under water. When they went to register the name as a post office (renaming Jewel) the name Lucerne had already been taken in Florida so they settled on the name Lake Worth. The name “Lucerne Avenue” in Lake Worth is from this plan.

Mabry (1922-1923) – Mabry was the original name of the settlement on Ritta Island in Lake Okeechobee.

Mangonia (1894-1906) – Areas north of West Palm Beach, what would be called Northwood today. The name was derived from mango growing in the area.

Mosey – This was listed on a map as being north of the then Kelsey City (Lake Park). Nothing more is known.

Munyons Island (1903-1905)– Island that is now in the John D. MacArthur Park on Singer Isand. The island was originally called Nuctsachoo by the Seminoles, which means “Pelican Island” . The Pitts family bought the island in 1892, built a house and grew many types of fruit. They then sold the island in 1901 to Dr. James Munyon and he built the Hotel Hygeia. Named after the Greek goddess of Health, the five story, twenty-one room hotel followed trends of the time with having spa-like hotels for wealthy clients. The cure-all was “Dr. Munyon’s Paw-Paw Elixir”, which was a patent medicine consisting of fermented papaya juice, which he bottled on the island. The hotel burned to the ground in 1917. The landing can still be seen on one side of the island.

Nemaha – A platted “metropolis” as it was called in the Palm Beach Post that would have replaced Canal Point. L.M. Simons and G.A. Walker from Kansas named the city from their home county in Kansas. It was never built to their plans.

Neptune (1895-1908) The name of the post office at the Carlin Hotel and terminal north station of the Celestial Railroad. One item from the Tropical Sun mentions a wedding in the hotel at Neptune. The hotel closed after the railroad ceased operations. What is interesting too is that when the railroad was dismantled and sold, the right-of-way was purchased for $10.00. In subsequent years this prevented some development of the land along US 1 on the east side. The land now belongs to Palm Beach County.

The Celestial Railroad












The Celestial Railroad trail still visible today

The Celestial Railroad trail still visible today












Oak Lawn (1889-1893) – Hotel and resort located where the Port of Palm Beach is today. The hotel, built by Judge Allen Heyser, was situated on a very large Indian mound overlooking Lake Worth in what today is Riviera Beach. The large Indian mound was trucked away for road fill and never properly excavated.

The Oak Lawn House

Okeelanta (1915-1929)– Okeelanta was a planned community, started in 1913 by Thomas Will. The name was derived from combining “Okeechobee” and “Atlantic.” Pioneers included R.A. Little, S.A. Hughes, Herman Walker and Lawrence Will. Despite many problems by 1920 Okeelanta had 200 residents, a school and town hall. Potatoes, corn, beans, tomatoes, and eggplant were grown and shipped north via a packing house that was located at where Southern Boulevard and I-95 are today. Okeelanta was flooded and destroyed by the 1928 hurricane. Thomas Will attempted to rebuild the community, however due to lack of financial backing The Okeelanta Corporation declared bankruptcy.


Osborne – The Osborn family was the original owner of Lake Osborne and all the surrounding lands (somehow the “e” was added through time). They platted a townsite at where 12th Avenue South is today as part of Lake Worth. A few people still refer to that area as Osborne

Palm City (1887-1887) – Original name of Palm Beach – had to be renamed as there was already a Palm City. There is also a Palm City in Martin County that still exists.

Paso Robles (1920)  – This town to be was the brainchild of Marshall Hartman – at least that was the name this schemer used. He bought a tract of land north of Boynton west of the Federal Highway on a mortgage, sold lots at a big event, pocketed the money, and skipped town.

Pelican Lake (1939-1964) – Also called Pelican Bay, this little community on Lake Okeechobee had hundreds of deaths from the 1928 hurricane. Newspaper articles from the time speak of finding 200 bodies one day, and 200 more the next. In 1932 a farmer’s cooperative purchased 1,000 acres of land from the state under the name Pelican Lake Farms, Inc. Newspaper accounts tell of the boxcars full of beans grown in the area that was taken north to sell. I think most people who worked the farms lived in Pahokee.

Plumoses City – This was an off-shoot from Jupiter where in 1929 residents along Center Street resented the town’s taxes so they formed their own town. It was abolished in 1959 and again is a part of Jupiter. The name came from the ferns that were grown for the floral industry.

Prairie – This was a small community located where the RCA buildings are today on PGA boulevard. It was a saw mill and was listed in the 1919 school census.

Ritta (1912-1931) – An island at the southern end of Lake Okeechobee. The Ritta Hotel was located there and owned by Richard Bolles, the Everglades land speculator who sold swamp land to thousands of unsuspecting people at his March 1911 land auction The island was covered by custard pond apple trees which were cleared for farming. All the buildings were destroyed in the 1928 hurricane.

Ritta Hotel

The Ritta Hotel on Ritta Island









Riviera (1919-1942) – Original Name of Riviera Beach.

Rood (1915-1934)– The Rood family moved from Wisconsin and bought a 20 acre tract in the Philo Farms district west of Jupiter. Mrs. Rood ran the small post office, and the family took mail all the way out to Indiantown along the old Jupiter Grade road. Edgar Philo had subdivided the land and ran a small hotel on the property.

Sand Cut – This tiny migrant village town was recently vacated to allow expansion of the dike surrounding Lake Okeechobee. It was located on Connors Highway (US 98) north of Canal Point.

Scratchankle – Another Lake Okeechobee settlement founded by John Tyner in 1912, and sometimes called Tynersville.

Shawano Village – A small farming community that was southeast of Belle Glade, sometimes called “Brown’s Farm.” It was a large peanut farm founded by the Brown Paper Company of Portland, Maine in 1924. The company suffered through the Depression and the village was dissolved in 1931.

Torry Island (1917-1921) – One of three islands in southern Lake Okeechobee with Ritta and Kreamer. It was covered with the same Pond Apple trees which were cleared for farming. The Cromartie family were among the first pioneers. Ivey Cromartie went on to marry Frank Stranahan, the modern founder of Fort Lauderdale.

Tustenegee (1877-1879) – The earliest post office in Palm Beach, before there was a Palm Beach. In all likelihood a Seminole Indian word meaning warrior.

Utopia (1910-1917) – Small farming community on the north side of Lake Okeechobee. The community became a part of Okeechobee County in 1917 and vanished in the 1928 hurricane.

Venus – Stop on the Celestial Railroad. J.B. Wells and his three cats were the only residents by the loading platform – primarily a pineapple growing region. Town was platted in 1893, but no lots ever sold. Now part of preserved lands.

Villa Rica (1925) – This was to be the northern neighbor to Boca Raton, a grand community planned by developer George Harvey. It was platted just north of Yamato Road along Old Dixie Highway. The land bust did it in. The name can still be seen on the FEC Tracks on a train service facility.

Planned Villa Rica Train Station

Wyman (1902-1907) – The area north of Boca Raton had a post office. This same land became the Yamato Colony. Nearby Lake Wyman retains the name.

Yamato (1907-1925)– This colony of Japanese immigrants farmed pineapples and vegetables. Most of the settlers returned to Japan. One who stayed was George Morikami, who bought land west of Delray Beach and donated the land to the county. Much of the eastern lands became part of the Army Air Corp Base at Boca Raton.

Zion (1888-1892)– Original Name for Delray Beach – the Orange Grove House of refuge was manned by several keepers over the years. Annie Andrews served as post mistress and the post office had two patrons – Annie and her husband!

Orange Grove House of Refuge

Sources: – Great website for ghost town information.– Website that had a very comprehensive lists with dates of the former post offices in the county – thanks to Janet DeVries at the Boynton Beach Library for the link. – Google news archive with many newspapers including the Tropical Sun and Palm Beach Post – Lots of information on Palm Beach County history.

Thanks also to Janette Campbell, a native of the Glades, who helped out with some of the Lake Okeechobee entries.

West Boca’s Secret – It was to have been Farmville…except for that water thing…

It is funny how stories sometimes find their way to me. At Thanksgiving dinner, a friend asked if I would research the land history of her parent’s house. I thought in all likelihood I would find the old aerial photos of Western Boca Raton along State Road 7/441 showing the land underwater and unused, being that far west. I was wrong. The first aerial photo in 1947 showed the area in the vicinity of State Road 7/441 and Judge Winikoff Road to be all subdivided into neat little squares. I then found the present legal description of the properties, and the records indicated that the land was originally platted in 1911 – in plat book number 1 of Palm Beach County. What on earth were people doing out there in 1911?

The original plat provided the first clue. A company called “The Florida Fruit Lands Company” had subdivided the land into three large plats. The land tracts were in varying sizes from 10 acres to 640 Old Platacres, and I could see these were substantial holdings, entire sections and miles of land. A Google search of The Florida Fruit Lands Company told the never-ending story of American ingenuity, greed and dashed hopes.

The Florida Fruit Lands Company was owned by Richard J. Bolles, a New Yorker born in 1843 and a real entrepreneur. At age 23, he was already a member of the New York Stock Exchange. He went West, as many young men of his time did, and bought vast land tracts in Colorado and Idaho, and subdivided the land on a promise that irrigation would be provided…but that never happened.

At the 1908 Democratic National Convention, Bolles met former Florida Governor William Jennings Bryan and the Governor at that time, Napoleon Broward. Broward was very passionate about getting


Bolles and others at a drainage canal

the Everglades drained  to provide a spark to the post-Civil war blues from which the Florida economy suffered. The men cut a deal so that Bolles would agree to buy 500,000 acres of swamp, 180,000 of which were in Broward and Palm Beach Counties. He paid the state $2 an acre, and the state agreed  it would pay to have the land drained through the digging of canals.

Bolles had a real knack for sales, and sent salesmen all over the country to tout the Florida Paradise armed with pamphlets that showed how wonderful and easy Florida farming would be. The Midwest area in Missouri was especially targeted by Bolles’ men. A New York Times article in 1912 reported that the land was cut into 12,000 tracts – two tracts of 640 acres (1 square mile), eight tracts of 320 acres, 20 of 160 acres, 100 of 80 acres, 250 of 40 acres, 8,620 of 20 acres and 8,000 of 10 acres. Each person had to pay the salesman $240 (equivalent to $5,500 today) to buy a chance at a drawing to see what track you would get and its location. Whatever tract you ended up with, the price was $24 per acre, so Bolles was to make twelve times his original purchase price. In addition, each “winner” would receive a free town lot in a proposed town called Progresso, to be located just north of where Fort Lauderdale is today. The town was platted, complete with schools, shops, factories, churches and lots. This filled in a piece of my own puzzle as my grandfather once owned hundreds of lots in Progresso that he bought for 2 or 3 dollars a piece during the Depression.

In March 1911 thousands flocked to tiny Fort Lauderdale for the big land drawing. All the hotels were filled, and many slept in tents. When the event started, the “drawing” was cancelled and the buyers told that tracts of land had already been selected for them and they were expected to just sign the deeds. Many did, but many cried foul when they realized they couldn’t pick out their land, and worse yet, it was still very much underwater. The most famous quote about the swamp land came from an Iowan – “I have bought land by the acres, and I have bought land by the foot; but by God, I have never before bought land by the gallon.”

Many looked at Bolles as a swindler as he certainly knew the land was underwater. He blamed the state, as his contract did give the state of Florida the drainage responsibility, which proved much more difficult than originally thought. Charges were brought against Bolles and other company officers, but they were all found not guilty in Federal Court. Further charges were filed in Kansas City regarding


Dredge used to dig drainage canals

Bolles running an illegal lottery, but he beat those charges as well. Bolles was allowed to keep the $1.4 million he had already collected, so he did profit on the deal. He sold some holdings in Palm Beach and Broward (J.F. Scullen bought 113,000 acres in 1919), and let the rest revert back to the state (large holdings around Lake Okeechobee). He died in 1917, while aboard a train in Palm Beach. Thus, Palm Beach County’s first land boom had come to an end. Eventually, the land was drained (not until the 1930s) and many dairys and large vegetable farms were located on the lands until the 1970s, when housing developments began in earnest.

The people who bought the land had that dream of either making fast money by flipping the land, or actually wanting to start a farming enterprise. Innocent dreams are what tycoons like Bolles feed upon, and they exist in all times. The games may be different today, but the winners and losers are the same.

Notes: This story was researched through the New York Times archives, a web page at and the book “The Swamp – The Everglades, Florida and the Politics of Paradise” by Michael Grunwald. The book is a rich history of the Everglades and the attempts to kill and then revive this one-of-a-kind ecosystem.

The Road less traveled – the first road to Miami

In an earlier post, I reviewed the history of Military Trail, which is a mid-county road (one time trail) to Fort Lauderdale. But as most of the population in the 1890s was along the coastal areas, getting to Miami was no easy manner. It was common, although not inexpensive, to take a steamer or sailboat from Jupiter or Palm Beach to Miami along the ocean. For those who couldn’t afford it, like the US Postal Service, you could walk along the beach and get there, as the famous “Barefoot Mailman” did. Just watch those inlet and river crossings with their hungry crocodiles and alligators.

Its hard to imagine but in the 1890s the area that today comprises Martin, Palm Beach, Broward and Dade counties was one huge county called Dade County. Miami was then known as “Fort Dallas” and had held the county seat. That changed in 1889 when the county seat and courthouse was moved to Juno, which had more population and the only railroad line in Dade county (the Celestial Railroad from Jupiter to Juno). The total population in Dade county was about 1,000. As commissioners and other officials from Miami had to trek up to Juno on the water, they realized that some sort of stage coach line would be more reliable. This was also prompted too for a better mail route after a barefoot mailman (Ed Hamilton) was eaten by alligators during a river crossing.

So it was decided that a road would be built from Hypoluxo south to what was called “Lemon


Crossing the Hillsboro River

City” (today’s north Miami). The trip from Juno to Hypoluxo was quite manageable by way of Lake Worth via boat,  so a road was not needed for that part of the route. Charles W. Pierce, in his book “Pioneer Life in Southeast Florida” provides a very detailed description of the road and why it was built. He writes in his book that a more reliable way was needed for people and mail to reach Miami. Pierce was appointed to the “road commission”, which met a total of two times. They put a request out for bids to survey and plat out the new road to Miami, designed of course not for cars, since they had not yet been invented, but for a mule wagon, or as he refers to it, a hack. The road was all of eight feet wide, and built along the natural sand ridge adjacent to the barrier islands on the peninsula.

This was no speedy form of travel. Pierce stated that because of the soft white sand, the speed was little more than a slow pace of about 2-3 miles per hour. At that rate, it was a two-day tripto Miami, but still better than walking the beaches. Bridges were built over smaller waterways such as the Hillsboro

Sand Road in Boca Raton

River. It took 14 hours to travel from Hypoluxo to the New River in Fort Lauderdale. Once you reached there, you camped with Frank Stranahan in some tents. According to Pierce, “He was the general manager, cook, dishwasher, chambermaid, and entertainer for the guests.” The next day you would cross the river by boat, then enjoy another seven hour ride to Miami. In all references I can find to the road, it is always just referred to as the “Sand Road.” The Sand Road brought the time of the Barefoot Mailman to an end.

There is not an accurate map of the exact route that the Sand Road took, but it is believed that large parts of it became the Dixie Highway and U.S. 1.  You can actually walk the only remaining portion of the Sand Road that is still sand. The northernmost portion of the Sand Road is located within the Hypoluxo Scrub Natural Area on Hypoluxo Road and U.S. 1. This land was never built on and only has had some light agricultural use over the years.

In this aerial photo from 1953, the sand road is clearly visble down the middle of the tract.

1953 Photo the Sand Road in Hypoluxo


Today, the returning vegetation is reclaiming the road, but service vehicles in the park still use the road.

The Sand Road in 2010

Take a walk through the Hypoluxo Scrub area and experience for yourself the road of a bygone era, the road that helped people “get there from here.” The Park is open sunup to sundown seven days a week and admission is free.

Take a ride on my time machine (kinda sorta)

A few weeks ago, I wrote about wanting a time machine to go back and see how Palm Beach County looked decades ago. I have often thought how cool it would be to have “ancient” Google-maps, to be able to have a bird’s eye view of your property. Well, you can. Thanks to a project by the University of Florida, you can find out what your property looked like decades ago. Depending upon where you live in the county, there are maps posted from 1940, 1953 and 1968.

I stumbled across the link on the Palm Beach County Property Appraiser’s website. I looked first at the property where my house resides. I was lucky in that there is a house along Lawrence Road that was built in 1940, so I could use that as my reference point. I scrolled over to see what was on Congress Avenue at that time. I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong, but I could not find it. Then it dawned on me. There was no Congress Avenue in Boynton Beach in 1953. I did a search through the Palm Beach Post Archives and found that Congress Avenue stopped at Lantana Road. It was extended to Hypoluxo Road in 1964, then to Boynton West Road in 1965 (today’s Boynton Beach Boulevard). In later years, it was extended down to Yamato Road, where it terminates.

The search tool at the University of Florida website uses Google Maps so you can enter an address from today. Using GIS technology, it finds which aerial photos matches those coordinates and draws a red circle where your house would be on the old photos. When you examine these photos, you realize how things have changed and see the incredible building boom that has occurred.

Here is an example of what these maps can show:

Palm Beach State College - 1953

Palm Beach State College – 1953

Palm Beach State College – 2010

In the 1953 photo, the dark line along the bottom is not 6th Avenue South, but the drainage canal. 6th Avenue South was not extended to Congress Avenue until the early 1970s. The aerial photos are in black and white, but the resolution is not bad for seeing detail. In my neighbhorhood, I was able to find some oak trees that still exist.

The University of Florida website is located at:

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If you want to see other parts of the nation, check out Historic Aerials at and see what they have. The site has a few neat visual tools like the ability to see a split screen using the “compare” tools. You can move the arrow to “swipe”across and see how things changed. Here is Meadows Park in Boynton Beach just south of Hypoluxo Road. The property was a dairy – the dots you see near the bottom of the photo are cows.

Split view of Meadows Park in 1968 and 2007

This picture was so special to me as it confirmed a memory I had from childhood about this dairy. In the front of the dairy was a small bridge on Congress Avenue that allowed the cows from the east field to get over to the dairy on the west side of Congress.

So take a fly around the county through the decades. If you find something neat or solved some old mystery about what was where when, leave me a comment.

Boynton’s Lost Lakes

Last year I was channel surfing and landed on Channel 18, Boynton Beach’s public access cable channel. The station was airing a film on Boynton Beach’s history produced in 1980. In it they mentioned that where the Leisureville community stands today, Lake Boynton once stood.

How could a whole lake disappear? I started my quest to find the lost lake and found that not only was Lake Boynton lost, but a whole chain of lakes that stretched from Lake Osborne south all the way to the present day Woolbright Road were gone.

My first clue was this map scrap from 1925, listing all the Boynton Lakes – Lake Webster, Lake Jackson , Lake Bessie and Lake Boynton.

Boynton’s Lakes from 1925

So where did the lakes go? A September 21, 1980 article from the Palm Beach Post helped fill in most of  the details. In 1916, the canals on the map above were dug by the Lake Worth Drainage District to help make the land more attractive for agriculture and dairy farming. Boynton Beach was to become the main dairy lands of Palm Beach county, and draining the land helped that process. C. Stanley Weaver was interviewed for the Post article. The Weaver family moved to Boynton in 1910 and owned over 1,500 acres of land in the vicinity of Old Boynton Road, Military Trail and Lawrence Road and were in the dairy business. Mr. Weaver told of the time when the lands around Lake Boynton were hunting grounds for quail and dove and that swimming and fishing in Lake Boynton were popular with all the kids. By the time he returned from World War II, additional drainage canals such as the El Rio Canal has drained away all the lakes, including Lake Boynton. The land changed hands many times before finally being developed in 1968 as Leisureville. The muck was removed from the land and fill added to provide stable home sites.

So what stands today on the land where the second largest lake, Lake Webster? I made a very crude overlay map

Overlay Map of 1925 Map and 2010 Map

Everything lined up perfectly including the small drainage canals that still exist. Much of what was Lake Webster is now the High Ridge County Club and the Quantum residential communities south of Miner Road, but this shows how very large the lake was, compared to the small runoff lakes that dot the communities in the picture. I am sure no one who lives in that area realizes they are living on an old lake bed.

In old newspaper ads from the 1920s, the land was being sold from anywhere from $400 to $2,000 an acre. An ad from October 29, 1925 offered the 850 acres around Lake Webster for $2,5000 an acre. That sounds pretty inexpensive today, but was an incredible sum of money at the time. The 1928 Hurricane brought all the land speculation to a halt. I would guess that in the 1930s or 1940s, the land could have been bought for less than $100 an acre. As we all have learned in the last few years, land and housing busts can happen suddenly and last a long time.