“When you wish to exploit a place, you must first have a map of it”I am the road – play prospectus 2019
Early explorers during the first Spanish period must rely on maps that were more artwork than accurate. Florida often remained a mystery where ancient Indian pathways were rarely marked with accuracy. After England took over Florida in 1763 a German-born engineer named William Gerald de Brahm was appointed Surveyor General for British East Florida. He had previously gained great acclaim for his map work in Georgia and the Carolinas. De Brahm was born in 1718 and at 45 years old, he was highly educated in the technology of the times. Trigonometry, magnetic compass, optical devices, and accurate map-making were all well known to him.
He arrived in St. Augustine in January of 1765, settled with his wife and established his staff of assistants and deputy surveyors. On February 11, 1765, he sailed from the harbor on a leased ship called Augustine Packet to begin a coastal survey of the area that would in a far-future time become Flagler County, Florida. On that day they make their first anchor drop in 51 feet of water. They were slightly south of the area now occupied by the Marineland Dolphin Park in Flagler County.
The survey of this area on both land and on the water had begun. Unfortunately, de Brahm came into conflict with the British Governor of East Florida. It may have arisen due to a lack of definition of authority. Governor James Grant was a former British army officer of great reputation in Indian fighting and was charged with the rebirth of east Florida after the departure of the Spanish. He had an almost empty land to govern and was commissioning the construction of a new highway from the Florida border southward. It would be called The Kings Road. It was intended to bring new settlers into this area. This road would be completed just prior to the American Revolution and was to become the main entryway into Florida, plus an important route in the Seminole War that would follow, and even into the Civil War period when it held great herds of cattle going northward to feed the Confederates.
Great tracts of land were being granted by the King for his important followers, some as large as 20,000 acres. Few knew what really lay within these grants but all agreed there was great potential here for exploitation. De Brahm surveys began to show that many fell upon land owned by Indian groups, held under a prior treaty with the English government. He saw and wrote reports of potential conflict between the new ‘owners’ and the long-settled Indian natives. He objected to the British taking “violent possession of their reserved lands.” This would not make him favorable to Governor Grant whose role was to bring in as many English settlers as possible into their new lands. This and other political conflicts bought matters to a serious note. Also in September of 1765 de Brahm’s wife died in St. Augustine.
In 1771 de Brahm was ordered to return to England to face charges of malfeasance and perhaps charged for making some billings where it was alleged there was work not accomplished.
Governor Grant had also returned to England due to ill health. He did not appear to press his charges, de Brahm was paid by the Treasury for his work and made his enormous General Survey in the southern district of North America to the King which was well received.
It was an amazing work. Several chapters deal with the problems of living in Florida and how to deal with chiggers, mosquitos, and ticks. In addition, are sections on proper eating and drinking to preserve health, and especially ‘don’t drink the water’ unless certified by a dash of good rum, or lacking this the inserting of a red hot iron into your drinking water. His report was a virtual traveler’s document including his excellent maps. One section dealt with how to transport seed stocks from Europe, and how to plant and grow crops in the sandy soils of Florida.
He had drawn a special mariners navigation tower called a Pharus which could be placed in dangerous spots to warn ships standing into deadly locations. Unfortunately, the King never funded these.
Pharus is a Greek name for lighthouse.
The design had no light but offers a night fire and daytime smoke generator, plus a large signal flag. There are cannons at the base to warn mariners standing into danger.
The harbor entrance to St. Augustine was especially dangerous with its shifting sands and shallow nature.
Perhaps this tower for notice and warning made good sense for the St. Augustine entry. At the end of the American Revolution over 16 sail ships filled with refugees met their end on the treacherous bar.
His concept was never funded and so the towers were not built in Florida.
The De Brahm report to the King listed his first anchor point for the new survey was February 11. 1765 but on the Ryan copy of De Brahm map appears an anchor point dated February 12, 1765. This location would be roughly east of the present MalaCompra Plantation Park of Flagler County. His report further said that on February 13 he was at “Musketo Inlet” which would be present-day Ponce De Leon Inlet. To the south. This February 12 marking had puzzled historians until the linkage of dates was discovered in the written report on De Brahm. Markings showing “Spanish Fort” to the north remain a mystery, but may have been a watchtower set up during the First Spanish period.
In November 2019 the Historical Society received a request for information from Tide Water Atlantic Research in Washington, D.C. who were apparently doing a Cultural Resources Document to support a remote-sensing marine survey of the seafront near Flagler County. This type of request is often received by the Flagler County Historical Society and assisted as best we are able. The researchers were very pleased to receive our De Brahm information and maps. Documents and other old maps were submitted, plus Archivist Sisco Deen did research on known shipwrecks in this area. Prior to the current modern area, there have always been rumors and stories of Spanish treasure fleets being wrecked by storms off of this shore. This includes the military conflict of the Spanish in St. Augustine and the French Protestant fleet of Huguenot sailors on ships wrecked here by storms in 1565 and slaughtered by the Spanish in an area named today as Matanzas or place of murder. Some historians believe this event actually happened just north of present-day Marineland at a location called Penjon (or rock) inlet.
Local legends also depict lost treasure ships in this area also report a great Spanish Silver Fleet reportedly lost in 1715 and perhaps driven ashore here too. The area from St. Augustine south has been called “The Treasure Coast” and while rich finds were made to the south of here, little professional searching has been done in our area. Rumors and tales still prevail around the Matanzas area. Rapidly shifting sands often cover and uncover areas after each storm.
Recent shipwrecks, reported in the newspaper collection of the Flagler Historical Society, were documented by archivist Sisco Deen, and while not offering treasure, do reflect the many storms and hurricanes that prevailed on the early sail and steam vessels here.
Sisco Deen shipwreck story collection:
THE FLAGLER TRIBUNE Bunnell, Florida Thursday, March 25, 1920
STEAMER BEACHED NEAR MATANZAS INLET – 1 Man Drowned, 2 Injured
Monday afternoon between three and four 0′ clock the steamer Northwestern, out of Charleston for Havana, coal laden, was beached by her Captain in order to save his crew for twenty-eight men.
Shortly after the vessel cleared from Charleston it was discovered that she was leaking badly and every effort was made to keep the boat – one of the rapidly built wooden structures that were tacked together for Uncle Samuel for war purposes only – atop the sea, but discerning that the tack was beyond his power determined to make for land as rapidly as possible.
With the deck of the tub almost awash the Northwestern went aground near the north boundary line of Flagler County.
Capt. P. E. Hensen took this step for the purpose of saving the crew. He gave the orders to launch the lifeboats necessary for the men, and most the men made it safely to the breakers without an accident, although all but one of the lifeboats were capsized when the breakers were reached.
When the boat took the sand beach it yawed stem to the north and one member of the crew believing that the boat was going rapidly to pieces in the heavy seas then running, leaped overboard on the windward side and was immediately hoisted back among the rigging and debris, where his foot was caught by falling timber and very badly crushed and his leg broken below the knee. He managed to free himself in some way and by making use of a floating spar reached land.
A man by the name of M. Ludwigson, a Norwegian, was drowned when the lifeboat in which he was a passenger was turned over in the surf, the supposition being that he was taken with a cramp. He was just out of the hot engine room, where he was employed as an oiler, and wet with perspiration when he came on deck. He had worked in water knee-deep before leaving the engine room, and the cold northeast wind chilled him. His chief is quite confident that he was taken with a cramp, because he said the man was a good swimmer and an able-bodied man.
The other men were slightly injured, all the balance of the crew escaping with only a ducking.
The men spent the remainder of the day and the greater portion of Monday night on the beach. Tuesday morning the residence of Mr. Ed Johnson was sighted and that ever ready and willing helper got busy. He phoned the situation to Bunnell and called for help from the townspeople.
Mayor Holden was informed and medical assistance, as well as many automobiles for the use of the shipwrecked men, were rushed to St. Joseph landing, on the canal, where all the men had been assembled, and from that point the man with the crushed leg and foot was loaded aboard the steamer bound for Daytona, accompanied by Dr. A. O. Roberts, and taken there to be placed in the hospital where it was believed the limb would have to be amputated.
Two hours after the boat when aground she was a total wreck, so the assistant engineer told a Tribune man, and from the looks of the beach, his story is easily believed.
The men brought to Bunnell in cars by Messrs. Sam Newbill, Dewey Moody, Clarence Pellicer, Mayor Holden and George Biddle, took the afternoon northbound train for Jacksonville and Charleston. The body of the drowned man has not been recovered.
THE FLAGLER TRIBUNE Bunnell, Florida
Thursday, September 3, 1925
INTERESTING BIT OF HISTORY
Mr. F. I. Mobbs, 61 Muskogee, Oklahoma, who is spending a couple of weeks at the Flagler Beach Hotel and who is the owner of a 160-acre tract in Flagler Beach, which was acquired by Mr. Mobbs’ father in 1884, tells an interesting story of how the land in question was purchased by his father 40 years ago and retained in his family through the succeeding years up to the present time.
The 160 acres now owned by Mr. Mobbs was taken up under the Homestead Act in 1879 by a man named Neill, after whom what’s now known as “Neill’s Hammock” was called. In 1881, two years after Neill filed on his homestead, a sailing vessel called the “Vera Cruz” carrying a cargo of mahogany from Honduras to Boston was wrecked in a severe storm off the coast of what is now Flagler Beach and the Crew from the vessel landed on the beach abutting Neill’s property. As soon as the owners of the wrecked vessel could be communicated with, a salvage crew was sent down from Boston and it was arranged with Neill to haul the mahogany by ox teams to Smith’s Creek, a branch of the Halifax River, to be there reshipped to its destination in Boston.
While engaged in the work of taking off the mahogany from the vessel, Neill discovered that there was additional cargo consisting of a considerable quantity of lard; and this he surreptitiously conveyed ashore on his own account and hid in the hammock land. When the cargo which had been salvaged from the wreck was checked with the record of the original consignment it was discovered that in some mysterious manner the shipment of lard was missing. Investigators from Boston came down to look into the matter and after a careful search, located the missing lard in the cache where it had been hidden by Neill. The latter was then notified to leave the country at once, or he would be arrested and prosecuted.
Thereupon Neill, who had previously commuted his homestead, sold the same to Mr. James Mobbs, of Sanford, Fla., for the munificent sum of $350 in cash. Shortly afterward Mr. Mobbs moved his family away from Florida, paying no further attention to the land he had acquired from Neill, except to annually pay the small amount of taxes which were assessed against it. On the death of Mr. Mobbs, Sr., some years ago, his son, the gentleman who is now a visitor in Flagler Beach, became the owner of the Neill tract.
In relating the foregoing facts a few days ago, Mr. Mobbs stated that until quite recently he had given no particular thought to the property he owned in what is now Flagler Beach; and that In the long period of years intervening since his family moved from Sanford and located in the north, he has never once visited Florida until the present time. As his father before him had done, he continued to pay taxes on the land, having in mind that at some future time he could probably derive some income from the property by erecting cottages on it to rent to winter tourists.
During the last year the number of inquiries Mr. Mobbs received from persons who were desirous of purchasing his property in Flagler Beach, together with the publicity which Florida has been receiving, convinced him that he should come down here and see for himself what was going on and familiarize himself with the location and value of the property he owned. To say that what he has learned since he has been here is not in the least disappointing to Mr. Mobbs would not be an exaggeration.
The acreage owned by Mr. Mobbs is located about one mile north of the Coast Guard Station, with approximately a quarter of a mile of ocean frontage and extending west to the canal. It is beautifully situated and is one of the choicest sites in Flagler Beach
Since Mr. Mobbs has been in Flagler Beach, he has been besieged with offers for his acreage, but states that it is his intention to hold it and develop it himself in the near future. He will return to his home Muskogee, Okla., within the next week or ten days and as soon as possible complete arrangements to dispose of his business and property there, that he will be free to return to Flagler Beach during the coming winter and start the development of his property here. – Flagler Beach Radio.
THE FLAGLER TRIBUNE Bunnell, Florida
Thursday, December 3, 1925
SHIP WRECKED 5 MILES ABOVE FLAGLER BEACH
During the storm, sometime Monday night, a three masted schooner, said to be bound from London to Cuba, was wrecked five miles above Flagler Beach. It is said that the schooner was loaded with 2,500 cases of liquor and other cargo, which went down with the ship.
The crew is said to be composed of eight Negroes and one white man. The ship, it was reported, was about one and one-half miles out at sea at the time of the wreck.
On Monday, three of the Negroes swam ashore safely. On Wednesday another Negro swam ashore and died immediately after.
The white man and the balance of the crew had not been found at the time this was written, although a watch is kept upon the beach for them. It is not known whether the balance of the crew are living or dead.
THE FLAGLER TRIBUNE Bunnell, Florida
Thursday, December 10, 1925
ESCAPE ATLANTIC STORM ONLY TO LAND IN JAIL
St. Augustine – Following the wrecking of a liquor laden schooner off Flagler Beach during the recent storm, three of the crew who managed to get safely ashore were brought before A. W. Chadwick, Jr., U. S. Commissioner for this district. Mr. Chadwick, finding they were British subjects, turned them over to the British consul at Jacksonville. The remainder of the crew, who were Negroes, were drowned.
The schooner was said to be laden with $28,000 worth of liquor which sunk with the boat.
THE FLAGLER TRIBUNE Bunnell, Florida
Thursday, September 26, 1929
Four Masted Ship Goes Aground on Beach Near Here
Tamarco, Tampa, Becomes Waterlogged. Beached By Her, Captain
Bound from Jacksonville to French Martinique with 450,000 feet of lumber from the Putnam Lumber Company of Jacksonville, the four-masted schooner Tamarco, commanded by Arnold Connolly, a Negro, was beached near the coast guard station at Flagler Beach last Friday night during a northeast gale. One negro seaman, E. R. Brown, was drowned when the crew took to the small boats to come ashore, Coast Guardsman C. D. Toler, in charge of the station, saw the vessel’s plight before it was beached, and placed signal lights on shore, he then went back to the station to call for assistance and while away the crew abandoned the ship.
The vessel was beached by Connolly after she became waterlogged, and unable to make her way. It was reported that her cargo holds were full of water when she grounded.
The Tamarco sailed from Jacksonville several days previously and had been battling a strong northeast gale during that time. After the ship was beached the crew was taken to St. Augustine by custom patrol officers but have been returned to the coast guard station at Flagler Beach, it was reported today.
Only one white man, Randolph Hyers, Supercargo, brother of the president of the Tampa company own- ing the vessel, was aboard, it was reported.
Since being beached the ship has settled considerably in the soft sand and, according to Coast Guardsman Toler, will remain intact unless another gale comes up and the high seas break her to pieces,
According to reports from Flagler Beach today, D. E. Fleichel, president of the Putnam Lumber Company, unloading of the vessel will begin the latter part of this week, 435,000 feet still being in the hold. The re- maining few thousand feet which was carried as a deck load, was carried ashore by the waves and most of the timber has been salvaged by individuals along the beach.
THE FLAGLER TRIBUNE Bunnell, Florida
Thursday, October 3, 1929
According to information reaching here today from Flagler Beach, a large number of spectators watched the rescue of ten men from the schooner Tamarco, which came ashore near that town about two weeks ago during a northeaster.
The men had gone to the schooner in surf boats, it was said, to help in the preparations for unloading the cargo of lumber which was to commence the next day. I. A. Krusen, mayor of Holly Hill, who is the contractor removing the lumber, was thrown into the water from a capsized boat when he tried to return to shore during the afternoon.
C. D. Toler, officer in charge of the coast guard station, which is located near the stranded schooner, with the assistance of volunteers shot a rope to the vessel from shore and put into operation a breeches buoy, bringing all men to safety within a short time.
T. M. Powell and Charles Tebbe of Holly Hill were the first two men brought ashore. Parker and George Jeffcote of Daytona Beach, life guards, swam ashore and assisted coast guardsman Toler.
Young men of Flagler Beach who assisted in the rescue were T. B. Miller, Jess Kissner, Geoge Deen, Dana Fuquay, Louie Upson, George Moody, Jr., Lamar Hudson and Reggy Upson.
THE FLAGLER TRIBUNE Bunnell, Florida Thursday, May 21, 1942
LIFE BOAT IS WASHED ASHORE
A lifeboat, supposedly from some torpedoed ship, was cast up on the beach north of Flagler Beach today. The boat was partly submerged there being many holes in the boat which may have been made by machine gun bullets.
The boat was found by Sheriff Henry Wells who reported it to D. D. Moody of the Flagler County Defense Council.
De Brahm’s Report of the General Survey of the Southern District of North America re-print by University of South Carolina Press 1971 ISBN 0-87249-229 – X with introduction and research by Lois De Vorsey, Jr. printed as part of Tricennential edition number 3 of University of South Carolina Press.
Letters of Governor James Grant – William Ryan collection from St. Augustine Historical Library. Original Newsprint collection Flagler County Historical Society, curator Sisco Deen Collection. Search for the Lost Plantations of Flagler County by William Ryan copyright 2015 William P. Ryan. Sisco Deen document collection – Flagler County Historical Society