In the summer of 1836, a party of Seminole Indians, 150 in number, commonly prowled over present-day Flagler County between the St. Johns River and the Atlantic, committing depredations upon property wherever they could find it, and sparing the lives of no white man, woman or child who fell into their hands.
At daybreak on an early May 1836 morning, 53-year-old Abraham Dupont, a resident of St. Augustine who had a plantation just south of Pellicer Creek and whose descendant still reside in Flagler County today, entered the city with two of his three little sons, bringing intelligence that the Indians had surrounded his house, killed a Mr. Long, who was spending the night with him, carried off his negroes, and destroyed his buildings – – thus having swept the only plantation left standing South of St. Augustine.
Previously, the Bulow Plantation in southern present-day Flagler County (now Bulow State Park) which Charles W Bulow had purchased from James Russell in 1820 and which had been run by his son John Joachim Bulow since Charles’ death about 1823, had been destroyed in late January 1836 by roving bands of Seminoles.
Also in ruins were the plantations of General Joseph Marion Hernandez; Bella Vista (now Washington Oaks Gardens State Park), Mala Compra (now Bing’s Landing County Park) and St. Joseph (ruins were destroyed during the construction of Palm Coast).
Mr. Dupont probably traveled north on the Kings Road to reach St. Augustine. The only other land routes north at the time were Indian trails.
One could travel from present-day Flagler County to St Augustine at this time by water but the Intracoastal Waterway was still a dream. Our present-day barrier island containing some of our most expensive real estate in our county did not exist.
The Matanzas River on the Northside of present-day Flagler County stopped around Washington Oaks Gardens State Park. Long’s Creek ran from there southwest to Long’s Landing just east of the present-day Palm Coast Yacht Club. It was here at the wharf at Long’s Landing that General Hernandez and other plantation owners shipped their goods north to the Matanzas River.
The Halifax River to our south stopped about three miles south of present-day High Bridge. Smith Creek extended northward from there to an area just south of Flagler Beach.
In between, marshlands – no barrier island.
One could get to the western side of present-day Flagler County by large-draft steamboat in the late 1880s by sailing south on the St Johns River until you came to Dunn’s Creek just south of Palatka. Boaters could then cruise Dunn’s Creek SE to Crescent Lake, to the settlement of Shell Bluff near the northern shores of the lake.
To get to Omega which eventually became St. Johns Park, you would continue south to the southern boundary of the lake, then NE to Dead Lake then north to the present landing at Bull Creek (St Johns Park).
In 1831, the Florida Territorial Council incorporated the Planters and Citizens’ Canal Company to construct “a canal to connect the waters of the Matanzas and the Halifax rivers in the counties of St. Johns and Mosquito …….” Your writer has not been able to find any record of this group ever doing anything in this regard.
However, in May of 1881, four St Augustine businessmen, Dr. John Westcott, Henry Gaillard, James M. Hollowes and James L Colee, formed the Florida Coast Line Canal and Transportation Company, the first company in Florida to successfully dredge what was to become the Intracoastal Waterway.
The legislature initially authorized the private canal company to dredge canals between the Matanzas and Halifax rivers and between the Mosquito and Indian rivers “for the improvement of the inland navigation of the eastern coast for steamers or other watercraft drawing three feet of water or less.”
Subsequent legislation permitted the firm to dredge canals all the way to Biscayne Bay and ultimately to Key West…..the company was granted 3,840 acres of state land for every mile of canal constructed and was given the right to collect tolls.
By 1883, a four-mile, 36 feet wide canal had been completed from the Matanzas River to Mala Compra Creek. What lay south was a savanna, ¾ mile long, followed by ½ mile of hammock and two miles of sand flats, coquina rock, cabbage palms, and palmettos before reaching the marshes of Smith Creek.
The divide between the Matanzas and Halifax would prove to be the most difficult dredging of the entire waterway. Time being money, and businessmen being businessmen, the canal company directed their efforts to the south where construction of the canal was much easier and a whole lot faster – – a mile of canal was a mile of canal. To the state, it mattered not if the mile of canal was dredged through a lagoon or cut through solid coquina rock – the company completed a mile of canal, the company got their state land.
On Monday, May 13, 1907, at 8 o’clock in the morning, the crew of the dredge boat South Carolina severed the last obstruction in the Hammock area of present-day Flagler County and the waters of the Matanzas Bay and the Halifax Rivers were joined. Anticipating the completion of the cut, a large party of canal company officers, stockholders, and public officials left St Augustine early in the morning in two launches, the Hustler and Kathleen, to be on hand to see the finishing stroke.
Since the St Augustine party did not arrive until around noon, they did not witness the historic event; only the workmen were present.
It was not until 1921 that the canal was fully operation so it did not play a large part in the early development of present-day Flagler County.
The main players in our early development were railroads, trees, and agriculture.
In 1872, a 27-year-old young man by the name of Utley James White moved from Brockport, New York to St Augustine. His parents were farmers by occupation, thrifty, energetic, patient and hardy. The maternal grandfather was Walter Phelps, a man of means in his day, who in the early history of New York State, owned a packet line on the Erie Canal and successfully operated it.
Utley first found employment with the Tocoi Railroad Company, which was a horse railroad of the good old days. Mr. White acted as master of transportation and as such had charge of the twenty-four head of horses and mules which were the means of locomotion. He hauled all of the people and most of the freight to St. Augustine in this primitive method.
The next year (1873) the Tocoi Railroad was torn up and it was made the first standard gauge road in this part of the south. For three or four years, Mr. White remained in connection with this transportation line. At the end of that time, however, he gave up his position and entered the logging and lumber business.
He hauled his logs over tram roads, the rails of which were made of wood, but subsequently started a steel railroad with the idea of making it a permanent institution and near Palatka built four miles of roadbed himself.
In partnership with W. B. Barnett and S. I. Wales, he incorporated the road, the two gentlemen, beside himself, being the original incorporators. Subsequently, the St. Johns and Halifax Railroad began to build toward the Halifax River and as fast as their means permitted, laid down twelve miles. By Feb 1886, the road was 50 miles in length and ran from Rolleston on the St Johns River, to Hastings, to Dinner Island, to Duke, to Raulerson (Espanola), to Bunnell Stop to Favoretta, and on to the Tomoka River just north of Ormond (just to the east of the present-day River View Grill).
The rails for the S.J. & H Railroad weighed 30 pounds to the yard, and they were laid narrow gauge, three feet apart. The locomotives were wood burners, and had large, bell-shaped stacks, with a screen over the top known as the “spark arrester.” All equipment had link and pin couplers and hand brakes.
In Jun 1886, the Volusia County Board of Commissioners granted a permit for the railroad to build a bridge across the river. Before the Tomoka Railroad Bridge was constructed, passengers were ferried across the river and then hauled in hacks to Ormond. D. K. Bryan held the ferry permit.
Utley interested Stephen Van Cullen White in his railroad venture and with The “Deacon’s” money; Utley completed his railroad to Daytona, Florida in December 1886, later on disposing of the property to good advantage to Mr. Henry Morrison Flagler about 1890.
At this point in time, Mr. White’s interests in Flagler County fade away as he invested the purchase price of his railroad from Mr. Flagler into a twenty-six thousand acre tract of land at Hastings in St. Johns County. He owned this immense tract alone and soon after he had acquired it began to dig ditches and started development along other lines and by practical experience garnered information as to the suitability of the land for various grains and vegetables.
Mr. White will be back in Flagler County as a developer later on in this piece.
As Henry Flagler began the extension of his Florida East Coast Railroad south from St Augustine, development began anew in present-day Flagler County.
LUMBER, TURPENTINE, AND AGRICULTURE
The great pine forests of Florida contributed products of value to marine commerce for nearly two centuries before sawmills made their appearance. The first products were pitch and tar produced from the sap of the pine tree. They were called “naval stores” because carpenters used them to caulk the seams of wooden ships. The present products of pine tree sap – turpentine and rosin – are still known by that name.
With the advent of iron ships, chemical research found new uses for the pine gums. Turpentine now thins the paint that colors our houses and it is used extensively in the manufacture of polishes, perfume bases, waterproof cement, and various medicinal purposes.
Rosin, once discarded as a practically valueless by-product of turpentine, is today the principal ingredient of the varnish that covers floors and furniture. It is also used in the manufacture of soap, insulating material, writing paper, printing ink, sealing wax, plastics, and linoleum.
In 1898, Senator George W. Deen of Baxley, Georgia who had gotten into the turpentine business in 1886 at age 31, bought several tracts of land in St Johns and Volusia counties and established turpentine camps which he leased to operators.
The average turpentine camp comprised a fire still, sprit shed and glue pot, rosin yard, blacksmith and cooperage (barrel) shed, cup cleaning vat, barn and wagon shed, and living quarters for the manager and workers.
A typical camp harvested about ten “crops” per year; a crop being a tract of approximately 250 acres of timber, comprising about 5,000 trees.
George’s brother and the writer’s Great Grandfather James Monroe Deen and family moved into one of the turpentine camps near Espanola. Later James moved to a camp known as the Sapling’s southwest of Bunnell before moving to Seville in northwest Volusia County to farm.
Turpentine was also big business in Haw Creek area southwest of Bunnell Stop. One of George W. Deen’s turpentine stills was located at Orange Hammock. My Grandfather James Emmett Deen operated this still for a time as did Major James Frank Lambert.
David Brown Paxton, a confederate veteran from Georgia who had come over from Seville, operated a still at Relay (near where the present fire tower is today on S.R. 11 just south of C.R. 304) – – in the late 1800’s a stagecoach ran from St Augustine to Daytona and they changed horses at Relay – – hence the name.
Daniel Martin Deen, another of George’s brothers, came from Georgia in 1903 to lease a still just west of Hunter Branch and established his brother-in-law Zachary G Holland and family there to operate the still. The Holland’s later cleared the land and began an early farming operation growing the first potato and cabbage crops.
George’s first cousin, William Henry (Doc) Deen and Doc’s son, Henry Carter Deen came from Baxley, GA in 1905 to lease a still near Espanola and one located at Dinner Island. Doc was joined the next year by his brother Robert Williams Deen and family. After spending some time in the turpentine business the Deen brothers also became early potato farmers.
The Deen’s and the Holland’s were not the only families to move south from Appling County to work for George. Also in 1898, George brought down from Baxley, a young 27-year-old bachelor by the name of Isaac I Moody, Jr. Double “I” as he is called here, is considered by most Flagler County pioneers to be the father of our county. Working for George and rooming with Isaac was another bachelor by the name of James Frank Lambert.
Lambert was a turpentine operator and as such, would advance cash to his white and black workers throughout the season, deducting these “loans” from their pay at the end of the year.
Isaac was employed as a woods rider and as such, he would make a preliminary survey of the trees, marking those in a given area that was suitable for chipping by smoothing off the bark on the face with a broad ax.
After working for George for a few years, Moody and Lambert formed a partnership and purchased from Fairhead and Strawn of Jacksonville, a single mill operated by Alva Bunnell. In 1905, they purchased a 30,000-acre tract of land from their former boss and erected a still by the railroad.
As timber was cut from the land during logging operations, the residents became very much interested in agriculture. However, turpentine operations still remained a large part of our county’s economy.
One of the natives of present-day Flagler County, Elzie Auldridge Hunter who was born in Espanola in 1888, worked for The National Turpentine and Pulpwood Company of Jacksonville as a tallyman. As such, Elzie entered crop marks on a tally sheet which showed from how many trees a field worker had collected sap. A field worker received credit for one crop mark for every 1,000 trees he collected. It was piece work and the pay was meager. Members of the Hunter family still reside in Flagler County today.
Later, the Green Bay Turpentine put into operation by Major Frank Lambert, James Emmett Deen and Jesse H McKnight in October 1919 began operations at Green Bay, just across the Flagler County line in Volusia County by installing cups in ten full crops of 100,000.
About ten years later, a new turpentine operator appeared in Flagler County by the name of Lewis Edward Wadsworth. He came to Flagler County with his family in 1928 from Hawthorne. He purchased the St. Joseph Turpentine Company and operated it until his death in 1935. His wife, the former Lotta Mary Littledale ran the company by herself until 1938 when she gave her 23-year-old son, Lewis II, a “working interest’ in what was later called, the Wadsworth Company.
Lewis managed the family operation until about 1944 when he started his own pulpwood and sawmill business.
In the early ’50s, with the help of John Alfred “Jack” Clegg and John Davis “Dave” Perryman, he organized Bunnell Timber Company which grew into one of the largest and most progressive timber brokerage firms in the state.
A few years later Wadsworth Lumber Company was founded. In 1974, Wadsworth Lumber Company was purchased by ITT.
It was around the time of World War II that the turpentine industry changed drastically. As timber companies began to log forest in Flagler and other North Florida counties, pulp mills began production at Palatka, Fernandina Beach, and Jacksonville.
According to a story by Andrew Mikula in the 17 July 1993 edition of the Flagler/Palm Coast News-Tribune – “With the advent of the pulp mills came a new method for production of turpentine. Wood chips from the freshly sawn pine logs would be batched into a cooker, which would be batched into a cooker, which extracted the spirits of turpentine and other by-products.
AGRICULTURE AND THE DEVELOPERS
St. Johns Park
The land boom in present-day Flagler County started on the west side of the county in the early 1900s at the settlement called Omega. The area had been settled in the early 1880s by the James Andrew Burnsed, Mathew (Mack) Davis, Jesse Valentine Malphurs, and James C. Miller families
A post office was established at Omega on 15 Nov 1902.
Remember Georgia Senator George W Deen?
George was on the board of directors for the St Johns Development Company. The first meeting of the company was held at Omega on 21 Dec 1908. The officers of the company elected at that meeting were: Charles H. Seig, president; Ernest Frederick Warner, who later served Flagler County as State Representative, first vice president; John Phillips, second vice president; Herbert L. Stewart, third vice president; and George W Deen, secretary, and treasurer.
These five men were the incorporators and subscribing stockholders, each subscribing for 2,000 shares of capital stock worth one million dollars. George owned all the land in this proposed development of 25,000 acres. The land was subject to timber leases made by George to A. T. Squire, James Emmett Deen and Company and the Espanola Turpentine Company.
George’s proposal to deed his land to the company in full payment for all the stock, for himself and the other four directors was approved. They having made satisfactory arrangements with him for this purpose and the stock was to be issued to him at his order.
In January 1909, the St Johns Development Company made a contract with the Ben Levin Advertising Agency of Chicago for the purpose of advertising the land parcels, both lot sizes and small farms, for sale. They advertised in northern papers with “Five Dollars Down and Five Dollars a Month.” Much of the land was sold by mail order and much of it was sold in 25 acre parcels.
The company built a three-story frame hotel on a 5-acre waterfront park. A large administration building was erected nearby, as was a two-story general store and a post office.
The company operated boat service for passengers and freight. Two boats, The McNeil and The Crescent made regular stops at Dead Lake bringing settlers, mail, prospectors, and supplies and returning with newly harvested farm products.
Earnest F Warner bought his fellow officers out on 02 Jan 1913 and continued development at now St. Johns Park.
Postal records indicate that the name of the Omega Post Office was changed to St Johns Park on 06 Mar 1911 and that the St Johns Park Post Office was closed on 19 Jun 1930 will all mail for the settlement being directed to Bunnell.
Today, all of the original St Johns Development Company buildings are gone. The Mathew Davis home on County Road 2006 still stands. The two-story house had formerly been the office of the A. T. Squire Lumber Company at Omega. Mack purchased the office building, moved it about a short distance east on then Deen Road, and converted into a home.
On December 3, 2007, the Flagler County Commission, using $1.7 million of voter-approved funds for Environmentally Sensitive Land, purchased 29 acres at Bull Creek Fish Camp to preserve public access to Dead Lake and some 23 acres of cypress wetlands. The area, the site of the former docks at St Johns Park, is in western Flagler County at the western end of County Road 2006.
Remember Isaac I. Moody, Jr. and Major James Frank Lambert and the 30,000 acres of land they purchase from Senator Deen?
These gentlemen were successful in the turpentine business but realized that some good farmland was in the acreage they now held.
On June 24, 1909, just six months after the St. Johns Development Company was formed on the western side of the county, the Bunnell Development Company was chartered with Isaac I. Moody, Jr. as president; Claude E Stewart of Jacksonville as vice-president; J. R. Stone of Jacksonville as secretary and treasurer, with each having 25 shares. Isaac died in Dec 1918 while serving as Flagler County’s first state representative. Following his death, in Jan 1919, Major James Frank Lambert was elected president; the Honorable W. A. McWilliam of St Augustine was elected vice president; Mr. J. A. Cranford of Jacksonville was elected secretary; and George Moody, Isaac’s brother, was elected secretary and treasurer.
The company established real estate offices here and in Chicago where train trips were arranged for potential buyers from the North to visit this area. The company also started the publication of a newspaper entitled “The Bunnell Home Builder.”
According to a “Map of the Bunnell Development Company’s Land at Bunnell, Florida” – ‘Every farm will be on a public road’ (so it says) – (the map is on file at the Flagler County Historical Society); the company’s plotted land included an area whose boundaries extended about 3.5 miles west of Bunnell, 1.5 miles north of Bunnell, 6 miles west of Bunnell stopping at Ocean City, just east of the present-day Intracoastal canal and about 8.5 miles south of Bunnell which would be very close to today’s Volusia County line.
The company’s hotel, The Halcyon, still stands at the SE corner of Railroad Street and Lambert Ave. (though fenced and ready for demolition), as do the original homes of Major Frank Lambert (NE corner of Railroad Street and Lambert Ave.) and Isaac Moody (NE corner of Railroad Street and Moody Blvd).
Bunnell Stop was first incorporated as a town on June 2, 1911, when the state legislature passed a special act of incorporation. James Emmett Deen who was mentioned previously was one of the Bunnell City Councilmen appointed by Governor Albert W. Gilchrist on 4 Sep 1911.
The writer does not know who the other city officials were, however, Mr. Deen’s appointment, which is framed and hanging on a wall at the Flagler County Historical Society’s Holden House Museum in Bunnell states: ” to be councilman for the town of Bunnell from the 4th day of September A D 1911, until the election and qualification of his successor”. James, or Emmett as he was called, later served as Supervisor of Elections for Flagler County from 1942 until his death in 1948.
The act is said to have contained a faulty description of boundary lines and because of this error, Bunnell did not function as a town until two years later when a special law was passed granting a charter. Appointed as councilmen by the governor at that time were; Isaac I Moody, Jr., George Moody (Isaac’s brother), William Edgar (Ed) Johnson, James Frank Lambert, William H. Cochran and W. Chapel Heath, mayor.
Remember Utley James White?
After his 26,000-acre tract in Hastings had been developed to a large extent, Mr. White disposed of his interests there and again engaged in the lumber trade, buying thirty-two thousand acres in the Haw Creek country, which mostly stood in pine and cypress.
Here, he built mills at Dupont to manufacture his lumber and built eighteen miles of timber railroad, twelve miles of which was narrow gauge first-class road. Cutting down the timber, he developed the Haw Creek lands, twenty thousand acres of which were rich black soil-as good as the best black soil of Illinois or any other state of the middle-west. It was fertile and suitable for practically all purposes and everything could be grown upon it.
His 30-year-old daughter, Lilla Maude White took charge of four hundred acres of the tract, which she developed and improved, bringing the same to a high state of cultivation. To ensure better drainage of the country, Mr. White first had dug two large canals, greatly improving the value of the land.
In Nov 1911, a land company located in Scranton, Pennsylvania purchased the Dupont holdings entire and Mr. White retired from active business, moving with his family to St. Augustine. The White’s built a palatial home on Anastasia Island in St. Augustine which is still standing today.
The land company put its main office at Dupont where they owned 720 acres of non-agriculture land. The hub for rail transportation – the hotel, sawmill, planing mill, stave mill, residences and school sat on this particular plot.
The DuPont Railroad and Land Company, like ITT of later years, offered prospective land buyers a place to stay while they traveled to present-day Flagler County to take a look at the land. Granted it wasn’t a Sheraton Hotel on the ocean, but rather the company’s sixteen-room (some equipped with private baths) hotel, the Tippecanoe Inn, overlooking the railroad tracks in Dupont. Since there were no major roads leading to present-day Flagler County, most prospective land buyers arrived by train on Henry Morrison Flagler’s Florida East Coast (FEC) Railroad.
One of the marketing tools used by the company was a glossy-for-the-time, multipage, booklet entitled “Florida’s Call to the Farmer.” It had a color cover, a photo on just about every page that showcased “bona fide views of the property” and much copy telling of the virtues of the “delightful” climate here which allowed for farming year around.
It was very similar to “The Bunnell Home Builder” published by the Bunnell Development Company with its many photos and testimonials.
It was also very similar to the “Palm Coaster” magazine, a glossy quarterly produced by ITT Community Development Corporation in the ’70s and ’80s that kept lot owners updated on community progress, and as always the ‘delightful’ climate.
Like more modern-day developers, the Bunnell Development Company and the DuPont Land Company may have stretched the truth just a bit.
The DuPont Land Company also published a house organ for its hotel in Dupont. This small newspaper was also mailed to their landowners and prospective landowners. You can view “Florida’s Call to the Farmer,” The Bunnell Home Builder and a copy of The Tippecanoe Council Fire” at the Flagler County Historical Society’s Holden House Museum in Bunnell (open 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Wednesday).
The former site of the once-thriving community of Dupont is some six miles south of Bunnell on U.S. 1. As with St Johns Park, the original commercial buildings that were once the hub of the community are long gone. This once-thriving community is now represented by two large junkyards, a truss plant and a scattering of single-family homes.
When Utley White constructed the narrow gauge railroad through the Haw Creek section to the southwest of Dupont, two families were living in the area, the Walter Eugene Knight’s and the Nathan Roberts’. Mr. Knight was raising sheep and doing some farming. Mr. Roberts did some farming too, but he had a fair-sized orange grove and a large Scuppernong grape arbor.
With the many working people coming into the area, Utley James White built three houses in the area. Utley also put up telephone lines and all the homes had telephone service.
All of the bridge timbers for the Key West Extension of the Florida East Coast Railway were cut from the Haw Creek section and manufactured in the Utley J. White sawmill at Dupont. The Key West Extension later became the Over Seas Highway (now U.S. 1), when the railway was removed.
In 1907, Mr. White planted Irish potatoes for commercial purposes. When the Dupont Railroad and Land Company took over Utley’s operations in 1912, they changed the narrow gauge railroad to Haw Creek to standard gauge. This change allowed farmers to ship produce directly from their farms to their wholesalers across the country without having to transfer their goods to standard gauge cars at Dupont for shipment on the Florida East Coast Railroad.
The “Dummy”, as the train was called, made several trips a day to Haw Creek and the people living there at that time boasted of mail delivery twice a day.
Many people used hand cars to go back and forth to their work and to Dupont. The telephones were connected to the Bunnell Exchange with Billie Graham McIntosh as the telephone operator.
After the timber had been cut from this area, the people became interested in agriculture. Northern settlers began to come and build homes. During the harvesting season-long trains of carload lots of produce on its way to market was a common sight
Ocean City (Flagler Beach)
Ocean City was a small settlement on present-day Moody Boulevard on the west side of the Intracoastal Canal.
In the early 1910s, Mr. and Mrs. William Archie Cook man purchased seven, acres of land from the Bunnell Development Company and planted an orange grove on Lambert Street about a mile north of the present bridge.
Mr. and Mrs. Austin Vanburen Wickline, who had resided in Dupont and Haw Creek for a short time, also purchased several lots and built a home there in 1913. They were located on Lambert Street about 300 feet north of the present bridge. They later added a room to be used as a store. The Ocean City Post Office was established on 30 Jan 1915 and housed in the Wickline store. Mrs. Wickline, the former Esther “Etta” Chaffee, was appointed Postmaster.
With the fast-moving development of Bunnell and the surrounding farming area, Isaac I. Moody’s younger brother George envisioned the development of the coastline as a beach resort, vacation, and land tourist area. After investigation, he found the land east of the Inland Navigation Canal could only be acquired through homesteading and in September of 1913 he made application to homestead 169 acres of land which included one mile of ocean frontage extending west to the marshland.
With the raw, undeveloped land and no access to the beach came the tedious task of transporting needed materials to erect the buildings in the homestead agreement. Cement and other supplies were shipped from Jacksonville by freight boats which served the waterway from Jacksonville south two days each week.
After the concrete blocks were made, Mr. Moody’s father-in-law, Leonard Miles, a brick mason of Baxley, Georgia, came down to lay the blocks for the first home to be built in Ocean City Beach, which was to become Flagler Beach in 1923. The five-room house was located on the corner of what is now known as Highway A1A and Second Street just north of the present municipal pier. The family moved into the home in February 1914.
To make the beach accessible, Mr. Moody built a ferry boat large enough to transport an automobile across the canal, and a corduroy road across the narrow part of the marshland. Austin Wickline operated the ferry for many months
The beach proved to be a very popular spot for the people of the surrounding area and Bunnell where they enjoyed picnics, surf bathing, camping, and fishing. Mr. Moody soon added a garage, showers and dressing rooms for the convenience of the visitors.
Within the first year, William A. Cochran had homesteaded a mile of ocean frontage on the north, Luther Orlando Upson and John M. Fuquay of Daytona Beach, each homesteaded a half-mile of ocean frontage to the south of Mr. Moody. These homestead lands and the Ocean City area comprise today’s Flagler Beach.
During 1916, George Moody built the Ocean City Beach Casino as a recreation center. The building was 75′ by 150′ and faced the ocean with a side entrance on Moody Boulevard. The building had a floor for dancing and skating, a refreshment center, fifty dressing rooms, several showers, and a small living quarter’s area. This was later sold to Smiley Armstrong Baker, Sr., who added an ocean fishing pier to the property. The pier was destroyed in the mid-1920s by a hurricane. The present Municipal Fishing Pier which was constructed in 1928 is located one block south of the first pier.
Many improvements and additions were made over the next few years. The first bridge, a swing bridge, over the canal to the beach was completed in 1920 using funds from the Haw Creek special and road which provided that all bridges would be free public bridges.
In Jun 1921, the charter was received for the Ocean City Improvement Company listing George Moody, president, Robert Lee Harper, vice president, and attorney Claude Grady Varn as secretary and treasurer. The company was capitalized at $50,000 and proposed to “develop Ocean City Beach by building streets and sidewalks, cottage and other dwellings, hotel; to install light and water plants, construct parks, causeways, lakes and other things for the beautification of one of the finest townsites along the east coast of Florida….” Mr. and Mrs. Milo Seckner were the first customers of this new company.
In Jul 1921, the directors of the Ocean City Improvement Company decided to erect a 30-room hotel to be….of the American Colonial Type…and to be thoroughly modern in all respects with fire protection and electrically lighted from cellar to garret.” The site of the hotel was to be just opposite the Casino, facing the Atlantic about 150 (yards, though not indicated in the newspaper article) from the ocean barrier (site of the present weekend Farmers Market).
Public records show that in Aug 1921, George Moody appeared before the board of county commissioners and stated that he understood that the board was contemplating charging tolls on the Ocean City Bridge on account of not having enough money on hand sufficient to pay the bridge tender. He stated that A. V. Wickline would accept the position for $25 per month which price was $20 less per month than they were paying to their present bridge tender.
Construction of the Flagler Beach Hotel was begun by Dana Fellows Fuquay and George Moody. Mr. Moody sold his share to Mr. Fuquay before it was completed in 1924. A gala opening celebration was held on July 4, 1925 (the hotel was purchased in Nov 1945 by J. W. Green and son W. M. Green of Atlanta – it had been formerly owned by W. H. Barnes of Rockford, IL)
Mr. Moody began construction of a business and hotel building across the highway from the pier with only a quarter of the building was erected before the famous boom busted. The building was sold in 1945 to Mr. and Mrs. Waiter Landers. The hotel was subsequently torn down and replaced by the NationsBank building.
Flagler Beach became an incorporated town on April 16, 1925. The first town officials were: George Moody, Mayor; Councilmen were Charles Parker, Harry Wallace Sessions, Robert W. Raulerson, Dewey D. Moody, and Luther O. Upson.
A one-room school served Flagler Beach for a number of years. The county built the present school building in 1925. Several classrooms and the cafetorium were added later. The old school building and some other buildings added later are now known as the Wickline Center.
George Moody at the age of 34 began the development of Flagler Beach. He was actively identified with the town’s development during the years serving as mayor and also as a member of the city commission for many years. At the age of 74, he began the development of the marshland north of Moody Boulevard which is now known as Venice Park and Palm Harbor. Most all of the lots in the subdivisions were designed for a street frontage and a water frontage.
For a more detailed account of the history of Flagler Beach, please see “A New Beginning – A Picturesque History of Flagler Beach, Florida” by Catherine Wickline Wilson. Copies are on sale at the Flagler Beach Museum and at the Flagler County Historical Society (Holden House) in Bunnell.
Polish immigrants in Chicago, Detroit, and other cities were the original settlers of this new town about six miles south of Bunnell. They had been attracted to this area by the direct marketing efforts of the Bunnell Development Company whose advertisements to this audience were written in the Polish language. Some of the ads are on display at the Flagler County Historical Society Museum in Bunnell.
Before leaving for Florida a committee was formed and it raised $1,000 to build a church in Korona. God, Country, and Honor was their traditional motto. Their pioneering spirit and tremendous desire to find a new life in the south spurred them on.
The first 35 families arrived early in 1914. Among these were Stupecki, Waszewski, Strach, Trojanowski, Mazurewicz, Cyzycki and others. They began building their homes and a duplex home for their priest, Rev. Father Andrew Baczyk. Part of his home later became their first Post Office on 27 Apr 1918 and the highlight of the day was waiting for the Florida East Coast local to drop off the mail pouch.
Izydor Waszewski was awarded the contract to build the church and the first Mass was celebrated with all the pomp and ceremony they could arrange. Mary Frankowiak – – Miss Mary, as she is affectionately called – – played the organ and sang the Mass and decorated the Altar for many years. Miss Mary died in 1968 and is buried the St. Mary’s Church Cemetery in Korona.
Poor drainage, hordes of mosquitoes and no roads or farm tools forced some settlers to return to Chicago. Others stayed on to eke out a living. Slowly the dense vegetation disappeared; more homes began dotting the countryside. Potato and vegetable crops helped build the economy of Korona. In later years many of the residents went into the poultry raising business.
More families began to arrive, among them the Smigielskis, Mikiulkas, Kozaks, Paseks and others. The Michons, Novaks, Pikulas settled in Codyville; the Krols, Kaczanowskis, Mlotkowskis, Kuczewskis and others in Favoretta.
In 1926, a new landmark was added to Korona. It was called The White Eagle Hotel and was erected by the late Barney Trojanowski.
Barney Trojan, as he was later called, had quarters for his family and rooms for tourists on the upper floor. On the ground floor were a grocery, feed store, and a real estate office. Later the entire first floor was turned into a beer garden with a large dance floor.
Here, for many years, dances were held Wednesdays and Saturdays. Polish people from all over Florida gathered here to celebrate all the major holidays. Church suppers, club dances made this the gathering center of the area. This building was torn down in 1959 when U.S. Highway 1 was enlarged from two to four lanes. The present White Eagle Bar in Korona is very near to where the original White Eagle was located.
The St. Christopher’s Shrine next to the old church, was built when Rev. Fr. C. Hoffman became resident pastor. His personality and drive made friends for him all over this section of the state. The Shrine was his gift to Korona and to all motorists who would come and pray to the Patron Saint of travelers.
St. Mary’s Parish was attended spiritually by the Redemptory’s Priests from New Smyrna Beach until 1954. That year the parish was given to the Diocesan Priests of St. Augustine.
The Dixie Highway and U.S. 1
Early county developer Isaac I. Moody, Jr., was elected President of the Board of County Commissioners for St Johns County in 1912.
Newspaper accounts show that in Apr 1913 he was in St Augustine with his wife to hear a speech by William Jennings Bryan. They then left for Washington, DC where they attended the Good Roads Convention.
In Apr 1914, Isaac was pleased to announce that St Johns County voters had approved a $650,000 Bond Issue for a new highway to be made of vitrified brick. Soon thereafter work in present-day Flagler County started from the Bunnell State Bank and preceded in two directions, one crew working east to Ocean City and one crew working north towards Espanola.
The highway was to become a part of the Dixie Highway, a small network of interconnected paved roads, rather than a single highway that connected the Midwest with the southern United States. It was overseen by the Dixie Highway Association and funded by a group of individuals, businesses, local, and state governments. The federal government played little role, but from the early 1920s on it provided increasing funding, until 1927 when the Dixie Highway Association was disbanded and the highway was taken over as part of the United States highway system with some portions becoming state roads.
The Dixie Highway came south from St Augustine, through Hastings, through Espanola and then on to Bunnell. From Bunnell, it went east to Ocean City and then south along the present John Anderson Highway to Volusia CO. Later an extension was added which whet from Bunnell to Korona and then SE to connect with the present John Anderson Highway.
The Dixie Highway, which we now call the old brick road, ceased to be a major roadway, when the New Dixie Highway, named by the State as State Road 4 (now U.S. 1), was opened on 01 Dec 1927 offering a direct route south from St. Augustine to Bunnell, to Korona and on south to Ormond.
State Highway A-1-A
While the New Dixie Highway was under construction, the movement was afoot by developers to build a highway south from St. Augustine along the Atlantic Coast shoreline.
One of the prime movers was Claude Grady Varn who first appeared in this piece as being elected in Jun 1921 as secretary and treasurer for the Ocean City Improvement Company.
Grady received a general education in the public schools of Fort Mead, FL and after completion of high school there, matriculated at Stetson University in DeLand from which he graduated with a Bachelor of Laws degree in the class of 1914. That same year he was admitted to the State Bar and became associated with the law firm of Landis, Fish, and Hull in DeLand. He continued with the firm for three years removing to Bunnell, FL in 1917.
He was the first attorney in the town of Bunnell and was the co-founder of the Flagler County Abstract Company and in Sep 1917 was appointed local attorney for the Florida East Coast Railway.
On 17 Apr 1922, he, for several years past attorney for the Flagler County Board of Commissioners handed in his resignation and asked to be immediately released. It was said that he had been retained by the Dupont Holding Company and that they had several cases pending in county and other courts.
Grady invested extensively in real estate and at one time owned more ocean-front footage than any other person in the state. In conjunction with his realty work, he organized the St Johns County Bridge Company which he headed up as president (H E Black was the financial manager).
The concern was prominently identified with the construction of the Ocean Shore Boulevard from St Augustine to Daytona Beach, a route that would cut off 22 miles between Jacksonville and Miami.
In October 1925, work was started on the Matanzas Inlet bridge, at the southern end of Anastasia Island, the permit for which was held by the St. Johns County Bridge Company of he was president. The construction of the bridge which was to be of creosote pile and lumber construction, with steel draw span, was to be the first link of a proposed ocean shore boulevard which was expected to stretch between Daytona and St. Augustine.
The elaborate Davis Shores development on the northern end of Anastasia Island was to form the approach to the boulevard at the St. Augustine end, while the southern was to be at Mosquito Inlet south of Daytona Beach. The boulevard was to pass directly through Flagler Beach and skirt the ocean shore from north to south through Flagler County.
The bridge was to be informally opened on Sunday, March 20, 1927, according to an advertisement in The Flagler Tribune of 17 Mar 1927.
Another individual who played a large part in these proceedings was William Edgar (Ed) Johnson. He was a moving factor in the creation of the Ocean Shore Improvement District which was created to build the present A1A highway from St. Augustine to Daytona Beach. Ed served as chairman of the trustees of the district for 10 years.
Ed and his family moved to Bunnell in early 1913 from Tennessee. He was not only engaged in many business ventures but was well known in the politics of the county – serving as a councilman in June 1913 when Bunnell was incorporated and elected president by the council; he served as Superintendent of Public Instruction for Flagler County from Dec 1918 until Jan 1921; as Tax Assessor for a term; and as a County Commissioner from 1929 to 1939, two terms of which he was Chairman of the Board. He was chairman of the Flagler County Selective Service Board from its inception in Oct 1940 until his death in 1944.
In 1917, Mr. Johnson bought several tracts of land in the northeast section of Flagler County and eventually owned a great portion of the land known as the Hernandez Grant. He built a home on the east side of the canal, named his home-place Bon Terra Estates and moved his family there. At the time, there was no road on the ocean side of the canal. The only road at that time was a dirt road (now Lambert Avenue) which ran up the west side of the canal to the St. Joe Grade (present-day Palm Coast Parkway).
After moving to the Hammock he was engaged in extensive truck farming. He also had a dairy.
In May 1924, he added 2,200 acres to his extensive holdings in Flagler CO, FL and adjoining his property at the beach. He already owned 1,500 acres on the canal.
Bon Terra was the only residence in the hammock area in the early years to have a telephone. The property was maintained with the help of about 10 artesian wells – the house well was run on electricity by a turbine which also provided electricity to the 17 room house which stood on the property until it was purchased by ITT in the 1970s.
LATER BEACHSIDE DEVELOPMENTS
Washington Oaks Gardens State Park
At the beginning of this history, I mentioned General Joseph Marion Hernandez and his Bella Vista Plantation. Bella Vista is now our beautiful Washington Oaks Gardens State Park.
Between 1923 and 1936, the general’s former plantation very nearly became a subdivision.
General Hernandez’s daughter, Lucia Catalina (Louisa Caroline) married George Lawrence Washington in St. Augustine on 07 Jan 1845 and this family became the owners of Bella Vista Plantation which later became known as Washington Oaks. Lousia Caroline Hernandez Washington died about 1859 and George married about 1865, Miss Eleanor S. Stephens from New Jersey.
Charles Minor Washington, the youngest son of George Lawrence and Eleanor Stephens, acquired sole ownership of Washington Oaks from his father’s other heirs in 1914. Charles sold the property in 1923 to Ed and Lillian Johnson.
The Johnson’s rather quickly sold a five-sixteenths interest in the property to L. F. Galloway of Seminole County and another 5/16 to Claude Varn.
In 1926, the Johnson’s and their associates of the Coastal Holding Company transferred title to Section 39 and Section 40 – Bella Vista and most of the old Mala Compra plantation – to the Hernandez Estates Corporation of which Ed Johnson was president.
The land was subdivided and a plat of the Hernandez Estates was filed with Flagler County preparatory to selling tracts to the public. These events were occurring just as the Florida real estate boom began to collapse.
In 1927, Hernandez Estates failed to pay the property taxes on Sections 39 and 40 and all plans for development there came to a halt.
For the next ten years or so, these properties fell into many hands with the selling and buying of tax deeds. On April 7, 1936, Louise P. Clark of Westchester County, NY, the future Mrs. Owen D. Young, purchased Washington Oaks. In 1965, the Young’s donated most of the property to the State of Florida who turned it into Washington Oaks Gardens State Park.
Marineland, located on State Road A1A, just south of the St Johns County line, opened in 1938 as the world’s first underwater motion picture studio. A new word, “oceanarium,” was coined to describe it; denoting a place where various species of marine life lived together, as they do in the sea, rather than kept segregated, as they had traditionally been in aquaria.
The founding group of “Marine Studios,” the original name given the facility, included men who shared an interest in film making and exploring and who had ties to some of the great American fortunes. The founders were:
W. Douglas Burden, a great-great-grandson of Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt, who was a trustee of the American Museum of Natural History, and author of “The Dragon Lizards of Komodo” and producer of a film on Indian life, “The Silent Enemy.”
His cousin, Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney, the chairman of Pan American Airways who was involved in making the motion picture classic “Gone with the Wind.”
Sherman Pratt, whose grandfather was one of the partners of John D. Rockefeller in Standard Oil, and who was connected with RKO pictures and an active member of the Explorers Club, and
Count Ilia Tolstoy, the grandson of the Russian novelist, Leo Tolstoy, shared with his cofounders an interest in natural history and film-making.
These men were intrigued by the success of their friend Merian Cooper (best known for the movie “King Kong”) in obtaining scenes of wild animals for his movie Chag. Cooper had built a filming corral in the jungle sturdy enough to hold animals and spacious enough so as not to be visible on film and with it pioneered a new level of realism in motion pictures.
Burden and Vanderbilt believed something similar could be done with underwater filming and after seeking an appropriate location chose a remote spot on the Northeastern Florida coast between St. Augustine and Daytona Beach.
The site was recommended by its relative freedom from the destructiveness of hurricanes, the clarity of the coastal water, and its location near Matanzas Inlet and the Intracoastal Waterway, which would permit deep-sea specimens to be rapidly transported to the proposed facility’s aquariums.
The formal opening on June 23, 1938, drew over 20,000 people and within two years the facility was attracting nearly a half-million visitors annually. It at once became the state’s premier tourist attraction, that is, a commercial facility designed expressly to appeal to visitors.
Although the advent of war soon forced Marine Studios to close temporarily, by 1951 it had regained its place as the state’s top commercial attraction. Eventually, Marineland, as the facility was renamed in the 1940s, was supplanted in popularity within the state by other attractions such as Disney World and Sea World in Orlando, resulting largely from changing travel patterns, but the significance of its contribution to the development of tourism in Florida, the state’s largest industry and one that presently attracts 36 million visitors annually, remains.
Eventually, the maintenance demands of the old park became too costly. The Circular Oceanarium (400,000 gallons) the Rectangular Oceanarium (450,000 gallons), the Quality Inn/Marineland with its Dolphin Room and Moby Dick Lounge, the Sandpiper Snack Bar, and the nearby Dolphin Restaurant who’s clientele included Ernest Hemingway and Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, as well as all of the park buildings west of Highway A1A, have all been demolished.
A large part of Marineland’s dolphin population was sold off to Orlando attractions, however, today, a new 1.3 million gallon series of dolphin habits has been constructed at Marineland and visitors may choose from a variety of interactive programs where they “can enjoy dolphins up close.”
You can look at the dolphins today for a small fee, but if you want to swim with them, it is going to cost you close to $200.
On Monday afternoon, 16 Jun 1969, more than 175 people attended a cocktail party at the Princess Estate in northern Flagler County to hear the announcement made by ITT-Rayonier as to their plans for the development of a 20,000-acre tract of land in NE Flagler County.
ITT-Rayonier had purchased 6,000 acres from prominent Flagler County businessman Lewis Edward Wadsworth III and others. This was added to their newly acquired 13,000-acre Lehigh Portland Cement Company tract and the 70,000 acres the company already owned in Flagler and St. Johns counties.
ITT-Rayonier officials announced that they would turn over the aforementioned properties to Levitt and Sons, a subsidiary unit of ITT for development. Dr. Norman Young, an economic and marketing specialist with Levitt and Sons, was named president of the Levitt Land Company which would develop the Flagler County community, which at this point in time, did not have a name.
The complex was to be developed in the area formerly owned by Lehigh and in the hammock area. Canals were to be constructed to accommodate thousands of navigable lots. Work on the complex was anticipated to begin before the end of 1969 and lots were to be up for sale by the spring of 1970.
Dr. Young stated that the new city would be eventually populated by 750,000 residents and that the area would be designed to attract: “people with leisure time; retirement people; and people wanting to invest in property.”
In 1970, land sales began with Palm Coast being the name for the new city. According to the City of Palm Coast Historian, Arthur E. “Art” Dycke, the population of Flagler County was 4,454 and the population of Palm Coast was 0.
Must-read books for those interested in the development of Palm Coast are Art’s books: “Images of America – Palm Coast,” and “Alan Smolen – Father of Palm Coast, 1975-1985.”
Alan Smolen died on Saturday, 08 Sep 2008. He is buried here, in his adopted county, at Flagler Palms Memorial Gardens, next to his wife, Sylvia, who died, 03 Dec 2008.