Early Boynton Beach Leaders: Horace B. Murray

Horace Bentley Murray


Bailey, Michigan native Horace Bentley Murray, his wife Mary Smith, and their three children, Florence, Clyde and Glenn travelled by train, steamboat and launch to a tiny Florida seaside settlement known as “Boynton,” arriving in January, 1896.

Murray, known as H.B. or simply “Hort” by family and friends, came to Florida as the head carpenter for Michigan politician Major Nathan Smith Boynton’s winter home. The spacious home, located on the rocky coastal ridge. overlooked the turquoise blue Atlantic Ocean.

Henry M. Flagler’s Florida East Coast Railway, Boynton station


Nathan Boynton’s winter home – later the Hotel Boynton

While Murray and other laborers constructed the two-story wooden structure, the Murray family lived in a canvas tent on the west side of the canal (known today at the inland or Intracoastal Waterway).

Murray Family outside a Palmetto Thatched structure on their Boynton farm

Murray, like many early settlers, took advantage of Florida’s sunny clime and virgin soil and grew tomatoes (TOMS) and other winter vegetables while helping the fledgling settlement grow. He built homes for many of Boynton’s early settlers, including Fred S. and Byrd Spilman Dewey, who had purchased the Boynton garden lands in 1892 and filed the original plat for the Town of Boynton in September 1898, the same year Maj. Boynton opened his oceanfront home as a winter retreat for northern visitors.

Wooden swing bridge over the inland canal built by H.B. Murray, 1911

Murray raised ten children in Boynton, and fathered the town, designing bridges, constructing buildings, and steering the settlement toward incorporation. Though he didn’t serve as Boynton’s inaugural mayor (that honor belongs to George E. Coon), H.B. Murray has the distinction of winning the first election following the town’s successful incorporation in June, 1920.

Horace B. Murray Family

Lyman A. Boomer’s 1910 Boynton Map

From the October 2004 issue of The Historian. At the time, the society did not know Lyman Boomer’s identity.

In 2004, the Boynton Beach Historical Society reprinted a map of 1910 Boynton in the October issue of The Historian. The map’s creator was Lyman A. Boomer, age 10. At the time, no one at the historical society remembered a Boomer family, and several officers determined that the lad must have been a Lyman family member nicknamed “Boomer.”From the October 2004 issue of The Historian. At the time, the society did not know Lyman Boomer's identity.

The map depicted the original town of Boynton and had a key with family names and businesses. It even showed the Boynton Hotel, Fred Dewey’s orange grove, pineapple plantations, truck farms, the cemetery, and packing houses.

Lyman A. Boomer’s “Boynton in 1910” map reproduced in the Boynton Beach Star, ca. 1968.


Over the years, Ginger Pedersen and I used this map, along with Sanborn maps and real estate sales ledgers to recreate the original Town of Boynton and to research Boynton’s pioneers. Along the way, we discovered that Lyman Boomer was a real person, that the Boomer family did indeed live in Boynton in 1910, that Lyman was a talented artist with a keen interest in history, and we made contact with a family member.

Since Lyman Boomer left us with an important document illustrating early Boynton, I think it’s only fitting to tell his amazing story.

John and Ida Boomer (center/left), John’s sister Ella Boomer, and children Florence, Horace and Lyman in front of the Boomer home, ca. 1910.


John Boomer, a Missouri farmer, tried his hand truck farming in early Boynton. The family arrived in early 1909 and returned back to the Midwest in 1914. The 1910 federal census shows John, his wife Ida, sister Emily, and three children, Horace, age 13, Lyman, age 8 and Florence, age 3. Mr. Boomer’s occupation was listed as farmer. Their small frame house stood on the northeast corner of Ocean Avenue and Federal Highway.

1910 Federal Census record showing the Boomer family living in Boynton. John Boomer’s occupation is listed as a farmer in the truck farming business.


At the time, about 600 people were on the census pages for the greater Boynton region. The Boomer children attended school and played with the Murray kids, and Lyman, we learned, maintained a friendship with several Murray brothers even after they were grown men.

In the early 1920s, the Boomer clan moved to California, and lived in the Los Angeles area. Horace worked in a gold mine and Lyman opened an advertising firm painting signs and backdrops for Hollywood movies. Our Boynton map maker had true artistic talent. In the 1930s, Lyman wrote and illustrated a Wildlife Illustrated trilogy and won national acclaim. School children and families learned about birds, animals, and reptiles in their natural habitats from his works.

Illustrated Wildlife written and illustrated by Lyman A. Boomer, 1935

Lyman returned to Boynton for a visit in the late 1920s, and spent time with his childhood chums, Horace and Arthur Murray. A few years ago, Lyman’s great nephew, Dave Lineberry, saw our Facebook post about Lyman and sent us a link to Lyman’s

of going to a “Cracker Dance” with the brothers Murray. Mr. Lineberry also alerted us to the fact that Lyman also wrote a book about growing up in Florida. We don’t have a copy of it, but are actively looking for one.

The Florida Everglades illustration by Lyman A. Boomer

Lyman later had a cattle farm in Missouri, and over the years earned a reputation as a talented artist and a noted naturalist.

Lyman Boomer, and friends Brice and Bess Jones, ca. 1970s

He cared deeply about history and the environment and learned all he could about the land, including the native American tribes. He served as family historian and kept the family treasures. I feel that somewhere out there there are more Boynton images.

In the early 1970s, Lyman and his second wife sold the farm and moved into town. A local newspaper advertised an estate sale and listed household good, antiques and farming implements. It would seem that was a very sad time for Lyman to give up so much of his estate.

1974 estate auction advertisement for Mr. and Mrs. Lyman A. Boomer. After they sold their farm and moved to town they downsized and sold off personal household good and farming implements.

Lyman and his first wife had two sons, who are both gone now. We are grateful that his grand-nephew is keeping Lyman’s memory alive. In 2004, a newspaperman in Lyman’s hometown was gathering information, photos and stories for a Lyman Andrews Boomer biography. The journalist, Chris Houston advised me a few years ago that he hadn’t received the response he needed and the project is on hold.

One young boy’s simple Boynton cartography leaves us with an understanding of how people lived here 110 years ago. Thank you, Lyman for giving us a glimpse into the past with your legacy. Wish I could have met you.

Lyman Andrews Boomer
1901- 1990

Close-up of Lyman Boomer’s 1910 Boynton map depicting the Boynton Hotel and the Coquimbo shipwreck.

Close-up of Lyman Boomer’s 1910 Boynton map.

Close-up of Lyman Boomer’s 1910 Boynton map.

Boynton Beach Memories

“What’s your earliest Boynton Beach memory?” If one asked that question on the street, the beach, at the mall or even on Facebook, it’s likely there’d be dozens, if not hundreds or thousands of different early memories, visions (or versions) of Boynton. That’s because we all have our personal memories, our familial stories. We may have been born in different eras, grew up in a different neighborhood, or hung out at different places.

There’s probably some commonalities, like food. People tend to fondly remember food. It wouldn’t be an oversimplification to say that Bud’s Chicken, Lucy’s Donuts, Lucille and Otley’s Restaurant and Sal’s (or Danny’s) Pizza comes up. Who the heck is Danny, anyway? Oh, he’s a new kid on the block, like many of you (Welcome to the neighborhood).

Other common threads are the beach, A1A and the Boynton Inlet. Just don’t call it by it’s official name (The South Lake Worth Inlet). That would irritate generations of people who are certain the name is the Boynton Inlet—and that would be especially confusing because there’s a town nearby named Lake Worth. Or is that Lake Worth Beach? Depends upon who you ask, and when they moved here.

And the Boynton Beach Mall. Again, everyone has their version. Back when there was NOTHING to do in little old quiet Boynton, the mall was a HUGE deal. Jordan Marsh, Burdines, food, games, hanging out in something called air-conditioning…ahh. Then there’s haters…haters gonna hate—and supporters. Like mall walkers. They love the mall. And dad, Sears is one of his favorite stores. Oh dear, Sears is gone. Lots of people will say that Sears, ToysRUs, and K-Mart or whatever store is lame—until it’s gone. Then they miss it and post all kinds of photographs wishing that it was still there, and that they could buy some Craftsman tools.

A view of the original bridge over the inlet, sometimes called Rainbow Bridge or Old McDonald Bridge for its twin arches

That reminds me of the Two Georges. No, not the restaurant, the boat. Back in the 1960s (AKA The old days), Boynton was a farming and fishing town. Really, it was. Once the Inlet (the cut to old-timers) opened up, commercial and sport fishermen and even weekend warriors could ride out through the Inlet to perhaps the best fishing spots in the country. That was before wave runners, jet-skis and selfies. The Two Georges was just one of the ½ dozen head boats and several dozen charter boats docked at Boynton marinas. A head boat is a boat where folks pay a few bucks a head (a person) to fish for four hours. They are sometimes called drift boats, because once the captain gets near a favorite fishing spot, or at least the water is a certain depth, he cuts the engine for a time and lets the boat…drift. I won’t tell you what happened to the Two Georges boat (I’ll let the old-timers here chime in), but I can tell you that the Two Georges Restaurant is still here, and so is the Banana Boat. But someone is thinking of the restaurant that was there before the Banana Boat. It begins with an S…..it was owned by the Molle’s…Smokey’s! That’s it, Smokey’s Wharf!

What about the farms? It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that back in the 1970s pretty much everything west of Congress was farmland. West of Military was “the boonies.” That brings us back to the question? What is your version of Boynton? For some it was the blue crabs that flooded the coastal highway, causing tire punctures. For others it was taking horseback riding lessons at one of Boynton’s many stables. Others recall fishing off N. 22nd Avenue (what’s that you say?)…I mean Gateway Blvd. There was a Go-Kart and midget car race track on Lawrence Road…and a citrus farm where you could drink fresh squeezed orange juice, ride a tram through the groves, eat pie, see a native Seminole wrestle an alligator. Certainly you remember Knollwood Groves? What about Palm Beach Groves, Sturrock Groves, Indian Hill Groves, Blood’s Hammock Groves? Why did you think there is a school on Lawrence Road called Citrus Cove?  Have you any idea where the Rangeline is? State Road 441 (AKA the Everglades). Don’t get me started on the dairies. Or the roses and the orchids. Or the pineapples. Or the toms. Tom who? Tom-a-to.

Times change. Nothing stays the same. People are born. We live, we love, we die. Storms come, storms go, we rebuild, preserve what we can, and honor and memorialize what is gone. Embrace what you’ve got. As Joni Mitchell sang “ … you don’t know what you’ve got
till it’s gone … “

It’s a Wrap: The Sunday Brown Wrapper Weekly History Vignettes

Do you remember the Sunday Brown Wrapper history pages published in South Florida newspapers during the late 1970s and 1980s? These history pages, resembling a brown grocery sack and sponsored by First Federal Savings of the Palm Beaches (The Big First), were written by local authors and contained short history vignettes (much like today’s blog posts). The accounts weren’t foot-noted, but delivered interesting information on a variety of local news topics with the Sunday newspaper. The history section was wrapped around a thick bundle of advertisements and the popular “funnies.”

wreck of the coquimbo

Many of the Brown Wrappers are available online in their entirety via Google News, and more are being scanned by local historical societies and libraries for your reading pleasure. The Wreck of the Coquimbo, shown here, from the July 27, 1980 edition of the Palm Beach Post and the Palm Beach Daily News, was written by James H. Nichols.

The Wreck of the Coquimbowreck of the coquimbo2png

Jim Nichols graduated from FAU with a Master’s Degree in History and served as a historic researcher for the Boynton Beach City Library. Mr. Nichols was also a photographer and a member of the Boynton Beach Historical Society.

Ronald Tee Johnson created the Sunday Brown Wrapper format in 1975, initially as a monthly special advertising campaign produced by First Federal Savings ad agency. The weekly Sunday Brown Wrappers ran for seven consecutive years in The Palm Beach Post – Post Times and were also packaged with the Ft. Lauderdale News and the Sun-Sentinel Sunday newspapers. The reverse side of each Brown Wrapper contained a full-page advertising First Federal’s services.

Judge James R. Knott

Judge James R. Knott


The most prolific writer for the Sunday Brown Wrapper series was Judge James R. Knott. Judge Knott, a Palm Beach County circuit judge from 1956 to 1977, served as the President of the Historical Society of Palm Beach County. His passion for history resulted in several books on the subject including Tales of Tallahassee Twice Told and Untold: A Reminisce.
tales of tally

Many of Judge Knott’s Sunday Brown Wrapper stories are available in book format, The Mansion Builders, Historical Vignettes of Palm Beach, Palm Beach Revisited: Historical Vignettes of Palm Beach County and Palm Beach Revisited II: Historical Vignettes of Palm Beach County. While now out of print, several local libraries have copies of these books. You can also occasionally purchase copies on used book sites such as Half and AbeBooks.

pb revisited 2

pb revisited

Some of the Sunday Brown Wrappers currently available online are about Boynton history.

Breakfast Poetry (about poet Edgar Guest wintering at the Boynton Oceanfront Hotel) by James Hartley Nichols, September 12, 1982.
Breakfast Poetry

Orange Grove House of Refuge

Orange Grove House of Refuge

The Story of a Pioneer Woman – About Little Pierce Voss and Charlie Pierce
Pioneer Woman
And others that are simply of general interest.

November 15, 1980 – Daddy’s Bicycle Carried Five People
Daddy’s Bicycle Carried Five People

January 4, 1981 – The Currie Map of West Palm Beach 1907.
The Currie Map of 1907

Since the brown grocery sack paper the history accounts were printed on was thick and durable, many of the original copies have survived and can be viewed at libraries and historical societies throughout Palm Beach County. The ongoing digitization efforts ensure preservation of this important facet of Palm Beach County history and will make research and reminiscing easier than ever.

Boynton’s Oldest House

In the early 1900s, Boynton pioneer families lived in frame vernacular homes. Horace Bentley Murray, who built the Boynton Hotel for Michigan investor Maj. Nathan S. Boynton, constructed many of the wood houses, commercial buildings and swing bridges. The majority of these early structures became lost to time with progress, fire and hurricanes claiming them over the last 120 years.

The Andrews House

The Andrews House

Today’s “Andrew’s House” at 306 SE 1st Avenue is Boynton’s oldest residence. Bert L. Kapp, a Dutchman who moved to Boynton from Michigan built the house in 1907. Although the house is typically thought of as constructed in 1901, newspaper records support a 1907 construction date. The Kapp family sold the house to A.E. Parker, Major Nathan S. Boynton’s son-in-law, and moved to West Palm Beach.

Who were the Andrews?
Charles Lee Andrews and Katie Andrews purchased the house from Parker. The Andrews’ story is intriguing.

Charles Andrews AKA Benjamin Green

Charles Andrews AKA Benjamin Green

Charles Lee Andrews served in the Confederate Army under the name Benjamin F. Green. He married Katie in Mississippi, in spite of the fact that he was at least 42 years older than Katie. They had two sons, George Kermit and Charles Lee Jr. The Andrews ran a small grocery store in Boynton. Charles Lee Andrews passed away in 1922, and Katie remained in the house. She began collecting Andrew’s Civil War pension. She continued to collect that pension until 1971, when she passed away, making her the last Civil War pensioner in Palm Beach County. Her son George and wife Edith then lived in the house; George passed away in 1993. Edith moved to a nearby apartment, and the house was boarded up and fell into disrepair.

In 1998, Boynton native Bob Katz bought the Andrews house and several other downtown properties. He had the Andrews house moved to an adjacent lot so it could be better seen from Ocean Avenue, and had the house restored. Katz’s untimely death at age 50 in 2006 has left all his downtown properties in limbo, and several are currently for sale.

For more information on Boynton’s historic buildings, visit the City of Boynton Beach’s Historic Preservation page. Historic Preservation

Site information
306 SE 1st Ave.
Style:
Frame Vernacular
Built:
1907
Period:
Spanish-American War
Type:
House: Fish scale shingles to gables, wood shake roof, brackets, exposed rafters, dormer window.