What did we grow in 1905?

When looking at the PALMM archive online, which houses many old Florida related documents, I found the 1905 Florida Census book – http://books.google.com/books?id=HJxAAAAAYAAJ.

One of the most interesting tables in the book listed the value of each of the crops grown in Dade County, which in 1905 included all of what today is Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and Martin counties. Not surprisingly, tomatoes topped the dollar value, followed by pineapple. That really echoes what was grown in Boynton too, where farmers raised tomatoes along the shores of Lake Worth in the rich muck soil. Pineapples thrived a bit further inland in the sandy soils along the pine ridge. The numbers then drop off rapidly so that the third highest cash crop was eggplant, which was one of the few vegetables that could be grown in the heat of summer. The one acre of sugar cane stands in stark contrast to today, where over 400,000 acres is in sugar cane. Somebody also tried peaches, but that did not look too successful with only two bushels valued at $5.00. South Florida is still the nation’s top winter vegetable producer, and our growers are getting the fields ready for the fall planting out in the Glades to put fresh produce on our tables through the cold winter months.

Crops grown in Dade County, 1905

Crops grown in Dade County, 1905

Happy 100th Birthday to the Boynton School!

1st Permanent Schoolhouse in Boynton, ca. 1907

1st Permanent Schoolhouse in Boynton, ca. 1907

It is hard to imagine a Boynton Beach without a schoolhouse. In 1895, only a handful of people lived here, and for most of those, formal education was unnecessary. Between 1900 and 1910, the little settlement, known simply as Boynton, grew in population from less than 100 people to nearly 700.

Though they had no children of their own, Fred and Byrd Spilman Dewey recognized the need for a school in the growing settlement of Boynton. In 1897, Fred S. Dewey appeared before the school board and petitioned for a Boynton school, as reported in the August 5, 1897 Tropical Sun. A small, one-room schoolhouse on stilts was erected on land donated by the Deweys, in the area of the present day Dewey Park (Ocean Avenue and NE 4th Street). Miss Maude Gee was the first teacher, referred to in the Tropical Sun as Boynton’s “Instructoress.” A makeshift school for African-Americans; known at that time as a “Colored School” opened in 1896 in the area of today’s Poinciana School.

Article from Tropical Sun

Article from Tropical Sun

 

Albert P. Sawyer donated the land for the first permanent schoolhouse for White children, from his Sawyer’s Addition to the Dewey’s original Town of Boynton plat on November 29, 1902. In 1904 the two-room wooden school which was located near present-day Ocean Avenue and Seacrest Blvd. (then Green Street) opened with W.S. Shepard as Principal and Agnes Halseth as teacher. A few years later, in 1909, Palm Beach County was carved out of Dade County.

The Boynton School, ca. 1913

The Boynton School, ca. 1913

In 1912, the Palm Beach County School Board approved a contract with A. Mellson to construct the first part of a new school building. The original plan left the upstairs unfinished and did not include the fire escape. The Board approved a contract for William W. Maughlin, an architect from Baltimore to design a new masonry vernacular school. Maughlin, born in 1847, had previously designed the Palm Beach High School in 1908-1909 and was a draftsman for the Florida East Coast Hotels. Maughlin and his firm of Ruggles and Weller constructed the schoolhouse. The Boynton School was Maughlin’s last project, he passed away suddenly in October 1913 at his office and is buried in Woodland Cemetery.

Architect Wm. Maughlin's Woodmen of the World Monument (1847-1913) at Woodlawn Cemetery.

Architect Wm. Maughlin’s Woodmen of the World Monument (1847-1913) at Woodlawn Cemetery.

In December, 1912, the Board of Instruction authorized work to be completed on the two-story, six classroom building. The structure, one of the first in Boynton to feature indoor plumbing, had a signature portico, large sash windows and transom windows to facilitate the flow of sunlight and fresh air. The floors were made from Dade County Pine, and walls affixed with bead board.

The sturdy school featured a new system in masonry, known as Dunn Tile. The molds, designed by the W.E. Dunn Mfg. Co. of Chicago, the largest manufacturer to make concrete block forms, transformed the building industry. The Dunn Co. used a revolutionary concrete and plaster mixer to make concrete  for block, a precursor to the concrete block house.

Miss Annie Streater (Shepard) with her 1st to 4th grade pupils, ca. 1913

Miss Annie Streater (Shepard) with her 1st to 4th grade pupils, ca. 1913

The school opened September 8, 1913 for grades 1-12 with 81 students in attendance. Little Glenn Murray, age three, was hastily added to the list of pupils so the school had adequate students for the staff of three teachers and a principal. Miss Annie Streater taught the first year and Howard Frederick Pfahl, a native of Cleveland, Ohio, served as school principal for the years 1914-1915. Pfahl motored to school on an Indian motorcycle.

Principal Howard Phahl, ca. 1915.

Principal Howard Phahl, ca. 1915.

The Boynton School served grades 1 -12 until 1927, when the Boynton High School opened next door. For the next three decades the building served as a traditional 1-8 grade school, until Boynton Jr. High opened in 1958. The structure served as a school for primary grades and elementary students until its closing in 1990.

The Last Cows of Boynton – Part 2

This is a continuation of the Last Cows of Boynton – Part 1 – click here to read the original post.

Many other families also entered the dairy business. The Melear family, from Alabama, had many dairies in Palm Beach County. In a June 25, 1955 article from the Palm Beach Post Historical Archives, the eight brothers and one sister had over 2,200 head of cattle and 2,800 acres of land. All of the Melear siblings settled in Palm Beach County, except one who stayed on in Hawaii after World War I. Carlton Melear had his place at

Carlton Melear

Carlton Melear

Hypoluxo Road and Congress Avenue. At the time it was built, there was no Congress Avenue, so when the road was put through in 1965, two cattle paths were built under the road so the cows could get to the milking barn on the west side of Congress without disturbing traffic. That property today is The Meadows development, including the Meadows Square Plaza, where the Melears’s house once stood. Tyler Melear had his dairy on Lawrence Road north of what today is Gateway, C.B. Melear was on Old Boynton, Bill Melear and Charlie Melear were on Boynton West Road (today’s Boynton Beach Boulevard) and operated the Learwood dairy, and Lester Melear was on Lantana Road west of the Turnpike. A sister was even in the business. Nonnie Melear White and her husband Louis White were also on Boynton West road. The Melears milk was distributed through the McArthur, Alfar and Boutwell Dairies.

The 1945 Florida Census for Boynton Beach listed several people with the profession of “dairyman” – C.F. Knuth and his son Orville and his Few Acres Dairy at Lawrence and Old Boynton, A.E. Allen at the Eldorado Dairy, the Winchesters (who also raised pineapple), the Williamson and Goodman Dairy, the Goodwin Dairy, Harry Benson’s Gulf Stream Dairy, Albert Teele, who ran a “milk counter” in the Northwood neighborhood of West Palm Beach, B.L. Tuck on Lawrence Road, and Herbert Keatts and Grover Bell, who had their dairies on the Military Trail.

Walter Goolsby and his son Theodore ran Goolsby and Son Dairy along the Boynton Canal and Lawrence Road. They had 20 acres on the west side of Lawrence (where the Artesa development is today) and a hundred acres on the east side of Lawrence, which actually

Calf at Goolsby's

Calf at Goolsby’s

was originally platted in 1927 as the “West Boynton” subdivision. They bought both pieces of land at tax sales. They were featured in the Palm Beach Post in 1960 when a five-legged calf was born at the dairy. The Goolsby children sold the West Boynton subdivision portion in 1977, and the developer simply took the original 1927 plat and sold lots. These are the avenues today called Aladdin, Barkis, Coelebs, Dorit and Edgar.

As time went by, the land was becoming more valuable and the profit margin in the dairy business was razor thin. The inflation pressures and oil crisis of the early 1970s were the last blows to both the Weaver dairy in Boynton and the Melear dairy on Congress. Both were closed by 1973. Many of the cow herds were moved to the Okeechobee area to larger operations. Some cows remained across from the Boynton Beach Mall until about 2005, when the land was sold for the Boynton Commons shopping center.

So few today are even aware that Boynton Beach played such a large role in dairy production in South Florida. I miss seeing the cows across from the Boynton Mall; it

Cow at Winchester Pasture

Cow at Winchester Pasture

somehow allowed me to believe that I still lived “in the country.” I know that very soon the last ones will too be gone, bringing a whimpering end to almost 100 years of dairying history in Boynton. Take a ride out and visit them while they are still there.

 

The Last Cows of Boynton – Part 1

I guess there has to be a last of everything, and in Boynton’s proud dairy history, these are indeed the last. The last cows of Boynton are in their 12 acre pasture, tucked between a gas station, a development, and Knuth Road. You may have driven past them on Boynton Beach Boulevard. I often take children there to feed the cows carrots, so they can see what

Cow in the Winchester Pasture

Cow in the Winchester Pasture

a real cow looks like. One evening we were lucky enough to meet Mrs. Winchester, who came by to check on them. There was a nostalgic gaze on her face as she told me of the days when thousands of cows grazed across Boynton’s prairies. She laughed as she told me her first name – Elsie! A perfect name for a dairyman’s wife.

These last cows hold the secret of all those that came before them. Boynton’s flat drained sandy and muck soils were ideal for cattle grazing, and in the 1920s,  the Model Land Company encouraged people to enter the dairying business.  The first large-scale dairy had some very lucky cows, who enjoyed an ocean view. In 1920, Ward Miller decided that the lands that today make up Briny Breezes would make a fine dairy. Being near the ocean, diseases brought by ticks would be less of a problem. In 1923, he built the Shore Acres Dairy, along with owning the Miller-Jordan Dairy on Federal Highway, while W.S. Shepard had the Royal Palm Dairy.

Another large dairy in the early days of Boynton dairying was Bertana Farms, owned by A.E Parker and on the Dixie Highway. He was also part owner of the Alfar Creamery in West Palm Beach, and a former city manager of West Palm Beach; much of the milk from Boynton was processed through the Alfar Creamery. Harry Benson and E.L. Winchester also had their dairys on the eastern side of Boynton.

As land along the ocean and the Dixie highway became more valuable, dairies began to pop up along the Military Trail, Lawrence Road and what would eventually become Congress Avenue (Congress was not put through Boynton until 1965). One of earliest and most famous dairy families of Boynton were the Weavers. Their dairy was located along the Military Trail, where the Cypress Creek Golf Club is today. M.A. Weaver served as mayor of Boynton for many years, and their house still stands in Lake Boynton Estates. His sons had land north and south of Boynton Beach Boulevard on Military Trail, all of which was eventually sold for developments and shopping. Stanley Weaver was also very much involved in Boynton, serving as mayor in the 1950s and serving longer than anyone else ever has on the Lake Worth Drainage District Board. The Boynton Canal is now named in his honor.
Next installment – The Last Cows of Boynton – Part 2

Boynton’s First Fire Engine

For this blog, we are pleased to have a second installment from guest blogger, Michael Landress of the Boynton Beach Fire Department. – BBHS Editors

In June 1925, a representative from the American La France Fire Engine Company traveled to Boynton Beach to visit with Fire Chief Charles Senior. The chief was so impressed with the presentation, he requested Mayor Knuth to call a special meeting for later that evening. The mayor and other council members agreed to meet, and shortly thereafter, a deal was struck. The company was trying to sell a fire engine that was involved in an accident in Perry, Florida.

Original hand-cranked siren from the 1910 American La France Fire Engine Company purchased by the Boynton Beach Fire Department in 1915

Original hand-cranked siren from the 1910 American La France Fire Engine Company purchased by the Boynton Beach Fire Department in 1925

The 1910 model fire engine had been returned to the factory and was completely restored to its original condition. The Town of Boynton Beach decided to purchase the truck for the remaining payments, thus ushering in the fire apparatus era.

The fire engine was basically a 500 gallon per minute pumper, complete with a 30 gallon auxiliary soda acid chemical tank, right hand drive and solid rubber tires. The truck was equipped with 1000 feet of 2 ½” hose and 200 feet of 1” chemical hose. Other features included two 10-feet by 4-inch suction hose, an axe and a pry bar.

It was delivered to Boynton Beach on July 4, 1925 by Ray Larabee. He was the chief engineer and mechanic for American La France at that time and drove the truck to Boynton Beach from Jacksonville, most likely using the old auto trail known as the Atlantic Highway. The 300 mile trip began prior to the opening of U.S. Highway 1, and must have been an onerous journey for Larabee, traveling on those unforgiving tires under the searing Florida sun.

It is interesting and remarkable to note that this fire engine was still in service during the 1950s. It was eventually decommissioned after 30 years of service, and then sold to a gentleman in Miami, Florida in 1957 for $350.00.

At the time of the sale, Fire Chief Senior was quoted as saying; “The truck is a rough rider with solid rubber tires and an engine that purrs like a Cadillac.”

The hand-crank siren was removed prior to the sale and is currently on display at Boynton Beach Fire Rescue Department’s Fire Station No. 5.

Michael Landress

Michael Landress

Michael Landress is a native Floridian and novice historian. He has spent the previous 15 years as a professional firefighter/paramedic for the City of Boynton Beach Fire Rescue Department. He holds a BA from St. Thomas University in Miami, Florida and his hobbies include; spending time with his two teenage sons, writing, photography, supporting the Miami Dolphins and saltwater fishing.