Boynton’s Strange Connection with two of America’s most Popular Songs

Jonathan_Edwards_Spilman.tif

J.E. Spilman

The hamlet of Boynton, as it stood at the turn of the twentieth century, has direct connections with two of the most popular songs in American history. One of the most popular songs of the nineteenth century was Flow Gently, Sweet Afton, with music written by Jonathan E. Spilman, set to the poem by Robert Burns. Written in 1838, the sheet music was found in all the major song books of the time and remains a popular tune. A search of YouTube finds dozens of renditions; one of the most popular recent versions is by Nickel Creek: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oNrSMLQ8P7c

The connection to Boynton? The composer, J.E. Spilman, was Byrd Spilman Dewey’s father! Spilman had written the song while a law student at Transylvania Law School. Spilman wrote other melodies which can be heard by clicking here.

If that were not enough, then there is America the Beautiful; many think that this song should be our national anthem. The song’s lyrics are the work of Katherine Lee Bates, who graduated from Wellesley in 1880; music by Samuel A. Ward. Cora Stickney Harper was one of Katherine’s best friends at Wellesley, and they remained lifelong friends.

Katherine Lee Bates

Katherine Lee Bates

Cora founded the Boynton Women’s Club in 1909. This rendition of the song is quite beautiful – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EmP9LvHgcaA. The song with lyrics was first published in 1910, so Cora would have heard it while living in Boynton.

Maybe it is just that “six degrees of separation” thing, but the connections are noteworthy.

Historical Society Officers Conduct Award Winning Historic Moonlight Cemetery Tours

For more information and to register please call the City of West Palm Beach at 561-804-4900

2016

Friday, January 22, 6:30 p.m.
Monday, February 22, 6:30 p.m.

Wednesday, March 23, 7:30 p.m.

Thursday, April 21, 7:30 p.m.

Friday, May 20, 7:30 p.m.

2017

Thursday, January 12, 6:30 p.m.

Friday, February 10 – 6:30 PM

Thursday, March 16 – 7:30 PM

Thursday April 13 – 7:30 PM

Thursday, May 11 – 7:30 PM

Sponsored by the City of West Palm Beach – Historic Preservation Program and the Parks and Recreation Division.

Look for more cemetery tours for Delray, Boynton Boca Raton & Lantana cemeteries coming soon!

Woodlawn Cemetery - Palm Beach's oldest gated community

Woodlawn Cemetery – Palm Beach’s oldest gated community

Moonlight Cemetery Tours of Woodlawn Cemetery conducted by  Boynton Beach Historical Society officers Janet DeVries and Ginger Pedersen, Palm Beach County historians and authors of “Pioneering Palm Beach: The Deweys and the South Florida Frontier,” and “The Collected Works of Byrd Spilman Dewey.”

Woodlawn Cemetery at dusk.

Woodlawn Cemetery at dusk.

These award-winning history tours are limited to 50 guests, and a $5.00 donation is appreciated and will be used to help restore this historic cemetery. The tour will cover some of the most prominent pioneer families who arrived in the area more than 100 years ago.

chillingworthAlong with a couple dozen other interesting pioneers, Charlie Pierce, Florida’s famous barefoot mailman and Boynton’s first postmaster is featured along with Anna and Albert Parker, Maj. Nathan S. Boynton’s daughter and son-in-law. Mr. Parker managed the Boynton Hotel.

 

Several of South Florida's barefoot mailmen. Charles "Charlie" Pierce on the right.

Several of South Florida’s barefoot mailmen. Charles “Charlie” Pierce on the right.

To make reservations, please call 561-804-4900 (Francene).

PLEASE BRING: A flashlight, bug repellent, water (there are no facilities on-site).

PLEASE WEAR: Closed-toed shoes such as sneakers.

LOCATION: 1500 South Dixie Highway, across from the Norton Gallery. Parking is available on-site inside cemetery gates.

ALL TOURS BEGIN AT 6:30 PM or 7:30 PM dependent upon daylight savings time. PLEASE ARRIVE AT LEAST 15 MINUTES EARLY FOR CHECK-IN.

Rain Policy: If heavy rain occurs on the night scheduled, the tour will be held the following evening. If it rains on the next night also, the tours is suspended for that month.

The “Other” Boynton Beach

In my days working as archivist for the Boynton Beach City Library, every once in a while I’d get a phone call from an enthusiastic caller who thought they discovered a rare image of Boynton Beach. I adore finding new (old) images of Boynton Beach, so you can imagine my excitement as I anticipated this revealing, deeper glimpse into the faded history of our fair city.

A group of young people enjoying the time at the shore.

A group of young people enjoying the time at the shore.

Envision my disappointment, and theirs, when I scrutinized the photograph and determined it was not Boynton Beach, Florida.

How did I know the images were not Boynton Beach? Well, the trees weren’t right (we had pines and palms). The big Ferris Wheel and merry-go-round, while resplendent for their time, weren’t representative of our Boynton Beach.

Beach-goers flocked to the New Jersey shore in the summer-time.

Beach-goers flocked to the New Jersey shore in the summer-time.

The other Boynton Beach, in this case, was a New Jersey waterfront resort established by another Boynton, Cassimer Whitman Boynton, a native of Maine. It was located in Woodbridge Township near Perth Amboy.

 

 

There are many similarities and even more differences in Boynton Beach, New Jersey and Boynton Beach, Florida.

 

One of the amenities in Boynton Beach, New Jersey

One of the amenities in Boynton Beach, New Jersey

Similarities between Boynton Beach, New Jersey (also known as Sewaren) and the Boynton Beach Hotel in Florida.

 

 

 

 

  • Both places called Boynton Beach
  • Both established as resorts for wealthy northerners
  • Both on the waterfront
  • Both offered postcards as souvenirs to guests
  • Both had wooden hotels for guests to stay
  • Visitors arrived to both resorts via train or boat
  • Both had a bathing beach with a bathhouse
  • Both had a shooting range
  • Both offered fishing and boating excursions
  • Both began in the late 1800s
  • Both the resort in New Jersey and the Hotel Boynton in Florida closed by 1925

 

 

Pleasure boating.

Pleasure boating.

Differences between Boynton Beach, New Jersey (also known as Sewaren) and the Boynton Beach Hotel in Florida (established by Major Nathan Smith Boynton of Port Huron, Michigan).

 

 

 

This undivided back postcard shows the bathing beach and bathhouses.

This undivided back postcard shows the bathing beach and bath houses.

  • Started by different Boynton families (they were both descendants of Sir Matthew Boynton)
  • The Boynton Beach in New Jersey attracted visitors in the summer months
  • The Boynton Beach in Florida attracted visitors in the winter months
  • The Boynton Beach in New Jersey offered amusement rides, a Nickelodeon, photographic booths and pony rides.
  • The Boynton Beach in New Jersey had a hot dog stand and an ice cream stand
  • The Boynton Beach in Florida offered dining in the Boynton Beach Hotel dining room. Meals were included for $2.00 a day in 1898.
  • The Boynton Beach in New Jersey had a dance pavilion with live orchestra’s every Saturday in night in the summer.
  • The Boynton Beach in New Jersey had a pier.
The Ferris Wheel. Boynton Beach, New Jersey

The Ferris Wheel. Boynton Beach, New Jersey

 

Both of the resorts closed by 1925. The New Jersey property was sold to the Shell Oil Company. The Florida Boynton property was managed by A.E. Parker, Major Boynton’s son-in-law until 1925. The area is now known as Ocean Ridge.

 

The Dancing Pavillion. Boynton Beach, New Jersey

The Dancing Pavillion. Boynton Beach, New Jersey

 

The faded picture postcards of both Boynton Beach resorts are the remnants of this idyllic time in history.

Pre- 1907 postcard of Boynton Beach New Jersey.

Pre- 1907 postcard of Boynton Beach New Jersey.

More information about Boynton Beach in New Jersey may be found at the following websites:

 

 

 

Hatala, Greg. The Star Ledger. (2013)

http://www.nj.com/middlesex/index.ssf/2013/07/glimpse_of_history_cabanas_at_boynton_beach.html

History of Sewaren. http://mhswebtvprinting.tripod.com/wrcsewarenhistory.html.

ThatNJVideoGuy. Historical Boynton Beach. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VpnS1jlVxG0.

http://www.nj.com/middlesex/index.ssf/2013/07/glimpse_of_history_cabanas_at_boynton_beach.html

Trueger, V. Sewaren’s History. (2011) Garden State Legacy. Issue 11. http://gardenstatelegacy.com/files/Sewarens_Heyday_Troeger_GSL11_PRINT.pdf.

 

 

Jungle Fire: History of Boynton Beach Fire Rescue

For this blog we are pleased to have a another Boynton Beach Fire Department history installment from our resident guest blogger, Michael Landress of the Boynton Beach Fire Department

An interesting early morning structure fire during the late 1940s occurred at a tiny pub called the Jungle Inn Bar located in Briny Breezes. The inn was a popular drinkery owned and op…erated by a man called “Biggin” Baskin — aptly named due to his mountainous size.

The fire began as an unattended barbeque pit that was used inside the tavern collapsed in the wee hours of the morning, sending smoldering coals crashing to the ground. The unabated embers ignited the wooden floorboards and flames quickly rolled up the walls.

This 1946 Mack 500 GPM Piston Pumper is the truck used during the Jungle Inn Bar fire. The fire engine would prove its worth, as it was still in service in our department during the 1970s

This 1946 Mack 500 GPM Piston Pumper is the truck used during the Jungle Inn Bar fire. The fire engine would prove its worth, as it was still in service in our department during the 1970s

The department had recently purchased a 1946 Mack 500 GPM piston pumper and Boynton firemen responded to the blaze with the new engine. On arrival, they found the inn totally insulted by fire. They staged the fire engine parallel to the tangled mangroves and Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) in hopes of drafting water, as hydrants were few, or non existent.

In the chaos that ensued, the weary operator engineer [driver] stood aghast at the pump panel. Scratching his head in disbelief, he had forgotten the sequence for pumping. Fireman James I. Lacey then stepped up to the panel and quickly engaged the pump. As other firemen began to pull multiple sections of hose and nozzles from the engine, James deployed the hard suction, complete with strainer into the saltwater, thus beginning the drafting process.

They valiantly battled the blaze until dawn.

“It was saltwater, but it was wet. We pumped water until daybreak and finally extinguished the fire. It was a good thing because we noticed that our drafting hose and strainer were dangling in mid air. The water level had dropped considerably. We thought that we had drained the canal until we realized it was an outgoing tide! We all enjoyed a hearty laugh.”

~ Fireman Lacey

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.