Palm Beach County’s First Automobiles

1905 – Florida requires automobile registration

Florida Memory - Early Auto Registrations, 1905-1917

Florida Memory – Early Auto Registrations, 1905-1917

In 2015, the State Archives of Florida digitized the first two volumes of motor vehicle registrations recorded by the Florida Department of State. These ledger pages, found online at Florida Memory, Found Here contain detailed information recorded between 1905 and 1917 about our earliest vehicles, including the registered owner, city, county, make, model and horsepower of each automobile and motorcycle.

George Potter

George W. Potter was the first person in this part of the state (Palm Beach County) to legally register his automobile with the state.

George Potter, courtesy Potter Collection, Historical Society of Palm Beach County

George Potter, courtesy Potter Collection, Historical Society of Palm Beach County

Other horseless carriages were dotting the sandy roads, but Potter’s registration of a lightweight, four-horsepower Orient Buckboard, recorded November 20, 1905, was the 80th registered vehicle in the entire state of Florida. Before moving to Florida, Potter studied art and engineering in Cincinnati. His great grandson, David Willson, cartoonist for the Palm Beach Daily News, recounts how you could tell Potter had a fascination with all things mechanical as his sketches were filled with bridges and steam boats.

Record #80 Geo. W. Potter Nov. 20, 1905 vehicle registration

Record #80
Geo. W. Potter Nov. 20, 1905 vehicle registration

Waltham Manufacturing Company was a manufacturer of automobiles in Waltham, Massachusetts, including the Orient Buckboard, between 1902 and 1908

Henry M. Flagler

Henry M. Flagler, courtesy Library of Congress

Henry M. Flagler, courtesy Library of Congress

Henry Morrison Flagler registered his vehicle on December 6, 1905, a few weeks after Potter. Local history sources contend that Flagler did not allow motorized vehicles on his luxury island resort at Palm Beach, instead preferring guests to traverse through the gardens and jungle trials via wicker rickshaw bicycles, powered by Negro guides.
White Auto Co. 1905

White Auto Co. 1905


Flagler’s vehicle, listed as a Touring Car manufactured by White Sew’g Mch. Co. (White Sewing Machine Co./White Motor Co.) operated on steam, hence the vehicle was not a noisy as other autos of the time. Presidents William Taft and Theodore Roosevelt also owned White Motor Company automobiles during this time period.

Florida East Coast Hotel Automobile Registrations

Florida East Coast Hotel Automobile Registrations



Florida East Coast Hotel System

The vehicle must have served Flagler well, for in the next few months his Florida East Coast Hotel system purchased and registered five additional identical touring cars.

1907 White Touring Steam Car, courtesy Henry Ford Museum

1907 White Touring Steam Car, courtesy Henry Ford Museum

Boynton Hotel Company President A.E. Parker

A. E. Parker Touring Car Record

A. E. Parker Touring Car Record

In January 1908, Albert Edward Parker, manager of the Boynton oceanfront hotel and son-in-law of hotel owner Maj. Nathan Smith Boynton, registered his 30-horsepower Winton M.C. Co. Touring Car. Parker conducted business in both West Palm Beach and Miami, and likely used the old, bumpy sand trail to traverse the county for business purposes and to take hotel guests on sight-seeing tours.
Winton Motor Carriage Car

Winton Motor Carriage Car


1908 – 500 registered vehicles in Florida

By 1908, 500 vehicles were registered in the state of Florida.


2016 – Over 20,000,000 registered vehicles in Florida

Currently, there are over twenty million vehicles registered in Florida, with 1.2 million in Palm Beach County.

Vehicles registered in the State of Florida as of February 5, 2016

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Discovery of unusual postcard of the 1909 shipwreck Coquimbo and the tale of two Clydes

Postcard of the 1909 shipwreck, the Coquimbo

Postcard of the 1909 shipwreck, the Coquimbo

After years of searching for photographs of the 1909 shipwreck, The Coquimbo, on December 19th I spotted a postcard for sale on the Internet. As I read the title “Boynton FL Bark Shipwreck Coquimbo Floral Border c1910 Postcard,” my pulse quickened. When I opened the listing and viewed the photograph of the three-masted sailing ship, my heart skipped a beat. I scrolled down and stared at the reverse side. Postmarked August 9, 1909 and sporting a one-cent stamp, the message read

Boynton Fl. 8/8/09 – Dear Roger. It has ben (sic) a long time since I have heard from you so I wanto (sic) know if you are still living. I have ben (sic) all over hell since I last wrote you but I am home now carpentering. clyde.”

 

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I stared at the card and message for a few moments, then clicked ‘Buy-it-Now.’ I had to secure this image to add to the historic record of Palm Beach County and the city of Boynton Beach. I had an idea of who the sender was – there were only two young men named Clyde living in the Boynton area in 1910.

The Norwegian barkentine ship is legendary in Boynton Beach. During the pioneer era of the 1880s-1910s, many ships reportedly ran aground and sunk in the waters only several hundred yards off the Boynton coast. The Coquimbo is especially important to the history of Boynton as the 225-foot long ship carried a precious cargo of pine lumber and many of the early frame houses and buildings were constructed with the lumber.

Boynton, Florida settlement, about 1910

Boynton, Florida settlement, about 1910

After the barque ran aground on a reef January 31, 1909, the 15 crew members were rescued and reportedly camped on the beach using the ship’s sails as makeshift tents. The big sailing ship drew attention from the guests at the Boynton Hotel and was the talk of the town. After efforts to right the ship failed, Capt. I Clausen placed a notice for auction in the Miami Metropolis, auctioning off the cargo, rigging, supplies and most useful of all to the people of Boynton, the lumber.

coquimbo 1901

 

 

 

 

 

The precious postcard held several clues. Initially, I suspected the card was sent by Clyde Murray, the oldest son of Horace B. and Mary Murray. The elder Murray, a carpenter and farmer, arrived in the tropical wilderness we now call Boynton Beach from Michigan in January, 1896 to build Maj. Nathan S. Boynton’s beachfront hotel. The fact that the sender came back “home,” and was “carpentering” sounded like a Murray following in his father’s steps.

This message also shed light on the massive building boom in Boynton, providing evidence to the stories about the many houses and buildings constructed of Coquimbo lumber springing up between 1909 and 1911. The sender evidently returned to Boynton to lend his carpentry skills to aid in the building boom.

My hunch proved wrong. After checking census records, I discovered Clyde Murray was born in 1893 rendering him merely 16 years of age in 1909.

Horace Bentley Murray Family, about 1900. Clyde (center, next to his mother)

Horace Bentley Murray Family, about 1900. Clyde (center, behind  his mother)

Now to check out the other Clyde!

C.O. Miller is best known for creating Boynton’s most enduring and splendid roadside attraction, Rainbow Tropical Gardens. In addition, the master gardener designed the exquisite gardens of the famed Addison Mizner designed Cloister Inn.

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Born Clyde O’Brien Miller in 1885, near Logansport, Indiana, Miller worked as a brakeman for the Pennsylvania Railroad before settling in Boynton in 1909.

A year later, at age 25, he married Leona Austin, one of Frank Austin’s three daughters.

The year before Clyde and Leona’s nuptials her sister Frona drowned in a tragic accident, while attempting to cross the canal on a waterlogged barge. A third sister, Nellie, married Capt. Walter “Pop” Lyman, son of Lantana founder, M.B. Lyman.

Frona Austin

Frank Austin owned a farm and building supply store next to the Florida East Coast railway tracks on Lake Street (now Boynton Beach Blvd.)

 

 

 

The population of the Boynton settlement at that time numbered less than 700, and it is possible Miller met Miss Austin at her father’s store or at a Methodist Church activity. As a carpenter, Miller likely needed building supplies and tools from the store.

Rainbow nurseries aug 9 pbpost

By following census records, news accounts and government documents, it seems Miller did indeed move about or travel often   (as described in his 1909 postcard).

Clyde Miller and Leona Austin had four children, including Vivian Alice, Clyde Austin, and Merna. The firstborn, Averon Mae, born January 19, 1911 in Logansport, Indiana, died at about age six, probably from the influenza epidemic that claimed the lives of many, especially the very young, the elderly and the infirm. Averon’s tiny body has rested in Woodlawn Cemetery, West Palm Beach since her 1917 death.

A World War I Registration Card dated September 12, 1918, listed Miller’s occupation as a fisherman at Webster’s Fisheries in West Palm Beach. The record describes him as tall and stout, with light blue eyes and dark hair.

He served as a sheriff in Okeechobee briefly after the War.

By 1921, Clyde owned and operated Rainbow’s End Nursery on north U.S. 1. He specialized in tropical and semi-tropical plants. This nursery became Rainbow Tropical Gardens, one of the most famous attractions in Palm Beach County in the 1920s-1950s era.

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More on Clyde Miller, Rainbow Tropical Gardens and its incarnations in an upcoming blog.

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.

The Other Mar Lago Beach Club

Did you know Boynton Beach once boasted its own Mar Lago Beach Club? Much smaller and less opulent than the 1927 Palm Beach Mar-a-Lago Estate owned by Marjorie Meriwether Post (then Mrs. E.F. Hutton), the Boynton Beach Mar Lago Beach Club owned by Martha and Leon Robbins from Cleveland, Ohio opened in 1932. mar lago club boynton beach for blog

Situated directly south of the South Palm Beach County (Boynton) Inlet, between the Atlantic Ocean and the Intracoastal Waterway (then called Lake Worth), the five-room hotel and adjacent cottage was staffed by a cook and a housekeeper.

The hotel had an upstairs lounge called the Miramar. During World War II, the Coast Guard used the second floor as a lookout point. The hotel was torn down in 1974 to build the county’s Ocean Inlet Park.

Mar Lago is Latin for “sea to lake.”