About Janet DeVries Naughton

Janet DeVries Naughton is the immediate past president of the Boynton Beach Historical Society and a librarian and history professor at Palm Beach State College. The intrepid historic researcher has contributed to and published over a dozen local history books. She has 20 years experience in Florida libraries, museums and archives, and is available as a consultant for family history projects, books and personal archival collections.

Polio Vaccination at the Delray Drive-In Theater: A Spoonful of Sugar Made the Medicine Go Down

Memories Sparked

In a recent email to the Boynton Beach Historical Society, Robin Raborn described how she and her brother would go with her dad, Dr. Robert (Bob) Raborn to the Delray Drive-In Theater to drop off little paper cups to dispense the oral polio vaccine to children and adults.

Dr. Robert Raborn

“My father, Dr. Bob Raborn, ran the distribution at the Delray Drive In. He had worked in the United States Public Health Service and my mother, Lenore, was a medical social worker, so they made a good team. I was nine. I remember running back and forth, delivering tiny paper cups with the sugar cubes to the families driving through. Dad was also in Rotary which championed eliminating polio worldwide.”

Dr. Bob Raborn Obituary, The Palm Beach Post, Apr 28 1999

Historic Note

During the first half of the 20th century, tens of thousands of Americans, including Franklin Delano Roosevelt (32nd United States President) were stricken by poliomyelitis. Polio, as it’s known, is a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed. The affliction paralyzed Roosevelt from the waist down, confining him to a wheelchair. You might recall the movie Forrest Gump that started out with young Forrest Gump limping and wearing leg braces. In Florida, the contagious disease shuttered swimming pools and theaters warned moviegoers to not sit too close to one another.

Drs. Salk & Sabin

Jonas Salk developed the first polio vaccine as an injection of inactivated (killed) polio to give immunity. This discovery led to a remarkable decline in polio beginning in 1955.

Polio Pioneer Pin

Another medical researcher, Dr. Albert Sabin, created a “live” oral polio vaccine that was low cost, eliminated the needle, and tasted great.

 

 

 

 

 

Albert Sabin gives his oral poliovirus vaccine to a girl. Courtesy of the Hauck Center for the Sabin Archives, University of Cincinnati Libraries

Sabin’s vaccine required three doses administered over three months. Three drops of polio antibodies were added to sugar cubes or cherry flavored water for quick, painless, and tasty immunity.

The 1964 Mary Poppins song “A Spoonful of Sugar Makes the Medicine Go Down” was inspired by the Sabin vaccine. Interestingly, in 1964 my parents fed me a spoonful of raw honey to conceal antibiotics hidden inside for several weeks as I recovered from surgery.

Polio Vaccine Poster

Sabin Oral Sundays

How to effectively administer the vaccine to entire families most effectively? Mass applications of the Sabin vaccine began in the early 1960s with “Sabin Oral Sundays.

Sabin on Sunday, 1965 Jaycees Photo Collection, Courtesy of the Boynton Beach City Library Local History Archives

Drive-In Theater Program

Dr. Raborn sold the Palm Beach County Medical Society on holding a local public health program at drive in theaters. As the Delray Beach/Boynton Beach polio representative, Dr. Raborn partnered with the Jaycees (Junior Chamber of Commerce members) to get out the “SOS” and schedule a series of massive “Sabin on Sunday” events at the Delray Drive-In on Federal Highway. The programs goal was to immunize at least 80% of the local population—adults and all children over six months—and it worked!

Fort Lauderdale News, Feb. 24, 1964

Immunity in a Paper Cup

Thomas Bruce Smith recalls his family driving to the theatre on a Sunday afternoon. “When you got in, they sent the cars into three lanes, you pulled up and they gave you little paper cups to drink and then you left. You had to come back for a second dose.” 1960s Palm Beach Post and Sun Sentnel newspaper articles confirm Smith’s memories. The lanes were segregated with two lanes for white families and one lane for black and brown residents.

An Army of Volunteers

The polio eradication program took many volunteers. The Health Department, schools, churches, and civic organizations distributed authorization forms that households could pre-sign permission to vaccinate entire families or minors. Block captains went house by house and helped to sign up neighbors. School nurses and mothers volunteered as site coordinators and vaccine administrators. Seacrest High School students who served as candy stripers at Bethesda Memorial Hospital volunteered at SOS events.

Each dose of three pale drops of Sabin vaccine in a small cup of distilled water cost about 25 cents, and participants received the vaccine regardless of their ability to pay. Quarters raised went back into the program to educate and fortify more people against the crippling disease.

“Some 161,400 persons sipped their Sabin vaccine in Palm Beach County yesterday [January 19, 1964], 57% of the 280,000 target. 90% immunization mark. In Delray Beach 12,100 persons gulped the polio-preventer at the Delray Drive-In Theater. Dr. Robert E. Raborn and Delray Jaycee President Charles Gwynn lauded Paramedics and Seacrest High School students.”

Mass Vaccination Program Eradicates Polio

Boynton’s population in 1960 was just over 10,000. “A total of 21,966 persons received the third and final dose of Sabin oral vaccine at stations in Delray Beach, Boynton Beach and Boca Raton. The vaccine feeding station at the Delray Beach drive-in station had its biggest day to date yesterday [April 5, 1964]. Chairman Charles Gwynne said that 9,150 persons received the vaccine at the drive-in” (06 April 1964, Fort Lauderdale News).

Polio Vaccine Memories from the Historic Boynton Beach Facebook page

The vaccine was distributed at schools, churches, the Health Department, and of course the Delray Drive-In Theater.

Edward Morley
Delray drive in. Rode my bike there.

Dyle Cronenweth Warren
At the Delray Drive-in. Our parents drove in, the guy at the entrance booth passed out our sugar cubes and we drove out.

Robin Pierce Morgan
My mom had polio when she was 18, she almost died. When the vaccine came out, we stood in line.

Barbara Brooks
I got a certificate saying I am a polio pioneer. Never had any problems after I got the shot

Ann Carter
I’m sure I got a shot when I was little (born in 1954), but I remember in 1963 or 1964 going to North Grade Elementary school for Sabin Oral Sunday, where we were given a little cup of vaccine. We had to go back a week or two later for the second dose. At that point, several of my siblings and I had mumps, so someone brought the tray of cups out to the car for us.

Susan Sheehan
I remember being so afraid of shots! I was so happy to get an oral vaccine!

Rick Cummins
Got mine at the Delray Beach drive in 1962 or 1963.

Leslie Worrell Jurney
I got it with my family at the Delray Drive in!

Joan Anderson
People were lucky to get the vaccine…. most don’t remember the polio epidemic before the vaccine. I do as I was hospitalized with polio as a child, very scary. I was blessed not to have effects like some did. I wish the vaccine were around for me.

Kathleen Kidd
My whole family went together to the cafeteria at North Grade Elementary after church to get it as a liquid in a small paper cup.

Teresa Wilhelm
My parents and I went to Lantana Elementary, on a Sunday afternoon (I think) a couple of times to drink a tiny cup of liquid. Do not remember it tasting bad.

Nelda Hall Erwin
It was ‘64, I was 5 and I remember standing in a long line with my mom at Canal Point Elementary School. My oldest brother had and survived Polio without any handicaps.

Karen Dutch
At Boynton Beach Elementary my third-grade class was called Polio Pioneers. We did not know if we were given a placebo or the real vaccine. We were given a wallet size card and a little metal button, you bent in half on a pocket to wear.

Richard Katz
Line of cars …. little paper cups…we lived on 5 acre farm on two-lane Atlantic Avenue.

Video Links

From The Vault: Dr. Albert Sabin’s oral polio vaccine helps eradicate the disease around the world

Julie Andrews as Mary Poppins singing “A Spoonful of Sugar” 1964

Forrest Gump Movie clip 1994 “Run Forrest Run”

Holiday Magic: Remembering the National Enquirer Christmas Tree  

My favorite childhood memories include the enchanting department store Christmas displays in downtown Chicago. The Marshall Field’s vignettes featured vibrant animated scenes. That special treat and its holiday magic is firmly etched in my mind. New York, too, does not skimp on the holiday sparkle. The festive annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade kicks off the season, and Rockefeller Center erects its signature tree, said to average 75-90 feet in height. 
 

Families residing in South Florida during the 1970s and 1980s witnessed its own annual Christmas miracle when publishing mogul Generoso Paul Pope, Jr. brought holiday tradition and magic to Lantana. Pope, known to his friends and family as Gene, began the tradition in 1972 when he ordered a freshly cut 55-foot balsam fir for his newly relocated National Enquirer offices situated along the Florida East Coast Railway tracks at 600 S. East Coast Avenue.

Dec 14 1972 The Palm Beach Post

At the inaugural tree lighting on December 11th, children of all ages tilted their heads back to view the majestic glittering tree and “oohed and aahed” when Senator Edward Gurney pressed the button illuminating over 7,000 twinkling lights. More than 400 red and green ornaments, 100 red bows and 50 three-foot-tall candy canes decked the tree. The New Directions choir from Riverside Baptist Church in Miami serenaded the enraptured crowd with Christmas songs and hymns. Amid the balmy 80-degree weather that Monday evening, South Floridians indulged in a few hours of authentic holiday magic. For weeks afterward, passersby along Federal Highway (known then as U.S. 1, the main route through Palm Beach County), gawked at the tree and pulled over to take photographs.

Dec. 8 1973 The Palm Beach Post


Most National Enquirer Christmastime attendees knew little about Pope’s six-month struggle to locate and retrieve the big tree. Since trees that size don’t grow in the United States, the tree came from Canada. He had it specially crated and shipped by rail to the coast, then transferred onto a freighter and delivered to the Port of Miami to begin its trek north to Lantana. Pope, his wife Lois and their six children could see the six-foot lighted star atop the Enquirer tree from their home in nearby Manalapan.

Dec 12 1982 The Palm Beach Post


 
People enjoyed the tree so much Pope continued the tradition, and both the tree and the holiday cheer grew in size and scope with each year. Once word got out about the magnificent Christmas tree and enchanting displays, lines to enter the grounds wrapped around the block, sightseers in tour busses came from places like Miami, Orlando and Tampa, and pilots from Lantana Airport advertised sightseeing flights over the attraction. The town brought in extra police, and lucrative entrepreneurs hawked soft drinks and souvenirs.
 

National Enquirer Christmas Displays

More enchanting displays


Perhaps even more mesmerizing than the tree were the impressive animated displays and the seemingly endless trains weaving through an irresistible land of toys. Pope brought in Burl Ives to croon “White Christmas” and delight children with songs like “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.” Eventually, the tree topped 126 feet and has been dubbed “the world’s largest Christmas tree,” although it doesn’t officially appear on record. A biker group labored to unload, install and decorate the tree, which arrived most years vial rail in boxcars and had to be reassembled. Once Interstate 95 came through, motorists could view the tree from the highway. The tree was visible to the sport fishing boats that frequented the Atlantic Ocean just outside the Boynton Inlet.
 

Nov 8 1987 The Orlando Sentinel


At times neighbors and local businesses deemed National Enquirer tree and its crowds a nuisance. Although Pope offered free parking, traffic snarled Federal Highway and cut off entry to neighborhoods, shops and restaurants. One year someone called in a bomb threat. Actor Burt Reynolds, who owned a horse ranch in nearby Jupiter, and fed up with the tabloid for exposing his private life, reportedly rented a pilot and a helicopter and dumped a sizable load of horse manure on the tree. Despite the stink from the manure and some neighbors, Pope and his Christmas extravaganza continued to deliver holiday cheer.  
 
A heart attack claimed the 61-year-old Pope in October 1988. Months later, his widow Lois hosted the Christmas tradition in his absence, but that would be the last year crowds pilgrimaged to the little town of Lantana to see its noteworthy tree. 
 

Jan 1 1989 Sun Sentinel

A year later, Gene Pope’s estate sold the the National Enquirer for $412 million to MacFadden Publishing and Boston Ventures. The tree’s decorations, which included three-quarters of a mile of garland, 250 red bows, 1,200 multicolored balls and 150 candy-cane and snowflake ornaments, along with its six-foot lighted star adorned a Christmas tree in Bayfront Park in Miami. 
 
Generoso Pope is buried in Our Lady Queen of Peace Cemetery in Royal Palm Beach. His epitaph describes his legacy as the man who made millions and millions of people happy.  No doubt any kid who grew up viewing Pope’s National Enquirer tree can still recall the festive displays and fondly recall and describe that old-fashioned “Christmas magic.”
 

Generoso Paul Pope’s Epitaph

Bill Newcott posted an eight minute video of the 1985 display on YouTube.

Paul David Pope reposted an interesting story about the last Christmas tree.

This 1987 Sun Sentinel article provides more insight into the operations choreography for the tree.

Pope’s widow, Lois Pope, continues to live in Manalapan.

Eliot Kleinberg’s Post Time column about the Lantana Christmas tree tradition.

Stay tuned for an upcoming blog about Generoso Paul Pope, Jr. (there was too much interesting information to fit into this blog about Christmas).

Tales of Boynton’s Old Stone Lodge: Death by Electrocution, Rattlesnake, and Double Suicide

A STORIED PAST

Some people might claim the old Boynton restaurant held some type of curse. We know that its proprietors and managers met unnatural deaths. Within eight years, four people perished in three separate incidents on and around the Stone Lodge.

THE STONE LODGE RESTAURANT

The roadside eatery, known as the Stone Lodge, operated from 1924 to 1940 1 1/2 miles south of Boynton’s Ocean Avenue along U.S. 1. The property intersects with the road known today as SE 23rd Avenue. Further west that roadway turns into Golf Road as it continues on to Military Trail past the Village of Golf, Delray Dunes and Country Club Stables.

The lodge occupied the land west of U.S. 1, where the Marathon gas station is today. When the 1920 Federal census enumerators came through Boynton, they counted about 550 people living here, and its residents were primarily laborers, tradesmen and farming and fishing families.

Stone Lodge ad (20 Feb. 1925, The Palm Beach Post)

Stone Lodge ad (20 Feb. 1925, The Palm Beach Post)

Initially, the lodge only operated as a seasonal lunch stand type restaurant, typically open from November through April. Austin Abbot Stone and wife Louisa Jane Turner opened the establishment in 1924. The Stones owned and operated a bakery and rooming house in Massachusetts. They began wintering in Boynton about 1923/24, as did Louisa’s two younger sisters, Grace and Mabel.

MOUTH WATERING HOME COOKING

Help Wanted at Boynton Stone Lodge ad (20 Jun 1925, The Palm Beach Post).

Help Wanted at Boynton Stone Lodge ad (20 Jun 1925, The Palm Beach Post).

The Stones served hearty home cooked lunches like ham and alligator pear sandwiches on thick slices of bread that they baked daily. Their chickens supplied plentiful eggs and fresh chicken to be roasted or fried and served to hungry guests. Razor-back hogs, wild turkeys and deer provided other protein. Boynton’s bounty of fish and oysters supplemented the green beans, sweet potatoes, tomatoes and other vegetables from their garden. Freshly squeezed seasonal orange and grapefruit juice and milk from the cows kept on the property washed down delicious desserts like cocoanut cake and huckleberry pie.
Stone Lodge ad (23 Dec. 1927, The Palm Beach Post)

Stone Lodge ad (23 Dec. 1927, The Palm Beach Post)

By 1925 the Stones took out Help Wanted ads in the Palm Beach Post seeking kitchen help and tea room attendants. They began advertising their “Chicken and Waffle Dinners” with large ads in The Post, The Lake Worth Herald and Miami News show similar advertisements, and society news columns tell about the lively luncheons, meetings and dinner parties at the Lodge.

HURRICANES

According to news accounts, an unnamed 1926 hurricane shuttered the restaurant for a season Since the Stones only wintered in Boynton, they were not in town during the hurricane season. In 1928, two more hurricanes hit Florida’s east coast, including the devastating “Okeechobee” killer ‘cane.

Ad for Boynton Stone Lodge (16 Apr. 1927, The Palm Beach Post).

Ad for Boynton Stone Lodge (16 Apr. 1927, The Palm Beach Post).

An advertisement for the Stone Lodge Restaurant indicated that the restaurant closed due to road washout and obstruction caused by the hurricanes. Since the rural nature of Boynton at the time considered the isolated place as “in the boonies,” the roadways between Boynton and Delray were likely not a priority for improving.
Mr. and Mrs. Stone operating the Brazilian Court Hotel Dining Room (17 Nov. 1928, The Palm Beach Post).

Mr. and Mrs. Stone operating the Brazilian Court Hotel Dining Room (17 Nov. 1928, The Palm Beach Post).

It is unclear if the restaurant itself sustained damage. It’s probably that the enterprising Stones had another couple to manage the Stone Lodge, since in November, 1929 Austin and Louisa Stone were managing The Brazilian Court Dining Room at the swanky boom-time Brazilian Court Apartments in Palm Beach.

The renovated eatery opened in 1929 adding “Fried Chicken and Fish Dinners,” and boasted that it attracted an élite clientele. In other words, it was pricy, and it is likely that more snowbirds and club women dined at the eatery than Boynton locals. There was not much along U.S. 1 in those early years. The 1930 Federal Census shows that Mr. and Mrs. Roland Owens who operated the Lee Manor Inn next to the Boynton Woman’s Club were enumerated as their nearest neighbors to the north.

By the 1930s, one can see that the Depression has set in, and the Stone’s featured “summer specials,” including breakfast, lunch, dinner, homemade cake and pie. The aging, hardworking couple had hired help that probably boarded with them. The establishment’s size is not disclosed in news accounts, however, since the Stones had “boarders” living with them in Massachusetts, the lodge probably served as a temporary home to northern visitors.

DEATH BY ELECTROCUTION

Austin Stone, the Stone Lodge’s namesake, met his demise in the inn’s wash-house in 1932. According to The Post, a family member (probably his wife Louisa) found the unresponsive 74-year-old proprietor on the laundry room floor in a puddle of water, with both hands severely burned.

Death notice for Austin A. Stone, electrocuted at home repairing a washing machine (11 Feb. 1932, The Palm Beach Post).

Death notice for Austin A. Stone, electrocuted at home repairing a washing machine (11 Feb. 1932, The Palm Beach Post).

Mr. Stone had attempted to fix a washing machine while standing in a puddle. Dr. Nat Weems and medics dispatched from Smith Funeral Home in Lake Worth administered mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to the restaurant owner for over an hour with no avail. Dr. Weems listed primary cause of death as electrocution (accidental), and recorded senility as secondary cause.

STOIC MRS. STONE WORKS TO KEEP THE RESTAURANT

During the Great Depression, the widow Stone rented out rooms with board and continued to run the Stone Lodge Restaurant. On the 1935 Florida census, her sister Mabel and brother-in-law Jay Herbert Gould are listed as family members; their occupations are both bakers. Discounted lunches and dinners are once again advertised in The Post. It was what Little Orphan Annie called a “hard-knock life.” Few people had the money to dine out, and those that did, were not spending their time or discretionary income in Boynton.

FOR SALE

After her sister Mabel’s husband died in 1937, Louisa attempted to sell the Lodge, including the house, restaurant and surrounding property. A Palm Beach Post advertisement illustrates that the complex included fully stocked acreage of over three acres, chicken coop and other outbuildings, house, established restaurant with a favorable reputation.

PLEA FOR HELP

As the 1939 season began, Louise again advertised her property, this time with a $5K price tag. On October 30th, the Palm Beach Post ran a wanted ad in which Louise sought a couple to manage the property. It stipulated that the Stone Lodge had an established clientele and had continuously operated for over 14 seasons with the same owner.

PREPARING FOR THANKSGIVING

On November 12, 1939, Louisa Turner Stone awoke early, as usual, and headed out to the Stone Lodge’s chicken coop. Running a restaurant was hard work, and even on a weekend morning, much work had to be done. Thanksgiving and Christmas were approaching, and business at the restaurant was picking up. Earlier in the year, a wild grass fire started at J.J. Williams Fernery had threatened the Stone and Woolbright properties, and severely damaged the Boynton Nurseries. Louisa had recently hired a couple to help her operate the restaurant for the season, and placed prominent advertisements for holiday dinners (this year the fare included roast duck) in The Post. She was probably feeling optimistic, perhaps even excited on that Sunday morning.

TRAGEDY RATTLES BOYNTON

Death notice for Louise J. Turner Stone fatally bit by a rattlesnake (14 Nov. 1939, The Palm Beach Post).

Death notice for Louise J. Turner Stone fatally bit by a rattlesnake (14 Nov. 1939, The Palm Beach Post).

While Louisa was in a chicken yard, a large rattlesnake bit the 71-year-old. Her certificate of death signed by Dr. William Ernest Van Landingham indicates that she died from the rattlesnake bite at 7:00 a.m. the next day at Good Samaritan Hospital in West Palm Beach. Good Samaritan, was the the closest hospital to Boynton in those days. Someone, either the new restaurant manager, or Louisa’s sister Mabel, who served as informant on the death record, drove the victim 17 miles up U.S. 1 to no avail.

BITING BACK

Two days later, Joe Harless and Paul Mercer were motoring down U.S. 1 on their way to the opening of the Delray Beach Country Club. The duo saw a large rattler in the road outside the Stone Lodge. The newspaper article reported that the men stopped the car, and Mercer stepped out and used his golf club to whack the snake and completely sever its head. Whether the rattler was the same one that fatally struck Louisa Stone, we will never know, but on that day one less rattlesnake lived in Boynton.

Smith Funeral Home held services for Mrs. Stone. She was laid to rest in Woodlawn Cemetery next to her husband Austin. Their tombstones are in the old section, and one can stay that I have walked amid the Stones many times on our Historic Moonlight Cemetery Tours. Their story, and that of the old Stone Lodge Restaurant will live on through this blog and on the historic tours.

Woodlawn Cemetery, West Palm Beach

Woodlawn Cemetery, West Palm Beach looking east. Pillow headstones for Austin and Louisa Stone are in the forefront.

DOUBLE SUICIDE

One would think that those two horrendous events at the Stone Lodge proved tragic enough. Unfortunately, there is more to the story. It appears that the restaurant operated through the holidays and the rest of the season, probably under the management of Mabel and the newly hired couple. Then, on April 1st the following year, two bodies were found dead in a car outside the lodge. A garden hose was taped to the car’s exhaust and run inside the window. Justice of the Peace W.F. Ridel determined it a double suicide.

Former Ringling Brothers performers commit double suicide in car outside Boynton eatery (1 April 1940, Tampa Bay Times)

Former Ringling Brothers performers commit double suicide in car outside Boynton eatery (1 April 1940, Tampa Bay Times)


The Palm Beach Post reported former vaudeville and Ringling Brother’s Circus performers Joseph and Laura Cameron McNutt who had managed the Stone Lodge committed a double suicide. The married couple left two notes in the car, one indicating that they should be cremated, and another saying that the car was rented.

In July, 1941 The Post published an ad offering the Stone complex and property for $5K. Augustus Robinson from Hartford, Connecticut purchased the property, Robinson also bought adjacent properties and filed a plat for his subdivision in 1951.

If you have any memories, tales or photos of the old Stone Lodge, we’d love to see/hear more about the establishment.

Happy 100th Birthday Town of Boynton!

Happy 100th Birthday Town of Boynton!

June 14th, 2020 commemorates the 100th anniversary of the Town of Boynton’s incorporation. We couldn’t let this significant date in history pass by without recognizing the notable event. In addition, it’s time to reveal some “hidden history,” about Boynton’s first mayor, forgotten with time.

Boynton Votes to Incorporate, April 19, 1920, The Miami News

 Boynton Incorporates

On Monday, June 14th, 1920 the town council adopted the minutes of the town’s formal organizational meeting. Two days earlier, on Saturday, June 12, G.E. Coon, Mayor, A.C. Shepard, C.M. Jensen, J.F. Bowen, A.A. Atwater, W.S. Shepard, Aldermen and B.F. Evans, Clerk conducted the inaugural meeting at the Masonic Hall on Ocean Avenue for the purpose of organizing the Town Council and electing a President of the Council. C.M. Jensen was nominated and voted in as president. At an April 19th, 1920 community meeting, Boynton’s citizens had voted 49 to 1 to incorporate.

Boynton Town Council Minutes (12 June 1920) page 1



Boynton’s First Mayor

Very few people know that George Edward Coon served as Boynton’s first mayor. Coon’s portrait was not among the portraits of previous and current Boynton Beach mayors that graced the City of Boynton Beach chamber walls. For well over a half century, most people assumed that Horace Bentley Murray was Boynton’s first mayor.

A Mystery!

I worked as the Boynton Beach City Library archivist for fifteen years, and during that time I discovered that Coon was the inaugural mayor. I asked my colleagues at the Boynton Beach Historical Society, including several former Boynton mayors, and no one knew anything about Geo. E. Coon. At the time, Newspapers.com did not exist, and the clunky Google news archive yielded very little. It seemed that no photographs of Coon existed. It bothered me that someone from our past was forgotten, and I was determined to seek out the truth.

Piecing Together a Puzzle

Using my Ancestry.com subscription, I built a tree for Mr. Coon. Initially, I didn’t even know his first name. Census records, and other primary source documents helped, and eventually names, dates and birthplaces emerged. Coon married Abigail Hellier, and together they had one daughter, Marjorie. Yearbooks discovered at the Mandel Public Library of West Palm Beach showed Marjorie attended Palm Beach High School, and she taught school in Boynton after graduating from Florida Women’s College (FSU).

A Clear Picture Emerges

A few years ago, Christian Davenport, Palm Beach County’s archaeologist, notified me that one of his volunteers, Mary VanDerlofske, had ties to old Boynton. It turns out her grandfather was Walter Hellier, and Abigail Hellier Coon was his aunt. She didn’t know that George Coon was Boynton’s first mayor, but she advised that she had pictures.

Pictures!

I met with Mary at a small, privately owned bookstore, and we immediately bonded. She and I exchanged historic anecdotes and she shared some photos with me, including this dapper photograph of George Edward Coon, Boynton’s first mayor!


Below is a short biography of Coon, based on information that I found and supplemented with information from Stuart historian, Alice L. Luckhardt. http://stuartheritagemuseum.com/vignettes/

Geo. E. Coon 1863-1934

Born in Wisconsin in 1863, George Edward Coon lived in Michigan with his parents and two younger siblings. In 1880, while in his teens, he came south to the Indian River region and grew pineapples on ten acres of property purchased from John Jensen along the Indian River. Coon worked as a fruit grower and shipper and also served as postmaster for the Jensen settlement. He invested in and organized the Indian River Telephone Company. After his first wife died he married Abigail Hellier. Together they had one daughter, Marjorie Grace.

In the mid 1910s, the Coon family moved to Boynton. As he had family members in Jensen, he spent time in both Boynton and Jensen, actively leading in business and civic affairs until his death in 1934 at age 71.

G.E. Coon obituary



Gone, and forgotten for so many years. Forgotten no more.

References

The Florida Star
Ft. Lauderdale News
The Miami News
The Palm Beach Post

1910 U.S. Census
1920 U.S. Census
City of Boynton Beach City Council Minutes
Luckhardt, Alice.
Vanderlofske, Mary.

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