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

An Old-Fashioned Celebration

Early residents of Boynton and Delray celebrated Independence Day in ways very similar to the way we celebrate today. Leisure activities such as picnics, parades and swimming topped the list of events.

Parades have long been a big source of entertainment. In 1914, Delray and Boynton teamed up to hold a big 4th of July celebration. Decorated floats like this one paying homage to the principal crop, the tomato, paraded down the street.

Image courtesy State Archives of Florida/Florida Memory 31747

Image courtesy State Archives of Florida/Florida Memory 31747

The Boynton Inlet and the Boynton Casino were popular places for celebrating Independence Day. Games and contests were held along with a friendly game of baseball.  Each family packed a picnic basket with homemade treats like fried chicken, coconut cake and fresh pineapple.

Families would walk from town over the bridge carrying covered dishes and the baskets full of goodies. Children played in sand and surf and danced in the waves.

Image courtesy Historical Society of Palm Beach County archive.

Image courtesy Historical Society of Palm Beach County archive.

Watermelon was and still is a popular menu item with people of all ages. Here a group of Boyntonites feast on homegrown watermelon. The expressions on their faces reflect the merriment of the holiday.

Happy Independence Day from the Boynton Beach Historical Society!

 

 

 

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.”