Lake Worth Pioneers' Association, Inc.

 


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John Yeend

1109 S. Congress Ave.
West Palm Beach, FL 33406

Phone: 561-642-4200

E-mail: info@lwpa.org


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George W. Sears

George W. Sears was born in Alsace-Lorraine in 1843. When he was eleven years old, his parents packed up their three children and traveled to New York and then to Key West, to stay with an aunt, Charlotte Filer (Mrs. Frederick). Not long afterward, George’s mother and his brother died of yellow fever. In 1858, George’s father, Michael, moved George and his five-year-old sister, Caroline, to Biscayne Bay.

Michael spelled his name Zahr. Caroline, who never married, spelled her name Zair. Various spellings included Zuhr, Zaihrs, Sair, Sayers, and even Chairs. George adopted the spelling of Sears.

On Biscayne Bay, about three miles north of the mouth of the Miami River, George helped his father build a house, clear some land and plant fruit trees. They salvaged wrecked ships for metal for their own use and to barter. With Michael’s schooner, “Lavinia,” they traveled back and forth between Key West and Biscayne Bay, bringing back supplies to sell to the Indians.

In 1866, they made a trip to Titusville. On their way back home, they noticed a difference in the color of the water as they were passing what would now be opposite the north inlet. Probably there had been some bad weather to cause flooding which led to a break in the barrier island. Water from landlocked, fresh water Lake Worth was mixing with the ocean water. They sailed through this new inlet onto the lake. Traveling a few miles south, they saw a man standing in a clearing on the east shore of the lake. He turned out to be Augustus Oswald Lang, who asked them how the war was going. Lang was surprised to learn that it had been over for more than a year.

George and his father returned to Biscayne Bay. George served as a mail carrier between the Bay and Key West in the 1870s. In 1872, he homesteaded 160 acres two miles north of his father’s place. By November 1878, George had built two houses plus outbuildings, cleared 6 acres, and planted fruit trees, sweet potatoes and pumpkins. He valued his homestead at $800. However, it was ten more years before he was allowed the homestead.

First, he had to be naturalized, which he did in Key West in 1879. Then there was a question of whether his land was swamp or dry land. If swamp, it belonged to the state and could not be homesteaded. Before the question was settled, George moved farther north and remarried. There is no record of his first marriage, but he is listed as widowed or divorced on the 1880 census. In Eau Gallie in November 1881, George married Elizabeth Houston Adams, a widow with two children, George S. and Mary Virginia Adams. In April 1882, they visited Biscayne Bay. Because there were no schools for his stepchildren, George moved his family to Mangonia, near present-day West Palm Beach. He was one of the charter members of the Lake Worth Pioneers’ Association.

His stepson, George Adams, married Mabel Whitehurst in Lemon City and they lived there until 1896, when they, too, moved to Mangonia and George Adams became clerk of West Palm Beach. Mary Virginia Adams married Frank Courtright who farmed with George Sears. They were so successful in raising tomatoes for market that their methods were written up in Miami Metropolis.

George and Elizabeth Sears had two daughters of their own: Kate, who married Arthur Janes and Josie, who married M.B. Plummer. Both died young, leaving daughters.

George and family moved back to Biscayne Bay in 1900, to stay. The Sears and Courtrights lived in adjacent houses west of the Little River railroad station on what is now NE 79th Street. Here, George W. Sears died on 17 September 1919, at age seventy-six.

 

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