Harlan Page Dye was born at Brooksfield, New York, on 30 August 1851. In an account, written in 1884 and made available by his granddaughter, Kay Gago of Gainesville, Dye tells of his arrival in what is now Palm Beach County on 28 December 1874. He and some friends had left Jacksonville a month before and spent some time on the shores of Lake Worth, intending to go on to Kansas City. Dye declared he would go no farther, that he had “found a home.”
To apply for homesteads, it was necessary to go 160 miles north to Titusville. Dye applied for himself, Mason Dwight, Fred Stella and Charles Moore. Dye’s and Dwight’s claims were for government land, to be homesteaded. The other two had to buy from the state.
Pioneers had to be “jacks-of-all-trades” and Dye was no exception. Mason Dwight hired Dye to build a house for him, the first on the lake to be built of “store bought” lumber, brought by schooner from Jacksonville. This home was on the east shore of the lake, about a mile north of today’s Flagler Bridge.
There was a growing need for more boats. Dye went north one June and built a 42’ sloop, “Mohawk,” in Titusville, and returned in October. For the next few years, he carried the mail, passengers and supplies between the lake and Jacksonville. He also transported the first mule to the area.
At a meeting of the settlers, it was decided another boat was needed for getting their produce to market. H.P. Dye agreed to go into the lighthouse service at Jupiter and build a vessel in his spare time. Duties at the lighthouse were light enough to permit this. Neighbors cared for his homestead while he was away. He finished the boat, “Gazelle,” in February 1881, nearly three years later.
Dye settled in Lake Worth Village, a small settlement at the north end of the lake where an inlet had been dug. (There was no city of Lake Worth until 1912.) Dye opened the first store in the area on his homestead, north of today’s Palm Beach Country Club on the island of Palm Beach. With “Gazelle,” Dye carried the settlers’ produce to Jacksonville and returned with stock for his store.
By 1882, a need was felt for a hotel. E.N. Dimick had a large house and rented out rooms. He kept adding rooms as more and more people came, and his place became “The Cocoanut Grove Hotel,” located between the present-day Royal Park and Flagler bridges on the west side of the island. The lake was their highway - they were not interested in locating on the ocean front. H.P. Dye built the first bona fide hotel, with ten sleeping rooms, near his store. This proved to be too small so in 1888, he built the hotel, “Lake Worth,” with sixty-three rooms. It burned down in August 1897.
The pioneers farmed or hunted for most of their food. Dye stated that for eleven years, he took Saturday afternoons for hunting and never had to buy meat. They raised fruit and vegetables, fish were plentiful, and no one went hungry.
Dye brought the first cow into South Florida in 1897 after his hotel burned. He operated the Lake Worth Dairy for sixteen years, located on the site of Palm Beach Country Club. In 1899, during the Spanish-American War, he was invited to take one hundred cows to Cuba to provide milk for the American troops stationed there. He was there four years. Dye sold his dairy to Florida East Coast Hotel Company.
Harlan Page Dye married first Annie E. and they had a daughter, Ruby. By his second wife, Katherine Alice Brown of Albany of New York, whom he married in 1915, he had three children, Helene Patricia, Margaret Jean and Harlan Page, Jr. He died 30 November 1930, age seventynine, in Palm Beach County and was buried in Woodlawn Cemetery, West Palm Beach.