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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James William Porter

James William Porter was one of three young men who came to Florida in 1884 from Cadiz, Trigg County, Kentucky. The other two were Andrew W. Garnett and James Edward Hamilton. They became known as “The Kentucky Boys.” They went first to Bartow and then to Ft. Myers. The cold winter made them seek a warmer spot. They traveled by train to Titusville on the Indian River and then made their way south to the shores of Lake Worth, arriving in June 1885. They paid Minnie Brelsford $400 for about 15 acres of land extending from the lakeshore west to what would become Dixie Highway in Hypoluxo, and divided it into three equal, narrow strips. They built a cabin and the three bachelors began farming their land. After Ed Hamilton’s tragic death (See the Barefoot Mail Route), Gamett and Porter each bought half of his land from his heirs.

Jim Porter was a Dade County commissioner when Dade County stretched from the St. Lucie River to Biscayne Bay, where the county seat was located. By the fall of 1888, the northern voters outnumbered the ones in the south and voted to change the county seat to Juno. Knowing there would be opposition to bringing the county records north from the Biscayne area, Commissioner Porter and five other men armed themselves and headed down the beach to Biscayne Bay. Porter, declaring he could shoot as well with his left hand as with his right, carried two guns. As expected, the Miami men refused to relinquish the county books (See the Patrick Lennon story), so after dark, the lake men loaded the books into a borrowed canoe and made their way through the Everglades to the Lauderdale House of Refuge. One stayed with the records; the other five walked back to Lake Worth and sent a boat back. The records were brought safely to Juno, which was the county seat for the next ten years.

In 1899, Jim Porter married Ellen Ferguson, also a native of Kentucky, and homesteaded 160 acres on the west side of Dixie Highway. Jim built a large, two-story house, facing east, and he and Ellen had four children: William F., George Tilman, Henry Hood, and Isabel. Ellen died when the children were young, and Jim raised them alone. Isabel married George T. Knight and lived in Balsam, North Carolina. William and George also moved away from the lake area, but Henry remained in the family home most of his life.

Jim sold his original strip of farmland to Willis Reinhardt, who built a beautiful home on the lakeshore, which later became The Lakeshore Club, an exclusive gambling club in the 1950s, and still later, James Melton’s Autorama. When Melton left, the building was torn down because of termite damage.

During the Florida “boom,” Jim sold some of his land to buy property in Balsam, North Carolina, from Mr. and Mrs. Tom Rickards. He had only paid half when the boom busted, and he couldn’t pay the rest. The Rickards graciously allowed him to choose half of their property as his own.

Jim Porter, a farmer all his life, died at home in Hypoluxo on 17 October 1937, at age seventy-eight, and is buried in Hillcrest Cemetery, West Palm Beach.

Henry Hood Porter married Florence Mae Hardman of Massachusetts. They lived in the house his father built and had two children, James H. Porter and Florence P. Gower. After their children were grown, Henry and Florence moved to Lantana and, in September 1971, gave permission for the Porter homestead in Hypoluxo to be burned down in a teaching demonstration by the fire department.

 

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