Celebrating our 125th annual Pioneer Picnic on Saturday, May 1, 2021!
Jacob T. Earnest was born at Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia He married Anna Wallace who was born at Allegheny, Pennsylvania. Their children were Maude, Belle, Louise, Charles, J. Thomas and Dan.
On her application for the Lake Worth Pioneers Association, Maude states she was born 19 September 1873 and arrived on Lake Worth in 1886-1887.
The Earnest family lived in a two-story house on the lake front just to the north of the east end of Osborne/Lantana Road. This was close to the first school in Lantana. A Youth Census of Dade County, Florida, of 1 June 1896 lists the names of Dan and Thomas Earnest. (We were part of Dade County until 1909.) Maude states she attended the first school with Susie Brown as the teacher. This must have been the one on North Lake Trail in Palm Beach. The building is now in Phipps Ocean Front Park on AlA, north of Lake Worth.
Maude wrote that her father homesteaded in Lantana, and had a sawmill about two miles west of the Lantana settlement, on Lake Osborne. An old map shows the location of the road and sawmill. He had a small commissary in a warehouse on his shipping dock.
In 1892, Jacob Earnest was described as an old gentleman with a long, white beard, patriarchal appearance and serene attitude.(A History of Juno Beach, DuBois). At a crucial moment in a political caucus, he spoke in a calm voice which brought compromise rather than bloodshed.
A Lantana pioneer told of Maude and Belle being home alone one day when the house caught fire. They were busy throwing belongings out of the window and hollering for help.
Maude married first Fred Shaw who was the Express and Freight Agent at Lantana for the Florida East Coast Railway. One day he rode his bicycle to West Palm Beach and was struck by lightning. He was not found until the next day. Maude married second John Bausert. In 1953, Charles G. Shaw, her son, was living in Texas. A daughter, Annabel Bausert Kelly, resided in Portland, Oregon. Also, Maude’s sister, Louise, and brother, Charles, were deceased by this time. The others, including Maude, were living in Melbourne, Florida.
Albert M. Field is the pioneer who is mainly remembered for donating an acre of land for the first courthouse in Dade County. In 1889, Dade County stretched from St. Lucie Inlet to Biscayne Bay, and the only courthouse was a rented room in Miami. The north county voters called for a special election to move the county seat to a more convenient location for them, and won. The acre of land donated by Field was named Juno, and there ground was broken for the courthouse. While it was being built, Field kept the county records in his home, charging $15.00 a month for rent, the same as the Miami landlord had charged.
Field was one of the large landowners of the north county area. His wife’s name was spelled variously Lettie C. and Leahretta C. She and Albert were on the north shore of Lake Worth as early as January 1888. Lettie died before the courthouse was completed in 1890.
Henry Morrison Flagler made a great impact on the development of South Florida, especially around the shores of Lake Worth. Many books and articles have been written about him. This account will deal with his activities at what is now Palm Beach.
Flagler was born 2 January 1830 at Hopewell, New York. By the time he spent the winter of 1883-1884 in St. Augustine, Florida, he had made his fortune in the Standard Oil Company with his partner, John D. Rockefeller. But instead of retiring, he poured millions of dollars into building hotels, such as the Ponce de Leon, and making St. Augustine a resort city.
Travel by rail was difficult at the time as each segment had its own gauge. Flagler started buying up railroads and standardizing the gauges. In the l880s, Titusville was “the end of the line” by rail. The only way south was via the Indian River or by the Atlantic Ocean.
When Flagler visited the lake of Lake Worth in 1893, he decided to make it “the queen of the vacation spots.” He made plans to build a large resort hotel in what was to become Palm Beach and to bring his East Coast Railway to West Palm Beach. He purchased Robert R. McCormick’s property for $75,000 and also bought Brelsford’s Point for $50,000. Land immediately jumped from $150 an acre to $1,000 an acre, bringing about Palm Beach’s first real estate boom.
Flagler’s Royal Poinciana Hotel was built for 1200 guests, was six stories high and covered 32 acres, including the gardens. Located south of Main Street, it was next to the future site of the Henry Morrison Flagler Museum on the lake front. It was built in three stages and at one time considered the largest wooden hotel in the world. The hotel was torn down in 1936 after being damaged in the 1928 hurricane.
Workers, some being immigrants, were recruited from New York. Many were hired, so the work went quickly. Living quarters were provided north of Main Street, in a section known as The Styx. The hotel, started 1 May 1893, was finished 11 February 1894. Meanwhile, work continued on Flagler’s East Coast Railway, which reached the west side of the lake in April 1894. A year later, a railroad bridge was built on the site of today’s Flagler Memorial Bridge (North Bridge) so private railroad cars could be parked near the hotel.
In 1901, Flagler built a marble palace, Whitehall, as a home for his third wife, Mary Lily Kenan. Today it is known as the Henry Morrison Flagler Museum. There he died 20 May 1913. He is buried in St. Augustine. Flagler had only intended to bring the railroad to West Palm Beach but, by the time he died, the Key West Extension had been built, so it was possible to get to Key West from New York without changing trains.
Wilbur LeRoy Forrey came to the shores of Lake Worth in 1893. Born about 1870 in Marshall- town, Marshall County, Iowa, he was one of the ten children of Joseph and Ellen Forrey.
Two of Wilbur’s sisters, Ida Cram and Mary Palmer, either came with him or by themselves not long after. Wilbur’s brothers, Elmer and Melvin, arrived about 1898 and they all bought 10 acre strips of land running from County Road
(U.S.#1) to the lake (Lake Worth) in Hypoluxo.
Wilbur, Elmer and Melvin, and their sister Mary’s husband, Francis W. Palmer, all enlisted in the Spanish-American War in 1898 and were stationed in Fernandina, Tampa and West Palm Beach. When the men returned from service, they went into farming, growing mainly pineapples and tomatoes. As they now lived closer to Boynton, they became a part of that community.
Their parents, Joseph and Ellen Forrey, moved to the area from Iowa about 1899. Not long after, their father died while milking his cow. His tombstone is in Lantana’s Evergreen Cemetery with the dates 1828-1900.
Three sisters, Jessie, Annie and Katherine Ford, came to Boynton from Alabama sometime before 1908. Jessie married Wilbur Forrey. An early account indicates that they lived in Will Moore’s house on Hypoluxo Island. In 1911, a bridge was built to span the canal in Boynton. The Will Forreys became the bridge tenders there in 1924. Later their home was just south of Second Avenue and west of the Florida East Coast Railroad.
When Jessie died 6 February 1932, Will went to live with his bachelor brother, Elmer. Will died sometime before 1950. Family sources say that Wilbur and Jessie are both buried in unmarked graves in Lantana’s Evergreen Cemetery.
Jesse Fox (widower) arrived in Merritt Island with 3 daughters in 1883 or 1884. Jesse was a Union Army veteran.
Jesse's oldest daughter, Adah Saunders (nee Fox), was an exceptionally talented seamstress with her shop at the corner of Olive Ave & Datura St for at least 25 years. She later became the first self-made female millionaire in Palm Beach County. Adah is the person that donated the land that would become St. Mary's Hospital. Adah was also known for her collection of items that she showcased in her home/museum; the collection even included an Egyptian tomb. There are many news records of Adah in the local papers during this era.
Middle daughter, Jennie Ann Singleton, operated Birdland with her daughter Virgil Grosser.
Jesse's youngest daughter married into the Hiscock family.
Jennie Ann's descendant, Larry Grosser, submitted the Jesse Fox family for membership. They were unanimously approved for membership on May 1, 2021.
In 1884, Reverend Elbridge Gale retired as professor of Horticulture, Kansas State Agricultural College, Manhattan, Kansas, to the west shore of the lake named Lake Worth. His wife, Elizabeth, stayed behind in the family home at McPherson while their daughter, Hattie, attended her father’s college. Their other daughter, Ella M. Kedzie, was already married. Their son, George, and his family followed Elbridge to Florida, arriving in February 1885. Hattie was graduated in 1890 and she and her mother joined the family in Florida. Hattie’s fiancé, Will Sanders, came too, and he and Hattie were married by her father (see the Will Sanders story).
Elbridge homesteaded 160 acres in present day Northwood Hills. He experimented with producing hybrid mangoes, crossing the native variety with imported seeds, and produced the popular Haden mango. He named his place Mangonia, which gradually became the name of the whole section of town.
Elbridge served one term as school superintendent of Dade County, which at that time encompassed all the land between the St. Lucie Inlet and Biscayne Bay. He was the first president of the Lake Worth Pioneers’ Association. He was also the first president of the Christian Union, the first religious non-sectarian league on the lake, which met in the Mangonia school.
Elizabeth and Elbridge Gale were both natives of New Hampshire. She died in 1893, Elbridge died 4 November 1907, and they are both buried in Woodlawn Cemetery, West Palm Beach.
George A. Gale, son of Rev. Elbridge and Elizabeth Gale, was born in Vermont in 1854. He arrived on the shores of Lake Worth in February 1885 from McPherson, Kansas. His father had retired and come to the lake three months earlier. George was accompanied by his wife, the former Mattie J. Alexander, whom he had married in Kansas on 14 June 1879, and their young son, William E., born 17 December 1883. They also brought along George’s niece, Nellie B. Simpson, age thirteen.
George, a carpenter, helped his father build the first log cabin on the west side of the lake, located in Mangonia, today’s Northwood Hills. The logs came from the lake front, and the shingles were cut from wreckage found on the ocean beach. They topped it with a steep palmetto-frond roof.
George became a fruit and poultry farmer. In the mid 1 880s, he took over as postmaster of Lake Worth (original name of the Palm Beach postoffice) from ailing V.0. Spencer. He was also superintendent of the Lake Worth and Jacksonville Transportation Company in 1889. By 1896, he had a general merchandise business in Mangonia. Next, George went into partnership with R.E. Oliver in a car dealership in West Palm Beach. He sold Studebaker and Paige cars.
George died 6 March 1922. Mattie died five months later, and they are both buried in Woodlawn Cemetery, West Palm Beach.
His son, William E. Gale, was a blacksmith. He and his wife, Elizabeth, lived at 431 Jessamine, West Palm Beach, and had two children, George Iven and Clara, who married a Bailey.
Nellie Blanche Simpson married William E. Poland, a contractor, and had four children:
* W.E., Jr., Claude, Florence and Lucille. Nellie died 11 July 1934, W.E. died 6 July 1948, and both are buried in Woodlawn Cemetery, West Palm Beach.
Andrew Walton Garnett, age twenty, accompanied by James “Ed” Hamilton, age thirty, and James Porter, age twenty-five, arrived on the shores of Lake Worth in June 1885. They were all from Cadiz, Trigg County, Kentucky. Andrew had a small inheritance from his parents, and he wanted to become a citrus grower in central Florida. His father died when Andrew was six, and his mother ten years later.
The winter of 1884 they spent in Bartow. It was unusually cold so they sought a warmer spot. To reach the East Coast, they had to take the train to Fernandina, then make their way south to Titusville, where they could reach the Lake Worth area via the Indian River.
Each of the young men bought land on the mainland opposite the Pierce home, which was at the south end of Hypoluxo Island. Later they each applied for a homestead. Hamilton died in the line of duty, delivering the mail. Garnett’s homestead lay from Hypoluxo Road north toward the present-day ballpark, and Porter’s homestead was south of Hypoluxo Road. The property is still in the hands of the Porter family. (See Barefoot Mail Route.)
In 1896, eleven years after coming to the shores of the lake of Lake Worth, Andrew made a trip back to Kentucky to marry his sister’s friend, Lillie Mae Morehead, a teacher in Mayfield. Andrew and Lillie had six children, all born in Hypoluxo with the aid of a midwife. The first child, a girl, lived eight days and is buried in Lantana’s Evergreen Cemetery. The others are In B., Roy E., A. Leland, Lewis W. and Margaret. Irl and Roy lived out their lives in Palm Beach County. In! continued farming and growing fruit. He will be remembered for his fruit stand and packing house at the east end of Hypoluxo Road. Irl married Julia Butler of Virginia and their children are Lindsey and Katherine (Mrs. Richard Eubanks), both of whom reside in Lantana.
Andrew Garnett took a very active role in the community. After the death of Ed Hamilton, he and Charles Pierce carried the mail, walking the beach to Biscayne Bay (Miami). Later he was the first postmaster of Hypoluxo, with the office in his home. From 1894 to 1896, Andrew was treasurer of Dade County of which this area was then a part. He served as a member of the Dade County School Board from 1898 to 1902 and traveled to Miami to attend board meetings. He also clerked in Breisford Brothers store in Palm Beach as well as Lyman’s General Store in Lantana. A strong Christian, he provided space for the first Sunday School, and he and Lillie were charter members of Boynton Methodist Church. Andrew, specializing in grapefruit, grew citrus on his home place and on 40 acres east of Lake Osborne that he bought. He shipped fancy gift boxes of mixed citrus. He also grew winter vegetables which he shipped north in box cars on the F.E.C. Railway. He grew pineapples on the land he had homesteaded.
Andrew died 6 April 1940 and is buried in Hillcrest Cemetery, West Palm Beach. Years before, Samuel Blakely, the landscaper for the ill-fated Kelsey City, bought Royal palm trees from Andrew. When he couldn’t pay for them, Andrew accepted lots in Hillcrest Cemetery as payment. Lillie died in 1957 and is buried beside Andrew.
Roy was a prominent banker in Lake Worth for years. He was a member of many organizations and served on the board of the City of Lake Worth Library. Roy married Vivian Boutelle, the niece of Lilla Shepley. They had a daughter, Lillian, who married Allen 0. Nelson, an educator.
A. Leland Garnett lived in Waynesville, North Carolina. Lewis Garnett and his wife live in Miami. Margaret Garnett married Clyde Harris, and they have three sons, Kendall, Paul and Neil. Margaret was a teacher in Palm Beach County for seven years. Clyde, also an educator, was a school administrator before his retirement.
Albert Geer was born 25 December 1838 at Lyons, Wayne County, New York to Harvey Geer and Angeline Roys. He grew up in a large family and was trained as a banker. This did not seem to be the career that he had in mind. He liked farming so he decided to take his family to Texas. That idea was short-lived when he met a fellow at the rail station who owned property in Florida. The glowing description of this “paradise” changed his mind. He then convinced two other families to join him. So it was that the Geer and Dimick families traveled together to Florida in 1876 from Illinois.
These families were related by marriage. Albert married Marian Dimick and his two sisters married Marian’s two brothers. Ella Geer married Elisha Dimick and Anna Geer married Franklin Dimick.
They brought two carloads of potatoes which they sold at Savannah and broomstraw to make marketable items. They had expected to get to Jacksonville in 24 hours but due to trouble on the railroad tracks it took 78 hours. They located a house in Jacksonville, settled in, left the ladies while the men went south looking for a suitable place to build a home.
When they saw Palm Beach they knew this was to be their “garden of Eden” so they hastened back to Jacksonville to make ready for the trip back. They hired a schooner to carry all the goods they had brought with them from Illinos as well as building supplies they had purchased.
Albert bought 40 acres from the government for 850 per acre. With the acreage purchased by the Dimicks, the land consisted of what is now Sunrise Avenue to Seaview Avenue in Palm Beach.
The Geer house was built up and down, the boards being placed vertically with no studding, and it consisted of one and a half stories. By 1886 it was a beautiful homestead with many cultivated plants and trees.
At that time a Mr. McCormick (no relation to the Chicago publisher) visited the area from Denver and asked if the Geer place was for sale. Albert told him if he would give him $1,000 for every year he had worked the place, he could have it, and so it was sold for $10,000. Albert and his family returned to the north, settling in Michigan. McCormick later sold his land to Henry Flagler for the astounding sum of $75,000 and Flagler later build the Royal Poinciana Hotel on that spot.
Albert and Marian’s children were Everard Eugene born in 1870 at Hudson, New York, and Levi A. born at City Point, Florida after 1876. Levi married Genevera and they had no children. Everard married Neva Mabel Wood and they had one daughter, Mildred Parthenia and two sons, Marion Wood and Norman Eugene.
Of this group, Albert Geer’ s name is the only one on the plaque. He died 21 March 1926 at eighty-eight years of age.
Jacob and Millie arrived on the Shores of Lake Worth in 1876. Jacob was a farmer, and Millie was a nurse. Millie was a feed slave from Georgia who arrived here in 1876 with the Dimick family. Millie married Jacob/Jake on the lawn of Cap Dimick's Palm Beach home.
In 1880, Jake and Millie purchased several acres of land from Elisha Dimick--waterfront property in an area that is now Riviera Beach. Over the years, they continued to purchase land and assemble property.
Millie is well known for being a mid-wife to the other pioneer families in the area. About 1886, she became a midwife to Richard Potter, the first area doctor. According to various accounts, Dr. Potter would sail up to her wharf, toot his whistle, and she would scurry out with her instruments.
The Gildersleeves had five children. She later worked for Russell Hopkins. Their home is now the site of Perry Oceanographics.
In 1894, they were among the founders of Tabernacle Baptist Church in West Palm Beach and the Evergreen Cemetery. Jake and Millie's daughters were among the first graduates of Florida A & M College in Tallahassee. In 1950, Millie's death was recognized by resolution of the Lake Worth Pioneers' Association.
Posthumously made members when their descendant, Judge Bradley Harper, applied for membership. The Harper family via the Gildersleeves, are the first new members in living memory when Jacob and Millie were unanimously voted into membership on May 6, 2017
Information taken from family accounts and stories in the Palm Beach Post as well as her obituary by Eliot Kleinberg.
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