The History of the “EAA” Along the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, St Lucie Gardens

St Lucie Gardens...overlay by Todd Thurlow.
Lands purchased by Sir Edward J. Reed from Hamilton Disston, as platted in the late 1880s/early 1900s. Now includes areas of Martin and St Lucie Counties…overlay on Google map by Todd Thurlow.
This image shows St Lucie Farms separated from the entire land purchase of reed from Disston. (overlay created by Todd Thurlow)
This image shows St Lucie Farms separated from the entire land purchase of Reed from Disston. (overlay created by Todd Thurlow)

It all started with a recent comment by Bob Ulevich, at a Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council meeting.  In the course of his presentation and questioning on the history of the water management districts, Bob noted that the EAA, the Everglades Agricultural Area, was not historically “just located” where it is today, south of Lake Okeechobee, but basically included all of Disston’s lands. Are you kidding me? “Gulp”….

TCRPC meeting excerpt, no video, just sound: (https://youtu.be/acP_ri2vElc)

 

The red colored blocks south of Lake O. are the EAA-700,000 acres of sugar lands and vegetables. South of the EAA are the STAs and water conservation areas .(SFWMD map, 2012.)
The red colored blocks south of Lake O. are the EAA-700,000 acres of sugar lands and vegetables. South of the EAA are the STAs and water conservation areas .(SFWMD map, 2012.)

Hamilton Disston. Remember him?  The “savior,” “the drainer” of our state—-who basically bought the entire state from a bankrupt entity, the Internal Improvement Fund? (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hamilton_Disston)
The more and read and think about it, I think what Bob meant was that almost of all the swamp lands sold to Disston and then others were marketed for people to purchase and farm….basically creating a giant Everglades agricultural area…but it wasn’t always so easy….

Orginal everglades document of the state of Florida. (TT)
Orginal Everglades document of the state of Florida. (Downloaded by TT)
TT
Ddisston’s AGCCOL Co. (TT)

When I was trying to figure all this out, I went back to a map I had seen before, reread a chapter in my mother’s Jensen and Eden book, and contacted my brother, Todd,  to help me answer a question.

Map
Map of Disston’s lands.

“Why isn’t St Lucie Gardens in pink on the Disston map?” Wasn’t this area supposed to be farmland?

St Lucie Gardens was a huge subdivision including the savannas filed in 1911 by the Franklin Land Company of Jacksonville. According to my mother’s book, “the land was advertised as far away a Kansas and a few families bought land and tried to make a living farming. However land that had been pine flat woods continued to have cycles of flooding a drought and was impossible to farm profitably. The families that came to fame in St Lucie Garden either gave up or turned to other way to make a living.”

St Lucie Gardens...overlay by Todd Thurlow.
St Lucie Gardens…overlay by Todd Thurlow.
St Lucie Gardens plat map 1881. MC Property appraiser, via Todd Thurlow.
St Lucie Gardens plat map 1910. MC Property appraiser, via Todd Thurlow.
The Waters family promoting St Lucie Gardens 1910. (Photo Reginald Waters Rice) from Jensen and Eden by Sandra Henderson Thurlow.
The Waters family promoting St Lucie Gardens 1910. (Photo Reginald Waters Rice) from Jensen and Eden by Sandra Henderson Thurlow.
Draining the savannas around St Lucie Gardens, 1911. Franklin Land Co. (Reginald Waters Rice) Jensen and Eden, Sandra Henderson Thurlow.
Draining the savannas around St Lucie Gardens, 1911. Franklin Land Co. (Reginald Waters Rice) Jensen and Eden, Sandra Henderson Thurlow.
Page listing lands of Disston, mind you county boarders were different at this time. Matin was Brevard.
Page listing lands of Disston, mind you county boarders were different at this time. Martin was Brevard.

Todd and I never found our why those lands of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon were not included on the 1881 Disston lands map, and the people who created it are not around to ask, but Todd did find the deed of the purchase which are an incredible part of our history.

Deed of Disston lands sold to Reed.
Deed of Disston lands sold to Reed, 1881.
page 2
page 2
Disston 4,000,000 acres from the state of Florida in 1881, which included much of the land within the savannas. ( Public map, 1881.)
Disston 4,000,000 acres from the state of Florida. ( Public map, 1881.)

And the EAA? With all the water problems we have today, I am glad it does not include everything in pink and green on the map and that something remains of our Savannas.

Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch

Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch

About Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch:

Although born at Travis Air Base, California, Jacqui considers herself a native of Stuart, Florida, having moved there at eight months old. Her father’s family, originally from Syracuse, New York, has lived in Stuart since 1952. Her mother is a 5th generation Floridian from Gainesville. Jacqui is a Daughter of the American Revolution.

Jacqui is journalism graduate of the University of Florida, and an education master’s graduate of the University of West Florida. She went on to teach English and German and later after a serious accident of breaking her neck, started selling real estate. Later, she ran for public office having served on the Town of Sewall’s Point Commission since 2008, and is former mayor. During this time she saw the opportunity to help showcase the work of a locally formed river group, the River Kidz, and this has been her passion ever. She incorporates youth/river education  into her political work for the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.

Jacqui is the treasurer/secretary of the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council; has chaired the Florida League of Cities Environmental and Energy Committee; was chair, and a six year member of the Treasure Coast Council of Local Governments; is an alternate for the Water Resources Advisory Commission for the South Florida Water Management District; and is a board member for Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute Foundation, in St Lucie County.  She also serves as a board member (ex-officio) for the Rivers Coalition Defense Fund, and is head administrator for her beloved River Kidz, now a division of the Rivers Coalition.

Jacqui’s reach involves not only local, but state and federal government. In 2013,  she served on Senator Joe Negron’s panel for the Select Senate Hearing on the Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee. In 2014, she actively supported the elections of both Senator Joe Negron and Congressman Patrick Murphy who have both been strong supporters of  Indian River Lagoon issues. In 2015, she is part of the Florida League Cities Treasure Coast Advocacy team to influence and educate Tallahassee. Jacqui received the Everglades Coalition’s 2015 “John V. Kabler Award” for “Grassroots Activism” working to organize and educate the public about Everglades restoration. Most recently she has been recruited as a fellow by the University of Florida/IFAS’s Natural Resources Leadership Institute Class XV. The institute focuses on teaching leaders how to facilitate participatory decision making in the most controversial of situations.

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