Readers: This is the third column on A.F. Gonzalez’ memoir of his 1893 journey, with three others - William G. Rew, L. C. Stewart and Joe Henley - across wilderness South Florida from Fort Myers to Palm Beach.
The four had spent nearly two weeks canoeing, then slogging through sometimes waist-deep swamp, and had run out of food days earlier and resorted to eating palmetto cabbage.
Finally, the four came across two men chopping railroad ties. They’d stumbled back into civilization, as much as it was. And soon discovered they were ever so near their destination.
“As we ran to them,” Gonzalez wrote, “they started running from us. So we followed them, and the two men went straight to the commissary, which was our life saver.”
The manager of the railroad commissary grilled them on their adventure but told them he’d give them only milk and crackers in their delicate gastronomic conditions, “which we were glad to get.”
The four crawled into nets at 11 a.m. and “never moved until 10 a.m. the next day.”
That would have been a 14th night since they’d left Fort Myers.
They got soap and luxuriated in bathing and washing their clothes. The manager would not take their money. He directed them to the shortest route to Palm Beach.
Soon they were in Juno – not current Juno Beach, but instead nearby Juno, the seat of Dade County from 1888 until the town burned in 1894. There, they spent their 15th night.
“The next day we got a boatman to sail us over the lake to Palm Beach.” Gonzalez said. He described fewer than a dozen houses as well as a store.
“The Flagler Company,” Gonzales wrote, was then beginning work on the big hotel there” — the Royal Poinciana, which would open in April 1894.
An aside: Debi Murray, archivist for the Historical Society of Palm Beach County, notes the region already was far more along and that Gonzalez “under-represents what was here in 1893.”
The four men bought some clothing at a store, where the clerk also questioned them about their journey, then said, “you fellows had some nerve to come through the Glades.”
Then he showed them a clipping from a Jacksonville newspaper. It said the four had not been heard from since they’d left Fort Myers “and they are believed to have perished in the Glades.”
Gonzalez, in a moment similar to that of another young adventurer, Tom Sawyer, enjoyed the luxury of reading his own obituary.
Next week: Home
Submit your questions to Post Time, The Palm Beach Post, 2751 S. Dixie Highway, West Palm Beach, FL 33405. Include your full name and hometown. Call (561)820-4418. Sorry; no personal email@example.com