Readers: A very special place, just north of Jupiter in southern Martin County, has not one but three different links to history. It’s Jonathan Dickinson State Park. Mr. Dickinson figures both at the beginning and now, with the U.S. Army, in between.
Seventy-five years ago this month, on July 5, 1942, Camp Murphy was established. A half-year had passed since Pearl Harbor had flung America — and Florida — headlong into World War II. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. First we need to go all the way back to 1696.
Dickinson, a Quaker merchant, was on a business trip from his Jamaica plantation to Philadelphia. His ship, Reformation, ran aground in a storm near what’s nowJupiter.
Dickinson encountered local residents, who held knives to the castaways — Dickinson, along with his wife, infant son, two associates and 10 slaves — who prayed to their God for deliverance. The chief eventually allowed the party to leave on what became a grueling and perilous 230-mile trek by boat and on foot through open ocean, swamps, beaches and jungles before the group arrived in the settlement of St. Augustine.
Dickinson would go on to print his journal, “God’s Protecting Providence, Man’s Surest Help and Defence.” It was intended to be a testament to God’s “deliverance.” It also has become an invaluable look at South Florida’s now vanished early Indian tribes.
Jump ahead two and a half centuries.
From 1942 to 1945, more than 10,000 men moved through the Southern Signal Corps School in southern Martin County. The strategic training site was named for Col. William Herbert Murphy, a Signal Corps officer and radio pioneer who died in battle Feb. 3, 1942.
When the military came to Florida looking for land for installations, the The Reed family of Jupiter Island turned over 1,000 acres with the provision the land be restored to its natural state when the Army was done with it. The Army bought about 17 acres from the pioneer DuBois family for $1,000. In a winding 9-mile path between U.S. 1 and the railroad tracks, the military threw together more than 1,000 buildings.
Camp Murphy was deactivated in October 1944, although the Air Force and NASA operated there into the 1960s. . In 1947, a concrete water reservoir was converted into offices; later, it became an emergency operations center for a nation fearing nuclear war. It operated from 1953 to 1985. It is now the park office.
Most of the land was turned over to the state, and on Feb. 9, 1950, 16-acre Jonathan Dickinson State Park was dedicated. Visitors enjoy camping, cabins, horseback riding, fishing and canoeing. The place was named for the man who first wrote about the place.
Readers: This month this reporter marks 30 years at the Palm Beach Post. Thanks for being loyal readers!
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