by Charles S. Miley, Ft. Pierce News Tribune Editor Emeritus
Mrs. J.H. (Lucie) LeTourneau of Eden, on Indian River drive, will be remembered by some of the old, old timers. She was the daughter of Capt. and Mrs. Thomas E. Richards. Capt. Richards came down the river in 1870 and named the place where he landed “Eden,” indicating that he evidently considered it the counterpart of the original.
From lumber barged down the river he built a large two-story structure, named it Eden House and used it as a family dwelling house and boarding-rooming house for tourists and others. The building still stands, one of the oldest in the area but still sturdy after all the intervening years.
Capt. Richards is credited with having started the first pineapple plantation on the Florida mainland- a crop that within a few years covered the “Ridge” along the entire Indian River area and served as one of the chief economic sources of the area for years.
Lucie was quite a letter writer, and fortunately some of her letters as a girl were preserved. They are quite interestingly reflective of the early times and experiences along the river in those pioneer days.
Some of them, written 95 years ago now, were published by the Ft. Pierce News Tribune in 1932 in its “50 Years Ago” column.
Here’s one, and we’ll be giving you more later:
My education is a source of much worry to the people. You know I had to leave school when I came down here. If Frank and I were twins and we had a couple of sets of triplets we could have a school. It takes six pupils, but there are only the two of us, and I think we will go our uneducated way, and if we had a school, who would do my part of the work? They worry so much about my reading, especially Dickens. I am enclosing $5 and I want you to get Nicholas Nickleby, Oliver Twist and David Copperfield. I think if I can say, “Oh yes, I’ve read them, aren’t they lovely?” I can get along. There is one old maid who comes to the kitchen to read to me while I am ironing. I have to go on tip-toe in order to hear her.
I wish they would let me alone, I am a victim of circumstances, as one of them said. It is worse for Frank. He is only 12. I did absorb some knowledge, and fortunately I do not know enough to keep my mouth shut, and I have found that if I argue with my men friends, they think I am wonderfully intelligent. I do not say much, but I am very sorry that I did not finish high school. Never mind, I’ll read all I can.
We have very little to read. Imagine me sitting here and reading “Village Sermons’.” They are as dry as dust. Well, someone has to suffer when there is pioneering to do. I try to think of that, and how happy I am to help develop this country, but the old maid would better let me alone in my ignorance. I can’t stand being educated while I am busy in the kitchen. I often think with all their smartness they could not do what I am doing.
For instance, I started cutting Frank’s hair one day, and immediately the men boarders became interested and begged me to cut their hair. After I finished Frank, Father, Will and Harry, Mr. Arthur Saeger begged me so hard to cut his hair and then his Father’s, and Mr. Lauden Schlagers’, and they wanted to pay me. Imagine; I thought it was bad enough for me to cut it. I must do it fairly well or they would not be willing to trust me to do it.
Did you ever see a turtle ready for the pan? Well, they never die, I guess. They almost jump out of the frying pan. I would not eat a piece for the world. I fry some of it and the boarders just rave over it, and my turtle soup they say is wonderful. One gentlemen came to the kitchen and complimented me. He said, “I have eaten turtle soup twice, once at Delmonico’s and here on your table today. You are a wonderful cook.” He is a widower, Mary and I think will be wanting me to take the contract for a lifetime job of making turtle soup.
I will be glad when the season is over. I am tired and I want to go sailing and boating. Father bought a canoe for me. O am so pleased with it. I do not need the exercise. One has to be careful to step right in the center of the board. The boys build a boat house for me and fixed it so that I can easily haul the boat out myself.
A girl was visiting me and she was crazy to try the boat, so I said, “Go on- and if you capsize there will be one less for me to worry about.” So she went. In a few minutes I heard a big shout. I ran out and there sat Sophie on the bottom of the river and her head on one side of the boat and on the other side her feet. Of course, we laughed, because she really was a good boatwoman, was practically raised at sea. She has been very meek ever since, not a big “biggotty.” I wish you could see some of the flowers, Spanish bayonets for instance. The bunch of bloom is as big as a Jersey peach basket.
Harry has taken out a license as notary public. He says he is going to marry people. He looks quite ministerial when he gets on his Prince Albert. I hope he does not perform any ceremonies where I am, for I will be sure to laugh.
You know Father has to act as doctor in all sorts of cases and so far he has had wonderful success. Two men camping sent for him. They were desperately sick. He asked them what they had eaten. They said roast beef, without cooking it, so he went right to work and saved them. They were in desperate straits. Father never gets excited, is always calm…
We have a couple of young men neighbors who are carpenters, Teddy Booth of Birmingham, England, and Fletcher Joynes of Glen Falls, N.Y. They are going to work on the house. Oh, this house, will it ever be done? One of those men is a house carpenter and the other builds small rowboats.
The reason I am going to stay is because aunt is so cross to Mother. Poor Mother, she is so good to them. They don’t dare to be cross when I am around. So you will not see me this summer, but I will go next summer. In late 1884, I will appear at your door.
Bye Bye, old girl,
From “Miley’s Memos.” This article first Published 8/21/1977. Reprinted by permission of the Ft. Pierce News Tribune. “Miley’s Memos” is the property of the Ft. Pierce News Tribune and reproduction of this material is expressly forbidden without the prior written permission of the Ft. Pierce News Tribune © 2002.