U. S. Coast and Geodetic Survey
J. E. Hilgard, Superintendent
Topographical Sheet No. 1652
Locality: South End of Indian River
1883 Chief of Party:
B. A. Colonna
U. S. Coast and Geodetic Survey Office
Washington, Feb. 7th, 1883
Plane Table Sheet No. 1652 Scale 1/20,000
East Coast of Florida Indian River
From Eden Post Office or Richards Southward to Pecks Lake, and including St. Lucie River
Surveyed by E. L. Taney Aid USC&GS in 1882-83, B. A. Colonna Asst. C&GS. Chief of Party
On the west Shore of Indian River the ground rises from five to eighty feet above the level of the ordinary height of water in Indian River the higher ridges give quite a pretty land fall when seen four or five miles off shore quite overtopping the land and forest between Indian River and the ocean. On the east shore of Indian River and between it and the ocean the mangrove swamp is about on a level with the water in the River at ordinary stages and near the beach is from 3 to 15 feet above ocean high tide. I had a signal scaffold 45 feet high on top of a hill 82 feet high on the West Side of Indian River (Blue Hill?) from this scaffold I had a fine view of the county to the westward which consisted of numerous parallel ridge of sand with intervening saw-grass ponds the major axis of all of which extended in a northerly & southerly direction. Cattle-men that I met at the St. Lucie P. O. informed me that it was a succession of these ridges back to Okeechobee and that the old government wagon road which ran north and south and was back about 4 to 12 miles from the river was still passable and ran for the most of the distance along such ridges. Nearly all of this country rest on a foundation of marine conglomerate called Cochina [coquina] which is at various depths but occasionally crops out rising from 3 to 5 feet above mean ocean tides. This cochina differs very much in structure from that of Beaufort N. C. and other places north of here, large shells are seldom found in it and some of it presents the appearance of course white or yellow sand stone. When burned it makes a fairly good shell lime and when wet can be readily cut into building blocks with an axe. The sand of which the soil is almost exclusively formed is white or yellowish, it underlies all of the streams, saw-grass ponds, mangrove swamps & two or three feet generally bringings (?) the white sand even in mangrove and other swamps. It is impracticable to dike any of the low grounds because the water on a rise would come in from the bottom. — Whenever pine is indicated there will be found a growth of underbrush of various kinds and ranging in height from 1 to 10 feet. The pine timber itself is of little or no value being of stunted growth and the underbrush is scrub oak, whorttlebun (?), low saw-palmetto etc. etc. Where hard wood is depicted, except the mangrove swamps, the land is always best for cultivation, such hard wood land is called “Hammock-land by the natives and seems to owe its fertility to the fact that cochina lies near the surface and like an impermeable clay holds those chemicals that are gathered from the decaying vegetation, among the trees growing in these hammocks are those locally known as Palmettos, Mastics, Rubber trees, Live Oaks, Iron wood trees, the Crabwood trees and a great variety of others. There are various course grasses growing along the Ocean shore, and several varieties of running cactus, prickly pear in se and mixed in every when, a decided feature on the level sand wastes and elsewhere along the ocean side and occasionally west of the Indian River is the Scrub palmetto, a species of palm that although it has a trunk from 4 to 8 inches in diameter and from 3 to 20 feet in length runs along the ground like a vine and among them progress is very difficult for their trunks cross each other in mast confusion and their leaves are just about 5 feet high and have sharp edges. On the west side of the river among the pines and in the lands along the edges of the saw grass ponds there was nice tender grasses on which deer feed, and I never ate more delicious venison than here. The Indians of whom there are 3 or 400 back in the Glades, remnants of the Seminoles, always burn off the underbrush as much as they can about January or February. The saw grass ponds to which I have alluded are of fresh water generally very shallow and cut up by narrow sloughs or streams, these streams are seldom over 4 feet deep and have hard sandy bottoms on which various water grasses grow. The sawgrass itself has generally in the dry season only 3 or 4 inches of water about its roots but in the wet season the water rises 2 or three feet, the blades of this grass are from 3 to 10 feet long, about an inch wide and their edges are serrated, touch and very sharp. They rapidly cut out the clothing. If there is any hotter place than one of these saw grass ponds when the sun shines down and the myriads of mosquitoes swarm in our face stinging by tens and twenties, I hope it is not on top of the earth. Wherever these saw grass ponds run parallel to the River and within a mile or so of it excellent water can be had had by setting a flour barrel at the river side along the foot of the bluff. But on the east side of Indian River and between it and the Ocean good water is unknown for when fresh it is so strongly impregnated with lime that it is far from wholesome. —The mangroves grow to a greater height here than elsewhere within my experience. The natives divide it into two varieties, the Black and the red. I had the black mangrove cut down from one of the lines of sight that measured 85 feet from roots to top. When season[ed] the mangrove wood looks much like mahogany and is very hard, it takes a high polish. When burned the ashes are very strong in potash, a fact that may prove of value some of these days because the trees are so assessable. The old Gilbert’s Bar entrance, now closed, is shown on this sheet. Whenever the salt and fresh waters meet the mangrove flourishes and such has been the case at Gilbert’s Bar. Once fine oysters grew there and all kinds of fish belonging in these waters were abundant but since the inlet closed the oysters have died and the fish are gone except a few bass and catfish. Just outside however and along the old Gilbert’s Bar (Cochina Reef) there are lots of them Barracuda, Pompano, Bluefish, Cavallies, Green Turtle, Mullet, Sea Bass and a beautiful fish much resembling our Spanish mackerel but having more beautiful colors and very game. Trolling them I have seen them take the hook and bound 5 to 10 feet clear of the water. I had thought the blue-fish game and the taking of it fine sport but one of these beauties far exceeds any thing I ever saw for punk rapidity of motion and beauty of form and color. From October to April the climate is delightful and Indian River is the boatman’s paradise, from May to Sept. the heat although seldom above 85˚ and the mosquitoes and other insets are very troublesome. In all of the waters represented on this sheet eelgrass grows luxuriantly and it is the favorite food and principal feeding ground of the manatee. I have seen a heard of ten feeding in the St. Lucie at one time, they go to bottom, eat, rise, blow the water in a spray from their nostrils and in a few seconds they sink again. Like other grazing animals they feed early in the morning and late after-noon principally. They are very careful of their young and I never saw one turn to flee until the calf was well started. There are a great number of Coots in these waters in the fall & winter and a few ducks. In the woods there are quail, or partridge, and wild turkeys. Very many small birds of various colors migrate from these shores to the Bahama Ids., every winter returning about the first of May. The country in 1880 had but one settlement, it now has several and the tide of immigration seems to be setting towards it. Settlers have located up the St. Lucie near the forks and they are prospecting in every direction. The influences of ocean tides are not felt within the limits of this sheet in the Indian River. During rainy season the water rises one or two feet higher than in the dry season and at all times the prevailing wind exercises great influence— A Northern making high water, a South Easter or S. Wester— making low water. The mean rise and fall of the ocean tide is about 1.8 foot and the prevailing current along the coast is to the Southward. The edge of the Gulf Stream is only 2 or 3 miles off shore and an easterly wind throws it much nearer in-shore the prevailing Southerly current is supposed to be the eddy from the Gulf Stream. The limit of this sheet marks what is probably the northern limit of the successful growth of the Cooco Nut Palm, Oranges, Pineapple, Bananas and sugar cane flourish. The tomato and other vegetables ripen in April, Sweet Potatoes grow the year round and I have eaten from one which I was informed was of two years growth. There was not a horse, an ox, a mule within the limits of this sheet, broken to harness in 1882-3.
House of Refuge No. 2 was the best dwelling within the limits of the sheet and Doctor Baker; was the only place that look[ed] like a home. The Rattle Snake and the largest I have ever seen being from 6 to 7 feet long but they are not very numerous, Alligators are no longer numerous and they have learned to be very shy. Raccoons and opossums are so thick that it is difficult to raise domestic fowls. The wild cats from about 4 ft. 6 ins. from tip to tip when extended, Black Bears come to the beach every year from about the 1st of June and comb it for turtle eggs. When they arrive they are nice and fat and are very good eating but after running (?) up and down the beach so much they get very thin. We were told that a bear could be seen almost any night and once we went over and got one but the mosquitoes were so bad that we did not try it again.
The prettiest land on this sheet is the peninsula laying between the St. Lucie River and the Indian River from Mt. Pleasant South to the point. It is high hammock land, with coquina, foundation and covered by a heavy growth of hard wood and underbrush with now and then a pine. This country had quite a population in it once, just before the Seminole outbreak, and for a time after it, the settlers had oranges, lemons and limes, some of the old trees are still to be found in the vicinity of Eden P. O. and the limes are very fine but the oranges are bitter and the lemons not bearing.
B. A. Colonna
Asst. U. S. G & C. S.
Chief of Party
This is a transcription of the original handwritten report. Chappy Young, of GYC Incorporated Professional Surveyors & Mappers ,shared with me. It brought life to Sheet No. 1652 that has been hanging on my office wall for over 25 years. ST.
Copyright © Sandra Thurlow. All rights reserved.