St. Lucie County
|Workers sit on the
back porch of a pineapple packing house in Fort Pierce. Pineapples
were the areas largest agricultural industry throughout the
According to historians, it is believed that the name St. Lucie
was first given to this area by the Spanish. The name was given after
the Spanish began construction of a fort on December 13 the feast
day of the Roman Catholic Saint Lucia.
The Santa Lucia colony was established somewhere between Vero Beach
and Stuart around 1567, as old Spanish maps identify this area as
Santa Lucia, which included roughly what is now known as Vero Beach
to Stuart. The Spanish held Florida from 1783 to 1819. Seminoles (Creek
Indians from Alabama and Georgia) and runaway slaves began to settle
on the Treasure Coast. The Anglo-Saxon version, St. Lucie, would
not be officially used to identify the area until the 1900s.
|The Brighton Seminole
family poses for this photo in the early 1900s dressed in
traditional Seminole garments.
The U.S. territory of Florida was created
by Congress in 1832. The Armed Occupation Act of 1842 provided for
the settlement of the unsettled part of east Florida. The territory
of Florida became a state in 1845.
During the Second Seminole War (1835-1842), the U.S. Army began
setting up military posts throughout the state, and in 1837 Col.
Benjamin K. Pierce (brother to the future 14th president) sailed
down the Indian River from St. Augustine. A year later, he built
a fort out of palmetto trees near an Ais Indian mound on what is
now known as Old Fort Park on Indian River Drive.
The Florida East Coast Railway's first steam locomotive came to
Fort Pierce in 1894. Eventually Henry Flagler took his trains all
the way down to Key West before World War I. The railroad expansion
helped create a population boom for the area, but it also brought
the importation of pineapples from Cuba. These imports combined
with frequent freezes and persistent disease caused the collapse
of the pineapple trade. Citrus and cattle soon drove the area's
On July 1, 1905, St. Lucie County was established with Fort Pierce
serving as its county seat. The town was previously part of Brevard
County. At the time what is now Indian River, Okeechobee, and northern
Martin counties were all part of the new St. Lucie County. However,
there are some historians that believe the county was established
on May 24, 1905, but the event wasn't celebrated until July.
Now 100 years later, St. Lucie County is approximately 600 square
miles with a diverse population that includes two cities and one
village: Fort Pierce, Port St. Lucie and St. Lucie Village. With
a population of more than 210,000 people living here, St. Lucie
County is one of the fastest growing counties in the United States.
And it's no wonder, with its 21 miles of unspoiled beaches, charming
neighborhoods, progressive businesses and friendly people, St. Lucie
County is truly the crown jewel of the Treasure Coast.
| The original
Board of County Commissioners pose for this photo in 1905.
Its widely known that Fort Pierce was
named after Lt. Col. Benjamin K. Pierce, who established a U.S.
Army fort here during the second Seminole War in 1838. But it would
take more than 60 years for the area to become officially the City
of Fort Pierce.
On Dec. 29, 1900, a notice was posted calling all registered voters
to assemble at Davis Hall, Fort Pierce, Brevard County, Florida,
on February 2, A.D. 1901, for the purpose of organizing a municipal
government. On that date, 54 of the 66 voters who resided in the
proposed village voted to incorporate. They elected A.C. Dittmar
as mayor, appointed D.L. Alderman, A.Y.W. Hogg, P.P. Cobb, L.L.
Carlton and F.M. Tyler as the Citys five aldermen. H.I. Klopp was
elected as city clerk and D.S. Carlton as marshal. Those 66 residents
have now grown to more than 40,000.
Port St. Lucie
Its history may not be as old as Fort Pierces, but the
story behind Port St. Lucie is just as interesting.
In 1958, General Development Corporation purchased the River Park
property as well as an adjoining 40,000 acres. A subsidiary of Mackle
Co., GDC had a budget of $50 million to develop a new community
on the North Fork of the St. Lucie River.
The population boom was on. Full-page ads drew the interest of retirees
from the Northeast, offering them 80 x 125-foot lots for $10 down
and $10 a month. Homes sold for as little as $9,000. Soon ranchers
began selling pasture land that they had purchased for just $6 an
acre for as much as $225 per acre. At its sales office on U.S. 1
and Prima Vista, GDC sold as many as 300 lots a day.
*Information based on data from St.
Lucie Historical Society.
Local History Links
For more information about St. Lucie Countys history and
history in general visit the following links: