Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Murder on the Beach

     What? Another murder story? Is this woman obsessed or something!  Well, no. Murder on the Beach is actually a little bookstore located in Delray Beach, Florida. Yes, Virginia, there IS an actual book store left (to slightly re-write the famous 1897 editorial to the New York Sun). Murder on the Beach, a little storefront a couple of blocks north of Atlantic Avenue, hosts the most wonderful book readings, talks, writers workshops and has shelf after shelf stocked with mysteries, thrillers, horror stories, histories and books about writing. I could spend an hour in there at least and have to admit that I have on more than one occasion.
     The last occasion was October 12  when I dragged myself into my car and pointed it in the direction of Delray after a long day of work. The event was a talk called "Delray Beach Then and Now." As a self-described history geek and the unofficial keeper of my family's archives, I knew I had to be there.
The Last Egret by Harvey E. Oyer, III
     Historian Harvey Oyer spoke first. A fifth-generation Floridian (these are as rare as snowfall in South Florida) his ancestor, Colonel Benjamin Kendrick Pierce, brother of President Franklin Pierce, came to Florida during the Second Seminole War in 1835. His relatives moved further south over the years and one ancestor became the first Barefoot Mailman. Hannibal D. Pierce and his family ran the Orange Grove House of Refuge in 1876.  Harvey has a fascinating book out called The Last Egret. It's become required reading for all fourth graders in the State of Florida. It tells the story of several of his ancestors and Jim Bradley, who all went hunting for heron feathers to make a little extra money. The trip so affected Jim Bradley that he spent his life as a Wildlife Officer in the Everglades and was the first wildlife officer murdered in the line of duty. His murder started the conservationist movement in the United States. I've seen Jim Bradley's statue in Florida City at the far southern reaches of the Everglades and never knew the whole story. I no longer have little children at home, but I had to buy the book to read myself.
Delray Beach by
Dorothy Patterson and
Janet DeVries
     Historian Dorothy Patterson has worked with the Delray Beach Historical Society for twenty-seven years. She spoke with several of the older residents and had some very interesting information about the area and the people who originally populated the area. She, and Janet DeVries, have a great book out, too, full of postcards and stories, it's a must have for anyone who enjoys Palm Beach County history. Dorothy brought enlarged photos of the first settlors and the town. One of the pictures was of the first marshall of Delray Beach and I have to admit I just stared at it. He was marshall when my Great-grandfather and two of his sons, including my Grandfather, lived in the area. He had to have known them. It was a small town then. History weaves and connects in such interesting ways.

1 comment:

  1. I've always been fascinated with Florida history. My father took a class in college and I was hooked from there.