History: The Davie Dilemma by Victoria Wagner
"The Davie Dilemma"
By Victoria Wagner, 1982
Davie, Florida was a lovely rural town of some 2,000 in the early 60s when my husband and I first saw it. Young people on horseback sauntered along tree-bordered banks of the New South River that flows through the heart of the village. The air was filled with the fragrance of orange blossoms from the nearby groves, and cattle grazed contentedly in surrounding fields. This was just the kind of town we were seeking as we reached the time for retirement, when the New York winters seemed too long and severe, the crowds too close.
Having spent some 40 years as a teacher and administrator of the Ethical Culture Schools in New York City, I was ready for a change, and my husband even more appreciated the slower pace and sunny climate of this town. We both had a special interest in history, so we wondered how this settlement happened to be here on the fringe of the Everglades some 10 miles west of the Gold Coast skyscrapers on the Oceanfront. When we inquired, we found the story more colorful and fascinating than we had anticipated.
The greatest appeal to us was the people themselves and their style of life. Unlike the communities to the east, this area was not a tourist haven, but a settlement of homes and families without a single hotel or condominium. The men and women here produced the food and constructed the buildings for others who were less permanent. They were strong, energetic workers, whether in farming, ranching or construction.
I wondered why they seemed so different, where they came from and why they had chosen this spot. In the small town library I found nothing to answer my questions, but Esther Prytherch, the volunteer librarian, suggested that some of the first settlers still lived in Davie and would be the best source of information. They were indeed the best source and very generous in their help. The story of any one of them would make a chronicle of heroism worthy of recording in detail. I have gathered from them memories, recorded facts and hearsay to save the stories from oblivion as the character of the settlement now changes. This is not a definitive history, but a tribute to those who came when the only access was by water, and not a home had been built.
Now this town, with a character of its own, is in danger of becoming like every other neighborhood. Even more serious, the food it had produced will no longer be available to meet the needs of the increasing South Florida population. When first settled, the land was devoted entirely to agriculture; now, only about 40% is used for this purpose. Some of the richest soil is sold for housing. This is true in thousands of towns throughout our nation.
Is there an answer to this dilemma? The citizens of Davie, though faced with new problems which, to many, seem more intractable than the sawgrass and alligators they originally found here, are energetically working toward a solution.
Camelot Farms on Orange Drive in Davie, where James Bright bred and trained the first thoroughbred horses in the state in the 1930s, is now in the hands of a real estate developer and Jim has died. He is remembered not only for introducing the horses which have brought so much pleasure to the families of Davie but also for having started Hialeah Race Track. Perhaps most affectionately of all, he is remembered by those who recall how he walked about the town even in his nineties, always the gentleman, attired in riding pants and alligator boots and with a large jar of peppermint candies under his arm.
His introduction of thoroughbreds received such an enthusiastic reception, that a special way of life resulted with large hats, high boots and a popular rodeo. Davie became known as "horse country." Many Davie families own a horse almost as a member of the family. One young mother said recently, "I have three children and three horses. The one gift I asked for my birthday was a pitchfork to help care for the horses."
A horse may occasionally be seen grazing contentedly on the front lawn of a small home in the town or tied to the hitching post of McDonald's, Mister Donut or other favorite eating places of the younger set. Ten gallon hats and blue jeans are very much in vogue, as teenagers ride bareback and barefooted along the banks of South New River in the heart of town. The young people and their horses seem completely at ease as they enjoy this experience together. Many early residents say their most pleasant memories of childhood in Davie are of riding freely about the town on their favorite horse. But now the main roads are too heavily traveled for safety, and horseback riding has to be restricted. Even the cherished rodeo, which has been such fun since it was begun about 1940, may have to be abandoned.
Kenneth King, a former mayor and president of the local Historical Society, remembers when he and his friends started the rodeo. "We just made a circle with our horses or wagons," he says, "and performed for each other."
"Now," he continues, "it has become a professional performance, with professional participants who make a circuit of rodeos throughout the country. It is no longer a Davie rodeo in my opinion."
Other problems have arisen. The simple structure built some years ago as an arena for spectators has been condemned as unsafe. The town is debating whether to rebuild the stands or give up one of Davie's most colorful activities. The problem is complicated by the fact that there is no room for parking the automobiles and vans at the present site behind the Town Hall.
The cattle, too, are disappearing. Martin Woodward, one of the last of the big ranchers, still retains about 10,000 head grazing on land leased from the Arvida Real Estate Company while they are awaiting development of the tract. Each year, Woodward and his trucks move his herds farther west and north to Alabama or Lake Okeechobee. Now, as you drive along University Drive past the new shopping mall, you can dimly discern a few stray cows in the fields. The shopping mall has space for parking 5,000 cars, but none for grazing cattle. The cattle seem unable to comprehend this change in their lives and drift back at nightfall like ghosts returning to their previous haunts. One night recently the watchman for a new water slide installed for the entertainment of shoppers' children discovered that the cattle had slid down a slide, to their surprise and the watchman';s. Police assistance had to be called.
With the opening of stores such as Burdine's, Sears and Jordan Marsh, the traffic has tripled and new access roads must be built. Many of the earlier residents of the area think back with nostalgia to the time when there were no roads, all trade was carried by water, and the pace of life was slower. Now Martin Woodward, making a temporary stand with his cattle at Bonaventure, west of Davie, says, "You can see the people coming like a wave."
An even more serious aspect of this changing scene is pointed out by Broward County Agricultural agent, Lew Watson. He says that in the last 10 years in Broward County, productive agricultural land has been converted to another use at the rate of 5,OOO acres a year. At the same time, an additional 5,0OO acres a year of non-productive agricultural land (so zoned but not used) has been converted into homesites.
"In 1955," Watson says, "there were 80,OOO acres in Broward County involved in agriculture; today there is half that much."
With starvation a serious problem throughout the world and inflation climbing steadily upward, can we find a way to protect our agricultural resources? The question not only confronts Davie and Broward County, but many other towns and counties throughout our country.
Fresh, uncontaminated water has also become a problem, now that the wealth of natural resources in this area is attractive to so many.
Although Florida has water on three sides, the land is so low that the salt and fresh water mingle and wash back and forth. This world of half land, half water was for centuries considered too difficult to cultivate.
The early Indians-Calusa, Tequesta, and now Seminole-have used the open Everglades as a great highway of travel. Airboats, still a favorite in Davie, are frequently seen parked in side yards of local homes, but the Indian dugout canoe has never been excelled as a means of transportation in this river of grass-the Pay-hai-o-kee or great grass water as the Indians called it.
But how did all these people get to such a spot in the heart of this strange region? It never had the glamour of the tourist-oriented Gold Coast. Life here was simple, rural, and made many demands upon its settlers. only the strong and hard-working could survive. This area of southern Florida until 1905 was considered an impenetrable swamp of mangrove and palmetto. A map of the period shows the Everglades extending as far east as 1-95. When the first settlers arrived, the area was inaccessible except by New River. Then why did settlers come, exposing themselves to snakes, alligators and mosquitoes? Only those of courage and initiative would attempt it. The man who stimulated and encouraged these pioneers was Napoleon Bonaparte Broward, Governor of Florida from 1905-09.
"One hundred million acres of the richest land this side of the Nile delta, and it is in our own back yard," Broward proclaimed in his campaign speeches. He urged that the Everglades land be sold for $2 an acre and that the money be used to drain and channel the water that frequently covered the land. So effective was his presentation that after his election he was able to have the necessary laws enacted to carry out the plan.
Why did Governor Broward feel so strongly about this project? He had vivid memories of the stories his grandfather told him when he was a young boy about the Indians, the Spaniards and the history of his own family related to both. Francis Broward, the first of the family to come to America, was a native of Provence, France, one of the Huguenots who settled in South Carolina. According to Napoleon's grandfather, Francis served under Count Pulaski in the fighting around Savannah during the American Revolution.
When the conflict was over, the family moved to Florida where Spain offered generous land grants to settlers. Francis Broward received a grant of 300 acres in East Florida. The entire peninsula at that time was sparsely settled with only a few dozen families of the sturdiest pioneers, chiefly from Georgia and the Carolinas, a few Spanish settlers and occasional fishermen. The Spanish governor in Florida made a "water sawmill grant" to any settler who would build and operate a sawmill. John Broward received 16,0OO acres in different tracts.
When Florida was organized as a state in 1845, John Broward represented Duval County in the first State Senate. Furthermore, he was on the committee that returned a favorable report on draining the Everglades. No wonder Napoleon Broward was so effective in presenting this cause. He had a family heritage of men who cared deeply about this country and felt a responsibility for contributing to its progress. Napoleon Broward believed that draining the Everglades would release resources of value to all the people of the country. Fortunately, the first decade of this 20th Century was a vigorous period. Theodore Roosevelt was president and gave enthusiastic support to such conservation efforts.
Lake Okeechobee, the largest fresh water lake in the United States next to Lake Michigan, constituted the heart of the Everglades drainage problem. The level of the lake is about 20 feet higher than the rivers of South Florida and therefore controls their flow.
On Independence day, l9O6, the dipper dredge, Everglades, moved up New River in Ft. Lauderdale and began digging a canal to Lake Okeechobee. There was rough going from the start. Even in draining the land which might seem rather a prosaic engineering project, there was adventure, danger, and error. In 1909, the dredge Caloosahatchee started south from Lake Okeechobee, expecting to meet the Everglades, halfway. Surveyors wore heavy canvas aprons because the Glades mosquitoes chewed any exposed flesh, and the sawgrass cut it. The water was deep and the soil soft, so surveying instruments would not hold. The engineers had to lengthen the legs and attach metal flanges near the bottom so the legs would hold in the muck.
The canal was cut due south from Lake Okeechobee for about eight miles, and this is where a six-mile error may have begun. The crew's chief engineer surveyed the curve for the canal, then left for Ft. Myers, having instructed the crew to begin work the next morning at a certain compass reading. The compass seemed very erratic the next morning. Later, a severe electrical storm developed which may have caused this trouble, but in the meantime, the crew was off course. Taking two canoes and three men, they decided to meet the dredge Everglades, coming in from the coast. They struck out through the sawgrass, and cutting and chaining as they went, marked a trail. At night, the boats were lashed together, and the men slept on wide boards at either end of the boats.
But still another problem faced them-they ran into shallow water. The boats had to be abandoned. Their food was almost gone, but they sloshed on through the wet grass. Finally they saw smoke which they believed to be from the dredge Everglades,, but it was not where they expected to find it. They were finally rescued by the crew of the dredge, who found them exhausted by their efforts and lack of food. There is still a jog in the North New River Canal at State Road 84 at Andytown as a result of the compass error. But, in spite of the irregularity, the water can now flow unobstructed from Lake Okeechobee to the sea.
Governor Broward's message in l9O5 urging a giant reclamation project stated that: "Such work would reclaim millions of acres of highly valuable land...It is my opinion that it would be the best sugar land in the South and also excellent for rice and corn. It could, in that latitude, be made valuable for raising tropical fruits."
Financing this huge drainage operation was difficult until the sale of land was authorized by the state. The first large sales were to R. P. Davie of Colorado and to Richard J. Bolles of Carlsbad, New Mexico. Both had carried through similar projects elsewhere and were eager to undertake this one. In l9O8 Bolles bought 500,000 acres at $2 an acre. During the process of selling off the acreage, he was accused of using the mails to defraud, but few of his customers concurred; he was brought to trial and exonerated.
In 19O6, millionaire R. P. Davie bought about 27,500 acres. Construction of irrigation and drainage canals was begun and smaller parcels of land, usually 10 acres each, were sold to persons all over the country. Brochures were sent out advertising "The First Improved Town in the Everglades," and the settlers began to arrive, attracted by the cheap land, warm climate and rich soil.
Zona, The First Improved Town in the Everglades
The first permanent settlers arrived about 1909. Dean and Emil Cross and the four Hill brothers came from Michigan. They were joined by the Griffins from Kentucky and workers returning from the Panama Canal Zone. Finding the terrain and its problems similar to those just left in Panama, the settlers called the new town Zona. Then came the William Hammer family after a long and arduous trip from Alberta, Canada. With eleven children, one an infant in arms, they traveled by train to Jacksonville and then had their first experience traveling by water. According to Mrs. Mary Lloyd, one of the children on that voyage, the boat was an old Mississippi River steam boat and not adequate for the surge of the ocean as they moved out of the St. John's River and into the stormy water beyond. The boat creaked and groaned, but the children, coming from the plains of Canada, thought all boats sounded like that, and anyway, were too seasick to care.
Finally they reached the quieter inland waters of New River and made their way to Zona. They were fortunate to have arrived safely, for the boat, while making its next trip with cement and other supplies, sank and could not be reclaimed. Tony Salvino, who lives across the canal from Mrs. Lloyd, remembers when his father, a farmer from Illinois, saw an ad for the First Developed Town in the Everglades and made a trip to see it. He found the soil rich, moist and good for raising vegetables. Having a large family, he was impressed with the possibility of running two farms, one in Illinois and one in Florida. The children could help, he thought, and together they would produce vegetables year around.
"So," says Tony, "in 1914, my Dad bought 10 acres for $1500. The next year, 195, he came again and brought my older brother. Then in 1916, he brought the rest of the family. We came by train to Jacksonville via the Illinois Central Railroad. There was no connecting train south the day we arrived, so we walked about the city and enjoyed the sightseeing. The following day, we took the Florida Coast Railroad to Ft. Lauderdale. From there a boat carrying both passengers and freight ran to Zona. There were no roads at that time and very few families to use them.
"The Hammers had already come from Alberta, Canada, in 1912, and Ed Hammer was a good carpenter and mason. Lumber and tar paper were used for the first homes until the '26 hurricane forced us to develop houses of concrete blocks. Dean Cross had come in 1911 to work on dredging the canal and decided to stay on. He, too, was very helpful in those early years.
"At first our family went back to Illinois every year in April. We never locked our place, and when we returned in the fall, everything was just as we had left it. We had no police and needed none."
"After 1933, Dad settled here and gave up the place in Illinois. He owned the land where my house now stands as well as the land where my sons live on either side. My three daughters live in Ft. Lauderdale now."
"There were a number of homes here by 1911," writes the Rev. Martin R. Davis, an early minister, in his brief 'History of Davie Community Methodist Church'."
"And then the church started," he continued, "represented by the Sunday School. One characteristic of American people," he comments, "is that they do not live long in any territory without the church. The first Sunday School class met in a packing house located on the south side of the canal just east of the Davie bridge. The seats were bean hampers turned bottom up, or planks across the hampers."
Another of the early families was that of Ed Viele, still a leading citizen of the town.
"Why did you come to this location in the Everglades when it was still an impenetrable swamp?" I asked him one day as we sat on the wide veranda of his home on Griffin Road.
The house was surrounded by well-kept citrus groves and towering royal palms. The heady, sweet scent of orange blossoms filled the spring air. A quiet, tree shaded canal flowing by gave a dream-like quality to the scene. Joe, the pet alligator, sleeping in his pool nearby and requiring 15 pounds of food a day, was evidence of the taming of the Glades, now cleared to a safe distance to the west.
"My father heard about it in Chicago in 1912," replied Mr. Viele. "He was a mining engineer and had developed serious bronchial trouble. His doctor told him to seek a tropical climate. We had considered going to South America, but when we heard about the Florida deal, we decided this would be better. We heard the governor of Florida, Napoleon Bonaparte Broward, had persuaded the legislature to start draining the Everglades. The governor financed the plan by selling off large blocks of land for $2 an acre.
"I was just a child," he continued, "and don't remember too clearly, but I believe we paid $30 an acre for our small plot. Now land like that sells for $16,000 an acre.
"At the time I was much more concerned with the troubles we were having just getting here. We came by train to Ft. Lauderdale and then by boat the rest of the way. Our furniture came by barge, and on the way the barge overturned. I remember seeing the furniture float here and there down New River. Most of it was ruined.
"We had to build our own house, but we were able to hire a carpenter from Ft. Lauderdale who came up the river and camped out with us for a weekend. We paid him $2.50 per day. Field labor at that time was $1.50 per day. Building materials had to be brought in by barge from Ft. Lauderdale.
"As soon as our house was built, we started raising vegetables. No matter what your occupation or profession had been previously, here you raised tomatoes, cucumber, broccoli, and took them by boat to Ft. Lauderdale to be shipped north."But it was a pretty precarious business. Our land is only five feet above sea level here, and with heavy rains or strong winds we are inundated. At first, the horses and mules had to wear "muck" shoes to keep from sinking knee deep in the heavy wet soil. Then the occasional frost finished the situation. We would have to begin all over again. It can be pretty depressing," he said, remembering those early days.
But then he smiled at a more pleasant recollection. "Gradually sandy trails became roads and we were able to buy our first Ford for $500. It was a Model T, not a Model A, and it had to be cranked each time we started it. There was also a great deal of trouble with the tires; we were always having punctures, it seemed, but we had mobility and it was fun."For those who could not afford a car of their own, one enterprising man offered a ride to Miami in his car for $1 per head.
"We had fun, too, when our trading barge called at some of the small docks of the lateral canals and picked everyone who wanted to go to a picnic at the ocean beach, usually at Dania, the nearest beach.
The town was soon deserted, for everyone wanted to go. We packed out lunches and hurried to the barge, leaving our houses unlocked, without an anxious thought even though we had no police.
"Sometimes we had our picnics or covered-dish suppers in the school, especially after the new building was constructed and we could use the second floor for community affairs.
"Then, just as we were well started, and my groves were beginning to bear fruit - without such warning reports as we now have - a hurricane descended upon us on 09-16, 1926.
"The top of this house was blown off," he said, looking up with the memory of shock. "There were three feet of water in front of this house," he reached forward as if seeing it now.
"We tried to save some of our plants by moving them up to the higher ground on the canal banks, but the cattle had taken refuge there as well as the wild cats, deer and snakes of the flooded Everglades. The plants were trampled; we lost everything and had to make a fresh start."
He sighed, "Many quit after the 1926 hurricane and our nearest bank, the Witham Bank of Dania, failed during the Great Depression which followed.
"Fortunately for us, there was a remarkable banker in Dania, our neighboring town. Mr. I.T. Parker, with his brother, William, reorganized the Dania Bank, which has prospered ever since.
"I am their oldest living depositor," he said with pride. "The Parkers would lend you money without collateral if you needed it for planting new stock or buying new equipment. I. T. always said of the early settlers: 'Their word is as good as their bond. When their crops are good, they will pay what they owe. We have to trust each other and God.'"But now," Ed Viele said, coming back to the present, "the big groves here are almost gone, and the cattle are going rapidly. Real Estate is booming, and traffic is becoming unmanageable. We have homes to the west of me here priced at 150-000-with, ext. 0 acres of ground to each house. But it is the condominiums that cause most congestion, and so we try to discourage them."
When asked what he foresaw as the Future of Davie, he said, "Good! Though losing much of its rural spaciousness, it still has more than most communities around here."
As if an afterthought, but with great intensity, he added, "It is the muck and sandy soil in and around Davie which have given life to the $5 million Broward citrus industry. More publicity is given to the tourist business, but actually Florida has a greater income from agriculture. If Davie and Communities like it fail to produce crops, while population continues to increase, inflation is inevitable.
The Griffin family is well known in the community and has given its name to one of the town's main roads, Griffin Road paralleling the South New River Canal through the center of town.
Anna Elida Griffin Hammer gives the following account: "In 1909, due to appealing ads and enthusiastic salesmen, William David Griffin, a railroad man, moved from Kentucky with his wife Sally Frances and two sons, T. M. and William Alfred (Al). The elder Griffin farmed and the sons started a boat hauling business, picking up the farmers' produce, passenger and mail, and transporting them to Ft. Lauderdale. The produce was then shipped out by train to northern markets. On their return home, they brought groceries, mail, ice, animals, furniture, fertilizer, seed, farm implements, hampers and passengers, according to what had been ordered for the needs of the small settlement.
The younger son of the Griffin Family, William Alfred, met and married Anna Zanetti, a Panamanian, who came to this area with her mother and other member of her family, from the Panama Canal Zone, to seek their fortune from the rich agricultural land. Al and Anna established their home in a houseboat which Al built. Their family grew to six sons and two daughters. In later years they banked the houseboat, and the older boys helped their father build on a basement and add extra rooms to the house. The children swam in the nearby canal, always being cautious of the snakes and alligators. In 1937, when A. D., the oldest brother was sixteen, and Jerry, the youngest was six, both parents were killed in an automobile accident. Their older sister and her husband, Anna Elida and Ralph Hammer, moved into the home of their parents, and took over the responsibility of the Griffin boys until their adulthood. Anna's younger sister, Christina, was already married to Kenneth King, and they lived nearby. The six boys all attended Davie Elementary School; they all graduated from Ft. Lauderdale High School; three served in the U. S Army during World War II."
Out of all their experiences grew a closely-knit, successful family, which like other pioneers learned to rely upon themselves and each other. This family helped to create a community under difficult conditions; they still live here and contribute to its growth. Griffin Brothers Co. Inc., primarily a landscaping and paving business, and Grif's Western, a feed and western-wear business, are familiar signs along the South New River bank. The fifth generation of Griffins is now living in the area and active in the community.
The early settlers who came from Panama, British Columbia, Michigan, Kentucky and Illinois had one characteristic in common - the courage to face new experiences. Al Aunapu, now a real estate broker in Davie, tells how his father, a sea captain from an island between Estonia and Sweden, was attracted by the semi-tropical shoreline, he first discovered in 1907. In 1911 he brought his wife with him to make a home here. He built a house on the canal bank along what is now Griffin Road. Anapu recalls the extension built from the house to the canal to catch bream and bass for the family. The arrangement made a sort of "running refrigerator," he says, which provided better fish than we can buy today with all of our conveniences. The stream, too, at that time, was clear, sparkling, and unpolluted.
Al's father ran a scheduled boat to Lake Okeechobee and so extended his business interest to that area. He developed a merchandising center and had just built a new home and storage warehouse when the hurricane of 1926 struck. In the Lake Okeechobee region, the storm was even more severe than in Davie, with winds up to two hundred miles per hour "so trees were blown about like tumbleweeds," Al says. Though his father had built the house on a dike, the water kept coming up to the second floor and crashing over the house. Finally, the dike broke, and not only water but six feet of muck surrounded the building. The new house and all their possessions were in ruin. The family and neighbors fled to the warehouse, but that new building also went down and eleven persons lost their lives. Al's father, in the prime of his life at age 46,was killed while using a Fairbanks-Morse pump in an effort to control the flood.
Al's mother brought the family back to Davie, and at the age of 12, Al went to work. He was strong and daring like his sea-captain father, and when he was 13 bought his first motorcycle. At the age of 16 he went in for racing, winning both Florida and national trophies.
The young men of Davie today still show their enjoyment of the power and speed of their motorcycles. When they are of an age to work, many are equally proficient at managing heavy bulldozers or caterpillar tractors in major construction projects.
As the young men of Davie have turned from agriculture to construction, the town, is changing. Harry Earle, who lives in the heart of the town where Griffin Road and Davie Road form the busiest intersection in the growing municipality, has put his houses on the market for sale.
"It was a good life in this neighborhood when I was a child." he says, "and later a good life for my children. The canal was great for swimming and boating; there was plenty of space for horseback riding. Now I have to fence in the property for safety and swim in my pool. The traffic makes it dangerous for my grandchildren and I must move.
"I remember my father telling how he came here in 1911. He had gone from Lancaster, Pennsylvania to Panama for work on the Canal. When the Canal was completed, the workers were approached by real estate salesmen from the Everglades Sugar and Land Company. Those who were gamblers at heart, and wanted to be farmers, bought the land sight unseen."
In 1912 the men from Panama organized the Zona Glades Company and named their new settlement Zona. They were men of energy and initiative so, by 1913, about 30 varieties of crops were grown, from strawberries to cabbages. Engineers cut canals for drainage, but there was no adequate pumping system to facilitate the flow; flooding continued to be a problem.
"Water damaged the crops of truck farmers and frequently killed the plants," said Earle. "Summer rains made production a gamble; winter was the only reliable growing season, and that sometimes brought killing frosts. A farmer had to learn to roll with the punches.
"Then there were the hurricanes. I remember my Dad had just finished remodeling his house with an addition about 100 feet by 50 feet when the hurricane of 1926 struck us. The house was shoved off its foundation and the corrugated iron roof was blown off.
"Then came World War II and after that the Hurricane of '47. The flood affected the entire southeast coast. After '47, the Army Corps of Engineers developed the present Water Management Control. The huge pumps increased the possibility that farmers could make a stable living. But many pastures were now mowed off, and the rich, moist muck land was used for sod farming. The raising of food crops decreased.
"The current Davie land-use plan will keep low density in the town, but this location where I live and where my family grew up will now be the hub of business activity. I must find more space and privacy. Fortunately, there is still acreage available to the west.
Illinois to the Everglades
Woman, as well as men, braved the dangers and discomforts of the Everglades. They, too, helped to prepare the land we now enjoy, one of these courageous women was Blanche Collins Forman (1884-1959). Now, as the yellow school buses crowd the traffic lanes on Davie Road and the children scramble out, running toward the building marked Blanche Forman Elementary School, how many wonder why she came here or what her life was like when she arrived?
According to her sons Charles and Hamilton, Blanche Forman was born in Clinton. Illinois, attended the University of Illinois and taught briefly until she and her husband, Hamilton, decided to leave the security of their home community and head southward for one of America's last frontiers. South Florida and the Everglades. Hamilton's father had died the day his son graduated from the University of Illinois Law School in 1908. Because of injury to his eyes in an explosion, Hamilton found he could not do the intensive reading required by the practice of law. but his legal background was invaluable in later years both in his business affairs and in the political growth of his new community. Blanche's father, a prominent midwestern livestock dealer, was enthusiastic about the agricultural potential of the Everglades, and persuaded them to investigate the situation.
So in 1910, the Formans came to Fort Lauderdale by train, bought supplies there. and then found a boatman who would take them up the New River to Zona as Davie was then called. When they arrived, there was no one to greet them. no house to receive them. They lived in a tent on the canal bank a half mile east of the present Davie Road, at the intersection with State Road 84. There were no roads at that time and the few families who had settled here were widely scattered. But Blanche and Hamilton built their own one-room house out of the local pine which they hoped would be impervious to termites.
They found that insects were a constant threat to their crops, their animals and poultry. At times the mosquitoes were so numerous that they would actually kill unprotected livestock left in the open. Al Aunapu says that the mosquitoes were indeed so bad that to get relief the cattle would plunge into the canals, only to have their nostrils so bitten and swollen that they could not breathe. For many years Blanche and Ham had to sleep under mosquito netting. Sun bathing, shorts and halter bras which people now enjoy were out of the question.
Not only was there no house to receive the Formans when they arrived in the Everglades, there was no corner grocery store where they could buy food. The supplies they brought with them were soon exhausted so they planted vegetables and raised chickens for eggs and meat. Blanche learned to be a good shot with both rifle and shotgun to protect her chickens from the alligators, coons, opossums, wildcats, skunks and snakes.
She had other handicaps in making a home on the frontier, a lack of the conveniences which young people starting a home today take for granted. There was no electricity, gas, running water or indoor plumbing. Water was pumped by hand, carried in pails, and heated over an open fire or on a kerosene or wood burning stove. Since there were no refrigerators, vegetables, fruits and meats were cooked and canned for preservation. There were no washers or dryers so clothes were washed by hand, using tubs and a scrub board. Kerosene lamps and lanterns were used for light. In addition to the problems of housekeeping under these conditions, Blanche and the other women of this scattered settlement took on some of the tasks of farming. They helped by preparing seed, harvesting, grading and packing. As soon as the canal from Lake Okeechobee was opened to traffic by the dredges Everglades and Caloosahachee, the Formans took the job of operating the locks and moved into the lock tender's house about 200 yards west of Davie Road. The locks were used by a strange variety of men at all hours of the day and night: farmers. trappers, fishermen, dredge and boatmen, hunters. even members of Florida's notorious outlaw "Ashley Gang" as the Formans later found out. At the time, when Charles Forman was little more than a baby, John Ashley enjoyed bouncing the child on his knee and playing with him whenever the gang came through.
Many years later, Charles, now a veterinarian and a prominent man in the community, reports that there were mixed emotions in the Forman household when they learned who John was, and that he had been killed by a sheriff's posse. Checkered Sunshine by Weilding and Burghard tells the story: "On 12-29, 1911, a dredge working on the canal between Fort Lauderdale and Lake Okeechobee had churned up the body of a Seminole Indian named De Soto Tiger. Investigation showed that he had been murdered. Tiger had left the lake for a trip down the canal to Miami with a load of otter skins. He was accompanied by a young man, named John Ashley. The same John Ashley later sold $1200 worth of otter skins to Gertman Brothers in Miami. The skins were the property of the Seminole tribe .
"The entire Seminole nation was aroused and the outcry became so great that John Ashley fled North. He later returned and was taken to .Miami where his trial was to be held. John broke jail and the gang robbed the bank at Stuart. John was shot in the jaw which resulted in the loss of an eye. Forced to stay near town for medical attention, he was captured and taken to the Dade County jail. On 06-02, 1915, Bob Ashley, his brother went to the home of Deputy Sheriff Wilbur Hendrickson and murdered him for his keys; but Bob never reached jail. In a running battle with police, he and one officer were killed.
"John was sentenced to life imprisonment but in 1918 escaped again with the help of the gang. For years they terrorized the lower east coast. They robbed banks, bootlegged and hijacked. Sometimes they ventured into town from their hideout in the Everglades to buy groceries or 'fetch' back Dr. Kennedy to treat members of the family or the gang."...The gang was finally wiped out by an ambush at Sebastian River bridge 11-01, 1924 when four members including John were killed as they went for their guns'."
As he recalls those early days, Charles Forman says. "It was a young country for strong, courageous people."In 1917, when the first narrow rock road was built to Fort Lauderdale, the Formans used $3,000 in savings, accumulated from their successful potato growing, and a $5,000 loan from a State Bank to buy a few cows. With them they started the first dairy in Davie. When they began, Blanche washed the bottles, cooled and bottled the milk by hand in her kitchen. She also took charge of raising the young calves, purchasing supplies and paying the bills.
Meanwhile, Ham introduced and distributed the milk. Stories are told about his ingenuity in getting families off the ''tin cow." They were so accustomed to using canned milk that it was difficult to change the habit. A Ford truck of the early type helped Ham. Unfortunately it had to be cranked each time he started it. To save time he parked the truck at a convenient spot and used the skill in running he had developed on the relay team in college rather than crank the truck over and over.
Kenneth King, remembers when he was a boy in Fort Lauderdale High School. He worked for the Formans delivering milk. At that time, before homogenized milk was introduced, the richness of cream was judged by the height of the collar at the top of the bottle. Kenneth was instructed to place a bottle of Forman milk on the steps beside any other without charge so the customer could see the difference. This object lesson was so effective that other dairies, struggling to make a start, put pressure on the state legislature to pass a law against this procedure.
By 1955 there were 45 dairy farmers with 24,000 milk cows in Broward County. In 1958, the number of farms had decreased to 35, and from then on local milk production continued to decrease. Now there are only 12 farms left and 12,500 cows, although Assistant County Agent Jim Cummings says Broward County needs at least 60,000 cows and 125,000 gallons of milk daily. Meanwhile, the population is steadily increasing and the situation is worsening.
Along with their fellow pioneers, the Formans for many years had a constant struggle for survival. The 1926 hurricane destroyed or severely damaged all of their buildings, most equipment and pastures. They lost many cows. Indeed, they were all but wiped out financially in 1926 and again by the flood of 1947.
But the land was steadily increasing in value so they were able to retire after 40 years in the dairy business to devote themselves to the many activities of the growing community. One of the most serious problems was the flooding which occurred every fall. Ham spent a major share of his time through the years trying to control the water on his own land and develop an effective water control program for Broward County and the coastal area.
After years of effort, serving under four governors as a commissioner of the Napoleon B. Broward Drainage District. Forman persuaded the Army Engineers to come to their assistance after the devastating flood of 1947-48. As a culmination of all these efforts, the 1949 Legislature established the Central and Southern Florida Flood Control District. The work of 50 years came to fruition.
Every election day for 40 years when his customers picked up their milk delivery, they also received leaflets and brochures prepared by Ham at his own expense telling them who and what to vote for and why.
Because they knew he did his homework and that he was conscientious and sincere in his efforts, many of his customers came to look for and rely upon his recommendations.'' says Orville Revelle, past editor of the Fort Lauderdale News.
"Ham believed you could accomplish almost anything worthwhile if you worked hard enough. and didn't care who received the credit," his friend comments.
Both Blanche and Hamilton were deeply interested in education. One of Ham's last projects was to get a commitment from both the state and federal government that the property called Forman Field, now devoted to the South Florida Education Center, would not be disposed of for any other purpose than education. They both looked forward to the eventual construction in the 1950s of the Nova experimental and other public school facilities, to Broward Community College and Nova University. They also hoped for the transfer of the Agriculture Station (then on Peters Road). Unfortunately they did not live to see the realization of all these dreams, but the educational institutions on Forman Field keep alive their name and their memories as the schools continue to serve the community with increasing vitality.
Early Pioneer Farmers
- Sendrich Voight Freitag
- Hill Lange Saar
- Keinick Norton Gandy
- Collier Wimberly Stoddard
- Salvino Crevensten Johnson
- Lloyd Shaw Millard
- Aunapu Forman Cantwell
- Casselli Hammer Jenne
- Hendrick Earle Bateman
- Winkelhake Horton Rabenau
- Goodson and Engel Store
- Lowe's Grocery
- Griffin Boat Service
- Flamingo Groves
- Sewell's Rooming House
- Earle's Grocery Store
- Wacico Groves
- Anderson and Hendricks Store
- Bright's Horse Ranch
- Stirling and Sons
- Larry's Gas Station
- John Bryan's Ranch
Development of School, Church & Code
Like other American pioneers, the men and women of Zona wanted a school for their children as soon as they had some shelter for their families. The first classes were held in the east room of the general store where there was a dock for trading and shipping produce on the New River to Fort Lauderdale. Six to eight students could be taught in this single room, but some arrangement had to be made to accommodate more. A small structure was built by Mr. Davie and the Everglades Sugar and Land Company with which he was associated. In recognition of this and other services, the community was renamed Davie in 1916.
Then, in 1918, the County School Board gave the five acres where the Davie Elementary School was built. There were four schoolrooms on the first floor, and 90 students to fill them. On the second floor was a meeting room where much of the Community life took place.
"We had fun there,'' said Edna Hammer Griffin, later a teacher in the school, remembering her childhood days. With my parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins I enjoyed the family picnics and community dances held there.''Everybody came,'' she said. ''The youngest children slept, and the others participated in the activities, because everybody knew everybody else in the small community."
The second floor meeting room was used not only for the good times Edna Griffin remembers but for more serious business as well. Club and political meetings were held there, such as the gathering of citizens in 1925-26 to pass the first code of laws for Davie.
Eventually the meeting room had to be made into classrooms. Then, as the town grew, fourteen portable buildings were needed, and other additions as well. In spite of the increasing number of children and loss of the meeting room for community use, the school retained its family character. Many of the pupils and some of the teachers are members of the families who struggled together through the early years of the settlement.
Mrs. Griffin, whose grandparents came from Alberta, Canada, in 1912, was accustomed to say, as she welcomed a new second grader to her classroom, "I knew your uncle when he was your age.'' Immediately the child had a sense of belonging and relating to his teacher.
In the early days the children walked or rode bicycles to school. Riding a bicycle was difficult, because Griffin Road was a rock road for only 2 miles west of the school. The rest of the way was on rough sand trails with constant danger of rattlesnakes along the route. Tony Salvino says there were thirty-five children from three families who came from around the corner where the Hollywood Savings and Loan now stands. When he was a child, he says, the Hammers, Shaws, and Salvinos walked to school together and gave each other courage to spot the snakes.
Then, as the numbers increased, Mr. Dave Griffin converted his Dodge truck into a conveyance for the children who had the greatest distance to travel. In appreciation, they called him "Grandpa Griffin." Al Aunapu says they loved him so much they would not misbehave in his truck.
There are lines of continuity to carry on the spirit of those early days. Mrs. Althea Jenne, who taught from 1911-1946, is affectionately remembered by many families in the town. One mother said, "When one of our children was sick, she would come to our home to inquire, as if she were a member of the family." Mrs. Jenne often said to her pupil, Edna Hammer, "Edna, you will be a teacher and some day will take my place."
And so it happened. When in 1978 the well-loved Davie Elementary School at 6650 Griffin Road moved to a new building at 7025 Southwest 39 Street, Mrs. Griffin and the faculty transferred with the children. The spirit of the early days continues.
After the County School Board gave the town of Davie land for the Griffin Road School, the former schoolhouse was moved back from the road. The plan was to use it as a church so an additional structure was erected with a narrow walkway connecting the two buildings. For a time there were two services held simultaneously: one Baptist and one Methodist. About 1916, there was a movement to affiliate with some denomination. A meeting was called for all churchgoers of Davie to decide upon the denomination. It was agreed to affiliate with the Methodist Episcopal Church. In 1922 a new church was built on four lots given by Mr. Vince Helm of the Everglades Sugar and Land Company. Much of the labor as well as generous funds were donated. By 1924 it was completed and furnished. Shortly afterward, without warning, the Hurricane of 1926 struck. Although there was considerable damage, the church served during the emergency as the Red Cross shelter, housing more than 100 persons whose houses were leveled. The building was surrounded by water, and a catwalk down the street was the only dry access. Miss Wilma E Davis arrived as the new pastor just a day before the hurricane struck and helped to care for the people marooned at the church. It is significant that in this settlement, women have had such an important role.
By 1928 the settlers had homes, a school, a church, a General Store including a dock and ice house. Irrigation and drainage canals had improved the terrain, and though there were as yet few roads connecting Davie with the outside world, mail and supplies came in weekly by boat. As Davie grew and prospered, the boat service increased to a daily schedule. Al Griffin was captain of a barge which carried the produce of the truck farms to Fort Lauderdale. The South New River Canal, today known as C-11, was the town's communication line to the outside world.
It brought them news of World War I and its aftermath. Not only did the loyal farmers increase their cultivation of food but they instituted canning and preserving as a community project. Indeed, so ardent were the citizens in their patriotic fervor that it is rumored several recalcitrants who criticized the war effort were temporarily immersed in one of the many canals which form a network in the town.
The Depression of the 20s which laid low the Florida real estate boom had little effect on Davie. Theirs was an agricultural economy and their produce was in demand throughout the country.
Incorporation Efforts and The Code of 1925 to 1926
With the growth of the settlement, however, misconduct increased. especially on Saturday nights. Loyal citizens say this was due to an influx of outsiders. They considered themselves far enough away from home to relax their standards of behavior. Mrs. Ed Middlebrook, who with her family ran the General Store and lived in the second floor above it, sent a plea to the Fort Lauderdale Chief of Police: "Send a good man out to Davie for protection," she said. She also urged incorporation as a deterrent to crime.
In 1925, forty-eight residents met in the upper room of the schoolhouse to begin the proceedings for incorporation. Frank Stirling was elected mayor. He had come to Davie as a member of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Florida State Plant Board to help stamp out the citrus canker blight. Later when Broward County was formed as a separate legal entity, he was elected the Broward represented to the state legislature.
Until Broward County was formed, none of the coastal towns had access to the beaches by bridge. Trails had been made to the Intercostal banks and one could row across to the beaches. There was a rowboat for each community, usually leaky, and it seemed always on the opposite side.
One of the first acts by the new Broward County was to approve a bond issue of more than $1/2 million to provide bridges over the canal to the beaches.
Frank Stirling's daughter, Helen Stirling Gill, says that from her point of view, her father had the qualities of a statesman because he planned for the future and judged a problem in perspective. Evidently his fellow citizens agreed with her, for they not only elected him their first mayor but named one of their chief roads in his honor-Stirling Road.
The incorporation of Davie was a brief one, for taxes were levied which had not been anticipated and taxes have always been a sensitive subject with Davie residents. At the next session of the legislature, they petitioned and were granted the dissolution of the municipality. Not until 1960 was the town officially chartered.
Though certain laws and ordinances had already been passed. the citizens felt the time had come to draw up an official "Code of the Town of Davie." A committee was appointed to write and publicize such a document, and on Tuesday, June 15,1926, the code was passed.
A police force was now to be organized; there would 1 be inspection of all places engaged with food; mosquitoes were to be stamped out with larvicide; animals "enfenced," and licenses required of the following: watchmakers, piano tuners, photographers, sewing machine agents, peddlers, merchants, druggists, realtors, lawyers, hypnotists, street vendors, fortune tellers, horse traders, dentists, and physicians.
In an effort to set standards for living in the community, there were warnings against intoxication, nudity, violence, gambling, indecent or lewd behavior, obscene, profane or offensive language in or near a place of worship. There was also censure of rogues, tramps, common pipers or fiddlers, stubborn children, runaways, night walkers, brawlers and persons who neglect their employment, misspend what they earn, and do not provide for themselves or their families."
1 Marilyn Kempers account in 1976 "Legacy," the Journal of the Broward Historical Commission
Hardships and Expansion
The code and the organization of life in the community gave the residents a sense of achievement and pride, though it is whispered that during the Prohibition Era there were "goings on" in the Everglades nearby. But, on the whole, everything seemed to be progressing well. There were no premonitions of disaster, although Mary Hammer Lloyd remembers how an elderly neighbor warned them of the possibly of a hurricane. Mary had never seen a hurricane and so disregarded the warnings as did the others in town. But on 09-16, 1926, a hurricane struck. "When we got up in the morning, the sky was an ugly red and the wind was howling," Mrs. Lloyd recalls. "We looked out the windows, but could see nothing but water which kept coming higher and higher. The wind was howling and shrieking outside. We heard glass breaking as windows went one after another." She remembers how her husband sat on the bed and held an army blanket around them for protection.
Their house was wrenched off all its supports but one, so they moved the stove into that corner and managed to prepare some food from a few cans floating about, and a partially dampened container of flour. The pump broke so they had to use rain water to meet their needs. They put papers on the dampened beds and managed to survive until they could get through the flood waters and up to the Ford car parked on the higher roadway. The water was up to their armpits as they walked and the mosquitoes were vicious, but the Ford had dried out and started, much to their relief.
The Red Cross gave tents to those who were renting and built houses for those who had owned their own homes. The Lloyds were a young family just starting out so they were renting their house near the canal for $15 a month. The Red Cross gave them a kitchen cabinet and some dishes. With these they set up housekeeping again.
But the seeds had to be replanted and money was necessary to buy them. Since there was no bank in Davie, they went to nearby Dania where Mr. I.T. Parker, the banker, was very generous in helping. The groves were replanted and the farms reseeded; the farmers tried again!
When the '26 hurricane was over, Frank Stirling, the newly chosen mayor, said "The hurricane is the best thing that could have happened to us. Now the government will give us the pumping stations that we need and we will learn the right way to build a house to withstand the driving wind and rain."
Most of the land had been under water a large part of the season, but the soil was rich and when the flood receded they were able to get a good crop. The farmers paid their bills and started another year.
Developers were forced to drain their lands, and so got rid of many mosquitoes, sand fleas, sandspurs and palmetto bugs. This was especially welcome to the women who suffered from these annoyances. The most persistent were the mosquitoes, present at all times of the year. They covered screens, and smudge pots were placed so as to prevent their entering when doors were opened. Women and children wrapped newspapers around their legs and then drew stockings up over them before going out. Hanging out the family wash was misery. Palm fronds were carried to brush away the mosquitoes as one walked and spray guns were a household necessity. Frames with netting were made for the beds, and outdoor workers wore bee bonnets with the netting covering their faces and necks.
In spite of all these hardships and discomforts, the community grew and prospered. A second generation was now adding to the strength of the economy. Tony Salvino, for example, whose father had brought his family to Davie in 1915, married, built a house where the Hollywood Federal Bank now stands, and went into business for himself.
"As my father had done," says Tony, "I started with 10 acres of land, but mine was divided between the two sides of the river. I had to go back and forth several times a week. Old Man Rooney took my horse and wagon across on his barge which he worked by hand with a sort of pulley arrangement.
"We used to be called 'Sawgrass Savages' but now population is coming in with such a rush that we cannot build roads, bridges and schools fast enough to take care of them. We now have four bridges, Davie Road has become a four lane highway, and the new school which we just finished last year, already has to be supplemented with mobile units."Unfortunately the hardships of Davie were to be repeated. In May, 1947, the rain began to fall. The wind did not blow as it had in 1926, but fields were flooded and farmers were worrying about planting time. The normal 65 inch rainfall per year was already passed with three months of the rainy season left. In October a hurricane came and dumped 11 inches of rain on Broward County in three hours of steady rainfall. Hundreds of residents were forced from their homes by the flood. Refugee stations were set up in the courthouse and in the administration building of the satellite air field the Navy had built at Davie during the war, known as Forman Field.
The rain kept falling while pasture and grove lands were under water. The luckier of the livestock were able to get atop a canal bank to nuzzle whatever weeds might be there. However, they had the competition of the deer, wild cats, raccoons, possums, and snakes as they gazed helplessly across the miles of water that surrounded them. Some boats with outboard motors could reach them and in some cases cattlemen could ride horseback along the canal banks to reach them.
But the worst threat to human beings was that of epidemic. This was especially true in Davie where there was no city water and the shallow wells were polluted. The U.S. Army sent a unit of Cavalry here in amphibious vehicles, with water purification plants.
The big "Ducks" took deer and livestock off the canal banks and carried them to higher ground at Pine Ridge or wherever they could find it. But even the U.S. Calvary could not straighten out everything. Planting time arrived and the fields were under water; cattlemen were losing stock almost daily; and county engineers sat glumly watching the roads pit and crumble, and wash away.
The women of the town, too, were in a quandary. In the early days of the settlement they had formed the Woman's Club for fellowship and service to the community. They were concerned about the education of their children and the beautification of the town with flowers and shrubbery. After meeting informally for many years in homes, school or church, they moved into the Lawrence property on 65th Avenue, just east of the lot where Walters Auto Parts is now located. There they maintained a library for the community on the second floor and opened the house for other events of general interest. But they wanted a clubhouse of their own and were just beginning work on it when, without warning, the flood of 1947 inundated the town and most of South Florida.
The club's possessions had been distributed among members and friends while the new clubhouse was being built on Orange Drive. Mrs. J. S McQuon, publicity chairman at the time reported that "because most homes in Davie had from 3 inches to 3 feet of water in them, our books, most of the dishes and silver were stored in the Chamber of Commerce kitchen where the cupboard pitched forward off the wall, and these belongings were taken up with a scoop shovel, then hauled away after the water receded.
But as the farms were replanted after the flood, work also was resumed on the club house. "Much labor and material were donated by business firms, our own menfolk and good neighbors," Mrs. McQuon's report continued. Then she adds with pride: "In building this clubhouse we have never gone in debt one cent, thanks to the foresight of our early members and the hard work of all club members through the years.
"After the 1947 flood, meetings were held at the home of Mrs. W E Hammer, the church or the bridge house until the new club house was completed."
The refugee centers stayed open well into December, but by Christmas everyone was home. The situation was brighter except for those who had lost groves or cattle.
The hurricane of 1947, like that of '26, was a turning point for the community. The water remained for weeks before leveling off, but one good result was to speed the government to establish the present system of flood control canals. Most of the residents did not give in after 1947; they had faith in the planned flood control measures-the $208 million water control plan of the Army Engineers.
Cattle raising actually peaked after the 1947 flood as more land was reclaimed from the Everglades. The decades of the 50s-60s brought expansion in area and produce. During this period, the cattle industry increased in a phenomenal way. Large areas of the Everglades were planted in domestic grasses. Many farmers and ranchers experimented with clovers and northern grasses to increase the nutritional value of the forage. The 10 acres of wild pasture which had previously supported one cow, now fed 10 head with 'tame' grass. This improvement was accompanied by a demand for better stock. Aberdeen-Angus were added to purebred Brahman and Santa Gertrudis herds. The dairies, too, invested large sums to improve their herds. The raising of thoroughbred horses, begun by Jim Bright in the 1930s, now increased. The climate and soil in Davie were found to be especially good for raising horses for the Florida race tracks.
The citrus industry grew in importance. By 1959, there were 50 acres of bearing groves, valued at over $5 million. The quality was recognized by processing plants as one of the highest in the state. The cost of operation, too, was less than it was farther north because no irrigation was needed and less fertilizer had to be used. Hundreds of acres of sod land produced the famed bitter blue grass for lawns along the coast. Added to this was a wide variety of winter vegetables and ornamental shrubs and flowers, all of which grew luxuriantly in the fertile mucklands.
The population of Broward County increased rapidly, moved west, and Davie could not escape the effects. The climate which had attracted the early settlers and helped them develop their farms, now lured hundreds of new citizens from the North. They came for sunshine and warmth during their coldest months and decided to stay. Though located in the subtropics, the average year-round temperature of Davie is 74.4°. This moderate, stable temperature is due to the Gulf Stream which flows around southern Florida and northward along its eastern coast only a mile or two from shore. The small group of settlers who penetrated the Everglades in 1909 had grown to a sizable 2000 by 1960, and again felt the need for incorporation as they had in 1926. This time, however, it was permanent and Kenneth King was elected mayor.
During the period of expansion following World War II and the Hurricane of 1947, additional workers were needed to help with the crops, the cattle and the housework. The Seminole Indians came first from their nearby reservations to help on the farms and trade at the General Store. Billie Gill, who was stationed at Forman Field with the Navy during World War II, stayed to cultivate the land. He usually employed 25 Indians and found them good workers. The only handicap, he says, was the language barrier, since they did not speak English. When their tribe observed some specially significant day, the Indians just stayed away from work without notice, even though the fertilizer might have been spread ready for planting the next day.
"But to them the day's tribal rites were more important," says Mr. Gill with kindly insight.
The Blacks, too, came to help. Mrs. Emma Ransome, one of the older members of this community, says she came because a relative of hers was here. To this day, she says, most of the families in her neighborhood are related. At first, she recalls, they had their own small school where Potter Park has been developed. Now their children attend the public schools of Davie and have the opportunity to continue their education at Broward Community College or Nova University if they wish. Mrs. Ransome's husband, now retired, drove the first truck for Griffin Brothers, an achievement which he recalls with pride.
Improvement in transportation also contributed to the expansion of this period. One of the most dramatic improvements was Alligator Alley, crossing the heart of the Everglade wilderness and providing a new link; between the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico. The official name of this road was originally the Everglades Parkway. A great deal of controversy surrounded the project, so its opponents in contempt, called it Alligator Alley. This was seized upon by the proponents and the name is now official, appearing on highway maps.
Building this road was actually a triumph of ingenuity, comparable to, that of the dredges Everglades and Caloosahatchee which first opened the Everglade wilderness in 1906 following Governor Broward's election. The Seminole Indians gave support to the project from its beginning. On 04-06, 1959, they adopted a resolution of approval, stating that the road would be valuable in establishing business in the Big Cypress Reservation. This resolution indicated their willingness to give right-of-way across the Reservation. Signing it were Betty Mae Jumper, vice chairman, and Laura Mae Osceola, secretary and treasurer, two forward looking leaders in their tribe.
Later, when further opposition developed in the 1960s, the Indians intervened in the chancery case and before the Florida Supreme Court to urge confirmation of the construction bonds. At the official opening of the road in 1968, Commissioner Jay Brown said:
"Men had to camp out on the job-in the swamp and this made it hard for the contractors. Alligators and snakes added dangers to the heat, muck, flooding and drumming insects. Truly an example of man's muscle and ingenuity overcoming the hardships of the Everglades. This was a job where weaklings need not apply."
Alligator Alley crosses one of our nation's last remaining wildernesses and is deserving of special recognition. Not only does the road penetrate the Everglades for modern traffic, but it connects with State Road 84 leading to Port Everglades on the Atlantic Ocean. This is the deepest harbor between Norfolk and New Orleans and has become one of the South's leading international ports. Davie, first town developed in the Everglades, now lives in an expanding world and must cope with new and more difficult problems than sawgrass and alligators-those posed by waves of new population.
Everglades to Campus
Located near Alligator Alley, the first road to cross the Everglades, and the more recently developed University Drive, is the South Florida Education Center. This location is symbolic of its growth, for it has a brief and unique history. At the beginning of the 20th Century when Harvard and Columbia Universities were already several hundred years old, the site of this center of learning was still part of the Everglades.
The tract of land on which it is built was part of the holdings of Hamilton Forman who had cleared large areas for his cattle. At the beginning of World War II he sold the land to the U.S. government for an auxiliary air field. It not only aided the war effort but was a refuge in emergencies such as the 1947 hurricane. Families left homeless by the storm either moved in with friends or went to the barracks for shelter. School classes were held there, too, and transportation was furnished by the army "ducks."
After the war, the field was given back to the community for educational purposes. It is now the home of the South Florida Education Center which is made up of Broward Community College, Nova University and its University School, Nova Public High School and Middle School, Eisenhower Elementary School, Blanche Forman Elementary School and the new building to supplement the Davie Elementary School on Griffin Road. On this site is also the ITV (instructional television) reaching out to the schools of the county in an ever-widening sphere of influence.
The complex was created in the mid-fifties by Broward County Board of Public Instruction and a group of interested citizens. It has contributed to the upward mobility of American Indians, Hispanics and Blacks, as well as the children of share croppers, cattlemen and construction workers in this area.
Instead of converting their swords into plough shares, the citizens of Broward County converted their war buildings into halls of learning in the best American tradition. Harvard, our first American college, drew its students in its early years from surrounding farms in New England. In some instances tuition was paid in the produce of those farms.
In Broward, a 20th Century frontier, it was the plan of the founders to develop a unique educational park on the 500 acres of the airfield. They hoped it would meet a variety of educational needs from nursery to post doctoral levels.
Broward Community College
Broward Community College was authorized by the Florida State Legislature in 1959. The college began to take form with the appointment of a local Advisory Committee under State Board of Education Regulations. In the fall of 1960, the college opened its first session in facilities formerly occupied by a Naval Air Station at Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. When permanent buildings were completed in 1963, activities were moved to the present Central Campus on Davie Road.
The underlying philosophy as stated in its current catalog is "to provide opportunities for youths and adults to develop themselves for a purposeful, gratifying, and useful life in a democratic society." At least two years beyond the high school level are offered. The programs of study are designed to fit the needs of students with varying educational and vocational goals. "The college wishes to respond to the needs of the individual at his/her level of ability and development." Special services are provided, special courses and programs for those with particular needs such as "the culturally deprived, senior citizens, those who need to learn new skills, and those with specialized needs." In addition to the regular groups of robust teenagers, provisions are made for handicapped students who are well received by their peers. This is another example of the fact that no nation has given so many years of education to so many of its students as has ours.
BCC goes even further and states that it is "committed to cooperating in advancing the educational endeavors of international students, particularly our neighbors in the Caribbean, Central and South American countries." However, it does not "provide, supervise, nor recommend student housing. International students should arrive in the area several weeks prior to enrollment to arrange housing accommodations and transportation," the catalog states. "Public transportation is limited," they stress.
In 1980 the Davie campus of BCC had 17 buildings, including an observatory, as well as athletic, parking facilities and the new Bailey Hall for assemblies. The college has expanded to a North Campus at Coconut Creek and a South Campus at Pembroke Pines where aeronautics will be stressed. In high population density areas such as Ft. Lauderdale. centers have been established where most of the business courses are offered. Off-campus courses are planned for condominium residents or other groups. As a result of these efforts, enrollment during the 70s increased more than 100%, and projections indicate it will reach 20,000 during the 80s.
An example of the practical training and community interest of BCC students was their plan for redevelopment of Davie. Raul Perez and his senior architecture students presented to the Town Council of Davie a recommendation for redesigning the downtown area. Council members were assured that the plan would simultaneously preserve the town's unique characteristics and develop its economy by creating a "Main Street."
Since the widening of Davie Road has reduced parking availability for retail businesses along this route, it was suggested that businesses develop "two-sided fronts," allowing patrons to enter from either the east or west sides of the buildings.
Behind the businesses would be additional parking areas, sidewalks, and a slow moving traffic way, the "Main Street" to promote walking rather than driving within the area. Trying to maintain the western atmosphere, the students suggested bridle paths for adjoining open areas.
Councilman Jim De Leo, after expressing the council's appreciation for the students' work, said that if such a project were to materialize, it would take the full cooperation of the business community and the landowners as well. He suggested that Mr. Perez and his class make a similar presentation to the local Chamber of Commerce. None of the traditional "town and gown antagonism" was evident here but promise of a constructive joint effort.
In 1961 the Executive Committee of the Broward County Board of Public Instruction was authorized to establish Nova University, and in 1964 Nova University was chartered by the State of Florida as a private, non-profit, co-educational institution of higher learning. With the University School, it is the only portion of the complex which is non-public and privately sponsored. As such it has had a struggle to survive, but like the early settlers, it has gained strength from this effort. On its 15th birthday in 1979, it received a generous gift of $16 million from the Leo Goodwin, Sr. Unitrust. Part of the money will be used to secure the Leo Goodwin, Sr Law Center, part to pay short term debts, and the rest to be used as an endowment. The New York Times commented in its 10-17 edition: "Nova University, founded less than 15 years ago, has been catapulted into the ranks of the nation's wealthy schools by a $16 million legal settlement from the will of a millionaire, Leo Goodwin; Sr."
As might be expected in a modern frontier community, Nova University has emphasized innovative ideas and practical goals. This has led to some controversy since there is bound to be criticism from those who sincerely prefer the older forms. Nevertheless. Nova by its fifteenth year was the second largest independent institution of higher education in Florida. It had approximately 9,000 students on and off campus with a faculty and staff of 550.
Nova University, though located on land adjoining the Central Campus of Broward Community College, has quite a different history and purpose. It was chartered by the state of Florida as the Nova University of Advanced Technology, planned for graduate students. In 1966 a Physical Oceanography Center was launched with a two-year contract for $3500 from the Office of Naval Research and the National Science Foundation.
The Broward County Commission deeded Nova University 10 acres of land at the Port Everglades inlet for the construction of permanent oceanographic facilities. Initial funding of these facilities was made possible by Charles and Hamilton Forman who have carried on their parents' interest in civic affairs, especially education.
In 1965, the field offices were opened on Las Olas Boulevard in Ft. Lauderdale. In 1967, the Rosenthal Building was completed and the first class of doctoral students entered Nova. The next year, the Parker Physical Sciences Center was opened and the entire administrative operation moved to the Davie campus.
A class of five Ph. D.'s was graduated at the University's first commencement in 1970. In the following decade the rapidity of growth has been phenomenal.
Nova University in 1970 joined in an educational federation with the New York Institute of Technology which offered undergraduate courses. The University School, offering kindergarten-12 was founded the same year. Dr. Abraham Fischler was invested as president, and Dr. Alexander Schure as chancellor.
Nova is a university for all ages. Beginning with the University School, a private demonstration school, it serves children from preschool through senior high school. Nova College provides undergraduate education and, at the University level, numerous programs in a variety of fields lead to master's, doctoral, and post-doctoral studies.
Nova is a leader in external degree programs and for the development of the cluster format. A cluster usually consists of 25 or more students who progress through the graduate program together. The same schedule applies to these students as to those on campus. For example, students may meet every third weekend on Friday evening for five weekends scheduled over a period of three months. This enables the students to complete six graduate credits every three months, and 36 credits over a period of 18 months.
The emphasis is on applied problem-solving, and instruction is designed in a time-intensive mode to meet the needs of mature professionals. The University hopes to stimulate enthusiasm for public service and develop skills to manage adjustment in a rapidly changing society.
The effect can be seen in Davie where Irv Rosenbaum, the city administrator is completing his doctorate at Nova as well as teaching there on a part-time basis.
The Law School, opened to its first students in 1974, is a traditional on-campus program. The focus is on preparing students to be lawyers in a rapidly changing and expanding society. It is the only law school in Broward County, one of two in South Florida.
As President Fischler stated in his 1979 "15th Anniversary Report": "In its brief but dramatic history, Nova University has above all followed a single precept-that education must serve the needs of the individual and that by doing so it will serve the needs of society."
Even more specifically he states that the University has undertaken the "important mission of improving the education of professionals who hold positions in institutions so that through them the institutions may be improved."
Locally, this mission was illustrated when the town of Davie hired Nova experts to study its police problem which was clearly in need of attention. The Town Council accepted the low bid from Nova's Center for Public Administration for a study of the police department's operation and management.
A veteran of the neighboring Dade County Public Safety Department led the study. Most of the attention was focused on the Police Chief, who was under criticism in the town, but other problems were also reviewed. Physical facilities were declared inadequate, communications not properly covered because of an insufficient number of staff. Union negotiations were incomplete and the number of cars needed to be increased.
The early settlers of 1910-20 remember when there were no police and no problems to require them. But, as one rancher, plagued by vandalism and theft, expressed his feelings: "People were better when there weren't so many of them."
Nevertheless, the density inexorably increases as developers offer landowners more money than they can make from vegetables, fruit or cattle and with less hard work and uncertainty. Irv Rosenbaum, Davie's city manager states: "Thousands of rural areas throughout the country are facing the same problems, and the faculty and students of the Educational Center have been of inestimable value in helping us find a solution to ours."
Many men and women have given generously to make this educational center a success. Blanche and Hamilton Forman had a leading role in the land negotiations which gave Nova space to grow. James Farquhar served as chairman of the Nova Board of Trustees through the difficult period of its growth. Earl Vettel and his wife contributed to a living complex for students. August Burghard, a veteran writer on the history of the area, was chairman of the Gold Key Club. In addition to these the Founders Group included A. D. Griffin, Sr., Bill Gill, J. Kenneth King, Clifford Lloyd, Edward Sinz and Harry H. Spyke.
There is something about the sunshine and fertile soil of Davie which fosters the growth of living things-plants, animals and universities alike. Even though there are still large sections of gray, worn asphalt left from the war-time airfield, there are increasing numbers of green oases surrounding the buildings. Because most of the students are programmed in clusters located throughout the country and beyond, there are many open spaces on the campus. A fresh breeze blows from the ocean to the southeast, and the snowy egrets which once followed the cattle grazing there, now circle about the humming mowers throwing out clouds of grass.
There is a pervasive feeling of openness here, welcome after many crowded universities. The center reaches out to students, giving an opportunity for anyone who really wants to learn.
Looking to the Future
Holding on to a rural lifestyle becomes increasingly difficult as the community grows. The seaboard cities and towns to the east have very little land left to develop. There is only one direction for growth and that is westward. The pressure to build is tremendous. Davie has prided itself on its rural spaciousness and its tradition of no property tax. But once a town allows development, either taxes must be raised to take care of expanded services or more construction must be permitted to broaden the tax base.
Davie's dilemma is that of every growing town, but the question remains: where shall we raise our food, and pasture our cattle? And as the herds move out, they seem to take our tranquility with them. What is it we are losing besides unpolluted water and the intimacy of a small community?
The dream of wealth created by Governor Napoleon Bonaparte Broward has been realized by a number of the early families, usually in the second generation, but not in quite the manner he foresaw. The rich soil is bringing forth not food but houses. Mrs. James Farquhar reports that land where they raised cattle is now selling for $22,000 an acre. Foxes and other animals came to their door and "looked them in the eye" only seven or eight years ago.
What of the future of this area which is geographically one of the largest municipalities in Broward County with 25 square miles right in the center of the westward flow of development?
John Evans, former president of Stirling National Bank in Davie, gave importance to heavy construction and landscaping. The sod for Gulfstream Park's elegant turf was taken from the sod fields of Davie Nursery. He also stressed the value of the educational activity at the Nova complex.
"It is unrealistic to think Davie is going to stay the way it is." says former Mayor Betty Roberts, who has lived there more than 20 years. She believes that with professional planning Davie can retain the spirit that attracted its residents while allowing healthy growth.
The former mayor believes the Florida "greenbelt" law will help. This law limits the tax assessment on agricultural land so farmers are not taxed out of business when land values skyrocket.
She says one of the saving characteristics of her fellow townsmen is their individualism. "They moved out here because they don't like being told what to do" she said.
"And they may not want a town like surrounding communities," she concludes.
The population of Davie has grown from a handful of hardy workers in 1907 to about 2,000 in 1960 and 20,000 in 1980. This is largely the result of allowing townhouses to be built in rows. So far officials have been able to prevent high rises but at the recent elections there has been a movement in that direction.
Davie Road, where children rode their horses at a leisurely pace, is now a busy four-lane highway with no place at all for horses and their riders. But widening Davie Road is not just a matter of traffic management. It changes the quality of life along its course. Heavy traffic from State Road 84 now passes through the town and no new private homes may be built there. Vance Sewell who had a home on Davie Road for many years said: "I don't want to move. I raised my family here and they don't want to come back and find their home gone."
His small house set back among the trees is almost lost between the Beer Barn and the Foreign Car Garage on the busy main road. Vance remembers when it was a sand road, and when the Army set up Tent City across the way during the Hurricane of '47. Real estate firms pressed him to sell and offered him a good price; finally with reluctance he left. "But where could I find a place with so many memories of my growing family?" he asked.
Davie is still a vigorous community with strong sun browned young men, but they drive trucks and other heavy construction vehicles instead of the plough and the mules of earlier days. They cling to the cowboy hats and blue jeans, but their T shirts read not Bill's Ranch, but Arista Villas, now built on Nova Drive.
In November, 1979 the citizens of Davie were asked to vote on what would be the first property tax in their history. Part of the money would be used to repair the rodeo arena. The plan for renovations called for new grandstands, paved parking areas, a landscaped buffer between the arena and the surrounding residential neighborhood, permanent bathrooms, better sound and lighting systems, expanded pens for the animals, new fences, concession stands, and a press box with TV camera hookups. The improvements, it was anticipated, would increase the capacity of the arena from 3,000 to about 10,000.
Though the vote was scheduled just two days after celebrating the rodeo's fortieth birthday, the tax was rejected. One proponent remarked that, "Davie is being dragged kicking and screaming into the 80s protesting all the way."
The original arena was built in 1946 by six or seven cowboys and some neighborhood residents, because little cash was available. The owner of the General Store donated materials and the community was pleased with the results. A sort of county fair was added with homemade foods and handicrafts as well as exhibits of farm produce and livestock. Like other projects in the early days of the community, everybody shared in some way.
The arena is still a simple structure of bleachers protected from the horses and broncos by a wire fence. Very few of the older citizens come. The spectators are chiefly young families with their children and affectionate teenage couples strolling about arm-in-arm. Even three year olds wearing black, wide-brimmed hats and high boots are part of the fun.
Sitting on the lowest plank of the bleachers and watching the high stepping, spirited walking horses or the cowgirls urging their mounts through the cloverleaf pattern of the barrel race, the spectator feels the loose sand sprayed into his lap and face. He feels more a part of the experience than in a large arena removed to a safer distance from the flying feet.
Perhaps this is one reason the voters of Davie turned down the tax. Or perhaps as one resident told me with pride: "Davie has always been the one community without a property tax, and it is going to stay that way. "
Meanwhile, pressures are increasing for new roads, more police, better fire protection, as well as arena renovations. Davie's dilemma grows more acute.
Following defeat of the tax, Mayor Scott Cowan said quite firmly: "It may be time for a change in our tax structure. There is some question as to whether Davie could best be operated with funds from an ad valorem tax or a utility tax. Davie residents currently pay a 10% utility tax, the highest level allowed by state law. One basic issue is whether the town should be supported solely by the people who live here, by the utility tax, or whether it should be financed by those who own property here, with an ad valorem tax.
Personally," says the mayor, "I think it's unfair that a man who owns a quarter acre home site should have to pay the entire expenditure for the Fire Department, for instance, while someone living in New Jersey owning 640 acres in Davie pays none of the cost."
Cowan says he wants to show both sides of the issue on the town's financial structure.
The land-use question is also causing controversy. Some of the citizens have joined in pressuring county planners to amend the land-use plan in order to allow commercial and apartment development along a stretch of University Drive now set aside for estate zoning.
The land-use plan is supposed to help preserve some land in agricultural zoning and allow other parcels to be developed only as acre estates. But people keep tampering with the plan and the herds keep moving away.
Most horse owners already have to stick to their own property because it's dangerous to ride along the road from one place to another. Young, bareback riders still trot their horses along the canal bank beside Griffin Road and Orange Drive but it is dangerous to cross the road.
Broward County has taken action on purchase of the Snead tract at Orange Drive and Flamingo Road, but with no announced plan for horse trails. There is some hope, however, for former County Commissioner Anne Kolb suggested that the western end of Griffin Road be made a scenic road. She urged that the county preserve the right of way, landscape it, and allow riding trails from Flamingo Road to U.S. 27.
Can the Davie dilemma be resolved? Will the town be rural or urban? Can its unique character be retained under pressure of increasing population?
Joan Kovac, 1979 president of the Chamber of Commerce, believes that the dilemma can be and will be resolved. Committees are working on ways to emphasize the town's rural charm. The Orange Blossom Festival for Spring 1980 had as its theme, America-Country Style. Many community groups participated in the Festival, from the Brownie Troop to the Kiwanis Club. Activities for everybody included a hot dog eating contest, students painting windows, bank personnel wearing cowboy hats and boots while performing their official duties, all culminating in a country barbecue, parade, and championship rodeo. The Seminole Indians, too, took part with a bazaar of their crafts displayed along Davie Road.
The committee for the beautification of the C-11 New River Canal flowing through the town, hopes to plant additional trees. New horse trails are planned as well as bicycle paths and facilities for canoeing. The rodeo arena will be retained and improved even though it is in the heart of town where parking is a problem. The people of Davie do not want to lose their arena in spite of crowded conditions.
"Historic landmarks will be refurbished where possible. Businesses are being encouraged to give a unique western appearance to their signs and store fronts. Plans are being formulated to have a small motion picture theater on Davie Road so there will be something more on the main street after dark than fast-food establishments and the Saddle-up Bar," said president Kovac.
John Marinelli, executive director of the Chamber of Commerce, reported that 1979 was the most progressive year the Chamber has ever experienced. Eighty-eight new businesses joined the membership and its activities. They supported the bond issue to finance town improvements, proposed amendments to the land-use plan, and to the redevelopment of downtown Davie.
The community attitude toward the South Florida Education Center has improved with time. Some residents resented the fact that this fast-growing center was increasing the traffic congestion on Davie Road, hastening the necessity for widening the thoroughfare. It was feared the result would be the channeling of traffic from busy State Road 84 through the heart of rural Davie. In spite of a good deal of opposition, the road is now a smooth, four-lane highway and the change has not had any dire consequences. In fact, it is now accepted as an improvement. The proverbial "town and gown" controversy is eased by the fact that the children of the town are educated at the center and the older college and university students are showing an interest in the new programs under consideration by the town. The students seem eager to contribute their work and ideas, and the town appreciates receiving them. Two recent examples are the restructuring of the police force and the redevelopment of the downtown section of the town. Davie now looks upon the South Florida Education Center as one of its chief assets.
Not all problems are solved, of course. The struggle still continues over the land-use plan which will alter densities and zoning designations for 368 acres in Davie. The changes will add 900 residential units to the town and strips of commercial development along University Drive and along Davie Road. Mary Lloyd, one of the earliest settlers, says with concern that her house on Davie Road where she has lived and brought up her children since early in the century, could not be replaced if it burned. No more private homes on Davie Road where the town began! Other residents at a recent town meeting protested that the plan would turn the town into a "concrete jungle."
The Mayor reassured them, however, that the new plan would increase land densities only from 2.16 units per acre to about 231 units per acre. John Marinelli of the Chamber of Commerce was even more reassuring, saying 85% of the total area of the town's 25 square miles would remain unchanged, only 15% altered. There are now 1,000 businesses in Davie, he says. Though many are small, they want space to grow.
Encouraging as are all these efforts to resolve the dilemma, there is one unresolved factor remaining-the production of food. With prices of commodities rising throughout the nation, there is justifiable concern about this conversion of rural areas to congested cities because this reduces the amount of food available and increases the prices.
In 1909 when the first settlers came to the Davie area, the soil was virgin agricultural land. After being properly aerated and cultivated, it was very productive. By 1913, the produce included some 30 different kinds of fruits and vegetables from strawberries to cabbages. Orange groves were developed and gave outstanding results. Roses were grown profitably; tens of thousands of feet of sod were produced for use in landscaping. The early Davie Experimental Farm attracted such experts as Dr. David Fairchild of Coconut Grove and Frank Stirling of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Hamilton Forman who came from Illinois in 1910, began by raising vegetables, but when in 1917 a road was built to Fort Lauderdale, he established Broward County's first dairy. His success encouraged others to similar efforts, but now the number of dairies is decreasing.
The peak production years were between 1946-50. Since then the population of Broward County has steadily increased at a rate twice that of the statewide growth. Areas that were once agricultural are now used for urban development. This is changing the character of farming in Davie. The fastest growing agricultural industry, according to the county agent is ornamental horticulture. This includes woody ornamental foliage plants, sod, and golf turf. The industry furnishes jobs and income, but not food.
Thoroughbred horses and cattle were introduced by James Bright in 1930. Florida became second only to Texas in cattle raising. Though the herds are disappearing, horse ranching remains one of the most popular agricultural pursuits in this area. Davie has a reputation for having as many horses as people. The soil here is soft and easy on the animal's legs. The winters are mild, making it possible for the horses to be outside the year round. Horses are increasing in number while other livestock is declining. Interest is high in horseback riding as a hobby. Like ornamental horticulture, this industry, too, gives pleasure but lends nothing to the production of food.
As one farmer put it: "Times are changing and the farmer's way of life must yield to progress. The era of the farmer is nearing an end in South Broward."
His family has decided to sell most of its land and get the "money out before they die," though they are not happy to see condominiums on their fields.
Land prices have become so high that no commercial cattle industry will be left here by the mid-1980s, it is predicted. Large citrus holdings also are declining. Many grove owners do not replace poorly producing trees because they believe the groves will be converted to other uses within the next few years.
These concerns trouble the older members of the community, but the younger generation views the changes with more hope and enthusiasm. Realtors especially point out that we need shelter as well as food. Young couples just starting out can no longer afford single houses, and this is also true for senior citizens with the added burden of maintaining the properties. We need apartments in our community, they say. Also, those families who have spent a lifetime developing their land, deserve some financial return.
Mayor Scott Cowan summarized the situation this way: "All Davie residents take pride in the unique community we have to offer. Davie life is centered around our three most prized possessions: first is the continued commitment to the country style of life; second, agricultural land-use continues to represent a large amount of Davie open spaces. Citrus growing, ornamental horticulture and horse ranching account for 41% of Davie's total land area; third, our schools set a model of innovations which not only provide good education for our own children, but have an influence far beyond our borders."
Threat of Annexation
Davie has brought its internal quandary to a relatively stable resolution but an attack from outside its borders has been launched by a nearby community, hungry for land and wishing to expand.
"The most serious threat to Davie's efforts to keep its semi-rural character," says its city administrator, Irv Rosenbaum, "is the attempt at annexation, by the neighboring town of Sunrise and its mayor, John Lomelo."
If Lomelo can get the 700 acre tract known as Key Grove on the western edge of Davie, it is understood that he will cooperate with developers who wish to erect condominiums there.
John Marinelli, director of the Davie/Cooper City Chamber of Commerce insists: "If this annexation is completed, the fabric of Davie and its neighboring communities will be torn."
"I will fight any move by Davie in the courts if necessary," declares Lomelo; according to a report by the Broward Times.
Davie's town and business leaders want to halt the annexation plans and Mayor Cowan says, "Our town's concern is to preserve the integrity of our municipality."
Appearing at a recent Sunrise meeting to formally protest, Pat Brennan, Davie's former mayor outlined the opposition.
- The property for the proposed annexation is south of State Road 84, separated by a canal and major thoroughfare, and has no link with Sunrise.
- The surrounding landowners have expressed great concern as to the density proposed for the Key Grove tract. fearing it would permanently alter the lifestyle as outlined by Davie's land-use plan.
- Davie is presently providing police, fire and rescue service to the tract.
- Increased density would increase the congestion in traffic along State Road 84.
As we look to the future, we are encouraged to believe that the same spirit shown by its pioneers will give the town vitality to meet whatever new problems a changing world may bring.
The Essence of Davie
As Davie grows, it seeks its own unique identity. Is it a farming community producing beans, broccoli and roses? Is it a citrus center providing the North with its winter fruit? Or shall its wide fields nourish cattle and its warm climate promote the growth of thoroughbred horses? Shall it be a horticultural center producing the sod and shrubbery for plantings around the great buildings along the oceanfront?
Looking toward the future, but with a certain nostalgia for the past, shall it be a western town with rodeos and spirited action?
Gazing still farther ahead, shall it become an educational center of such brilliance and originality it will outshine all previous activities?
The citizens of the town have not quite made up their minds, though giving the subject very serious thought.
A few years ago a well-planned entertainment park called Pioneer Village was developed near Flamingo Grove, west of Davie. The project was forced to close for lack of support. Perhaps the pioneer years were still too close, with their hard labor, disappointments, storms and poisonous snakes. The people of the town may have felt they did not need to pay to relive their experiences. In any case their thoughts are now toward the future and what kind of community they want for their children and grandchildren.
What is the essence of the Davie spirit? Harry Earle says the settlers had to be gamblers at heart to take on, as many did, this new land sight unseen. They had to be willing to work hard under the most discouraging conditions, to have their work destroyed by storms and wind-then try again. To survive, they had to help each other, especially when in distress. Can this same spirit be kept as the population grows and newcomers arrive who know little or nothing about the community's beginning?
This is the question which faces us. But we are not alone. In a larger sense this same question faces our entire nation. How shall we resolve it?
- Victoria Wagner
Though most of the information in this study is based upon personal interviews, there are some books and papers which provided invaluable background material.
Checkered Sunshine, Philip Weidling and August Burghard, Wake Brook House
Napoleon Bonaparte Broward, Samuel Proctor, University of Florida Press
AlligatorAlley, August Burghard, Lanman Co.
History of Davie Community Methodist Church, Rev. Martin R. Davis
Early Broward County Geography, Dr. Cooper C. Kirk
Everglades Rendezvous, Lawrence E Will (as told to All Florida Magazine)
Mangrove Roots of Ft. Lauderdale, Virginia S Young, Poinsettia Press
Annual Davie/Cooper City Chamber of Commerce Orange Festival and Rodeo Programs
Nova University and Broward Community College publications
County Agricultural Station brochures
Legacy, Broward Historical Commission publication
Davie Womans Club Minutes
Typed material by Charles Forman about his parents.
Local newspapers: Western News, Broward Times West of Ft. Lauderdale News
With an M.A. from Columbia University and further study at Oxford and Cambridge, I had planned to teach college-level Comparative Literature. But when I was offered a position as director of the Ethical Culture Schools in New York City, I decided to accept and change direction, which proved very satisfying.
At my retirement, another change was effected. My husband and I left New York and settled in what we thought would be a quiet rural town in southern Florida. We soon discovered it had a unique and fascinating history as the first town developed in the Everglades, a part of the last frontier. The hardy, courageous founders of this community appealed to me strongly, and the same spirit which had brought them to this location of alligators and sawgrass had previously taken some of them to the Panama Canal Zone to help build the canal there.
I could find no written record of this brave and energetic group; their story would be lost. Already the richest soil was being covered with concrete, the cattle were being transported to other pastures and the citrus groves changed to real estate developments. Our farmland was disappearing; the quality of life was changing.
Though I had written many articles on education subjects and edited a magazine Teaching and Learning, I registered for a course in writing at Nova University just across Davie Road from my home. I began by writing articles for class using local subjects and history as subject material. My classmates were enthusiastic and asked for more. This book is the result.
Many thrilling interviews followed with early settlers and their families whom I might otherwise never have met. But the interviews were barely recorded when it became evident that another change was taking place. The cattle were being taken to Alabama and to the Lake Okeechobee area, but the horses remained for the pleasure of citizens of Davie and guests from outside the town. The rodeo arena is now becoming a center of attention and Davie is known as "horse country." With such energy and initiative, a new chapter may be in the writing.
- Victoria Wagner