The Coastal Areas
The Seminoles were the first to practice agriculture in Palm Beach County along the shores of Lake Worth. During the Second Seminole War (1835-1842), U.S. soldiers scouting the lake area found Seminole fields of pumpkin, squash, and other vegetables. Then in the 1860s, the keepers of the Jupiter Lighthouse and their families were too far from places where they could buy fresh vegetables, so they grew their own. Augustus O. Lang, the first resident of what is now the island of Palm Beach, cultivated lemons, limes, oranges, and guavas.
In the 1870s, pioneers who settled on Palm Beach found the center of the island a swamp, which they filled in, and cleared the land to farm. They thought the area was a “Garden of Eden,” because the soil was so fertile that everything grew easily. The early farmers discovered that tomatoes did not grow very well in the muck on the west side of Lake Worth until they added the ashes of hardwood trees to the soil. In 1896 pioneer Lydia Bradley wrote about tomato farming:
Pioneer house along Lake
Worth with a pineapple
fieid, ca. 1880s.
We are often asked by those who wish to move to Florida, “What can I do to support my family while my pineapples are growing?” I will tell of an old man 75 years old, “Uncle Fred,” the neighbors call him, who has lived for six years on Hypoluxo Island. … without help. For his crop last year he received over $400 and had about one and one-half acres of tomatoes.
[C]auliflower, celery, string beans, egg plant [sic], Irish potatoes, onions and many other vegetables are also grown for the winter hotels of Florida, and for the Northern markets. [But] of all the crops that are grown here, the tomato is the most beautiful. The plants grow so luxuriantly, and their soft green leaves contrast so well with the soil, whether it is red, gray, or black.”
Bradley described “Uncle Fred’s” land as “red hummock.” Early use of this term referred to lumpy terrain, irregularly shaped land, or a fertile, wooded area that is at a slightly higher elevation than nearby marshes. Gray soil indicates that it is sandy, and black soil refers to muck.