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The Gilbert's Bar House of Refuge when it
was a Coast Guard station, 1930s. Courtesy
Florida State Archives.

Edwin Ruthven “E. R.” Bradley and his family arrived on Lake Worth in 1877. For the next few years, they enjoyed the hospitality of lake residents whose homes were unoccupied: Jessee Maulden, a temporary keeper at Gilbert’s Bar House of Refuge No. 2; Hannibal Pierce, keeper at Orange Grove House of Refuge No. 3; and William Moore assistant keeper at the Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse. The Bradleys finally settled into their own home in present-day Lantana, until Bradley, too, became a government employee. 


The Orange Grove House of Refuge with its
boat house, ca. 1880s. Courtesy HSPBC.

In1883 the Bradley family moved again, to New River House of Refuge No. 4, the most isolated of the stations. Edwin Bradley replaced Washington H. “Wash” Jenkins, who had been fired after seven years by a relatively new superintendent. Soon after, Charlie Pierce, whose family had helped the Bradleys move in, came to visit:


Guy [the eldest child] and his oldest sister were very sick from the same mysterious malady that afflicted Wash Jenkins when we moved him to the Bay last fall. Flora, who was about ten years old, died that afternoon only a few minutes after I got there. … [S]he was buried the next day … Guy was swelled up so badly he could not walk; I carried him to the grave.

Pierce described Wash Jenkins’ condition much like Bradley’s, “swelled up as big as a barrel and could hardly breathe. … [W]e had to carry him to the boat.” Jenkins had improved a month or so later when Jenkins claimed, said Pierce, “he had been poisoned by one that wanted to get him out of the way.”

Seven months after their arrival, without further known illness, the Bradley family left House of Refuge No. 4. Bradley bid on and won the contract for mail service and became a mail contractor in July 1885.


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