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Material Change 


Hannibal Dillingham Pierce 
in his Union Army uniform,
1860s. Courtesy Harvey E.
Oyer III.

The pioneers could not afford to be sentimental about material goods that could be taken from them easily. In September 1872, Hannibal Pierce and his family lost nearly everything they had recently brought from Chicago in a fire on the Indian River. Pierce took a position as assistant keeper at the Jupiter Lighthouse, where the family acquired a few wares from shipwrecks before moving a year later, in a lifeboat-turned-sailboat, to the south end of Lake Worth. During the difficult journey “through the narrow, tortuous waterway” and over dry land to the lake, the family was caught in a hurricane. Pierce turned their boat over and held it down on them, shifting to keep the bow pointed upwind until the storm passed.

Hannibal Pierce was keeper of Orange Grove House of Refuge No. 3 near present Delray Beach when another hurricane hit the area in October 1876. Pierce had stopped at the David Brown residence further north on Lake Worth, where his wife, Margretta, and children, Charles and baby Lillie, were visiting. Three Dimick and Geer families were also staying with the Browns temporarily and were storing their belongings on the front porch; after the storm, it was all in the front yard. Belle Dimick Enos later said, “I think the women dried it all out. Everything was too precious. Had to save everything you could.”

Whatever their losses, the new arrivals had learned something, wrote Marion Geer: “We had answered the question: ‘Who is my neighbor?’ It meant to us, all who needed our help … [and] after the lapse of a few years we had representatives of all nations. Ours was in a measure an ideal existence, for selfishness was not one of its elements.”


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