Spruce Bluff -- Indian mound and pineapple fields on the river's edge
The earliest known occupants of the area were the Ais Indians, but they may not be the builders of the Indian Mound at Spruce Bluff as they were mainly coastal inhabitants, according to historian Lucille Rights.
The "Spruce Bluff Mound" is about 18 feet tall and 190 feet in diameter. Historical research dates the mound between 100 and 300 B.C. This mound was investigated and recorded in 1978, by the state of Florida. There had been two other ancient mounds in the area, but they were destroyed and used as fill for roads. Spruce Bluff is still located in south-east Port St. Lucie off South Bend Boulevard.
The first organized non-Native American settlement in what is now Port St. Lucie was Spruce Bluff. This was a very small community in the 1890's.
It was settled by the widower John Enos Fultz, who came here in September of 1891 from Rockledge. Fultz homesteaded 160 acres on Winter Creek, now called Blakeslee Creek. Mr. Fultz petitioned for a Post Office and the name Spruce Bluff was adopted. Fultz did for a time carry mail. A Mr. John Calhoun was the first carrier who operated a 20 foot schooner-rigged boat. He picked up the Potsdam (Stuart) mail at Sewell's Point and brought it north, up the Indian River.
William F. and Harley A. Crews operated a sawmill at Spruce Bluff in the late 1890's. Sawmills at that time were set up near large stands of pine or cypress. When the trees were cleared the sawmill was moved. This sawmill employed some black laborers who came to the area with the mill. William married Mary F. Winter at Spruce Bluff on July 3, 1903. Their first child, a daughter, was stillborn, but they later had three sons and a daughter. William and his family moved to Oregon about 1910, but returned within a few years to Stuart.
Mr. Charles D. Blakeslee arrived in 1893. His homestead was on the north branch of Winter Creek (about 1.25 miles south of the Fultz home). Charles fished with his father, Capt. John Blakeslee, during the fall and winter. An enterprising gentleman, Lloyd G. Hill raised bees and pineapple with his family. He was a photographer, and promoted honey production with a monthly "trade" journal, American Beekeeper, published in Fort Pierce.
Other members of this tiny community included the Winter family. In 1896 a school opened with a young teacher from Tennessee, a Miss Heath, who boarded with Mrs. James Winter. Not long after the school, a small Methodist Church was built which held services twice a month. A young man from Potsdam was smitten with this newly arrived educationalist, he was said to have rowed six miles up the river and back, in order to accompany her to church service.
The early settlers planted pineapples and citrus, but by the severe winter freeze of 1894-95, most were discouraged and left Spruce Bluff. Fultz, along with his new wife and family, moved to Fort Pierce and when St. Lucie County was formed in 1905, he became the first Clerk of the Court. Mr. Hill also moved to Fort Pierce where he opened the Florida Photographic Concern. The glass plates taken by Mr. Hill, his son and grandson, give us a priceless view of our county since the beginning of the last century. Thousands of these photos are available for reprint, from the St. Lucie Historical Society in Fort Pierce.
All that remains of this community is a small stone obelisk on Lookout Boulevard, with some broken gravestones. The monument is inscribed "Spruce Bluff Early Pioneer Settlement 1892." On the north and south faces are the names or descriptions of the seven that are buried there. Spruce Bluff is now considered a recreation area, a tract of 97 acres owned and managed by St. Lucie County.
The area we know as Port St. Lucie was once mostly large ranches, as was much of St. Lucie County outside of Fort Pierce. The best known of the area's early ranchers were the late Alto "Bud" Adams Jr.(left) and his father, Judge Alto Adams. In late 2015, former City Councilwoman Michelle Berger interviewed Bud, as he asks to be called, and his son Robbie about the Adams Ranch and its part in the area's environment.
In the open-range days, Adams cattle were among those grazing on PSL grass. Though none of the land that became the Adams Ranch was purchased to be part of Port St. Lucie, his knowledge and memories give a glimpse into what might have been here before developers. His stewardship is an example of how agricultural and urban interests can work together to enrich each other.
PSL GETS A BIG CHUNK OF HISTORY WITH THE MCCARTY RANCH
Port St. Lucie inherited an historic treasure when the 3,100 acres of the McCarty Ranch came into its boundaries in late 2012. The city’s McCarty Ranch Preserve was named to recognize and honor the locally and statewide influential McCarty family.
Charles Tobin McCarty, known as C.T., began growing pineapples in St. Lucie Charles Tobin McCarty, known as C.T., began growing pineapples in St. Lucie County during the 1880s, and the McCarty family eventually expanded their St. Lucie County land holdings to accommodate their growing citrus farming and cattle ranching ventures.
The family ran cattle on the ranch for many years, selling the last piece of it in 2004. C.T. McCarty was mourned throughout Florida when he was shot and killed over a real estate misunderstanding in 1907as he left a Fort Pierce barber shop. Click for more.
The family’s influence extended throughout Florida, with C.T.’s grandson Dan becoming the state’s 31st governor in 1953. C.T.’s other grandson John managed the family ranch for many years and was keenly aware of its value to future generations as an environmental resource and potential water supply.
Learn more about today’s McCarty Ranch Preserve recreational opportunities.
The “Peacock House” built in 1917 on Okeechobee Road, Fort Pierce, by ancestors of St. Lucie historian Ada Coates Williams. It was given to wealthy rancher O.L. Peacock Jr., who moved it to his property in 1968.
The Peacocks were county pioneers who owned much of what is Port St. Lucie today. It was a residence until 2006, when it was abandoned.
Sonny Peacock built the “hunting lodge” in 1952. It was used until 2006, when it was used for storage until 2015, when it also was abandoned.
Developers moved the board and batten buildings to a location near the city’s recently acquired McCarty Ranch property, which is now a recreational area.
The buildings were moved via road from that location in western St. Lucie County to the current site in the spring of 2019. The PSL Historical Socie-ty is requesting the lodge for a Port St. Lucie Museum and that the house the partially restored to reflect its past.
Developers who came in the late 1950s to what is now Port St. Lucie met Burt Pruitt, a colorful and crusty guide who owned a fishing camp on the shores of the North Fork of the St. Lucie River. They probably were unaware of the violence in his, and the location’s, past.
Old newspaper articles about this local pioneer reveal more than tales of his pet alligators, visiting millionaire fishermen and a river alive with rolling tarpon. They tell of three fatal shootings and other troubling family problems.
In later years, Burt would reminisce to outdoors columnists about the early days of fishing on the North Fork in the late 1920s. “I was taking Palm Beach millionaires fishing for $15 a day. After a while they all wanted to up the St. Lucie River because it was so beautiful and the fishing was so good.”
In 1958, following a weekend at the fishing camp, members of the Outdoor Writers Guild of Florida declared him “a real asset to the county.” He was one of their favorite news sources, though they often misspelled his name as “Bert.”
While the names of most the roads in Port St. Lucie were taken from a big book of suggested street names used by developers, Pruitt Road in Sandpiper Bay is what is left of the road that led to Burt’s fish camp. It runs for several blocks between Morningside Boulevard and the river. Burt Pruitt’s family is not related to former St. Lucie County Property Appraiser and State Senate President Ken Pruitt.
The actual campsite is gone, swallowed up by the Tesoro, now Ravello, development. It could be reached as late as the early 2000s from the former Wilderness Golf Course of Sandpiper Bay Resort. It was an eerie site, with old foundations, ancient misshapen fruit trees and even a couple tarpon rolling in the water near the river bank.
Born Julian Burt Pruitt in February 1904 in Georgia, he married Cora Leigh Henderson, also of Georgia. Though a record of their marriage could not be found, they are listed in the 1927 Tampa City Directory as married. Cora Leigh would have been 18 at the time, five years younger than Burt. The 1928 directory lists them again and a J.B. Pruitt as a “tester for Studebaker Gulf Sales.”
Their son Julian Burt Pruitt Jr. was born in February 1929 after the couple had moved to West Palm Beach, which then had a population of less than 30,000. The family was renting a home there and Burt worked in sales and service for an outboard motor company, according the 1935 Florida Census, which also says he had some college education. The 1940 Federal Census said they owned their home and that Burt had finished high school and Cora Leigh had two years of college.
He had become a “well-known fishing guide” (Miami News, May 2, 1939) by the time he hit the headlines for shooting a man he claimed had tried to break up his marriage. Burt went to the home of Sheriff W.H. Lawrence between 5 and 6 on the morning of July 31, 1938, admitting he’d killed a roomer in his house, Carl W. Powell.
Burt was held on a manslaughter warrant and was bound over to the grand jury, which indicted him on a first-degree murder charge. He was freed on a $10,000 bond.
RIVER PARK CAME FIRST BUT OPTED OUT
In the 1950's, south of White City, there were few homes. The area was a peaceful little slice of Florida. Not much more than a fish camp (Pruitt’s) along the St. Lucie River, roaming cattle from the few area ranches, and a fruit stand or two along the two-lanes of U.S. 1.
Then Gardner Cowles, (shown front right, with Mackle brothers) owner and publisher of Look magazine, discovered the St. Lucie River. He was one of the first to realize the potential of postwar Florida development. He purchased 8,500 acres south of Fort Pierce. In January of 1953 Cowles' St. Lucie River Land Company filed the plat for Unit 1 of River Park, the south St. Lucie County sub-division that was nestled just outside the northern border of soon to be Port St. Lucie.
Mr. Cowles developed a nationwide advertising campaign, designed primarily to attract retirees. He used magazine and newspaper ads to promote the areas natural beauty. He attracted buyers by marketing tropical living and a fishermen's paradise. When prospective buyers came to look at the property they were given a serene boat ride down the winding river. They almost always signed a contract when the tour ended.
Entrada Avenue and East Arbor Avenue were the first two streets laid out in his plan within River Park. Four homes built for the Youngerman Estate Company of Miami were completed in 1956. Guy & Gladys Clark were the first residents to move into the new development in 1957. Their new home was at 216 East Arbor. Four other families quickly followed, and by September of 1958 River Park had 42 families. There were no shopping centers. The closest store was 12 miles north in Fort Pierce. At first mail was delivered at Fort Pierce, then a FFA mailbox was put out facing U.S. 1 for the new residents. That same month General Development Corporation purchased the River Park sub-division from Cowles. Thus began the great Port St. Lucie land rush !
The unique evolution of the River Park sub-division was nothing short of remarkable. It was at first intended as the beginning of this new city to be named Port St. Lucie. However, as time progressed and circumstances prevailed, recognizing the differences between the vision of the developer and that of the River Park residents, the city was chartered to exclude River Park. To this day River Park abuts the northern border of Port St. Lucie in unincorporated St. Lucie County. While its residents, many of whom were and remain a vital part of the history of the City, are not within the boundaries of Port St. Lucie, they are a part of the fabric of the City.
RIO LINDO GARDEN CLUB LIKELY CITY’S FIRST SERVICE ORGANIZATION
As PSL was taking shape out of the Florida scrub, a group of early residents saw the need to make it bloom. On June 20, 1960, group of several women, formed the Rio Lindo Garden Club, believed to be the first service organization in the city. It became the first Federated Garden Club in the city in 1961.
Today, Rio Lindo participates in several community and club activities, some for over 60 years: Arbor Day celebration, Youth camp sponsorship, card party fundraisers, Holiday House fundraiser, PSL citywide “Beautiful Garden Contest”, garden tours within Port St Lucie, PSL residential “Lighting Contest”, public flower shows, bus trip fundraisers to notable and educational locations, city 4th of July Parade, city and club anniversary celebrations, monthly horticultural tips, monthly informational speakers, monthly newsletter, design and upkeep of the award winning Port St. Lucie Botanical Gardens – Rose Garden, PSLBG events and Penny Pines yearly donation.
Currently Rio Lindo meets from September - May on the fourth Monday of the month. Learn more on the group's Facebook page and its Florida Federation of Garden Clubs (FFGC) and National Garden Clubs (NGC) award-winning website (rio-lindo-gardenclub.org) for more information about the club. The club recently added an Archives page to its website, showing the history of club events from 1960 to present.
Currently the St. Lucie West Garden Club is the only other Florida Federation of Garden Clubs member in the city, although there are many smaller and specialty gardening groups.
Sandpiper Bay Community Through the Decades
The Sandpiper Bay Community is one of the oldest neighborhood organizations in the city, and certainly the oldest still existing. It has, however, gone through several name changes through the years since its official beginning in early 1964.
Always an active voice in city government, the group has fought for community improvements through the years. The first neighborhood within the city limits to be developed, its residents could easily get the attention of city officials. There are now about 3,000 homesites with about 6,000 residents in its approximately 6 square miles. But the city has grown as well, and the Sandpiper Bay population is now a smaller portion of over 200,000 residents.
The name and operating documents have been altered as the state changed its regulation of such groups. In 2017, Sandpiper Bay Community became the new name for the Sandpiper Bay Homeowners Association, a name that had been used for 36 years. While still incorporated under the old name, this change was necessitated to reflect changes in State Law, changes in the group’s organizational mission and changes in the City structure.
Since February 24, 1965, this community organization has undergone five name changes:
The city has defined the Sandpiper Bay area as west of US Hwy 1, east of the St Lucie River and south of Port St Lucie Blvd. It includes 11 HOA’s:
While its HOA’s do not qualify as city neighborhood associations since they have statutory responsibility within their own borders, they can enjoy the benefits through Sandpiper Bay Community. SBC is concerned about all the public infrastructure and services outside HOA borders that affect all in the community, such as water, sewer, drainage ditches, roads, police, fire protection, parks and recreation, code and code compliance, taxes, city management, etc.
The City of Port St. Lucie established the Neighborhood Services Department under which the NICE (Neighborhood Improvement and Community Engagement) program was established. Sandpiper Bay Association is one of 33 officially recognized neighborhood associations under the NICE program. The purpose of NICE is to promote residents to work cooperatively to make their neighborhood a better place to live and provide the necessary communication with city officials.
For more about this organization, visit its website: sandpiperbaycommunity.org/
NORTH FORK OF THE ST. LUCIE RIVER SEEN IN JAMES BOND'S MOONRAKER
The North Fork of the St. Lucie River so resembled the Amazon that it was used for stunt shots in the James Bond (Roger Moore) film Moonraker, released in 1979. Star Roger Moore watched as a stuntman took his role while boats were blown up along the the river. The scene lasted an estimated 30 seconds in the film. To see shots of the river from the film, visit IMDB for the speedboat in action and the sail plane.
The Crosstown Parkway Extension Project will provide a new bridge crossing over the North Fork of the St. Lucie River in the City of Port St. Lucie, connecting the existing Crosstown Parkway from Manth Lane to U.S. 1. The project extends along the existing West Virginia Drive, crossing over the North Fork of the St. Lucie River and connecting into U.S. 1 at Village Green Drive. The project is approximately two miles with the bridge being approximately 4,000 feet. The six lane divided highway and bridge will serve as a multi-modal transportation alternative to include accommodations for automobile, bicycle, pedestrian and public transit.