In the 1800s, the barefoot mailmen carried mail from Palm Beach to Miami, walking the entire distance along the sandy beach where at intervals were crude structures known as refuge houses. Food consisted of hard biscuits and coffee carried in the mail sack, fish caught in the ocean, and oysters clustered at the roots near the water, together with sweet potatoes, wild oranges and small bananas. Palm fronds were used as “plates”.
Over the centuries, huge green turtles slowly made their way from the waters to the beach to lay their eggs. The birds and pirates would devour the eggs, and the men would slaughter the turtles for food. The turtles still come to the beach to lay their eggs today, but are strictly protected by law. The beach was a treasure of relics from ships broken by storms…legend has it that a load of coconuts washed ashore started the growth of our palm trees; there were casks of lard, kegs of wine, enough fittings to build a complete house. During this period, the first Seminole Indians came to these shores from Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia.
It wasn’t until 1896, when Henry Flagler completed the East Coast Railway, that civilized progress began. People traveled in greater numbers and established homes where swamp and jungle had once existed. In the early 1900s a group of Japanese immigrated to Florida and settled just west of the Intracoastal Waterway, naming their little community Yamato. Here they successfully raised pineapple and vegetables.