Although nearly 7 million people live along the southeast Florida coast, scarcely three generations ago it was a wild, lawless frontier ruled by bears, snakes and alligators. But when a lighthouse was built at Jupiter Inlet in 1860, it became the hub for hunters, surveyors, Civil War blockade runners, Union gunboats and pioneer farmers. A Light in the Wilderness, with over seventy rare photos, maps and letters, tells how southeast Florida survived the catharsis of the Civil War, how the lighthouse at Jupiter drew the first families into its orbit, and how it became a key link in the steamboat-railroad path that led people to the Garden of Eden.
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Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse is the centerpiece in an important story. For one thing, it's southeast Florida's oldest public building in continuous use. When the wick was first lit in 1860, the lighthouse was applauded by ship owners on three continents, deplored by the wreckers of Key West and watched warily by southern politicians. Abraham Lincoln, excoriated as the "Black Republican" by the southern press, was gaining ground in the 1860 presidential campaign and the air was acrid with threats of secession. Officials in slave-owning Florida wondered whether this new beacon to promote commercial shipping and safety at sea would help or harm their cause.
And in their new tower, a half-mile inside Jupiter Inlet, three keepers wondered whether they could survive in one of America's most forlorn outposts when they'd be supplied only twice a year by a passing Lighthouse Service tender.
Little did they know that their beacon in the wilderness would soon become a lookout and storage depot for Confederate blockade runners headed to and from Nassau, or that it would become a landmark in the midst of a postwar steamboat-railroad network that opened south Florida to tourists and pioneer farmers.
What we have in the aggregate is a new perspective on the settlement of southeast Florida and how interdependent the early pioneers were - from Titusville on the northern end of the Indian River to those on Cape Florida and the Miami River. The story of Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse is their story as well.About the Author:
Author Jim Snyder lives in Jupiter, Florida and is active in several organizations that preserve and protect the Loxahatchee River. Before moving to South Florida, he spent over thirty years in Washington, D.C. as a writer, magazine editor and chairman/CEO of a business periodicals publishing company.
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