Local history: New Fort Pierce Inlet brought a century of progress to Treasure Coast – TCPalm

local-history:-new-fort-pierce-inlet-brought-a-century-of-progress-to-treasure-coast-–-tcpalm

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Jean Ellen Wilson, St. Lucie Historical SocietyEditor's note: Each week, TCPalm will feature a historically significant event, place or person from Indian River, St. Lucie or Martin county, courtesy of that county's historical society.Can you imagine a landlocked City of Fort Pierce?In 1910, the Sunrise City found itself without a path to the sea. Spanish maps of the 1500s had shown an opening to the “Ays River.”For the next 300 years, it was the most dependable entry to the Indian River south of Mosquito Inlet at what is now New Smyrna.By 1845, maps were calling the natural entrance to the river the Indian River Inlet. It was opposite the village of Old St. Lucie.Schooners used it to supply U.S. troops during the Seminole Wars. During the Civil War, Union gunboats patrolled off its mouth bent on stopping Confederate blockade runners.After the Civil War, the settlement at Old St. Lucie and the few houses that would become the town of Fort Pierce began to grow. Those living in the Deep South ruined by the war and Yankees were attracted by the possibilities on this southern frontier.One of the first “snowbirds” to invest here was U.S. Sen. Matthew Quay of Pennsylvania. He used his considerable influence to procure government money to improve the old natural inlet in 1894 and again in 1903.Sunday Plus: You spoke, we listened: Subscribers will get more content, pages in Sunday's newspaperThrough the first decade of the 20th century, the sand and silt continued to pile up until mules or man had to pull vessels across Hutchinson Island.Fort Pierce leaders, recognizing the threat to the economy, founded the Fort Pierce Inlet District in 1919. Voters approved an $80,000 bond issue and property was purchased at Tucker’s Cove.Three additional bond issues were passed over the next few years to complete the work, finally adding up to $1,850,000 voters were willing to pay to have an inlet.Initial dredging began in 1920, but were halted while the jetties were built. The dredge Tuscawilla appeared on the river in spring 1921 and recommenced the project on April 19.The May 10, 1921 issue of the News Tribune reported: "THE ATLANTIC AND INDIAN RIVER ARE MARRIED! The wedding ceremony took place Sunday evening (May 8) about 8 o’clock when the high tide washed through the small remaining barrier of sand and swept dredge, barge, boats and all before it, cleaning out the sandy beach and practically finishing the inlet."Since then, the inlet has served us well — access to the ocean for commercial and sport fishing, sail and motor cruising, divers seeking the underwater experience or Spanish treasure.In the 1930s, large cargo ships came through the Fort Pierce Inlet; in the 1940s, military vessels coursed through when the amphibious training base was on the island.Through the inlet, the holds of ships have been filled with Indian River grapefruit and goods bound for the Bahamas. Now located there is Derecktor Shipyards, which will bring to the seaport the most powerful mobile boat hoist in the world to lift the luxury yachts the company will repair and refit. So much of who we are and what we will be is dependent upon the 100-year-old Fort Pierce Inlet.
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