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A0015 – History of Boynton Beach Small Manuscript Collection

DETAIL A0015, Folder 4- History of Boynton Beach. 


  • Description of Boynton (unknown date) 1 page; 
  • "Settlement of Boynton, Florida as told by H.B. Murray, first settler" [Horace Bentley Murray (1886-1949)] 1 page;
  • "Notes of the town of Boynton, Florida : Compiled from the Public Records of Dade and Palm Beach Counties, the Minutes of the Town and Interviews with Settlers" ending at year 1937 24 pages

Full text: 

MS A0015, Folder 4

Donated by Mr. & Mrs. Andrew N. Houston of the Boynton Beach Historical Society

Original in the Boynton file of the Palm Beach Historical Society [GCB-Cities7-F6]

Boynton is a self contained, home town on the Atlantic Ocean, East Coast Canal, Federal Highway No. 1, Florida East Coast and Seaboard Air Line railways, thirteen miles south of West Palm Beach. The principal [sic] source of income for the people is the productiveness of the farm lands along the canal and in the westward area. Boynton is justly proud of its achievements in agriculture, horticulture and dairying. The community has won many first prizes at the county fairs and in state and national competition. 

The culture of the community is above average. The Boynton Woman’s Club building is famous for its size, architectural beauty and adaptability. The Club itself has long been the outstanding agency for the promotion of civic betterment, cultural advance and social intercourse.

Boynton has furnished many county officials, including R. H. Rousseau who was a county commissioner of Dade County before Palm Beach County was created, and served in the same capacity in Palm Beach County for several years; C. C. Mast, who was the second Tax Assessor of Palm Beach County; Harry Benson who served for several years on the county board of public instruction; Fred E. Fenno who was clerk of the circuit court of Palm Beach County for fourteen years; H. B. Murray, member of the School Board; John Knight, county commissioner; and the postmaster, Mr. Charles W. Perce enjoys the distinction of being one of the pioneers of the Lake Worth region, having come to Hypoluxo in 1876, with his father, H.D. Pierce.

The ocean frontage and Hypoluxo Island, in the southern part of the lake near Boynton, are rapidly becoming the winter homesteads of some of the most distinguished people of the United States, the McCormicks of Chicago, the Balsans of Paris, the Vanderbilts and many others of equal fame having built places near Boynton in recent year. But Boynton is undisturbed however, and moves on in the even tenor of her ways.

Settlement of Boynton, Florida as Told by H. B. Murray, First Settler
[Horace Bentley Murray 1886-1949]

I came to Boynton in the fall of 1895 at the invitation of Major N. S. Boynton, head of the Order of Maccabees and whom I had met while I was secretary of the local lodge at Port Huron, Michigan.

Major Boynton had become interested, with Congressman W.S. Linton of Michigan, in establishing colonies of northern people on the lower east coast and bought with Linton and later from him the land on Boynton Beach on which he built the Boynton Hotel. Linton promoting the townsite of Linton which afterwards became Delray.

When I arrived there were a few tents and one or two small houses. I took charge of the construction of the hotel and when Fred Dewey opened up and put on sale in 1897 tracts of muck land and lots in the original townsite west of what afterwards became the Dixie Highway, I bought two tracts of 2 ½ acres each and two lots in the townsite. Frank Cox had the first store and was the first postmaster. The east coast canal was opened 1895 providing transportation with Lake Worth and the north. George O. Butler and Franklin Sheen surveyed the farm lands and the Townsite of Boynton. We raised vegetables for home use and for sale in a small way. Fred Dewey was the original developer of the townsite and Major Boynton set the orange and grapefruit groves on the east side of the canal about the time he finished the hotel. Until the railroad and canal were opened for business in 1895, the only means of transportation was by the beach and a stage route which required two days from Lantana to Ft. Lauderdale.

Notes of the Town of Boynton, Florida
Compiled from the Public Records of Dade and Palm Beach Counties, the Minutes of the Town and Interviews with Settlers [by Unknown Person in c. 1937]

As a municipality, the Town of Boynton is comparatively young; as a community, it dates from the early eighties when one William Edwards filed an application with the Internal Improvement Board of Florida to buy the land in the south half of the southwest quarter of Sec. 22, and the northeast quarter of the northeast quarter of Sec. 28. Tp. 45 south of Range 43 and built the first house on what was subsequently the original townsite. The ocean frontage was patented to Capt. James A. Armour by the U.S. Government in 1883; to Dexter Hubell about the same time and the claim perfected by Capt. Steve N. Andrews, keeper of the Orange Grove House of Refuge at what is now Delray Beach, in 1881, and the R.B. Potter in 1882. Other lands around the south shores of Lake Worth were patented to Cecil Upton in 1881 by the U.S. Government and sold to Gabriel Gingras by the internal Improvement Board in 1882. These homesteaders and buyers built shacks and lived in them sufficiently long to perfect their claims except Capt. Armour who does not seemed to have lived on his land now known as the Mizner Mile.

The real development and settlement of the community began with the opening of the East Coast Canal and the extension of the Florida East Coast Railroad in 1895. Until that date, the lands were inaccessible except by trail and a stage from Lantana and Hypoluxo to Ft. Lauderdale which required two days to negotiate the thirty mile trip.

With the extension of the railroad and the opening of the canal, promoters and colonizers began to take an interest in the area lying south of Lake Worth. It was apparently exceedingly fertile and in 1895 Major N. S. Boynton, head of the Order of Maccabees came from Port Huron, Michigan, probably following the suggestions of Congressman W.S. Linton of the same state who had started a colonization project at Delray, first called Linton, in 1892, and bought in 1897 from Linton the Gov. lots 1 and 2 and the east half of the northwest quarter of Sec. 27 to ocean frontage directly east of the business section of the Town of Boynton, on which, he, Boynton, had started the Boynton Hotel in 1896, evidently while he had the land under contract. At the time, only two or three families lived in the vicinity – Culley Pence, and a man by the name of Van Slack and another by the name of Bailey.

In the fall of 1895, at the invitation of Major Boynton, H.B. Murray of Port Huron came to the hotel to assist in its construction and take charge of the properties during the owners’ absence. Mr. Murray says there were only  a few tents along the ocean front and the newly opened canal at the time of his arrival. The lands along the canal were very fertile and the early settlers began to clear and plant vegetables, tomatoes, beans, peppers, cabbage for home use and for sale to the rapidly growing resort town of Palm Beach up the lake. 

In 1897, Fred S. Dewey bought the lands in the south half of southwest quarter of Sec. 27 and the northeast half of Sec. 28 from Geo. H. K. Charter who had perfected William Edwards contract and secured deeds from the Internal Improvement Board, and employed George O. Butler and Franklin Sheen to lay out the muck lands in [illegible] Sec. 27 in two and a half acre tract and 40 acres in the northeast quarter of the northeast quarter of Sec. 28 into residence lots. When the plat was filed, September 29, 1898, Dewey proceeded to sell the tracts to settlers and gave a lot in the Townsite with each tract. The men who worked on the hotel and cottages for Major Boynton bought these tracts and lots and established homes and truck farms. Major Boynton planted a grapefruit and orange grove on the east side of the canal and west of his hotel and opened a road to the canal. As the community grew, W. H. Cox established the first store and when a post office was designated for the community, he became the first postmaster. The patronage at the hotel and the truck produced [sic], caused the F.E.C.R.R. to build a depot and designate Boynton as a regular station in [blank]. A one room school house was built in 1900 and a two room school building put up in 1904-5 by the Dade County School Board. A Methodist Church was built in 1905 on what is now the northwest corner of the Dixie Highway and Ocean Avenue. H. D. Pierce and son opened a store soon after the Cox store was opened and M.B. Lyman of Lantana opened a branch store in the late nineties.

Farming and dairying were the principal [sic] occupations of the people and homes were established along the projected Dixie Highway both north and south of the townsite. R.H. Rousseau, who came to Boynton in 1899, and was on the Board of Commissioners of Dade County, is authority for the statement that the first section of road on which rock was placed was along the east line of the original townsite of Boynton, the county furnishing the rock and the citizens building the road.

As population increased during the early part of the century, the women organized the Boynton Woman’s Club and promoted and preserved the cultural activities of the community. This club operated for several years as an association, but on June 7th, 1911, eighteen women applied to the circuit court of the 11th Judicial Circuit, Judge L.W. Bethel, presiding, for a charter. This was granted on July 9th with Mrs. Cora S. Harper, as president; Mrs. Laetta G. Funk, 1st vice-president; Mrs. Kate Higgins, 2nd vice president; Mrs. Eunice E. Benson, recording secretary; Mrs. Estella H. McKay, corresponding secretary; Mrs. Lille T. Davis, financial secretary; Mrs. Gertrude Smith, treas; Mrs. Anna Freedlund and Annie Lee as custodians. Hutson B. Saunders, Jr., as circuit clerk, attested the judge’s signature to the charter, which provided that should the corporation be dissolved, the assets should be used to establish a free public library for the citizens of the “Boynton Precinct.” This Club has been a vital factor in the development of the community.

The Bank of Boynton was organized in 1912 and a six room graded school building was constructed in 1913 by the Palm Beach County School Board, through the activities of H. B. Murray who was a member of the Board from 1911 to 1917. This building was of concrete blocks and still stands and is in use.

The need for closer and better organized management of the affairs of the community, brought about a mass meeting at the Boynton Lumber Company’s hall on Feb. 27th, 1920 at which 35 qualified voters were present. 

With the advice of H.L. Bussey, lawyer of West Palm Beach, these thirty-five voters prepared and posted a call to all qualified voters living in Sections 22 and 27, the South half of Sec. 15, the north half of section 34; the East half of Sec. 21, the East half of Sec. 28, the Southeast quarter of Sec. 16, and the Northeast quarter of Sec. 33, Tp. 45, R. 43, East. – a territory extending two and three quarter miles on the Atlantic Ocean and one and one-quarter miles inland, - to meet on the 14th days of April 1920 for the purpose of considering incorporating the territory described in a municipality, and to elect the first officers of the incorporation as provided by the laws of the state which provided that when a majority of three fourths of the voters of a designated territory in mass meeting assembled favored such incorporation, they could do so by filing minutes of the proceedings with the clerk of the circuit court, and securing the approval of the Circuit Judge.

Pursuant to the call, fifty qualified voters residing in the territory described, assembled in the hall before mentioned, on the 14th day of April, 1920, elected R. H. Rousseau chairman and J. M. Cooper, secretary of the meeting, voted 48 for incorporation to one against, adopted a seal for the Town, elected G. E. Coon to the office of mayor; A. A. Atwater, C. M. Jensen, A. C. Shepard, W. S. Shepard, and J. P. Bowen, aldermen. Fred Benson was elected marshal and Charles W. Pierce, Clerk with 24 votes over B. F. Evans with 20. Pierce declined the office and B. F. Evans was unanimously elected. These proceeding were files by H. L. Bussey on July 20th, 1920.

The officers of the new town did not wait for the filing of the incorporation proceedings, however, and held their first meeting in the Masonic Hall on Ocean Ave., on June 12th, 1920, with all members present and proceeded to organize the Town. C. M. Jensen was elected president of the council and rules for council meetings were adopted. 

On June 21, B. F. Evans resigned from the office of clerk and D. S. Hudson, an officer of the Bank of Boynton, was elected for the unexpired term to April 11, 1921. Evidently impatient with Lawyer Bussey on account of delays in filing the charter, the council employed C. C. and C. E. Chillingworth town attorneys on July 30th, 1920 and devoted the several succeeding meetings to considering and adopting ordinances for the governing of the Town.

On Oct. 15, 1920, C. M. Jenson resigned from council and Chas. Stitts was elected to succeed him and J. P. Bowen was elected president of council. Having found that financing a new town without money was almost an impossible undertaking, and receiving demands from the citizens for a public beach and electric lights, the council on Oct. 26th, 1920 voted to hold an election on Nov. 30th to decide whether bonds in the sum of $10,000 should be issued. On Nov. 17th, a mass meeting of citizens approved the bond issue and approved the purchase of an ocean front park to cost not more than $6,000. At this meeting, council accepted an assessment roll prepared by J. M. Owens, tax assessor of Palm Beach County as the roll for the Town for the year 1921 and ordered the clerk and collector to collect 10 mills on the roll. The Bank of Boynton was designated as the Town depository.

At the bond election, 35 votes were cast, and 29 favors the $6,000 for the ocean park; 32 the $3,000 for electric lights and 32 the $1000 for general expenses. The bonds were dated Dec. 1, 1920 and sold to Ward B. Miller, a citizen of the Town, on Jan. 17th, 1921 at 95 cents on the dollar. This sale put the Town in funds and business picked up. The first construction ordered was a jail to cost $84,00. It was necessary to condemn the ocean frontage, but on Mar. 7th, the deal was closed for $5750, $200 attorney’s fees and $34.75 court costs. The frontage condemned was the property of the Boynton Hotel Company north of the hotel site on which the Boynton casino is now situated.

At the annual election on April 11, 1921, H. B. Murray was elected mayor with 44 votes and J.C. Powell and B. F. Evans elected council men for the two year term, Atwater, A.C. Shepard and J. P. Bowen, holding over. A. C. Shepard was elected president of council, Miss Eunice B. Magnusen, clerk and T. A. Ward, Marshal. 

On May 15th, 1921, the Boynton Boosters Club proposed to Council that a modern charter providing for a commission form of government be prepared and presented to the legislature for enactment. Council agreed, and the Charter was enacted by the legislature and an election called for July 26th, 1921 for its ratification by the voters, and the election of the new commission if the charter should be ratified.

The charter was ratified with almost an unanimous vote and H. B. Murray elected mayor-commissioner with 45 votes to 31 for Harry Benson; Ward B. Miller, vice-mayor-commissioner with 45 votes to 34 for A. C. Shepard and J. C. Powell, clerk-commissioner with 43 votes over C. F. Knuth with 36. The new officers took over the government on July 29th, 1921, to hold office until the regular election in April 1922.

Nothing other than routine matters were handled during the remainder of the year except that on Nov. 18th, the voters turned down a proposal by one Lovejoy for an electric light franchise, preferring municipal ownership, a small generator having been purchased and put in operation with the proceeds of the first bond sale. At the regular election on Apr. 17, 1922, 14 votes were cast and F. L. Muster was re-elected mayor for one year with 72 votes to 62 for H.B. Murray; Ward B. Miller, vice-mayor for two years with 70 votes to 66 for A. C. Shepard and J. C. Powell, elected clerk with 112 votes, no opposition. T. A. Ward was dismissed from the office of marshal and H. J. Miller appointed.

8/22 the commission found itself short of funds and borrowed from the bank in anticipation of tax collections.

12/22. Sets millage at 10 mills, - 2 for light fund; 2 for sinking fund and 6 for operations. Property valuations, $116,524.00.

?/19/22. No pressing business and as the “mosquitoes were bad,” the Commission adjourned without other action. On Dec. 14th, the Commission resolved to issue $10,000 refunding and $25,000 general bonds under the authority granted by the new charter subject to referendum demand. There being no such demand, the bonds were issued and $25,000 sold to the Bank of Boynton on Mar. 24th, 23 at par and interest; and $10,000 exchanged with Mr. Miller for the bonds he bought from the former commission. 

At the election on April 12, 1923, C.F. Knuth was elected mayor-commissioner for a term of three years with 63 votes over H.B. Murray with 43. This brought another upset and T. A. Ward was re-appointed marshal, Miller resigning. The commissioners adopted the first assessment paving resolution on April 17th, and let a contract for paving Lake Avenue into the western part of town, to S. P. Snyder for $8587.00. On Nov. 6th, 1923, the Commission began to take matters seriously and voted to issue $85,000 6% improvement assessment bonds which were sold to the Bank of Boynton on Nov. 27th, 1923 at 93 and interest, the proceeds being used to retire the $10,000 bonds held by Ward B. Miller and the $25,000 held by the bank and provide $50,000 for a waterworks system being planned by Karl Riddle Company. An ordinance segregating the negro residential area was adopted on Jan. 1, 1924.

On 16th, 1924, Harry Benson was elected vice-mayor over A. A. Atwater, 48 to 29 votes. The first audit of the Town was made by I. I. Himes as of July 1, 1924.

Wilson Mizner and Victor Searles, representing owners of the “Mizner Mile” appeared before the Commission on July 2, 1924 and secured a contract to change the route of the Ocean Boulevard from the ocean front to a line approximately 600 feet west of the ocean front, they agreeing to donate the right-of-way and build the new road. Addison Mizner and Victor A. Searles signed the agreement.

On Sept. 2, 1924, the tax rate for 1924 was set at 13 mills on a valuation of $1,586,438.

It seems that Mayor Knuth early incurred the displeasure of certain citizens as on Sept. 2, 1924, the first recall petition was presented to council asking for his resignation with 5 days. He refused to resign and at a recall election held on Oct. 7th, 1924, Knuth retained his office with 91 votes against H. B. Porter with 80 votes.

With this vote of confidence, the commission resolved to issue $100,000 Improvement Bonds without an election. The paving resolution was adopted, leins placed and the bonds were sold to the Farmers Bank and Trust Company of West Palm Beach on Dec. 6th, 1924 for $104,500, and accrued interest, the highest price at which Boynton bonds ever sold. C.C. Chillingworth is now Town Attorney, his son, C. E. Chillingworth having become circuit judge.

On Jan. 14, 1925, the Keystone Construction Company was awarded a contract to widen, pave and curb one mile of the Dxie Highway through the Town for $50,491.60, but on Feb. 3, the Company asked to be released and the contract was cancelled.

On Feb. 17th, 1925, the Commission decided to extend the lights of the Town to 4 ½ miles north and south and about three miles east and west. Evidently this was done to prevent the inclusion of the territory in the towns of Lantana on the north and Delray on the south and to provide a larger assessment roll by taking in certain subdivisions which were being promoted in the new areas. The inclusion bill was drawn and duly enacted by the legislature. 

On Mar. 17th, 1925, the Commission resolved to cooperate with the State Plant Board in the eradication of Citrus Canker and ordered all groves within the limits of the Town destroyed.

On Apr. 12, 1925, J.H. Meyers was elected clerk for three years with 45 votes, no opposition. Meyers took office on April 21st at a salary of $2400 per year.

On June 16th, 1925, a contract was let to O.S. Heaton to build a Town Hall on lots selected by the Commission, for $21,732. This action aroused the citizens who demanded the right to vote on the site of the Town Hall and the second petition for the recall of Mayor Knuth was filed on July 7th and promptly tabled by the commission as insufficient. The resolution was presented again on July 21st, but receiving no second, was again tabled. On July 23rd, the commission was served with an alternative writ of mandamus requiring them to hold the recall election or show cause why they did not. The attorney, L.D. Simon acting for Mr. Chillingworth, advised obeying the court order and the election was called for Oct. 6th, 1925, the latest possible date.

The minutes of Sept. 4th, 1925, designates the “Boynton News” as the official newspaper of the Town and on Sept. 28th, 1925 the Commission fixed a tax ratte of 7 mills on $14,159,433 assessed valuations! How the Town has grown! This is the top and henceforth the decline of Boynton begins.

The minutes of Oct. 13th, 1925, set out that Roy O. Meyers was elected mayor with 106 votes over C.F. Knuth, 75. Immediately E. E. Gleason, marshal, and O. F. Knuth and V. R. Rousseau, deputies, resign. Also, Miss Marguerite White, stenographer, resigns. M. J. Hutson was elected chief of Police and the bank ordered to refuse to pay checks signed by Clerk. J.H. Meyers unless countersigned by either the mayor or vice-mayor, Meyers having also resigned when Knuth was recalled.

On Dec. 20th, 1925, J. D. Harliss, Jr., was employed as assistant clerk at a salary of $200 per month.

The winter of ’25 and ’26 found the Commission in financial difficulties and on Nov. 3, 1925 at a special election, E. L. Winchester was elected Town Clerk-Commissioner with 36 votes – no opposition. The building of the Town Hall was stopped by an injunction and after Knuth was recalled, the injunction was allowed to stand, and the Court asked on Feb. 2, 1926 to make the injunction permanent, as to the site selected. 

On Feb. 2, 1926, Roy C. McCarthy, representing a group of citizens presented plans for the building of an ocean front casino. On Mar. 2, 1926, a resolution was adopted to sell the light distribution system to the Florida Light and Power Company for $20,000 and grant a franchise. 

To relieve itself of financial troubles, the Commission on Mar. 16th, put a bond resolution for $1,000,000 funding and refunding bonds on first reading, and on Apr. 9th, 1926 closed the contract with the Florida Power and Light Company. On Apr. 14th, Roy O. Myers was elected mayor for the full term of three years with 227 votes to 100 for C. F. Knuth. On the strength of this, the Commission raised their salaries on June 5th, from $600 to $2400 per year, and awarded a contract for paving to the E. E. White Construction Company for $397,556, not the lowest bid.