At one time the State of Florida conducted its own census midway between the federal census count.
The 1945 Florida census found Pompano with a population of 2,445 living within the city limits, and another 1,485 living beyond the municipal borders.
The white population of Pompano was just 435, while the number of black residents was 2,010. Outside the city limits the white population was 131 and the black population stood at 1,354.
At one time the State of Florida conducted its own census midway between the federal census count.
Dr. Thomas S. Kennedy was the first resident physcian in what is today Broward County, and as such he tended to the sick and injured throughout the area. In his memoirs he notes Pompano’s primitive conditions at the turn of the century:
Except from Broward Legacy, Vol. 6, No. 3&4 (1983), p. 28
One morning I got off the train at Pompano. At that time the people at Pompano all lived down on what they called the muck, on the canal [near today’s Lake Santa Barbara]. They came out to the depot in a little foot trail, there were no roads there at that time.
In December, 1876, three men — Billie Addison, Dexter Hubel and Frank Andrews — left the small settlement at Lake Worth to sail down the coast and explore the back country west of the Hillsboro Inlet. They were searching for an area that might be suitable for cattle grazing. They were unsuccessful in that regard, but were able to provide an early description of the interior lands of what is today Pompano Beach.
In one incident, the party came upon a large number of waterfowl:
Excerpt from “The Adventures of Charles Pierce in Broward County One Hundred Years Ago,” Broward Legacy, Vol. 8; Nos. 3 & 4 (1985), p. 4.
When they came out of the hammock, they found the marsh quite open and birds there by the thousands … There were herons of all kinds, big and little, white and blue, a large flock of gannets or wood ibis, and white ibis (curlew) in immense flocks. When the boys came out of the hammock the nearest saw them and immediately took wing, all the others followed and commenced to circle around overhead.
Frank thought all he had to do was shoot at the mass without aiming, there were so many he couldn’t miss, so he fired both barrels in quick succession and never a bird dropped. The birds were flying away; Franck commenced reloading his gun. Just as he was ramming down the last wadding of the shot, Billie and Dexter called out, “Hurry, hurry, Frank, they are coming back, right overhead. Shoot quick.” Frank became greatly excited, raising his gun quickly he again fired both barrels and made a clean miss as before.
Then the birds made another circle back; Billie and Dexter yelled at him, “Hurry and load Frank! They are coming back again.” Frank started to load the gun and found he did not have a ramrod to push the wadding down on the powder and shot. He then remembered he was in such a rush and the boys kept calling at him to hurry and shoot, he had forgotten to remove the ramrod and shot it away. So that settled the question of killing any birds, for that time, at least.
When Broward County was created in 1915, the five commissioners divided up the various functions of the new government, with each being responsible for a particular department.
Pompano’s representative on the County Commission, George Blount, oversaw the courthouse and jail.
[I. I. Hardy was the first commissioner from Pompano. He was appointed by the governor in 1915, but died less than ten weeks after taking office. George Blount was appointed to replace Hardy, and retained the seat in the first election.]
A notable feature of Pompano Beach’s John Knox Village is the swans and other exotic waterfowl that are found within the residential community’s boundaries.
It all began in 1979 when Dr. Rex Foster, a retired oral surgeon, planned to move into JKV. He had a collection of swans that he wanted to bring with him, and the Village allowed him to do so. A small pond on the property was fenced off and named “Swan Lake.”
Following Dr. Foster’s death in 1990, the lake was renamed Rex Foster Lake in his honor.
Over the years, additional waterfowl species have been added or found their way to John Knox Village.
During the Second World War, Pompano farmers faced manpower shortages as so much of the local population was in the military or employed in a war industry.
This situation was partially alleviated by the federal government’s War Food Administration program that assisted temporary workers from the Caribbean, primarily the Bahamas, to come to South Florida as farm workers.
With the war winding down in 1945, Congress eliminated funding for this program beyond the end of that year. This caused a great amount of concern among local farmers; they feared losing a percentage of their farm laborers just as the peak harvest season was beginning.
At its July 22nd meeting, the Pompano Beach City Commission passed a resolution naming the land surrounding the historic Sample-McDougald House “Centennial Park.”
The designation will commemorate the city’s 100th birthday this year, and will allow the project to access additional sources of funding for site development and landscaping.
If all goes according to plans, the site work will be completed and Centennial Park dedicated before the end of the year.
In 1936, Frances H. Miner wrote a 5,000 word history of Broward County for the Works Progress Administration Florida Writers’ Project. Unfortunately, her short section on Pompano contains some significant errors.
Pompano, midway between Palm Beach and Miami thirty-five miles either way, is on the Dixie Highway and was originally laid out and developed by the Model Land Company, the real estate division of the Flagler interests. It was surveyed by an engineer named Franklin Sheehan. When he returned to West Palm Beach and was wondering while eating dinner what to name the new town plat, he bethought himself of the toothsome fish Pompano on his plate and that this fish was very plentiful at Hillsborough Inlet, near the new townsite. Hence the name of Pompano was put on his maps. The
town was incorporated in 1913 with a mayor and council. It is the Post Office for the Hillsborough Lighthouse. One of its boasts is that its water supply need not be treated. Summer population 3,200; winter population 6,000.
Miner’s WPA history of Broward County is available online on the Broward Libraries website.
1. Although the Model Land Company owned substantial property in and around Pompano, it neither laid out nor developed the town.
2. The surveyor’s name was Franklyn Sheen, not Franklin Sheehan.
3. Pompano was incorporated in 1908, not 1913.
4. The inlet and lighthouse are spelled Hillsboro, not Hillsborough.
A 1937 survey of historical sites, undertaken by the Works Progress Administration, identified three historical markers in Broward County.
One was located at what is today Bahia Mar on Fort Lauderdale beach and identified the site of the Seminole War era Fort Lauderdale.
Another on the north bank of the New River at US 1 and identified the site of frank Stranahan’s Trading Post.
The third was at the south end of the Hillsboro Inlet bridge and commemorated the so-called Barefoot Mailman:
WPA, Historic Florida: Report of Historic Site Survey (1937), p. 5.
This is the route over which mail was carried on foot from Palm Beach to Miami in the early days. On September 11, 1887, James E. Hamilton, the mail carrier, lost his life in an attempt to swim the Inlet.
Those early residents of South Florida who left accounts of the pioneer era almost always noted that clouds of mosquitoes was one of the most vexing problems of daily life here. That issue did not disappear as the area grew, as this newspaper article from 1945 indicates:
Fort Lauderdale Daily News, September 3, 1945
A plague of mosquitoes, seldom equaled in recent years have descended upon Broward County Saturday and Sunday. Most residents stayed indoors, but even they slapped and sprayed busily to eliminate the insects which penetrated outer defenses.
The bloodthirsty creatures reached their invasion peak after scattered showers Sunday afternoon, and spoiled most plans for an enjoyable holiday for Broward County residents. Any out-of-doors activity was out of the question.
Even the wildlife in the area was tormented by the pests. One upriver resident said he saw a squirrel fall out of a tree when the animal tried to climb to a higher perch while furiously scratching its bites with both paws.
Even Ft. Lauderdale beach, normally free of mosquitoes, was not immune after the showers Sunday. Earlier in the day they had not bothered bathers excessively, but after the rain they drove all beach patrons either into the water or scurrying homeward.
The plague was said to be due to cloudy weather during the past few days which has brought the humming pests out of their hiding places, coupled with the gusts of wind in squalls which carry them out of their marshy breeding places.
Residents predicted there will be no relief from them until the weather breaks and the southeast trade winds blow them back into the Everglades.
On July 17, 1821, General Andrew Jackson officially accepted control of Florida for the United States.
The flag of Spain was lowered and the American flag was raised in a formal ceremony at Government House in Pensacola.
On July 17, 1821, General Andrew Jackson officially accepted ownership of Florida for the United States.
The flag of Spain was lowered and that of the United States raised in a formal ceremony at the Government House in Pensacola.
The original name proposed for a national highway that would connect the Midwest with the South was the Cotton Belt Route.
However at an organizational meeting held on April 3, 1915 in Chattanooga to promote the roadway, the moniker was changed to Dixie Highway to honor “Fifty Years of Peace” between North and South.
In April, 1957, 75-year-old Edward A. Walsh moved to Pompano Beach.
He was just one of thousands of retirees choosing to live out their remaining years in the sunshine. But unlike the other new Pompano residents, Mr. Walsh was a member of one of the nation’s most exclusive clubs — the Baseball Hall of Fame.
During his playing days he had been known as “Big Ed” Walsh, and from 1906 to 1912 he terrorized American League batters as the Chicago White Sox’s star pitcher. His weapon of choice was the spitball (still a legal pitch then), and during the 1908 season he won 40 games, the last time any major league pitcher won that many games. He still holds the major league record for lowest career earned run average (1.82).
In 1946, he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Ed Walsh’s residency in Pompano Beach did not last long. He died on May 26, 1959, just a few days past his 78th birthday.
Pompano Beach’s fire fighters had to go to court to have the municipal government bargain with their union for a contract.
In 1973, under judicial order, the city recognized the union (Local 1549) and negotiated a collective bargaining contract that allowed fire fighters to retire following 20 years of service, set a new pay scale, provided fully-paid health insurance benefits and established grievance procedures.
Representing the union were fire fighters Bob Shelley (who later was elected to the Florida Legislature and then served as a Pompano Beach city commissioner), Robert Jodway and James Soderlund (who later served as Pompano Beach’s city manager).
The Pompano Beach City Commission recently added the name “Pioneer Drive” to the section of NE 5th Avenue that runs between Atlantic Boulevard and NE 10th Street.
Many of Pompano’s early leaders lived on this throughfare and it is the site of a number of Pompano Beach’s historic houses.
Hiram F. Hammon (1841 - 1922) began growing winter vegetables west of Pompano, in what is today Margate, in the final years of his life.
Hammon had come to what is today Palm Beach in the early 1870s, and is acknowledged to be one of its first settlers. For many years he was involved in agriculture and tourist-related activities around Palm Beach, but in 1919 he began growing beans, tomatoes, and eggplant at Canal Point, near Lake Okeechobee. Soon thereafter he acquired land west of Pompano.
Following his death, relatives directed the Hammon Development Company’s operations in Broward County.
The road from the Hammon farm to Pompano was known as the Hammon Road, or Hammonville Road. At some point, the name was corrupted with the insertion of a “d”; thus the current name, Hammondville Road.
Parts of the historic Hammon Road have been renamed Coconut Creek Boulevard in the west, and Martin Luther King Boulevard in the east.
The move to establish Palm Beach County out of Dade County began before Pompano was incorporated.
On February 8, 1907, a group of citizens met in West Palm Beach to discuss the possibility of a new county. The primary issue was that not enough taxes collected in the northern part of Dade County were being spent in region, especially for roads and schools.
Initially, the plan was for the new Palm Beach County to have its southern border located just south of Fort Lauderdale, but in negotiations on the new county’s boundaries, that line was moved to just south of Pompano.
Palm Beach County, with Pompano as its southernmost town, came into being on July 1, 1909.
The first resident of Pompano to serve on the Broward County Board of Public Instruction (now the School Board of Broward County) was Joseph P. Smoak (1872 - 1946). He served from January, 1919 through January, 1929.
One of Miami’s early, but not the first, “street railways” (trolley lines) was built in 1914 with 77,000 cross-ties that had been salvaged from a shipwreck on the beach at Pompano by Thomas B. McGahey.
In 1902 McGahey came to Miami in a railroad box car; within little over dozen years he had become one of the area’s major road builders.
At its session on October 19, 1942, the Pompano Municipal Court had five cases. Three were for disorderly conduct and the court imposed varying fines on the persons charged ($15, $10 and $5). Another person was brought before the court for fighting and was fined $10.
The final case involved a woman using profanity in a public place; she was sentenced to 15 days in jail.
Pompano Mayor Louis B. Fisher presided.
Pompano State Farmers Market, postcard ca. 1941
The St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum has an interesting animated map of nature’s (and human) reconfiguration of the St. Augustine inlet over time.
Without human intervention, Florida’s inlets would shift and move due to the influence of tides, currents, storms and inland flooding. Locally, during the past century both the Hillsboro and the New River inlets have been kept open and navigable only through periodic digging and dredging.