This year, with the uncertainty of people coming together to celebrate the holidays, the Indian River County Historical Society plans to celebrate a Christmas past.
The early settlers of Indian River County came not only from northern states but were immigrants that had traveled to this strange land with strange environments and strange customs from across the oceans.
In Florida, the traditional Christmas tree does not grow. So with no cedar or Norfolk pines available, these early settlers had to adopt the native trees around them. Pines — longleaf and sand pines — would fill the gap for a Christmas tree.
Florida sand pine found on the sandy ridges of the old dune lines were spindly and sparse — the original Charlie Brown Christmas Tree.
The tree did not take to heavy ornaments and since the early settlers traveled light, they did not have any or very few ornaments with them.
Decorations were almost always homemade and consisted of colorful yarn, feathers, shells, even a bird nest or two. Tucked away may be a few precious family keepsakes to remind them of a faraway home.
This sand pine stands tall in the front parlor of the Hallstrom Farmstead as part of the annual St. Lucia Swedish Christmas event. Unfortunately, that event was canceled last year and will be this year, but there is hope of a better year in 2022.
The Hallstrom Family was one of many families that came to the Indian River County to make a new life at the turn of the last century. The Hallstroms came to the “golden” ridge (Atlantic Coastal Ridge) along Old Dixie Highway from Sweden — by way of Minnesota — in the late 1890s. Their stately brick home is now a House Museum, owned and managed by the Indian River County Historical and listed on the National Register of Historical Places. During the approval process in Tallahassee, one of the historians voting on the nomination remarked, “Only in Florida would you have a Swedish immigrant growing pineapples.” Pineapples are still grown at the Hallstrom Farmstead.
Not only did settlers come to Florida from other countries, many came from neighboring states. After the Seminole Wars and the Civil War, several Homestead Acts that were passed provided a reason to live in the wilds of Florida.
One such family who had settled in Fort Drum, an old abandoned Seminole War military outpost, north of Lake Okeechobee would resettle later along the Indian River Lagoon.
Thelma Smith Smeltzer came to Indian River County with her family and father, George Washington Smith, from Fort Drum by wagon in the early 1900.
Her father is buried in the Oslo Cemetery just south of the South Relief Canal on Old Dixie Highway. This is one of the earliest cemeteries in the county. The Helseth Family gave the original land before 1905 when we were part of Brevard County and has burials from some of the earliest family in south county.
Smeltzer was one of the charter members of the Indian River County Historical Society and gave the Historical Society a special Christmas gift one year.
As a girl, she and her family came from Fort Drum to settle in what was then southern Brevard County. They came by oxen cart with their belongings from Fort Drum to Quay (Winter Beach) along the Fort Drum/Quay Road. That was the only road that went inland to Fort Drum from the coastal area and that was at Quay (Winter Beach).
The gift she gave us had been clipped to her sand pine tree Christmas Tree in Fort Drum and was a precious gift to share with us. Each year we have displayed it on the sand pine Christmas Tree we erect at the Hallstrom House. Other antique ornaments given to the Society are also displayed. Each has a story to tell of their family’s new beginnings in a new land with new people. Important to hear and inspiring to know.
This article originally appeared on Treasure Coast Newspapers: Local History: Early Florida settlers used native trees for Christmas
Source : https://news.yahoo.com/local-history-early-florida-settlers-110209184.html919