Chapter Three




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The original pioneer settlers of Fort Drum were Joel Swain, Henry Parker, and Henry Holmes.

Elder Joel W. Swain was born in South Georgia in 1836. He became a Primitive Baptist preacher and moved his family to Hillsborough County, Florida, during the late 1860’s where he served as minister of Mt. Enon Church near present-day Plant City for about ten years. About 1877 Elder Swain and his family settled at Fort Drum. The Indian War fort had been abandoned for many years and the area was a true wilderness. Elder Swain donated for community use seven and one half acres; five for a cemetery to be named St. Martha, in honor of his wife, and the remaining two and one half to be used for a church and school. He built the church and preached there for many years and taught the children of Fort Drum in the school building he also constructed.

About 1878 Henry L. Parker moved from the Bull Creek-Lake View area and settled at Fort Drum. Parker’s wife, Elizabeth, had died in 1876 and he had married Rutha Ann Richards. At the time he moved to Fort Drum Henry Parker was a member of the Brevard County Commission. He constructed a log house and reserved a room in the building for a general store and trading post. The nearby Cow Creek Seminole Indians traded bird plumes, and the hides of alligators, deer, and otters in exchange for guns, ammunition, and groceries. Cattlemen who gradually moved into the area also purchased most of their supplies at Parker’s.

Henry Allen Holmes settled at Fort Drum about the same time as his step-father, Henry Parker. Holmes became active in the cattle business, and was one of the leading ranchers in the lower Kissimmee River valley.

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Henry L. Parker

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Henry A. Holmes residence

Elijah and Charity (Hunter) Padgett came from Georgia to Brevard County prior to 1860 and eventually settled north of Fort Drum near the present-day Okeechobee-Indian River county line. Padgett’s son, James Tippen Padgett, lived about seven miles north of Fort Drum and founded the community of Olney. He operated a general store and post office there for a number of years. Also living in the Olney area was the John McLaughlin family.

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James Tippen Padgett and his second wife Vandalia Ella Willis Padgett and their son Roy, about 1900

Among those living at Fort Drum during the early 1880’s were the families of Asbury Sellers, Elmo Boatwright, Streaty Ashford Hair, Sr., and Mary (Parker) Morgan. Mrs. Morgan was the mother-in-law of Henry Holmes and her son, James Morgan, married Lucinda Sellers. Robert LaMartin moved from Basinger to Fort Drum during the late 1880’s and taught school there. He returned to Basinger about 1893. Allen Chandler, son of Shadrach Chandler, moved to Fort Drum from Basinger and remained there until the turn of the century. John F. Parker, no relation to Henry, settled in Brevard County during the 1870’s. He eventually moved to Fort Drum where he raised cattle and established a store.

Henry Parker represented Brevard County in the Florida Legislature during the 1881, 1893, and 1899 sessions. He was instrumental in obtaining a post office for Fort Drum which was established August 22, 1888, with Parker as first postmaster. He served until April 30, 1896 when Allen Chandler was appointed. Chandler served for four years and Parker again became postmaster December 29, 1900. After the establishment of the Fort Drum post office, James Webb received the contract to deliver the mail from Kissimmee to Fort Pierce, via Fort Drum. In writing about early postal service, Albert DeVane said the following:

He (Webb) made bond and began the delivery of mail. The route was from Fort Pierce to Kissimmee via Fort Drum. It took one day to deliver the mail by horseback from Fort Drum to Fort Pierce, spending the night there and returning the next day. The trip from Fort Drum to Kissimmee took two days each way. This gave the territory one mail a week each way.

The people began to request more frequent and better mail service so a new route was established from Fort Drum to Quay (now Winter Beach).. .Mail service was doubled between Fort Drum and Kissimmee.

James Webb’s sons Minor, Lewis, and Henry were bonded as riders; also his son-in-law, Edd McLaughlin.

During the 1890’s Fort Drum received a number of new residents. The community blacksmith was William W. Beecher, a native of Illinois who moved to Fort Drum about 1895. When one of the settlers died, Mr. Beecher constructed the casket and Mrs. Ida Lee, wife of pioneer James Milton Lee, put in a cloth lining. The first Fort Drum resident to be buried in a store bought casket was Ruthy Ann Parker, who died in 1911. George W. Drawdy, Sr. and family, originally from Georgia, arrived at Fort Drum during the 1890’s. The Drawdy family opened up a general store which they owned until 1906. After Henry Holmes’ wife Joanna died in 1894, he married Carrie Roberts of Orange County. Carrie’s brother, David Roberts, also moved to Fort Drum during the 1890’s. Other early pioneers at Fort Drum were Robert Anderson, James Norman, James Webb, and John Barton.

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Fort Drum School house

Fort Drum’s school was a one-room structure with a vestibule. During the pioneer days all classes were taught there, primer class through seventh grade. The students ranged in age from six to nineteen and since, on occasion, the teacher was younger than the older students, disciplinary problems arose. One time a male teacher whipped three boys for teasing a girl. One of the boys nodded to his sister and both of them left the school house, not returning to class that day. The teacher disappeared that night and the common belief was that the father of these children had chased the teacher out of the area. Fort Drum’s early schoolteachers included Elder Joel Swain, Robert LaMartin, Guy Hardy, Miss Virie Wigfield, Joe Williams, Lawton Geiger, Josephine Stinson, Ebenizer Akins, Eva Daniels, and Mrs. Schofield.
Midway was a small community just north of Fort Drum.  The school served the Swain, Cason and McLaughlin children.  Standing in back, left to right are: Bryan Swain, Etta Swain, Mrs. Jordan, the teacher; unidentified woman, Mamie Cason holding baby, and Grandma Sellers midway_school_t.jpg (7779 bytes)

Midway School about 1911

The only organized church at Fort Drum during the late nineteenth century was the Primitive Baptist Church which had been founded by Joel Swain. However, circuit riding Methodist preachers served the community and eventually a Church of God congregation was organized.

Fort Drum’s social life consisted of political picnics, square dances, fish fries, cane grindings, candy pulls and camp outs. In 1914 the Fort Drum Debating Society was established and by 1916 a Woodmen of the World Hall was in existence.

A young medical graduate, Dr. R. A. Young, came to Fort Drum in 1902. He was in poor health and had been advised to seek a warmer climate. He was prompted to come to Fort Drum by Henry Holmes who promised him a place to live and horses to ride for hunting. Dr. Young accepted the offer and remained at the Holmes residence for many years. He delivered babies throughout the area and provided his services to whites and Indians alike.

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Dr. R. A. Young cutting rattles off a snake

During the early 1900’s, Harley Holmes, Henry’s eldest son, operated a general merchandise store. He was appointed postmaster November 25, 1907, because of Henry Parker’s advanced age and declining health. On January 26, 1910, John F. Parker, who also owned a general store, became postmaster and served until Hilton Brown received the appointment in 1915. Brown also operated a general store.

In 1905 a large portion of southern Brevard County was formed into a new St. Lucie County, with Fort Pierce as the county seat. Fort Drum was located in this new county and its first representative on the Board of Commissioners w as R. D. Holmes. After Holmes moved to Basinger, which was in Osceola County, R. E. McLaughlin represented the Fort Drum area on the St. Lucie County Commission.

fort_drum_1912_t.jpg (9202 bytes) Main Street, Fort Drum about 1912.  The house on extreme right is the residence of Harley Holmes; the building in the center is Harley Holmes' general store; the small building across the street from the store is Minor Holmes ' barber shop.

With the establishment of Fort Pierce’s St. Lucie County Tribune in 1905, Fort Drum news was reported on a regular basis in the early issues of that newspaper. The following are several items appearing in the Tribune.

October 27, 1905 - The stockowners here have been very busy this past week cow hunting. This is their last hunt til spring. They report plenty of water on the ground.

J. W. Knight and G. W. Drawdy while out riding Wednesday afternoon surprised an eight foot alligator in the edge of a swamp, in water two or three feet deep. They fired at it with a shot gun and apparently killed it, but when they caught it by the nose, oh my, you should have seen it throw the water. Another well directed shot put an end to its struggles, and they were able to drag it to shore.

November 24, 1905 - J. W. Knight killed the largest wild cat ever brought to Fort Drum.

December 21, 1906 - Outside of a few hunting parties and perhaps a dance, Christmas will be dull in Fort Drum this year.

The Kissimmee Valley Extension of the Florida East Coast Railroad was completed through Fort Drum in 1914. A small depot was built at Fort Drum and several miles north another station was established and given the name Osowaw. Some five miles southeast of Fort Drum the railroad constructed a station and gave it the name Hilolo.

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J. A Presley and his work crew at Fort Drum depot.