There are two huge cypress trees on either side of our house.....they were planted in 1909 by a little girl named Eleanor Wilton. Five year old Eleanor had harvested those two little trees from the beach shortly after she immigrated to the U.S. aboard the SS St. Louis in 1909 to join her father. Arriving at the property her father had purchased for them to live and work, she planted those little trees beside the original portion of the house I now call home.
Her father, George Wilton, a gardner who immigrated from Cornwall England aboard the SS St. Paul in 1904, planted pecan trees but soon realized that he'd wait three years for his first harvest; with a mule and 40 acres, he diversified into other crops to suppport and feed his family.
As Eleanor and her brother Frederick grew up, the house grew as well - each good harvest allowed the family to add on another room or another floor to the farmhouse...all first efforts had been put into the huge barn that houses the mules, the tools and the fruit of the labors.
Shortly after the 1920 Census, Eleanor married George Brough, a 26 year old first generation American from Chicago...George's family had migrated to Florida before 1920 and lived near Eleanor and her family. Young Mr. Brough had worked with Mr. Wilton, both were master gardners.
Soon after her marriage, Eleanor's mother passed away and her widowed father made the decision to return to England for the remainder of his life; he sold Eleanor's childhood home with the two cypress trees and its surrounding of pecan trees to her and her husband.
Eleanor Wilton Brough would spend all but the first five years of her life in this old farmhouse, passing it to her own son before she passed away. When that son became too old to farm the 40 acres, he sold it to a man who had worked with his father and uncle for many years - they cut out a little less than an acre to remain with the house and the fields first plowed by Mr. Wilton beginning in 1909 continue to be farmed today by the old farmer who lives just across the street. Eleanor's son eventually left the house to his cousin who spent eleven years repairing and updating the by then vulnerable old house....
The old front stoop to the original room of this old house remains just outside my office window...documents from the Abstract of Title reveal that in 1925, the county filed a lawsuit against the Wilton's, the Brough's, and several of their neighbors to take a portion of their lands to build a public road. This emminent domain of property for public use would make the front of the house then appear to be the side of the house....a few years later, the Bough's would put in a new front door and add a front porch to the side of the house that faced the new road. The old road is today the driveway onto the property.
It is obvious even today that Mr. Brough was a master gardner by occupation - 95% of the landscaping of this old place is winter blooming - forced to sow crops to support his family, Mr. Brough spent the winter months tending the gardens around his house. The camelia trees and amarylis and snow bells which remain from his days of gardening are slowly coming back as David and I work the gardens. The locals remember the days when amarylis bulbs filled the three irrigation ditches that surround what remains today a part of the house's property...we're slowly transplanting the survivors to those ditches and hopefully one day, the ditches will overflow with them once again...............