Tales from the Archives
Pearl City - Part One of Six
Note from the Curator: The information about our earliest African American pioneers is very sketchy to say the least. Boca Raton didn’t warrant its own census count until 1920; locals would have appeared in the Deerfield or Delray census of 1910. There appears to be no 1900 census for all three communities. Most of what we know about our early pioneers actually comes from the diaries of Frank Chesebro, a Michigander who came in 1903 and was the area’s largest farmer. 
Boca Raton’s earliest known African American resident was a man named C.W. Blaine. He was a sharecropper with six acres of tomatoes and a half acre of beans according to the Florida East Coast Homeseeker , a publication of the Model Land Company (Florida East Coast Railway), February 1900 edition. Unfortunately his name does not appear in any of the ensuing censuses and we have no idea what happened to him.

Frank Chesebro’s diary makes reference to a number of his workers, primarily African American, most of whom probably lived in Deerfield and walked to work every day. However, I infer that a few may have been sharecroppers who owned land in what is now Boca Raton—not sure where—but possibly “Hurricane Hill” also known as “The Hill” by the old timers in Boca. The Hill is at West Palmetto Park Road and Northwest/ Southwest Fourth Avenue. Two of Frank’s early employees include A.J. Anderson and Jim Huntley. Huntley definitely owned his own property as well as working for Chesebro. Lena, last name unknown, was a sharecropper who by the 1910s became an aide to Nettie Chesebro, Frank’s wife, who was invalided and eventually suffered from dementia. Lena was treated like a member of the family. Additional employees mentioned in Frank’s diaries include: Sam Brown, Bradley Bradford, Robert, Timothy Edgecomb, Pete Williams, William J. Reid (Reid), Joe, Roberts , W.J. Anderson, Mrs. Shawood, Judson, Bunch, Patterson, Clark, William Tillman, Alex Hughes, and Will Demery. Hughes and Demery were to stay in Boca Raton and become some of the earliest residents of Pearl City.

To be continued…

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