Monday, May 3, 2010

Palma Sola Hotel 1902 - 1906

Palma Sola Hotel 1902 – 1906
My father Henry spent some winters with Daisy, Bill and me at the Palma Sola Hotel. In his late 60s, he was still able to put in a full day working on the property. Guest stayed at our Palma Sola Hotel from January through May. Our launch “Daisy” took pleasure and adventure seekers on the River and out to the ocean most days. Fishing was especially good in the Terra Ceia Bay. On these trips we would stop at Bradentown, Palmetto, Terra Ceia or occasionally we would venture across the Tampa Bay inlet to Fort De Sola. A mortar battery had been completed in 1900 to defend Tampa Bay because of the Spanish American War. All the time we owned the Hotel (1901-1906) buildings were being added at the Fort.

In 1903, the Manatee River Steamboat Co started serving Tampa, St. Petersburg and Bradentown 3 times a week and would stop at our wharf if needed. Passengers on ocean steamers would frequently stop at the Hotel on their way to and from Key West or Havana Bay Cuba. They talked of seeing many banana and sugar cane plantations. The Spaniards did not want crops competing with those grown in Spain so they taxed grape vines and orange trees. We grew some oranges, lemons and grapefruit for our use at the Hotel.

We had hundreds of relatives, friends and strangers stay at the Hotel each year and they all told such interesting stories. Daisy did a great job of managing the hotel and dinning room with the help of very capable employees. Bless her heart, she became a frequent shopper and attended many of the social events in town. Daisy was very attentive to our son Bill and his needs. Our son Bill (William McKinley) attended school (1902 to 1906) while we wintered in Florida and made several friends in addition to son of our hired man, Mr. Rudds. We had named Bill after President McKinley. McKinley, you may recall, was elected in 1896 and 1900 but assassinated in September of 1901. He led us into the Spanish-American War to gain control of Cuba, and afterwards annexed the Philippines, Puerto Rico and Hawaii. VP Teddy Roosevelt became our next President.

Back home, in 1904 kids playing in the horse shed next to the East Casco Church started a fire that destroyed the wood framed Church. Reverend Blickenstaff became the new pastor and led a rebuilding project, as he was also a builder by trade. We all pitched in to help rebuild the Church. On Aug 19, 1906 the Rev. William McKee, from Dayton Ohio, dedicated the building. Uncle McKee was married to my one of dad’s sisters. The debt on the church building was paid off in 3 years. This was one of many life-changing events that I remember from 1906.

In the spring of ‘06 we decided to put the hotel up for sale, as it had become much more work than we wanted to continue doing. It sold for $3,000, which was twice the amount we paid in 1901. To please Daisy, during the spring and summer of 1906 we spent that money on a complete make over of the farmhouse. The interior was upgraded, decorated and a grand porch was added. I was also able to add a deco electric system to the house just like one I had learned about at the Chicago Worlds Fair.

We invited all of our relatives and close neighbors to the house for a Thanksgiving celebration. Just over 100 people were in attendance. Weather was not that bad, in spite of some very cold weather in October. In fact, I would learn the next spring that the October 10, 1906 heavy snowfall and temperature drop to 10-15 degrees Fahrenheit had killed all the peach trees and many other fruit trees throughout Michigan. A number of families just walked away from their farms. Only the most successful growers, with favorable locations and soils, replanted peach orchards. In spite of the losses life went on. (1906 over 100,000 acres of peaches in Michigan – 2010 just 10,000 acres)

Note – Above written by Martin Overhiser based some conjecture, Manatee River Journal articles and Jeanne Hallgren’s Casco Township – Bounty By The Lake’, The History Of Casco Township, Allegan County, Michigan 1844-1995.
Hotel PS – There are now 8 homes on the Palma Sola Hotel site. The tile roof home is on the hotel site with the river to the right. In 2007 I meet Elizabeth (Libby) Crews Warner whose husband Joe Warner was a descendant of the original hotel builder. In Libby’s apartment she has a dresser and rocker from the hotel.

At the Farm May 3, 2010
The month of April brought some record-breaking warm days and then some very cold nights. The higher temperatures brought on the blossoms sooner than normal. These early blossoms were then faced with some very cold nights. On April 28 (the coldest night), Brother Allan burned some of his brush piles to warm the air and create air circulation. Mother Nature thinned some of the apples and peaches that night. The honeybees have just been moved out of the orchards. Now the waiting game for two more weeks. How extensive is the frost/freeze damage? Will we get another freeze? Did the bees do their job? In general it looks like the farm will have a crop of each fruit but some may be lighter than prior years.