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Martin County History

Martin County is a direct product of the Florida land boom that started in 1922 and would taper off in the spring of 1926. The residents of Stuart, on the north end of Palm Beach County, felt like stepchildren, as their sole representation was a single commissioner who was easily outvoted. Most voters, of then an expansive Palm Beach County, lived in West Palm Beach and the residents of the north end of the County were often heavily taxed for improvements that gave them few benefits.

Earlier attempts to create a new county in the St. Lucie River region were unsuccessful. However, in 1924, the Stuart Commercial Club, forerunner of the Stuart Chamber of Commerce, attacked the issue of county division with renewed determination. A campaign to improve the St. Lucie Inlet and develop a world-renowned harbor in the St. Lucie River fueled the desire for local rule. A county division committee was appointed and directed to take necessary steps to establish a new county during the 1925 session of the Florida Legislature. Committee members Henry Newton Gaines, John E. Taylor, Major W.I. Shuman, Warner B. Tilton and Edwin A. Menninger obtained legal advice and recruited others to help spearhead the effort. Gerald J. O'Reilly, E.A. Fuge, A.T. Hogarth, Harry Lyons, Carroll Dunscombe, J.C. Stuart, Richard Ensey, James Robb Pomeroy and P.R. McCrary joined the campaign. Money was collected and petitions circulated. A number of prominent men were sure the undertaking was doomed.

Henry Newton Gaines was originally appointed chairman of the County Division Committee, but when he decided the timing was wrong, Edwin Menninger took over. Stuart Mayor Stanley Kitching and J.B. McDonald, Stuart's first mayor, were part of the delegation that traveled to Tallahassee to lobby for the new county. Others were Major W.I. Shuman and Mrs. Shuman, Mr. and Mrs. John Taylor, T. Hart Getzen, Edwin A. Menninger, Warner B. Tilton and Edwin Brobston.

While names like "Inlet" and "Golden Gate" were being proposed for the new county, the delegation had little success and was becoming discouraged and frustrated. However, when someone came up with the idea of naming the new county after incumbent Governor, John Wellborn Martin, things changed. Governor Martin took the Stuart delegation under his wing and helped pave the way for a new county named in his honor. State Representative A.W. Young, of Vero Beach, was simutaneously working toward the creation of Indian River County and cooperated with the Stuart delegation; the governor's assurance that he would sign bills creating both counties made the spirit of cooperation possible. By the end of 1925 legislative session, all of Indian River County and part of Martin County had been carved from St. Lucie County. Representative M.S. McCracken, of West Palm Beach, promised and gave assistance to county division after petitions were circulated and signed by more than 2,500 of his constituents. The bill creating Martin County from St. Lucie and Palm Beach counties passed the Senate on May 28, 1925 and was signed by the Governor two days later. A referendum was held in the part of the new county that had been Palm Beach County. By August 5, 1925, Martin County was official.

(Excerpted from Stuart on the St. Lucie - A Pictorial History by Sandra Henderson Thurlow)

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