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“Florida has long been viewed as a land of hope and endless possibilities. Visionaries seeking to establish new communities where they could escape the influences of society at large have turned to Florida to construct their utopias.” entered the Depression earlier than most of its sister states, had witnessed the collapse of the ‘Boom,’ a land-buying spree that had seen prices soar to astronomical prices; the collapse of the state’s banking system; two major hurricanes; the failure of the citrus industry; the collapse of markets for the state’s cash crops of cotton and tobacco; the flight of African Americans, who made up the bulk of agricultural laborers, to northern cities; and the rapid shift of its population from rural area to cities and towns.” There is a telling black and white photograph, on page 151 of a Florida woman boiling her family’s clothes in a large iron pot in the 1930s. These were hard-working people with very limited possessions. “Some came to the Sunshine State seeking religious freedom, such as the settlers in Moses Levy's Jewish colony, while others settled in Florida to establish alternative lifestyles, like the spiritualists of Cassadaga. Still others created their communities to practice new agricultural techniques or political philosophies.” Historians Joe Knetsch and Nick Wynne examine a number of these distinctive utopian communities and how they have contributed to Florida's unique social fabric. Utopian Communities of Florida can be purchased in most bookstores and online at amazon.com. G M Jonathan Herbert is an award-winning writer who grew up in Englewood. His third novel, “Chasing Palms,” was recognized at the William Faulkner Literary competition. You can follow him on Twittter @herbertnovels or online at herbertnovels.com March/April 2017 GASPARILLA ISLAND 17 The east coast of Florida in 1900 was a sparsely-settled area of the Sunshine State. Although the Florida East Coast Railway (FEC) had arrived in Miami in 1896 and although the railway’s owner, Henry Flagler, had spent millions developing hotels along the railroad’s route from Jacksonville to Palm Beach, the long stretch from Palm Beach to Miami attracted few settlers and even fewer towns … in all, the FEC held title to more than two million acres in the Sunshine State. In 1903, Jo Sakai, a college-educated native of Japan, purchased 1,000 acres near present-day Boca Raton and made plans to begin farming operations in 1904. Calling their new colony “Yamato,” an ancient name for Japan, the colonist slowly began to clear away the palmetto scrubs and other indigenous growth that covered the land. “Many of the colonists were educated members of the Japanese middle-class; they attacked the native growth with grubbing hoes, shovels, and rakes, all while fighting mosquitos and biting flies. They constructed crude sleeping huts, and beds were simple pallets on the floor. There was no plumbing or running water for bathing … cooking water needs came from a well. … the first two years of Yamato’s existence it was a male-only community.” The authors go on to describe the importance of pineapple farms and citrus groves, the devastating hurricane’s and land boom failures of the 1920’s as well as the negative affects from the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. The Yamato Colony ultimately disappeared forever. This culture is only one of many masterfully presented to the reader in this book. The authors take the reader on a journey from one community to the next, one outlandish leader to the next dreamer, one heartbreaking time to another … with the human condition front and center. Despite overwhelming odds, the authors remind us who these dreamers were and where Florida stood in the depths of American History. “The Great Depression changed the social, political and economic landscape of the United States, and nowhere were the changes more dramatic than in the Sunshine State. Florida had


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