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A criminal clan

Today, exactly a century after John Ashley, Hanford Mobley, Ray Lynn and Clarence Middleton were killed at the Sebastian River bridge, the shootout and the gang’s activities still stir the public imagination. Books have been written, a movie filmed and, more recently, the Elliott Museum in Stuart has established a permanent Ashley Gang exhibit. Above all, two questions remain. Were John Ashley and the three others with him on that November night in 1924 executed by the law officers apprehending them? Did John Ashley’s lover, Laura Upthegrove, tip the law officers about his whereabouts that fateful day?

Ed Register

The Ashley Gang: What really happened

A gumshoe follows the trail of the Ashley Gang 83 years after their shooting deaths to reveal who did what at the Sebastian Bridge and why.

Ed Register was just 7 when he was walking one morning with his father to the family’s barrel factory in downtown Fort Pierce and saw a crowd gathering outside Will Fee’s Hardware and Mortuary. The image has seared his memory for more than eight decades.

John and Laura

Defiant to the end

Anyone familiar with Treasure Coast history certainly knows the story of the notorious Ashley Gang. It was a group of despicable outlaws — murderers, rum-runners and bandits — during the 1910s-20s led by John Ashley, whose parents lived in Fruita, near Gomez and Hobe Sound, in what is now southern Martin County. John’s girlfriend and gun moll, Laura Beatrice Upthegrove, perhaps not as well-known, was nevertheless an important member of the gang.

Her life was mostly one of unhappiness and tragedy.

Ribault’s Landing by Lee Adams

An epic tale of survival

Of all the ships that foundered off the Treasure Coast through the centuries, the one remembered best is the Reformation. After it ran aground on Jupiter Island 320 years ago, a survivor wrote a book that became an early American classic: God’s Protecting Providence. We know it better today as Jonathan Dickinson’s Journal. An 11,500-acre state park in Hobe Sound was named in honor of the author, but it was an elderly evangelist’s story that made the shipwreck famous. Robert Barrow’s quest to survive Florida’s unforgiving wilderness captured a bygone public’s attention.

William Tecumseh Sherman and CoacoocheeDivided warpaths

Everyone has heard of Osceola, but how about the Seminole warlord who replaced him during the Florida War? Coacoochee was his name and the safest prison in the peninsula couldn’t hold him. Not for long. He was just as dangerous, just as dashing, just as fiercely brilliant as Osceola — even more so. As the chief opponent of the 1830 Indian Removal Act, no place in Florida was safe for soldiers and white settlers while Coacoochee was running free.

He and his devoted warriors could be lying in ambush within every thicket, along any trail, behind any clump of trees. It is one of history’s ironies that...

The Vero Theatre

A region divided

After much debate and quite a bit of rancor among citizens and politicians alike, Indian River County was born in 1925 through state legislation that carved both Indian River to the north and Martin to the south out of St. Lucie County, leaving three separate counties in the place of one. Local legend has it that the forced Sunday closing of the four-month-old Vero Theatre (later the Florida Theatre and now Theatre Plaza) on 14th Avenue in 1925 was the reason many Vero Beach citizens and officials demanded the creation of a new county.

St. Lucie is the patron saint of the blind

Our St. Lucie Connection

The Treasure Coast, which seems so new to us, is really rich with ancient history. Some clues have always been in front of our eyes. We just overlooked them. Take the name St. Lucie, for instance. You hear it everywhere. St. Lucie County, St. Lucie River, St. Lucie West, Port St. Lucie. All are derived from the name of the patron saint of the blind — Saint Lucie. But why would her name loom so prominently among us? The story goes back exactly 450 years ago.

Nuestra Señora del Carmen y San Antonio, originally HMS Hampton Court

When pirates scoured the Treasure Coast

One man. One crew. One ship can take on the entire British Empire without a hiccough or regret. However grandiose Bellamy’s assertion may sound today, it was not without sincerity.

Engaging as their legends are, the true story of the pirates of the Treasure Coast was even more captivating; it is a long-lost tale of tyranny and resistance, a maritime revolt on the seas. The foundation of the British Empire was shaken by these rogues.

How we became the Treasure Coast

Long known for our world-famous citrus, St. Lucie, Martin and Indian River counties became known as the Treasure Coast after the discovery of riches off our shores in the 1960s

There was a time when our three counties had no special name other than, perhaps, Indian Riverland. St. Lucie, Martin and Indian River counties were defined by their principal towns, which also served as their county seats – Fort Pierce, Stuart and Vero Beach. There were no other towns of any consequence in the region. Fort Pierce, Stuart and Vero were distinct, mostly self-contained communities linked mainly by U.S. 1 and high school football rivalries. Vast amounts of undeveloped land lay between each city, and since the turnpike and I-95 were still...

300 years ago

A hurricane destroyed a fleet of 11 ships laden with riches, killing hundreds and spilling much of the precious cargo along our shores — the rest is Treasure Coast history

In a single night more than 300 years ago, Spain’s entire fleet of treasure ships suddenly went down, scattering untold millions of dollars worth of silver and gold along our shores. After treasure hunters regularly began to bring up great caches of lost riches in the early 1960s, our region was dubbed the Treasure Coast. But the glitter of that shimmering nickname is only a half-told tale. The storm scattered people, too...

treasure ship illustrationSea keeps doomed fleet’s secrets

With all the latest technology in modern day maritime engineering, it’s difficult to imagine what it was like for crew and passengers sailing halfway around the world in 1715 onboard wooden ships bound for the New World. A combination of excitement, the unknown, and danger drove these people of the 18th century on a voyage of possibility and peril.

Three hundred years later, we are still learning about the ill-fated Spanish Plate Fleet that sank off the east coast of Florida because of a horrific July hurricane. Nearly half of the 2,500 lives onboard the 11 ships were lost, as well as several hundred millions of dollars in treasure. Only one ship managed to escape that deadly morning...

Hunting grounds

German U-boats wreaked havoc in shipping lanes off the Treasure Coast during World War II

Stephen N. Gladwin

‘Our Soldier Boy’ of World War I'

The name Stephen N. Gladwin was a familiar one to me growing up in Fort Pierce. I first saw the name etched in the World War I memorial monument on the grounds of the St. Lucie County Courthouse, undoubtedly after seeing a movie at the Sunrise Theatre across the street.

The Cow Creek Chronicles - A series

The Cow Creek Chronicles

The Cow Creek Chronicles is the story of a pioneering family and the vast ranch they established.

The Cow Creek Chronicles - Part 1
Frank Raulerson creates Cow Creek Ranch and develops his granddaughter, Jo Ann, to take it over.

The Cow Creek Chronicles - Part 2
Jo Ann and her husband, Tommy, take over the ranch in 1954 when Frank Raulerson dies.

The Cow Creek Chronicles - Part 3
Tommy and Jo Ann buy an old farmhouse in North Carolina while the family undergoes tremendous change. Kathy gets married and has children and Tommy reveals another extramarital relationship. Tommy’s free-spending ways continue, putting Cow Creek Ranch at risk.

The Cow Creek Chronicles - Part 4
Financial problems persist for TL and Jo Ann Sloan even after they sell their beloved Cow Creek Ranch.

The Cow Creek Chronicles - Part 5
Cow Creek Chronicles writer Gregory Enns retraces his steps writing the story of loss and love and returns to the ranch where it all started.

Bud with camera

Enduring legacy

In the last half-century on the Treasure Coast, nobody was more liked, more loved, better known or more respected than Alto Lee Adams Jr.

Iris Wall

Life on Florida’s last frontier

Florida’s Cracker culture is alive and well thanks to Indiantown’s homegrown celebrity Iris Wall. The 87-year-old cowwoman proudly promotes and enjoys speaking around the state about the Cracker lifestyle.

She understands firsthand about adventure because she lived in South Florida when it was one of the last frontiers. Awarded Woman of the Year by the Florida Department of Agriculture and inducted into the Florida Cracker Hall of Fame, the fifth-generation Floridian talks in an animated, down-home manner about the people in her native state.

Ralph Evinrude with the legendary Chanticleer

Laid-back speed wizard

Mention the name Evinrude, the famous outboard motor, and you imagine the thrill of speeding in a Boston Whaler, intoxicated by the wind blowing through your hair, the cooling mist of the sea spray, as you skim across sparkling, turquoise waters.

To locals along the Treasure Coast, the name Evinrude conjures up memories of the yacht Chanticleer, the Outboard Marine testing center and singer/entertainer Frances Langford. While much attention has been given to his wife, Frances, we know little about her husband, Ralph Evinrude, the boating titan, who preferred to live away from the public eye. He lived quietly in his laid-back way, relocating his business, boating in local waters and ruling a boating empire on the shores of the Indian River.

Waldo in chair

Waldo, we hardly knew ye

As Vero Beach prepares to celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2019, no one figure stands taller in the city’s history than Waldo Sexton. He is Vero Beach’s most iconic figure celebrated and written about more than any other.

R.N. “Pop’’ KoblegardSunrise Visionary

When the 1,300-seat Sunrise Theatre opened in downtown Fort Pierce exactly a century ago, the city had a population of just 2,000 people. The theater’s size meant that it was big enough to fit the town’s entire population, with more than half being seated.

Today, as the Sunrise prepares to celebrate the centennial of its opening on Aug. 1, 1923, the theater stands as a testament to the vision of its founder, R.N. “Pop’’ Koblegard. While Koblegard’s name is a familiar one and his descendants are plentiful on the Treasure Coast, just who exactly was Pop Koblegard and why did he build the Sunrise on such a grand scale?

Spirited Excursion

Vero Beach’s Ocean Drive has its share of things that go bump in the night.

Want to feel the hairs on the back of your neck stand up or a hand brush your shoulder as you listen to ghostly tales of long dead pirates, bootleggers and an eccentric pioneer of Vero Beach?

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