Curtis Pinder Recalls
By Jerry Wilkinson
Curtis Pinder

      The following article appeared in Section C of the The Miami Herald, Sunday, May 5, 1968 and I quote:

- Man Who Came to Florida in 1888 Reflects on Past -

By Nixon Smiley

 Capt. Ridley Curtis Pinder, who came to the Florida Keys from the Bahamas in 1888, likes to reminisce about the days when schools of fish blackened Biscayne Bay.

"My father, moved from Cherokee Sound to Key Lar­go when I was three, " said Pinder of 3013 NW 13th Ave [Miami, Florida]. "We farmed and fished and caught redbirds for a living."

            The elder Pinder had five married sisters living in the keys, four at Key Largo and one at Matecumbe.

            "The four sisters who lived at Key Largo married Pin­ders, so they didn't have to change their names," said the retired fisherman. "The older sister married a Russell."

Matecumbe was a Russell stronghold. The Russells came from the Bahamas, too. ''We raised limes, pineapples and sweet potatoes." said Pinder, who gave up a lifetime of fishing when he was in his sixties because of cataracts. "Schooners used to drop anchor offshore to pick up limes and pineapples for the northern markets."

        The community where the Pinders lived got the name of Redbird City because of the large number of cardinals captured and sold in Cuba, where they were kept as caged pets.

 "Key Largo was full of redbirds, especially in the winter," said Pinder, who helped to catch them in traps made by tearing the fibrous stems of coconut leaves apart and weaving the strips together. "We also caught quite a large number of non­pareils - painted buntings. They were very popular."

The trapped birds were taken by boat to Key West from where they were shipped to Havana. (A federal law now prohibits the trapping of song birds.)

Pinder's father did his fishing in Biscayne Bay, which was "full of fish” in those days. He recalls visiting Miami in 1896 and stop­ping at Brickell's trading post near the mouth of the Miami River. Workmen were busy clearing a site for the Royal Palm Hotel, Flagler's huge sprawling resort hotel which stood until 1928 where the Dupont Plaza parking lots are now located.    

The next time the Pinder family started out for Miami, in 1899, their boat was halted by the stern‑wheeler, St. Lucie. Miami was having an epidemic of yellow fever and nobody was permitted to leave or enter. "We had to live on our boat for nine days,” said Pinder. “I remember that Dr. J. M. Jackson was aboard the St. Lucie, which was skipped by Capt. Steve Bravo. Our clothes had to be sterilized.  My suit was boiled in some kind of strong solution and it came apart. They didn't know in 1899 that yellow fever was carried by mosquitoes."

Although only 14, Pinder got his first glimpse of the famous settlement of "North  Miami" while on this trip.

            "In her deal with Flagler, Mrs. Julia Tuttle had seen to it that Miami had no saloons," said Pinder. "So, the saloons were built just north of the city limit, which was the middle of 10th St. I remember there were two saloons at Miami Ave. and 10th St. facing each other. Sam Sawyer sent me to North Miami to buy him a quart of booze. I think it was Echo Springs, and it cost $1.50."

Pinder returned to Miami in 1906 to live, settling in Conch Town, near NE Ninth St. and First Ave. Almost all the rest of his working life was spent fishing in Biscayne Bay, except for a short time that he worked on Flagler's railway extension to Key West.

"You wouldn't believe it if I tried to tell you how many fish were in Biscayne Bay in those days," he said.

        “We used purse seines until they were prohibited after World War I. In the last haul I ever made we boated 27,000 pounds of mackerel. We used to haul in as many as 55,000 pounds of mullet at a time. I've seen times when schools of fish covered acres of Biscayne Bay so thick they darkened the water."

Pinder barely escaped the 1906 hurricane which swept over the keys, drowning several hundred of Flagler's workmen. But he lost an 11-year‑old son in the hurricane which hit Miami in November 1935.

"My wife and I loaded our family in our Model‑T Ford and headed down the street to the Santa Clara Elementary School during the calm of the storm," he said. "We reached the school grounds just as the opposite side of the storm hit us. It was sudden ‑ 150 miles an hour, at least. Our car was torn to pieces. Our son was injured so badly that he died the next day."

Pinder lost the ring finger of his right hand and received a gash in his head that seven stitches were needed to close.

"That storm was small and didn't last long, but it was about the most furious hurricane I was ever in," observed Pinder.

Still nimble at 83, Capt. Pinder would like to fish again ‑ ­"if I had my good eyesight and there were any fish left."

- - - - -  end of article - - - - -
Editor’s note: According to my 1900 census there was a Joseph Pinder (age 52) married to Adrian (age 50), with children of Ridley C. (age 15), Charles H. (age 12), Herbert (age 10), Walter (age 7) and Ansinetta (age 4) living on Key Largo. In addition to this Pinder family there were six other Pinder families just on Key Largo. The heads of the household were: Cornelius and Amy Ann Pinder, Joseph and Rebecca Pinder, Joseph and Nellie Pinder, Elija Pinder (no wife listed), William and Alice Pinder, and Jeremiah and Anis Pinder. All were from the Bahamas
Cornelius and Jeremiah Pinder were the only Pinder names of the above 1900 group found as a homesteaders and their homesteads are dated respectively as 3/20/1885 and 8/24/1901.
– Jerry Wilkinson.
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