This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V26", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
The most remarkable feature of this marshy labyrinth which constitutes the northeastern corner of Florida, to which the sea asserts its superior title twice each day, the feature which may rank as one of the greatest wonders of Florida, is the enormous accumulation of oyster shells left by the Indians. These are found in banks on the islands and forming islands of themselves, the largest of which covers an area of about thirteen acres. The bivalve is found now in abundance in the larger creeks, and probably in former ages the channels through the marshes were better suited to its growth. It is probable that, for thousands of years, the neighboring Indians were accustomed to come here for the fish and oysters which abounded in these waters. We may picture to ourselves the manner in which these islands were formed. At first a canoe load of oysters was brought to some elevated spot, and there the empty and unopened shells were left. More loads were brought, and, scarcely diminished in bulk, were added to the pile, which gradually grew into an island, to which the Indians resorted in increasing numbers, ten, a hundred, or a thousand of them making it a place of encampment, at first temporary, afterwards, perhaps, permanent.
Thus the island grew, century after century, till it became a vast pile, which remains a monument to an extinct race, of which we know less than of the race that built the pyramids. Like the pyramids of Central America they are relics of unknown races, whose energies were strangely directed and whose antiquity defies calculation.
Strange as it may seem, the shell islands have not, as yet, become popular resorts for the scientific and sentimental tourists. Few know of their existence and still fewer understand their real nature. Fishermen occasionally resort to them and much time and labor has been wasted in digging for treasure which some think was buried on them by the pirates. Innumerable pits and holes of all shapes are met with on the larger islands, but the only man who is known to have dug with profit is Walter W. Stowe. This energetic young man conceived the idea that money was hidden in the shells themselves. Acting on this inspiration, this modern alchemist bought three of the islands, erected buildings, machinery and a kiln on one of them, and proceeded to burn and grind these relics of antiquity. Hence the origin of "Stowe's Oyster Shell Lime," an article which has become widely and favorably known as a fertilizer and building material. It was a bold and original idea, a precarious enterprise which seems to have been a success. For thus utilizing one of Florida's natural resources Mr. Stowe deserves public commendation and encouragement. It must be admitted, however, that this gentleman manifests very little regard for the antique, the romantic and aesthetic.
He is now seeking to obtain a partner who will reside on the islands and have a common interest in the further development of the business. Seeing what one man has done, it may be expected that two will speedily grind up all of the Sisters (as these islands are called) and scatter their dust broadcast over the land. And then probably they will discover some other equally bold enterprise. Perhaps they will buy the pyramid of Cheops and convert it into building stone. - A. H. Curtiss, in Florida Dispatch.
[In Alaska the writer found in the Indian huts immense quantities of dried clams. The mol-lusks were attached in pairs to straight twigs, "herring bone fashion," and dried over fires. So dried, they were hung around wherever room can be found for them. There were large clam shell heaps in some places. Is it possible that these ancient heaps were formed in the same way? That they were mere drying grounds for the oysters caught? So far as we know the idea has not been suggested. - Ed. G. M].