A chain of natural waterways, broken here and there, where, for a short distance, the main land reaches a finger down to the sea, extends from the mouth of the St. Johns River, near Jacksonville, to the extreme southern section of the state. A portion of these waters is navigable for craft of considerable size; at other points the waters are shallow and dotted with oyster bars; but all could be made navigable at a cost small in comparison to the advantage it would afford to commerce and to the nation in the possible event of a war, wherein it should become necessary to protect our southern coast from invasion. Indeed, the state, at one time, made an appropriation of lands for this purpose, and a no inconsiderable amount of dredging of the channel was done; but as so frequently happens in such cases the appropriation was not properly guarded, and individual interests crowded those of the public aside and the work was never completed. Our new 'relations with Cuba and Porto Rico, together with the projected Nicaragua Canal, must eventually bring this matter prominently before the general public, and compel action on the part of the general government in opening this most magnificent natural highway to the commerce of two continents.
Upon a peninsula formed by one of these estuaries in connection with the sea, and one hundred and ten miles south of Jacksonville, is the spot selected for the location of the institution which is to offer in addition to the ordinary course of studies for youth, facilities for investigation along all lines in which science is interested, and more especially along lines usually regarded as "occult" or "hidden." The work heretofore accomplished has been in a great degree, and of necessity, theoretical. We must now make it practical; we must prove by actual demonstration many things which, as yet, we have been unable to do for lack of facilities. And we must, at the same time, push investigation and research; and whatever the result obtained it must be made known to the world of men. The race is entitled to know, and shall know, all that can be learned by the most fearless experimenters of the laws which govern in the unseen world. We are already connected through Mental Science organizations by means of our paper, Freedom, and through the International Scientific Publishing Association, having its chief office here—with interested people in every country on the globe, and believe that we possess every facility necessary to success in our undertaking.
No more naturally healthful spot exists anywhere than that selected, and no more delightful climate. The summer heat at the extreme seldom reaches 90 degrees, and always tempered by the softly blowing breeze from oft the sea, with nights never too hot for sweet sleep, yet without the chill which in many latitudes comes with the setting of the sun—with only enough of winter to remind one of that deliciously invigorating autumn weather of New England, with its days of clear skies and starlit nights—those days and nights when "the frost is in the pumpkin and the corn is in the shock;" with such a climate and such surroundings and with the sound of the limitless sea forever in the ears, where could be found a better spot for the founding of an institution pledged to a study of the Law of Life and a contest with the powers of death?
The peninsula at this point is a half mile wide, the average level above high tide probably fifteen feet. Rising rather abruptly from the river (the Halifax) it lies in ridges with lower grounds running parallel with river and sea coast, thus giving absolutely perfect drainage, and offering a most pleasing contrast to the flat pine lands, through which all lines of railroad entering the state pass in some portion of their route. The soil here is sandy and covered thickly with vegetation, consisting of several varieties of oak, pine, sweet bay, white bay, myrtle, "cabbage" and "saw" palmetto, etc. From trees at the river side comparing favorably in size with those of a northern forest, vegetation gradually diminishes in height and size until at the immediate sea front it is "scrub," mostly of .the lower growing varieties of palmetto, not exceeding in height a tall man.
Though not by any means rich, the soil is much more productive than appearances would indicate to the inexperienced in its cultivation. Fine lawns or pastures of Bermuda or other grass adapted to the climate are easily attainable without fertilization, and by a moderate use of fertilizer all, or nearly all Northern vegetables and vines can be successfully grown, together with some which cannot be produced at the North. The lack of seasonable rains, which do not always fall at the time most nee led, is a far greater obstacle in the cultivation of vegetables on the peninsula than is any sterility of the soil. This lack of rain at convenient season is much more noticeable on the peninsula than on the mainland, immediately opposite, the river frequently being the line of division between copious showers and gardens languishing for want of moisture. The cheapness of water supply is, however, in very great measure an offset to lack of rain, in so far as lawns and small gardens are concerned. An artesian well, sunk to a depth of one hundred and eighty feet, will furnish a never failing supply of the best of water, and a little added expense will carry this over a bit of ground sufficient to supply an ordinary family with vegetables.
Of floral beauties most varieties grown in the North do veil here, and roses are seldom out of bloom the whole year round.
On the mainland side, and lying immediately back of Daytona, a city of two thousand five hundred inhabitants, are several thousand acres of what are called "hammock" lands; that is, land covered with a heavy growth of hardwood timber—oak, bay, magnolia, hickory, soft maple and other woods interspersed with varieties of palmetto. These lands are expensive to clear, but are productive, and could be made fine agricultural lands if in the hands of enterprising farmers. Since the injury to orange groves by frost in recent years, little or no effort has been made to utilize these lands; and except where stands some deserted orange grove, the forest trees usurp possession of what a century ago was fields of sugar cane, corn, or indigo.
Of the ocean beach it is difficult to give a clearer impression than that conveyed by the illustrations, one taken at high, the other at low tide. The difference in width of the beach exposed is three hundred feet. This three hundred feet exposed at low tide is, for all purposes of riding or driving, as hard as a cement floor and extends the entire length of the peninsula, a distance of twenty-five miles. No other beach in the world equals it in extent and hardness, and in connection with a shell road along the river side of the peninsula offers one of the finest opportunities for driving or wheeling to be found anywhere. Neither is it possible to conceive of better facilities for surf bathing than is offered by this same beach. As the rise and fall of tide on this coast is little more than two feet, it is evident that even the timid, bathing at or near high tide, may safely venture the entire distance left bare by the receding waters at low tide; in other words, that the level of water at a distance of three hundred feet out does not exceed two feet in depth. At the same time they "swell"—or in case the sea is a little rough the surf—rises or breaks a foot or two higher, to subside in a moment only to rise again continuously, making the most delightful bathing imaginable, accompanied by an absolute minimum of danger.
A government lighthouse stands at the southern extremity of the peninsula, the light being plainly discernible from this point twelve miles away, and is supposed to be perceptible for a distance of twenty miles out at sea. While this immediate coast for a distance of a hundred miles has never been visited by a really destructive storm, yet vessels dismasted or becoming unmanageable, as the result of the gales that annually strike the Carolina coast; as also ships bound North from Havana and other island ports, caught in typhoons from the tropics—occasionally drift in here.
At times it is quite possible for a common row boat to pass safely through the surf, and to return without serious danger to its occupants.
These things which I am recounting—the short descriptions of the country which I have given, and the illustrations which accompany them—are all for the purpose of interesting the reader in us and in the institution which we are founding; an institution of learning for mature men and women as much as for youth; an institution unique in its character, in as much as it is established to encourage freedom of thought as an important factor in the education of the young, while affording facilities to the ripest minds of the age for investigation and research into the hitherto hidden laws of being. We wish the readers, whoever or wherever they may be, to be able to think of us and our surroundings, and our work in some fair degree, as they would see them to be if they were present in the body; and so for the hour we have offered them our eyes with which to see things as they are, and as we see them. It has been the easiest, and perhaps the pleasantest, part of the author's task, and she trusts that after the brain exhaustive work of following her through her metaphysical writings, the reader will have found a pleasure and a rest in this lighter reading.
More from Helen Wilmans
- Born in 1831 and died in 1907
- Studied under Emma Curtis Hopkins
- Was a journalist and author
- Was active in the Mental Science Movement
- Was charged with postal fraud for healing through mail. Fighting this charged caused her lose most of her fortune.