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Yesterday's Palm Beach

Florida Atlantic University
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WILLIAM COOLEY: BROWARD'S LEGEND Dr. Cooper Kirk Hi tory has not treated William Cooley kindly. In modern parlance his has been a bad press or. rather. no press at all. A remarkable person he is vaguely remem- bered as the man whose family was massacred on ew River on January 6. 1836. As maUers now stand. it i as if he possessed no personality or career of his own. Like biblical Melchisedec he is credited with no beginning or ending. To him is given only the brief day when history thru t him unwillingly into the limelight. His sole claim to fame seems to rest upon his survivorship of a tragedy that brought horrible death to his family at the hands of reveng-e-bent Indians. In addition to the loss of his fam- ily at his advanced age. the tragedy robbed him of all hi worldly goods and left him destitute. Yet. Cooley deserves beuer in his own right. As the first official lawman and judge in what is present day Broward County. he combined this calling with many others. some official and others private. Upon his should- ers rested the tiresome official duty of apprai ing land. buildings. ships and slaves in southern Florida when nature prevailed to prevent all but the most hardy and adwnturesome from travel. much less selliemenl. His ..xplMations of southeast Florida astounded his con- temporaries. No other g-uide for the \\ ilderness was more trusted. As a manufacturer, he had no equal and hardly a competitor in south Florida. Not the least of his ac- complishments. he acted as guardian and buffer between doeile Indians and rapacious white men who swore their dominion extended to \\hatever their hands touched. To him belong-s the distinction of bringing to south Florida "Orne humaneness and culture which partially lifted the blanket 01 i!!norance and barbarity. For more than a quarter century, Cooley survived the Indian massacre of his household which consisted of hi, devoted \\ife. three children and Joseph Flinton. the famil~ tulOr from Cecil County. :'I-1aryland. He never remarried. Highly

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