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Fellsmere turns 100

By A Treasure Coast essay by Paul Janensch


Fort Pierce, FL – In 1911 - 100 years ago -- the city of Fellsmere was founded in the northern part of what is now Indian River County by E. Nelson Fell, an engineer from New Zealand who was determined to make his fortune in Florida. A one-mile-square municipality was carved out of the Fellsmere Farm Company, a 118,000-acre spread of what had been pinelands, prairie and muck. The name "Fellsmere" is archaic English for "Fell's Lake." The company sold land to farmers and cattle crackers for raising citrus, sugarcane, cotton and livestock. Fellsmere is still an agricultural center. The city can claim many "firsts" in Indian River County - the first municipal government, the first public library, the first telephone system, the first public water system and the first streets paved with concrete. In 1915, Mrs. Zena Dreier of Fellsmere was the first woman to cast a ballot in a local election in Florida and in all of the South. Also in 1915, Fellsmere was devastated by flooding, but it bounced back and grew. Eventually, migrant families came to harvest the crops. Many of them stayed. Today about 80 percent of the 5,200 residents are of Latino heritage. Happy Birthday, Fellsmere! Feliz compleanos! For 88.9 FM, this is Paul Janensch.
Treasure Coast essayist Paul Janensch was a newspaper editor and taught journalism at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut.