How my Larcom Family ended up in Florida
ROUTE BY CAR
Records show that Theodore Larcom (1885-1949) and Pearl Lathrop Wyatt (1890-1943), my great-grandparents, moved to Florida from Beverly, Massachusetts around 1925/26, per the 1926 Beverly directory. As the story goes, they drove down to Florida in a old Model-T Ford. It is said that Theodore had to drive the car backwards over the mountains because the steep incline would cause the car to appear to be out of fuel. The Model-T relied on gravity to feed fuel to the carburetor rather than a fuel pump. After 1926, the fuel tank was moved forward and upward, under the cowl on most models which improved the gravity feed.
Before the U.S. Routes were designated, auto-trails were the main means of marking roads through the United States. In 1925, the Joint Board on Interstate Highways worked to form a national numbering system, and the U.S. Highway System was approved in November 1926. I believe Theo & Pearl would have driven down the auto-trail called The Atlantic Highway which connected Maine to Florida. After November 1926 this auto-trail was called US-1. They would have connected to US-19 as they travelled down to the West coast of Florida.
I believe that their journey took at least three weeks to a month to reach their destination of Madeira Beach, Florida. The distance is about 1,388 miles by road. I have been told that they camped in a tent on the side of the road each night. I am assuming that they did not bring many belongings, since the Model-T is a very small car.
As they were traveling through Florida, they stopped at Weeki Wachee Springs. I am sure they heard of this beautiful place from other travelers. It must have been a welcome paradise since they stayed there for about a week before continuing down US-19. My grandfather told me that it was mostly dirt road and that there were cows everywhere.
As Theo & Pearl were making their journey by car, Pearl’s mother, my 2nd great-grandmother, Louisa Tyson Bartlett Wyatt (1860-1932) was preparing for her journey by train. Louisa boarded a train in Beverly, Massachusetts, and arrived in Brooksville East, Hernando County, Florida. It is possible that she took the Seaboard Air Line Railroad. She fell in love with this place immediately after stepping off of the train and eventually bought property across from the Brooksville Train Station in 1928. This property had to be auctioned off in 1937 after the Great Depression hit the Larcom family hard and they could not pay back taxes.
MADEIRA BEACH, FLORIDA
The final destination of Theodore, Pearl & Louisa was a small patch of land rented on the property owned by horticulturist Frank Duhme, off of what is now called Duhme Road in Madeira Beach, Florida. This is where the second Kapok Tree Inn used to be. Mr. Duhme told Theo that he could tear down an old barn and use the wood to build a house, so he built a small shack where they all lived together. Theodore, having a strong Yankee accent, had a tough time finding a job in this Southern state, so he did what he knew best, building crab traps and fishing for a living. He used some of the wood from the old barn to build a small row boat, and sold crab traps as well as stone crab claws.
A year later in 1927, a son was born, my grandfather, Edward Joseph Larcom (1927-2013), and then in 1928 a daughter was born, my grand-aunt, Mary Lou Larcom (1928-2003).
This may forever be the question. The fact that they came down with so few belongings makes me think that the family fell on hard times in Beverly. During the 1920’s Florida was experiencing a land-boom, so it is possible that they thought there was money to be made here. However, only a few years after arriving to Florida, the Great Depression hit and made their circumstances even more dire.
ABOUT THEO, PEARL & LOUISA
Theodore did not come from money. He did odd jobs all of his life: crossingtender, stableman, chauffeur, gardner, fisherman, and carpenter. Pearl came from a family of proprietors, they even had their own market in Beverly Farms from which they sold grocery items. After Pearl’s father, Edward Wyatt, died in 1899, her mother, Louisa Tyson Bartlett Wyatt, continued to run the market by herself. She also rented out rooms of her home to boarders as well. This family worked hard, but had decent money for the times.
Records show that Theo became a single boarder in Louisa Tyson Bartlett’s house in 1906, when he was 21 years old. The photo of Pearl & Theo above is from around this time when he was a crossingtender in Beverly Farms. He continued to live with Louisa & Pearl – even after they moved to a different address – until he left for the war in 1918.
Three years after he was drafted into World War I, Theo & Pearl married. He was 35 years old, and she was 30 – a first marriage for each. And it was six years after their marriage when they decided to move to Florida.
I like to believe that Theo & Pearl were in love for the entire time that they knew each other. I wonder if Louisa Tyson Bartlett Wyatt was hoping for a better match for Pearl, thus the long wait before she actually married Theo. Or maybe the war had an effect on their relationship, to bring it to the next level. Or maybe he finally worked up the courage to ask. But one thing is for certain, Theo was a strong patriarch for these two ladies. He stuck with them for many years, and worked hard for them – a dedicated care-taker, friend, husband and son-in-law to the end.