The History of the Miami Pioneers

How did the Miami Pioneers come to be?

By the 1930s, Miami steadily emerged from its status as a pioneer settlement at the start of the twentieth century — some likened it to a tropical jungle on the edge of the bay — to a rapidly evolving vibrant metropolis during the boom years of the 20s. The city was growing so fast, some lamented they could hardly recognize some of the places they once frequented.

Along the way, some of Miami’s prominent citizens commiserated with their peers about fellow pioneer residents and business leaders of early Miami aging and passing away. They longed for an opportunity to gather and remember the “good old days” and to honor those who literally carved this town out of oolite rock and erected sturdy buildings of local pine.

Old Miami Street scene

The streets of Miami’s pioneer era saw rapid change from horse-drawn buggies to motored runabouts and roadsters. Much attention was paid to the building of roads before the boom in the 1920s.

Early life in Miami was not easy. Two thirds of families that arrived in 1910, turned around and left. Those that stayed, they felt, deserved recognition for their determined attitude and steadfast resolve to create a livable community in the wilds of South Florida.

Fourteen original settlers chartered their venerable pioneer’s club organization on October 21, 1937. The first eligibility requirement was to have settled in Miami before the year 1900. The second was to be at least 50 years old, making membership quite exclusive.

Founding members included Isidor Cohen, E. B. Douglas, J. E. Lummus, John Seybold, John Sewell, Judge A. F. Atkinson, Harry C. Budge, Sheriff John Frohock, Dr. Robert E. Chafer, Charles A. Mills, Mrs. Frieda Blackman Hughes, Dr. P. T. Skaggs, Mr. Henry J. Egger and T. N. Gautier.

Some of the first meetings took place at Roddy Burdine’s auditorium, organized by his assistant and later successor George Whitten.

Membership grew steadily at first with many of the earliest settlers joining the ranks. By the time World War II priorities interrupted much of daily life — forty-five years after Miami’s city charter — the original membership was beginning to wane.

It was decided to change the basic requirement of arriving before 1900. Dates were changed to 1905, then 1925. Later on, the deadline for first arrival was changed to September, 1926 — the date of the dreaded hurricane that damaged so much of Miami. Furthermore, a new classification was created to welcome descendents of the original pioneer settlers.

The Miami Pioneers purchased land and erected a building at 250 NW North River Drive in 1952. The building was lost in 1995 and the group merged with the up and coming Natives Of Dade historical society.

The membership requirement for age — over 50 years old — was finally abandoned in 2004, when all ages of descendents were welcomed as members.

Stay tuned for more about the history of The Miami Pioneers.