by Jeff Blakley
George W. Moody was a early settler in South Dade County who claimed the southwest quarter of section 21, township 56, range 39 on February 9, 1899, proving it up on May 27, 1904. He was here before Daniel M. Roberts, who claimed his homestead 2.5 miles further west on Coconut Palm Drive on April 27, 1900. The southwest corner of Moody’s claim is the northeast corner of Newton Road and Coconut Palm Drive.
Jean Taylor, in her brief account of the Moody family, wrote that Moody “set out a grove and farmed the Albury land in Naranja” while still living in Cutler.1 This is difficult to reconcile with the historical facts, which show that Wilbur L. Albury did not file for his claim in section 34, township 56, range 39 until December 22, 1904. According to an essay written by George W. Moody and published in the October 10, 1918 issue of The Homestead Enterprise, he was “born and raised in southeast Georgia.” In this article, I am going to provide details of George W. Moody’s life that are not generally known.
George was born in January of 18622 near Holmesville in Appling County, Georgia.3 He was one of at least 10 children, the son of Isaac Ailey Moody, Jr. and Elizabeth Tillman. George’s father was the son of Isaac Ailey Moody, Sr. and Sarah Carter. Isaac Ailey Moody, Jr. had three brothers: David, Jacob and George W. Between them, they owned 39 slaves. Isaac had 12 slaves, David had 4, Jacob had 17 and George had 6.4 In the 1860 census of Appling County, Isaac’s real estate holdings were worth $3,500 and his personal estate was worth $6,766. In 1870, after the slaves were emancipated at the end of the war, his real estate holdings had declined in value to $2,000 and his personal estate had declined sharply, to $2,000. No doubt, that was due to the loss of his slaves. His brother Jacob, who owned 17 slaves, was wealthier in 1860: $5,000 in real estate and $19,160 in his personal estate. A perusal of the 1860 U. S. Federal Census – Slave Schedules for Appling County, Georgia showed that Isaac Moody and his brothers owned very few slaves compared to other men in Appling County. There were men in Appling County who owned hundreds of slaves and were thus worth far more than any of the Moody brothers. The Moodys were neither poor nor wealthy – they were middle-class.
Isaac Ailey Moody, Jr. died in 1874 and is buried in the Moody-Tillman Cemetery in Appling County, Georgia. George was just 12 years old. After his death, his mother, Elizabeth, moved her family to Wayne County where she was enumerated in 1880 with 5 of her children: George, 18; John T., 15; James C., 12; Isabel, 11; and Isaac A., 9. Isham, George’s older brother, born in 1857, was not enumerated as he had probably moved to Seville, Florida. Elizabeth died in 1890 and is also buried in the Moody-Tillman Cemetery in Appling County.
In the essay published in 1918 in The Homestead Enterprise, George wrote that he “came to Florida in 1882, first settling in Seville in St. Lucie county.” At the time George lived in Seville, it was not part of St. Lucie County – St. Lucie County was created in 1905. Seville is in Volusia County, 22 miles southwest of Bunnell and a short distance east of Lake George. George did not come to Seville alone – his brother Isham was probably already there and his brother John Tillman, three years younger, would arrive later. Both Isham and John are buried in the Seville Cemetery. George’s first cousin once removed, Isaac I. Moody, settled in Bunnell, where he was a woods rider for a turpentine company. Isaac later got into business and served as a County Commissioner in St. John’s County. He was instrumental in establishing Flagler County in 1917 but died in 1918 at the age of 44 during the Spanish flu epidemic.5 6 In 1895, George moved to Española, about 5 miles northwest of Bunnell, in St. Johns County for two years and then to New Smyrna, on the coast in Volusia County. He had family in both places: Isaac I. in St. Johns County and his brother Isham in New Smyrna.
Seville was on the line of the Jacksonville, Tampa and Key West railroad and George was easily able to travel to St. Augustine and Jacksonville by transferring to the Halifax River Railway in Palatka. No doubt, he went to Jacksonville to stock up on goods for his store but he also went courting. On December 31, 1885, he married Virginia Livingston in the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, in St. Augustine.7 Their first child, Elberta, was born in February of 1887 in Seville.8 Their son, George W., Jr., was born in 1890, also in Seville.
Like hundreds of others, George followed Flagler’s F. E. C. Railway to Miami. Passenger service to Miami started on April 15, 1896 and George, looking for opportunities not available in North Florida, decided to move south. In his essay, George wrote that he arrived in 1899, but it is more likely that he arrived in 1898, as he claimed his homestead in South Dade on February 9, 1899. When he arrived in Miami, he settled in Cutler, about 10 miles south of Miami, which was a small town on the north bank of the Miami River at that time. Cutler was established in the late 1870s and was an important port. George was very busy – he was establishing a homestead in South Dade and at the same time building a store in Cutler – the Brown & Moody store. The Brown in Brown & Moody was David C. Brown, one of Moody’s neighbors in Cutler.
The 1900 U. S. census of Cocoanut Grove, judging by the surnames listed, covered the settled areas of Miami outside of what is now downtown Miami, including the settlement of Cutler. On pages 6 – 8 of the census, the names of men who later settled in South Dade include: Henry Sturgis, Henry Pridgen, John Brenzel, Alfred T. Duval, Colonel O. Boaz, William Anderson, Charles Gossman, John and Frank Slaven, Yelles Knighton, George Sullivan and David C. Brown.9
Note that the site of the Brown & Moody store in Cutler was originally a pine rockland. Once the pines were cut down, hardwood species took over and today, the Deering Estate, where the Brown & Moody store was located, is a tropical hardwood hammock.
The Brown & Moody store was located on lots 23 and 24 of Block 77. Another store, possibly the Tweedell Bros. store and a post office, was located on a part of lot 17.10 This location is now inside the Deering Estate, where Richmond Drive dead-ends at the rock wall that borders the second Cutler Road. Brown & Moody’s store at Cutler did not remain in business long, as Flagler’s railroad was being built about 2.5 miles further west. The track laying machine had reached Perrine, at what is now S.W. 184 St., by mid-February of 1904,11 so Moody moved his business to Perrine in anticipation of an increase in business. After he moved his store, his old store building was purchased by Alfred T. Duval, who was another early resident of Cutler and who had established a store in Homestead in 1907.12
Flagler’s railroad reached Homestead on July 30, 1904 and Wilber L. Albury claimed his homestead in Naranja on December 22, 1904. Taylor wrote that Moody swapped his homestead for that of Albury in 1907.13 That is not likely, though, as Moody is still shown as the owner of his homestead on the 1912 Miami Metropolis real estate promotion map. Instead, Moody probably purchased all or part of Albury’s claim after Albury had paid cash for it on August 10, 1906. Wilbur L. Albury was another neighbor of the Moodys when they lived in Cutler. He married George’s daughter, Elberta, and their son, Wilbur L., Jr., was born on July 27, 1905. Wilbur and Elberta’s marriage did not last long and they were divorced between 1906 and 1909, before the 1910 census, which was taken on April 15, 1910. Elberta Aubbery (sic) and her son, Wilbur, were enumerated in 1910 in the household of her father and mother, George and Virginia Moody.14
It is likely that Wilbur sold his property to his former father-in-law before he left Naranja for Miami and re-married.15 In 1910, George Moody platted the town of Naranja on a portion of his former son-in-law’s property. Note that the streets are named after his wife and children.
Moody also built a packing house so that local farmers could ship their crops on the railroad. It was not the only packing house in Naranja but it was probably the first. R. O. Applegate, Chase & Co, Hutton & Hutton, Abner L. Hearn and the Hickson Packing Company also had establishments in Naranja. R. O. Applegate and Chase & Co. were large companies which had packing houses nation-wide, while Hutton & Hutton, Hearn and Hickson were local outfits.
Moody was a shrewd businessman and bought and sold numerous properties in the Naranja area from 1905 into the early 1920s. He was the first postmaster of Naranja, appointed in 1906. The post office was initally in his general store, built in 1905. It was later moved later to the rock building at the northeast corner of Old Dixie and Naranja Road. Moody’s name appears on a number of mortgages and foreclosures, which are to be expected when investing in real estate. He was one of the founding board members of the Dade County Telephone Co., organized in Homestead by John U. Free in 191216 and he and Julian J. Beach, who claimed a homestead just south of Moody’s Naranja property in 1912, established the Dade County Mortgage and Real Estate Co. in 1915.17 Moody was a member of at least three different Masonic organizations: the Mahi Shrine and the Scottish Rite Temple in Miami and the Palma Vista Lodge No. 205, F & A M, in Naranja. He may have been a charter member of the latter organization, which was organized in 1913. In 1927, he and W. D. Horne, of Homestead, were the “two oldest members of that lodge.18
The Drake Lumber Co., established in Princeton in 1907, was the main economic engine in the area from Modello to Goulds until the company went out of business and moved to West Palm Beach in 1923. Naranja then dominated commerce in the area and Moody’s businesses and political influence played an important role in the area, both before and after the native Dade County pine forests in the area had been cut down by employees of the Drake Lumber Co.
When Moody died on December 23, 1927, “over a thousand saddened friends” attended his funeral, which was held at the Naranja cemetery on Monday, December 26. The funeral was conducted by members of the Palma Vista Lodge in Naranja and The Homestead Enterprise reported that “[m]embers of these lodges and also many Clansmen from all over the county attended the funeral.”19
Building on a network of family and friends, George rose from a humble beginning marked by the early loss of his parents (his father when he was 12 and his mother when he was 28) and rose to become a very successful businessman. Moody left an estate valued at $85,000. In 2019 dollars, that was the equivalent of a little more than $1.2 million.20 Since the estate was not diversified (its assets were mostly in real estate, bonds and mortgages), its value probably declined precipitously after his death with the onset of the Great Depression.