The average American is probably unfamiliar with Ecuador and even American lighthouse buffs have probably given little thought to the small South AmerThe average American is probably unfamiliar with Ecuador and even American lighthouse buffs have probably given little thought to the small South American country's lights. Translating his own Spanish language work into English, Eduardo Estrada looks at the troubled history of his home country's lighthouses. Lacking clear organization, plagued by funding issues, and hamstrung by petty bureaucratic squabbles the lighthouses suffered; this is not a happy story.
Despite the loss of many important primary documents due to careless destruction of old records, Estrada has diligently reconstructed a century of history including maps, photos, and illustrations. The history was quite surprising to me - not only the organization failures, but also that all the original lighthouses were wooden structures and that they were ultimately replaced by a AGA beacons, an early system of automating lights with acetylene gas and sun valves. This is a labor of love by the author.
Unfortunately, despite it's content I cannot give an overall positive review to this work. Some of the struggle lies with my own limited knowledge on the subject of Ecuador; namely that I know almost nothing about the country beyond where to find it on a map. But my main issue is simply that the writing is not very good. The narrative is chronological to a fault, broken up by excessive subject headings, quotes at length too often, and is often rather dry. It gets kind of interesting in places, but mostly it was a slog. Some of this may be a linguistic issue since English is not the author's native language. As this edition is also self-published I suspect a shortage of good editing. In the hands of a skilled editor this could probably be polished into a much finer book.
As it is, I cannot give it more than an extremely mild recommendation and then only to someone who already has very strong interest in South American lighthouses and/or the country of Ecuador....more
Charlie Pierce's memoir of life in what is now Palm Beach County (and a some in Miami) between 1872 and 1893 is a historically significant and tragicaCharlie Pierce's memoir of life in what is now Palm Beach County (and a some in Miami) between 1872 and 1893 is a historically significant and tragically out of print work. Pierce describes experiences including a shipwreck at Jupiter and its aftermath, homesteading on Lake Worth before anything resembling modern Palm Beach existed, life at two Houses of Refuge where his father was keeper, hunting, fishing, encounters with wildlife, Seminoles, other pioneers, the Barefoot Mailman, transportation before the arrival of the railroad. His experiences heavily influenced Theodore Pratt's The Barefoot Mailman and are the basis of a historical fiction series, The Adventures of Charlie Pierce by Harvey E. Oyer III.
General readers interested in the titular subject will find an enjoyable read and researchers will find numerous bits of information scattered throughout. Pierce turns a good phrase and his work has been strongly edited by Donald Curl (a late FAU professor), including the addition of photos, maps, and an index. The book is based primarily on journals kept by the author and his mother, with admirable efforts to hash out uncertainties and conflicting information using many of the people who lived through the events described as well as the author's sister. Gilbert L. Voss, the author's nephew and a talent writer, adds a helpful introduction and endnotes.
There is a bit of jumping around and unclear timing of events. The most serious flaw of this work is simply that Curl was too energetic with his editing. I have seen a copy of Pierce's typed manuscript, a nearly 700-page behemoth that certainly required substantial editing before publication. But cutting that work down to 250 pages of main text - 1/3 of the original size - lost too much good material from the manuscript. Some small mistakes also slipped through. I would greatly like to see a revised edition of this book published, including expanding it to 300-350 pages with more material from the manuscript.
I highly recommend this book; a must-read for anyone interested in Florida history.
P.S. A related observation that is not a compliment or criticism: it's a shame that this seems to be the extent of the Pierce family biography. Hannibal Pierce, the author's father, seems to have had some adventurous times as a world-traveling sailor in the 1850s and also served during the Civil War; his experiences seem to have been lost. Likewise, this memoir ends with the arrival of Flagler's FEC Railway to Palm Beach in 1894. Charlie Pierce died in 1939. Between this memoir and Gilbert Voss' introduction, Charlie comes across as a smart, observant, and interesting person. What were his experiences adjusting to life in post-pioneer Palm Beach County and the growth he witnessed that came with it? With the 1926 and 1928 Hurricanes? The Great Depression? How did he react to airplanes, automobiles, and the radio? What about his many years as postmaster? Hopefully he kept journals of these later years that will some be rendered for publication....more