Community Contributor
2:21 pm
Mon May 6, 2013

Early Miami Pioneer Recalls Early Days Of South Florida

Flagler Street in downtown Miami in 1935.
Flagler Street in downtown Miami in 1935.

  I was born Martha Anne Peters in Victoria Hospital on Dec. 20, 1937, a second generation native-born Miamian.


My daddy, Hugh Peters Jr., was born in the family home, on the corner of 75th Street and Northeast Second Avenue.

My paternal great-grandparents, Solomon J. and Sidney Martha Peters, moved to Miami-Dade county in the fall of 1896 from Lady Lake in Central Florida, where the Big Freeze of 1895 had killed their orange groves. The entire family of eight sons, ranging in age from 8 to the mid-20s, and their 16-year-old daughter Mattie, came with them.
 

This story, originally published in The Miami Herald, is part of HistoryMiami's Miami Stories project.
This story, originally published in The Miami Herald, is part of HistoryMiami's Miami Stories project.

The youngest boy, Hugh (Pat), was my grandpa. Solomon and all but three of his sons farmed -- primarily tomatoes. The three who pursued other interests were Edgar, who became a doctor; Arthur, who was active in real estate; and my grandpa, Hugh (Pat).

Grandpa was a county commissioner for more than 20 years and was commission chairman when the Dade County Courthouse was built and when the county bought Vizcaya, the Coconut Grove estate of Chicago industrialist James Deering. He also was in charge of roads and bridges in Dade County.

One of my cousins, Thelma Peters, was a well-known historian of Dade County.

My maternal grandparents, Abner and Annie Hearn, moved to Dade County in 1911. They had five sons ranging in age from 6 to 21 and a 2-year-old daughter, Annie, who would become my mother.

Mama was born in Dunedin, a small city near Tampa. Grandpa Hearn owned several packing houses there and in other locations, primarily on the West Coast of Florida. Their oldest son, B.E. Hearn, my uncle, was a Miami City Commissioner in the 1950s.

When I was born, my family lived in Little River in a house built on the original family property. I have one brother, Gordon, named after the doctor who delivered him, Dr. J.G. DuPuis. We moved to Miami Shores when I was 11 and I have remained a Miami Shores resident ever since.

In 1958, I married Harley G. Collins, Jr., now deceased. His father served one term on the Dade County School Board. We were blessed with one daughter, Cheryl (now Calhoun). She and her family live in Miami Shores, as well.

Daddy owned a paint and glass business for many years. Mama was the registrar at her alma mater, Miami Edison Senior High School. My brother and I both graduated from Edison. Daddy, however, graduated from Miami High, which made for a very interesting Thanksgiving day and night, considering the rivalry that existed between the two schools.

I am a retired teacher, having taught high school English and Reading for 27 years.

I have been truly blessed to live in this special city all my life. I am proud of my family and what they have contributed to the growth of Miami. I am especially grateful that they had the good sense to move here.
 

Tell us your story: HistoryMiami invites you to share your Miami Story. To submit your story, click here. Your story may be posted at miamiherald.com/miamistories, published in Sunday’s Neighbor's print edition and archived at HistoryMiami.org.

About Miami Stories: This project is a partnership between HistoryMiami, Miami Herald Media Company, WLRN and Michael Weiser, chairman of the National Conference on Citizenship.