By Jeff Blakley
When I was a boy, my mother used to take my brother and I to the Bryan H. Edwards park in Florida City, where we would play on the jungle gym and see how high we could make the swings go. We’d wander through the woods (part of the park was a tropical hardwood hammock before it was cleared out) and play pirate captain on the roof of the small building in the park. We’d also wander down to the pond in the marl prairie portion of the park and see if we could find a way to get through the fence, planted with a hedge of australian pine trees that surrounded it, much to our mother’s dismay. The wind blowing through the pine forest on the north side of the park was wonderfully soothing.
Those days are long gone – the park is now a year-round campground for travel trailers and the swing set and jungle gym are gone, too. So are the pine trees on the north side of the park. That land was cleared of its native vegetation after Hurricane Andrew devastated the area in 1992. And so, too, is the pond – it has been filled in to make space for more trailers.
It wasn’t until I did the research on the Brooker family that I learned that Henry Brooker, Jr.’s wife was Jacqueline Edwards, the daughter of Bryan H. Edwards, an early mayor of the city of Florida City. I had no idea – imagine that! I’ve lived here all my life and didn’t know who Bryan H. Edwards was. I’d be very surprised to learn that there is a plaque of some kind in the park identifying who Bryan H. Edwards was.
In the 1920 census for District 0040 of Dade County, Florida, Bryan H. Edwards appears on sheet 21-A. He was 42 years old, born in Georgia and his wife’s name was Lena. His occupation was “real estate.” Armed with that information, I went to Ancestry.com, where I found a well-researched public tree that supplied a lot of information about Bryan. His middle name was Hastic and according to his WWI draft registration card, dated September 23, 1918, he was born on December 24, 1877. Other information in the tree indicates that he was born in Macon, Georgia. In 1914, he was the vice-president of the Griffin-Edwards Construction Company and also the secretary of the Southern Package Manufacturing Company, both located in Macon, Georgia. There is a link on the website to ship arrivals and, investigating that, I discovered that Bryan had been in Guatemala and Honduras. A newspaper article in the Macon Telegraph dated February 10, 1914 announced the formation of the Griffin-Edwards Construction Co., noting that Walter D. Griffin, born in 1881, had “been in the contracting business several years.” His partner, Bryan H. Edwards, was an “experienced lumberman” and had “been engaged in the lumber trade nearly all of his life.” His travels to Guatemala and Honduras were apparently related to the plans of the Griffin-Edwards Construction Co. to engage in the wholesale lumber business.
Apparently, Bryan spent a considerable amount of time in Honduras, as his wife applied for a passport to visit him in Portrerillos, Honduras, in September, 1917. At that time, her address was 114 Coleman Avenue in Macon, which may have been a private residence at the time but it now appears to be part of the campus of Mercer University. No doubt, the house was in an upscale part of town, which would befit the wife of a businessman. Her last trip to Honduras ended on July 11, 1918, when she arrived in New Orleans on the ship Quimistan, just months before Bryan filled out his draft registration card in Florida City in September of that same year.
In an article which appeared on June 3, 1920 in the Miami Herald, “Mr. Edwards and family have moved into the old Hunt place at Florida City which he recently bought. It was vacated Monday by Mr. Franklin and family who moved to their old home in Ft. Lauderdale.” This is a reference to the house that John W. Hunt built for his family in 1913.
In the 1930 census, Bryan H. Edwards was living with his wife – his two daughters, Constance, born on April 17, 1902 had married James I. Ryle in 1920 and Jacqueline, born in 1905, had married Henry Brooker, Jr. in 1928. It is interesting that his occupation was given as “real estate agent” because, until Otis Wallace was elected, Bryan Edwards was the longest serving mayor in Florida City history, serving from 1922 until 1934, when he died.
What brought Bryan Edwards to Florida City? Most likely, the opportunity to earn a living in a safe location. His trips to Central America were related to lumber purchases for the Griffin-Edwards Construction Co., but the declaration of war against Germany by Nicaragua, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras in the summer of 1918 probably disrupted the plans of many American companies and perhaps Bryan left for that reason.
Bryan Edwards died on 13 August 1934 at the age of 56 and is buried in Woodlawn Park Cemetery in Miami.
Bryan H. Edwards Municipal Park was established via a re-plat of the Homestead Addition to Florida City, dated 1927, executed on November 8, 1945. The land on the north side of the park was owned by his widow, Lena S. Edwards and her son-in-law and his wife, Henry Brooker, Jr. and his wife, Jacqueline Edwards. No doubt, they were instrumental in the establishment of the park.