By Jeff Blakley
While browsing old newspapers via Genealogy Bank on various topics related to early Florida City history, I’ve come across the name E.H. Ring on a couple of occasions. Maybe it is people who go by their initials who intrigue me or something else – I don’t know. But I wondered who this man was. When I happened across his name on an early plat in Florida City, I got even more curious. In 1912, he was an election inspector for Precinct 20 – Florida City – and he and his wife’s “old home” was in Virginia.
I went to Ancestry to see if I could find him and I did. His full name was Elbert Holmes Ring – no wonder he liked to go by his initials! He was born on November 12, 1867, most likely in Grayson County, Virginia because that is where he, his wife and his daughter are buried, in the Summerfield United Methodist Church Cemetery.
In 1900, he had made his way all the way across the continent to Malheur County, Oregon, where he lived in Bully Precinct, with his wife, Mamie D. Querollo. According to a Wikipedia article about Malheur County, it “is 94% rangeland, with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) controlling 72% of the land.” How a boy from the wooded lands of the Appalachian foothills came to be in the dry rangeland of southeastern Oregon is a story that may never be told. But there he was.
On the same page of the 1900 census, another family of interest appears: Charles Becker and his wife, Marie. Charles, whose parents were born in Germany, was born in May, 1841. I mention this man because in the 1910 census, guess who is working for Charles? Yes, Elbert H. Ring and his wife, Cora V. They had been married for 4 years, which corresponds to the Virginia marriage records for the couple: they were married on September 12, 1906 in Grayson County, Virginia.
Now, let me add to the story by bringing in a bit about Charles and Mattie Becker from Jean Taylor’s book, The Villages of South Dade. She wrote that in his early life, Charles “ran a cattle ranch in North Dakota and Montana.” That is true – the 1930 census shows his son Lawrence as being born in 1897 in Montana and his son Charles H. as being born in North Dakota in 1902. Was the Charles Becker in Oregon some kind of relation to the Charles Becker in Wyoming, Montana, North Dakota, Canada and California, all places that he lived before ending up in Florida City? Possibly, but I have no proof. Taylor said that in 1914, Becker went to Argentina to find a ranch to buy, cabled his wife to come, got lonely waiting for her and decided to come back to this country. He traveled on a boat to Cuba and from there hopped on a boat in Havana and went to Key West, where he rode Flagler’s new Overseas Railroad into Homestead. He liked what he saw and changed his mind about Argentina, settling in Florida City instead. That’s Taylor’s story, anyway.
I don’t know if there was a connection between the Beckers and the Rings or not, but I suspect that there was. In the 1900 census, E.H. Ring’s wife’s name was Mamie. Her maiden name was Querollo and she had been born in Missouri of Italian heritage. In 1900, Elbert, Mamie and Julia, age 5, were living with Mamie’s aunt, Kate Prato, and her uncle, William Fopianno in Oregon. In 1910, Elbert was living with the Beckers in Oregon with his second wife, Cora V.Thomas, whom he married in Grayson County, Virginia on September 12, 1906.
Meanwhile, the Beckers who settled in Florida City were in Lemon City, California, in June, 1910. Perhaps they were there while Charles was prospecting for a ranch in Argentina. The family next appears in Miami in the 1915 directory, which was published in 1914. The Miami Land & Development Company advertised their Florida City land heavily in Miami, so perhaps that is how the Beckers came to this area. Perhaps they had kept in touch with the Rings. At any rate, on November 7, 1915, the Beckers moved into their new home, on the south side of the Florida City canal, a few hundred yards east of the pavilion.
There may have been a substantial population of Italians in Oregon in the early 1900s but I don’t know. That community may have prompted Charles’ trip to Argentina because people of Italian heritage comprise the majority of the population of Argentina. I don’t know if the fact that Elbert Ring’s first wife was a first generation Italian-American had anything to do with Charles Becker’s trip to Argentina or not, but I suspect that it did.
As I wrote earlier, E. H. Ring was an election inspector for an election held in Dade County in the spring of 1912. Mabel Delp Ring, E. H. and Cora’s daughter, was born on February 12, 1913 in Grayson County, Virginia, according to the Ring tree on Ancestry. That may be in error, though, because it is likely that the Rings were in Florida City at that time. If E. H. was working for Charles Becker in 1910 and Charles went to Argentina in 1914 before appearing in Miami later that year, it is possible that E. H. and his wife made their way to South Florida, staying in touch with the Beckers as they did. Perhaps he helped convince Charles Becker that Florida City was a better place to locate than Argentina. It’s a little troublesome that Becker would board a ship in Argentina and get off in Cuba. If he was coming back to America, why did he get off in Cuba? It is also interesting that his employee’s first wife was Italian-American. That’s my story.
At any rate, E.H. Ring bought some land from the Miami Land & Development Company, and on September 25, 1915, he caused the plat of Florida City Heights (! – Florida City is as flat as a pancake) to be recorded in Book 3, page 211 of the records of Miami-Dade County. At that time, he said that he lived in Grayson County, Virginia. In 1920, he was back in Grayson County, with his wife and daughter. He died in Grayson County on October 19, 1937.
It seems that Elbert H. Ring lived an adventurous life. He grew up in the wooded Appalachian foothills, worked on a cattle ranch in Oregon, engaged in real estate speculation in Florida City and then moved back to Virginia, his pockets full of money from the sale of his land in Florida City.
I’ve written this post partially out of curiosity about who E. H. Ring was and partially because I’m trying to explain why so very few people know anything about the history of this area. They move away, that’s why. Did E. H. Ring feel any connection to this area? No, not at all. How many of his descendants know that he was in Florida? Very few, if any, I’d wager. So it is for so many people who have floated through this area ever since it was opened for settlement by the construction of Flagler’s railroad. History can’t be told without connections and very few people who now live here have any connection to this area.