by Jeff Blakley
About a year ago, I went to a meeting of the Historic Preservation Board of the City of Homestead and learned that one of their items of interest was to designate the former Southern Bell central office, located on N.W. 2nd St. behind the former Breedings Drug Store on Krome Ave., as a historic building. Since I had retired from Southern Bell/BellSouth/AT&T after 34 years, that project intrigued me but I had no time to devote to it. Now, though, since I’m researching early pioneers in the Homestead area, I’ve been able to learn a few tidbits that have led to some interesting discoveries about the origins of the telephone company in Homestead.
I got my first clue by reading in Jean Taylor’s book, The Villages of South Dade, that in 1912, J.U. Free opened the People’s Telephone Company on the second floor of J.D. Redd’s dry cleaning shop (wrong on all counts). To establish his telephone company, J.U. Free “bought out the three circuits owned by Walter Frazeur.” That was also not true. For an account of how the Dade County Telephone Company came to be, read this post. Who was Walter Frazeur and where did he come from? That is the subject of this post.
Many serious family history researchers don’t think much of the information available on Ancestry.com because much of it is unsourced or copied from other trees without much thought by members. Those are valid reservations, but the information is, like Jean Taylor’s book, a good starting point. Thus, I went to Ancestry and found a public tree that included Walter Arthur Frazeur. He was born on May 26, 1875 in Goodland, Newton County, Indiana, the son of Walter Gilette Frazeur (1849-1916) and Almeda M. Harris (1850-1921). Walter and Almeda were married in 1868 and started a family. Their daughters Lillian and Gertrude were born in 1869 and 1871, respectively, in Illinois. By 1888, the Frazeur family lived in Topeka, Kansas, where Walter and his brother Ben were commission merchants for Frazeur Bros. On January 17, 1907, Walter G. Frazeur, of Topeka, Kansas, filed a patent for “a gas burner attachment for stoves, furnaces and the like …” It seems that Walter G. Frazeur was something of an entrepreneur and he seems to have passed that trait on to his son, Walter A.
In about 1904, Walter A. Frazeur married Ora Phena Benning and started a family. His daughter Thelma was born in March 15, 1905, Gertrude Adele in about 1908 and Robert Stone on October 28, 1909. Ruth Beatrice was born in 1912 and their last child, Walter G., Sr., was born in 1914. Walter came to this area sometime before April 9, 1910, when he filed his claim for 160 acres of land in the SE quarter of section 33-56-38 in the Redland. This property is bounded on the north by 272 St., the south by 280 St., the west by 212 Ave. and the east by 207 Ave. Like so many other settlers, he may have worked for the Florida East Coast Railway. His WWI draft registration card, dated September 9, 1918, says that he was a carpenter employed by the Key West Electric Company. His wife, Ora, resided in Homestead while he lived in Key West. Interestingly enough, the draft card spells his surname as “Frazier” but he signed his name as “Frazeur.” His family continued to grow after he moved to this area, as Ruth was born in about 1912 and Walter G. in 1914. Walter A. Frazeur, who was an engineer for the McAllister Hotel in Miami at the time, was murdered on December 14, 1922 by Louis Stephen Blocker, who in 1920 lived in “Naranja Village” and probably worked at the Drake Lumber Company sawmill in Princeton as a manager. The Drake sawmill closed down in 1923 and Blocker may have been negotiating with Frazeur over the purchase of a sawmill when the murder occurred. According the newspaper accounts from the time, Blocker accused Frazeur of stealing everything that he (Blocker) owned. Blocker was tried and convicted of first degree murder, appealed, was convicted of second degree murder and was sent to Raiford prison in Starke, Florida before being pardoned and released in November of 1927. He died in Miami on March 14, 1949.
At the time of his death, Walter left a substantial estate. In addition to his homestead, he owned lots in Tatum’s Ridgedale subdivision, Tatum’s addition to Homestead, the Boulevard addition and the R.L. Moser 2nd addition.
Walter left his widow and 5 young children. Ora appears in the 1930 census with Robert S., 20, and Walter G., 15, living in her household on S.W. 2nd St. in Homestead. Robert S. was Robert Stone Frazeur and was named after Walter’s sister’s husband. Robert, known to many in Homestead as “Bobby,” walked the streets of downtown Homestead, always dressed in a suit. He rang the bell for the Methodist Church on Sunday mornings and people noted that they could set their watches by when the bell was rung.
Walter Gillette Frazeur, Sr. married Janet Lenora (known as “Elnora”) Simpson on January 2, 1937, probably in Homestead. His son, Walter G., Jr., was born in Key West on July 25, 1937 because his mother had gone there to visit her sister. When the time came for Walter to appear, his mother could not return to the mainland quickly because the Key West Extension had been destroyed in the Labor Day hurricane of 1935 and the Overseas Highway was not yet complete. Walter, Sr. owned an automobile repair business in Homestead and his son, Walter G. Jr., worked for him. Walter, Jr. died on February 20, 2015 in South Carolina.
Thelma Frazeur married first Philip L. “Ben” Jenkins (1898-1963), who is buried at Palms Woodlawn. “Ben” Jenkins’ parents, Philip L., Sr. and Georgia V., are buried at Palms Woodlawn also, but they died in Eureka and Bradenton, Florida, respectively. Philip L. Jenkins, Sr., a school teacher, was another early settler in this area. He claimed 160 acres in the area of Eureka Drive and Naranja Road in 1901. Her second husband was a Mr. Pitts and her third husband was John F. Bogusky. Thelma and John are buried at Palms Memorial in Naranja.
Gertrude Anita Frazeur married Armando Alfonso, a descendant of King Alfonso VIII of Spain, in Key West. He is buried in the Key West Cemetery.
Ruth Beatrice Frazeur married Mario V. Alfonso in 1929 in Dade County. He was a brother of Armando and worked as a steward for Pan American World Airways in Miami.
It would be interesting to find out more about Walter Arthur Frazeur. He apparently was a man of many talents, a trait that seemed to have run in his family, as he was a carpenter, built the first telephone network in Homestead, owned a sawmill and speculated in real estate.