A couple hours ago, Rev. Elbridge Gale was just one of the hundreds of folks in my family tree I hadn’t truly researched yet. I knew he was a relative – a 3rd cousin/6 times removed, in fact. Our common ancestors are Richard Hayes and Patience Mack, 8th great-grandparents on my mom’s side. (Yes, Michael – you get to claim him too!) For no particular reason, this was the week I dug in on my Hayes lines, a Connecticut family that dates back to the 17th Century and branched off to Vermont, New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Kansas, and Colorado… and Florida.
Elbridge Gale was born in Bennington, Vermont in 1824. He graduated from Brown University in Rhode Island, and then pursued his vocation at the Baptist Theological Seminary in New Hampton, New Hampshire. He tended his flock in Johnson, Vermont; Pavillion, Illinois; and finally Manhattan, Kansas. He preached until 1870 when he, as chair of the Kansas Horticultural Society, received an offer to chair the Horticulture Department at Kansas State Agricultural College (later to become Kansas State University).
Fast-forward – Elbridge’s health took a turn, and he thought Florida might be the answer. He arrived in the Lake Worth area in 1884 and homesteaded land in what would become the Northwood section of West Palm Beach.
His wife had to stay back in Kansas with their youngest daughter Hattie, who was finishing up high school there. When they joined him down south one summer, 16 year-old Hattie became the first schoolteacher in Palm Beach County. She eventually returned to Kansas to begin – and complete – college.
Back to Elbridge – and I now quote from a nifty blog called Palm Beach Past, which I honestly had had no reason to visit until now. The pertinent portion is the entry entitled: The Mango And The Reverend (http://www.palmbeachpast.org/2012/07/the-mango-and-the-reverend/):
The United States Department of Agriculture sent several mango varieties to the region to be grown by local farmers, including Reverend Gale. All the trees died except one – a tree of the Mulgoba variety that Reverend Gale cared for during the many freezes of the 1890s. In the late 1890s, his mango tree was the only one growing in South Florida. The healthy tree and its delicious fruit drew attention throughout South Florida, and farmers up and down the coast took seeds or cuttings from Reverend Gale’s tree. Gale was so enamored with the fruit that he named the area “Mangonia,” which survives today in Lake Mangonia and in Mangonia Park. Mango fever hit, and new residents wanted their own mango trees.
Fun Fact #1: For the first time since Michael bought a whole flat of ’em last summer, I bought mangoes today – before I knew any of this. A fine pair of mangoes. Thank you, Cousin Elbridge!
Fun Fact #2: Again – I cannot over-hype the importance of straight-up Google searches in genealogical research. Even the most simplistic search command (“Elbridge Gale” horticulture) can reap bushels of fascinating data.