Joanne Davis Blandford, St. Lucie Historic Society
Editor’s notice: Every week, TCPalm will function a traditionally vital occasion, place or individual from Indian River, St. Lucie or Martin county, courtesy of that county’s historic society.
The opening of the Fort Pierce inlet supplied a wealth of alternative to the rising metropolis of Fort Pierce and surrounding communities.
To have fun the inlet’s completion, a plethora of actions have been deliberate for Could 12, 1921. Companies and houses have been adorned with bunting; boat rides have been supplied for spectators to examine the inlet; band performances dotted the morning and afternoon; a barbeque dinner was ready; a celebratory baseball recreation commenced with West Palm Seaside rivals; and a carnival and avenue dance wrapped up the festivities.
Extra historical past:Walter Kitching helped establish Stuart, created first general store, bank
The spotlight of the celebration occurred at 9:30 a.m. when onlookers gathered to catch a glimpse of 24-year-old Madeline Davis as she leaped from a aircraft excessive above them.
A summarized model of this attraction appeared within the Fort Pierce Information-Tribune on Could 13, 1921.
Miss Davis took her place within the seaplane at 9:25 and shortly after the motor began and the aircraft was off. Forwards and backwards the aircraft moved above the city whereas the large whistle on the ice plant added its clamor to the overall pleasure. Reaching a peak of 1,400 toes, Miss Davis climbed out on the wing, organized her parachute, hung over the aspect of the wing for a second after which dropped into area. The parachute dragged after and for a second appeared at risk of not opening. The 1000’s of spectators held their breath in suspense, then the chute opened and Miss Davis carried out some trapeze stunts because the flight to the bottom was made… Miss Davis displayed appreciable nerve and the individuals are enthusiastic over her skill and bravado. She has made many drops however none at Fort Pierce. Being a Fort Pierce younger girl, Miss Davis was greeted with cheers when the drop was efficiently made. Her skilled identify is Madeline Belmont and he or she has gained distinction in lots of drops in different states.
I grew up listening to tales of her bravery and toughness. She was my great-aunt, sister to my grandfather, Claude Davis. Sadly, by the point I spotted how superb her path was, the individuals who had firsthand information of her have been gone.
Fortunately, a few of our best native reporters (Joe Crankshaw, Charles Miley, Anne Wilder) from the final century knew the significance of preserving these reminiscences. From their accounts and my very own genealogical analysis, the story of her adventurous younger life will be retold for future generations.
Davis was born in Kansas round 1898 and lived in Nebraska for some time along with her farming household. Davis labored laborious from a younger age, serving to her ailing father seed the fields.
Later they owned a lodge in Peru, Nebraska, the place they obtained an untrained horse as cost for a debt. She was decided to coach the horse to experience with the intention to herd the lodge’s two cows from the sphere every day.
The horse threw Davis thrice earlier than she efficiently rode it. This bravery and can to succeed have been character traits that will comply with her all through her quick life.
The household got here to Florida by lined wagon in 1915 after promoting the lodge in Nebraska. Their vacation spot was Boca Raton, however they settled for a quick time in Wauchula.
My grandfather was born throughout this keep, and my great-grandfather, Albert Davis, started carpenter work to assist his household.
One of many household tales retold about Davis was of how she rode bareback on the household’s horse to deliver the physician again for my grandfather’s delivery. It was pitch-black that evening and the physician was in a position to navigate his car to the place they have been staying by following the lantern she held as she rode.
Her curiosity in aerial stunts started as a younger lady when she witnessed an individual bounce from a balloon and parachute to the bottom at an area county honest in Nebraska. It peaked once more when she was virtually 20 whereas the household was in Indianapolis throughout World Warfare I.
It was round then she noticed this stunt once more at a carnival and approached the individual in cost to get a job performing stunts. They instructed her she was not robust sufficient.
Davis responded by discovering a close-by rope hanging from the assist beam of the tent and climbing hand over hand to the highest and again down once more.
“Is that robust sufficient?” she requested, and in 1916 she made her first bounce for the Belmont Sisters Balloon Co.
The Davis household settled in Fort Pierce two years later. The 1920 census lists the household as residing in downtown Fort Pierce. Davis was employed as a cook dinner.
Her mom, Olive, made pies for the Previous Dixie Cafeteria and earned the nickname “Pie Davis.” Her great-grandfather continued in carpentry work.
Through the summers, Davis would go away Fort Pierce and journey with the carnival to carry out everywhere in the nation. Her stunts progressed from parachuting from balloons to airplanes. In these days, stunt jumpers didn’t put on chutes till moments earlier than the bounce.
“We packed it right into a canvas bag in regards to the measurement of a five-gallon washtub and mounted it approach out on the wing,” he mentioned (brother, Montra Davis). “We folded the canvas – it wasn’t silk – forwards and backwards till we obtained to the ropes. Then we used newspapers to layer the ropes in order that they wouldn’t tangle when she jumped.” The entire rig, compete with a trapeze, however no harness, was mounted to the wing of a pusher-propeller seaplane. Madeline and the pilot would take off, attain about 2,000 toes after which she would stroll out, sit down on the trapeze and bounce off the wing. (Joe Crankshaw, Tales of the Treasure Coast, Miami Herald; Sunday, August 10, 1986.)
Montra described the prep for her bounce over Fort Pierce in 1921. Right here is his account, as reported Joe Crankshaw:
The aircraft rumbled away from Cobb’s Dock, raced throughout the Indian River and lifted off at 9 a.m., in keeping with newspaper stories… “It needed to fly forwards and backwards about 5 instances to get sufficient altitude,” Montra Davis mentioned. “Then she jumped. We may see the newspapers flying throughout because the chute spilled out and lengthy earlier than we may see the parachute itself.”
Madeline drifted down, waving to the group and making an attempt to information the parachute to a cautious touchdown. “It was marvelous coming down however rather a lot sooner than she anticipated,” Davis mentioned.
Madeline landed in a area close to Second Avenue in downtown Fort Pierce, the place she was met by her household and a person named Invoice Creed, who had introduced his Mannequin T sedan to select her up earlier than the group may swarm over her.
By October 1921, Davis auditioned to change into a performer in Ruth Regulation’s Flying Circus. The next is an excerpt from an Oct. 5, 1921, New York Occasions article:
The trio practiced for half an hour earlier than they made the precise take a look at. Miss Regulation drove the automobile at about 45 miles an hour forwards and backwards alongside the street and the aviator, slowing right down to car velocity, flew near the earth over the motorists a number of instances. By this time it was late afternoon and the day was changing into darkish, however Miss Davis insisted on going by means of with the take a look at.
The gang held its breath as the 2 machines shot down the broad boulevard for the ultimate journey, the auto with its passengers a good way prematurely of the airplane. Miss Regulation bent over the wheel to carry the automobile within the middle of the street. Miss Davis, her face decided and arms clenched on the aspect of the automobile, waited.
Behind them roared the airplane, first dashing as much as a brief distance behind the auto, after which slowing in order that it was going solely a little bit sooner. Slowly the dangling rope crept nearer to Miss Davis’s grasp. She jumped and caught the underside rung of the rope ladder. She swung backward and forward a second, however her power was not nice sufficient to allow her to climb up the ladder and board the aircraft. As she tried to climb, her arms slipped and he or she fell to earth.
Madeline died of a fractured cranium. Her physique was despatched residence to Fort Pierce and buried in Riverview Memorial Park overlooking the Indian River near downtown.
Ruth Regulation quoted Davis as saying, “There may be nothing on land or within the air that I’m afraid of. I’ve been flying for the final two years and doing all types of stunts within the air, and parachute leaping.
“Now I need to do one thing completely different; one thing that no person else does, at the very least that no different lady does. If I can study to take the leap from an car to an airplane, I must be a giant attraction to your firm.”