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Death in the Everglades: The Murder of Guy Bradley, America's First Martyr to Environmentalism

Overview

"This is a fascinating account of the Florida plume hunters, the devastation they wrought, and the slow, painful progress--exemplified bravely on the hunting grounds by Guy Bradley--of the bird protection movement that ultimately succeeded."--Oliver H. Orr, Jr., Library of Congress (retired), and author of Saving American Birds: T. Gilbert Pearson and the Founding of the Audubon Movement

"A moving account of a raw frontier and a hero who lost ...

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Overview

"This is a fascinating account of the Florida plume hunters, the devastation they wrought, and the slow, painful progress--exemplified bravely on the hunting grounds by Guy Bradley--of the bird protection movement that ultimately succeeded."--Oliver H. Orr, Jr., Library of Congress (retired), and author of Saving American Birds: T. Gilbert Pearson and the Founding of the Audubon Movement

"A moving account of a raw frontier and a hero who lost his life trying to enforce the law."--Paul S. George, editor, Tequesta

Death in the Everglades chronicles the demise of one of 20th-century Florida's most enduring folk heroes. The murder of Guy Bradley represents a milestone not only in the saga of the Everglades but also in the broader history of American environmentalism. This fascinating biography of his abbreviated but eventful life is emblematic of the struggle to tame the Florida frontier without destroying it. As Stuart McIver unfolds the story behind this famous but little-known crime, he also provides a window into Florida history during the creation of modern South Florida.

Born in Chicago in 1870, Bradley moved to Florida as a young boy in 1876. Nineteen years later his father became associated with the developer and railroad magnate Henry Flagler, and in 1898 the family moved to the isolated coastal village of Flamingo. Situated on the southeastern fringe of the Everglades, Flamingo was a flash point in an emerging ecological battleground that drew the Bradleys and other pioneer families into a conflict later dubbed "the Plume Wars." At the turn of the century, the mass killing of egrets and other plume birds for feathers to adorn women's hats was a serious concern among the nation's growing cadre of environmentalists, especially among those who belonged to the Audubon Society, a conservation organization founded in 1886.

In 1901, at the urging of Audubon Society leaders and the American Ornithologists' Union, the Florida legislature enacted a bird protection law that provided for the hiring of local game wardens, and a year later Guy Bradley assumed the dual role of Monroe County's game warden and deputy sheriff. For the next three years, from 1902 to 1905, Bradley matched wits and sometimes weapons with an array of plume hunters and other nefarious characters, some of whom were strangers but many of whom were friends or acquaintances of the warden or his family. In the end, Bradley was shot and killed by Walter Smith, a man he had known for nearly a decade. How this murder came about, what happened to Smith and others left behind, and how Bradley's demise and subsequent controversies affected the environmental movement are intriguing questions that frame McIver's richly textured narrative.

With the instincts and skills of a master storyteller, McIver--long one of Florida's most historically minded journalists--has recaptured a tale for the ages, a story of personal sacrifice and collective awakening that altered the course of the state's natural and human history. Bradley should not be forgotten, and this book should not be overlooked by anyone seeking a full understanding of how the Everglades became a treasured but imperiled place.

Stuart B. McIver was a prolific journalist who also wrote numerous books, more than 500 magazine articles, and documentary films, for which he also worked as producer.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In the late 19th century, McIver explains, as many as five million egrets, herons, flamingos, spoonbills, terns, cormorants and other species were killed each year in Florida, shot by plume hunters who often decimated entire rookeries and sold the feathers to the American millinery trade to decorate women's hats. In 1901, to save them from extinction, the American Ornithologists' Union, backed by the newly formed Audubon Society, persuaded the Florida legislature to pass a law making the killing of birds other than game birds illegal. In his carefully researched account of the struggle between environmentalists and plume hunters, McIver (Hemingway's Key West) tells the story of Guy Bradley, a reformed plume hunter in the frontier town of Flamingo, who was hired in 1902 as game warden of Monroe County and three years later was killed while trying to enforce the unpopular law. McIver spends a lot of time on details of Bradley's family history and on the changes wrought on southern Florida by the developer and railroad magnate Henry Morrison Flagler, a story that is important in its own right but adds little to the account of Bradley's murder. His killer, a plume hunter whose son the game warden was trying to arrest for shooting birds, got off scot-free because there was so little sympathy for the Florida bird protection law. McIver's story might have been more effective if he had spent more time looking into the lives of the Everglades' settlers and showing how a law that increased their economic hardship could lead to murder. Photos not seen by PW. (Oct.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
McIver, the author of 13 books on Florida, presents a tale of murder in turn-of-the century Florida set against a backdrop of the burgeoning environmental movement. Florida was wild and attracted restless people like the Bradley family, who moved there from Chicago in the 1870s. Guy Bradley grew to manhood in this frontier, which was a hunter's paradise. The prize was feathers, from egrets and other plume birds, used to adorn women's hats. In 1901, at the urging of Audubon Society leaders concerned about the mass killing of these birds, the Florida legislature enacted a bird-protection law that provided for the hiring of a local game warden. From 1903 to 1905, as warden and Monroe County's deputy sheriff, Bradley dealt with these poachers. The frontier violence, family feuds, and disagreements over the new law eventually led to Bradley's murder. But the author shows how environmentalists were then encouraged to create bird refuges, thus leading to the establishment of the National Wildlife Refuge System. In detailing the killing, McIver's book reads much like a novel, and will appeal to general readers.-Patricia Ann Owens, Wabash Valley Coll., Mt. Carmel, IL Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780813026718
  • Publisher: University Press of Florida
  • Publication date: 10/31/2003
  • Series: Florida History and Culture Series
  • Edition description: First
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 216
  • Sales rank: 980,063
  • Product dimensions: 6.50 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Stuart B. McIver was a prolific journalist who also wrote numerous books, more than 500 magazine articles, and documentary films, for which he also worked as producer.

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Table of Contents

Foreword xi
Preface xiii
Chronology xvii
Map xvi
1 The Feather Trade 1
2 The Letter 6
3 A Veritable Tropical Paradise 10
4 The Cruise of the Bonton 22
5 The Barefoot Mailman 30
6 Tycoons of the Plume Trade 36
7 Cuthbert's Rookery 46
8 The Palm Beach Dudes 54
9 Sharpshooter 64
10 Flagler Takes Charge 69
11 The End of the World 93
12 The Patriarch 100
13 A Matter of Law 107
14 The Badge 113
15 On the Job 121
16 A Boat Named Audubon 131
17 Trouble at Cuthbert 138
18 Life in Flamingo 143
19 Back on the Job 148
20 Shootout at Oyster Keys 152
21 No True Bill 155
22 The Fight Goes On 161
Notes 169
Bibliography 179
Index 183
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 16, 2004

    law south of the trail

    Stuart McIver has written a masterpiece on the life of guy bradley. it is the same account as told to me by the grandson of duncan brady the founder of flamingo. having researched for several years and talking to many people now dead, stuart has written the timeline leading up to the birth of the Audubon society and the death of it's first martyr.

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