Thursday, September 4, 2014

Bethune-Volusia Receives Legal Status from State of Florida

The Volusia County Assessor’s Office provided a copy of the plat from the county records. According to it, C. H. Moneypenny of New Smyrna Beach, did the survey and executed the appropriate drawings which were completed on September 26, 1944. On that same document, a county time stamp is affixed at the top, indicating it was received in their office on February 7, 1947. At the bottom of the plat is a handwritten legal description of the property. That portion was signed and notarized on November 16, 1946, bearing the signatures of corporation officers, G.D. Rogers, President and Mrs. L. G. Hale, secretary.

Once all the legal documentation was in place, the corporation went forward with the purchase of the land and began a campaign to sell parcels to blacks, not only of Volusia County, but those who lived throughout the country. The investors used black as well as white salesmen. One investor said sometimes blacks felt more comfortable buying from a white salesman than from a black.
In order to accommodate low-income blacks, which was the status of most in Florida and Volusia County at the time, lots were cheaply priced and sold on a liberal installment plan. Sadly, the use of the pay-along plan came back to haunt the corporation in future dealings with the county.

Even with the sale of lots, the corporate members dug deeply into their personal pockets to make the resort a success. They paid to have land cleared and some of the first roads cut. Later, the county did help the state to build a road to the beach. On one hand Volusia County officials wanted blacks to have their own beach, but they didn’t want to spend lots of money on it. According to one county official, “The reason the county did as much as it did was to keep the colored people down there.” But the county in no way helped the resort to become the grand one Mrs. Bethune had envisioned.

The corporation deeded several prime lots to the county with the understanding it would build bathhouses, picnic facilities, an auditorium, fishing pier and boat ramp. They were led to believe Bethune-Volusia beachgoers would have facilities likened to those on Daytona Beach. However, the county’s plan fell far short of the vision. It installed pilings, a few picnic tables and barbecue pits. Eventually, it piped in water. After many appeals, the county provided and paid for black lifeguards and sheriff’s deputies. But after one disappointing delay after another regarding other promised amenities, the corporation borrowed $14, 500 to build their own bathhouse and recreation building. Also when negotiations with the City of New Smyrna for utilities failed, the corporation raised and paid $12,000 to Florida Power and Light to extend its line from Edgewater across the river to provide service.