Charles W. Pierce, Boynton’s ‘barefoot mailman,’ was the inspiration for this Works Progress Administration mural in the 1930s-’40s. In artworks for the West Palm Beach post office, Stevan Dohanos told the story of James Edward Hamilton, who walked a route along the beach between Lake Worth and Miami. Photo provided by Boynton Beach Historical Society
By Tao Woolfe
The soon-to-be constructed Pierce apartment and retail complex at 115 N. Federal Highway in Boynton Beach is named for the city’s early resident and former Hypoluxo postmaster Charles W. Pierce.
Although he was a prominent businessman, Pierce is best known for serving a short stint in 1888 as one of South Florida’s legendary “barefoot mailmen.”
Also known as “beach walkers,” the mailmen braved more than rain, heat and gloom of night. They regularly walked a 60-mile route from Hypoluxo to Miami, swam across rivers, and hiked through jungle vegetation to deliver the mail, according to historical accounts.
They made $600 a year.
Pierce later delivered mail by boat to the Lake Worth region, owned and operated a dry goods store in Boynton Beach, and became president of the Bank of Boynton Beach.
Charles Pierce was the son of Hannibal Dillingham Pierce, who came from Chicago to Florida when it was still wilderness, according to Boynton Beach Historical Society records.
Hannibal Pierce, whose pioneer homestead encompassed 50 acres on Hypoluxo Island, served as both assistant keeper at the Jupiter Lighthouse and at the Orange Grove House of Refuge in Delray Beach — a federal government-sponsored lifesaving station for shipwreck victims.
Much of Charles Pierce’s unpublished manuscript describing early South Florida life was edited by Florida Atlantic University Professor Donald W. Curl and incorporated into the 1981 book Pioneer Life in Southeast Florida.
Pierce was also the inspiration for a children’s book series, The Adventures of Charlie Pierce.
The series was written by Harvey E. Oyer III, whose family sold the Hurricane Alley portion of the new project to the Community Redevelopment Agency and who is a direct descendent of Charles Pierce.
Charles Pierce — also known for leading expeditions through the Everglades — died in