Southern FL The "Labor Day Hurricane," Sept 1935

Mass Burial of Hurricane Victims Cremation of the bodies, Southern Florida Hurricane

Fishermen Missing.
Three Gulfport fishermen still were missing, St. Petersburg reported. They were last seen yesterday as they took off in a 26-foot open boat for the gulf fishing banks.
Sponge fishermen were notified by a coast guard plane to turn into safe ports.
The wind whipped through the streets and residential sections of St. Petersburg but at 8:30 p. m. there had been no damage except to shrubbery. Street lights were turned out as a precautionary measure.
At 9:30 p. m. the weather bureau at Jacksonville ordered up hurricane warnings from Punta Gorda to Carrabelle on the west coast and southeast storm warnings up on the Florida east coast from Miami to Jacksonville. Previously the hurricane warnings only extended north on the west coast to Tarpon Springs.
On Broad Recurve.
The bureau said the storm was moving north-northwestward "apparently on a broad recurve attended by shifting gales and winds of hurricane force near the center." The forecaster warned of high tides at least as far north as Cedar Keys.
At that hour the storm was reported approaching Tampa Bay.
The refugees from Upper Matecumbe, wounded when their frame dwellings and hospital crumbled like matchwood in the face of the storm, told tales of horror and narrow escape from death as waters rushed over the key like a mill race.
All but one of the 64 buildings in the camp were leveled by the wind, and in the one small shack still standing rescue workers found ten of the most seriously injured of the victims on the bare floor.
"I would rather face machine gun fire again than go through an experience like that once more," said GEORGE SENISON, 39-year-old veteran.
FRED GHENT, director of the veterans camps on the Florida Keys, told the Associated Press over long distance telephone tonight he did not believe there had been any great loss of life at camp number one; south of Snake Creek.
Appear Unperturbed.
GHANT said he had gone to the northern side of Snake Creek this afternoon and tried to shout to a half dozen men at the demolished camp.
They did not appear to be greatly perturbed, GHENT said, and gave no signals which he interpreted as meaning any men had been killed.
GHENT said he believed all the men in the camp except the few he saw had boarded the rescue train, yesterday afternoon as it proceded southward.
GHENT said he had no way of knowing the conditions at the two camps farther south.
The director added every building at the camp had been flattened.
He said he thought there were not more than 450 men in all at the three camps.
JACK DANIELS, FERA tow boat captain, said he counted 15 bodies without search of jumbled wreckage at the upper Matecumbe camp.
Many bodies, he believed, had been washed to sea by the high water which menaced the inhabitants after their buildings had been demolished.
Reach Stricken Camp.
Not until late today did rescue workers reach the stricken camp. It had been cut off from Plantation Key to the north when both railway and highway bridges were destroyed by the wind and raging torrents of water.
During the day, first one, then two of the refugees made their way from the camp four miles below to the north end of Upper Matecumbe and frantically signalled to the handful of rescuers on the opposite shore.
All boats, except one with too deep a draft to navigate the creek, had been wrecked in the storm. Capt. E. NABLE, foreman of the camp who was in Miami when the storm broke, tried vainly to swim the swift current but turned back.
Later HENRY DAY, 25, of Homestead, a life rope about his waist, swam the current to the first bridge abutment and was about to start on the final lap when a small row boat, salvaged from the bottom of the creek and manned by two men, made the stream.
It was the first rescue vessel to reach the stricken camp and the two men, BUCK HAMILTON and JACK DANIELS, returned with pleas from the refugees on the opposite shore, for immediate medical aid.
Coast guard divisional headquarters at Jacksonville received a report tonight that volunteer workers were bringing women and children and "seriously injured" across Snake Creek.
Death Toll "Unknown."
The radio message, from the Miami air station, said an unnamed state board of health official had returned from Tavenier to report the number of dead and injured in the Florida Keys "unknown."
He was quoted as saying conditions south of Tavenier were "deplorable."
"Women and children and seriously injured," the message said, were being brought across the creek by volunteer workers "with inadequate equipment."
First to be taken from the stricken Matecumbe Island was little DOROTHY VAN NESS, 6, whose father, BENNY, two brothers, BENNY JR., and EUGENE, and sister, KATHERINE, reportedly lost their lives when they took refuge in the frame hospital building in the camp.
Her face scarred and legs cut by falling debris, she and her mother, LAURA, saved themselves from drowning by clinging to wreckage throughout the night.
She had cried until she could hardly cry any more.
"Papa is gone," she replied to questions as to the whereabout of her father.
"My big brother is gone, too. So is KATHERINE and so is GENE. ALl are gone except me and mama."
She ran to her mother's arms as MRS. VAN NESS arrived on the third trip of the little rescue boat.
MRS. FRANCES CRUSOE, 30, wife of veteran JOSEPH CRUSOE, her elbow injured and her body badly bruised, had not heard from her husband since the hurricane leveled their little frame dwelling. She was not sure of his fate.
She suffered from exposure and spoke with some difficulty. She related how she escaped from her home just before it collapsed, only to be struck by flying debris.



1935 Labor Day Hurricane

This was a horrific event that the Keys will always remember. You can read more about this disaster at