William Turpin Jones was born in Carnesville, Franklin County, Georgia on August 31, 1868. He came to Florida in 1892 to work as a machinist helper for the Saint Augustine railroad shops. His career in the FEC was quite successful and in 1900 he was promoted to engineer and relocated by the company to Fort Pierce. As an engineer he operated the trains between Jacksonville and Key West.
During his career he survived two train accidents. The first took place when workmen left dynamite on the tracks and the train hit it; Mr. Jones was seriously injured in the incident and given a settlement by the FEC. The money he received was used to pay the $6,000 needed to build his new home, Cresthaven, which was located at 239 Boston Ave, Fort Pierce. The home was built in 1909 and was a marvel, with most of the materials being brought in by railway from Georgia and other points throughout the US. The second accident took place on a rainy afternoon when the station master sent Jones a note written in red pencil, warning him of an oncoming train and instructing him to switch to a separate track. Unfortunately the rain smeared the note and the train remained on course, meeting up with the oncoming train at a curve in the tracks, where they collided head on. Both engineers and firemen jumped into the watery canals running alongside the tracks and survived the incident.
Mr. Jones was married to a woman named Margaret and together they had five children:
- Fred, born about 1896
- Louis, born about 1898
- William L., born about 1901
- Margaret, born about 1905
- Clifford, born about 1909
Jones’ career with the FEC came to a stop in 1913, when he retired and began to raise oranges and pineapple and sell real estate. It was in this same year that Jones’ son Fred A. Jones was involved in a motorcycle accident that took a life. Fred, who was 17 years old and engaged to young Ada Daniels. On Friday, May 16th, a party was held at Cresthaven and Fred decided to take Ada for a moonlight ride on his motorcycle. They were joined by Fred’s best friend Raymond Saunders, who was driving a second motorcycle with Ada’s sister, Nola on the back. Shortly after leaving Cresthaven, something went terribly wrong and the two motorcycles collided. Fred, Ada and Raymond were seriously injured; Nola was pronounced dead on the scene. Fred would later recover from the accident, but walked with a limp and never married Ada Daniels.
After the accident, life continued fairly quietly for the Jones family until 1915, when a fateful incident in downtown Fort Pierce (which we will report on later), ended with Jones being appointed Sheriff of Saint Lucie County around June 4, 1915. He ran for reelection in June of 1916, and continued to serve in the office of Sheriff.
On Friday, September 6, 1918, Mr. Jones’ son Clifford was involved in a fatal shooting. Clifford, age ten and his nine year old playmate William M. Fee were in the living room of Cresthaven when Clifford reached to take the cartridge out of his fathers gun. The gun fired, shooting William Fee in the abdomen. William was taken by train to the hospital in Miami, where he died shortly after 11:30 p.m. that night.
During that same year, Sheriff Jones made national headlines in the case of E.D. Griswold and David P. Valley; the former having perpetrated a scam that cost Mr. Valley over $11,000. Jones was made famous for refusing to accept a bribe from Griswold, instead choosing to prosecute a case that went all the way to the Supreme Court.
Jones continued to serve as Sheriff until May of 1920, when he resigned the position due to the financial loss it was causing him. As a side note, he was replaced by Sheriff William R. Monroe, who was killed on March 25, 1921 while piloting a confiscated rum running boat. The boat, loaded with 200 cases of rum from the Bahamas, exploded in the Indian River Lagoon across from the Oslo area.
Rather than returning to work as a Sheriff after the death of Monroe, Jones went back to work for the FEC. He was beginning to feel the strain of the Depression and was having trouble covering his investments. In order to save his orange groves, he negotiated with a friend, Irving C. Whitney, who loaned him a sum of money and Cresthaven was used as the collateral. Sadly, Mr. Whitney soon passed away and the note went to his sister and heir, Rose P. Whitney, who was a retired school teacher hailing from Massachusetts. At the time of Mr. Whitney’s death, Rose was 62 years old and living in a modest house on S. 12th Street with her sister who was 74. Rose Whitney inherited the note on Cresthaven and on September 3, 1932 she forced the immediate sale of the home to her. Both spinster sisters moved into the house.
While the Jones family’s involvement with Cresthaven ends here, their story is an interesting one and we thought you’d like to follow it all the way through. They were dispersed throughout the area. Mr. Jones and his wife moved to a small one story home north of Fort Pierce, overlooking US 1 and his beloved FEC Railway tracks. They had 40 acres of grove and hammock that later became Vero Shores. When trains would pass by the home, the engineers would sound the whistles and the Jones family would come out to wave to them. The sons opened the Jones Brothers Garage, which was located at 618 N. 4th Street.
In 1938, the 3rd son, William L. Jones, was severely injured in a motorcycle accident. He was taken by rail to Philadelphia, but died after surgery; he was only 36. Two years later, William Senior became very ill. He was taken by railway to the FEC hospital in Saint Augustine, where he died December 7, 1939. His wife passed away on January 10, 1944. In 1948, their daughter Margaret, who was in perfect health and working as a clerk at Canaday’s Pharmacy, suffered a heart attack and also died. On October 2, 1957, Fred Jones, the eldest son, took his own life, shooting himself in the bedroom of his family’s home at 135 N. 10th Street, Fort Pierce.
Returning to the story of Cresthaven, we find that the home has been renamed to the Boston House and that both Rose Whitney and her elder sister died in the home. Rose suffered a drawn out illness before her death on April 5, 1954.
Her will, which was read into record on April 21, 1954, included a dispersement of nearly $150,000.
After her death, the executors of her estate held an auction, selling off the contents of the home. An advertisement was placed in the local paper, dated Sunday, December 19, 1954, and they also attempted to sell the Boston House.
Because the home did not sell, the executors petitioned the city for a change in zoning. On May 31st, 1955, the notice was printed in the local paper that a public hearing would be held on June 20th at 7:30 p.m. at City Hall to determine if the home could be rezoned to a commercial property; the zoning change was granted.
It is interesting to note that, according to the local historical society, Cresthaven was sold to John McCarty in 1949, but that he never resided there. According to the records, this is not possible, as there is a clear line of possession that does not include a sale to any of the McCarty family.
The home was sold in 1957 to Wood, Beard & Assoc., an Engineering Firm. They in turn sold the home to Diane & Leanord Cottem in 1976. Mr. Cottem began holding séances in the attic. This time period is the birthplace for the numerous ghost stories which surround this historic home.
The ghost stories include reports of Indians sitting on the front lawn, maniacal laughter sounding throughout the building, moving objects, and perhaps the most well-known haunting tale in Fort Pierce, the story of the Perkins family. The legend (as shown below in an article from The Fort Pierce Tribune, December 28, 1995) is reprinted nearly every year at Halloween.
“According to legend, the Perkins family was vacationing at the Boston House, which at the time was an inn. Young Tim and his father went fishing and drowned when their boat sank in a storm. The father’s body washed ashore, but Tim’s corpse never was found. According to local lore, the ghost of wife and mother Aleacon Perkins has been spotted at a third-floor window still awaiting the return of her lost family.”
In 1984 the Cottem family sold the Boston House to the current owners. During the renovations, old bottles from bootleg rum were found hidden in the walls behind the plaster. It was also discovered that Louis Jones, the 2nd son, had carved his name into a 2nd story window of the home with the engagement ring he was preparing to give to his girlfriend. The renovations by the newest owners caused quite a stir, yet again. Here is another quote from the Tribune:
“The law firm’s employees often are greeted by a whiff of perfume or the smell of coffee when opening the office in the morning. And sometimes office doors that were locked tight at closing time are found standing open the next morning. “We weren’t aware of the history of the building until after we bought it,” Phillips said. “After we bought it we talked to the former owner and he had experiences in the Boston House. The owners before him said odd things happened to them and some of their employees wouldn’t work on the third floor after dark.”
Phillips said he realizes that stories sometimes get exaggerated over the years, but the things that have happened to him and other in his office are not tall tales. “What has happened here has happened here,” he said. “There has not been any embellishment. There are certainly some oddities going on here.” The stories has led author Chaz Mikell to list the building in his book of haunts, “Florida Ghost House Directory.””
In addition to the Florida Ghost House Directory, Cresthaven’s ghost tales are retold in “Stories from the Haunted South” (page 62), as well as other books on hauntings in the area. As you can see from the research posted above, Cresthaven was never run as a boarding house or inn. Additionally, there are no records of a Perkins family in the area at the time frame in question. Searches of historical records (which have been corroborated by two independent researchers) show that there was no Perkins family in the area at that time; there also were no deaths of anyone with the last name of Perkins in Saint Lucie County at that time.
While researching the history of this home, we took the time to visit Riverview Memorial Gardens, the cemetery where the Jones and Fee families are interred. We were startled to find that the Fee family crypt contained not only nine year old William Fee, victim of the shooting at the Boston House, but also his mother, Emma Morgan and father, Fred. Fred was buried in the same grave as William Mixon Fee, grandson of Emma Morgan and Fred, who is listed as having passed away at the same time as Fred in 1939. Could this be the source of the tale of two lives lost by drowning on a fishing excursion? We can’t say for sure at this time, but we will continue to research the topic.
Cresthaven was added to the National Register of Historic Places is 1985.
- The Palm Beach Post
- The Fort Pierce News Tribune
- The Saint Lucie County Tribune
- Census Records dating from 1910-1930
- Saint Lucie County Historical Museum
- Downtown Main Street Association
- Clerk of the Court, Saint Lucie County
- FRF B Jones, William T, The Building of Cresthaven by William Paul Rogers, Jr., Grandson of William T Jones. Available at the Saint Lucie County Library, Fort Pierce.
- The Florida State Archive
- The Florida Photographic Archive