Once upon a time, Ponte Vedra was known as Mineral City. The name was selected in a contest open to employees of the Buckman Pritchard Corporation. The winner got a prize of $50. Buckman and Pritchard owned the beach. Their business was mining. The Mineral City beach was rich in rare minerals like rutile and ilmenite. Both are used in the manufacture of titanium.
Around 1908, Buckman and Pritchard brought in Roy Landrum Sr. to supervise construction of a railway spur that ran along the beach and connected with the Florida East Coast Railway further north. Roy, Sr. had been working as superintendent of a phosphate mine out in Alachua County northwest of Gainesville. He would become the local St. Johns County sheriff. His wife, Ida, opened a general store for the workers and became postmistress of Mineral City.
Later, Buckman and Pritchard sold Mineral City to the National Lead Company. In the late ’20s, National Lead decided to build a resort and golf course here. Roy Landrum Sr., was hired to act as superintendent of construction for the golf course. Around that time, Roy, Sr. stepped down as sheriff and was succeeded by his son, Roy Landrum Jr. Roy Junior’s wife, Alice, opened a general store, like her mother-in-law and also like her mother-in-law became the postmistress for Palm Valley.
When four Nazi saboteurs landed on Ponte Vedra Beach in June of 1942, one of their stops as they headed into Jacksonville to catch trains heading north was Alice Landrum’s general store which also served as a bus stop. Later, she would be interviewed and claim to have remembered the four spies. She would tell the press that they spoke very good English, but their shoes were odd.
Before becoming the postmistress, Alice was a teacher at the local school. She was a college graduate, a rare thing for a woman at that time. In 1991, they named the new middle school on Landrum Lane in her honor. Her husband Roy never finished high school. In addition to being a deputy sheriff, Roy was an auto mechanic, and he owned a gas station.
Roy was sheriff during the great cattle round-up of 1953. Ponte Vedra/Palm Valley was cattle country at one time. By 1953, the cattle business had moved west, but 300 cows still wandered around freely on the golf course and people’s lawns. Roy supervised the round-up and relocation of those cattle out to Ocala.
Eventually, Alice and Roy resided at 562 Ponte Vedra Blvd. The house is small and still stands today. It is one of the oldest, if not the oldest home on the Boulevard. There is a story, that one day, Alice was fishing in the lagoon behind their home. She had the family dog on a leash at her side when an alligator came out of the water and grabbed the pup for lunch. Roy sent Alice and the neighbors inside and went out in his johnny boat with a rifle. Shots were fired. Roy was a good shot. That gator was not going to eat any more dogs.
One of Roy Landrum’s jobs as sheriff was to bust up moonshine stills. Moonshining was big business in old Palm Valley on both sides of the Intracoastal. It seems almost everyone had a still. The practice of making moonshine continued for decades after prohibition ended in 1933. There are pictures of Roy Landrum Jr. sitting next to busted moonshine stills. But old-timers tell me he pretty much turned a blind eye to the moonshine business, not wanting to rile his neighbors. Some even say he had a still of his own. If so, that still was most likely located behind what would become Ponte Vedra Palm Valley School in 1958. Contemporary reports say that during construction a still was found on the property and that the owner was asked to come and remove it.
Scott A Grant is a local author and historian. He hopes you enjoy his current series on famous Ponte Vedrans. Scott welcomes your comments at email@example.com