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The Winter Sailor: Francis R. Stebbins on Florida's Indian River,…

by Carolyn Frances Baker Lewis

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A unique guide to Florida's frontier history along Indian River. The Winter Sailor is a historical adventure that details the yearly winter travels of Francis R. Stebbins to Florida's Indian River. Stebbins, a writer from Michigan, visited Florida in March of 1878 and became entranced by its pristine beauty. Subsequently, Stebbins and his traveling companions made annual visits to Indian River--until 1888 when tragedy struck and ended Stebbins' yearly journeys. Being an observant traveler, Stebbins began a series of descriptive articles for his hometown newspaper that chronicled his journeys to the Indian River area. Stebbins's articles tell of his own personal experiences during his leisurely visits, which included such activities as hunting and fishing, studying the natural surroundings, and excavating Indian mounds. What Stebbins enjoyed most was sailing down the river interviewing townspeople and examining local attractions as he went. His articles also detail the lifestyle of the region, food, fashion, industry, history, environment, and changes that occurred over time. Stebbins's articles not only entertained and informed but also became a travelogue for his readers. He inspired northern travelers to go south and visit Florida, which contributed to the beginnings of large-scale tourism in the region. The Winter Sailor combines Stebbins's 49 articles along with three by his companions, to provide an enjoyable, historical guide. Unique among 19th-century travelogues, this fascinating look into Florida's past documents a decade of change to the Indian River wilderness and becomes Stebbins's gift to the present.… (more)

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