Saturday, January 26, 2019

Death in the City Beautiful [1]

Dora Suggs and the Devil’s Den: December 1905:
Long before George Merrick turned the wilderness, west of Coconut Grove into the city of Coral Gables, various hardy souls, known as homesteaders, lived on isolated farms out in the back-country. In December 1905, one of these souls, Dora Suggs, rode her mule and wagon into Coconut Grove (or Cocoanut Grove as it was then spelled) to buy Christmas provisions for her husband Gideon and their children. That was the last time her family saw her alive.

Returning from Coconut Grove, in the gathering winter twilight, she was riding through an especially desolate stretch of countryside known as ‘The Devil’s Den’, when she was dragged from her carriage and assaulted. These days it is a place of manicured lawns and gracious single-family homes, at the intersection of Granada Boulevard and Blue Road, but in those days, it was a narrow, muddy track that followed a creek, through a dark grove of Florida slash pines and palmettos.

The unaccompanied wagon and mule arrived back at the Suggs’ homestead and her husband immediately organized a search party. Her body was found in The Devil’s Den at 10:00pm; she had been brutally raped and mutilated. Her skull had been crushed-in with rocks. Footprints around the body showed that her assailant wore size twelve boots, but there were no other clues.

The following day, Edward (Cady) Brown was arrested for Dora Suggs’ murder. The main evidence against him appears to be that he was black. On being sentenced to death he said, “I don’t know how they can hang a man for something he knows nothing about.” Within just six months he was charged, tried, found guilty and hanged. Despite his neck being broken by the fall, he continued to show signs of life and his boots continued to kick for a further eighteen and a half minutes. His boots were a size ten.

Dora Suggs is buried in Coral Gables’ historic Pinewood Cemetery where her tombstone reads “1872 - December 18th, 1905.  Died tragically at the Devils Den, Wife of Gideon David Suggs.”

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