- HISTORY OF THE UPPER KEYS -
Post 1935 Hurricane Sworn Statements
- By Jerry Wilkinson -
Compilation date = June 12, 2010
The below is a transcription of a sworn statement made by Edney B. Parker of Islamorada to the Veteran's Administration investigator H.W. Farmer after the 1935 Hurricane. I have added a stamped page number of each page I typed from. I am not certain if the National Archive added them orif these were original page numbers. Q = Question and A = Answer. My inserted comments are in [ ]'s.
South of Miami, Fla.
September 23, 1935
"E. B. Parker made the following responses under oath as propounded by H. W. Farmer, Investigator [Veterans’ Administration – JW], in the investigation titled “Re Hurricane Florida.”
1. Q. State your full name, occupation, age and address.
A. E. B. Parker; my age is 49, I was Director of Sanitation of the Veterans’ Camps up to the time of the hurricane; present address is Kendall, Florida; before the hurricane, Islamorada, Fla.
2. Q. How long were you Director of Sanitation of the Veterans’ Camps?
A. I was Director of Sanitation since February 9, 1935.
3. Q. I that position did you visit all the camps daily?
A. Every day.
4. Q. Did you see or become acquainted with any of the Veterans?
A. I know lots of them, but I cannot remember their names.
5. Q. Are you acquainted with all the officials of the Camp?
A. Yes sir. Every one of them.
6. Q. Were you in camp September 1st and 2nd 1935?
A. Yes sir. I visited all three camps Sunday. I visited Camp 5 and 1 Monday – never got to Camp 3.
[Page 788]7. Q. Did you on either of those days offer any advice to the officials as to the danger of the hurricane?
A. Well, I told Mr. Cutler we were going to have a hurricane. He asked me when and I told him that I didn’t know.
8. Q. What time was that?
A. About 9 o’clock Monday; at 12 o’clock I told Mr. Cutler I know the hurricane was coming towards us, but I didn’t know how far away and when we would get it.
9. Q. Was Mr. Cutler seeking your advice or were you giving it voluntarily?
A. He asked me about the weather. I said there was a storm. At 3 o’clock it was the last time I talked to the officials. Mr. Sheldon asked me “Captain, what do you think about it” and I said “I think we are going to have a hurricane.” He said that according to the report on the radio that the hurricane was to the southwest of us of us somewhere” because the wind was in the northeast and if you face the wind at right angles, you get the storm.
10. Q. Did Mr. Sheldon seek your advice or did you offer any advice about evacuation of the Veterans or anything of the danger of the hurricane prior to 2 o’clock Monday?
A. No sir.
11. Q. Did you talk to him at all prior to 2 o’clock Monday?
A. I never saw him at all. They said he was off somewhere. I called to Mr. Sheldon about 2 o’clock.
[Page 789]12. Q. Do you know whether or not when you talked that he requested a train to be sent of carry the Veterans off the Keys?
A. He said “I told the East Coast to get the train over here” at 2 o’clock. He told me at 3 o’clock, if I remember right, that the train was late. Bill Hardacker, Superintendent Camp 1, also said the train was coming in about 3 o’clock.
13. Q. Did you see or hear any preparation on the part of the officials looking towards removal of the Veterans on Sunday or Monday?
A. No, I never saw any Sunday. I heard Mr. Cutler talking to the East Coast and the Weather Bureau both between 9 and 10 o’clock Monday morning and he told the East Coast to have a train standing by to take the men out. He said something about money because he said it will be paid for, and you can call Washington, and he said something about Mr. Ghent would see him. Then he asked the weather man about the storm. The weather man said “We would have gale forces south of Key Largo. [I think then gale force was between 34 to 47 knots per hour – JW]
14. Q. How could you hear what the weather man said?
A. That is what he gave out over the radio.
15. Q. Was there any indication that the railroad officials were quibbling about the payment of the train?
A. I wouldn’t say that they held back on the train or anything. I never heard what the man said to Mr. Cutler, but Mr. Cutler said the train would be paid for, Mr. Ghent would see him and told him something about
16. Q. That was between 10 and 11 o’clock on Monday morning was it?
A. Yes. As to what time they ordered the train I don’t know.
17. Q. Did you get any information that the railroad officials had agreed to accept his order to have a train standing ready?
A. Yes. He turned around and told another gentleman in the office that the train would be ready, and from his conversation he was totally depending on the weather man.
18. Q. Where were you during the hurricane?
A. I was about 300 feet south of the headquarters. I left my home at 4:30 that afternoon and moved my family to a little house that was owned by my brother-in-law. I moved there because the trees were all around the house and I felt safer.
19. Q. How many members of your family were in the house during the hurricane?
A. Ten children, two son-in-laws, wife and myself.
20. Q. Did they come through safely?
21. Q. Had you experienced any other hurricanes?
22. Q. How did this one compare with the others?
A. Worst one by far.
23. Q. Did you make readings on your barometer of the hurricane?
A. Until 10 o’clock that night.
24. Q. What was your lowest reading?
A. 26.50 [Inches of mercury-JW]
25. Q. What time was that?
A. At 10 o’clock. I stepped across the room; the house went all to pieces and the barometer went with it. At that time we [were] floating and passed over the top of a tree that measured over 12 feet. The water was, I say, 15 feet.
26. Q. At what time did the hurricane begin?
A. We had hurricane forces at 7 o’clock that night.
27. Q. When did the tidal wave occur?
A. At 7:55 PM and it rose 12 feet in 15 minutes. I am sure it was not over 15 minutes.
28. Q. Did the wind blow continuously from 7 until the tidal wave came in?
A. It blew continuously from 7 until 10:30. The tide started ??? [lowering-JW] us not later than 10:30. The water started to go down and I could feel the cold water going down from my body.
29. Q. Was the information that you had of the approaching hurricane sufficient to have caused you, had you been in position to do so, to evacuate the Veterans from the Keys before the hurricane?
A. No sir. It would not. My barometer didn’t show any near danger until one hour before the hurricane and it fell so fast I really couldn’t tell how fast it did go.
30. Q. Did you identify any of the dead Veterans after the hurricane?
A. Yes, I saw lots I knew, but had already been identified. Later, I indentified one that Bob Norwood brought in and he asked me to look at him and it was Smith. He called himself “Smitty” from #1 Camp.
31. Q. What was the means of identification?
A. His hair was white and wavy. He had good teeth. He was about 6’ tall, weighed about 175 and I knew him personally.
32. Q. Were there any papers or personal articles on him that would further identify him?
A. No. He just had on a pair of shorts.
I want to tell you the truth. I think the railroad officials, the weather man, the camp officials and all the natives were fooled bad. I don’t think they knew what was going to happen. We never dreamed anything was going to happen such as that. I will say one thing, Mr. Cutler was very much concerned that those men got out of there. Mr. Cutler did the best I believe. I do not know whether he had any authority or not to arrange for their evacuation.
33. Q. When you talked to Mr. Shelton at 2 and 3 o’clock, did he seem as much concerned as Mr. Cutler?
A. When I talked to him at 2 and 3 o’clock he was very much concerned.
[Page 793]34. Q. Did you see any of the Veterans just preceding the storm when you were on the way to your place?
A. I saw a bunch of them in #1 and venture to say ½ of #5, but I didn’t see them in #5.
35. Q. Did they seem apprehensive about the hurricane?
A. With the exception if 3 or 4 men – they didn’t seem to be concerned about the storm. I know that Mr. Hardacker notified Dr. Main and Dr. Alexander about 4 PM to be in readiness that the train was coming to take them out.
36. Q. What was the weather condition on Monday morning?
A. What we call squally. We would have showers of rain and it would blow about 35, maybe some of it was 40 miles an hour. The barometer did not fall in the forenoon Monday morning. After dinner she lost some, but we look for them to lose in the afternoons.
37. Q. Have you given a statement covering this subject to any one else?
A. No sir, I did give a statement to Mr. Worley, but all1 he asked me was who did I blame. I told him, if anybody, it was the weatherman.
38. Q. Has anyone cautioned you about all you know of the events occurring during or before the hurricane?
A. No sir.
[Page 794]39. Q. Having in mind that we want you to give us the benefit of any information you have and that you can speak without any fear that you would re-act against you in any way, is there any further statement you would like to make.
A. I don’t know a thing to save my life. As I said before it was absolutely unexpected. I have been on Matecumbe for 30 years and I have never seen anything like it.
I, E. B. Parker, SO SOLEMNLY SWEAR that the statement made herein in response to questions propounded by H. W. Farmer, Investigator, have been read by me and they are true and correct to the best of my knowledge and belief, so help me GOD.
SUBSCRIBED AND SWORN TO before me
And Investigator for the Veteran’s Administration this day of September, 1935
[Actually he gave a 17 page statement to Mr.Worley of the Florida state attorney’s office.]