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12/2/02 - Miami Herald
For Goulds, rich in history, second century looms with uncertainty
- One option is to create city
By Chantal Abitbol
On the eve of its 100th birthday, the South Miami-Dade County community of Goulds
is celebrating a rich and storied past while facing an uncertain future.
Last week, a group of Goulds activists took part in a meeting that discussed, among
other things, the idea of creating a city out of the one-time whistle stop on Henry
It's one possible way to preserve the heritage of this predominantly black community
and keep it from becoming an enclave sandwiched between Cutler Ridge to the north
and Redland to the west -- both areas now at various stages in the cityhood process.
Were Goulds to remain isolated, some fear that it would be the target of forced
That, many say, is an ugly fate for a place that ranks among Miami-Dade's pioneer
''We're the true natives -- born, bred, educated and married in Goulds,'' said Juanita
Floyd, 74, whose family moved to Goulds in 1924. ``Our children are the third generation.''
Floyd speaks from her living room, only seven blocks from the house where she was
born, and she is rummaging through a stack of black-and-white photos.
Many date to the 1930s and have the frayed edges to prove it.
In one photo, Floyd smiles out from behind a row of schoolchildren, many barefoot
with ripped jeans and muddied shirts.
They belonged to one of the first classes at Goulds Elementary and Junior High School
-- on the site of what is now called Mays Middle School.
''We were poorer than Little House on the Prairie,'' she says with a laugh. ``The
norm was 10 to 20 children in one family.''
In spite of their poverty, she insists that they had a ''quality of life'' -- deeply
spiritual, revolving around school, church and ``living off the fat of the land.''
Many people spent their days fishing in the canals or hunting in the rock pine forest
that stretched for acres along the site where Cutler Ridge Mall now stands.
In 1900, the area known today as Goulds was the homestead of African Americans William
Johnson and William Randolph.
Between them, they owned the area between Black Creek Canal and Southwest 224th
Street to the south on both sides of Old Dixie Highway.
Randolph later sold much of his homestead cheaply to other black people so they
would have the chance to own land.
But Goulds was not officially founded until 1903, when Flagler's Florida East Coast
Railway passed through, linking the produce packing houses that had popped up along
The area was originally known as Gould's Siding, which identified the stop along
the railway's extension at Southwest 216th Street.
It was named after its operator, Lyman Gould, who cut trees for railroad ties. Years
later, ''Siding'' was dropped from its name.
Downtown was a post office, a grocery store and an apartment building, now Cauley
The recently restored ''Storeporch'' was built in 1931 and soon became the unofficial
center where residents could buy weekly supplies.
It also a housed a juke joint where locals gathered to drink, eat fried catfish
and play cards and checkers on the porch.
''It'd be open every night,'' said Onerine Thomas, 79, who ran the club with her
Goulds was unlike most small Southern towns because black and white residents lived
as neighbors without much fuss, said Lewis Canty, 65, whose family owned a farm
in Goulds more than 45 years ago.
''There was no such thing as a white section and a black section,'' he said. ``We
were all on both sides of the railroad tracks.''
That doesn't mean there weren't any clashes.
KLAN WAS STRONG
Especially during the late 1920s and the 1930s, the Klu Klux Klan was a strong presence
in Goulds, said Lydia Everett Walker, 81, who is writing a book on Goulds' history.
Her father, Johnny ''Cat Man'' Everett, had frequent run-ins with the Klan, but
she said he never backed down from them.
With no medical facilities nearby, Everett -- a third-grade dropout -- also became
the unofficial resident doctor, treating everything from dysentery to gonorrhea
with remedies that included cooked rattlesnake and potassium permanganate injections.
By the late 1940s, Goulds had begun to lose its rural feel, a casualty of progress:
electricity in the 1940s, indoor toilets by the 1950s, bus service in the 1960s,
mail service in the 1970s.
Today, Goulds is still changing, although the population remains predominantly black.
The tracks of the long-gone railway, which first placed Goulds on the map, are finally
being pulled up. The farmlands, which once seemed endless, are giving way to business
and housing developments.
It's a poor community. The median household income is $19,633, according to the
2000 U.S. Census, compared with $35,966 for Miami-Dade County as a whole.
On the brink of a second century, even as they plan a series of celebration events
to mark the birthday, Goulds residents may also face the task of creating their
According to J.L. Demps, 49, chairman of Goulds Community Development Corp., it's
''an inevitable choice,'' but not without some risks and controversy.
The boundaries of a city called Goulds would no doubt be a thorny issue, since that
very subject has helped stall the incorporation of nearby Redland.
But activists such as Demps say the community may have to tackle that problem and
others to ensure its survival.
''We're trying not to become extinct,'' Demps said. ``But I'm afraid that's what
could happen to us if we don't fight for our historical area.''