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A Flower, A Family, And A Fight For A Name

Orchid Island matriarch Anne Michael recounts the history of the island and her mission to keep its century-old name alive

Anne Michael moved to Orchid Island 67 years ago. After the Town of Orchid was incorporated in 1965, she was the first vice mayor and later served as mayor for 17 years.

Anne Michael moved to Orchid Island 67 years ago. After the Town of Orchid was incorporated in 1965, she was the first vice mayor and later served as mayor for 17 years.

Mrs. Joe W. (Anne) Michael is on a crusade to educate full and part time residents and visitors as to the correct name of Indian River County’s barrier island — and to convince them to use it. 

It is Orchid Island. This is the name officially stamped on maps, signs and into the hearts of those who waged a hard-fought battle some 100 years after the island’s pioneers named it for the tiny wild orchids growing on live oak trees. 

In 1985 she and her late husband, Joe, along with other civic leaders won that battle and restored the rightful name, Orchid Island, at the time when the county’s barrier island was indiscriminately labeled “Hutchinson Island” along with the barrier island in St. Lucie and Martin counties. To Indian River County island residents that name was synonymous with high-density development that was anathema to local government officials and planners.

Hutchinson Island came by its name legitimately and historically, as did Orchid Island. In 1807 a man named James Hutchinson obtained a grant from the Spanish governor for a 2,000-acre tract of land on what today is the barrier island between the St. Lucie and Martin county lines. Reports vary as to whether he proposed to raise hogs or crops on the land, but he did intend to protect his interests from Seminole Indians who lived over on the mainland. However, he died the following year, and his property was pillaged by marauding pirates. Yet this unfortunate farmer’s procurement of the land grant resulted in a portion of the barrier island bearing his name.