In 1885, the official U.S. Mail route on the east coast of Florida only went as far south as Palm Beach. To bring mail to the settlements beyond, an entrepreneurial father and son team contracted with the government and started what eventually became known as the “Barefoot Mailman Route" from Palm Beach to what is now Miami. The route was 68 miles each way, with 28 miles involving crossing water. The round-trip took six days -
Monday through Saturday every week of the year.
The Barefoot Route was difficult and dangerous and only existed for seven years, with 15 men being recorded as Barefoot Mailmen. The third Barefoot Mailman, James “Ed” Hamilton, disappeared at the Hillsboro Inlet just a few months after he took over the route in 1887. His possessions including his clothes, were found on the north bank of the Inlet. It was presumed he drowned while trying to swim across the Inlet to look for his boat, which must have been missing from its normal place. Neither the boat nor his body was ever recovered. Today, a bronze statue at the base of the Hillsboro Lighthouse commemorates James “Ed” Hamilton and the Barefoot Mailmen who came before and after him.