Historian adds new barefoot mailman book to children’s series

Lawyer Harvey Oyer III often represents property owners with construction projects on the island. The West Palm Beach counselor is also a known speaker, historian and children’s book author.

He released his latest story, The Adventures of Charlie Pierce: The Barefoot Mailman, last week. The plot follows the adventures of Oyer’s great grand-uncle, Charlie Pierce, and his great grandmother Lillie.

The book is based on the real life story of Ed Hamilton, who walked a mail route from Palm Beach County to Miami as a barefoot mailman in 1887. When Hamilton disappears, Charlie Pierce takes his place and, along with Lillie, Pierce investigates Hamilton’s disappearance.

The Barefoot Mailman is the fourth book in Oyer’s Charlie Pierce series. In 141 pages, it tackles one of South Florida’s most enduring local legends. The barefoot mailman route, which lasted from 1885 to 1892, represents the settling of the wild jungle frontier that was Southeast Florida at the time, Oyer said.

“The fascination would be what a rugged individual it took to do this job,” he said. “You walked 156 miles round-trip … they were covering 20-plus miles a day with the mail on their back … this was a really hard way to earn $600 a year and as a consequence no man that ever signed up for it ever renewed his contract.”

In writing his book series, Oyer used the personal diary of his great grand-uncle as primary source material. Diary entries date back to when Charlie Pierce was 8 years old.

By his own estimates, Oyer, who is self-published, has about 130,000 copies of his books in print. School districts across the state have made large purchases.

Most fourth-grade classrooms in Palm Beach County have copies of The Last Egret, the second book in the Charlie Pierce series. Four years ago, it was assigned reading for every fourth-grader in the county.

“He has really transformed elementary social studies for us with his books,” said Maureen Carter, a Palm Beach Public School District administrator who oversees curriculum.

Carter ordered eight copies of the new book for her grandchildren. “His writing is so vivid,” she said. “I’m not a native Floridian, but I’ve learned a lot reading his books.”

Risa Thomas, a mother of a 10-year-old boy in Jupiter, wrote Oyer an email with her order. Thomas said her son, Zach, has been obsessed with the Charlie Pierce series but does not know the new book came out.

“I can promise you that it will be his most cherished gift this holiday,” Thomas wrote.

Last week, Marion County School District inquired with Oyer about receiving 800 copies of The Barefoot Mailman, he said. His goal in writing and publishing books is to share his knowledge and passion for Florida’s environment and history with future generations of voters.

“If we don’t do this, we’re going to raise a whole generation of voters who will repeat the same mistakes as our generation,” Oyer said. “They will straighten the Kissimmee River and wonder why there is phosphorus in the lake and in the Everglades. They will dump treated sewage in the ocean — which they did up until a few years ago — and wonder why our coral reef systems died off … I want to grow a better generation of Floridians.”