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Stanley Steemer and the Legacy of Speed

Updated: Apr 23

A Journey through Indianola’s Racing History

Written by Joel McPherson

In the annals of speed records, few tales captivate the imagination as much as the story of F.E. Stanley's Rocket Racer and its daring driver, Fred Marriott. On January 26, 1906, this formidable duo set a record that etched their names into Ormond Beach's history books – a land speed record of 127.659 mph. Little did they know that their audacious feat would eventually intertwine with the rich history of Merritt Island’s Indianola.

Arthur Alonzo Buck, a pioneer settler of Merritt Island, played a pivotal role in connecting the dots between the Rocket Racer and Field Manor. Buck, known affectionately as "A.A.," was more than just a station master at the Ormond Beach railroad station. His versatile skills included providing telephone service to Brevard County and introducing the first electrical service to Merritt Island. But it was his unexpected role in the arrival of the Rocket Racer that added an extra layer to his illustrious list of accomplishments: race car driver.

Donald and Carolyn Hoke Collection, The Virtual Steam Car Museum, Dallas, TX

When the race car was shipped to Ormond Beach, it was Buck who took the wheel, driving it from the rail car to the parking lot. The distance may have been a mere 100 feet, but this brief journey added the title of "race car driver" to A.A.'s already impressive resume. His involvement in this historic moment exemplified the spirit of innovation and adventure that defined the early 20th century.

Beyond his contributions to the world of speed, Alonzo Buck's personal life linked him to Indianola. Martha Elizabeth Field, his wife, was a daughter of Samuel J. Field. Arriving on the shores of Merritt Island in 1868, Sam and his brother, JR Field, named the settlement Indianola. Today, Sam’s house is a private residence, whereas JR’s home, Field Manor, is a pioneer museum. This stately residence, with its charm and historical significance, stands as a testament to the enduring legacy of the Field family.

Donald and Carolyn Hoke Collection, The Virtual Steam Car Museum, Dallas, TX

Field Manor, nestled along the Indian River Lagoon, is more than just a picturesque relic of the past. It holds a revered place on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places, recognizing its architectural and historical importance. As visitors explore its rooms and corridors, they are transported back to an era when steam-powered racers roared through the sandy tracks of Ormond Beach.

The connection between Stanley Steemer and Merritt Island may seem unexpected, but it weaves a narrative that transcends time. The Rocket Racer's record-setting run, facilitated by A.A. Buck, echoes through the corridors of Field Manor, providing a tangible link to the past. The house becomes not just a historical artifact but a living testament to the convergence of innovation, speed, and familial ties.

As we admire the ornate architecture of Field Manor and envision the daredevilry of Fred Marriott in the Rocket Racer, we are reminded that history is a tapestry woven with threads of remarkable stories. Stanley Steemer's connection to Merritt Islandserves as a reminder that the pursuit of speed, embodied in the daring exploits of the Rocket Racer, has left an indelible mark on the landscapes of both Ormond Beach and Merritt Island. It's a story that continues to captivate, inspire, and connect us to the enduring spirit of adventure that defines our collective history.      


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