Pioneer businessman helped lake area grow

Editor’s note: This article, written in 1989, is reprinted in honor of the 90th anniversary of the opening of Glades Gas.

Special to the Lake Okeechobee News
Daniel B., Cecilia and John David McCarthy stand in front of the D.B. McCarthy C. Groceries, Feed, & Hardware on Park Street in 1917.

OKEECHOBEE — Glades Gas Company was opened in 1929 by Daniel Benedict McCarthy, and was one of a series of businesses which the enterprising Nebraskan founded here following his arrival in Okeechobee in 1915. The big, raw-boned Irishman arrived in Okeechobee as a fresh, 24-year old college graduate in 1915. His father had purchased 60 sections of land, sight unseen, in 1905, and he asked young Dan to come and survey the property.

History has not recorded what compelled the young man to remain in the fledgling community, but remain he did. In 1916, financed with $1,000 he borrowed from his father, Dan opened the D.B. McCarthy General Store on the northwest corner of Park Street and Fifth Avenue. The store expanded and soon had three sections. In addition to the grocery section, there was a clothing section and a hardware and feed section.

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Daniel B. McCarthy sports his WWII uniform.

When World War I began, young Dan wanted to become part of the effort, but the store had to remain open. He encouraged his older brother, John David McCarthy and his wife, Cecilia, to come from Om,aha, Neb., to operate the store for him and so he enlisted.

By the time Dan returned from the war, John David and Cecilia had decided to also remain in Okeechobee. Dan had fallen in love before he left to serve his country, and when he proposed to the local schoolteacher, Marie Futrell, he realized that the store would not support two families. He and Marie Futrell were married in 1920 and he divided the store with John David and kept the hardware section, leaving the grocery business to his brother. The grocery section of the store was located in the space now occupied by Lawn Tamer until the early 1960s and the hardware section was at the opposite end of the business.

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Daniel M. and Daniel M. II are shown with the tanks on the trucks prior to delivery.

But, other interests were already catching the eye of the young merchant. He found he had a growing interest in the construction and plumbing business.
The construction part of the business seems to have been born in 1921, when both McCarthy men built their homes. David and Cecilia located their home at the corner of N.W. Second Street and Fourth Avenue. That home stands today and currently houses the law office of John Cassels, grandson of Daniel B. Daniel and Marie built their home at 111 N.W. Second St. and it currently houses Bridgette Waldau’s Art Studio.

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Daniel M. in his WWII uniform stand with Daniel B. McCarthy

The brothers were also instrumental in the construction of the first Catholic church in Okeechobee that same year. The mission chapel of Sacred Heart was built on three lots donated by the Okeechobee Realty Company. That building was located on the property where Our Saviour Episcopal Church is, on Northwest Third Street.

Daniel then began to build homes in the Dew Berry Gardens and the David subdivisions. It is said that during the 1920s Daniel built over 40 houses in the area with the pine lumber off the sections of land that his father had purchased. He also ran a central water system out of clay into that same area and it was later serviced by the City of Okeechobee.

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In 1989, the McCarthy family celebrates Glades Gas’ 60th anniversary.

The real estate market came to a complete standstill following the hurricane in 1928 and later the stock market crash in 1929. Daniel Benedict McCarthy was one of the millions of victims of the crash. People had not money to rent the homes, let alone buy them and he found himself financially strapped.

Later that year he started a side business. He brought in propane gas refrigerators by train from Tampa, and for the first time, every resident in Okeechobee was offered refrigeration in their homes.

When Daniel founded Glades Gas Company in 1929, he offered the Okeechobee housewife a luxury which had not been available to her previously. She was now able to have a refrigerator powered by propane in her home.

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Doug Cassells is pictured in 1984.

When Dan began the propane gas business in 1929, the gas came by rail from the Southeastern Natural Gas Company and was only available in 60# tanks (14 gallons) and the cost was $1.40. This lasted the house wives about three months.

By 1941, the first year that 100# tanks (23 gallon) were available, Dan was refilling the tanks in Stuart. His family recalls they would load his truck with as many tanks as it would hold and even strapped some to the hood when he made those trips for refills. In the same year, he moved the gas and plumbing business from Park Street to the garage of his home at 111 N.W. 2nd St.

McCarthy’s only son, Daniel M., returned from the service (WW II) and in 1946 married Ruth Ottens from St. Louis. The following year the young couple founded the Clewiston Glades Gas and they moved from Okeechobee to that community and raised their nine children. Also in 1946 the land on North Parrott Avenue was purchased and the business was moved from Dan’s garage to its current location adjacent to the railroad tracks.

In 1948, Dan’s oldest daughter, Kathleen and her husband, Vernon Dexter, came to Florida from Utah and the Belle Glade office of Glades Gas was opened.

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Lee, Cecilia, Dan and Kathleen pose for a picture.

In 1954, Indiantown Gas Company came into the company fold. Timer Powers had worked with the McCarthy family from the time he was a young teen and when the Indiantown office opened, he left as manager of the Okeechobee office and took over the Indiantown operation which his family still operated until 2019 when they sold to Suburban Propane.
In 1957, Glades Gas signed a contract with GE to sell gas and electric appliances and in 1963 signed contracts with Carrier and Amana for HVAC equipment.

Daniel Benedict McCarthy died on Dec. 16, 1963, following a bout with pneumonia. He had been a vibrant part of Okeechobee and its economic development for more than 50 years at the time of his death.

Dan’s youngest daughter, Lee, and her husband, Doug Cassels (John Cassels’ parents), moved from Wisconsin following Dan’s death and Doug managed the Okeechobee office of Glades Gas until his retirement in 1987.

In 1987, at the urging of her father, Monica Clark, one of the granddaughters of Daniel B., relocated her family from Newark, Del., where Monica took over the reins of her grandfather’s company. Monica’s brother Kevin manages the Clewiston operation and a second brother, Dennis, and his wife, Karen, operate the Belle Glade office.

2013 brought in the greatest changes to Glades Gas in Okeechobee and Clewiston when Florida Public Utilities acquired the franchise to bring natural gas into the communities. The two companies could not survive without their commercial customers and sold their propane companies to FPU. Just like Daniel B., their grandfather, Monica and Kevin did what was necessary to expand the air conditioning business to include refrigeration and change the name to Glades Air Conditioning.

Originally written by Twila Valentine, June 1989; updated with the help of Monica Clark in 2019.

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