Broward History: William Osment
By Priscilla Polo
William Osment was born in Cuba in 1904 and he came to South Florida when he was 15- years-old. Back then, Hollywood had started to be built, and by 1923 Osment was already a part of that effort. First he worked for the Hollywood Company, followed by the Florida Power and Light Company. Later, Osment participated by building roads, repairing equipment, and driving buses, among other things. Back then, there was no beach in Hollywood, but Osment saw the palmettos and trees being pulled out, the leveling out of the terrain for fine, white sand. He al-so witnessed how the 1926 hurricane destroyed it. He saw Hollywood when it was nothing more than swamps, and helped transform it into what it is to-day.
One of the many reasons William Osment is an important character in Hollywood history was his love and passion for collecting snails and orchids. How did his collection of 100,000 snails and his nationally recognized status as an orchid hybridizer relate to each other? In an oral history interview with Don Cuddy in 1976, Osment himself tells his story. His hobby had always been snail collecting, and he frequented Cuba in search of more snails for his ever growing collection. In one of those trips, his daughter found some orchids that smelled like chocolate, and he decided to bring some back to Florida for her. He started an orchid house and began collecting orchids with his daughter and wife, gathering orchids from the Everglades, trading some with others, going on Safaris to South and Central America, and hybridizing them. He managed to save several specimens that were endangered, some he even managed to return to nature like the Oncidium variegatum that was annihilated by glades fires and has been replanted in Palm Beach County. His great effort was rewarded when one of the snails he found was named after him: Lignus fasciatus Osmenti. Dr. Carl Winter at Brooklyn College also named an equitant oncidium (an orchid native to Hispaniola), Oncidium osmentii, after him.
Traveling was always something he loved: to Central and South America in search of snails and orchids, to Vermont during the second World War, to Cuba every few months until Castro took over, to Haiti for three years while working for the Pan American Engineering Company and many other places. Despite having been born in Cuba, Osment always considered Hollywood his home and always came back to it. “I’ll be [in Hollywood] ‘til I die.” He said, during an interview in 1988, when he was to be honored in the Pioneer Days Ceremony. “I raised my family here. I don’t want to live any place else.” His legacy lives on, as his grandson and great-grandson continue to live in Florida and have created a family tradition of lobster fishing. His story demonstrates one of the Hispanic contributions to Broward County’s history.
HISTORY ACROSS BROWARD NEEDS YOUR HELP.
If you have information about a family member or friend buried at Woodlawn Cemetery or stories about Broward County’s past and would like to help please contact the students at email@example.com or call the club advisor Mr. Roberto Fernandez at (754) 322-0200.