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"Knows't thou the land where the lemon tree blows—
Miami, FloridaOfficial Directory of the City of Miami and Nearby Towns
Where deep in the bower the gold orange grows?
Where zephyrs from heaven die softly away,
And the laurel and myrtle tree never decay?
Knows't thou it?"
Mignon sang thus so sweetly of Italy; 'tis of Florida, the Italy of America, that we sound its praises today, a land where the finger prints of God linger on every flower, and flame in glorious colors on the plumage of the birds; a land where the air is redolent with the perfume of roses and orange blossoms; a land where every living creature rejoices in an existence free from the cankering ills that flesh is heir to.
It has been well said that the East Coast of Florida is paradise regained, and it may truly be said that Miami is the garden spot of this earthly paradise. Beautifully situated upon the eastern shore of Biscayne Bay, whose deep blue waters dance gaily beneath the almost perpetual sunshine, and invite the home seeker to make his abode here, and the tourist and invalid to come and bask beneath its blue skies, and rest from the weary round of unvarying toil or physical suffering for
"The little health seeker findeth there
The wine of life in its pleasant air."'
"Here the health roses, wooed by invigorating breezes and warmed by constant sunshine, come back to checks that long have been pallid and wan; and here wealth rewards industry more surely and more liberally than in any other section of this broad land.
Here winter's chilling blasts are never known, but all the year the summer skies smile back at sunlit seas, and flowers bloom their fairest just when the ice-king's grip is firmest on less favored lands. Here Nature smiles serenest, and with generous hand showers her choicest gifts lit rich repayment for slight endeavor. Here is a restful land, where jaded body and brain may find repose; a beauteous land whose dimpling waters, and waving palms, and forests clad in robes of Immortal green, appeal to the lover of the beautiful that has been implanted in every human breast; whose rose-tinted and many gloried sunsets are at once the artist's delight and despair. Here, not only is earth generous and the heavens kind, but the sea lavishly yields up its wealth of living treasure for the delectation of man; and the knight of rod and reel will find no waters on the American continent where his quest for royal sport will meet with such ready and ample gratification.
A recent writer in the Tattler of Florida Society thus refers to the charms of Miami:
It is good to be in Miami once again; good to hear the musical swish of the tall, graceful palms; good to sniff the perfume of the roses; to feel the soft touch of its velvety zephyrs upon the check; so good to go out in boats upon the dancing waters of the beautiful bay and feel ones nerves tingle, as great silvery fish set the reels a-clicking; so good to travel over the well kept greens after the delusive golf ball: oh, so good to drink in with every glance the whole grand panorama, the most glorious picture that Dame Nature has printed in this semi-tropic paradise."
And still another, writing from ice bound Kentucky, says to a friend in Miami :
From a land of "wailing winds and naked woods, and meadows brown and sere," to that fair land which, robed in garb of immortal green, basks ever in the glory of perennial sun-greeting and assurances of our "most distinguished consideration." I know that today the waters of blue Biscayne are dimpling and dancing beneath a kindly and smiling sky. I know that the hibiscus is flaming on the lawn, that the morning glory is spangling the emerald earth with blossoms fair and many hued. But from my window I see only a lowering and leaden sky: a dreary vista of gray-brown fields and ice-bound streams: while all the trees are bare, save that here and there flutters in the cold wind a cluster of brown leaves, clinging to the parent stem, like to the remnant of a great love stronger than death.
For the winter in the north is all unlovely thing—how dreary, how barren, how cheerless, one never knows until he has an opportunity to contrast it with the so-called winter of the Southland.
After reading these interesting word pictures of the Magic City it is not hard to believe, and the reading almost makes one wish to pack his valise, and start at once, and these are only a few of the many words of praise that are heard from all parts of the world, for it is true that almost every part of the civilized globe is represented among the long list of winter visitors here.
Miami as a city is too young to have a history but that she has a glorious future there is no doubt. The past belongs to the site which the city stands today, and to the Miami Metropolis, we are indebted to the following brief description of the early days in the Biscay country:
The first record we have of the permanent presence of the white man in the Biscayne country is in 1808, when John Eagan was granted by the Spanish government "a tract of 100 acres on the north side of the Sweetwater (Miami) River, near Cape Florida." Eagan removed from St. Augustine with his family, and made the first home in this section on the north side of the Miami River, where the Royal Palm Hotel and Tuttle residence now stands. There seems to have been no further movement towards settling the country until 1819, when Florida was ceded to the United States by Spain.
Shortly after this event Congress passed an act providing for the donation of 640 acres or land to any settler who would settle on and improve a tract of land in South Florida, and defend it from the Indians for a reasonable time.
John Eagan, or Egan, of St. Augustine, availed himself of this act, and took up a tract on the Miami River, adjoining the hundred acre tract that had been settled on by his father several years before. Then came Rebecca Eagan, a widow, who took 640 acres on the south of the Miami River, embracing Brickell's point. The 640 acres immediately south of the last mentioned tract was taken up by Polly Lewis, while Jonathan Lewis settled on another claim just south of Polly Lewis, which was known as the Punch Bowl tract, the "Punch Bowl," now an object of interest to tourists, being located on this tract. These four tracts of 640 acres each, adjoined each other, and in the aggregate represented four miles of Bay front, extending from a point one mile north of the Miami River to three miles below the mouth of that stream.
When the pioneers had made proof of their residence upon and cultivation of their respective claims, all of them sold their land to Richard Fitzpatrick, of Key West, in 1827. This Fitzpatrick was a man of wealth and collector of the port of Key West. He brought over a number of slaves and cultivated his lands. It may sound strange to the reader who has driven over the beautiful road from this city to Cocoanut Grove, and noted the dense forest which apparently had its beginning in days primeval, yet from authentic sources we learn that no longer than 65 years ago all the leads of the Brickell Hammock extending from the mouth of the Miami River three miles to the orchard, were cleared and planted in cotton and sugar. It is also stated that the many little trees now growing in this hammock are the same planted by Fitzpatrick, who got large numbers of them, with other tropical trees.
It was the design of Colonel Fitzpatrick to build a fine colonial mansion of the native stone, and he had just prepared for this task by importing several slaves who were skilled masons, when the Seminole war broke out in 1835, and Fitzpatrick gathered together his slaves and portable property and fled to Key West. After his removal his plantation was occupied by the United States troops, and buildings were erected for their accommodation, the place being called Fort Dallas, in honor of Commodore Dallas, who was in command of the fleet stationed in the Gulf at that time. The trees planted by Fitzpatrick were cut down by the soldiers in order to secure an unobstructed view of the country, and it was many years ago that the United States Court of Claims awarded the Fitzpatrick heirs $12,000 as damages for injury done this property during its occupation by the Federal troops.
At the close of the Seminole war in 1842, Colonel Fitzpatrick disposed of his property on Biscayne Bay to his sister Harriet English and his nephew Wm. F. English. The latter moved to Miami, with a number of slaves, and began the task of reclaiming the badly wrecked property. He purchased a quantity of building material which was brought from Charleston S. C., to Miami by sailing vessel, and erected a comfortable stone house and quarters. This house is now occupied by Mr. H. E. Tuttle, as a residence, and the slave quarters were in the long narrow buildings just south of the residence. These buildings were occupied by the United States troops during the second Seminole war and until 1858, and the place has always been known as Fort Dallas.
English went to California during the gold excitement in 1851, and the property passed into the possession of Dr. J. V. Harris, and so remained until January, 1874, when he removed to Key West. A few years later the Bay Biscayne Company became the owners of the lands with a resident manager in the person of Rev. W. W. Hicks, known to history as the spiritual adviser of Galleon, the assassin of President Garfield. After a year's service Rev. Hicks resigned and was succeeded by a Mr. Lovelace. In 1877 the property was turned over by Mr. Lovelace to the Hon. J.W. Ewan, "the Duke of Dade," as he was popularly known, now a prominent citizen of Cocoanut Grove.
The property remained in charge of Mr. Ewan on behalf of the Biscayne Bay Company until 1890, and as a representative of its subsequent owner, Julia D. Tuttle, until that lady came from her former home at Cleveland, Ohio, to take possession in person on November 13th, 1891.
Up to this time very little had been accomplished toward attracting set to this region. A few families were scattered through the woodlands west of Miami, who eked on precarious livelihood by wrecking and the manufacture of coontie starch. In 1871 William B. Bickell settled on the south side of the Miami River, where he and his family yet reside. He established a store, carrying a general line of merchandise, but his trade was principally with the Indians.
Under a Palm Tree
Meantime, up the East Coast, the puffing of the iron horse was heard, farther and farther towards the south. The Jacksonville, St. Augustine and Indian River Railroad was extending to Rockledge in 1892, and then crept on southward until it reached Lake Worth, only 66 miles north of the unborn City of Miami. Mrs. Tuttle, whose faith in the future of this country was great had ever since she established her residence here, been ambitious to secure a railroad to this section, knowing that once the problem of transportation was solved, population could not fail to be attracted to a climate which presented so many natural advantages. She was untiring in her efforts to this end, and her logical and eloquent presentation of the advantages of this section, coupled with Hitters' donations of land, interested the great developer of the East Coast, Henry M. Flagler, and early in 1895 it was officially announced that the railroad would be extended from Palm Beach to Miami.
Mrs. Tuttle was ably seconded in her efforts to secure the extension of the railroad by Mr. J. E. Ingraham, who having crossed the Everglades in 1892, was much impressed with the possibilities of this country. Returning to just after the disastrous freeze, which brought ruin to so many Florida fruit growers, he found here trees with golden fruit and luxuriant tropical growth untouched by life breath of frost. The result of his discovery was communicated to Mr. Flagler, accompanied by branches cut from the orange, lemon and lime trees, and this practical demonstration that there was one section in Florida which was immune from the ravages of killing frosts, went far towards inducing Florida's best friend to make such a heavy investment in what many considered a doubtful enterprise, and which depended for any return solely upon the growth and development of the section favored by his liberality.
On the 15th day of April, 1896, Miami was finally joined to the rest of the civilized world by the steel bond which, commencing at Jacksonville, had crept steadily forward and southward, guided by the enterprise and liberality of Henry M. Flagler. Then before the weapons of civilization, wielded by an army of energetic men, the almost impenetrable tropical growths melted away, and in its place the hand of progress set its mark. During the month following the advent of the railroad, the foundations of the magnificent Royal Paint Hotel were laid; the channel into the Miami River was deepened by degrees; the bank opened its doors, the newspaper made its appearance, fifty business establishments spring into existence, everywhere were energy and activity, and the hum of industry resonated throughout the land.
Springing up as if by magic, and appropriately called from the beginning the "Magic City," Miami furnishes perhaps the only instance on record in which a full-fledged city came into existence at one bound without first having been a town. A city that was never a town is a unique product of American hustle. On July 28, 1896, or three months and thirteen days after the first train entered Miami, the place was incorporated as a city under the laws of Florida. Three hundred registered voters are required to entitle any incorporated community to be called a city, less than that number constitutes a town. At the meeting held for the purpose of incorporation 344 votes laws of cast. John B. Reilly was elected Miami's first mayor; John M. Graham, clerk; Y. F. Gray, marshal; William Al. Brown, Daniel Cosgrove, Hon F. S. Morse, Joseph A. McDonald, Dr. Walter S. Graham, Edward L. Brady and Frank T. Budge were chosen aldermen. Thus at one stride did a municipality spring from the wilderness—for six months earlier the population of not have numbered more than twenty-five souls.
Excerpt from "Miami" The Official Directory of the City of Miami and Nearby Towns, 1904.
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