Florida’s Railroad Barons, Part 1

William D. Chipley and Henry B. Plant Businessmen commonly referred to as “railroad barons” solved Florida’s post-Civil War transportation problems and helped get the economy rolling by building more than 3,000 miles of railroad from 1874-1900. “Their domain contained more than just railroad track – they built hotels, roads and villages,” the Florida History Internet…

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Record Land Purchase Opens Way for Florida Railroad Barons

Many Floridians were cut off from the rest of the country following the Civil War. “Florida had few roads and needed to build more railroads,” states “Growth of Florida Railroads,” a website of the University of South Florida’s Florida Center for Instructional Technology (FCIT). “Unfortunately, the state was in debt from the Civil War and…

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New Smyrna Beach: Greek Name, but Settled by Minorcans

New Smyrna Beach on Florida’s northeast coast today draws tourists and water sports enthusiasts to the Atlantic Ocean south of the more populous and hectic Daytona Beach area. The paradoxically named city got its start as a British agricultural colony approximately two-and-a-half centuries ago. Soon after taking control of Florida from Spain in 1863, the…

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The Appalachians in Florida?

Much of the sand in the Sunshine State’s major geographic regions originated elsewhere. The Appalachian Mountains extend from Alabama to New York; no part of the range is in Florida. But much of the Appalachian’s sediment is in the Sunshine State, according to the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF-IFAS) website,…

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When Florida was a Giant State (Theoretically)

At 65,757 square miles, Florida ranks 22nd in size among the 50 United States and second among states east of the Mississippi River (behind Michigan). However, Florida was two to three times larger than it is today at some point during the past million years. If there had been a United States back then, only…

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‘Binder Boys’ in the 1920s Florida Land Boom

Many unique things happened during the great Florida land boom of the early 1920s. Among them was the use of so-called “binder boys” (actually young men and women) to start real estate transactions. “During this boom, most people who bought and sold land in Florida had never even set foot in the state,” reports a…

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Florida Plays ‘Continental Musical Chairs’

Florida is a virtual youngster when compared to the whole Earth, which is generally considered to be at least 4.5 billion years old. The Florida plateau, upon which Florida is perched, was formed about 530 million years ago, according to a University of Florida-Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF-IFAS) website, Florida’s Geological History. Florida…

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Florida’s 500-year (Almost) Cattle History

Historians generally agree that Florida – and United States – cattle ranching got its start with Ponce de Leon in 1521. The Spanish explorer and conquistador brought horses and seven Andalusian cattle to Florida that year, according to a University of South Florida website, Florida Center for Instructional Technology (FCIT). Some scholars believe those first…

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Crackers and the Open Range – Part of Florida’s Cattle History

CRACKERS Most Floridians who’ve been around a while have heard people refer to “crackers,” a term that most agree described Florida’s early cattlemen. “Florida’s old-time cowboys had a unique way of herding cattle,” reports the University of South Florida website, Florida Center for Instructional Technology (FCIT). “They used 10- to 12-foot-long whips made of braided…

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