The plantation is a city in Broward County, Florida, United States. As of the 2010 United States Census, the population was 84,955. It is a principal city of the Miami metropolitan area. The city’s name comes from the previous part-owner of the land, the Everglades Plantation Company, and their attempts to establish a rice plantation in the area.
Land acquisition and drainage (1855–1930)
Before the start of the twentieth century, the area that became Plantation was part of the Everglades wetlands, regularly covered by 2–3 feet of water. In 1855, Florida state passed the Internal Improvement Act and established the Internal Improvement Trust Fund, the trustees of which act as a government agency to oversee management, sale, and development of state land. In 1897, the Interior Department submitted 2.9 million acres to the Florida Land Office; however, the submission was revoked the following year, due to fears it would “impinge upon the rights and interests of the Seminole Tribes.” The Seminole people regularly used the area for hunting, fishing, and camping, and also used the nearby Pine Island Ridge as a headquarters during the second and third Seminole Wars.
In 1899, Florida Governor William Sherman Jennings began an initiative to drain the Everglades. To establish Florida’s entitlement to the land, Jennings obtained a new patent (known as the ‘Everglades Patent’) for land “aggregating 2,862,280 acres.” Following his election in 1905, Jennings’ successor, Napoleon Bonaparte Broward appointed Jennings as general counsel of the Internal Improvement Fund and continued the initiative for complete drainage of the Everglades (which was a core theme of his election campaign). Broward described the drainage as a duty of the trustees, and promised to create an “Empire of the Everglades”.
The first attempts to drain the Everglades began in 1906, with the building and launching of two dredges into the New River: The Okeechobee (commanded by Captain Walter S. Holloway of the US Army Corps of Engineers) began cutting from the river’s south fork (establishing the South New River Canal), and The Everglades began cutting from the north fork up to Lake Okeechobee (establishing the North New River Canal). The first waterway opened after the drainage attempts were named The Holloway Canal, after Captain Holloway.
Following a meeting at the 1908 Democratic National Convention, Broward and Jennings established a deal with Richard ‘Dicky’ J. Bolles: The fund trustees granted Bolles 500,000 acres (2,000 km2) of overflowed state lands at $2 per acre, with an agreement for the State to use 50% of the $1 million proceeds purely for drainage and reclamation, and another agreement to establish 5 main canals. Following this, Bolles founded the Florida Fruit Lands Company, becoming the Everglades’ first private developer.
The Everglades Plantation Company was established in January 1909, following entry into a 2-year contract with the Internal Improvement Fund trustees by Adam A. Boggs (attorney and Vice President of the Miami Bank and Trust Company) and A.B. Sanders (engineer and later president of the Miami Engineering and Construction Company) to create a rice plantation in the Everglades. The agreement enabled Boggs & Sanders to rent a significant amount of land around the (then work-in-progress) North New River Canal, and also subsequently purchase the land for between $3 and $15 per acre.
It was later discovered that the area leased to Boggs & Sanders already belonged to Dicky Bolles, as part of the 500,000 acres he had purchased; however, the Everglades Plantation Company was able to retain the land, despite Bolles’ claims. Sanders led further reclamation efforts for the area, including the digging of 60 miles of ditches. Boggs & Sanders were also granted extensions to their 2-year contract, on the grounds that the land remained under water.
In 1911, Bolles held a land lottery (known as the ‘Progresso Land Auction’) at $20–24 per acre, granting residential lots in the ‘Town of Progresso’ (now the area known as Wilton Manors) to anyone purchasing farmland of five acres or more in the drainage land; however, no auction actually took place and the purchased land remained under water. As a result, a lawsuit was brought against Bolles.
In 1912, the North New River Canal opened, and the Sewell Lock (also known as Lock No.1), the first lock in Florida, and one of the oldest remaining structures in Broward County, was built on it, just outside of what is now Plantation. The new lock enabled access between the Everglades and Lake Okeechobee by water.
The lawsuit against Bolles was settled in November 1913, with Bolles retaining the $1.4 million already received, but prohibiting any further collection until the land was drained and surveyed. Bolles was also arrested in December of that year but was subsequently found innocent.
Drainage of the land largely failed, with most of it reverting to the state for taxes; however, two local farmers, O. L Daniel and Dewey Hawkins began buying it, acquiring approximately 6,000 acres and 4,000 acres respectively.
In the years following their original agreement, contract negotiation escalated into legal battles between the Everglades Plantation Company and the Internal Improvement Trustees. These disputes ended in 1914, in the company’s favor. The Trustees no longer insisted on the continuation of the rice plantation attempts and, from this point, the company focused primarily on land sales.
Broward County (originally planned under the name ‘Everglades County’ but ultimately named after former governor Broward), was created by the Florida legislature in 1915, by combining portions of Dade County and Palm Beach County.
Driven by the success of the drainage projects, the Florida Land Boom took place between 1920 and 1925, seeing rapid growth in population and land sales. The boom reached its peak in the fall of 1925 and subsequently collapsed in 1926.
The land boom was closely followed by two severe hurricanes striking the area, significantly impacting the established communities and killing thousands. The first, in September 1926 (known as the 1926 Miami hurricane), reached wind speeds of 140 MPH, and the second, in September 1928 (known as the 1928 Okeechobee hurricane), reached wind speeds of 135 MPH. In response, additional flood control laws were established, and millions of additional dollars were spent on drainage efforts across the Everglades in the subsequent decades.
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