HISTORY OF BROWARD COUNTY
by Frances H. Miner
The Everglades, stretching inland from the sea; vast, mysterious,
impenetrable, hammock and glade matted with tough trailing vines and
tropical undergrowth; swamp and forest; mangroves on their slow,
implacable march to the ocean; the home of wild turkey, of families
of chattering parakeets; panther, bear, the predatory wolf; the
This was Broward county in embryo. It was a country that long
blocked the efforts of exploration; the coming of the white man was
delayed. The regions around St. Augustine to the north and Biscayne
Bay to the south apparently were more hospitable; their welcome
warmer. The middle country offered greater resistance to the hardy
adventurers who passed along the coast.
There was however, a definite culture long before the white man
came. Shell mounds found in the vicinity of New River indicate that
some eight or ten thousand years ago this region was inhabited by a
primitive race of people who lived upon shell fish procured from the
waters of the nearby bay, and upon the flesh of small animals that
were killed with crudely fashioned weapons. Archeologists say that
these mounds, some of which were eight feet high and thirty feet
across, are as old as the Neolithic age, and were probably built by
people earlier than the American Indians, probably of Aztec origin.
The Seminoles, the runaway tribe of the Creek nation
of Georgia, migrated to Florida in 1750 and in 1809. But it was the
Calusa and the Ais tribes that Governor Pedro Mendez de Aviles found
when he set out from St. Augustine in his vessels, in 1565, with
carpenters, soldiers and priests, for a voyage of exploration down
the east coast of Florida. These Indians seem to have disintegrated
as a nation and vanished before the coming of the Seminoles. The
aboriginal inhabitants of Florida, declares Nevin Winter in his Florida,
The Land of Enchantment, were the Missosukee and Timuqua Indians
of Mayan stock. Alex Hrdlicka states that of the native Indians not
one living trace remains. Other authorities say that certain Indians
in Florida at the present time speak a Miccosukee dialect.
During the exploration of the early Spanish adventurers in
Florida, it is quite possible that what is now Broward county was
visited by them on some of the overland marches or on some of the
sea voyages. Certainly Gomez in 1525 and Ponce de Leon in 1513
passed along this coast, but definite records are lacking.
Jonathan Dickinson, who with his party was shipwrecked on the
lower Florida coast in 1699, was, after a variety of adventures,
finally passed along the coast from one tribe to another to safety
in Virginia. Escalanta de Fontenada, the first white man to traverse
south Florida, was the sole survivor of a Spanish Galleon wrecked on
the Florida Keys about 1545. He was held in virtual slavery by the
Indians for 17 years until his rescue, although he was permitted to
roam at will throughout the territory controlled by the Calusa
Federation. Whether these early Florida visitors found their way to
or through what is now Broward County is a matter of conjecture.
The early maps of this region show no settlements between
Canaveral and San Jose (New Smyrna) south to Tegesta (Miami) except
for the mission at Santa Lucia, which was north of what is now Palm
Beach. Hollingsworth in his History of Dade County shows a
map giving the routes of early Spanish explorers and location of
Spanish Missions and Spanish settlements, according to La
Dueda de Los Estados de America del Norte para con España per
la Exploracion, la Colonizacion y la Cultura Española de 1492
Father Michael Kenny in his Romance of the Floridas in a
map showing the location of early Jesuit Missions in Florida,
indicates the location of Tegesta Mission (Miami) in 1567 and San
Ignacio (Coconut Grove) in 1743. Neither of these maps shows
settlement between Tegesta (sic) and Santa Lucia.
The history of Broward County centers particularly around the city
of Fort Lauderdale, which was a military fort and trading post 100
years ago. Broward was Dade County then. It was not until 1915 that
the new county was carved out from the lower half of Palm Beach
County and the upper half of Dade County. This operation gave
Broward 990,227 acres of which 33,632 acres are farm lands. There
are approximately 17,444 acres under actual cultivation.
It was in 1909 that Governor Broward, for whom the county is
named, started the first work of Everglades drainage. New River was
selected as natural channel to connect two of the largest drainage
canals from Lake Okeechobee with the Atlantic Coast at Fort
Lauderdale. This point is now the center of a great drainage
district of more than 500,000 acres. The drainage of the Everglades
has brought large acres to productiveness.
The intracoastal canal which is a navigable waterway that links
New York to Miami is considered a safe inside route for vessels with
a 7-foot draft from Jacksonville south through Broward County. It is
ten feet deep and plainly marked all the way.
Port Everglades, Floridas deepest harbor, is developing
rapidly and is already recognized as one of Floridas major
harbors. Since 1926 over four million dollars has been spent on this
harbor. The channel, 35 feet deep, gives Broward County the deepest
harbor on the Atlantic Coast south of Norfolk, Virginia. The tonnage
has increased every year. The Port is used extensively by the United
States Navy and Coast Guard vessels and major commercial steamship
lines, both American and foreign. A regular weekly coastwise service
is operated by the Baltimore and Caroline Line, Inc. The Standard
Oil Company of Kentucky and Belcher Oil Company have storage plants
at Port Everglades.
There are seven incorporated towns in Broward County. All of these
have electric service and most of them waterworks and sewage. The
largest of these is Fort Lauderdale.
Fort Lauderdale, the county seat and the largest city in
Broward County was in 1896 a sleepy town, struggling along the banks
of the New River. Before 1800 the only resident was the red man.
Concerning the New River itself, which flows through the center of
the town, there is an old Indian legend. Sara Matthews Crim of Fort
Lauderdale gives an interesting account of it:
In the long, long ago, there was a mysterious river that
danced its way down to the big water. Where the river now traces its
course there was once a wild tropical jungle and dense pine forests,
filled with frightful beasts of the wilderness.
Tribes of Seminoles* (*Editors note: Probably
misnamed. The Seminoles came at a much more recent date). then
living in peaceful solitude in palm-thatched huts, who had gone to
rest after a days hunt in the dark jungles, were rudely awakened one
night by thundering noises, and the ground beneath them trembling
like the leaves of the graceful palm when the angry winds from the
southeast blew in upon them.
Even the most courageous of the tribes feared to venture
forth until the Great Spirit again smiled upon them, and the
southern skies were bathed in the sparkling sunlight of a new day.
Next morning a mighty, magnificent river flowed
serenely through the forests before their small huts. The
Seminoles,* awed into reverential silence by the miracle, bowed
their heads in prayer to the Great Spirit, and called the river
Himmarshee which the white man has since changed to New River.
Geologists who have studies the peculiar formation of the rocks of
the coral ridge, and those who have investigated the old legends as
well as the later history of New River, believe the story is
probably true in every particular. The rock ridges show that there
was once an underground river through the coral ridge, the
subterranean outlet for the waters of the Everglades, and at the
time of some ancient earthquake, the surface rock collapsed and the
river came into being.
It is probably that the first white inhabitation of the county was
at Fort Lauderdale. Hollingsworth makes mention of one Gregor
McGregor who entered what is now Fort Lauderdale in 1808 during the
Cartagenian Rebellion, seeking fresh water, and who found settlers
there. A later date for the first white settlement is indicated by a
monument recently erected in the park at Tarpon Bend in New River by
the City of Fort Lauderdale and the Daughters of the American
Revolution, which bears this inscription: This marks the spot
of the historical Colee massacre which effectually destroyed the
earliest known white settlement on New River in a surprise attack by
Indians following Seminole Indian War, - 1842.
The Colee family, braving the dangers of the wilderness, settled
in Colee Hammock, now a residential section of Fort Lauderdale
sometime after 1836. The Seminoles resented the fact they were
deprived of some of their fertile fields, and though they moved
farther back in the Everglades, they planned to murder the white
people who had robbed them of their territory. They chose a night
when the older Colee and his son had gone down to Key West for
supplies leaving Mrs. Colee and other members of the family
unprotected at Colee Hammock. Although the family were warned of the
impending attach by a member of the tribe with whom they were on
friendly terms, the warning come too late. The band gathered in the
woods surrounding the settlement, and murdered every person in it.
The Indian who gave the warning and who lost his ears in
consequence, died in 1922 at the age of 100.
It was in 1837, during the Seminole war, that Major Maitland
brought a garrison south from Fort Pierce to fortify new River, and
to prevent the landing of supplies for the Indians from the Bahamas
and the West Indies. A two-story log building was constructed
opposite the mouth of New River, and was surrounded by a stockade of
palmetto logs set in the ground. This was the scene of the Battle of
Fort Lauderdale, which began on the night of August 27th, 1837, when
a party of Seminole warriors collected at Colahatchee floated
silently in their war canoes down the stream into Middle River and
made their way to the Sound to within a short distance from the
fort. Leaving their canoes, they crept stealthily toward the
stockade, their intent being to kill the solitary sentry and
massacre the garrison. One Indian, missing his footing, was heard by
the sentry, who immediately fired, awakening the sleeping soldiers.
The Indians were quickly routed with no casualties to the defenders.
For three days the red man made repeated attacks on the garrison,
but were successfully repulsed.
This was the last battle of the Seminole war. Peace overtures were
begun then which have never been violated.
It is said that Major Maitland named the tiny settlement Fort
Lauderdale to perpetuate the memory of his ancestral home in
Scotland. In an effort to verify this belief, the War Department at
Washington replied to an inquiry thus:
Nothing has been found of record to show for whom it is
named. However, it is thought possible that is was named for William
Lauderdale, captain of Maitlands company of spies in the
second Tennessee of Mounted Militia, who commanded that company from
June 14, 1836 to January 19, 1837 and who was subsequently, from
October 26, 1837 to May 10, 1838, major of Maitlands Battalion
of Tennessee Infantry in the Cherokee War. Captain Lauderdale was
enrolled June 11, 1836, at Hartville, Tenn.
A letter received in February 1920 by Mrs. F.F. Brown in
Fort Lauderdale from Viscountess Maitland, sealed under the Maitland
Coat of Arms, Thirlestone Castle-Lauder-N.C. Scotland, reads: ?Fort
Lauderdale was named by an ancestor of my husband after his death
Earl of Lauderdale. Colonel Maitland built a fort there and did much
for that part of America, also naming another town in Florida Maitland
after the family name. Our home Thirlestone Castle was called Fort
Lauderdale until 1590. (Signed) Gwendoline
Maitland, (Viscountess Maitland).
When military operations ceased, the locality lapsed into a
settlement of 25 whites and 100 Indians and the little outpost
slumbered along until the advent of Henry Flaglers East Coast
Railroad in 1896.
The first white settler after the Colee massacre is still
remembered by the older inhabitants. He died only a few years ago.
This was Captain Dennis ONeill, a courageous soul, who braved
the hazards of tropical jungle when he was sent by the government to
take charge of the House of Refuge at Las Olas Beach in 1888. For
several years he was the only white man in the vicinity, his
neighbors the Seminoles, his only communication with the outside
world the mail man who carried the mail from Palm Beach to Miami. In
O?Neills memoirs we read: Once a week the mailman would
drop in on his way to Miami. Occasionally there would be people with
him. Once I remember Rube Burroughs, noted train robber of those
days, passed my house on his way to New Orleans. Later I found out
who he was and that he had been shot by officers in New Orleans.
Frank Stranahan, who died in 1929, was Fort Lauderdales
first permanent white settler. In 1893 he came to New River and
pitched a tent at Colee Hammock. Later he built a small store and
one-room huts with wood floors and canvas tops for the few
transients passing through, on the site of the present Stranahan
home on the bank of New River where Mrs. Stranahan is still living.
Broward County was a wilderness even as late as 1893. Panthers and
wolves prowled near the site of Las Olas Inn on the beach, deer and
wild turkey were plentiful, and trapping was an Indian industry. For
years Mr. Stranahan had the only store between Lemon City and Palm
Beach, and his trade was mostly with the Indians, - alligator and
otter skins for groceries. When the Indians brought in the skins,
they came with their families, pigs, chickens, dogs and camped for a
week or more on the Stranahan grounds. The friendly relations
established with the Indians by Mr. Stranahan persisted until his
Mr. Stranahan was also the Postmaster, the local banker and
ferryman. He had a bell nailed on a post across the river and when
some one wanted to cross, the bell was tapped, and the sound brought
Mr. Stranahan with a row boat. If there was a wagon to be ferried
over, a barge was pulled by cable.
When the first school was build in 1899, its life was short as Mr.
Stranahan promptly married the teacher, Miss Ivy J. Cromartie. Miss
Cromartie lived in the home of Mr. and Mrs. E.R. King, some distance
away and wooing was not an easy task. To get to the King house, one
must go by boat down New River and up through Kings Creek, now
Tarpon River, and then walk through the dense hammock for half a
mile. The wedding took place in Lemon City in 1900. The first couple
to be married in Fort Lauderdale was Miss Eva Bryan and Frank
Oliver, who married in 1902 and who are still among Fort Lauderdales
In the early days Fort Lauderdale and Miami were connected by a
sand trail. Some of the journeys to and from Miami were made by
water, but boats were not numerous and no fixed schedule was
maintained. A covered wagon, called a stage coach, made the 25-mile
trip at semi-regular intervals in a day and a night. A tramp barber
walked from Jupiter to Fulford, and a traveling blacksmith made a
fairly regular call.
It was in February 1896 that Henry R. Flagler brought his first
train into Fort Lauderdale, and that occasion was marked by a big
reception by the small groups of residents. A few passengers
alighted from the train to transact business in Fort Lauderdale and
were later transported to Miami by Stage. In April of that year Fort
Lauderdale and Miami joined forces in a celebration when the railway
was completed to Miami.
The first so-called rock road, to replace the sand trail, was
built in 1903. Mr. Stranahan was paymaster of the highway, and made
weekly trips to Miami on a bicycle during the building of the road
in order to arrange for paying the workmen. The first rock road
followed part of the route which is now the Federal Highway.
Fort Lauderdale is justly proud of her coast guard service. An
outgrowth of the early House of Refuge of 1888, it has grown to be
an important asset of the city. The coast guard has played a
laudable part in the protection and saving of lives along the lower
east coast in times of hurricanes and other disasters. Continually
it gives assistance on land and sea. Outstanding among its
achievements was the work done after the 1926 hurricane, the
Okeechobee flood of 1928 and the Sept. 29th hurricane of 1935.
With a payroll of $250,000 a year, the local base houses 150 men
and 15 officers. The plant includes administrative offices,
barracks, kitchen, machine shop, a marine railway, carpenter shop,
battery and electrical shop, armory, hospital, airplane hanger,
radio station, recreation hall, canteen, and store room. The patrol
boat of the coast guard is in daily service.
Fort Lauderdale has been called the Venice of the Tropics. One
hundred miles of connecting waterways extend in every section of the
city. By boat one may travel from Fort Lauderdale to practically any
part of the state. It is a fishermans paradise. The best
fishing ponds are within a half hour trip from the business section.
The Atlantic Beaches front the whole county on the east.
The city was incorporated and given a charter in 1911. In 191- its
population was 143. Today it is a modern, incorporated city managed
municipally. The Fort Lauderdale Free Press of June 12, 1936, says:
Fort Lauderdale is one of the fastest growing towns in the
United States. From 8,000 population in 1928 to 15,000 in 1936...
It is estimated that the winter visitors double this number.
The rapid growth of the city is best illustrated by the following
table, compiled by Florence G. Hardy. The peak reached by the boom
years of 1924-26 offers an interesting comparison:
BUILDING COMPARISON BY YEARS
|Aug. 2, 1921
||Aug. 31, 1922
|Sept. 1, 1922
||Aug. 31, 1923
|Sept. 1, 1923
||Aug. 31, 1924
|Sept. 1, 1924
||Aug. 31, 1925
|Sept. 1, 1925
||Aug. 31, 1926
|Aug. 27, 1926
||Aug. 29, 1927
|Aug. 29, 1927
||Aug. 31, 1928
|Sept. 1, 1928
||Aug. 31, 1929
|Sept. 1, 1929
||Aug. 31, 1930
|Sept. 1, 1930
||Aug. 31, 1931
|Sept. 1, 1931
||Aug. 31, 1932
|Sept. 1, 1932
||Aug. 31, 1933
|Sept. 1, 1933
||Aug. 31, 1934
|Sept. 1, 1934
||Aug. 31, 1935
|Sept. 1, 1935
||Aug. 31, 1936
Dania, five miles south of Fort Lauderdale on Dixie Highway, is
the center of the Broward County tomato district. It was founded by
the Florida East Coast Railroad, which called it Modello, a name
intended to convey Model Land Company which was the real estate arm
of the Flagler interests. However, among the early colonists was
A.C. Frost, a Dane who introduced the Danish brotherhood, a wide
spread Wisconsin organization and the place came to be known as
Dania. It was incorporated into its present mayor and council form
of government in 1927. Summer population, 2,016; winter 3,500.
Pompano, midway between Palm Beach and Miami thirty-five miles
either way, is on the Dixie Highway and was originally laid out and
developed by the Model Land Company, the real estate division of the
Flagler interests. It was surveyed by an engineer named Franklin
Sheehan. When he returned to West Palm Beach and was wondering while
eating dinner what to name the new town plat, he bethought himself
of the toothsome fish Pompano on his plate and that this fish was
very plentiful at Hillsborough Inlet, near the new townsite. Hence
the name of Pompano was put on his maps. The town was incorporated
in 1913 with a mayor and council. It is the Post office for the
Hillsborough Lighthouse. One of its boasts is that its water supply
need not be treated. Summer population 3,200; winter population
Deerfield, the northernmost town in Broward County, is 28 miles
south of Palm Beach and 40 miles north of Miami on the intersection
of State Road 149 and the Federal highway. It was originally a tank
station on the Florida East Coast Railway, which formed a nucleus of
the early settlement, later expanding into an agricultural center.
First it was called Hillsborough after the inlet nearby but because
of the confusion with the same name on the west coast of the state,
the name was changed to Deerfield. Deer were plentiful in the early
days, especially in one field. Summer population 1,480; winter
Oakland Park, 30 miles north of Miami on the Dixie Highway, was
originally developed as a subdivision, later included in the
Floronado development, and when that collapsed became Oakland Park
again. Prior to its real estate promotion days it was a settlement
In 1927 it was incorporated with a mayor and council from of
government. Summer population 600; winter population 1,000.
Hollywood, 17 miles north of Miami on Florida No. 4 Highway
with the ocean for eastern boundary, was founded as a subdivision in
1921 by the California promoter, Joseph W. Young, who implied his
geographical affiliations by the adoption of the movie colony name.
It was practically wiped out in the 1926 hurricane and then more
substantially rebuilt. It is governed by a mayor and city council.
Its back country is agricultural with diversified truck, tomato and
potato crops and dairies, but no factories; salt water and game
fishing; 1 1/2 miles of city owned beach.
The Hollywood Beach Hotel and casino, the Hollywood Country Club,
featuring a glass floor and a movable ceiling; the Broward Kennel
Club track and the Riverside Military Academy are to be found in
Hollywood. Summer population, 3,350; probably 7,000 in winter.
Hallandale, 15 miles north of Miami on the old Dixie Highway,
is a tomato growing center and has eight packing houses and two
canneries. Its name apparently is corruption of Hollandale, a
preponderance of Hollanders.
It was incorporated into a mayor form of government in 1928.
Summer population is 1,000; winter population 1,500. m
Scrapbook of newspaper clippings compiled by Mrs. Frank Oliver.
Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Scrapbook of newspaper clippings compiled by Mrs. Sara Crim, Fort
Interview with Mrs. Frank Stranahan, Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Newspaper clippings and typewritter records compiled by Mrs.
Florence C. Hardy, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Kims Guide to Florida, by Ethel Byrum Kimball,
1934-35 edition. The Record Company, St. Augustine, Florida.
Greenes Pocket Guide to Greater Miami, compiled,
written, and published by Clarissa Greene, Miami, Fla.
Florida. The March of Progress. Bureau of Immigration,
compilation, published by H.& W.B. Drew Company. (Jacksonville)
Florida, Empire of the Sun, by Carita Doggett Corse &
Berthal E. Clarke. Published by Florida Hotel Commission, 1930.
South Florida (Booklet) issued by Department of
Federal Writers' Project American Guide Series
Frances H. Miner
Complete 5,000 Words
July 15, 1936
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