Everglades Timeline

Everglades Drainage in Earnest (1900 - 1919)

everglades timeline


"In 1908 inland drainage operations were begun; by 1928, the agricultural economic pattern of America's winter vegetable kingdom was fashioned in the Everglades. With plentiful crops, beef and dairy products assured, the state was set for the metropolitan and industrial expansion that characterizes south Florida today"

William Roy Shelton,
Land of the Everglades
, 1957.


William Sherman Jennings was elected Governor of Florida on the promise to expand the role of state government help for the poor, to develop more schools, and to drain the Everglades as part of a land reform effort.


Florida passed a bird protection act and Dade County passed a wildlife protection act, prohibiting the killing, capturing or shooting of deer, crocodile, and any wild bird.


Warden Guy Bradley , deputized by Monroe County Sheriff's department, was hired to protect wading bird colonies in south Florida from plume hunters.


Congress authorized the Kissimmee River Navigation Project, creating a channel 3 feet deep by 30 feet wide and extending about 109 miles down the Kissimmee River. The project was completed in 1909.


With pressure from Governor Jennings, the Federal government ceded to Florida the title for more than 20 million acres of public land earmarked in the 1850 Swamp Lands Act, including the Everglades.


Governor Napoleon Bonaparte Broward was elected Governor on the promise to create an "Empire of the Everglades," by wringing the last drop of water out of that "pestilence-ridden swamp."


Chief drainage engineer Charles Elliott at the USDA's new Bureau of Irrigation and Drainage Investigations began assessing the feasibility of draining the Everglades. EngineerJames O. Wright was assigned to write the report.


On January 5, the National Association of Audubon Societies for the Protection of Wild birds and Animals was incorporated in the state of New York.


Florida Legislature passed an act to establish the Board of Drainage Commission, soon replaced by the Everglades Drainage District. This entity had the power to build canals, establish drainage districts, and levy annual taxes on landowners within the district.


Poachers shot and killed Warden Guy Bradley in July.


Henry Flagler decided to extend his Florida East Coast Railway from Biscayne Bay in Miami to Key West.


The growing Conservation Movement gained official support when Roosevelt summoned Congress, the Supreme Court and the nation's governors to a conservation conference. "The natural resources of our country are in danger of exhaustion if we permit the old wasteful methods of exploiting them longer to continue," he admonished. Roosevelt's powerful forestry chief, Gifford Pinchot, wrote "Conservation means the greatest good to the greatest number for the longest time."


Dredging began on the North New River Canal, the first in south Florida's system of drainage canals and in the Caloosahatchee River in southwestern Florida.


Melaleuca was first imported from Australia as an ornamental; it was later planted to help drain the wetlands.


Attorney Frank Stoneman (father of Marjory Stoneman Douglas ) came to Miami and started the first morning newspaper, the News Record . An opponent of Everglades drainage, Stoneman published editorials that infuriated Governor Broward .


A preliminary (and flawed) draft of the USDA's report on the feasibility of draining the Everglades, prepared by James Wright, was released to the Internal Improvement Fund. The "Wright report" claimed that approximately 2 million acres of Everglades land could be reclaimed by digging eight canals from Lake Okeechobee southeast through the Everglades, at a cost of about one dollar per acre. Land sales boomed.


The Everglades Drainage District dynamited rapids on the Miami River.


Disputes over the accuracy of the USDA's Wright Report ensnared Florida's legislature, eventually spurring the USDA to discontinue the report's publication.


U.S. Census recorded 49 people living in Flamingo and Cape Sable, at the southern most tip of the Florida peninsula, and 144 people living in the southwest communities of Everglades township and Chokoloskee Island. Most of these south Florida pioneers were farmers, engaged in growing sugar cane and other crops; many also fished and hunted. Two well known pioneers, Charles "Ted" Smallwood and George Storter, made their living as merchants.


Pro-drainage Florida Senator Duncan Fletcher managed to get the original Wright report, with its erroneous engineering data, published and widely distributed to the general public.


Florida Fruit Lands Company, managed by real estate promoter Richard "Dicky" Bolles, auctioned off tracts of undrained swamp land at Progresso (now Fort Lauderdale). Several thousand people bought land in "Tropical Paradise" as the sales literature called it. After seeing his inundated property, one disillusioned buyer carped, "I have bought land by the acre, I have bought land by the foot but, by God, I have never before bought land by the gallon."


Florida East Coast Canal (later, the Intracoastal Waterway) was completed from Jacksonville in North Florida to Biscayne Bay in Miami.


North New River Canal completed from Lake Okeechobee to the New River.


Florida East Coast Railway reached Key West, crossing 91 miles of road and 38 bridges.


Responding to mounting negative publicity from land scandals, real estate developer Vance W. Helm of the Everglades Land Sales Company commissioned his own investigation of the Everglades drainage problem. Three independent engineers hired by Helm determined that the state's drainage work was doomed to fail because water from Lake Okeechobee flowed into unfinished canals and overflowed surrounding lands.


Mounting criticism of the Wright report led its author to resign as Florida's chief drainage engineer in September. The ensuing crisis curtailed south Florida's land boom.


The Florida Legislature enacted new drainage laws to revive the floundering reclamation effort. Among the new provisions was a law allowing landowners to create subdrainage districts of their own.


After 20,000 purchasers of swamp lands in south Florida demanded their money back, the Federal Government ordered their own survey of the area to determine what additional work would be required to complete drainage of the Everglades. The ensuing report, prepared by the Florida Everglades Engineering Commission, (headed by Isham Randolph), concluded that "the drainage of the Florida Everglades is entirely practicable". The "Randolph report" recommended several innovations to prevent flooding and provide for water control around Lake Okeechobee.


Federal Migratory Bird Law was enacted, protecting all game birds not permanently with the borders of a state. The law also made illegal the importation of wild bird plumes into the United States.


Railroad magnate Henry Flagler died following an accident in his Palm Beach home, Whitehall.


The U.S. government appointed a Special Commissioner to the Seminoles and opened the first Seminole Agency, in Miami. Directed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, a part of the U.S. Department of the Interior, the agency was later moved to Fort Myers in 1917 on the premise that it would be closer to the Seminoles' villages.


The increasing demand for agricultural products during World War I fueled an increase in settlers to the Lake Okeechobee to take up truck farming. Lighter than usual rainfall during the growing season resulted in highly productive yields during these years.


Royal Palm State Park on Paradise Key was created from 960 acres purchased by the Florida Federation of Women's Clubs and an equal amount of acreage donated by Mrs. Henry Flagler . The state of Florida ceded an additional 2080 acres to the Park in 1921.


Florida legislature created the Napoleon B. Broward Drainage District to oversee drainage and reclamation of half million acres in Broward County and northern Dade County. By this time, the Everglades was dissected by four canals running from the southeast end of Lake Okeechobee towards Boca Raton, Ft. Lauderdale and Miami.


Forty three miles of the Tamiami Trail were completed westward from Dade County


Dixie Highway was completed through Broward County, opening the lower southeast coast to automobile traffic from the northern states.

Timeline prepared by Gail Clement, University Librarian, Florida International University

This site is designed and maintained by the Digital Collections Center -
Everglades Information Network & Digital Library at Florida International University Libraries
Copyright © Florida International University Libraries. All rights reserved.