Julia Tuttle

Julia Tuttle Miami History
Julia Tuttle Miami Girls Make History
It is the dream of my life to see this wilderness turned into a prosperous country.Julia Tuttle

Julia DeForest Tuttle, the “Mother of Miami” is the only female founder of a major American city. The visionary widow from Ohio bought hundreds of acres at what is now Downtown Miami, moved down on a barge, and eventually convinced railroad man Henry Flagler to extend his new railway to the Miami River by sending him an unusual package.

Julia Tuttle was born in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1848. Tuttle first saw southern Florida when she visited her father, who moved there as a homesteader, in 1875. After her husband died in 1886, Tuttle decided to move to southern Florida where she bought several hundred acres of land near the Miami River. As Tuttle looked around her, she realized the area would never prosper unless it could be accessed by railroads.

When Tuttle moved to the Miami area, she believed that the area would become a great city, one that would become a center of trade for the United State with South America. Tuttle’s foresight proved correct and thanks Miami grew into a major U.S. city.

As Tuttle looked around her, she realized the area would never prosper unless it could be accessed by railroads.

Tuttle met with Henry M. Flagler, a multi-millionaire who was going to extend his railroad south along Florida’s east coast to develop cities and resorts along the way. Tuttle wanted him to extend his railroad to her area. After negotiations, Flagler agreed to do so in exchange for hundreds of acres of land from Tuttle and Tuttle’s neighbors William and Mary Brickell who were the other main landowners in the area. Flagler also agreed to lay the foundations for a city on either side of the Miami River and to build a large hotel. The first train arrived in what became Miami city on April 13, 1896.

Miami was officially incorporated as a city in a pool hall meeting days later on July 28, 1896. Its first laundry, first bakery and the first dairy were reportedly started by Mrs. Tuttle.

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Comments 4

  1. I’m interested to know what the ‘unusual package’ –referenced at the end of the first paragraph–was?

    1. It was an orange blossom. Sorry, I wrote the story in a reply below but then saw the option to Reply directly. Hopefully you’ll see this!

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  3. Justin,

    Julia sent Henry an orange blossom. That was the “unusual package.”

    I’m not sure why it was left out of this description, but basically, when the railroad was being built, it was only going to go as far south as Orlando. Then there was a big freeze that destroyed the orange crops that year, from (roughly) Orlando up.

    Julia Tuttle went outside, picked an orange blossom, and sent it up to Henry Flagler. Flagler realized that the freeze had not affected the area where Julia lived, and agreed to extend the railroad.

    It may be an apocryphal story, but it’s the story every child in South Florida learns at some point. 🙂

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