Dr. John Diament Westcott (1807-1889) served as president of the Florida canal company from 1881 until his death in 1889. Born in New Jersey, Westcott briefly attended West Point before leaving for medical reasons. For a time, he also attended medical school in Philadelphia before relocating to the Territory of Florida, serving as secretary to his older brother, James Westcott, the Territory’s first Secretary of State. Westcott soon became proficient in medicine, chemistry, mineralogy, and surveying. As a surveyor, Westcott became Surveyor General in charge of surveying the federal lands of the new State of Florida in 1850. Westcott’s knowledge of public lands along the East Coast of Florida when he later became president of the Florida canal company would prove useful in selecting choice state lands for the dredging work his company was to perform in the years ahead. Courtesy, Museum of the Confederacy, Richmond, Va.
Home first of Charles S. Bradley, former Chief Justice of the Rhode Island Supreme Court and father of George L. Bradley. By the late 1880s, George Bradley became the primary financier of the construction of the privately owned Florida Coast Line Canal & Transportation Company which would later become Florida’s Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway. George grew up in his father’s home, one of George’s three principal residences throughout his life. Today, the home is St. Martin Hall of Providence College. The college bought the residence from the Estate of George Lothrop Bradley after he died in 1906. It should be noted that several references, including Wikipedia, improperly state that George’s middle initial was “M.”
Born in Providence, R.I., in 1846, George Lothrop Bradley had made three fortunes by the time he had become the largest investor in the Florida waterway. Bradley made his first fortune investing in the Newport Mining Company, a square-mile iron mine property along the Michigan upper peninsula-Wisconsin border, in the late 1870s. The mine would produce ore for another seventy years. His second fortune came when he invested in the Mergenthaler Linotype Company, an enterprise based on the invention of a new method of publishing. Molten lead would be poured into an entire line of type instead of composing a line of type single letter-by-single letter. Bradley made his third fortune investing in Alexander Graham Bell’s new invention–the telephone. Civil War financier Jay Cooke introduced Bradley to his fourth opportunity to become even more wealthy by investing in the Florida canal company beginning in the mid-1880s. Courtesy, Emma Pendleton Bradley Hospital, East Providence, R.I.
In 1882, the Florida Coast Line Canal & Transportation Company (“the Florida canal company”) began dredging the difficult dry cut between the Matanzas and Halifax rivers using bucket, continuous chain dredges. The Florida canal company would not complete the work until 1912, thirty years later. For dredging what would become the Intracoastal Waterway from Jacksonville to Miami, the company would earn over one million acres of state land for dredging 268 miles of waterway and the right to collect tolls from waterway traffic. Courtesy, St. Augustine Historical Society.
Double-tracking the Florida East Coast Railroad signaled the end of commercial waterborne traffic along Florida’s east coast and the end of its only competitor in the 1920’s, the privately owned Florida East Coast Canal, later transferred to the Federal government in 1929 for conversion into the modern, toll-free Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway.