In the late 1890’s, as Henry Flagler’s Florida East Coast Railway and a New England group of investors headed by George Bradley of Providence, R.I., pushed their respective railway and what would become the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway down the east coast of Florida in exchange for state public land.
Some investors had become skittish about waiting for some return on their investment, which had become more or less a speculative venture. Investors in one land company affiliated with the canal venture had invested as early as 1892, but as of 1910, eighteen years later, hadn’t received a dime in dividends. The sale of Florida land had been slow. Further, all of the land companies had been required to spend money on draining the land and surveying the land before the land could be sold. This had been especially true of the Boston and Florida Atlantic Coast Land Company (“Boston & Florida land company”).
In 1905, Florida legislators encouraged swamp land subject to overflow and flooding by allowing groups of contiguous land owners to create drainage districts in strict accordance with Florida law to tax neighboring land to dig ditches and to take such measures as may be necessary to divert excess water into lakes and rivers as well as overflow areas away from growing crops. By 1935, one-hundred and twenty-five drainage districts had been formed in Florida. By far, the east coast county with the greatest need was Palm Beach County. The Lake Worth Drainage District is now a hundred years old and one of the largest such districts. Today, Palm Beach County is also the Nation’s ‘breadbasket’ in the cultivation of peppers, citrus fruits and winter vegetables in rich loam, mulch, and “muck lands.”