Once a part of Newbury, Mass., before a split in the town occurred, Newburyport is an old Federalist seaside town known for shipbuilding and two major figures in the creation of Florida’s Alantic Intracoastal Waterway.
The two major figures were Albert Perley Sawyer, an insurance and real estate agent, as well as a venture capitalist, in partnership with George W. Piper. Other partnership interests were in mining silver and copper, and real estate development along the east coast of Florida.
While the Florida main office of the Florida waterway company was located in St. Augustine, Fla., the northern office was situated in Newburyport in the same offices occupied by Sawyer and Piper. Before Sawyer became interested in the Florida project, in 1881 the State of Florida promised the waterway company 3,840 acres of East Coast Florida land for every mile of
waterway dredged. In addition, the state promised the firm the right to collect tolls.
By 1912, the canal company had dredged 268 miles of navigable waterway and earned just over one million acres of east coast Florida land. The elder Sawyer never survived to see the completion of what would be become the Florida portion of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway; his son, Albert Hayden Sawyer, survived to share in the profits from the sale of the state lands earned as well as the profits garnered more from the sale of the old waterway.