As the 1912 deadline approached for the completion of the Florida waterway, George Francis Miles became increasingly disenchanted with his role as general manager of dredging operations. In 1911, Miles and others organized the Florida Coastal Inland Navigation Company to run steamboats on the completed portions of the inland waterway (Florida East Coast Canal).
Shown here is the toll schedule of the new steamer company running the old “Swan,” a light draft flat-bottom sternwheeler that once ran cotton on the Mississippi River. The “Swan” now transported cargoes of winter vegetables and citrus or passengers with their automobiles stowed in the open on the first level. Courtesy, Florida State Archives, Tallahassee, Fla.
Of all the coastal states contributing inland waterways that now make up the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, only the State of Florida was required to buy its waterway for turnover to the federal government free of charge. For example, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts was not required to buy the privately owned Cape Cod Canal built by August Belmont for turnover to the federal government free of charge.
Congress appropriated the funds to buy the Massachusetts waterway. The Florida legislature created the Florida Inland Navigation District (FIND) to float the bond issue at Florida taxpayer expense to buy the Florida East Coast Canal for turnover to the Corps of Engineers for enlargement and perpetual maintenance. FIND’s commissioners included yacht club commodores, newspaper publishers, and real estate developers. FIND issued a million dollars worth of bonds to buy the waterway for $725,000 and to acquire the right-of-way for the waterway’s enlargement. In the end, commissioners ‘burned’ the bonds not needed for the project, a result rarely seen in modern-day public works.
The Canadians are coming! The Canadians are coming! In the late 1880s, four Canadians, including Sir Sandford Fleming’s son, Sandford H. Fleming, traveled to the State of Florida to enter into a subcontract with the Florida canal company to perform a portion of the work in the Matanzas-Halifax River Cut joining St. Augustine and today’s Ormond Beach, just above Daytona Beach.
Sir Sandford Fleming had won world-wide acclaim as chief engineer of the Canadian Pacific Railway, the designer of Canada’s first adhesive postage stamp, and the inventor of the 24 time zones around the world known as Universal Time, making it easier for railways to create timetables for arrivals and destinations around the world.
The particulars of the early Florida work performed by the junior Fleming are to date unknown. We do know that after a time the Canadian group failed to complete the work, owing a substantial sum in damages to the Florida canal company. The Canadians wouldn’t be in a position to repay the debt until almost thirty years had passed.
Meanwhile, several officials of the Florida canal company and a Newburyport, Mass. banker, Albert P. Sawyer, formed the Boston and Florida Atlantic Coast Land Company to buy 100,000 acres of the Florida canal company’s state land grant at a dollar an acre for $100,000. Sawyer also created three land trusts to buy more canal company land, restoring the canal venture’s coffers to further dredging work down the Florida peninsula into the Indian River. Soon Sir Sandford Fleming became the largest stockholder in the Boston & Florida land company after company officials made the stock exchangeable in land owned by the company.