Even Whiskers likes “Florida’s Big Dig,” the story of the Intracoastal Waterway

Our literate cat Whiskers peaks over the top of a book stand to view my award-winning book, “Florida’s Big Dig: the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway from Jacksonville to Miami, 1881 to 1935.” Winner of the Rembert Patrick Award in 2008, my book tells the story of how a privately built tollway barely five feet deep in some sections became a toll-free federally-controlled public waterway with minimum depths of from ten to twelve feet and minimum widths of from one hundred and twenty-five to one hundred and fifty feet.

Additional information on “Florida’s Big Dig” and how and where it may be purchased can be found on the website at http://www.FloridasBigDig.com.

Double-tracking Flagler’s Florida East Coast Railway, ca. 1928

Double-tracking Flagler's Florida East Coast Railway, ca. 1928

The completion and operation of the Flagler railway and other railways throughout Florida spelled the death knell for the Florida East Coast Canal and other inland waterways. At first, it was thought that inland waterways would serve as ‘rate-regulators’, competitors against a monopolistic railway system. As the railway system became more reliable and economical, many inland waterways simply could not compete against faster, more competitive railways in the delivery of most goods, especially perishables. The development of the Interstate Highway system beginning in the 1950s and the use of refrigerated trucking in tandem with containerized shipping soon overtook the competitive advantage of railways in the delivery of many categories of freight. At the same time, the development of the airplane and commercial jet aircraft took away much of the passenger traffic formerly transported by the railway. Courtesy, the author.

James Louis Colee (1834-1912)

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Original incorporator and director of the Florida canal company, James Colee (pronounced, ‘Coolee’) served as an engineer in the dredging of the Intracoastal Waterway until his death in 1912. Colee also served as state representative and county commissioner for St. Johns County and was a stockholder in the First National Bank of St. Augustine. In Fort Lauderdale, a bend in the New River is known as Colee Hammock and Colee is pronounced there as ‘Ko-lee’ Hammock. Colee is a French Huguenot name and pronounced throughout St. Johns County (St. Augustine) as ‘Coolee’. There is much confusion in Fort Lauderdale between William Cooley, justice of the peace in the New River area and whose family was massacred by the Seminoles in 1836 and James Colee who camped in the hammock there during his survey work for the waterway in 1893. Perhaps the difference in pronunciation led to the confusion between the two names. Courtesy, Donn R. Colee (an eighth generation native Floridian).