Donna Thomas


"My domain begins in Jacksonville," Henry M. Flagler once playfully wrote to President William McKinley. Actually, he was not far from the truth. The Florida East Coast Railroad, the heart of Flagler’s financial empire, built many towns along the east coast of the state, and it linked them with each other and the rest of the country. Miami, which was incorporated in 1896, started as one of the villages in Flagler’s “domain.” It was virtually a company town in its earliest days. John Sewell and J. A. McDonald, early mayors of Miami, were Flagler employees. The Royal Palm Hotel, Miami’s showplace, was part of the chain of hotels which Flagler was constructing along his railroad’s route. His company installed street lights in the business district and built the waterworks during the first year of Miami’s incorporation. The Miami Metropolis, the only major newspaper, was owned by Flagler between 1897 and 1905. It mirrored most of his opinions and protected his interests. Thus, Flagler could hardly be opposed to the town’s attempts, when the war with Spain began, to bring an army camp to Miami, a desire which was probably as much motivated by profit-seeking as by patriotism.