Before we continue our discussion of how Mr. Flagler eventually made the decision to bring the railroad to Miami, it is important that I extend a mea culpa (an “I are sorry!”) for the time lapse since our last chapter. What I must do, at this point, is explain to our friends and readers that, since “time and the tides wait for no man,” I have been in several situations which required my (at times) lengthy attention and which made it impossible, in attending to those “issues,” for me to do much more than teach my two classes (via WebEx/Zoom, of course, not face-to-face) and grade student papers as well as handle a number of not life-threatening but important items.
One of the most important of those was working with the family of a dear friend who recently passed away. His wife preceded him and I tried to be with him and as comforting as possible, but, eventually, at very close to 100, he did leave us.
At the present time, I am not able to name the family (eventually, yes, but not at present, for a number of valid reasons) but I will tell you that, because of our friendship, his entire historic collection has been entrusted to me and we are now the repository of same. Suffice to say (write), for the moment, that it will probably take me a good few months to archive the material and when it is propitious I will advise you of “who and what.”
Now, it is time to move on in terms of our great and historic story.
As we discussed last issue, Mr. Flagler, through construction and purchase, had three hotels in St. Augustine, the “whys and wherefores” discussed and noted previously. We further explained that at the end of the first (1888) winter season, with the hotels having been completely filled for the entire almost four months (early January to early May of that year), two young men, John Anderson and Joseph Price, were ushered into Flagler’s St. Augustine office.
After inquiring regarding the reason for their visit, Flagler learned that they had built the Ormond Hotel in the town of that name because, as they explained, they had expected him to extend the railroad to Ormond, sixty-eight miles south of St. Augustine. Because he had not done so, they told him, the winter season which they experienced was exactly the opposite of St. Augustine’s, with a total for the several months, of 101 room nights, that extrapolating to one person staying one night 101 times, whereas the Flagler hotels had several thousand room nights each.
Anderson and Price went on to explain to Mr. Flagler that without his extending the railroad for the coming season, they would have to abandon the hotel, upon which he told them not to act in a hasty manner and that he and Mr. Parrott (Joseph R. Parrott, his railroad vice president and confidante) would come down to Ormond and visit the property.
They did so several days later and it was following that visit that Mr. Flagler, after inviting the two men to come to his St. Augustine office, announced to them that he had come to a decision, that being that he would extend the railroad to Ormond, but only if they would sell him the hotel and remain on as his managers, which they did for a good few years.
Flagler then purchased a small, narrow gauge railroad, which brought him to Daytona. By standard-gauging that railroad he was then able to offer through passenger train and freight train services to that town.
As I tell my audiences when I am presenting this incredible tale, “and there the story ends….” Except that, as we shall learn in “the next episode,” this is a story of confluence and coincidence and as we shall convey to you, the story of Florida’s Empire Builder would not end until the railroad reached Key West on January 11, 1912 and with his untimely passing in Palm Beach, on May 20, 1913.
So what did happen after the-then Jacksonville, St. Augustine and Halifax River Railway reach Daytona in 1892? Not much, except….
Except? Yes, except. And to find out what that means, please stay tuned, as I promise you another episode will follow in the next day or so. Leave you hanging I must, because the next part of the story is a tale to be told in and of itself.
Meantime, be—and stay—well and above all, stay safe.