A PLAIN ANSWER
To Governor Broward's Open Letter
To the People of Florida.
By Representative Taxpayers of the Drainage District.
In his Open Letter to the People of Florida, recently pub-
Lished, Governor Broward has vigorously stated the defense of
the Drainage Commissioners and his reason for urging the passage
of the Drainage Constitutional Amendment that is to be voted
upon at the general election in November.
In order that the people of Florida -may thoroughly under-
stand and intelligently vote upon the Amendment, it' is necessary
that the Governor's statement should be fully answered from the
point of view of the tax payers of the present Drainage District.
The issue presented to the people is a plain one. Are they
prepared to give to the Trustees of the Internal Improvement
Fund, sitting as a Board of Drainage Commissioners, irrevocably
and in perpetuity, the power to establish drainage districts any-
where, at their pleasure, throughout the State, and to levy an
annual tax of ten cents per acre for an unlimited period of time
upon every acre of land within such district that was deeded origi-
nally to the State by the United States as swamp and overflowed
lands, for the purpose of draining. andi r'iiating and reclaiming
the lands in any of such districts by the construction of drainage
and irrigation and commercial canals, and to give the Legislature
the further power to levy an additional assessment on all lands
assumed by such Board to be specially beinefited by such work?
This is the issue, but the question is not as simple
as it looks. There is a dispute as to what are swamp and over-
flowed lands. One would naturally.suppose that swamp and over-
flowed lands meant lands that are now swamp and overdfowed, but
the present Drainage Commissioners do not think so. They hold
that swamp and overflowed lands mean iall lands that came to the
State of Florida under the Swamp and Overflowed Land Act of
'Congress of 1850, and that the swamp and overflowed character
of the lands within the Drainage District. must be determined by
the title of the lands and not by the "actual, physical condition of-
the lands at the present time. This interpretation of the. classifica-
tion of the lands is very important, and must be taken into consid-
eration by the voters of the State. It is well known that a great
many lands were deeded to the State under the Swamp and Over-
fowed Act of Congress that were high and dry. Over twenty mil-
lion acres .came to the State under this Act, and a considerable
percentage of this acreage was high and dry. Governor Broward
says that all the present owners of these high and dry "swamp
and overflowed lands" are "fraudulent beneficiaries" of the Act
of Congress, but why should he blame the present owners and call
them hard names? Why does he not blame the Trustees of the
Internal Improvement Fund for originally accepting these fraud-
ulently acquired lands and for afterwards deeding these same
"fraudulent" lands to citizens of lorida under the protection of
the Great Seal of the State? These twenty million acres, including
the fraudulent lands, arn scattered throughout the State, and are
in the hands of innumerable owners.
Moreover, if there was a fraud committed, -it was done by the
Governor of Florida under the very Act of Congress quoted by
Governor Broward on page 9 of his Open Letter. That Act pro-
vides that these swamp and overflowed lands shall be patented to
the State "at the request of the Governor."
There are thousands of people in Florida owning their farms
and homesteads under these same Swamp and Overflow patents,
who bought them in good faith from the Trustees of the Internal
Improvement Fund. This being the case, Governor Broward's
attack upon their titles as "fraudulent" comes with a bad
grace considering he is an official member of the Trustees.
Having outlined the issue to be voted for at the polls, let us
consider the arguments pro and con, and in considering the mat-
ter, let us not lose sight of the fact that this is simply a business
proposition, to illustrate which let us consider the practical opera-
tion of the present drainage law in connection with the Everglades
Under'this law, shortly after the Legislature adjourned, the
Trustees of the Internal Improvement Fund organized themselves
into a Board of Drainage Commissioners, and established the
Everglades DrainageDistrict. The north line of this District ex-
tends east from Avon Park in DeSoto County along the south
line of Polk County through the counties of Osceola and St. Lucie
to the Atlantic, and the west line from Avon Park south through
the counties of DeSoto and Lee to the Gulf of Mexico, the entire
District covering a territory about one hundred and seventy miles
long and ninety miles wide.
The Board's object in creating this District was evidently to
carry out the Governor's political platform of draining the Ever-
glades. The first question to arise is whether the Board showed
good business judgment in fixing these boundaries, having the
drainage of the Everglades in view. One would naturally pre-
sume that before taking this step, the Board must have thoroughly
investigated the engineering problem involved in the drainage
o f the Everglades. This means, that they inust have had a. complete
and comprehensive survey made by first-class engineers, not only
of the Everglades but also of the entire Drainage District, and
that they also must have obtained from competent authority com-
plete and detailed estimates of the cost of the drainage, irrigation
and reclamation of the Everglades, and also of the effect of such
drainage upon the outlying territory embraced within this Dis-
trict. This is a simple proposition and one that is carried out by
every business man in his private enterprises. The fact, however,
remains; as was proven in the test case brought in the United
States Court, that the Trustees laid out the boundaries of this Dis-
trict for the purpose of draining the Everglades, without having
done any of these things and without having the least idea of the
work to be done or the cost of the work. The only evidence before
them, according to their statement in the Federal Court, were some
reports made by General Jessup and other theoretical authorities,
in which the general opinion was expressed that the Everglades
were capable of reclamation, and the message of the Governor him-
self t% the last legislature, in which he advocates his pet scheme.
Right here it is evident the Board committed their first mistake.
It must be clear to every voter in the State that the Board had
no right, as business men, to plunge the State into an engineer-
ing scheme of such magnitude and importance without first em-
ploying engineers of the highest ability to make a complete survey
of this practically unknown territory, and without also having ob-
tained complete working plans and estimates of the cost of the
work. If they had no right to plunge the State into such an under-
taking, they had less right to force the taxpayers of the Drainage
District to provide the revenue for this undertaking, without hav-
. ing taken these preliminary business steps. But regardless of the
fact that they had no expert knowledge of the subject, and regard-
less of the fact that they had no idea of what the work would
eventually cost, they blindly went into the scheme, apparently
intent only upon its political effect.
In the test case decided by Judge Locke, the Drainage Com-
missioners failed to answer the cbh age that they were not acting
upon expert knowledge, and absolutely failed to produce any
surveys, plans or estimates of the cost of the work, and Governor
Broward has absolutely failed in his speeches and in his letters
to the press and to the people, to answer this charge. He cannot
tell you today how the Everglades as a whole should be reclaimed
or what it will cost to do it. It may cost thousands or millions,
but the Governor cannot tell you which.
The nearest approach to an estimate of the cost of draining
the Everglades by the Trustees is contained in the following para-
graph from page 3 of the Governor's Open Letter:
"The newspapers may say, 'What would it cost to drain a half
million acres of the Everglades?' I would say that $1.00 per acre
would be a large allowance for the expense." "I would say," for-
sooth. "I!" Is the Governor a first-class civil engineer? What
does he know about it, except what he has been told? If he has
been told what it will cost, why does he not cite his authority?
Why does he not give us even at this late day, his plans and esti-
mates and specifications ? He had ample opportunity in the Fed-
eral Court to file this data, but failed to do so. Now when the cam-
paign is open and his illegal tax has been knocked out, he tells
the people of Florida "I would say that $1.00 per acre would be
a large allowance for the expense" of draining half a. million acres.
Mind you, only half a million acres out of the 3,000,000 acres in
the Everglades. One-sixth of the acreage will cost half a million.
Mind you, also, he does not tell us, which half million acres. Does
he mean the mucky part or the rocky part, the profitable part or
the worthless part? We leave it to the people. Doesn't this
profound guess of the Governor as spokesman of the Drainage
Commission impress you with his business sagacity and his care-
ful judgment of engineering problems?
The next step of the Board taken at the same meeting was
to levy a tax of five cents per acre upon all the lands that were
originally acquired under the aforesaid Swamp and Overflowed
Land Act, and to obtain from themselves, as Trustees of the Inter-
nal Improvement Fund, lists of all such lands. Here the Board
made their second mistake. One would naturally suppose that
they would have left it to the local tax assessors to ascertain what
lands in the District are now actually and physically swamp and
overflowed lands. One would also have supposed that knowing,
as every citizen of Florida knows, that even the swamp and over-
flowed lands vary in value according to their character and loca-
tion, that they would have left it also to the local tax assesors to
grade these lands according to their comparative value, just as the
tax assessors value all the lands in the State for ordinary county
and State purposes. This, however, was too slow and business-
like a process for the Board to follow. In their haste to spend the
State's trust money, they undertook to boss the job from Tallahas-
see, and proceeded to make their own assessments in Tallahassee
from the lists, without visiting the lands themselves and without
making the slightest effort to ascertain whether these lands varied
in. character and value. Their assessment was simply a piece of
clerical work done in Tallahassee, and was based upon the title
to the lands, and not upon their actual condition. The conse-
quence is that lands of every character to be found in South Flor-
ida, regardless of whether they were fifty miles from the Ever-
glades or in the Everglades, and regardless of whether they would
be benefited or damaged by drainage, were all indiscriminately
lumped together and taxed at the flat rate of five cents per acre.
Will the people of Florida indorse such a blanket, ignorant and
tyrannical assessment as that?
In making this assessment, the Board perpetrated a still more
glaring injustice. The law requires that ALL. the taxable Swamp
and Overflowed lands within the Drainage District must be as-
sessed with this benefit tax, and Judge Locke, in the test case,
held that a benefit tax of this kind must be levied on State lands
as well as private lands; but the Board in their arbitrary con-
struction of the law, exempted from the tax all the lands held
by themselves as Trustees of the Internal Improvement Fund.
These State holdings embrace about three million acres, and cover
the entire Everglades, and are the very lands which they propose
to drain by means of the benefit tax, and cover nearly one-half of
the entire Drainage District. They also exempted all the
United States lands within the District, The result of these
exemptions was to cut down the taxed area to about three and
a half million acres out of the seven million acres inside the Dis-
trict. The effect of these exemptions was to throw the whole
burden of the reclamation of the State's property upon the owners
of three and a half million acres of private lands surrounding the
Everglades, on the north, east and west.
To illustrate the extreme injustice of the assessment, let us
suppose that Smith owns a ten-acre pond which he wants to drain,
and Jones owns ten acres around Smith's pond of mixed land,
some of it hammock, some pine, some prairie, some marsh and
some cypress. Let Smith tax Jones' ten acres to drain his pond,
Smith not to put up one cent, Jones not to know what Smith's
plans are, nor how many ditches he is going to cut, nor how long
it will take him, nor what it will cost; and let Jones pay an annual
tax of ten cents per acre for Smith's benefit for an unlimited
and indefinite period of time, and you have Governor Broward's
Drainage Commissioners' scheme in a nut-shell.
The Drainage Commissioners defend their right to tax the
District according to the Swamp and Overflowed title, and also
their right to exempt the State's lands, and strongly argued their
rights before Judge Locke in the test case; but Judge Locke
made short work of their arguments, and held, in delivering his
opinion on the continuance of the injunction against the collection
of the tax, that a benefit tax of this nature must be levied equally
on the State lands' together with the private lands, particularly
when the sole object of the tax was to benefit primarily the
State's property. The effect of Judge Locke's decision was also
that they had no right to assess a blanket tax of five cents per
acre on all lands of a theoretical class, but that the tax must be
graded according to the actual comparative values of the lands,
having proper regard to their marketable value and to their
location from the seene of the drainage operations, and also
having proper regard to the benefits that they may derive from
the expenditure of the tax.
. Upon these two points a mass of expert testimony from the
most competent authorities in the Drainage District w as produced.
These proceedings of the Drainage Commissioners were taken
last summer. It would naturally be supposed that the Board
would have employed the time until the taxes began to come into
their treasury, by having expert surveys made of the District
and estimates made of the cost of their proposed work, and other-
wise seeking information which they lack, and preparing them-
selves to carry out this great engineering project. The Board,
however, having performed this arduous clerical work in Talla-
hassee, concluded to rest from their labors, and turned the job
over to themselves as Trustees of the Internal Improvement Fund.
As Drainage Commissioners, they were not likely to get any money
in until the first of the year, but the Trustees had a little money,
so the Trustees, without waiting for the collection of the drainage
lax and without obtaining any more information than the Drain-
age Commissioners had, hastily undertook the gigantic task of
draining the Everglades. Their financial statement shows that
at the time they had a cash balance (January 1, 1905) of about
$110,000, available for this purpose. Here, again, one would
naturally suppose that the Trustees, not having been elected to
their high offices as drainage experts, would have done what most
business men would have done under similar circumstances-
would have let the drainage work out to the lowest bidder under
contract, as is done with all other State public works and as is the
practice of all counties and municipalities in the State. Instead of
this, however, the proceeded to boss the job themselves, and sue-
ceeded in spending nearly fifty thousand dollars by the first of
January, 1906, and since said date, during January and February,
about $16,000 more, making a total of about $65,000.
In the meantime, the test case of the Southern States Land
& Timber Company was brought, and the tax attacked in the
Federal Court, with the result that under Judge Locke's decision,
the drainage law was declared to be in violation of both the
Federal and State Constitutions, and all the acts of the Drainage
Commissioners null and void, and the tax illegal; which decision
is not likely to be disturbed on appeal, the points, upon which
Judge Locke based his decision having been repeatedly upheld in.
the courts of highest resort.
Some weeks before the decision was rendered, some of the
largest taxpayers in the District proposed to the Drainage Commis-
sioners that both sides should abide by the test case, and that the
Commissioners, in order to relieve the treasuries of the several
counties in the District, should instruct the tax collectors to accept
the ordinary county and State taxes, the object of these taxpayers
being simply to help the county authorities maintain their script
at par. This proposition was not replied to for several weeks, and
when the reply did come, it was a curt refusal, and the tax col-
lectors were ordered to collect the illegal tax.' This harsh action
simply shows the spirit animating the Board. So pronounced was
public indignation, however, that within two weeks they thought
better of it, and permitted the tax collectors in their judgment to
separate the Drainage tax from the ordinary taxes., As the matter
now stands, the collection of the tax will be suspended until the
final decision is reached in the test case.. The progress of the
litigation in the federal courts is notoriously slow, and it will
therefore be a long time before the case is finally settled. Mean-
while, therefore, the Trustees will have to lay'r for what.drainage
work is done.
It is evident that the Trustees will soon run short of money.
According to their last financial statement, they only had on the.
first day of March a cash balance available of about $32,000. In
the year 1905 the spent over $12,000 for attorneys' fees and litiga-
tion, and over $9,000 in office and other expenses. We have no
means of knowing how much they will spend of these two items
this year, but we do know that it costs money to operate dredge
boats. The two dredge boats now being built at Fort Lauderdale
cannot cost less than $5,000 per month to operate, and they are
not yet completed. Any citizen of Florida can easily cal-
culate how long the money will last at this rate of expenditure.
It is evident that from start to finish, in the operation of this
District, the Drainage Commissioners have not acted in a careful,
conservative, business-like manner.' As a further instance of their
carelessness, it may be stated that they have not yet paid the
various tax assessors for the clerical work of making the assess-
ment. The fees of the five assessors aggregate about $5,000, and
it now looks as if they will have to wait for their pay until the
The above is a plain statement of the practical operation of
the Everglades Drainage District, the only one so far established
under the new law. It may be said that the fault lies with the
Legislature in passing the law. There is a good deal of truth in
this, but in explanation of the action of the Legislature, it may
be urged that ninety per cent of the. members who voted for the
law, in either house, did not understand the law and failed to
realize what arbitrary and immense powers they were placing in
the hands of the administration. The law was merely looked upon
as something new that the Governor wanted and in line with his
platform, and very little attention was paid to it. Had the mem-
bers who voted for the law suspected that it would work out as
it has, they would certainly have killed it there and then.
The Drainage Constitutional Amendment was introduced and
passed on the same day as the law. This in itself proves that the
Governor's legal advisers had but little faith in- the constitution-
ality of the law. They either had no confidence in the law or were
afraid of its being repealed, and intended by securing the passage
of the Amendment to place it beyond the power of a subsequent
legislature to repeal it.
This Constitutional Amendment is the most dangerous piece
of legislation ever attempted to be incorporated in the Constitu-
tion of any State in the, Union. It will place in the hands of the
administration a weapon of tremendous power for unscrupulous
use against their political enemies. If adopted, it will enable them
to strike a mortal blow at any locality in the State that may be
politically opposed to the administration. Under.its provisions
they can establish drainage districts of any size, anywhere in the
State. They can make a drainage district of the entire State or of
any particular county or precinct, or any city or town. They can,
if they please, take the city of Pensacola and declare it a drainage
district. They 'can take an island and make a drainage district
out of it, or a group of islands. Under its provisions, they can
levy an annual tax of ten cents per acre upon all the lands within
any District that came to the State half a century ago, under the
Act of Congress, for' one, five, ten, twenty or fifty
years; there is no limit to the time. Under its provisions they
are not required to state what work they intend to do or how
much they intend to spend. They can decide that after they have
got the money out of the pockets of the tax payers. Neither
are they required to keep or publish any accounts of the money
spent. The Amendment fails to provide an opportunity for the
property owners to have a hearing before the Drainage Commis-
sioners, and to prove, if they can, that their, lands will not be
benefited by the proposed tax. This Amendment is nothing more
nor less than an iron-clad scheme to permit unjust discrimination
between the property owners of the State. Under our regular
system of taxation the property owners have a chance to be heard
and to value their property. Every safeguard is thrown around
a property owner, but under this Amendment, he has no protec-
tion; he is under the knife. No more arbitrary, despotic, harsh
and oppressive legislation was ever attempted in any State in the
Union. The entire State will be at the mercy of a vindictive ad-
ministration, and the Amendment, if adopted, will open the back
door of the Capitol to unlimited opportunities for graft and cor-
ruption. Imagine the chance that any unscrupulous administra-
tion will have to oppress or punish any citizen who may own a
block of land, by threatening to put him into a drainage district!
As long as there is only the present law to fight, the injured
property owners can seek relief in the State Courts, but the
minute the law becomes a part of the Constitution, they will be
barred from the State Courts and will be forced into the Federal
Court for relief.
Judge Locke declared the present law unconstitutional upon
several grounds: Because the power given the Drainage Com-
missioners to establish drainage districts wherever they pleased
was a legislative power, and the Legislature had no right to dele-
gate its legislative powers to an administrative body; because the
law failed to provide that the property owner should have a hear-
ing before the Drainage Commissioners, to prove, if he could, that
his lands would not be benefited; and on other grounds.
Judge Locke also enjoined the collection of the drainage tax
upon the showing made before him by the complainant that the
Drainage Commissioners exempted from taxation the swamp and
overflowed lands belonging to the State in the Everglades, al-
though the law provided that ALL swamp and overflowed lands
within such district should be taxed; that the Drainage Commis-
sioners assessed the same tax rate of five cents per acre upon all
the private lands, when it was proved, and not denied by the
Drainage Commissioners, that the lands were of different value
and of varied character, some being much more valuable than
others ; that the Drainage Commissioners assessed certain lands,
such as cypress timber, when it was proved, and not denied, that
the drainage of cypress timber was a damage instead of a benefit;
that the Drainage Commissioners had levied the same tax on lands
fifty miles from the Everglades as on lands within the Everglades,
when it stands to reason that lands within the drainage operations
will, be benefited more than lands at a distance; and other grounds.
In rendering his decision, Judge Locke plainly expressed the
opinion that the expense of the drainage of the Everglades ought
to be undertaken by the State at large and not by a small body of
private, land-owners, and that the State ought to be helped by the
National Government. He further said a scheme of such magni-
tude was of national importance. Out west, the National Govern-
ment has expended nearly $30 per acre to reclaim by irrigation
the arid desert lands. It certainly seems reasonable that Congress
should help the State to drain the Everglades, when, according to
Governor Broward's theories, America will save the importation
of over $150,000,000 worth of sugar per annum from foreign coun-
tries by the drainage of the Everglades. But while it might be
possible to interest Congress in the Everglades because of their
national importance. it would certainly be impossible to get help
from Washington for the drainage of any other districts not of
national importance that might be hereafter created under the
Referring to the feasibility of the drainage of the Everglades,
the evidence filed in the test (a e shows that only a part of the
Everglades is worth reclaiming from an economical or profitable
standpoint. This part is known as the Big Saw Grass, which is a
ridge of muck extending south from Lake Okeechobee in'the shape
of a tongue about twenty-five miles in length, about forty miles
wide on the lake shore and gradually narrowing to a blunt tip.
This Big Saw Grass covers less than one-third of the Everglades
and is known as the Upper or Northern Glades. The fall from Lake
Okeechobee to the ocean is 201/2.feet, according to the government
surveys. The fall from the lake to the end of the Big Saw Grass
is 12 feet; consequently the fall from the end of the Big Saw Grass,
a distance of 75 miles, to the Gulf of Mexico, is only 8/, feet. The
muck soil of the Big Saw Grass varies in depth from 18 feet on the
shore of the lake to about 3 feet at the tip of the tongue. The
lower or Southern Glades contain but little soil and are rocky,
and the fall is so slight that the effect of the. Gulf tides is plainly
perceptible for many miles inland; consequently the drainage of
the Lower Glades cannot be a paying proposition, even if it should
be possible (with so slight a fall), from an engineering point of
The Big Saw Grass is probably worth reclaimnig, but its
successful reclamation, which means making it fit for agriculture,
will cost between nine and ten million dollars, according to the
detailed estimates and plans and specifications of V. P. Keller,
who was Assistant Engineer for twelve years of the Atlantic,
Gulf Coast Canal and Okeechobee Land Company, under the late
Col. J. M. Kreamer, Chief Engineer of the Drainage Company,
which operated in the Kissimmee and Caloosahatchie valleys
under the Disston contract of 1881.
In Keller's opinion, the canal from New River to Lake Okee-
chobee that the Trustees now propose to cut, will cost two and
a half million dollars, if properly cut of the necessary capacity.
In Keller's opinion, the mere drainage of the Everglades by
a series of ocean canals will ruin the Big Saw Grass for agricul-
tural purposes. As he says in his testimony:
"Merely to lower Lake Okeechobee by ocean canals cut
through the muck deposits and rock strata of the Everglades or
through the upper Caloosahatchee valley, or through the high
ridge on the east side of the lake, and by the lowering of the level
of the lake to drain the Everglades, would be a suicidal policy.
It would, perhaps, result in drying up the great saw grass ridges
of the Everglades, but it would not make them productive. On
the contrary, it would simply expose them to their worst enemy
-fire. In fact, the effect of any canal that has for its object
simply the carrying off of the waters of Lake Okeechobee, with-
out let or hindrance, will be detrimental to the scheme of reclama-
tion. It might have the effect of drying the Everglades, but by
drying them would ruin them. It is a perpetual menace to the
destruction of the Everglades by fire and their unproductiveness
for want of water. In one case it will destroy them entirely; in
the other case it unfits them for cultivation. Muck land, being
a peat, it will take fire and keep on burning sometimes for months,
just like an old sawdust pile, and keeps on burning until it is all
burned away. The fire will burn as long as there is anything left
to feed upon, and no water to extinguish it. If the Everglades
were perfectly drained,- there would be-no Everglades in five
years, if fire should be started-not a vestige. It would simply
be -one immense ashbed on a rock bottom, and absolutely worth-
less." "Affiant has kept in touch with the schemes
for the drainage of the Everglades now being contemplated,
and finds that the irrigation feature of the problem has not been
mentioned, and he is of the opinion that if the plans discussed
are carried out, the reclamation of the Everglades will not be
accomplished, but the Glades will be ruined as an agricultural
Last summer and fall Keller was in communication with the
Drainage Commissioners and fully advised them of his views.
The Drainage Commissioners, however, rejected his adviice, and
have undertaken to run the job to suit themselves. In rejecting
Keller's advice they turned down the opinion of the best living
expert authority on the Everglades. Governor Broward, when-
ever it suits his purpose, does not hesitate to quote Kreamer's
reports of that territory, but the fact is that all the practical
engineering work done in the Everglades by the Drainage Com-
pany was done by* Keller as Kreamer's assistant. Needless to
say, Keller strongly condemns the Governor's ocean canal plans.
According to Keller's opinion, it is unnecessary to cut an
ocean canal in order to lower Lake Okeechobee or to drain the
Big Saw Grass. It is quite sufficient to lower Lake Okeechobee
by canaling the Big Saw Grass and spilling the Okeechobee waters
into the low basin of the Lower or Southern Glades. If the work
is confined to the Big Saw Grass, the excavation will be easy,
the soil being entirely soft muck, but if ocean canals are attempted
the excavation beyond the Big Saw Grass will be largely through
rock, which will add enormously to the cost.
The only barrier between the waters of Lake Okeechobee
and the Lower Glades, which are but a few feet above the tide
level, is the body of deep muck comprising the Big Saw Grass, and
it is only necessary to cut through this soft barrier in order to
lower the lake. The ocean canal the Trustees are now proposing
to cut is sheer waste of the people's money. The Trustees should
have begun at the Lake Okeechobee end and stopped when they
reached the limits of the Big Saw Grass. -
The statements of Keller as to the arable area of the Ever-
glades and the proper way to reclaim this area and the cost of
same are corroborated by the testimony of W. L. Van Duzor,
of Kissimmee, the well known real estate agent and agriculturist.
Van Duzor is president of the Town Council of Kissimmee and
was State Fair Commissioner of Osceola County at Tampa last
year. For many years Van Duzor was the superintendent of the
same Disston Drainage Co. and is thoroughly conversant with
all Kreamer's plans and ideas for the reclamation of the Ever-
glades. In his Drainage message to the last legislature Governor
Broward quoted Van Duzor's opinion on sugar-growing at consid-
erable length, and evidently places special confidence in Van
Another important witness is Capt. Clay Johnson of Kissim-
mee, who used to work for the same Disston Drainage Co., and
who is the oldest steamboat captain on the Kissimmee river.
Capt. Johnson's native State is Louisiana, where he formerly had
a wide practical experience in the drainage and reclamation of
swamp lands near the Mississippi. He gives it as his opinion that
the successful reclamation of the Big Saw Grass will cost millions
The absolute necessity for providing in the drainage of the
Everglades an effective system of irrigation.is insisted upon by
a number of witnesses. In the drainage of the muck lands of the
upper Kissimmee valley years ago by the Disston Company, no
provision was made for irrigation, it not being supposed at the
time that these lands would need irrigation. The result has
been disastrous. Thousands and thousands of acres of muck beds,
every bit as rich as the Big Saw Grass have been burned up. In
dry years these beds have caught fire and have been known to
burn for weeks. They will even burn when under cultivation.
At St. Cloud, the well known Disston Sugar Farm near Kissimmee,
Section 8 (640 acres), that has yielded splendid crops of cane,
caught fire one season and was so damaged that it had to be
abandoned. In the Kissimmee valley the damage by fire has been
so great that these muck beds have practically no value whatever
for farming purposes and are now used only for grazing. It ie
safe to say there are not today more than one hundred acres of
muck lands under cultivation in the entire Kissimmee valley.
The Governor pours ridicule on the sworn testimony
of these witnesses that if the water is carelessly and
ignorantly removed from the Big Saw Grass without proper pro-
vision being made for irrigation in a dry season, this immense
muck bed will meet the fate of the other drained beds an' will
be either destroyed or seriously damaged by fire. But ridicule
cannot overcome the swo'--; testimony of such men as Capt. John
Whidden and Capt. J. J. Singleton of Arcadia, Irwin S. Singletary
and W. A. Roberts of Fort Myers, John M. Lee, S. H. Bullock,
Allen Chandler, J. E. Moseley and C. Maling of Kissimmee, Sydney
O. Chase of Sanford, C. F. MeQuaig of Orlando, and M. P. Tindall
of Lake Hart, in Orange County.'
Capt. .Whidden has served ten years' in the House and twelve
years in the Senate, fought in the Seminole War, and has lived
for forty years in Manatee and DeSoto counties. He testifies that
before the Disston canals were cut, he never saw the muck lands
burn, but that since then they have been seriously damaged. In
the saw grass marsh on the west side of Lake Okeechobee he has
seen the fire burn for six-weeks at a time. "Where it burns it
leaves clear lakes of water. In some places the holes burned out
are as much as ten feet deep."
Capt. Singleton is a civil engineer of recognized authority
and has made a study of the effects of drainage on lands of varied
Singletary and Roberts are well known surveyors of the high-
est standing in Lee County.
Lee for twenty years was Clerk of the Circuit Court of Os-
ceola County, and is now president of the Lee-Parsons Cattle
Company, operating a large cattle ranch on a body of muck lands
through which the Southport canal runs a few miles below Kis-
Bullock owns the abstract office in Kissimmee and is the
secretary and treasurer of the same Cattle Company.
Chandler belongs to the Bassinger family of Chandlers on
the Kissimmee River and knows the Everglades as well as any
man. He is a cattle man, orange grower and hunter.
Moseley is a surveyor of .the widest experience in South
Florida; and knows the entire drainage district like a book. He
i's also a substantial orange grower and farmer.
Maling commanded one of the first of the Kissimmee river
steamboats twenty years ago, and had charge of the Daniel
legislative committee that inspected the Disston canals leading
out .of Lake Okeechobee in 1886. For eighteen years he has
farmed on muck lands near Kissimmee and is an expert on their
cultivation. In his younger days Capt. Maling was a member of
the New Zealand government in charge of the Department of
Public Works, and is a civil engineer.
Chase is the well known orange grower and shipper of San-
ford, and accompanied J. E. Ingraham in his famous Everglades
expedition in H1"'f2. He is an authority on muck soils.
McQuaig is one of Orlando's successful real estate agents and
an-expert on Florida lands and timber, and,thoroughly familiar
with the Okeechobee country.
Tindall has made several hunting trips into the Everglades
and hasebeen cultivating'a muck land farm on Lake Hart for a
great many years.
According .to the testimony of several of these witnesses the
Drainage District embraces three separate watersheds that have no
connection with Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades and there-
fore could not be benefited by the drainage thereof. These three
watersheds include the St. Johns river basin in St. Lucie county
lying northeast of the Fort Drum ridge and draining north; and
the Atlantic basin in St. Lucie and Dade counties lying east of the
Fort Drum Ridge and draining east to the coast; and the basin
of the great Okaloacoochee Slough in Lee County lying west of
the Everglades and draining southwest into the Gulf. Each of
these separate and distinct watersheds is taxed for the drainage
of the Everglades State property.
Governor Broward cannot laugh these men out of court. On
the other hand, their opinion of anyone who says or believes that
the Big Saw Grass will not readily burn, if drained as the Kis-
simmee valley muck beds were drained, would make what Horace
Greeley called "mighty interesting reading." His chief aim
seems to be to confuse the issue and to win his point by mislead-
ing public opinion.
All this talk about railroads in connection with the Everglades
Drainage District is misleading. The illegal drainage tax that he
has tried to enforce and collect has nothing to do with any railroad
except the East Coast road, and this railroad has already spent
thousands of dollars out of its own treasury in local drainage
works* on the East Coast.
No other railroad has been taxed a solitary cent of this illegal
tax. No other railroad has the slightest direct interest in the pay-
ment of the special drainage tax. ,
The only connection the railroads at large have with the pay-
ment of the special drainage tax is this: That a part of the lands
within the Drainage District was bought some years ago by private
owners from certain railroads which had been deeded these lands
several years ago by the Trustees of the Internal Improvement
Fund under the authority of the Florida Legislature.
The present owners who are assessed with this illegal tax
went into the open land market some years ago and bought these
old railroad lands fairly and squarely and in good faith, and paid
their good hard cash for them.
And yet Governor Broward would have the people believe
that the railroads at large are interested in the payment of the
special drainage tax.
Another important fact must be considered, which the Gov.
ernor carefully keeps out of sight. Several railroad land grant
suits and claims have been pending for some time in different
courts, involving the title to all or a large part of the Everglades,
but until these suits are finally adjudicated, the title to the
Everglades remains in trust in the Trustees of the Internal
Improvement Fund. Now, as a business proposition, how many
men are there in the State who would spend a large sum of money
in improving a piece of property, the-title to which was in actual
litigation? And yet that is exactly what the Trustees are doing
The title to the Everglades is now in dispute in the courts, and
yet the Trustees are expending the remnant of the truli
funds in their hands, the fund that they are expected. to admin-
ister economically, in the improvement of that property. They
may, of course, win the cases in the end and clear the clouded
titles, but no one will deny that they are taking chances. If
they lose the-suits, the railroad grantees will get all the benefit
of the improvements-if they can be called improvements. If the
Trustees are sure of winning, then it will turn out all right, but if
they lose, they will have spent the remnant of the trust funds
for the benefit and in the interest of the railroads. Is this a safe,
conservative policy for the Trustees to pursue?
As an instance of the illogical arguments used by Governor
Broward in his efforts to defend the illegal drainage
tax, take his attack on William King, the Chairman of the Board
of County Commissioners of DeSoto County, to be found on page
12 of his Open Letter.
Mr. King lives at Avon Park, inside the Drainage District,
and is one of the most popular and strongest citizens of that
great and growing country. He testified:
"That he is thoroughly familiar with that portion of the drain-
age district embraced in Townships 33, 34 and 35, Range 26, and
Townships 33, 34 and 35, Range 29. Most of these townships are
high, no swamps to drain, and running from one to two hundred
feet above the sea level. Most of these townships -are covered with
a growth of average, second-class pine timber, studded with clear
lakes which naturally drain themselves in a southerly direction.
The soil is sandy and thirsty, and needs irrigation more than it
does drainage. In the affiant's opinion the section covered by
these townships would not be benefited in the slightest degree
\by the lowering of the general water level south of this section.
In fact, it would rather injure these lands than benefit them."
The testimony of Mr. William King and of all the other wit-
nesses quoted is taken from their affidavits used in the test case
and now on file in the United States Court in Jacksonville, where
they are open to the inspection of the public.
In making fun of Mr. King's testimony, the Governor says:
"I assure Mr. King that no one of the Trustees has ever
suggested ditching the mountains of which he speaks." Then,
why in the name of reason and common sense, Governor, if you
are not going to drain the Avon Park sandhills, do you tax them
five cents an acre for a drainage assessment?
In all his public letters and messages, the Governor quotes
at full length the various statutes, Federal and State, regulating
the powers and duties of the Trustees of the Internal Improve-
ment Fund, and invariably insists that it is the absolute duty of
the Trustees to drain the State's lands, and that they cannot
under the law utilize the trust funds in their hands for any other
purpose whatever. This is the answer of the Trustees to the law
of 1903 passed by the legislature providing for the distribution
of the trust funds among the several counties for good roads pur-
poses. The Trustees have boldly disobeyed this law and naturally
they will try to put up a strong excuse in defense of their defiance
of the Florida Legislature. The question is whether, their de-
fense will stand fire.
The Supreme Court of Florida has held that railroads are
works of Internal Improvement. (See Trustees I. I. Fund vs. St.
Johns Ry. Co., 16 Fla. 531.) The Supreme Court has expressed
the same view in other -cases and has therefore sustained the
power, of the Legislature to grant these lands to aid in the con-
struction of certain raill-oads. If railroads are works of Internal'
Improvement, why not public roads, especially good roads? In-
stead of the $400,000 in the hands of the Trustees on January 1,
1905, being wasted in the Everglades, why were these funds
not invested in good roads throughout the State? Why
should the Governor place a forced and strained construction
upon the phrasing of the statute for the purpose of defying the
will of the Legislature? What interest can the Trustees have in
thwarting the good roads movement? Is it because the good
roads money will be expended by the county authorities, whereas
the drainage money is being spent by the Trustees? Can it be
that they are determined to fight to the last ditch rather than rec-
ognize the authority of the Legislature? That they would rather
throw the people's money into an Everglades ditch than let the
counties of Florida have the spending of the money?
Governor Broward talks a great deal about the richness of
the soil of the Everglades and how valuable they will.be when
"drained" (observe, he seldom uses the word "reclaim"). During
the campaign he stated in print that when the Everglades are
drained, they will be worth $50 per acre, and that they will rent
for $35 per acre. Worth $50 per acre! A magnificent fortune for
the State! And yet he does not think it unjust to tax three million
acres of private lands outside the 'Everglades. some of them high
sand hills, too, to make the State's property worth $50 per acre,
and all the time the State not taxed a cent of taxation.
Reverting, in conclusion, to the Constitutional Amendment,
the question for the people of Florida to decide is whether they
will enlarge the powers of the Drainage Commission by bestowing
upon them constitutional powers instead of the legislative powers
that they are now wielding so unwisely and so oppressively.
If the people of Florida are satisfied with the record of the
present Everglades Drainage District, if they think the tax a fair
and just one, then let them incorporate the Drainage Commission,
hair and hide, into the Constitution. Let them give Tallahassee
the power to select any part of Florida they please and tax it
to death for an unlimited period of timer
If, on the other hand, they believe that it is dangerous to
entrust such enormous and despotic powers to the political manip-
ulation of the administration, and if they believe that the present
Drainage District is being mismanaged, and the public funds
wasted, then let them kill the Constitutional Amendment to a finish
at the polls next November.
Let them also vote for members of the Legislature who will
pledge themselves to. wipe. out the whole extravagant scheme at
the next session of the Legislature; or at least so amend the
present law as will properly protect the innocent private land
owners, 'and curb the arbitrary powers of the Drainage Commis-
This statement from the undersigned representative citizens
of the Drainage District is an appeal to the people of Florida for
relief from the intolerable injustice of the present Drainage law,
and also a warning to them to guard themselves against the danger
that threatens the entire State through the proposed Drainage
Walter S. Graham, Miami, Fla.
M. A. Marshall, Dania, Fla..
C.. T. McCarty, Fort Pierce, Fla.-St. Lucie County.
T. M. Murphy, Kissimmee, Fla.
E. L. Lesley, Kissimmee, Fla.
T. 0. Parker, Arcadia, Fla.
M. B. King, Arcadia, Fla.
W. W. Langford, Arcadia, Fla.
J. G. King, Arcadia, Fla.
R. E. Whidden, Arcadia, Fla.
Walter G. Langford, Fort Myers, Fla..
W. R. Washburn, Fort Myers, Fla. Lee County.
T. M. Lybass, Fort Myers, Fla.