Title: History of Florida Includes Land Transactions
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/WL00002225/00001
 Material Information
Title: History of Florida Includes Land Transactions
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Publisher: Okeechobee News
Spatial Coverage: North America -- United States of America -- Florida
Abstract: History of Florida Includes Land Transactions, October 14, 1992
General Note: Box 10, Folder 10 ( SF Water Resources Historical Collection - 1988 ), Item 6
Funding: Digitized by the Legal Technology Institute in the Levin College of Law at the University of Florida.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: WL00002225
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: Levin College of Law, University of Florida
Holding Location: Levin College of Law, University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.

Full Text

Okeechobee News, Wednesday, October 14, 1992

History of Florida includes

land transactions

The claims by the Florida Department
of Natural Resources that much of the
land along the Kissimmee River Is state-
owned. Just doesn't
seem to coincide with
the facts as history has
recorded them.
Some of the current
landowners objections
appear to be supported
by the accounts record-
ed by Florida histori-
When Florida was
admitted to the Union
In 1845, the new state
received 500,000 acres
from the federal gov-
ernment for internal
improvements. The
entire peninsula was
literally inhabitable
and, except for a few
small areas, was a solid
swamp. The drainage
of land became a major
project if the state was
ever to attract residents.
Five years later, in 1850, the federal
government handed over 20.000,000
acres of swamp and overflowed lands,
as a part of the Swamp and Overflowed
Land Grant Act. The land was "wet and
unfit for cultivation." and the purpose
of the act was to permit the state to sell
the land, with the proceeds of the sales
to be used to implement the construc-
tion of levees and drainage systems.
The stipulation from the federal govern-
ment was these lands were to be

In 1855, the Florida Legislature cre-
ated the Internal Improvement Fund to
oversee the recla-
mation activities.
Drainage and recla-
mation were fixed by
this state law as the
main trust of the
trustees of the fund.
but no recognition
was made of the fact
that 80 percent of
these lands had
already been ear-
marked for reclama-
tion and drainage by
the federal govern-
In May 1856. the
federal government
gave the state of Flori-
da more land ear-
marked specifically
for the construction of
railroads. Land for
education purposes
was also assigned to the state by the
federal government.
State lands were placed under the
guardianship of the Internal Improve-
ment Fund. Proceeds from the sale of
these lands was to be used to pay the
principal and Interest on railroad bonds
guaranteed by the state. The state's
obligations from the railroad bonds
became hopelessly entangled, and the
trustees also let the land sales threaten
to squander the state's resources.
The trustees, as early as 1867,


attempted to sell land in exchange for
drainage of the swamp and overflow
lands. One such contract that year was
with Silas Niblack who was to reclaim
areas near both the Kisslmmee and the
Caloosahatchee rivers. The project was
to be started within a year.and com-
pleted within seven years.
In 1876 the trustees offered 1.1 mlion
acres for 10 cents per acre to the New
York and Florida Lumber Company for a
drainage and reclamation project.
By 1877, the state's most insistent
problem was the land situation Interest
on the debt re eating up the revenues
In the funds, but the credltoo were also
pressing fr payment
A court order refused to permit the
trustees to make sales for anything other
than cash. so it was necessary to find a
largescale westor to play fary godfather
to thetuneof$m1 mlon.
Samuel A. Swann was named as an
agent to ind the buyer. Fr four years, he
sought a buyer. He had negotiated a sale
In 1881, but before the deal could be con-
summated, the United States Circuit
Court, sponding to the appeal of credi-
tors, ordered the sale of all the lands
belonging to the fund, an estimated
14,000,000 acres.
Hamilton Dieston happened on the
scene at this time. The Philadelphia
industrialist had made his first trip to
Florida in 1877. He was looking for new
enterprise To be able to change and alter
a section of the young state was a chal-
lenge which appealed to the 37-year-old
On Feb. 26. 1881, he and his assocl-

ates entered into a drainage agreement
with the trustees of the Internal Improve-
ment nmd to drain overflowed lands near
Iake Okeechobee.
Because of the litigation, the state
could not give Mr. Dtston dear tie. Mr.
Disston became aware of the problem
when the creditors applied for a forced
land sale.
Governor William D. Bloxham sug-
gested that enough land be sold out-
right to Mr. Disston to relieve the
embarrassment of the fund, and then
be able to finalize the drainage con-
Mr. Diaston agreed.
On May 30, 1881, Disston became
owner of 4.000,000 acres of central and
south Florida land for the bargain price
of 25 cents per acre. This got the
trustees off the hook, and made Mr.
Disston the largest landowner in the
United States.
Mr. Disston was to make payments
and allocation of the lands would
become his as each payment was made.
The first payment was for $200,000.
The tracts conveyed to him after each
payment were to be for 10,000 acres
each. The final payment would result in
Mr. Disston receiving title to 500,000
Not only were the bulk of the lands'
swamp and overflow lands, they could
not be surveyed and examined until the
water was drained from them.

For more on the history of Florida
lands, see the next edition of The
Daily Okcechobee Nws.

11Jl- .

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