In 1894, Henry Flagler had no immediate plans to extend his Florida East Coast Railway from West Palm Beach to the mosquito-ridden pioneer outpost. Only a few families lived there, and they got their mail from men who spent three days walking the beach from Lake Worth.
But two influential and visionary women had established homes in the area and saw great potential for future growth. Julia Tuttle moved to the area in 1891 and purchased land that included the former site of Fort Dallas, established on an abandoned plantation during the Second Seminole War of the 1830s.
Across the river from Tuttle lived William and Mary Brickell. They arrived in the 1870s and quickly established themselves as successful traders and real estate investors. Their holdings included considerable acreage around the New River where Fort Lauderdale would soon be built.
But then came two devastating freezes during the winter of 1894-95 that destroyed farm crops as far south as West Palm Beach. One story says that Julia Tuttle sent Henry Flagler, then wintering in Palm Beach, a bouquet of orange blossoms to prove that crops in her area had survived the freeze. Another story states that Tuttle cabled Flagler in March 1895 and asked him to come see for himself that the freeze left crops in the area untouched. Flagler instead sent an associate who returned to Palm Beach with produce and fruit.
The end result was that Flagler agreed to extend his railroad to Miami in exchange for hundreds of acres of prime real estate from Tuttle and the Brickells. Flagler also agreed to build a posh hotel on the Miami River and plat streets around the new railroad depot that became the foundation of the new city.
The first train rolled into Miami on April 13, 1896. On July 28, 344 registered voters, including many black laborers, crowded into a building called The Lobby near the Miami River and voted to incorporate a town.
They called the town Miami after the Miami River, the name of which may have derived from a word describing a Native American community from Florida who arrived in Cuba in 1710.