Railroad Men, the officers and principal stockholders of the two pre-Flagler
railroads, were entrepreneurs, men who had the right glandular balance to take
risks and build railroads to the coast of Jacksonville. They were real estate
developers, bankers, lawyers, businessmen, ex-soldiers, and timber barons but
none earned his living from a railroad even though a few were involved in more
than one railroad. Some were founders of the largest banks in Jacksonville, the
Barnett National Bank by Barnett, the Atlantic National Bank by Denham, and the
First National Bank by Hubbard.
involved themselves from a variety of motives, The desire to open land to real
estate development was one; many developed property in addition to some other
enterprise. Civic pride—the desire to see Jacksonville prosper—was another.
Acquiring a beach cottage to beat the summer urban heat was another. Being part
of railroading, the chic form of transportation was another. Many thought their
railroad ventures—the Jacksonville & Atlantic and the Jacksonville, Mayport,
and Pablo—would be profitable, especially since the railroad corporations were
subsidized by governments.
governments, as did governments throughout the United States, understood that
the vast public domain needed to be populated if the state was going to thrive
and that meant getting the land
privatized and populated.
Private railroad companies became the means to that end. Millions of
acres of public property were given to small groups of private individuals
organized as profit seeking corporations
in exchange for the corporations building railroads (a means of
communication and transportation that would open the hinterland) and selling
land. The two Jacksonville roads were small so they did not receive as much as
the Flagler system but what they received was important. Profit came from the
land and, in the case of the Florida East Coast Railway, hotels.
The Beach Railroad Men did risk
personal capital. As we have seen, Burbridge managed to find co-investors for
the J&A as did subsequent J&A presidents. One stockholder, Christopher,
built a luxury hotel in Pablo Beach only to lose it to fire; he did not
rebuild. The leaders of the J&A were among the elite of Jacksonville and
thus could attract capital. Wallace's co-investors for the JM&P were fewer,
the railroad was more his personal property, but they may have risked a greater
percentage of their personal wealth.
was a railroad building decade, a boom decade. Many railroads failed in the
1870s; many short line railroads failed or were absorbed by larger roads. The
Pennsylvania Railroad, for example, was created by the consolidation of many
small roads. In Florida, Henry Flagler and
Henry B. Plant, and others were building or expanding railroads in
Florida, creating two great systems. The United States economy was expanding
and need lumber; Florida pine forests
had been little touched. The river and then the railroads provided the means of
shipping it. The U. S. government spent millions building the jetties and
dredging the river (a constant necessity) to allow deeper draft boats—ocean
vessels—to penetrate to the center of Jacksonville.
Jacksonville enjoyed the advantages
of its lumber industry, its location in northeast Florida on a major river, its
role as an entrepôt for cotton and livestock grown west of the city, citrus,
and tourism from colder climates. Flagler, after all, went to Jacksonville from
New York as a tourist. Cotton and
livestock from west of Jacksonville.
there were only19,431 people in all of
Duval County, Florida of whom 8,580 were white and 10,850 were African-American
with one person identified as Chinese. African-Americans constituted 55.8% of
the population. Jacksonville itself (not counting its small suburbs) contained
just 7,650 people of whom 3,991 were white, that is, 52% were white. At least
half of these were female and, thus, not "players" in those days nor
were children. If we look at the county population in order to account for the
people of both Jacksonville and its suburbs and assuming half were female, then
the white male population was 4,290 but that includes children. The 1890 Census
recorded only 17,201 persons in Jacksonville and 26,800 persons in Duval
County. So, a few dozen white men could easily dominate the business life. 
forty men, most were not native Floridians. McQuaid came from Ireland; MacDuff,
Archibald, and Wallace were Scotsman; Fitzgerald was English; Cashen was Canadian; and Solary was Italian.
Burbridge and Christopher had migrated from Missouri; Griffin, Schumaker, and
Spinner from New York; Greeley from
Maine; Gilbert from Connecticut; Burrows from Pennsylvania; the two Daniel
brothers and Togni from South Carolina; Jones from Georgia; Hubbard from North
Carolina; Taliaferro, Archer, and Barnett from Virginia; Haworth from Indiana;
Scott from Kentucky; and Yeomans from Ohio. At least half (20) were from states
other than Florida. Since I did not find the birthplace of seven, the number
might be higher. Even among the Floridians, some, such as the Stocktons and
Ledwith, migrated to Jacksonville. Buckman, the lawyer, real estate developer,
politician, and the "father" of the university system, was born in
Jacksonville. Florida was a lightly-populated state. Given the fact that there
were a limited number of white male Floridians in Duval County, immigrants from
other states or nations had excellent economic opportunities. Those who
emigrate from their homes tend to be ambitious, to be risk takers.
Railroad Men knew each other well. Most were members of the Board of Trade, the
businessmen's organization created to foster the growth of economic opportunity
in Jacksonville and protect their own interests. The involved real estate
development was high as were the number of lumbermen or merchants. They and
their wives moved in the same social circles. Some were connected by marriage.
At the end of the 1880s but more particularly in the 1890s, the Stockton family
emerged as major players in the county. Thomas T. Stockton was controlled the
Florida Times-Union; his brothers J. N. C. and Telfair were involved in both
railroads. It was all a bit incestuous.
The JM&P group was not as
well connected as the J&A group even though J.N.C. Stockton was deeply
involved once Wallace died. Wallace took the Togni and Solary as partners and
Burrow and Haworth of Mayport but none of whom appeared to be in the
Jacksonville elite or was part off one of the Jacksonville banks. The JM&P
paid cash to build its tracks and almost all of it came from Wallace. Wallace's
death meant his railroad could not afford to make the necessary logistical
connections. Stockton, representing the widow, sold the business to Scott,
Harman, and Yeomans. They not only refused to pay what they had promised they
also used the property to float loans in New York, earned some income, and let it go bankrupt. They
seemed to care little about Jacksonville.
came Flagler, buying the remains of both Beach railroads and melding the
J&A into the Florida East Coast system
and buying the Florida Times-Union to be make sure it always represented railroad
interests. Neither Flagler nor the FEC after he died in 1913 could make money
from the railroad. He spent most of his fortune and had to borrow more. The FEC
declared bankruptcy in 1931. Flagler and the FEC couldn't make money from the
railroad but did earn profits from the hotels except for the Continental Hotel
in Atlantic Beach.
to the oceanfront as a profitable business was not to be. There simply were not
enough people living on the beach. Only 326 lived there year around in
1900. Tourism for four months or
well-to-do Jacksonville residents staying temporarily in cottages did not
generate enough passenger traffic. The opening of the paved Atlantic Boulevard
in 1910 began undercutting the Mayport Branch.
The switch from coal to oil meant that carrying coal was ending; that
freight was a main source of income for the Mayport Branch.
Railroad men benefited from building the railroads even though the roads
themselves lost money. Without their existence the land at the beach would not
have been sold and settled. Because of them, Jacksonville Beach was founded.
Then Flagler entered the beach because of the J&A and created Atlantic
Beach. The coast would have been developed eventually but it could have
occurred decades later. We cannot know what might have happened. What we do know is that a portion of the
Jacksonville economic elite changed the course of Florida history. The
Jacksonville & Atlantic, in its incarnations, created a common bond among