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1917 Acts of the Florida Legislature: Mortgage the State and Drain the Everglades!

This being all the intelligence they had on the subject, they hastened to act upon it accordingly.

New Smyrna News, Friday, March 30, 1917


All Agree Great Area Must Be Reclaimed

A party of fifty-five members of the Florida Legislature, accompanied by William Jennings Bryan and about twenty editors and representatives of leading newspapers of the state, recently spent four days in an inspection tour of the Everglades and Lake Okeechobee. The visiting statesmen were the guests of the Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties, and the expenses of the trip were defrayed by popular subscription in the three counties named.

Only two of the members of the legislative party had ever before seen the Everglades. Following are some of the things that the visitors said, at the conclusion of the trip, as quoted from Miami and Fort Lauderdale newspapers:

Double Tax Wealth

William Jennings Bryan: "The drainage of the Everglades is such an enormous proposition that it is hard to make anybody understand it until he has actually been over the ground. I am sure the trip will result in great good to this section of the state, and that means great good to the state as a whole, because the taxable wealth of the state will be more than doubled by reclamation of the Everglades."

Senator J.O. King, of Citrus County: "I believe the Everglades is the richest large tract of land in the world, but it is worthless until it is drained. What the Glades owners and the people of the southern part of the state are asking is, only a square deal, and I am in favor of giving it ot them."

Representative C.A. Stevens of Hamilton County: I am ready to support any legislative program that will give real drainage to this rich empire."

Florida's Biggest Asset

Representative N.J. Wicker, of Sumter County: " The Everglades is Florida's biggest asset. When drained it will be the richest farming country in the United States. The state must drain these lands if every foot of state land has to be mortgaged or sold to do the job."

Representative John A. Scruggs, of Leon County: "I favor practical legislation to bring about real drainage of the Everglades. If the drainage work can be taken out of politics, it should be done."

Representative W.J. Roebuck, of Columbia County: " Everglades drainage is a mighty big project, but I believe Florida is big enough to bring it about. There is no reason why the state lands should not be used as security for financing the drainage, and this should be done."

Representative David Scholtz, of Volusia County: "I have lived quite near the Everglades for years, but have never before realized their breadth, scope and possibilities."

Representative C.R. Mathis, of Holmes County: "The Everglades project is ten times bigger and a hundred times better than I had supposed. The land is too valuable to be allowed to lie unused. I favor putting every acre of state lands back of the project, if it is necessary."

Representative F.W. Perry, of Lee County: " It will probably cost $30,000,000 to $40,000,000 to drain the Everglades, and I favor making a complete job of it."

Representative W.J. Epperson, of Levy County: "There is a great future for the Everglades, and they should be drained as speedily as possible. The state lands should be put back of drainage bonds at once. The people of the Everglades section are not asking anything unreasonable and they should get what they want."

Representative Cary A. Hardee, of Suwanee County: "The measure which will most speedily reclaim this fertile area is the measure that should be adopted."

Glades Must Be Drained

Representative A.H. Williams, of Leon County: "The Everglades must be drained, and the legislature must do whatever is necessary to insure drainage."

Representative A.S. Crews, of Bradford County: "The only question is how it may best be done, for the Everglades must be reclaimed. It is a wonderful region."

Representative McQueen Chaires, of Lafayette County: "The reclamation of the Everglades is the great project in Florida. The work ought to be in charge of a commission here on the ground."

Representative M.O. Biggett, of Escambia County: "The fertility of the Everglades soil has been demonstrated without a doubt. It is perfectly clear just what should be done and the state must proceed with the reclamation work at once."

Senator W.E. Baker, of Clay County: "I had never before seen the Everglades and always considered it best to vote against anything I didn't know about. Now I know what the Everglades are and what they ought to be, and I am strongly for drainage."

Will Make State Taxes Lower

Representative M.O. Best, of Suwanee County: "If we drain the Everglades, taxes will be lower for all of us, even way up in the northen part of the state. I hadn't realized at all the wonderfulness of the Everglades."

Representative H.S. McKenzie, of Putnam County: "Our visit is an eye-opener, and we will give you legislation. What kind? The kind that will reclaim the Everglades the quickest."

Senator Oscar M. Eaton, of Polk County: "It is time the state was getting busy with Everglades drainage."

Representative E. R. L. Moore, of Franklin County: "I have now words sufficiently strong to express my appreciation of the Everglades. Its reclamation is a great undertaking and should be prosecuted with the greatest vigor."

Representative W.E. Tilghman, of Putnam County: "There will be no trouble in the world at this session in getting the proper legislation. The Everglades will get anything it wants."

Representative A.J. Morgan, of Polk County: "I am delighted and pleased beyond expectation, and I am surprised the drainage work has stood still for so long."

Use State Lands for Drainage

Senator J.R. McEachern, of Jefferson County: "I am in favor of putting the state lands back of the drainage bonds, if it takes the last avre to complete the drainage."

Senator Doyle E. Carlton of Hillsborough County: "Seeing the Everglades takes away every possible argument against its speedy reclamation."

Senator W.J. Turner of Levy County: "One simply cannot overestimate the value of Everglades kand for agricultural purposes."

Senator J.B. Johnson, of Suwanee County: "There will be no trouble, I think, in getting from the legislature any legislation needed to drain this wonderful section."

Senator W.S. Middleton, of Putnam County: "I think the legislature will want to do anything it can to hasten the reclamation of the Everglades."

Representative J.A. Hanson, of Lake County: "I expected nothing like what I saw. We must take the proper steps to make the most of this fertile country."

Representative J.Y. Barnes, of Citrus County: "The Everglades has a wonderful future."

No Better Land in U.S.

Representative J.B. Stewart, of Nassau County: "I don't believe there is a better country in the United States than the Everglades. There is no doubt but that you people will get what you want from the legislature when it comes to drainage measures."

Representative A.C. Hamblin, of Hillsborough County: "The Everglades is so big and so wonderful that it is too much for any mind to at once grasp its full significance."

Representative George H. Wilder, of Hillsborough County: "The Everglades is going to be the garden spot of the world."

Representative D.T. Haddock, of Nassau County: "I am a farmer and know soil. There is no question question about the fertility of the soil of the Everglades."

Representative L.S. Light, of Marion County: "We can reclaim this great prairie as easily as we reclaimed the arid regions of the west."

Representative W.T. Cash, of Taylor County: "I will vote to support any reasonable measure for Everglades drainage. Why shouldn't I?"

Worth More Than Rest of State

Representative Marion B. Jennings, of Duval County: "The five million acres in the Everglades will be worth more than all the rest of the state of Florida when it is properly drained."

Representative Telfair Stockton , of Duval County: "California land at $600 an acre is not worth a much as this Everglades soil. We can't stop now. We must go forward with the reclamation of the Everglades."

Representative W. M. Webb, of Hamilton County: "Any reasonable plan for the reclamation will go through the legislature. When drained, the Glades will be the finest land in the world."

Representative L.B. Edge, of Lake County: "I never saw the Everglades before. It certainly is a wonderful section. The legislature will surely give the relief needed to insure its drainage."


The first act of the Florida Legislature of 1917 was an endorsement of the Everglades and a promise of speedy drainage.

A majority of the members of the lawmaking body to meet in Tallahassee in April attended a banquet in Fort Lauderdale on February 21, and by unanimous vote adopted the following resolutions, offered by State Senator James E. Calkins:

"Whereas the members of the Legislature of 1917, visiting the Everglades, have inspected the great work of drainage and reclamation of the Everglades, and

"Whereas such inspection has brought us to first hand information concerning the lands of the Everglades and the great project of the drainage thereof; therefore be it

"Resolved by the members of the Legislature of 1917, making up the Everglades inspection party. That we recognize the richness and fertility of the Everglades land, the interest of the state in the drainage thereof, and that provisions should be made by the state, without unnecessary delay, for carrying to completion the drainage of the Everglades."

"Three an one-half million dollars worth of Everglades drainage bonds were sold to Spitzer Rorick Company of Toledo, Ohio, and a certified check for $20,000 was deposited with the board by the bonding house as evidence of good faith. The bonds were prepared for sale four years ago, and although announcements have been made at intervals, to the effect that a part of the issue had been sold, till the present date no sale has actually been consummated."






Represents 20,000 Owners
of Everglades Lands

Announcing itself as representing the interests of 20,000 citizens of Florida and other states who have bought undrained lands in the Everglades in the belief that the land was to be drained by the state, the Everglades Drainage League with headquarters at Fort Lauderdale, Fla. is waging a campaign to have the ??? drainage taken out of politics and placed on a business basis.

The Drainage League last summer forced the drainage question as a dominant issue in the state campaign. It secured pledges from Governor C and a number of candidates who were later successful in the primaries, that if elected they would favor such new legislation as would provide for adequate drainage without further delay.













































"Florida Will Gain From Everglades Drainage"











"The break was due."

"Water Stands One to Four Feet Deep in Moore Haven- Communication Cut Off"





































"Moore Haven is described as practically wiped out, presenting a scene of desolation almost indescribable."

"Pounding waves melted the dyke like chocolate."




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