Endings and Beginnings
In 1893 a stage line running on a new road from Lantana to Lemon City opened Palm Beach County to the south—Miami, Key West, and nearly unlimited points beyond, by boat. It was the progress already approaching from the north, however, that brought the greatest change to Lake Worth.
More and more people were attracted to Florida’s mild climate and inexpensive land. Railroads expanded throughout the state, bringing people south and allowing agricultural products to be shipped north before they spoiled. In 1885 Henry Flagler started buying some of the railway lines, and in 1892 he received a state charter to extend a line to Miami. His “Tropical Trunk Line” along the St. Johns River to Titusville would expand and later become the Florida East Coast Railway.
As railroad construction progressed toward Palm Beach in 1893, the pioneer period on Lake Worth came to an end; everything was in preparation for what would later be known as the Flagler Era. His massive Royal Poinciana Hotel was underway, requiring great quantities of materials and labor. George Lainhart and George Potter founded Lainhart and Potter Lumber Company, to supply Flagler’s projects. The 119-year-old family business was sold to Marjam Supply Company in 2012.
George Potter was also the Dade County surveyor. After Flagler paid O.S. Porter and Louis Hillhouse $45,000 for land that would be West Palm Beach, he hired Potter to lay out the new city, hoping to reserve Palm Beach for his elite tourist clientele.
During 1893 and 1894, many new people would arrive on Lake Worth, first by boat, then on Flagler’s railroad. Some had worked for him elsewhere; many others came as laborers to fulfill the magnate’s dreams—the railroad or the Royal Poinciana Hotel—and their own. Some kept moving with the railroad and settled the south end of Palm Beach County. A few returned north. The days were gone when all the residents would gather just to picnic, or when they all knew each other by name. The first arrivals, the pioneers, had done the hard work, but there was more to come than even they could have imagined.
© Historical Society of Palm Beach County.