Henry Flagler’s Fleeting Fancy
BY WM. F. CRARY II
Henry Morrison Flagler (1830-1913) brought the railroad through the Treasure Coast, which
speeded the development of the region’s pineapple industry. In 1910, a major newspaper called
Flagler Florida’s “boss” and claimed he owned the state “body and soul.”
The railroad tycoon made the pineapple boom on the Treasure Coast — and he broke it, too
For 20 years or more, the whims of an aging tycoon controlled the destinies of every pioneer on the Treasure Coast. Pineapple planters in the sparsely settled communities of Stuart, Jensen, Fort Pierce and Vero lived in the sun and shadow of his empire. All the other farmers and fishermen did, too. In fact, everyone along the entire length of the frontier peninsula was beholden to one man for the fruits of advancing civilization. In the final decades of his life, Henry Morrison Flagler was lord of the East Coast of Florida. In America, cash has a way of becoming king. Although our Founding Fathers banned royal titles, regal privileges remained for those well-robed with dollar bills. The striking difference from the Old World is how many princes of profit in our history have risen from nothing. Flagler is a case in point. His father, a Presbyterian minister, struggled to support his family on meager offerings from his parishioners. Young Henry had to help support himself from an early age. He quit school after the eighth grade and left home to find work with relatives in Ohio. Until he was 37, Flagler wrestled with his own series of ups and downs, including business failure and debts.