Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Two cousins, a stage line, and early Fort Lauderdale

By Jane Feehan

Ohioan Guy Irwin Metcalf (1866-1918) started up the first newspaper along the southeast coast of Florida, The Indian River News, in Melbourne in 1887. The legacy of this enterprising pioneer includes much more, including a connection to the founding of Fort Lauderdale.

Metcalf moved south to Juno with his family and renamed the paper The Tropical Sun in 1891. For a time, it was the only newspaper serving Floridians from Melbourne to the Upper Keys, most of which then was Dade County.  Metcalf sold the paper to the Model Land Co., owned by Henry Flagler, in 1902.

A community builder who saw potential in South Florida, Metcalf established a real estate company that built a rock road from Lantana to Lemon City (today the Little Haiti section of Miami). For travel on that road (completed in 1892), Metcalf started up a stage line of mule-pulled wagons – Bay Biscayne Stage line or “Palmetto” stage line - to make three trips a week from Lantana to Miami with a stopover at a tent camp he set up at New River. The wagons did not cross New River, making the stage line the first transportation from Lantana to Miami entirely over land. Passengers and supplies were ferried across to waiting wagons. He hired his cousin Frank Stranahan, a Ohioan who was living in Melbourne at the time, to run the camp and its ferry at New River.

Stranahan expanded operations to include a trading post nearby and hung a sign there with the name “Fort Lauderdale” for its U.S. Postal Service designation. As a pioneer of Fort Lauderdale Stranahan served at once as its political, social and economic focal point for decades. (Lauderdale was Major William Lauderdale who came to fight the Seminoles in the 1830s. See: http://bit.ly/1rmsNf2 and http://bit.ly/140Jl4V ).

Each cousin thus contributed significantly to the South Florida story. In his short life, Metcalf also served as postmaster for West Palm Beach from 1913-1915 and as superintendent of schools for Palm Beach County. Copyright © 2013. All rights reserved. Jane Feehan.

1. Lake Worth Pioneers’ Association
3. McIver, Stuart. Glimpses of South Florida History. Miami: Florida Flair Books, 1988.

Tags: Fort Lauderdale history, early roads of South Florida, Palm Beach County history, Florida stage line, New River, historical researcher

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