By Jane Feehan
The U.S. government established Fort Lauderdale’s first post office in 1891, ten years before the city was incorporated. William C. Valentine served as first postmaster. He rowed his boat from house to house to pick up mail from his home on property at current day exclusive Harbor Beach.
A trailblazer, Valentine also performed the first marriage ceremony in the small settlement – that of two other Fort Lauderdale pioneers, Eva Bryan and Frank Oliver. The first postmaster was also a civil engineer and surveyor who planned/platted a town south of Fort Lauderdale that he named Modello. Valentine recruited Danish immigrants living in Chicago to settle in the community. The Danes changed the name to Dania when the town was incorporated in 1904 (other lots he owned in the area were auctioned off in 1911).
Farther south, Valentine platted the fork of the Miami River and part of the Brickell property in Dade County. He also surveyed and platted the towns of Sisco and Interlachen in North Florida in 1881. Valentine was listed in the 1900 Census for Lemon City (now Little Haiti in Miami), Dade County as a “trucker and engineer” living as neighbor to Philemon and Reed Bryan on one side and a D. Irvin on the other. (The area that became Fort Lauderdale was part of Dade County then.)
Genealogical records indicate he was born in Louisiana in 1841 (others histories say 1840). Weidling and Burghard, authors of Checkered Sunshine (University of Florida Press: 1966), and the Broward County Historical Commission say Valentine drowned in Fort Lauderdale’s New River in 1903.
Several towns owe much to the memory of this oft-forgotten Florida pioneer, William C. Valentine.
Copyright © 2013. All rights reserved. Jane Feehan.
Gillis, Susan. Fort Lauderdale: The Venice of America. Charleston: Arcadia (2004).
Weidling, Philip J., Burghard, August. Checkered Sunshine. Gainesville: University of Florida Press (1966).
Miami News, Nov. 18, 1911, p. 8.
Tags: Fort Lauderdale history, Florida history, Florida film researcher, historical researcher