Historical Sketch of Flagler County

Historical Sketch of Flagler County



(First entry, p. 28)


Flagler county was created by act of the legislature of Florida on April 28, 1917, from the northern part of Volusia county and the southern part of St. Johns county. The territory comprising the county lay entirely within St. Johns county between 1822 and 1824. From the latter date until 1854 the southern portion was in Orange county, which was called Mosquito county until 1845; between 1845 and 1917 it was in Volusia county. The county was named in honor of Henry M. Flagler, an associate of Rockefeller in the Standard Oil Company, who came to Florida in 1883 and was instrumental in the development of the entire East Coast through his activities as builder and president of the Florida East Coast Railroad. Bunnell was made the county seat.

Although Flagler county is one of the newer counties of the state, the history of the territory which it now embraces is interwoven with the earliest history of Florida. Less than two months after the founding of St. Augustine, in 1565, Pedro Menendez de Aviles led an expedition of 150 men across this section to attack a colony of French who were building a fort at Canaveral. Evidences of French settlement are still found on the old Dupont place, in the northeast part of the county.

The first known settlement in this territory was made by the Franciscans, who established a mission about 26 miles south of St. Augustine early in the seventeenth century. The Franciscan fathers undertook to instruct the Indian braves in agriculture, but found them much opposed to manual labor, which they considered squaw's work. This and other early missions to the south were mere palmetto huts, but as the influence of the Franciscans increased Indian labor was used to construct substantial buildings of coquina stone. The missions in this section were destroyed by the Indians about the middle of the eighteenth century. The ruins of some of them can still be seen; one is between the old King's Road and the canal that now connects the Matanzas and Halifax Rivers.

The first permanent settlers within the present limits of Flagler county removed into the territory in the early nineteenth century. Perhaps the earliest was John Russell, a wealthy planter from the Bahamas, who brought his family and slaves to St. Augustine in 1812, by way of Charleston, South Carolina. Russell traded the schooner in which he made the trip to the governor of the Province of East Florida for 4,000 acres of land, built a home on the grant, and engaged in the cultivation of sugarcane. He later sold the property to Charles W. Bulow, whose son, John, built on it the first pine coquina residence in the county and a sugar mill. Henry Culting and Joseph M. Hernandez were other early settlers. Culting, an Englishman, bought the Pellicer grant on Pellicer Creek. Hernandez, who was Florida's first territorial delegate to Congress, in 1817 secured a Spanish grant which included the site of the old Franciscan Mission. On his plantation, called San Jose, he cultivated sugarcane, which he manufactured into sugar in his own mill.

The early prosperity of this section was destroyed by the Seminole Indian War, which began in 1835. Not only did immigration cease, but the plantations that had been established were made untenable by Indian hostilities. In 1842, at the close of the War, Congress passed a


State Library of Florida, WPA - Historical Records Survey, County Histories


Brief history of Flagler County, Florida collected by the Works Progress Administration's Historical Records Survey.

Note to Researchers: Though the WPA field workers included extensive citations for the factual information contained in these county histories, it should be noted that these historical narratives were produced in the 1930s by federal government employees, and might reflect the inherent social biases of the era.