Railroads Change Florida: Henry Flagler in Florida
Lesson Plan

CPALMS Reviewed and Approved

This lesson has been reviewed and approved by CPALMS.


Henry Flagler was the founder of what became the Florida East Coast Railway. During the 1880s and 1890s, Henry Flagler expanded train lines through Jacksonville and down the East coast to Miami. Henry Flagler began the Oversea Railway in 1906 to connect Miami to Key West. This ambitious and innovative project required money, earth-moving, man-hours, and miles of bridges.

In this lesson students analyze a letter from Henry Flagler to learn about Flagler and his contributions to Florida.


Students will:

  • Analyze primary source documents.
  • Write about history using primary sources.



Sunshine State Standards

  • SS.4.A.1.1: Analyze primary and secondary resources to identify significant individuals and events throughout Florida history.
  • SS.4.A.6.1: Describe the economic development of Florida's major industries.
  • SS.4.A.6.3: Describe the contributions of significant individuals to Florida.
    Examples may include, but are not limited to, John Gorrie, Henry Flagler, Henry Plant, Lue Gim Gong, Vicente Martinez Ybor, Julia Tuttle, Mary McLeod Bethune, Thomas Alva Edison, James Weldon Johnson, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings.
  • SS.4.E.1.1: Identify entrepreneurs from various social and ethnic backgrounds who have influenced Florida and local economy.
    Examples are Henry Flagler, Walt Disney, Ed Ball, Alfred Dupont, Julia Tuttle, Vincente Martinez Ybor.
  • SS.4.E.1.2: Explain Florida's role in the national and international economy and conditions that attract businesses to the state.
    Examples are tourism, agriculture, phosphate, space industry.

Florida Standards

  • LAFS.4.RI.1.1: Refer to details and examples in a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.
  • LAFS.4.RI.1.2: Determine the main idea of a text and explain how it is supported by key details; summarize the text.
  • LAFS.4.RI.1.3: Explain events, procedures, ideas, or concepts in a historical, scientific, or technical text, including what happened and why, based on specific information in the text.
  • LAFS.4.RI.1.1: Refer to details and examples in a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.
  • LAFS.K12.R.1.1: Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.

Materials Needed

  1. Document Analysis Worksheet from the National Archives and Records Administration.
  2. Letter from Henry Flagler.


Part I: Introducing Content

  1. Teachers may review previously covered material dealing with Henry Flagler.
  2. Conduct an in-class discussion/survey of students’ prior knowledge.
    • Who was Henry Flagler?
    • How did he change Florida?

Part II: Document Analysis

  1. Students will analyze the letter using the Document Analysis Worksheet.
  2. Conduct an in-class discussion/survey of what students learned during the document analysis. What can students infer from the document about the role of Henry Flagler in Florida? Were they surprised by anything they saw? You may take this time to answer any questions students might have after their examination of the letter.

Part III: Writing About Henry Flagler

Students should write brief journal responses to the letter, focused on what they learned about the Henry Flagler.

Extension Activity

Students may analyze photographs of Henry Flagler and the Oversea Railway using the Photograph Analysis Worksheet from the National Archives to glean additional information.