In today’s episode of This Day in Miami History, we celebrate the 75th anniversary of the dedication of Everglades National Park. The early history of the Everglades would not necessarily foreshadow a decades-long association of preservation.

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Marjory Stoneman Douglas (1984) – FloridaMemory on YouTube

President Truman’s address on conservation at the dedication of the Everglades National Park – Harry S. Truman Library & Museum

World Listening Day 2022 – Everglades National Park on Facebook

The Governor, the Swamp, and “Fake News”: Napoleon Bonaparte Broward’s Battle to Drain the Everglades and His War on the Press by S. Moxy Moczygemba

May Mann Jennings & the Creation of Royal Palm State Park by S. Moxy Moczygemba

Leading the Way: A Century of Service …And Beyond! – The GFWC Florida Federation of Women’s Clubs 1895-2015 by Jessie Hamm Meyer

The Florida East Coast Homeseeker, Everglades Special – vol. XII, no. 4 (April 1910)

[00;00;05;20 – 00;00;13;23] Matthew Bunch: The sound you’re hearing is from the Florida Everglades.

[00;00;13;26 – 00;00;43;22] Matthew Bunch: The sound was recorded just outside one of the park’s Pine Rocklands, an iconic and unique ecosphere within the park’s boundaries. You’ll hear birds and bugs and all the other sounds that come along with a sunny South Florida day. Except for people, you don’t really hear them. The whole point of a national park is to be able to enjoy the solitude and beauty of nature away from the hustle and bustle of urban life.

[00;00;43;24 – 00;01;12;18] Matthew Bunch: And rare among America’s major national parks is the proximity of this park to a major city. Without traffic — and I know that’s an important caveat in Miami — but without traffic you can get from downtown to the Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center at the entrance of the Florida Everglades in less than an hour. It’s the shortest distance from an urban city center to a national park in America.

[00;01;12;19 – 00;01;37;01] Matthew Bunch: The next closest is Denver to Rocky Mountain National Park. And that’s about 90 minutes. The fact that the Everglades are so close to a developing city like Miami would naturally lead you to conclude that the Everglades must have in its past be seriously threatened by development. And you’d be right. Many still argue the Everglades remains in danger and work to preserve it today.

[00;01;37;04 – 00;02;06;17] Matthew Bunch: But one very important day changed the path of the Everglades forever. It was the day that the Everglades received national designation and became a part of the national park system. That day is today. This Day in Miami History: December 6, 1947, when Harry Truman visited Everglades City and announced the intention of the federal government to protect the Florida Everglades forever.

[00;02;06;23 – 00;02;26;00] King Elizabeth: ♪ “Miami Sunrise” by King Elizabeth ♪

[00;02;26;02 – 00;03;01;23] Matthew Bunch: In April 2020, at the very beginning of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States, the American Conservation Coalition, an interest group dedicated to environmentalism, ran a contest on its Twitter account. The title, “Park Madness,” a play on the NCAA basketball tournament that was unable to take place that year. And they pitted national parks against one another. And the number one park, according to voters on its Twitter polls, was Everglades National Park, a significant achievement for our little natural outpost to the west of Miami.

[00;03;01;26 – 00;03;41;10] Matthew Bunch: However, this was not the destiny for this particular plot of land when white American settlement began on a large scale in South Florida in the mid- to late-1800s. In fact, the three words most commonly associated with the Everglades were probably “drain the swamp.” The man most associated with Everglades drainage in the late-1800s was Hamilton Distin. Distin, originally from Philadelphia, entered into an agreement with the state of Florida and its internal improvement trust fund to purchase four million acres of Everglades property at $0.25 an acre.

[00;03;41;13 – 00;04;17;03] Matthew Bunch: The completed purchase made Distin one of the largest landowners in the world. While he found some early success with his draining in 1881, 82 and 83, he quickly found that draining the entire Everglades, especially in South Florida, would be much more difficult than anticipated. While his early goals of draining the Everglades weren’t fulfilled in his lifetime, his contributions to that internal improvement fund were vital in building railroads across the state of Florida, including Henry Flagler’s East Coast Railroad to Miami.

[00;04;17;05 – 00;04;44;19] Matthew Bunch: If Distin was the Leonardo da Vinci of Everglades drainage, perhaps a bit before his time, Napoleon Bonaparte Broward was the Wright brothers. Broward only technically served one term in statewide office in Florida, dying before he could take a United States Senate seat in 1910. Broward was a Democrat, as was pretty much every major elected official in the South by 1900.

[00;04;44;25 – 00;05;26;29] Matthew Bunch: But he was a progressive Democrat, eventually finding alliance with Theodore Roosevelt, and his core issue was Everglades drainage. He referred to the Everglades as “fabulous muck” and instituted a land tax program to fund the drainage. Bonaparte estimate for the drainage regime was approximately $1 an acre In 1910. An August 2022 report by the Congressional Research Service estimates that the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan will cost $23.2 billion, according to fiscal year 2020 Estimates, and take almost 30 more years to complete.

[00;05;27;01 – 00;05;51;21] Matthew Bunch: But Broward wasn’t concerned about conservation. He was concerned about economic opportunity, and it was a program that nearly delivered him to the United States Senate and the vice presidency before his untimely death. The future was clear, and the future was development. As Broward himself wrote in an Everglades special issue of the Florida East Coast Home Seeker in April 1910.

[00;05;51;23 – 00;06;24;24] Matthew Bunch: “Yes, the Everglades is a swamp. So was Chicago 60 years ago.” As the “Great Men” of the early Progressive Era were taking action to lead development on the Everglades, a countermovement was developing and the movement was led by women in particular May Mann Jennings and Mary Barr Munroe, both members of the Florida Federation of Women’s Clubs, worked tirelessly to protect a small portion of the Everglades known as Paradise Key.

[00;06;24;26 – 00;06;58;10] Matthew Bunch: Now, Paradise Key was notable because it was a hammock, and on this hammock, Royal Palms could grow unencumbered. It was one of the largest known collections of Royal Palms in one place. Now, it helped that Jennings and Monroe weren’t just random women off the street. May Mann Jennings had been married to William Sherman Jennings, the former governor of Florida who preceded Napoleon Bonaparte Broward. Mary Barr Munroe was married to Kirk Munroe, considered one of the founding fathers of modern Coconut Grove.

[00;06;58;12 – 00;07;33;06] Matthew Bunch: It was their connection to the community that allowed them to so quickly and effectively engage with people who could make important decisions about hundreds of acres of land. In 1915, the Florida legislature decided to present the Florida Federation of Women’s Clubs 960 acres of land around Paradise Key. Now, that’s pretty good. But through additional lobbying, they were able to convince the widow of Henry Flagler, Mary Flagler, to match the donation.

[00;07;33;08 – 00;08;00;10] Matthew Bunch: The club would have 1920 acres around Paradise Key to protect in perpetuity. So long as they managed it, it would be maintained. The club decided that when it christened the first state park in Florida’s history, they would name it after the tree that inspired them to conserve the land in the first place. And Royal Palm State Park was born.

[00;08;00;13 – 00;08;20;27] Matthew Bunch: To this day, the National Park Service considers the Royal Palm State Park the nucleus of Everglades National Park. And as soon as you pass the Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center, just off to the left, you can visit the Royal Palm Park and see the very origins of the Everglades National Park.

[00;08;21;00 – 00;08;32;00] Matthew Bunch: Momentum was building for the Everglades, and two very important people were about to enter the picture and change the discussion around what would become the national park forever.

[00;08;32;02 – 00;09;01;11] Matthew Bunch: The first person is Ernest F. Coe, the man I just mentioned a second ago, who is the namesake of the visitor center. When you enter the park along Ingraham Highway from Homestead, Coe moved to Miami in 1925 and immediately became fascinated with the variety of flora and fauna found in the Everglades. He was a conservationist, outraged by the idea of humans going into the Everglades and taking with them flowers or animals.

[00;09;01;14 – 00;09;38;03] Matthew Bunch: He wanted to protect them, and so he formed the Everglades Tropical National Park Association. He wasn’t alone. He was joined by famed botanist David Fairchild, University of Miami President Bowman Foster Ashe and, a name that will come up in a moment, journalist Marjory Stoneman Douglas, among others. The idea was good, but Coe had a problem. He had moved to Miami in 1925, one year before the Great Hurricane of 1926, three years before the Lake Okeechobee hurricane of 1928 and four years before the stock market crash of 1929.

[00;09;38;05 – 00;10;10;04] Matthew Bunch: The Depression was coming. And in fact, it would arrive in Florida before it arrived anywhere else. And so the idea of taking land away from the state of Florida out of its internal improvement fund and dedicating it only to the purpose of preservation was not necessarily appealing. But Coe would not be deterred. He worked over his congresswoman, Ruth Bryan Owen, a senator, Duncan Fletcher, the Secretary of the Interior, the President, anyone that he could get his hands on, he lobbied.

[00;10;10;06 – 00;10;38;07] Matthew Bunch: He became famous for winning over his opponents, but annoying his own supporters with his fervor. Finally, in May 1934, Congress passed a bill and the president signed a bill authorizing the creation of Everglades National Park. It was a tremendous victory. But we’re not celebrating an anniversary in 1934. We’re celebrating an anniversary in 1947. So what happened?

[00;10;38;09 – 00;11;05;08] Matthew Bunch: What happened was Congress authorized the park but didn’t fund it. And so what happened was the state of Florida was prohibited from selling the land to anyone else but didn’t receive any federal funding or a finished park for it either. Kind of the worst of both worlds. Ernest F. Coe was dismissed from the Everglades board, But if you thought that was the end of Coe’s story, well, then you haven’t been listening very well.

[00;11;05;11 – 00;11;30;10] Matthew Bunch: He was undeterred, and over the course of the next decade, he would continue to work local, state and national politicians to get donations of land and eventually federal funding necessary to build the park. Coe came to be known as the “Father of the Everglades.” He was really its architect. And if Coe was the architect, then Marjory Stoneman Douglas was the biographer.

[00;11;30;12 – 00;11;42;22] Matthew Bunch: Stoneman Douglas’ 1947 book, “River of Grass,” is considered the definitive book on the region. However, it wasn’t originally the book that she was intended to write.

[00;11;42;25 – 00;12;25;18] Marjory Stoneman Douglas: Hervey Allen’s publishing company was Rinehart and Hervey was editor of the “Rivers of America” series. And he came down, he came in and said, “We want you to do a book about the Miami River in the ‘Rivers of America’ series.” And I said, oh Hervey, you couldn’t do a book about the Miami River. I mean, it was too short and too small and unimportant. But, you don’t let a publisher go away when he’s come to ask you to do a book, you hang on to him. So I said, if I could show that it was part of a system of rivers and maybe even the Everglades, maybe I could do something. “All right,” he said. “Write a book about the Everglades!”

[00;12;25;20 – 00;12;27;26] Marjory Stoneman Douglas: So there I was.

[00;12;27;29 – 00;12;51;19] Matthew Bunch: The fact that Hervey Allen wanted to publish an entire book on the Miami River lets you know about the significance of that “Rivers of America” series before Stoneman Douglas. I’m giving it a little bit of short shrift there. However, it was not as impactful as it could have been considering the quality of material that Marjory Stoneman Douglas would bring to her book “River of Grass.”

[00;12;51;22 – 00;13;20;16] Matthew Bunch: She totally reinvented the way that scientists, historians, politicians and Floridians looked at the Everglades. Instead of describing it as muck or stagnant swamp water, she accurately categorized it like a river, a wide moving body of water traveling from the north near Orlando, down into Florida Bay in the south. Now, this characterization wasn’t just pulled out of thin air.

[00;13;20;19 – 00;13;31;22] Matthew Bunch: Stoneman Douglas did five years of research in order to write “River of Grass” in close consultancy with Gerald G. Parker, who’s known as the father of Florida groundwater hydrology.

[00;13;31;24 – 00;13;58;02] Marjory Stoneman Douglas: Of course, I was very fortunate because it was an absolutely new field. Nobody had ever written about the Everglades, except those very few pamphlets that I found. Nobody knew anything about it! And I was the one who discovered, well, working with Jerry Parker, that it was a river. I said to Jerry, “What’s a river, anyway?”

[00;13;58;03 – 00;14;19;28] Marjory Stoneman Douglas: Why, you said, the river is a body of freshwater moving in more than one direction than the other. And he’d already proved to me that the Everglades were not swamps. They were running water. And the water runs down from Lake Okeechobee, often as much as four miles an hour, you know. Well, that’s running water. So there was a river.

[00;14;20;00 – 00;14;37;27] Marjory Stoneman Douglas: And I went back to him and said, Do you think you think I could get away with calling it River of Grass? Because wherever the freshwater was, sawgrass sprang up. And that’s where the Everglades is, this combination of sawgrass and water.

[00;14;37;29 – 00;15;00;04] Matthew Bunch: It was well researched. It was well-written. It’s a classic. And it arrived just in the nick of time, because one month later, it would be time to finally dedicate Everglades National Park. And the guest of honor to do the dedicating was perhaps the most appropriate president to appear in Everglades National Park.

[00;15;00;07 – 00;15;41;03] Matthew Bunch: In 1946, Harry Truman’s doctor, Wallace Graham, recommended to him a warm vacation to help him relax. Truman decided to pick Key West, Florida, just south of the Florida Everglades. He took to the town very quickly and would eventually spend 175 days in Key West during his two terms as President of the United States. Truman, a native of Missouri, really took in the Florida Keys lifestyle. He enjoyed the sunshine, the warm weather and the fishing just along the edges of Florida Bay, just along the edges of the Florida Everglades.

[00;15;41;05 – 00;16;03;01] Matthew Bunch: So when Truman speaks at this dedication ceremony in 1947, you can rest assured it’s not just another politician reading just another speech. It’s a South Floridian who knows the bounty that the Everglades can offer and also knows what he can uniquely offer it as President of the United States.

[00;16;03;08 – 00;16;23;27] Harry S. Truman: Today, we mark the achievement of another great conservation victory. We have permanently safeguarded an irreplaceable, primitive area. I have assembled to dedicate to the use of all the people for all time the Everglades National Park.

[00;16;23;29 – 00;16;53;02] Matthew Bunch: So at approximately 2:30 p.m. on December 6, 1947, Harry Truman speaks to that assembled crowd in Everglades City, Florida. He speaks not only about the park itself, but the importance of the National Park Service project to conservation. And not just conservation in the old sense, conservation in a new sense, recognizing that protecting nature from the encroachment of the modern world was essential to protecting it at all.

[00;16;53;05 – 00;17;07;05] Matthew Bunch: And I think you can hear in his speech an awareness of what needed to happen to the Everglades in the future: large-scale comprehensive preservation efforts that would cost a lot of money but would definitely pay off in the end.

[00;17;07;08 – 00;17;35;10] Harry S. Truman: Conservation has been practiced for many decades and preached for many more. Yet only in recent years has it become plain that we cannot afford to conserve in a haphazard or a piecemeal manner. No part of our conservation program can be slighted if we want to make full use of our resources and have full protection against future emergencies.

[00;17;35;13 – 00;18;12;07] Harry S. Truman: Each conservation need is dependent upon the other, as slashed and burned forest brings erosion of the uplands and fills downstream reservoirs with silt so that water power is lessened and irrigated farms lose their water supplies. Eroded farmlands contribute to devastating floods. Uncontrolled rivers means lost electricity, farms without water, and perennial, increasing flood danger. To maintain our natural wealth we must engage in full and complete conservation of all our resources.

[00;18;12;10 – 00;18;42;05] Matthew Bunch: The damage done to the Everglades in the late part of the 19th century, the early part of the 20th century, and even after the creation of Everglades National Park, is incalculable. But it’s indisputable that this action taken by this president and the United States Congress in 1947 to finally designate Everglades National Park was an enormous turning point in the conservation of South Florida’s precious environmental resources.

[00;18;42;07 – 00;18;58;07] Matthew Bunch: It’s still an ongoing conflict today, but in any war, if you don’t stop and appreciate the small victories along the way, it becomes much harder to get to the point where the fighting can finally end and you can actually enjoy a total victory.

[00;18;58;10 – 00;19;22;23] Matthew Bunch: I want to acknowledge a few important resources in the hatching of this month’s episode. First off, the National Park Service, which is generally a national treasure. Go visit and just kick around there. Especially take a look at the Everglades page, obviously. But really, anything you’re going to see there is going to be something new and interesting and beautiful. And so definitely make use of it.

[00;19;22;26 – 00;19;29;02] Matthew Bunch: I want to thank the General Federation of Women’s Clubs and in particular the Florida Federation of Women’s Clubs.

[00;19;29;03 – 00;19;51;03] Matthew Bunch: First off, for their efforts in protecting Royal Palm State Park all those many decades ago. But secondly, for their excellent resources about their own history, which is so intertwined with the history of Everglades National Park. If you just “GFWC, Coral Gables” or “GFWC, Homestead,” you’ll find a lot of tremendous information.

[00;19;51;03 – 00;20;02;12] Matthew Bunch: HistoryMiami, they frequently get a shout out on this show, but in particular, their connections and collections related to the Everglades are so very robust.

[00;20;02;14 – 00;20;18;08] Matthew Bunch: So much information about Napoleon Bonaparte Broward was collected through their archives, which are hosted through the Florida International University Library. So go check that out at And again, just do some good old searchin’.

[00;20;18;11 – 00;20;29;28] Matthew Bunch: is the home of the State Library and Archives of Florida. That’s where I was able to get those clips of Marjory Stoneman Douglas talking about her experience with the Everglades.

[00;20;30;05 – 00;20;51;05] Matthew Bunch: Again, if you like history in Florida, you really should bookmark because there’s so much good stuff there. I’ll post a link to the YouTube video of that interview and kind of it’s a profile of Marjory Stoneman Douglas in the description of this episode for you to check out more of Marjory Stoneman Douglas on Marjory Stoneman Douglas.

[00;20;51;09 – 00;21;17;18] Matthew Bunch: That is the website of the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum. It was on that website where I was able to clip the audio of President Truman’s speech at Everglades City in 1947. It’s a really important artifact of our history here in Miami-Dade County, and President Truman’s influence on South Florida in general is oftentimes understated, but should really be appreciated, so go ahead and visit

[00;21;17;20 – 00;21;52;22] Matthew Bunch: Last but not least, on every episode of This Day in Miami History, I have to thank you, the listener. Thank you so much for your support. Thank you so much for your views on your preferred podcast provider. I notice it. I check it out. I appreciate it. It’s really helpful for the show, so be sure to follow us on social media @ThisDayMiamiPod on your preferred social media account and find This Day in Miami History on your preferred podcast provider if you haven’t already done so. And please make sure to follow, rate and review. Until next time. I’ve been Matthew Bunch.

[00;21;52;24 – 00;22;08;26] King Elizabeth: ♪ “Miami Sunrise” by King Elizabeth ♪

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