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DL Havlin presents ‘Florida, the Forgotten Years’

January 16, 2019
By ED FRANKS ( , Pine Island Eagle

Last Monday, as part of The Museum of the Islands lecture series, DL Havlin, local author and historian, presented an informative lecture about an often overlooked historical period of Florida - the years between 1865 and 1914.

"The reason I call this 'Florida, the Forgotten Years' is because Florida's growing years, the Seminole Wars get plenty of attention," Havlin said. "But the years after the Civil War in 1865 until the boom years in the early 1900s goes unnoticed. These years were very important in forming Florida's current day events."

Havlin explained these years were mostly ignored by historians for a number of reasons. First, the country was focused on getting settlers to the west.

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DL Havlin

"Of all the states in the Confederacy, Florida probably suffered the most," Havlin said. "Florida had fewer resources and fewer residents than any other Confederate state and Florida had one of the lowest populations with only 140,000 people."

Transportation was the major reason Florida was considered a backward state and it was impossible to build an economy without improving transportation. Roads were few and most transportation was by animal drawn cart. Subsistence and pioneer living were the norm.

Havlin credits the "change agents" for transforming Florida into what it is today and credits railroad builders William D. Chipley, Henry Flagler and Henry Plant. Chipley began building railroads in north and west Florida, Flagler down the east coast and Plant throughout the state. Plant also had an extensive steamship operation.

During the Civil War, Jacob Summerlin, aka "King of the Cracker Cow Hunters," was an early settler. He became the richest man in Florida by selling beef to both the Confederate and Union Army during the war.

Hamilton Disston, a wealthy industrialist and real estate developer from Pennsylvania, purchased 1 million acres from the state of Florida in 1881.

"This was an area larger than the state of Connecticut and reportedly the most land ever purchased by a single person in world history," Havlin said. "Disston drained the land and spurred growth throughout the state."

Havlin also credits "change agent" Dr. John Gorrie's invention of the ice maker. Gorrie is considered the father of air conditioning and opened a commercial ice plant in Florida in 1882. He also credits Thomas Edison, John Ringling and Barron Collier for "opening" Florida to the rest of the country.

"Barron Collier is really representative of those who opened Florida," Havlin said. "He became the largest landowner and developer in Florida, and he financed most of the Tamiami Trail. Collier was the man who figured if they can grow sugar in Cuba, we can grow sugar in Florida."

Havlin has written a number of historical novels. The latest release is "Turtle Point." One reviewer described the book as "an astonishing tale of greed, love, missed opportunities and dedication..."

Havlin's books are available online at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and at Havlin's website

The Museum of the Islands is located at 5828 Sesame Drive at the Center and is open Tuesday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., and Sunday, 1-4 p.m. For more information, visit



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