Julia Tuttle was the kind of woman who did not let her circumstances dictate her life. When she discovered the extent of her husband’s debts after his death in 1886, she converted her four story home into a tea house and boarding school for young women. She is the only woman to hold the distinction of founding an American city, and she did it essentially on her own.
Tuttle moved to Florida shortly after her father died, as she had inherited a large orange grove from him. Her husband’s business had already been sold to try and pay off some of the debts, and what little money was left was too meager to continue living the extravagant life in Ohio.
Money from her parent’s estate went towards the purchase of additional land, making the size of Tuttle’s groves immense. The problem was getting the product to market. So she contacted Henry Flagler, who owned the Florida East Coast Railway, and attempted unsuccessfully to convince him to expand. Tuttle offered half of her land to Flagler, even going so far as to make a personal appearance pleading her case.
Rumor has it that a bouquet of flowers is what changed Flagler’s mind. Two years after Florida’s first freeze, Tuttle sent a bouquet of fresh flowers to Flagler to let him know the weather was fine near the Miami River. Flagler sent men to investigate the situation and found her land had been spared. Tuttle gave much of her land to Flagler for free in order to get his railway to come there. That act of philanthropy helped bring jobs to Miami, which would eventually grow it into the cultural center it is today.