Julia DeForest Tuttle

By Jackie Levine

Real estate, development, promotion (Miami)

Years: 1849–1898

Remembered for: Tuttle waged a creative and persistent campaign to lure the railroad to the wilds of south Florida. With success, she became known as “Mother of Miami,” the only female founder of a major U.S. city.

Why you should know her:

Julia DeForest Tuttle was born in Cleveland, Ohio, the daughter of Ephraim Sturtevant, a college instructor who became a planter and state senator in southern Florida after moving there for health reasons. In 1875, Tuttle and her husband, iron foundry owner Frederick Leonard Tuttle, visited her father in the Biscayne Bay area, where he owned a 40-acre orange grove. In 1891, after the death of her husband, who had been suffering financial problems unknown to her, Tuttle and her grown daughter and son moved south, where she had inherited land from her father and funds to buy more. They converted an old stone building into their home on 640 acres along the Miami River, on the site of the former Fort Dallas.

Settled on the Miami River, Tuttle purchased thousands of acres and became a nonstop promoter of development there. Knowing transportation was key to the area’s growth, Tuttle courted railroad moguls Henry Plant and Henry Flagler. Whether it was offering to donate her own land to build a railway station and hotel, or the The Great Freeze of 1894 that wiped out the citrus industry in the more northern parts of the state and made clear the appeal of the warmer climate down south, Tuttle finally convinced fellow Clevelander Flagler to extend the railroad south. In April 1896, less than six years after Tuttle took up residence, Florida East Coast Railway train service came to the area, and Miami was born. That year, the city was incorporated with a population of 502 voters.

In 1898, Tuttle died of what was believed to be a case of meningitis.

Today, more than 100,000 people every day are reminded of the “Mother of Miami” when they drive across the Julia Tuttle Causeway, which connects Miami and Miami Beach.

Featured imageJulia DeForest Tuttle