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Women's History Month: 'Mother Of Miami' Julia Tuttle Remains Only Woman To Found Major U.S. City

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – In honor of Women's History Month, a look at Julia Tuttle, known as the "mother of Miami."

Julia Tuttle owned the land that modern Miami was built on and promoted the city's development in the late 1800s.

Miami historian Dr. Paul George told CBS4 News last year, "She had been here since 1891 and had been scheming and strategizing how to make a great city out of the wilderness."

She knew early on that without a railroad, Miami would have remained a frontier outpost nestled in the mangroves along Biscayne Nay.

"She had a vision, her vision was to come down here, look at the clouds, the water, this place can't miss. All we need is a connection between here and the outside world," George said.

Her family owned land on the north side of the Miami River. She moved to Miami permanently and purchased even more acreage. She began a campaign to convince railroad baron Henry Flagler to extend his tracks further down the coast of Florida to Miami.

She got nowhere until 1894 when most of Florida was hit with a devastating freeze. As the story goes, Tuttle sent Flagler fresh orange blossoms to prove Miami was warm and frost free.

"This was proof that the blossoms, the freeze had not hit this far south," said George

Flagler agreed to bring his railroad in exchange for hundreds of acres of land from Tuttle and William and Mary Brickell.

Mary Brickell was Julia's equal when it came to business. Some consider her Miami's "other mother."

Flagler promised to build a large hotel to attract tourists and the first train arrived in what was to become Miami on April 13, 1896.

"What better land than where the river meets the bay and the land that became the city of Miami," said George.

On July 28, 1896, the city was incorporated. A process Tuttle could not participate in because at the time women did not have the right to vote.

Flagler built his Royal Palm Hotel, but Tuttle also benefited. She constructed what was called the Hotel Miami, a huge wooden structure.

Then suddenly tragedy. Julia Tuttle died in September 1898.

"Physicians have second hand analyzed it as either an aneurysm or brain tumor shocking to most people in the city," George said.

Just over a year later, on November 12, 1899, Hotel Miami burned to the ground.

To this day, Miami is the only major U.S. city founded by a woman!

Julia Tuttle Statue

Julia Tuttle has a statue erected in her honor at Bayfront Park, located at 301 N. Biscayne Blvd.

The brilliant bronze statue honors Tuttle and commemorates Miami with scenes from the city's incorporation in 1896 embroidered in Tuttle's skirt.

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