Flagler Time Line



Henry Morrison Flagler led a life working tirelessly, from when he left school after eighth grade until he arrived in his private rail car the “Rambler” into Key West at age 82, nearly blind, to witness the fulfillment of his dream.

Biographers estimate that Flagler spent $50 million on his Florida developments.  What follows is only a snapshot of his life.

1830 — Henry Morrison Flagler was born in Hopewell, N.Y., Jan. 2, to Presbyterian minister Isaac Flagler and his wife Elizabeth Caldwell Harkness Flagler.

1853 – Henry married his step-uncle’s second daughter, Mary Harkness, Nov. 9. They soon had two daughter, Jennie Louise and Carrie, who died at age three.

1868 – At age 37, Flagler joined with John D. Rockefeller and Samuel Andrews to form the Rockefeller, Andrews and Flagler Oil Refinery, the RAF Refinery.

1870 — Standard Oil Company was created, with Flagler a major stockholder.

1870 – Flagler’s first and only son, Harry Harness Flagler, was born.

1881 –  Mary Flagler, Henry’s first wife, died May 18.

1883 –  Flagler married one of his first wife’s nurses, Ida Alice Shourds, June 5.

1885 — Flagler began building his first hotel, the 540-room Ponce de Leon Hotel in St. Augustine, as well as the Alcazar and a third hotel he renamed the Cordoza. Flagler also bought the Jacksonville, St. Augustine and Halifax Railroad, the short-line railroad that would be the precursor to the “Flagler System” or the Florida East Coast Railway. He needed to make his hotels more accessible, and this is how he entered the railroad business.

1894 — Flagler completed the 1,100-room Royal Poinciana Hotel — the largest wooden structure in the world at the time — in Lake Worth and extended his railroad service to West Palm Beach.

1897 – The Royal Palm Hotel opened Jan. 15, with 350 rooms, two electric elevators, a swimming pool and an electric generator for the hotel and the city. Flagler’s second wife, Ida Alice,  was committed to an insane asylum in Central Valley, New York.

1901 — Flagler’s Palm Beach Inn became the famous Breakers Hotel. By this time Flagler’s railway reached all the way to Biscayne Bay.  Flagler convinced the Florida Legislature to allow insanity as grounds for divorce, granting the dissolution of marriage from his second wife. Flagler was then free to marry his third wife, Mary Lily Kenan. As a wedding present, he built her the Whitehall mansion in Palm Beach.

1912 — At 10:43 a.m., Jan, 22, Flagler and Mary Lily arrived on the “Rambler” car, as part of a three-day celebration of his 82nd birthday. Nearly blind, Flagler said in a brief tear-filled speech, “Now I can die happy. My dream is fulfilled.”

1913 — Flagler died after a fall at the Whitehall estate. He is buried in the Flagler family mausoleum at Memorial Presbyterian Church where his daughter, Jenny Louise Benedict, his granddaughter, Marjorie Benedict, and his first wife, Mary Harkness are buried.