Henry Flagler’s fame was not based on his having the idea to construct a railroad down Florida’s eastern coast, but rather that he did it.
The concept was not new — in fact, more than two decades before the railroad arrived in southern Florida, F. Trench Townshend, a British captain who took a hunting trip to Florida in 1874, wrote:
Wild Life in Florida, by F. Trench Townshend, London (1875), as quoted in “The Lower East Coast, 1870-1890” by W. T. Cash, Tequesta, No. VIII (1948).
A great deal is said by Florida land agents about Biscayne being made the terminus of a railway to be constructed from Jacksonville via the town of Enterprise and St. John’s River to Miami, and thence along from key to key on [trestle] work as far as Key West, so as to convey the trade of the West Indies and South America through Florida to the North. Beyond the fact that the track is marked in the maps of Florida, published at Jacksonville, there is no reason to suppose that such a line is ever likely to be built as long as Florida remains in her present bankrupt and impoverished condition.