History Chronology Perrine - Cutler Ridge Gallery Historical Images
 


by Priyanshu A. Adathakkar

Henry Edward Perrine, a descendant of a French Huguenot family, was the first non-Indian resident of Cutler Ridge. He had been appointed U.S. Consul at Campeche, Yucatan sometime around 1824 where he spent ten-years. During his stay in Mexico, he became interested in establishing a colony to grow tropical crops. He began collecting and shipping seeds to acquaintances in south Florida, one of them being Charles Howe at Indian Key.

When he returned, he was offered LaFitte Island in New Orleans which he refused and instead sailed for Indian Key and then to Washington lobbying his request for a land grant in South Florida. Dr. Perrine formed The Tropical Plant Company of Florida with Judge James Webb of Key West and Charles Howe, postmaster of Indian Key. In 1838, the Legislative Council of the Territory of Florida granted land to the Tropical Plant Company of Florida.

During that same year, the Congress of the United States also granted a township of land to Dr. Henry Perrine (Perrine Grant), provided that every section in the tract has "an actual settler engaged in the propagation or cultivation of useful tropical plants" by 1846, or eight years after the passage of this act. If Perrine failed to meet this condition, the land would be forfeited to the United States.

Dr. Perrine was aware of the Indian hostilities on the mainland and as a caution he moved with his family to Indian Key in1838. Unfortunately, on August 7, 1840 the Seminole Indians attacked Indian Key resulting in Dr. Perrine’s death.

After his death his widow persuaded the Congress to transfer the land rights to Perrine family for another eight-year

Mrs. Ann Perrine requested the aid of Charles Howe, promising him a 20 percent interest in the land if he could have it surveyed and settled in accordance with the conditions of the grant.  Howe surveyed the land and brought thirty-six Bahamian families as settlers. Conflicts with the Seminole Indians, however, soon drove these new settlers off the land. 

Congress was offering 160 acres of free land as an incentive to settle the area. As a result homesteaders were flocking to the south Dade area for free land, however Congress remained steadfast that the thirty-six square mile prime land tract given to the Perrine heirs was the Perrine Grant and could not to be homesteaded. By 1886, many families had taken over parts of the grant and built farms. They formed what was known as a "Squatter's Union" in order to protect their rights, hiring Dr. Cutler as their representative.

In spite of the Perrines' failure to meet the conditions of the grant, the heirs attempted to secure a patent to the land in 1862.  Their efforts bore no success until 1896 when the Florida East Coast Railway (FECR), owned by Henry Flagler intervened on behalf of the Perrines, obtaining the patent.

After going through a Senate investigation, on January 28, 1897, the settlers received a total of 2,000 acres, the Perrine heirs 10,000 acres and the two railroad companies, The Florida Central and Peninsular Railroad and the Florida East Coast Railway, 5,000 acres each.

American Contract and Finance Company a New York corporation assigned to the interest of Charles Howe and others sued everyone involved challenging that half of the Perrine land grant was theirs for their early involvement.

The FECR again assisted the Perrine heirs with the lawsuit. The Supreme Court of Florida finally decided in favor of the Perrine heirs in 1899. After securing the patent, the Perrine heirs undertook to convey an undivided one-half interest in the grant to the FECR.

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