Excerpts from A Walk Across Florida by Bob Kranich
It was and beautiful weather as I walked through Homestead. Not too many people around. Still when people saw me they seemed surprised.
How did this area get its name? In 1898 it was open to homesteading. To get to this area there was only a trail. It was called the “Homesteaders Trail.” This all changed when in 1904 Henry Flagler decided to extend his railroad south from Miami to this location. The engineers who did the mapping for the railroad marked this area as Homestead. A story tells of Henry Flagler standing on the southernmost point of land in Florida, (and it could have very well have been in the Homestead Florida City area), with five of his most important executives. He said, as he extended his arm in a broad sweep south towards the water, “Gentlemen: the railroad will go to sea.”
Henry Flagler then extended his Florida East Coast Railroad south through the swamps, and mangroves, across the sounds, and then from Key Largo to Key West. This made Homestead the hub of the railroad expansion. The name Homestead originated from the supplies and construction materials being sent to the “Homestead area.” Florida City and Homestead are so close that they are almost one. That was what I thought as I hiked through. It is the southernmost city in the U.S. that is not on an island, and it is the jumping off place for the Florida Keys.
When I got to the Florida Pioneer Museum, it was closed. There was an old, large, one-story, restored Florida City house on the property. Sitting next to it on a short section of railroad track was a railroad caboose from the old Flagler Florida East Coast Railroad.
I started by dropping my pack on the large front porch and then taking a seat there and just resting. When I had my fill of resting, I took some photos of the Florida City pioneer house. Also since I couldn't resist railroads, I had to take photos of the old Florida East Coast caboose and sketch it. Some literature there said that the house was the old Homestead Florida East Coast Railroad Station Agent’s home and was built in 1904…..
I was through Florida City before I knew it. I filled up my stove for 4 cents at an Amoco gas station. It was there that I saw I was on U. S. Highway No. 1. There was also an old railroad grade on my right, the west side of the road. There weren’t any rails, but the old ties were still there. I had this feeling that where I was standing was historic. I was sure that it was the jumping-off place for the overseas railroad, the railroad that went to sea…. Now I was about start my hike that went to sea!
About the Author: After getting out of the Army Bob Kranich backpacked from the Georgia border to Key West in a 40 day adventure walk across Florida. His recently published book A Walk Across Florida is available from his website or Amazon.com