History Happened Here

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Belle Glade

Palm Beach County

History

The earliest known inhabitants of the Belle Glade area were the Calusa Indians, followed the Seminole Indians that were descendants of tribes from Georgia and Alabama. It was the Seminole who gave the lake region the name of “Okeechobeeland,” meaning Land of Big Water.

Florida became a territory in 1821 and a state of the union in 1845, resulting in a boom in land sales in this area, however many of the purchasers were disillusioned with drainage problems and most of the land reverted back to the state. By 1912, construction had begun on three major canals for controlling Lake Okeechobee’s floodwaters. Canals completed in 1913 were the Hillsboro, the North New River, and the Miami Canal.

Belle Glade was incorporated in 1928 with a population of less than 500 and one of the more colorful versions concerning the naming of the community tells that a blackboard was placed in a hotel lobby where suggestions could be written on the board. The suggestion receiving the most votes was that it should be called Belle Glade since the settlement was “the belle of the Glades”. The Hillsboro Community Council was formed in 1919 and operated as the town’s governing body until its incorporation on April 9, 1928, as the Town of Belle Glade, then on September 11, 1945, its name changed to the City of Belle Glade.

This council was directly responsible for the location here of Everglades Experiment Station, a University of Florida agricultural research and experiment station, now known as Agricultural Research and Education Center. On September 16, 1928, a storm more devastating than any other predecessor blew in from the coast and left monumental destruction. The force of the wind simply pushed all of the water from the northern portion of the lake and sent it surging madly through our area. Approximately 2,500 people died in the hurricane and a statue today commemorates those who perished.

This devastation led to President Herbert Hoover’s visit in 1929, where federal and state governments agreed to undertake the construction of a levee. Today, the Hoover Dike includes approximately 85 miles of levee whose height varies from 34 feet upward, 22 feet above sea level, and it is at least five feet above the highest point that the lake has ever reached.

Along with flood control, two important activities have contributed to Belle Glade’s progress. Existing side by side through good water management, sport fishing and a thriving agricultural industry are each closely tied to Lake Okeechobee. The Belle Glade Marina Campground has become a home away from home for many visitors who want to try their luck catching some of the “Big O’s” famous wide mouth bass. The campground offers 350 campsites, boat ramps, and picnic facilities, and is within walking distance to a challenging 18-hole public golf course.

From those earliest days to the present, agriculture has played and equally important part in the area’s development. Today’s most important crops are celery, lettuce, sweet corn, sugar cane and sod farms.

Story of City's Founding

Belle Glade was incorporated in 1928 with a population of less than 500 and one of the more colorful versions concerning the naming of the community tells that a blackboard was placed in a hotel lobby where suggestions could be written on the board. The suggestion receiving the most votes was that it should be called Belle Glade since the settlement was “the belle of the Glades”. The Hillsboro Community Council was formed in 1919 and operated as the town's governing body until its incorporation on April 9, 1928, as the Town of Belle Glade, then on September 11, 1945, its name changed to the City of Belle Glade

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