West Palm Beach is a city in and the county seat of Palm Beach County, Florida, United States. The population was 101,043 at the 2010 census. It is the oldest large municipality in South Florida, incorporated as a city two years before Miami.
The beginning of the historic period in south Florida is marked by Juan Ponce de León’s first contact with native people in 1513. Europeans found a thriving native population. They were categorized into separate tribes: the Mayaimi in the Lake Okeechobee Basin and the Jaega and Ais people in the East Okeechobee area and on the east coast north of the Tequesta. When the Spanish arrived, there were perhaps about 20,000 Native Americans in south Florida. By 1763, when the English gained control of Florida, the native peoples had all but been wiped out through war, enslavement, or European diseases.
Other native peoples from Alabama and Georgia moved into Florida in the early 18th century. They were of varied ancestry, but Europeans called them all “Creeks.” In Florida, they were known as the Seminole and Miccosukee Indians. The Seminoles clashed with American settlers over land and over escaped slaves who found refuge among them. They resisted the government’s efforts to move them to the Indian Territory west of the Mississippi. Between 1818 and 1858, three wars were fought between Seminoles and the United States government. By 1858 there were very few Seminoles remaining in Florida.
The area that was to become West Palm Beach was settled in the late 1870s and 1880s by a few hundred settlers called the vicinity “Lake Worth Country.” These settlers were a diverse community from different parts of the United States and the world. They included founding families such at the Potters and the Lainharts, who would go on to become leading members of the business community in the fledgling city. The first white settlers in Palm Beach County lived around Lake Worth, then an enclosed freshwater lake named Colonel William Jenkins Worth, who had fought in the Second Seminole War in Florida in 1842. Most settlers engaged in growing tropical fruits and vegetables for shipment the north via Lake Worth and the Indian River. By 1890, the U.S. Census counted over 200 people settled along Lake Worth in the vicinity of West Palm Beach. At this time, the area also boasted a hotel, the “Cocoanut House”, a church, and a post office. The city was platted by Henry Flagler as a community to house the servants working in the two grand hotels on the neighboring island of Palm Beach, across Lake Worth in 1893, coinciding with the Florida East Coast’s arrival railroad. Flagler paid two area settlers, Captain Porter and Louie Hillhouse, a combined sum of $45,000 for the original townsite, stretching from Clear Lake to Lake Worth.
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