The History of Belle Glade
Belle Glade is the largest city within the 2,862,00-acre subtropical Everglades in the heartland of Florida. Originally known as Hillsboro, Belle Glade was incorporated in 1928 with a population of less than 500. The earliest known inhabitants of the Belle Glade area were the Calusa Indians. Their prehistoric habitation and burial mounds are located just west of Belle Glade in Chosen which is known by many as the "Indian Mound." These sites were excavated by the Smithsonian Institution during the early 1930's and later by archaeologists from the Florida State Museum in Gainesville.The Seminole Indians generally associated with this part of Florida are descendants of tribes from Georgia and Alabama who moved further and further south as white men pushed for expansion and development of new lands. 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. Although there was a boom in land sales in this area, many of the purchasers were disillusioned with drainage problems 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.
One of the 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.
This council was directly responsible for the location here of Everglades Experiment Station, a University of Florida agricultural research and experiment station. The center's name was recently changed to 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 the area, like tipping a giant saucer full of water onto the earth. Approximately 2,500 people died in the hurricane and a statue today commemorates those who perished.
The loss of life caused by the storm brought to national prominence the need for Lake Okeechobee flood control. Following President Herbert Hoover's visit in 1929, 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. It is 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 Chamber of Commerce
540 S Main Street, Belle Glade, FL 33430 • Phone: (561)996-2745
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