Early Correspondence Between Henry Flagler and Bishop John Moore

Authored by Gemma Rose

Henry Flagler Correspondence on Hotel Alcazar Stationary, 1889


Featured above is a hand-written correspondence from Henry M. Flagler (1830 – 1913) to a Mr. Crawford inquiring about a good time to meet with the second Bishop of St. Augustine, John Moore. The note is written on the Hotel Alcazar stationary and is dated September 19, 1889. The document is owned by the St. Augustine Historical Society. Wally Martinsons who cataloged the item noted that this item was saved from destruction “by Neil Smith, Florida East Coast Railway (FECRy) Treasurer, on 03/1989. The documents were salvaged from the FECRy storage building on King Street then it was transferred to the City of St Augustine” (1990). Without his diligent efforts’ history would have been lost.

During the mid to late 1800s, Flagler was considered one of the richest men in America. However, Flagler grew up from humble beginnings. At age fourteen he left his family and moved to Ohio to work as a store clerk. Soon Flagler had enough money saved and went into the grain business with his family. Then Flagler fell in love with Mary Harkness and the two got married. During the Civil War Flagler moved his family to Michigan and went into the salt mining industry. Flagler moved back to Ohio and became friends with John D. Rockefeller. Stanley Turkel notes that “Flagler was a partner in John D. Rockefeller’s oil-refining business and became one of the five original stockholders in the Standard Oil Company” (1998, 78). Business boomed.

In 1881, Mary passed away. In an article in Lodging Hospitality Stanley Turkel reports, Flagler came to St. Augustine with his second wife Ida Alice in 1883 for their honeymoon (2006, 65). Flagler fell in love with the city. From there he “embarked on one of the greatest private development projects of the 19th Century” ibid (1994). Flagler developed plans for a new standard railway to stretch from New York all the way to Florida to bring wealthy visitors from the north to the south. Flagler then hired Carrère and Hastings to design a grand resort, the Hotel Ponce de Leon. Before construction even finished on his first hotel construction of Flagler’s second hotel, The Alcazar began. The hotel “opened its doors on to the public on Christmas Day 1888” (1996, 76). The Alcazar was intended to serve as a resort that offered many amenities and activities.

It was not uncommon for Flagler to conduct business from his hotels, being a prominent member of society, he met and entertained many guests. Flagler was a notable philanthropist and in 1889, Flagler met with the second Bishop of St. Augustine, John Moore. Bishop Moore was known for building churches and schools in the south for the underserved population. In her article about one of the churches Bishop Moore opened, Sue Bjorkman writes, “In a document dated 1892, Moore notes he is purchasing land for a church in Lincolnville, with the intention of using it exclusively for a church and school for African-Americans. In 1898, Moore mentions they were using an old building that Henry Flagler had loaned the church” (2014). Flagler and Bishop Moore would continue to work together building churches and schools. The most notable is Saint Ann’s Parish, in Palm Beach, Florida. It is believed that this correspondence featured above is one of the first meetings that Flagler would take with Bishop Moore to help support the African and Native American local communities.


Bjorkman, Sue. 2014. “St. Benedict the Moor Church a Cornerstone of African-American
               History.” The St. Augustine Record, August 25, 2014.

Florida East Coast Railway (1876 – 1975)-MC13 Manuscript. St. Augustine Historical Society
            Research Library Collection. Flagler, Henry. Paper. 4-1-B. St. Augustine, Florida.

Heun, RC. 1996. “Turning Concrete into Gold.” Concrete International Sep.1996 18 (9): 76–77.

Martinsons, Wally. 1990. “Archive Record.” Florida East Coast Railway (1876 – 1975) – MC13.
              St. Augustine Historical Society Research Library, 1990.

              FLAGLER.” Chicago Tribune, March 06, 17.

Turkel, Stanley. 1998. “Henry Morrison Flagler.” Cornell Hotel and Restaurant Administration
Quarterly 39 (2): 76–79. Turkel, Stanley. 2006. “Henry Morrison Flagler.” Lodging
Hospitality 62 (1): 64–66.

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