After the Civil War, the Homestead Act
of 1862 opened the door for a new wave of emigrants to
Florida. Among them were John and Eliza Webb,
who came with their large family from New York to
homestead the area now known as Spanish Pointe.
They were soon joined by Jesse and
Caroline Knight and their 15 children. The Knights
migrated from Hillsborough County, where the men had been
frontier cowboys. They purchased some 600 acres from the
state for about 90¢ per acre. Their lands included the
areas that became Nokomis and Venice on both sides of the
present-day Dona and Roberts Bays and Shake it Creek. But
it was not the waterfront that attracted the Knights. It
was the inland ranges, for they were to become the cattle
kings of the area.
Other early settlers included
Robert Rickford Roberts, who purchased 120 acres at the
south end of the bay that today carries his name. Roberts
grew bananas, sugar cane, corn, potatoes and tobacco on
Blackburn Point, Blackburn Road
and Blackburn Bay were also named for early settlers.
John Slemans Blackburn, who arrived in the fall of 1881
with his wife and son, filed claim to 188 bayfront acres
for $35.20. His son, Benjamin, decided on an 80-acre
homestead 1.5 miles from his fathers property,
filing for $12.
A planned resort, including a
city and a corresponding 25,000-acre farm development was
the vision that inspired the city of Venice. The
Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, with 91,000 members
in Canada and the United States, and a chain of banks from
Boston to San Francisco, provided the investment capital
and enlisted some of the most highly respected planners
to put together a sophisticated plan for the city. Wide
avenues, and buildings constructed in the Northern
Italian style helped to enhance the beauty of the city.
Schools, a playground, a golf course, tennis courts, ball
fields and a civic center were other features of this
Early Venice industries included
toy and tile manufacturers, printers and publishers, real
estate agents, lumber and building companies, novelty
mills, an ice plant and a marine ways machine company.
Photographs on this page are from the