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 his land.
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 father’s property, filing
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 instant community.
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.
All Photographs on this page are from the
Florida photographic Collection
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