Okeechobee County, 

Florida 

A Pictorial History--Page 7

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william_lee_coats.jpg (30271 bytes)By 1917 most of the leading residents of the area began developing a strong desire to have their own county.  A committee of several of the leading citizens formed and traveled to Ft. Pierce to ask Otis R. Parker to draft a bill which would create the new county.  It was presented to J. M. Swain, the St. Lucy county representative to the Florida Legislature  to introduce in Tallahassee in April.  Both the House and Senate passed the bill and the county officially came into being August 7, 1917.  In the Ft. Pierce News Paper the following statement was printed:   Mr. Coats, who has worked so hard for the creation of Okeechobee County, has become known at the capitol as "Okeechobee Bill".  It further stated that Mr. Coats of Okeechobee, who has been prominent in the development of one of the state’s newest towns, deserves the hearty commendation of the people of  the new county of Okeechobee with Okeechobee City as the county seat...William Lee Coats served as the first representative to the legislature from Okeechobee County.  

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Park_Theatre.JPG (63885 bytes)When 1918 rolled around the “boom” had slowed and one newspaper article even said the community was in a “slump”.  But even so a substantial business community had evolved since the first train arrived only three years before.  In a 1918 business directory publish for St. Lucy and Okeechobee counties, listed four hotels, eleven general merchandise and department stores, two drug stores, three grocery stores, two hardware stores, two furniture stores, two barber shops, three garages, several restaurants, and the Scharfschwerdt Brothers movie theater.

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Bank_1926.JPG (66172 bytes)There was one bank, The Bank of Okeechobee with   D. E. Austin as its president.  The town boasted two attorneys, five physicians, and two dentists.  There were three real estate firms in business and three large fish packinghouses.  The Roaring Twenties was a decade of boom and bust for this new community of Okeechobee, just as elsewhere in the nation, but with a different twist.  Five years had passed since the railroad arrived in Okeechobee.  Commercial fishing was still the major business on the lake, and the lumber and turpentine industries were starting to grow and thrive.

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basinger_school_1915.jpg (75160 bytes) During the year 1920 the Okeechobee County school system graduated the first class from Okeechobee High School.  The class had four graduates who were Dolly Darrow, Beryl Lovvorn, Willie DuBose, and Alma Camp.   Schools were scattered all over the county, and in 1921 the schools were: Okeechobee City, Okeechobee Colored, Upthegrove Beach, Utopia, Eagle Bay, Oak Grove, Platt's Bluff, Bassinger, Ft. Drum, Osawa, and Potter.   

okee_high_1925.jpg (71833 bytes)As the number of students in the system continued to grow, a new two story brick building was built next door to the Okeechobee School to house them.  It was the Okeechobee High School, and both of these buildings are still in use today. They both have been recently renovated, one is now the central office of The Okeechobee School Board, and the other is the ninth grade center.

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