The MacFarlane-Homestead Subdivision was originally the 160-acre homestead of Miss Flora MacFarlane. Miss Flora was one of the earliest Dade County pioneers. Not only did she greatly impact the early social development of Coconut Grove, she was also the first woman in the area to undertake the enormous challenge of homesteading public land.
Originally from New Jersey, Miss Flora came to Dade County in 1886 as a companion to Commodore Ralph Munroe’s mother. At the time, Coconut Grove was a small settlement of about a half-dozen homes surrounded by wilderness. Activity revolved around the Bay View House, a hotel owned by Charles John Peacock and his wife Isabella. Commodore Munroe, a renowned sailboat designer and important Florida pioneer, used to winter there every year.
Ms. Flora was influential in directing the life of the Grove. In 1889 she became one of the first official school teachers for the district. In her free time she established and presided over the area’s first Woman’s Club, named the Housekeepers’ Club, created in February 1891. Among the members was Mrs. Isabella Peacock, known affectionately as “Aunt Bella,” with whom Miss Florida always maintained a close relationship.
But it was the following month that she made her most important decision: to homestead a tract of public land. At that time, homesteaders had to reside upon and cultivate a portion of the land for a period of five years. Another option was to settle on the land for six months, and then purchase it for cash. Though Miss Florida worked diligently to clear and improve her land, she took the option of buying it, at $1.25 an acre, due to health reasons. The certificate for the Homestead to Miss Florida MacFarlane was signed by President Grover Cleveland on May 11, 1893.
Little did Miss Flora dream at that time that her homestead would later be linked with the creation of a brand new city. But in 1925, when George Merrick was still settling the original boundaries of Coral Gables, he acquired 19.6 acres of land from Miss Flora’s original homestead and annexed them to his development. Some say that Miss Flora’s relationship to Merrick’s wife, Mrs. Eunice Peacock Merrick, was instrumental in the acquisition, as Eunice was the granddaughter of Flora’s longtime friends Charles and Isabella, and one of Miss Flora’s own pupils. Miss Flora MacFarlane was one of the first of many great women to have left a lasting impact on Coral Gables.