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Many neighborhoods in Dade County once were actual towns, complete with their own governments, charters, and schools. The town of Ojus, which thrived in the early 1930's and was located south of what is now the county line and just east of the city of North Miami Beach, didn't last very long, but the neighborhood situated on the original town site still bears the Ojus name.
Ojus was one of two settlements that shared the Snake Creek region, the 2,000 or so acres of swampy, mangrove-filled land at the northernmost end of Biscayne Bay (FIU's Bay Vista campus occupies a portion of this land today). The other town, Fulford, eventually blended in and became part of North Miami Beach.
When Henry Flagler brought his railroad down to Lemon City (a year or so before he extended it to Miami in 1896), he placed depots at numerous spots along the route, and small towns quickly developed around those stops. The distance between Fulford and Ojus was only a mile or so, but it was great enough in those days of poorly paved roads and difficult travel conditions to generate separate communities.
Ojus originally was named in 1897 by Albert Fitch, a farmer who wanted to grow pineapples in the rich soil. The word Ojus is a Seminole Indian word for "plenty" or "lots of," and when Fitch was in the area, Ojus had plenty of everything, including just about any type of crop imaginable - peas, beans, sugar cane, and tomatoes.
When a prison camp was established in Ojus in the early 1900's, rock mining in the area began and it was discovered that the rock coming out of Ojus had qualities that made it ideal for road building. A Palm Beach mining company moved into the area to take advantage of the plentiful rock, which was in great demand in Palm Beach County. In 1913, the company was employing almost 200 men and shipping 50 to 60 carloads of rock daily.
Intent on developing the town, Maule opened a general store, built apartments for his employees and even opened a movie theater. In 1915, the Ojus School added another teacher, bringing its total to two. Combined with the farming industry, which was still going strong, the population in Ojus by 1920 was greater than that of Fulford and Arch Creek combined.
Unfortunately, Ojus didn't live long enough to see its promise fulfilled. By 1936, the inability of the city's government to collect taxes, combined with the unwillingness of the residents to pay them, resulted in bankruptcy. An act of the Legislature dissolved the town's incorporation papers.
Today there are reminders of Ojus all around the ever-shrinking neighborhood. Ojus Elementary School and the Ojus Branch Post Office are but two of the markers that remind visitors of the area's history.
With shopping centers, condominiums, and high-rise office buildings pushing in on all sides, Ojus nevertheless continues to be among the city's oldest populated areas.
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