Remembering Miami Pioneer Rose Wagner Richards

Wagner Residence in 1974

Cover: Wagner Residence at 1145 NW 8th Avenue in 1974

Wagner Chapel in 1873

Figure 1: Wagner Chapel in 1873

On October 23rd, 1933, Rose Wagner Richards died at the age of 81. Rose was part of the Wagner family who settled on the Miami River in 1855, four decades prior to the incorporation of the City of Miami. The home she was raised, constructed in 1857, sat at what is now 1145 NW Eighth Avenue. This home was moved and restored in Lummus Park, where it still stands today, in order to preserve the memory of the Wagner family and their homestead.

In 1873, Rose’s father, William, constructed a small Catholic chapel on his property, providing a place for mass in the wilderness of Southeast Florida. The chapel was a 20 by 40-foot structure and provided services to Catholics in the area until 1892 when the building burned down. It was in this chapel that Rose Wagner married Adam Richards on September 5, 1876. The wedding was officiated by Father Hugan of Key West who traveled to the sparsely populated area for the ceremony.

Rose Wagner Richards in 1903

Figure 2: Rose Wagner Richards in 1903

In an article that was published in 1903, Rose gave an account of what Miami was like during the Civil War. She described how the area was restricted by a Union Blockade that patrolled from Key West up to Indian River. Rose described how the few that lived in the area had to either grow what they needed to survive, or find a way to get through the blockade.

The article also discusses how the blockaders would deal with southern sympathizers. Boats would be confiscated, soldiers would insist that residents pledge allegiance to the north and, in one case, a factory and home were burned to the ground. Rose’s account of the Civil War time period was one of the few oral histories that described the Miami River area during this turbulent time.

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Read the reprint of the 1903 article at the Miami News Archive

Images:

  • Cover: Wagner House at 1145 NW Eighth Avenue in 1974. Courtesy of HistoryMiami Museum.
  • Figure 1: Wagner Chapel in 1873. Courtesy of Miami News.
  • Figure 2: Rose Wagner Richards and grandchild in 1903. Courtesy of HistoryMiami Museum.