John Sewell (Miami)

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John Sewell
3rd Mayor of Miami
In office
Preceded byJ. E. Lemus
Succeeded byF. H. Wharton
Personal details
Born(1867-07-20)July 20, 1867
Elbert County, Georgia
DiedDecember 1, 1938(1938-12-01) (aged 71)
Miami, Florida

John Sewell (July 20, 1867 in Georgia – December 1, 1938 in Miami, Florida ) was the third Mayor of Miami.

John Sewell was born in 1867 in Elbert County, Georgia, and moved with his parents to Florida when he was 19 years old. Sewell, working for Henry Flagler, served as foreman and superintendent for the Florida East Coast Railway during the construction of the line from Jacksonville to Miami and later joined the hotel construction department. After helping to construct The Royal Poinciana Hotel and The Breakers Hotel at Palm Beach, Sewell moved to Miami in 1896 to work on the Royal Palm Hotel. While working on the hotel, Sewell stumbled upon the burial grounds of the Tequesta Native-Americans. Sewell gave away some of the skulls as souvenirs, and ordered African-American laborers to move the remaining bones and bury them in a hole.[1] Sewell remained in the employ of the Florida East Coast Railway until 1899, when he left to concentrate his efforts on the mercantile establishment jointly owned with this brother. He was Mayor of the City of Miami from 1903 to 1907.

After serving in local politics, Sewell began the construction of his house in 1912. Built on the highest point in the city, the house was named Halissee Hall from the Seminole word meaning "New Moon."

Sewell wrote a self-published autobiography entitled John Sewell's Memoirs and History of Miami, Florida. It included an appendix describing his witnessing the attempted assassination of president-elect Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933. The book is valuable as a primary source of information on pioneer days in Miami.

He is buried in the Miami City Cemetery.


  1. ^ Connolly, N.D.B. (2014). A World More Concrete: Real Estate and the Remaking of Jim Crow South Florida. University of Chicago. pp. 20–21.
Political offices
Preceded by
J. E. Lemus
Mayor of the City of Miami
Succeeded by
F. H. Wharton