Sunday, June 9, 2024

Floral City - Boom to Bust and Back Again

Around 1800, Seminole Indians were settled in the area we now know as Floral City. But following the Seminole Wars the 1842 Armed Occupation Act gave 160 acres to any man who lived on it, kept a gun and ammunition, and farmed 5 acres for 5 years. The legislation effectively encouraged settlers to move in and the Seminoles to move out.

Picking Oranges - Ferris Groves circa 1900
By the late 1800's, Floral City was exporting citrus, sugar cane and timber. Harvests were shipped to northern markets by steamboat via the 5 mile long Orange State Canal which was dug in 1884 and connected Lake Tsala Apopka to the Withlacoochee river.

Steamer on the Orange State Canal circa 1890
In 1893 the railroad arrived and with it phosphate deposits were found causing a boom which by 1900 had attracted around 10,000 miners. It made Floral City one of the largest towns in Florida with hotels and an infrastructure to support the community. But things slowed down with the great winter freezes of 1894/95.The citrus industry wouldn't recover for 20 years. Another setback followed when the phosphate mines went south - to Bartow.

Ferris Groves on Hwy 41 1955
Citrus recovered when "Doc" Ferris, who had bought Duval Island during the land boom planted orange trees instead of building the golf course he had originally planned. He covered 350 acres with 31,000 trees, built a packing house, and nearly everyone in Floral City worked for him through the great depression and the war years. All went well until the Christmas deep freeze of 1989 which wiped out the groves for the last time.

The Shamrock Inn 2024
Today, the railroad is gone and the old road bed is now the Withlacoochee State Trail which we ride on. East Orange Avenue, Floral City's main street, has many beautiful old homes and the Shamrock Inn is always good for lunch. Continue east on East Orange and you will cross the Orange State Canal when you ride over the bridge to Duval Island.

No comments:

Post a Comment