Gainesville’s earth produced town’s earliest exports

Published: Saturday, February 1, 2014 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at 3:22 p.m.

Our area’s original homegrown products — phosphate, cotton, cattle and oranges — came from the land. And the arrival of rail was the impetus for spreading these offerings farther afoot.

The first trains arrived in Gainesville in 1859, and the area became a center of cotton and livestock commerce. In the 1870s, lumber, cotton and cattle were shipped to northern markets. The invention of the refrigerator car stimulated a growing trade for citrus, lettuce, onions, squash, potatoes and strawberries. Cotton, corn, citrus and watermelons were shipped across the South.

The orange market took off after the expansion of the railroads and before the freezes of 1884-85 and 1899 killed off most of the local industry. The boll weevil would kill off the cotton industry by 1916.

North Central Florida was the heart of logging and turpentine in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The American Lumber and Treatment Co., later Koppers, made creosote-treated crossties, timbers and pilings for the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad, near the Cabot Corporation lumber company.

Phosphate mining was at its height in the 1890s, with 14 mines employing 500 people in Newberry and High Springs becoming an important shipping center. At one time Dutton Phosphate Co. of Gainesville shipped more than half of the state’s phosphate production, much of it going overseas for use in commercial fertilizer.

Tung trees were brought to Florida from China in 1925, and a local processing plant used oil from the tung nut for a key ingredient in varnishes and paints.

Franklin Crates of Micanopy made crates for produce from 1916 into 2012, and Adkins Manufacturing Company made wirebound vegetable crates and hampers in the 1930s and ‘40s.

Reader comments posted to this article may be published in our print edition. All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.

▲ Return to Top