Polk County, Florida
History and Tidbits

[ Source: Homeland: A Description of Polk County, Florida by Sherman Adams; 1885.]
THE DEADENING


A great natural curiosity, called the "The Deadening" exists at and about Fort Meade, covering a tract of country some ten miles or more from north to south, and some five or six miles from east to west, being divided by Peace River. When the first settlers came, in the fifties, they found the whole tract entirely divested of living trees, except along the water courses and on the higher knolls. Lying prone on the ground or standing erect, like neglected and forsaken sentinels, were the solid remains of what had years before been a vigorous growth of pine.

The cause of this destruction of the trees is utterly unknown. Various theories have been adduced, but none are fully satisfactory. G. W. Hendry claims hail to have been the agent of destruction, but this theory is untenable from the fact that no hail-storm was ever known to cover such an extent of territory, and besides hail-storms are unknown here. It will also be noted that the trees on the highest knolls along the water courses, and in the lower lands were untouched. Others claim high water to have been the cause. The most probable explanation is that several wet seasons prevented the usual forest fires, permitting the dead grass and leaves of the trees to accumulate in great abundance. Then came a very dry season, fire raged throughout the forest, and its intense heat killed the trees. Whatever the cause, the country assumed the appearance of the Western prairies. Since the first settlement, vigorous growths of oak and pine are springing up over the whole area of these, the choicest of lands, and were it not for the rapidly increasing settlements and groves it would soon be forest again.



RETAIL PRICES OF GOODS


Many who come here are surprised to find the prices so much more reasonable than they expected, especially in dry goods, clothing, boots and shoes, canned goods, etc. Crockery and glass ware are higher than in most of the Northern and Middle States, in consequence of the high transportation charges on that class of goods, yet they are not higher than in most parts of the West and South. As regards provisions:
Flour is from $6.50 to $8 per barrel,
Meal and grits $5 per barrel, or 3 1/3 cents per pound;
Bacon, 9 to 10 cents per pound;
Lard, 12 1/2 cents;
Hams, 14 to 15 cents;
Sugar, 6 to 10 cents;
Rice, 8 to 10 cents;
Oatmeal, 8 to 121/2 cents;
Crackers, 10 cents;
Butter, 35 cents;
Coffee (best Rio), 14 to 20 cents;
Tea, 50 cents to $1;
Nails, 4 to 5 cents;
Beans, 8 cents;
Syrup, 40 to 50 cents per gallon;
Kerosene, 30 to 35 cents;
Eggs, 20 to 25 cents per dozen;
Sweet Potatoes, 40 cents per bushel;
Irish 50 cents peck;
Corn, $1 per bushel;




AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTS


CORN is an important crop and large quantities are raised for home use. Its growth secures to the cultivator more profit to the acre than is realized by the grower in the far West. The average yield is from ten to forty bushels per acre, according to the quality of the land.

FIELD PEASE are an easily-grown and profitable crop, affording a large amount of sustenance for both man and beast. The seeds are especially excellent for poultry and the vines are greedily eaten by cattle.

RICE yields bountifully both upon the uplands and the lowlands. The straw makes excellent forage.

SWEET POTATOES are a standard crop and always find a ready market at good prices. The yield varies with the quality of the land, the preparation and the attention given, ranging from one hundred to five hundred bushels per acre.

CASSAVA is also a very desirable and profitable crop, easily raised, and should be grown extensively.

SUGAR CANE gives excellent results. Fine fields of cane are quite common and profitable.

COTTON of fine quality has been raised, the soil being adapted to its growth, but other products can be grown with so much more ease that it receives but little attention.

WHEAT, BARLEY, BUCKWHEAT and some other grains are but little cultivated, though there seems to be no known reason why they would not do well if planted at the right time and given proper care.

OATS have given excellent results at times, but are mostly grown as a forage crop and fed in the sheaf.

RYE is attracting attention as a soiling crop, and can be grown extensively with profit. Sown in the fall, it will grow all winter, giving a very pleasant appearance to the fields as well as profit to the owner.

The PEANUT, or Pindar, here finds soil and climatic conditions very favorable and yields large returns.

CHUFAS, a species of ground-nut, are very productive and are excellent for promoting the growth and fattening of swine and poultry, who prize them highly and will help themselves whenever the opportunity offers.

FIELD BEANS are recommended as a sure crop, by high authority, if planted in June.

TOBACCO grows finely; but its culture is not advised, as it is a very exhaustive crop.

EXPERIMENTS should be made carefully and continuously with all known products. Some of the results will be agreeably surprising and profitable.



THE GRASSES



The natural grasses are so abundant and some of them are so nutritious that but little attention has been given to the cultivated. Crab grass springs up and grows luxuriantly in cultivated fields, and ought to be utilized for hay. A kind of blanket grass makes excellent pasturage. The same is true of smut grass. Bermuda grass grows luxuriantly, and a mixture of this with smut grass would undoubtedly make excellent pasturage. I have also seen fine specimens of red clover growing in a number of places. It might thrive on the firm lands of Polk County. Alfalfa ought to be given a thorough trial throughout the county, as it is a great favorite in California and is winning high esteem in the Southern States. It might be grown in the orange groves, as its roots penetrate the subsoil; hence it would not be open to the objections urged against grasses that are surface feeders. St. Augustine grass has been highly recommended for lawns. The country seems naturally adapted to grasses, most of which, however, are too wiry when mature for fodder. There is no doubt but that by judicious care and attention good stands of cultivated grasses can be secured, and dairies be made numerous and profitable with as little trouble as in any part of the country. Every family can keep a cow, and there are no long cold winters to necessitiate filling large barns with hay. They can be fed profitably with the large variety of green forage and root crops that here grow luxuriantly.



GARDEN VEGETABLES


IRISH POTATOES give good returns. They are planted in the fall or winter and dug in the spring.

SWEET CORN is a profitable crop, for which there is a good demand for home use as well as for shipment. Those who desire can have it on their tables from Christmas to the 4th of July.

MELONS, SQUASHES, PUMPKINS, etc., grow to large size and produce abundantly. In fact, Polk County seems to be the native habitat for vines, as all kinds grow luxuriantly.

CUCUMBERS, BEANS, TOMATOES, and CABBAGE are standard crops for shipment, and give large and profitable returns.

CABBAGE, CAULIFLOWER, and the like, find soil and climate especially adapted to their vigorous growth.

BEETS, TURNIPS, CARROTS, PARSNIPS, RADISHES, etc., here find favorable and satisfactory conditions, and yield abundantly.

EGG PLANTS, OKRA, LETTUCE, etc., do finely.

ONIONS grow to a large size and are of excellent flavor

PEPPER PLANTS grow to the size of small trees and yield abundantly year to year, at all seasons, in winter as well as summer. They are ornamental as well as profitable.

HERBS and plants for seasoning, as well as for medicinal uses, yield a supply for all needs with very little care and attention.

GARDEN VEGETABLES, with hardly an exception, give excellent returns when planted at the proper season. They, as well as other plants, are benefited by watering, in the event of a drouth, which sometimes prevails in April or May.



VARIED FRUITS


STRAWBERRIES are a luscious and delightful fruit, as well as profitable. They are peculiarly adapted to the soil and climate of Polk County, and ripe berries can be had every week from December to June. They are always in demand here, but can be shipped North at a time to secure the very highest prices.

TheFIG does well and yields a good amount of pleasant and nutritious fruit.

GRAPES grow wild in the hammocks, and may be cultivated with a good degree of success.

BANANAS grow vigorously and fruit well, the stalks attaining three feet to forty inches in circumference and twenty-five feet in height, with leaves from twenty to twenty-eight inches across and five to six feet in length.

THE GUAVA is a favorite fruit that grows well and fruits abundantly in most localities, but, like the banana and pine-apple, is quite susceptible to the effects of frost.

THE LIME is an important fruit for extensive cultivation, but, like the guava, requires favorable localities as regards exemption from frost. It has been recommended for hedges as well as for fruit.

PINE-APPLES may be profitably grown under the same conditions as the banana and guava, as regards exemption from frost, and will give very profitable returns. If grown in an exposed locality it would pay to give them protection in the event of probable frost, for there is no such thing as a frost line in Florida, though the low latitude of Polk County and the large numbers of lakes to the northward give the main body of the county exceptionably favorable conditions, superior to more northern localities; yet, even here, much depends on the situation, which can only be learned by personal observation and experience.

THE LEMON grows well, and is destined to be a very profitable fruit. It is more hardy than the guava and the lime, but less so than the citron, grape-fruit or orange. The genuine Sicily is the variety preferred.

THE CITRON, of which there are many varieties, has thus far been grown only for ornament, the proper mode of preparation for market being unknown; but that difficulty is about being overcome, and its cultivation will no doubt be very profitable.

THE GRAPE-FRUIT is the favorite for the spring-time, its extreme juiciness and sub-acid flavor making it very palatable and refreshing as well as healthful.

THE JAPAN PLUM and PERSIMMON are destined to be important fruits, but their culture is yet in its infancy.

THE PEEN-TO and the HONEY PEACHES will no doubt become standard fruits but attempts at cultivation are very recent.

THE MULBERRY is of quick growth, makes a fine tree and yields an abundance of wholesome fruit.

THE CASTOR BEAN, or Palma Christi, here grows to the size of a tree, and yields abundantly year after year. The making of castor oil promises to become a profitable industry.

EXPERIMENTS are being made with a great variety of desirable fruits, and there is no doubt but that within a few years the list will be greatly extended.

THE ORANGE, however, is the king of all the fruits, the standard of excellence and chief dependence. All other fruits are merely accessories, side issues, at present, though some of them may eventually rival it in profitableness, if not in lasting durability. The fertile soil and delicious climate of Polk County combin to produce the most vigorous and fruitful trees and the most luscious fruit that can be produced in any part of the world, and that, too, with the most ease and rapidity, and at the least expense. This is due to the excellent quality of the soil, it requiring very little, if any, fertilizing, and the very mild and very short winters, thus giving nearly all the year for growth, which are pertinent facts well worthy of consideration. The trees here attain an immense size, the older ones yielding from 1,000 to 10,000 each of the golden fruit. There being no destructive freezes here the beautiful and luscious fruit can remain on the trees all winter, if desired, and sold upon the most favorable market.



OFFICIAL DIRECTORY OF POLK COUNTY, FLORIDA


CIRCUIT COURT---Sixth Judicial Circuit---H. L. Mitchell, Judge; S. M. Sparkman, State Attorney.
COUNTY COMMISSIONERS---Col. J. N. Hooker, Chairman; J. F. Kelley, J. H. Kirkland, N. B. Norton, B. F. Holland.
COUNTY JUDGE---James A. Fortner, Bartow.
COUNTY CLERK---William H. Johnson, Bartow.
BOARD OF PUBLIC INSTRUCTION---M. D. L. Mayo, Chairman; J. T. Wilson, J. W. Brandon.
SUPERINTENDENT OF SCHOOLS---John Snoddy, Bartow.
COUNTY SURVEYOR---J. W. Boyd, Bartow.
COUNTY ASSESSOR---U. A. Lightsey, Fort Meade.
COUNTY COLLECTOR---J. B. Tillis, Fort Meade.
COUNTY TREASURER---F. F. Beville, Fort Meade.
SHERIFF---R. T. Kilpatrick, Bartow.



NEWSPAPERS


Bartow Informant, Bartow; G. A. Hanson, Editor; D. W. D. Boully, Publisher.

Lakeland News, Lakeland; L. M. Ballard, Editor and Publisher.

Fort Meade Pioneer, Fort Meade; F. Q. Crawford, Editor and Publisher.



JUSTICES OF THE PEACE


Precinct No. 1---D. C. Lancaster, H. E. Padgette, Chicora P. O.
Precinct No. 2---V. L. Tillis, Fort Meade.
Precinct No. 3---George S. Durrance, Bartow.
Precinct No. 4---R. E. Windham, Medulla.
Precinct No. 5---J. W. Tucker, Lakeland.
Precinct No. 6---William L. Patterson, Sanitaria.
Precinct No. 9---J. A. Fortner, Bartow.
Precinct No. 10---Eppes Tucker, Lakeland.


MILITARY


Capt. Cobb's company, 100 strong, from Lee, Polk and DeSoto counties, Florida, passed through Monday, en route to Macon, to join Col. Ray's regiment. Like a number of the volunteers passing through here, they were well supplied with wind. The cars used by the soldiers were freely decorated by flags and bunting, and on the sides were banners bearing patriotic mottoes. On one of the cars the banners read: "Company C Third United States volunteers," and "One country under one flag." The other car had banners on which were "Yankee Doodle and Dixie" and "Off for Cuba--Polk DeSoto and Lee counties."


[Source: Tifton Gazette, Jun. 24, 1898 -- Page 5.] Transcribed and submitted by Sheila Pitts Massie.

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