A Short Sketch of Crystal River – 1877
A Short Sketch of Crystal River – The Settlements and Industries Along its Banks-
The Facilities For Marketing Products - Homesteads and State Lands – Crops, Growth Etc. Etc.
Mr. John D. Brownliee, in an article in a late issue of The Florida Agriculture describing the beauties, advantages, and prospects of the Gulf coast, gives the following description of Crystal River in Hernando county.
The first navigable river that we come across, and the only one of any importance, is Crystal River, clear, as its name would indicate, with an average depth of fifteen feet of water to its head, affording ample entrance for the largest size craft. Side-wheel steamers drawing six and seven feet of water have frequently anchored at our very warves. The river is only eight miles long, but in that short distance one catches glimpses of the most superb scenery, amply repaying the visitor, the sportsman, or the immigrant in search of a home. The waters are fairly alive with fish of all kinds, in fact the catching of mullet in winter, and green turtles in spring, is quite an industry here. Salt River, emptying at almost four miles from its mouth, affords abundance of most delicious oysters, gathered at low tide with little or no trouble. At the head of the river, which here opens out panorama like into a beautiful lake, lies the town of Crystal River, numbering about 200 persons. About one-quarter of a mile up one of the arms of the lake lies Hunter’s Spring, smaller than the celebrated Silver Springs of Marion county, but in my humble opinion far surpasses it beautiful prismatic coloring. We have two general stores, two cotton-gins with grist-mills attached, one saw-mill, a church and school-house, and an embryo hotel; there is also a resident doctor, who has an apothecary attachment with all the necessary drugs to cure or kill. Our society for so small a place is very good, improved in the winter by Northern visitors. We have had but few accessions to our number for the past year, owing partly to the prevailing ignorance at the North in regard to the true status of Florida, and partly to the ignorance of the fact that the Gulf coast is the greatest orange-producing portion of the State. I have received several letters of inquiry, one in particular from a gentleman from Massachusetts worthy of note, as showing how little is known about Florida. He asks, “Is a Northern man safe in Florida.” Again, “Will orange trees bear in fifteen years.” And, another writer, as far ahead as the other is behind, “Will they bear in two years.” To both questions of course we answer “yes,” but capable, however, of different explanations. Our facilities for marketing our produce are very fair. We have two schooners running to Cedar Keys making regular weekly trips, and sometimes, when a press of business demands it, semi-weekly trips, which puts us in very close competition with all Northern points by regular slow freight from Cedar Keys. We are, all told, about seven days out from New York. Here you can have your choice of lands from Government prices-- $14 for homestead of 100 acres, to $10 for best cleared or hammock land. Good State land in tracts not less than forty acres, at prices ranging from $1, $1.25, to $2.50, still lie unentered awaiting the developing land of industry. Private lands can be bought in tracts of ten acres and upwards. The lands around and adjacent to Crystal River are of all kinds, heights, and qualities capable of suiting even the most fastidious mind. In color they are red, gray, white and blackish gray. Labor is a heap competent and plentiful. 50 cents per diem, including day board, is the price of the average field hand, while by the month you can get them for $10.
Now in regard to what can be raised, as to make your place self-supporting until the orange groves comes in to bearing, is a question I now the intelligent immigrant is naturally curios to have settled. In reply I would state that the multitude of what we do raise, and the number of undeveloped things that we can raise, fairly stagger me. In the field we raise, first and foremost, corn, thirty to forty bushels to the acre on hammock land and from ten to fifteen bushels on raw pine land, which by a little cow treading will readily yield twenty bushels. Then we have cotton, sugar-cane, the whole family—rice, hemp, millet, peanuts, chufas, potatoes, bith sweet and Irish, oats, &c. &c. To show you what a large scale corn is raised in Hernando county, I would mention that Mr. James Thompson, living a few miles back in the country, cribbed, after having assorted and selected, 3000 bushels of as good corn as Illinois or Missouri could boast of, and to refute a statement of one of your correspondents in regard to Florida not being able to raise oats, I would also state that I have now growing on my place well headed, while I know of a gentleman who planted this year thirty acres, and who has been a uniformly successful in harvesting a good crop.
In the garden we raise all, or nearly all, the vegetables grown at the North, besides a great many more, and it is a very poor and shiftless farmer who cannot have at least a half dozen delicious vegetables on his table every month in the year. In the way of tropical and semi-tropical fruits that we can grow I will only give the names of them that I know from actual observations that will thrive well. Of course the orange stands first, including the whole citrus family, as lemons, limes, citrons, shaddocks, grapefruit, bittersweet &c; also figs pineapples, guavas, sappadilloes, mangoes, tamarinds, japan plums, grapes and peaches. We have several very fine groves, now belonging to Mr. Mayo, having trees in it that any county might be proud of, some measuring five feet from the ground, a foot in circumference with branching tops that rival many a forest tree, showing plenty that Hernando can and does raise oranges.
Source: Florida Immigrant: 10-1-1877
Transcribed, Formatted and Submitted by Linda Flowers