Citrus County by L. J. Brumby
Activity in Prospect Mining, Turpentine and Timber Operations, Cattle Raising and Truck Growing, Beautiful Crystal River, Holder, the Convict Camp, Etc.
A representative of the Ocala Banner made a business trip last week down in Citrus County, winding up in Dunnellon and Rockwell, in Marion. A half dozen or more phosphate plants, a turpentine still or two and the towns of Crystal River, Holder, Elliston, Rockwell and Dunnellon visited.
Few people realize or can understand except by a personal visit, the great strides this section of our state has made in material prosperity in the past few years or how much it is adding to our industrial wealth or, the rapidity of its progress. These are not mere empty words, but impressive facts. With great phosphate plants upon formerly valueless lands, laying a tremendous tax upon Europe from which is paid weekly thousands and thousands of dollars to laborers, superintendents and all classes of trade, with numerous turpentine stills and saw mills, with the rapidly growing fish and oyster shipping interests and with an energetic set of farmers who now appreciate the possibilities of truck growing and cattle raising, this section is rapidly becoming one of the wealthiest in Florida.
Just now it seems that all the phosphate plants and turpentine stills are running at their fullest capacity and never have crops been better. Everybody seems to have money and in the entire trip, not a merchant, and fully a hundred were seen, complained of lack of trade.
The first stop was made at Crystal River and a day and night spent at the big new Bennett House-on-the-hill, so well conducted by our old friend, Dr. J. D. Bennett and his estimable wife. The great trouble in the past with this point was its lack of hotel accommodations. This defect has in the past year been entirely remedied. In addition to the Bennett House, Mrs. Mary Allen has added to the Dixon House, which is very convenient and plans to accommodate in good shape to add to its capacity. Then there is the Willis House, which is very convenient and plans to accommodate in good shape those that do not care for the expense of the higher price and more prestigious hotels. All three did an excellent business during the winter and are doing well this summer.
It is no disparagement of other towns to say that Crystal River is decidedly the best town in Citrus County in point of business and manufactures. At the head of the beautiful river from where it takes its name and only a few miles from the gulf, it is naturally a fine fish and oyster shipping point. Five houses engaged in this business last season and there will be more next. Mr. E. T. Bowman, a leading merchant, is one of those who will embark in the industry; Another is Mr. Paul Boellert, also engaged in merchandising, who has formed a copartnership with Capt. A. D. Hill, formerly of Louisiana. They propose to go in on a big scale and will at once put in an ice and refrigerating plant and command a fleet of schooners in addition to buying from other fishermen.
The big cedar mill of the Dixon Crucible Co. of New Jersey, and the new veneering mill, each give employment from thirty to fifty hands, are both running. New buildings are being erected, including Mrs. Allen’s new store on Main Street. When this is completed, Mrs. Allen will have two large stores in the town. Among other successful merchants who are staunch believers in their town are Miller Bro., Sparkman and Co., and Dr. W. E. Armstrong and Dr. P. W. Fant, who in addition to their medical practice, conduct well equipped drugstores and Mr. W. H. Pratt who is a new comer. Mr. N. Barco and Mr. R. J. Knight, both so well known in Ocala, Have elegant homes here. A good livery stable is conducted by Mr. J. S. Scott. Among other old and new friends of the Banner are Mr. T. F. Hoy, a former Ocalian, now in the fish business, Mr. L. M. Noles, the contractor and builder, Mr. W. H. Espy of the Cedar Mills, Mr. W. H. Johns and J. D. Sullivan. It was here we met Mr. C. A. Miller, of Fairmount, member of the school board, president of the newspaper company, a prosperous farmer and a brag melon grower.
The Crystal River News, to use a stock phrase, but in this case the simple truth, fills a long felt want. Its first number was out last Thursday and it was a fine one, typographically, locally and generally. It is owned by a stock company and managed and edited by Mr. W. S. Smith. It is highly creditable to the town and deserves the warmest and most cordial support. Every stockholder of the “News,” with one exception, is a subscriber of the Ocala Banner and thoroughly understand what it takes to make a good newspaper. Politics are even livelier in Citrus than in Marion. But of this it is not an outsiders privilege to discuss. All are good men and the county is safe in any event.
The stop at Holder was brief as it was necessary to drive out to section 34, one of the large Buttgenbach plants, one of the properties leased from Mr. Holder. This is where Mr. A. S. Anderson, Mr. Buttgenbach’s general superintendent, and Mr. A. F. Handley, a former Ocalian, make their headquarters. Mr. Handley at present is quite sick. Mr. T. C. Freeman, also from this county, is located here and has a fine position, also Mr. F. M. Sanders, who is moving arsenal in his capacity as convict guard. Convicts are worked here and worked hard as they should be, but they are a well fed and healthy looking lot and don’t seem to care much about it.
Stopping over at Holder on the return trip, a short talk was had with Dr. Walter Turner, who reported business good. The Banner is very popular here and it is regretted that the time could not be spared to see our friends here and at section 20. This will be done on a later trip. On the way to Dunnellon, one of Ray’s turpentine stills, where Mr. Walter Ray was paying off a big force of hands and Ford & Hiller’s phosphate mines at Elliston were passed and Dunnellon, the lively phosphate city, was reached shortly after noon. Dunnellon, her business interests, the big phosphate plants on the Withlacoochee River and at Rockwell, the story of traveling with an insurance man and Louis Volk’s latest fish yarn all deserve and will have another and separate article.
Everywhere the Ocala Banner seems secure in its popularity and gains new friends every day. Some day when there is plenty of time it will be shown in these articles just how this paper has in the good county of Citrus, nearly as many subscribers, in proportion to population as it has in Marion, just why it has good friends, and just how their friendship is obtained, maintained and appreciated. All this in spite of, or because of, the fact that the county has two of the best edited and printed newspapers in the state, Sherwood’s “Chronicle,” at Inverness and Smith’s “News,” at Crystal River.
Ocala Banner: 6-13-02