This is the story of Citrus, a county with a romantic past, and a real future. Large trees now grow on the site of what was once the sugar mill owned by the late Senator David Yulee. Citrus is a fisherman’s paradise, but it is likewise a happy haven for the agriculturist. During the boom farms became subdivisions, and turned to weeds, but the signs of the new order are at hand.
Near Homosassa, in Citrus county, on the old plantation which was once the home of the late Senator David Yulee, are reminders of the old south that would bring joy to the soul of the writer of romantic stories, but they haven’t found it yet. It is Yulee Park now, five acres of it, presented several years ago to the Federation of Women’s Club of Citrus county, by the late Claude Root, and since maintained by the organization.
The Senator operated a sugar plantation in connection with his other activities and it is the remains of this industry which forms one of the most interesting features. The ruins of the old sugar mills are still there, including the tall chimney, several iron boiling pots. The old pots still lie where they were the last time they contained cane juice, and if one desires to speculate relative to how long ago that was, he must have a knowledge of forestry, for sturdy trees are growing beside them, and through one a large cedar rises. In the thickets nearby, tall trees are growing in what once was a cane field, for the old plowed rolls of hills in which the cane was planted still are visible.
There was life and sociable activity typical of the old south at the Yulee plantation during the days before the war between the states; there was hunting and fishing and riding and boating to entertain the guests, and one has only to go to the spot and look around to realize that here Florida possesses the material for scores of romantic stories of fiction and fact. There’s the story of the destruction of the sugar mill by Federal gunboats, during the war, for one.
A Geographical Center
Citrus county is tucked away on the gulf coast not far below the starting point of the peninsula, but it possesses both the geographical center of Florida and the states center of population. In 1880 Florida’s center of population was in what is now Dixie county, west of the town of Cross City. In 1880 it had moved a few miles southeastward in the same county. In 1900 it was again in Dixie, but this time a few miles to the west. It crossed the Suwannee river and moved into Levy county in 1910, and made a further jump southeastward in 1920, centering again in Levy just north of the Citrus county line. In 1925 it moved into Citrus.
While it is not pertinent to the story of Citrus it might be mentioned in passing that the center of population has made steady progress toward the southeast, down the peninsula, with every indication that when the point is ascertained in 1930 it will have made the greatest jump in that direction since 1880. The 1925 census is based on the census taken as of Jan. 1, 1925, before the remarkable increase in population of South Florida during the remainder of that year.
But Citrus offers something else. It is an undeveloped gold mine for the agriculturist. The lack of highways has been its principal drawback, but it is getting roads now. Citrus has issued highway construction bonds in the sum of $1,521,000, has spent $706,000 of the proceeds and still has $725,000 on hand for further work.
Citrus was once one of the leading producers of rock phosphate in Florida, but its mines are shut down with the development of the pebble mines in South Florida. Rock phosphate is mined by hand, pebble phosphate is mined by the hydraulic process and one negro with a water gun and three-inch stream under 120 pounds pressure can produce more of the latter variety in ten minutes than his competitor could in a month of Sundays. Rock phosphate minds in the state have been idle for some years, but a concern owning one near Hernando, in Citrus county, is preparing to resume operations in the near future. If it can be proved that rock phosphate can be mined under improved methods at a profit the old time rock phosphate district in Citrus and Marion counties may take on new life and again show the activity that once was the livest in any industry in Florida.
Inverness Picking Up
Inverness, county seat of Citrus, is a town that almost stood still from 1920-1925, but it got out of the rut during the latter year and has been going forward steadily. In 1920 its population was 1132. In 1925 it was only 1271. Its streets have been paved, Its business district has been improved remarkably by the construction of new buildings and it is taking on the airs of a live wire little city. Inverness is on the Tamiami Trail, and since the last link in the highway, that between Floral City and Brooksville was completed a few weeks ago, traffic has been heavy.
Along the coastal region, things are happening about Homosassa and Crystal River. They’re building a city at Homosassa because winter visitors have just begun to find out Grover Cleveland discovered many years ago, that this region has a wonderful climate in winter and that old Izaak Walton himself would grow weary of pulling out the fish that seem to have no fear of a hook. There’s hunting there, too, with turkeys, bear, deer and other game that seem to regard it a pleasure to stand before a gun.
Well Worth the Trip
Citrus is probably Florida’s least know counties because the most sturdy flivver balked at the knee deep sand which once served as “highways,” and it was a tedious task to get into the back country. It has roads now, and the Floridian who expects to spend two or three weeks this summer rolling about the state to see what he can see will be well repaid if he leaves the beaten path between Dunedin and Brooksville via Inverness and Floral City and heads towatds the coast. Source: Tampa Tribune: 4-29-1927
Dudley V. Haddock
Transcribed, Formatted and Submitted by Linda Flowers