Clay County has always been a country county with wide expanses of forests punctuated with fields.
The first big attempts to clear land were made in the British period (1763-1783), mainly on the Upper & Lower Crisp (Orange Park area), Hibernia (Fleming Island), and the Tonyn plantation (Black Creek). Indigo and sugar were the main crops. Indigo was abandoned after a severe drought, but it is still rumored to be seen growing wildly in the county. Sugar remained a focus during the Spanish period, and continues even to this day on a few family farms.
As most folks know who live around here, Orange groves dotted the landscape. Palatka was covered with oranges, and small groves stretched all the way up to Orange Park, where there was another concentration of groves. The freeze of 1895 killed both the groves and the local spirit for cultivating citrus.
Exports were shipped by steamboat and then by rail when the Jacksonville, Tampa, & Key West Railroad arrived just before the turn of the century. Later, as the roads improved slightly, "truck farming" became important.
Several large land companies attempted to attract farming immigrants, most notable at Penney Farms.
from the photo collection at the Archives . . .
Knee-High isn't good enough in Clay County
Truck Farming in Melrose
Potato Farming in Middleburg
Orange Grove at Orange Park
The entire county is sand (9), punctuated with sandy loam (4, 5 & 6).
[1920 Dept of Chemistry and Soils]
The 1917 Agricultural Year
We have some statistics for this year from "The East Florida Annual 1915 1916". Its pretty clear that with more than 300,000 acres in the county, and less than 5,000 acres planted, we weren't at that time a farming area.
The Archives is pleased to have in its collection several agricultural pamplets including:
* Walkill Farms
* Florida Farms & Industries
* Penney Farms