Cattle and Dairy Farms in Clay County
Cattle ranching was and is an important industry in Clay County. Cattle ranching peaked in 1920 at 15,948 head, dropping suddenly during the Great Depression to 6,757. (see Statistics of Florida Agriculture, Jax Main Lib 338.109759 R595s 1934). In 2012, however, livestock sales in Clay county were worth $3,439,000. (AgCensus.usda.gov) In 2013, Florida’s cattle and calf output was valued at $867,792,000. (FreshFromFlorida.com)
Cattle Brands- two large bound volumes dating from 1858 to 1965 describe the brands and the owners of Clay cattle. Your brand could be registered at the courthouse, thereby helping eliminate any confusion about ownership in the days were there were no fences and open grazing was the rule. These volumes are available at the Archives for your perusal.
Swimming Pen Creek, the water way near Whitey’s Fish Camp, was named Swimming Pen Creek because this is where cattle were driven across the creek on the way to market.
The Village Improvement Association (oldest women’s club in Florida) diligently worked to rid Green Cove Springs’ streets of cattle. Apparently, livestock wandered freely in town and caused a health hazard. See the VIA’s records at the Archives.
During the Civil War, Lewis Forrester’s cattle were taken by the Union Army at Magnolia Springs. See his reparations claim at the Archives.
Clay County was home to several large dairies the most important of those being the Gustafson’s Dairy. Gustafson’s Dairy, based in Green Cove Springs, sold its 3,267-acre dairy and processing plant to Belleview, Florida-based Southeast Milk after putting it up for sale in 2013. Then Southeast Milk closed the plant in Green Cove Springs. See news article at Jacksonville.com.
The Bordenville Dairy Farm (owned originally by the Borden family of condensed milk fame) was located near the Camphor Farm (Camp Blanding) (Parade of Memories, pg 211).
The last dairy in Clay County, Sandridge Dairy LLP, owned by Sue and Jerry Campbell, is shutting down in 2017. At its peak, the dairy owned 700 cows. See related news article at www.ClayTodayOnline.com.