By Brenda Eubanks Burnette
I recently bought several old citrus crates for the Florida Citrus Hall of Fame collection:
- Shiloh Fruit Packing Company, with the Indian Chief label
- Indian River Citrus Sub-Exchange packed by Graves Brothers Company in Wabasso, featuring the Flo brand label
- On Top Groves from Wetumpka Fruit Co., with the On Top Blue brand label
- The A. Vachon Groves Indian River Fruit from West Palm Beach and Fort Pierce with a stock label showcasing The A. Vachon Groves name
- One from Mound Grove Fruit Company out of Bulow, Florida, with which I was unfamiliar
I tried to track down some of the history behind the Mound Grove brand. I didn’t have as much luck as I had hoped but was able to find some information. If you have any additional information on this company and the people associated with it, please send it to me so I can include it for future use.
Corporate papers for Mound Grove Fruit Company were filed in 1915, and the company dissolved in 1976. At that time, the company was listed under George W. Leonard, who also was involved with the Wetumpka Fruit Company in Hastings, Florida. There is a photo in the Florida Memory Collection which shows him with baskets of potatoes under that label, for which Hastings was famous. But they also shipped citrus, as evidenced by the various citrus labels such as the “On Top” label featured on one of the crates in the photo.
The Mound Grove crate would have been in use prior to World War II. Ray McCormick Coe was treasurer and manager of the company at that time. According to FindaGrave.com, “In 1922, Ray McCormick Coe went into the citrus business at Bulow, FL, later serving as treasurer and manager of the Mound Grove Fruit Company, located on the Star Route, Bunnell, FL. For years he was a leading figure in the business life of Volusia County, and was known as the venerable old man of the renowned Ormond and Daytona Beach Communities. He served with the Florida Home Guard during WW I and was an active deacon in the Ormond Union Church. He died in December 1963 in Putnam County, FL.”
Coe was born in Ohio on March 9, 1879, and moved to Hastings in 1902, where he grew potatoes on a 25-acre farm. He and an associate built the first cold storage and electrical plant there in 1910. Coe was also involved in the Hastings Banking Company. He moved to Palatka, operating a cold storage and ice plant there before trading it for a farm in Rodman, where he worked the farm and served as a bookkeeper for the Rodman Lumber Company. He returned to Hastings in 1918 and opened a dairy business with 150 cows, before becoming involved with the Florida Vegetable Company and opening the citrus business in 1922.
The Flagler County Historic Society notes that “Mound Grove itself is part of Bulow Ville. L.B. Knox, G.F. Beed and Arthur Beed bought this tract, which included a large acreage of wild orange trees, in 1879. They re-budded the trees, developed a fine orange grove and were the first to introduce the King orange, which they imported from China. These pioneers built, at their own expense, bridges and several miles of roads. They dredged and widened Bulow Creek, making it possible for small boats to reach the Bulow Plantation ruins, and also opened a canal for transporting citrus fruit from the groves to the old ‘Orange Dock’ in Ormond, whence it was shipped via railroad. (The railroad was completed in 1887.) Prior to the coming of the railroad, fruit was taken in row boats and sailboats to Port Orange and loaded on schooners for St. Augustine.”
It’s truly amazing what a small piece of history can help you discover about the past.
Brenda Eubanks Burnette is executive director of the Florida Citrus Hall of Fame. Pieces of the Past is presented in partnership with Florida Southern College’s McKay Archives Center in Lakeland.