Saturday, February 07, 2009

Our first economic disaster

As we battle both bone-chilling weather and an historic economic downturn in this little corner of heaven, today we socks should also take pause to mark the anniversary of an even more dismal period in the history of Central Florida.

I refer to the "Great Freeze," which hit Central Florida on this date way back in 1895.

What was so "great" about it, ye ask?

Well, up until that point, it was cheap and easy to grow abundant citrus around here. That brought a bunch of new settlers to the region, and eventually we were shipping out about 6 million boxes of fruit every year.

But, after that point, trees of all types were destroyed, their sap freezing and splitting the trunks. Fruit blackened, and fell useless to the ground. Only about 100,000 boxes of edible fruit could be found . . . and you had to go south of the Manatee River to find it.

The economic consequences were immense. Many small-time growers simply abandoned their groves and fled the state. And, amazingly, Florida saw it's population decline for the first time in history.

It took the better part of a decade for things to bounce back around here.

Let's hope the current prognosis is not so grim.

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