J. C. PENNEY AND THE DEVELOPMENT OF PENNEY FARMS, FLORIDA (1924-1934)
PHILLIP ALTON WERNDLI
A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE COUNCIL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF ARTS
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 1974
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS T am indebted to a great, many peop] e for the oonpl etion of this study. Most of all I wish to thank Miss E. Virginia Mowry of the Office of J. C. Penney, New York. She provided me access to the papers of J. C. Penney without which this work would have been impossible. Miss Mowry has also provided valuable criticism and aid in the writing of the manuscript.
In Penney Farms I wish to thank Mrs. Maude Coker and the Penney Retirement Community and the staff of the Shadow-lawn Office. Mrs. Coker gave me permission to use the Memorial Home Community Association's records. The staff of the Shadowlawn Office allowed me the use of the minute books and records of Foremost Properties, Incorporated.
The employees in the Offices of the Clerk of the Circuit Court, the Supervisor of Elections, and the Board of Public Onstruction of Clay County also gave me helpful assistance. Miss Elizabeth Alexander and her assistants of the P. K. Yonge Library of Florida History were very helpful in the use of the library's collections.
Oral history interviews were extremely valuable to the telling of the complete story. I must thank Ruth, Esther, and Asenath Travassos; Mr. and Mrs. Bascom Franklin; Mrs. Clark Failing; Mr. Arthur E. Davis; and Mrs. J. C. Penn
Mr. Davis, of Gainesville, Florida, was gracious enough to allow me to use his personal photograph collection.
Criticism is an important part of the learning process in a thesis. This was amply provided by my supervisory
and Harold W. Kemp. In addition Mr. F. Blair Reeves of the Department of Architecture has given me constant support in the completion of this project.
Finally, I wish to thank my wife, Jackie. She ahs been so patient and helpful throughout the past year. Her support has pulled me through many rough times and pushed me ahead when I felt like quitting.
Phillip A. Werndli
TABLE OF CONTENTS
A CKN OWLEDGEMEN T S LIST OF FIGURES ABSTRACT
CHAPTER I Agricultural Colonies in Florida NOTES
CHAPTER II The Partnership Principle Applied to Agriculture
CHAPTER III The Organization of the Penney-Gwinn Corporation
CHAPTER IV Life at the Colony NOTES
CHAPTER V The Memorial Home Community NOTES
CHAPTER VI The Decline of Penney Farms NOTES
LIST OF FIGURES
1 Penney Estate, Belle Isle, Miami Beach, Florida 25
2 Florida Farms and Industries Store,
Penney Farms (Long Branch City) 37
3 St. Johns Inn, Penney Farms (Long Branch
4 School House, Penney Farms (Long Branch City) 39
5 Florida Farms and Industries Railroad Station, Penney Farms (Long Branch City) 40
6 Cannery 41
7 Florida Farms and Industries Railroad Train 42 8" Bordenville Dairy Barn 43
9 Map of Clay County Showing Location of Penney
10 Map of Clay County Showing Location of Penney Holdings 47
11 Typical Farm House, Penney Farms 66
12 Typical Farm House, Penney Farms 67
13 View of Farms on Kentucky Avenue, Penney
14 Farm, Penney Farms 69
15 Farm, Penney Farms 70
16 Site of Penney Farms Church, Commissary Building, Bordenville Dairy 80
17 J. C. Penney at Penney Farms Church, Bordenville Dairy 81
Aerial View of Memorial Home Community
Apartment Building, Memorial Home Community
Apartment Building, Memorial Home Community
Apartment Building, Memorial Home Community
Memorial Church, Memorial Home Community
Interior, Memorial Church, Memorial Home Community
Construction, Memorial Home Community
Construction, Memorial Home Community
Construction, Memorial Home Community
Construction, Memorial Home Community
Apartment Building, Memorial Home Community
Construction on Church, Memorial Home Community
Construction, Memorial Home Community Construction, Memorial Home Community
Abstract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate Council of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts
J. C. PENNEY AND THE DEVELOPMENT OF PENNEY FARMS, FLORIDA (1924-1934)
Phillip Alton Werndli August, 1974
Chairman: Samuel Proctor Major Department: History
Agricultural developments and colonies have long been a popular way of disposing of large areas of land in Florida. The boom of the 1920s was no exception. Histories of that period tend to concentrate on the real estate activities around the Miami and Palm Beach area and the Tampa area. These studies provide very little information on agricultural land developments. The purpose of this inquiry was to provide a case study of just such a farming project, the J. C. Penney-Gwinn Farms at Penney Farms, Florida, seven miles west of Green Cove Springs.
Following an Introductory chapter on agricultural settlements in Florida, the Penney-Gwinn development is examined In detail from Its inception to its demise. The project was the idea of J. C. Penney, founder of the J. C. Penney Company, who wanted to apply the philosophy behind
his chain store system to agriculture. Beginning in 1925, Penney assembled agricultural experts and farmers from all over the country to try to prove that his idea was practical.
The agricultural development was not the only project at Penney Farms. A village was also built for retired ministers and missionaries. The community was a philanthropic undertaking which provided free housing for its residents. It was carefully planned and designed for the ministers. The original buildings have continued to function as adequate homes for the retirees. While improvements have been made, the original design remains unaltered. This community was one of the first in a state which was soon to be viewed as a retirement haven. For this reason and for Its relationship to the farming community it has been Included in this study.
The depression years placed Penney in a bad financial state which forced his withdrawal from any further involvement financially at Penney Farms. The farm colony was closed and turned Into a large scale cattle and timber enterprise. The retirement community was not closed, but its source of maintenance was altered. The recent history of Penney Farms has been one similar to that of many other farm colonies of which small towns have remained as reminders of once vast and hopeful settlements of farmers.
CHAPTER I AGRICULTURAL COLONIES IN FLORIDA In 1880, Florida was still a frontier state with large tracts of land untouched and its people living in a frontier society. There was no urban community of 10,000 or more inhabitants. Northern Florida was partially developed but
Southern Florida still was an unconquered wilderness. The administration of Governor William Bloxham (1881-1885) favored immigration, transportation, and education to achieve growth for the state. During Bloxham's term railroads experienced renewed expansion, bringing not only tourists but settlers to the state. The frontier was gradually pushed back as farmers and tradesmen were brought to Florida by the railroad companies. The swamps and overflowed areas were drained and converted into productive agricultural lands, on which colonies of farmers were repeatedly placed with hopes of quick success.
One observer of the increased settlement of Florida was George Barbour. In 1882 he wrote that "Florida is rapidly becoming a Northern colony. The tide of immigration to this state is large and steadily increasing and is beyond doubt soon to assume immense proportions. .The rush of immigration is to the semi-tropical central Florida regions along the Transit Railroad, the St. Johns River and the coasts; these are the localities where the new settlers
are pouring in, clearing lands, fencing, building homes,
setting out groves, planting gardens, building railroads,
mills, factories, etc."
One of the most famous promoters of Florida in this era was Hamilton Disston. 3y lo?7 the state-s Internal Improvement Fund, the agency responsible for the development and disposal of public lands, had gotten into financial trouble which tied up its affairs. In 1881 Disston, a Philadelphia tool manufacturer, agreed to drain land along the Kissimmee River and its tributaries in return for one-half of the reclaimed acreage. In a separate deal in the same year, Disston was allowed to purchase 4?000,000 acres from the Fund at twenty-five cents an acre.^
This deal met with a considerable amount of criticism because the price was thought to be too low and the rights of the homesteaders were not recognized. At the same time, Disston proved the possibilities of working with reclamation. He showed that drainage could be accomplished and before his death in 1893? he established a colonization program which anticipated the techniques of farm land sales in the early twentieth century.^1 A settlement was planned near Orlando for 250 new families. The United States Department of Agriculture was encouraged by Disston to establish an experiment station in the area. This station was to conduct studies on different kinds of plants in order to help the colonists select the right crops. Families could buy twenty to eighty acres costing from $1.25 to $5.00 per
acre. In addition, these people were encouraged to bring
$1,000 of capital to carry them through the first year. Disston advertised throughout the north and in Europe for determined settlers, while discouraging speculators. The settlement grew fast and showed promise of becoming a town. Unfortunately, the financial panics of the 1890s and Disston's death delayed further development until a lauer period.
After a decade of political maneuvering, Florida experienced a period of development In the early twentieth century. The increased drainage operations in South Florida which were begun under Governor Napoleon B. Broward between 1906-1909 eventually resulted in a rise in the number of farm colonies and developments. Lumber companies all over Florida had cleared expansive, unsettled tracts of virgin timber during the first decade of the twentieth century and they began disposing of them in 1910. Some of the companies formed their own development firms such as the Consolidated Land Company, agent for the Consolidated Naval Stores Company. Many others sold the property directly to developers. In almost every case, however, the lands were broken into five- ten- and twenty-acre plots for sale.^
The disposal of the huge land tracts of the Everglades was achieved through wide scale advertisement campaigns. Salesmen toured the north and mid-west praising the values of Florida. The state was described as a "Tropical Paradise" and a "Promised Land." Settlers were offered ten- and
twenty-acre plots of land to settle and start farming. Companies like the Model Land Company, the agent of the Florida East Coast Railroad; the Southern States Land and Timber Company; the United Land Company, which had bought a considerable amount of the Disston lands; and the Fruit-lands Company offered property for $20.00 to $50.00 per acre giving guarantees of drainage and fertility. ^ The Florida East Coast Homeseeker, voice of the Florida East Coast Railroad, contained hundreds of advertisements for land from Jacksonville to the Everglades."'""'" These advertisements praised every part of Florida: "New Smyrna,
Florida: Rich In Historic Memories, Still Richer in Fer-12
tile Lands," or "Modelo, Dade County, Florida Is the Best Place for a Home, Best People, Best Soil, Finest Timber. .
Brochures were distributed to describe the value of special areas. For example, around 1914 the Florida Land and Settlement Company/ offered ten-acre farm sites for sale to "serious" settlers. The project was located in Volusia County in what is now known as the Farmton Wildlife Management area northeast of Lake Harney. The lands were described as open pine and partly hammock. A town hall and inn were erected at Farmton the center of the settlement area. The property had access to both the St. Johns River and the Florida East Coast Railroad. Payment for the uncleared tracts was to be arranged on either a cash basis or in monthly installments; the prices varied according to the location of the land. Each farmer was required to clear his
land at his own expense. The brochure claimed that anything could be grown on the landcitrus, poultry, vegetables. The testimony of settlers was praiseworthy. One testified: "Three years ago I bought, through correspondence, my ten-acre tract of land. .at Celery City or Farmton as it is now called. .1 raise two or three crops on my land every year. .1 find it as nearly perfect as any section can offer."
The east coast was not the only area to be involved in land promotions of 1910 to 1915 The Florida National Land Company of Fort Wayne, Indiana, established a farm settlement in Marion, Lake, and Sumter counties. Their brochure entitled 1.70 a. Day Buys a_ Home in Florida offered ten- twenty- and forty-acre tracts of land. The site was supposed to have been selected by J. J. Wayne, president of the company, described as a practical farmer, and W. 0. Gandy, who participated in the development of lands in Indiana and Ohio, who "farmed by proxy," and was secretary-treasurer of the company. The prospect was enticed by the claim of "a chance of a lifetime to secure a permanent income without effort. ." Seven hundred tracts were made available costing $15.00 per acre. Each ten-acre tract could be purchased for $5.00 down and $5-00 per month.
The company claimed to have been looking for "good, practi-
cal, thrifty farmers and not speculators."
W. 0. Gandy showed up also as president of the Wauchula Development Company. In 1913 he was promoting land northwest
of Lake Okeechobee in the Peace River Valley. One of the most attractive brochures of the period in Florida was published to advertise the colonization of the area near Wauchula entitled Combination Soil of the Peace River Valley, Florida. Using colored pictures it described the good soil, "equitable climate," good health, and future of citrus and vegetables in the area. Different tracts of farm land were offered at $40.00 to $50.00 per acre with $1.00 down and $1.00 per month for each acre. In addition each farmer was supposed to bring $500 extra in order to live there while raising his first crop. Any person was accepted on the development. It was stressed that "Farm experience [was] not an essential to success. .New men without agricultural experience are constantly coming here and succeeding.""*"
World War I did not halt the activities of the development companies, but their efforts were reduced. Immediately following the war farm and city real estate prices in South
Florida began to rise again. By 1921, the great Florida
Boom was getting under way. While the promotions and
speculation in Miami, Palm Beach, and Tampa have been
studied in some detail, the farm land developments have
been generally overlooked. Over forty separate farm projects
were established or planned in 1926. The decline of real estate activity in the suburban areas, which came in 1926, had contributed in part to an increased activity in selling farm land. The movement of developers into rural areas
was recognized in 1926 by one agriculturalist who observed, "As soon as lot sales reached their end, nearly every realty company in the state began to plan some kind of land development. The small farm idea seemed most popular and is still
the most, popular plan of many development companies in the 19
state." That more realtors were becoming involved m
farm land can also be demonstrated by the fact that in 1926
the State Realty Association enlarged its agricultural committee
and gave it added duties "owing to the increased interest in
agricultural matters generally."^ There were also active
farm developers who had been operating since before World
War I. The Florida East Coast Railway Company through its
land companies, Model Land Company, Chuluota Company, and
Perrine Land Company, continued to offer farms for sale. The most important of these was Chuluota in south Seminole County.
Ringling and White, Inc., of New York, was an agricultural development company. It had been involved in developments In California and South Florida. Richard T. Ringling, a partner in the firm, was a nephew of the Ringling Brothers of circus fame. In 1925, in cooperation with the Porter Interests, a large land owning company in west Florida, the
company started a farm project in Okaloosa and Santa Rosa
counties where Floridale is today.
The plan for Floridale, as the Ringling project was
called, was to utilize 50,000 acres of farm land for a dairy,
poultry farms, grape raising, citrus, and truck farming.
Satsuma groves, costing $500 per acre, were offered for
sale to anyone in five-and ten-acre tracts which would be
maintained for the owner for three years at a "moderate
cost." Five-acre poultry farms were marketed with the
option of an added five-acre satsuma grove. The land
was to be cleared and ready for occupancy. The cost was
from $100 to $200 per acre for plowed farms according to
their availability to the Louisville and Nashville Railroad
which ran through the property. The company paid for a
soil survey to be undertaken in order to advise the farmers
on what to grow. Agricultural instructors were provided
free of charge to give advice on problems. There were no
special requirements for the kind of person who would be
sold a farm. Marketing services were planned by the company
to assist in obtaining the best possible price for the pro-
ducts of the colony.
There were also timber companies which wanted to dispose of their cutover land as had been done previously In the period 1910-1915. The Germain Land and Timber Company had operated in Manatee County since 1920 and had stripped 26,000 acres of timber by 1926; 8,000 acres of this land, located In the northeast part of Manatee County, was designated for development as a farm colony.2^ A community center was immediately established with a general store and a thirty-five room hotel. Near this, a ten-acre demonstration farm was built. The first year It yielded cucumbers and tomatoes which, it was claimed, grossed $9,000. There was also a
five-acre model farm with a house. Five- and ten-acre tracts were offered at $200, $250, and $300 per acre depending on location, and they could, be bought on two different payment plans. The first was one-third cash and the balance due over the following two years. For those who moved to their tract immediately, the terms were $150 down and small monthly payments. In some cases the balance would be due after the first crop. No offer was made to clear the land, but the company would provide the necessary machinery to the settler at $50.00 per acre. A "practical farmer" was hired to give advice to the new arrivals and a cooperative was formed in order to aid the community members in marketing. This project was not restricted to settlers as was the case with many colonies. The company
sold parcels to absentee buyers and then provided tenant
farmers to care for the crops.
Some colonies were established for different ethnic groups and many specialized in certain crops. The East Coast Development Company, a subsidiary of the Flagler system, opened an 5,000 acre project in Volusia County called National Gardens which is still a community today. Dutch immigrants were sought to colonize and begin bulb raising. Tenacre farms were offered at from $150 to $1,500 per acre. The terms for purchase were one-fourth down and the balance over a one, two, or three year period. The land was not to be prepared but the company offered to contract with the owners to clear the land and even to harvest the bulbs.
Large buyers of land were discouraged but not barred from the community. Experts in bulb culture were to be maintained on the property to instruct the settlers on correct planting procedures. A community center was planned, including a railroad station^ post office. two stores, a hotel Western Union, and a bulb storage warehouse.
In Pasco and Hernando Counties, the Hernando Plantation Company, Incorporated, designated 24,000 acres for Chechoslovakians. Located near what is now Masaryktown, the land was-divided into twenty-acre plots costing from $100 to $150 per acre. The terms were one-third down and three equal payments. The primary emphasis of the project was citrus culture, with truck farming only incidental. No improvements were planned by the company but a field manager was employed to supervise the care of the groves.
A third ethnic project was in Duval and Nassau counties Planned by the Ulrich Development Company, eighty acre tracts were sold to German settlers at $80.00 per acre. Each family was encouraged to bring enough cash to finance themselves. Little or no planning beyond the subdivision of land was offered by the promoters.
Many less highly organized projects were offered for sale. Colonel George F. Strong, Inc. proposed to sell 16,700 acres in Okaloosa County with unimproved five to forty acre tracts for $80 to $125 per acre. His plan offered nothing beyond the land itself. There was also a development planned near Leesburg by Florida Land, Orange,
and Citrus Fruit Company. The company claimed to desire
farmers but provided no standard terms or farm tracts, it
reported that everything was "flexible."
The farm land boom was plagued by the same problems as the urban boomwild speculation and rising prices. One critic observed, "Many speculators with large tracts of land [still] left undivided [in the suburbs] began to plan
developments of small farms. .as profit making ventures."
These projects were viewed by many state leaders as headed
for the same failure as the suburban developments had been
in 1926. Nathan Mayo, Commissioner of Agriculture, warned
prospective settlers against "promoters who buy large
acreages, divide them up Into tracts and offer them without
discrimination as to the quality or location, at even
running prices and under high powered salesmanship unload
these farms on purchasers who have not seen them. .
To my mind this haphazard method of procedures cannot but
lead to disappointment." Willis Powell of the Venice
Farm Development agreed with the caution, expressed by Mayo
by recalling the "land boom" of 1912 when farmers were
lured to Florida and when they arrived they found little
more than Inaccessible farms.
There were several attempts at establishing minimum requirements for colonies. One critic of speculation warned that no man could profit if too much was charged for his land or if his land was not suitable for farming. He pointed out that isolation was detrimental and that access to a
nearby community for social Interaction in churches, schools,
stores, and cooperative marketing was desirable. It was
recommended that farmers settle on land which was already
cleared and ready to be plowed and upon which buildings had
been erected. He believed that the agricultural future of
Florida lay in the land developments, but only under certain
conditions and not through speculation.
Commissioner Mayo had warned settlers to guard against the speculative developments which lacked strong financial support. At the same time he pointed out the type of farm development which he thought promised a good future for the settler: "There are many projects now under way for colonization in Florida. There is the policy adopted by some of buying large acreages, dividing them up into small farms, and selling only to actual settlers. In other words, the purchaser agrees to live on the land he buys before the sale is made.. Of all the plans followed, I like this best, provided the developers have taken the precautions to have the land properly inspected and classified as to quality and as to the crops best suited to each tract. With this as a guide the investor had a good opportunity to succeed before he starts out with the advantages of knowing what he can do
with his soil, which so many do not know under ordinary 33
Of major Importance to colonizers in Florida was their attempt at self-regulation which resulted in the Florida Certified Farms and Growers Association. This organization
was formed by over fifty colonisers in June 1926. The purpose of the group was to certify member developments accort to a strict code. Through certification, the purchaser woi be guaranteed that financial difficulty on the part of the member colony would not cause him to lose his investment I] a farm. Farm land was to be rated according to Its suitability for cultivation and the existence of sufficient drainage. Each member of the association was required to have his colony evaluated prior to admission to the organization. It was hoped that through this association new farmers would be supplied with some kind of gauge with which to select a suitable place to locate.
Six months after the formation of the association, another group recognized the importance of colonization. On December 6, 1926, the Agriculture Committee of the Flor: State Chamber of Commerce called a meeting Of agricultural leaders from around the state. The purpose was to analyze
local and regional problems and propose solutions in all
areas of farming. Among the subjects which received attention was the question of colonization. A list of standards was proposed by the Director of the Orange Count; Florida, Chamber of Commerce, and it was adopted by the conference, The authors noted that "It is not enough mere, to sell land to prospective citizens, but that every reasonable effort should be made to provide the new citizen with the advice and help needed to enable him to make profitable use of his land." The standards had no pro.vi;
for enforcement but they did represent the feelings of many of Florida's developers: "This section can be. settled more rapidly and more safely, from the point of view of the social and economic welfare of the county, as well as to the greatest advantage of future citizens, through constructive colonization of our lands; and In this connection we suggest that the individual or corporation settling such lands, should adopt plans which will insure:
'That in every case, a study of the particular land to be marketed should be made, to ascertain to a certainty in advance what can best be raised on that particular piece of land and that it be sold for that purpose; that every such plan should include suitable drainage of a practical character where drainage is needed; that highways be a definite part of every such plan and that the question of good drinking water and electricity be given consideration; that every firm or corporation contemplating colonization shall offer the colonist thorough and practical advice and instruction as to crops, cultivation, fertilization, etc.; that definite and practical help be given such farmers in relation to the problem of marketing products of the farm; that insofar as possible, definite and practical plans for the social life of the colonist be worked out, in order that he and his family may find here not only prosperity, but happiness as well; that the advertising and publicity matter about the colonization plan shall be accurate and truthful."*
One special colony in Florida attempted to follow the
tandards which were widely accepted as necessary to succes his development was known as the J. C. Penney-Gwinn Farms. >egun In 1925, the project was located seven miles west of reen Cove Springs on a 120,000 acre tract of land owned by C. Penney, founder of the J. C. Penney Company. It was enney's plan to apply his concepts of business to farming.
Rembert, Wallace Patrick and Allen Morris, Florida Under Five Flags (Gainesville. 1967), 67, 70.
Charlton Watson Tebeau, A_ History of Florida (Coral Gables, Florida, 1971), 277-3
George M Barbour. Florida for Tourists. Invalids, and Settlers: Containing PracticaT""lnf ormation Regarding Climate, Soil, and Productions: CTties, Towns and People; the Culture of the Orange and Other Tropical Fruits; Farming and Gardening; Scenery and Resorts; Sport; Routes ^ Travel. ". (New York"] 1882; reprint ed. Gainesville, T964), 225, 230.
"^Thomas Frederick Davis, "The Disston Land Purchase," Florida Historical Quarterly, XVII (January, 1939), 200-210
Junius Elmore Dovell, "A History of the Everglades of Florida" (Ph.D. Dissertation, University of North Carolina 1944), 139.
"^Tebeau, A History of Florida, 281.
Alfred Jackson Hanna and Kathryn Abbey Hanna, Lake Okeechobee: Wellspring of the Everglades (New York, 1948), 101-103; Samuel Proctor, Napoleon Bonaparte Broward: Florida's Fighting Democrat'(Gainesville, 1950), 216-260.
Alfred Jackson Hanna, Lake Okeechobee, 101-103
"^Kathryn Abbey Hanna, Florida, Land of Change (Chapel Hill, 1948), 134-44.
Jacksonville Florida East Coast Homeseeker. December
"^Florida Land and Settlement Company, Ten Acre Farms for Florida Settlers (Jacksonville, ca. 1914), passim.
"^Florida National Land Company, 170 a. Day Buys _a Home
in Florida (Fort Wayne, ca. 1912), passim.
^\Tauchula Development Company, Combination Soils j Peace River Valley, Florida (Fort Wayne, 1913), passim
7Tebeau, A History of Florida, 384. 18
"Special Colonization Number," Florida Review, I (September 6, 1926), passim; Studies of the Florida Boom include Kenneth Ballinger, Miami Millions (Miami, 1936); Polly Redford, Billion-Dollar Sandbar, _a Biograpjhy of Miami Beach (New York" 1970); Frank Bowman Sess-a, "The ReaT Estate Boom in Miami and Its Environs [1923-1926]," (Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Pittsburg, 1950).
J. A. Shealy, "Planning the Small Diversified Florida Farm," Florida Grower, XXXIV (October 16, 1926), 5.
Florida Farmer, XXVIII (December 1925), 45.
21MiIton Gazette, April 17, 1925-
"Special Colonization Number," 16.
^Ringling and white, Incorporated, Floridale Farms and Groves for Everybody (New York, 1925), passim.
"Special Colonization Number," 19.
Florida Department of State, Report of the Secretary of the State of Florida for the Period beginning January T, T919 and Ending January 1, 1920 (Tallahassee, 1921), 415.
"Special Colonization Number," 19. 27Ibid., 21. Ibid., 9.
Shealy, "Planning the Small Diversified Florida Farm," 5
Nathan Mayo, "Suggestions for Florida Farm Colonizations," Florida Grower, XXXIV (March 6, 1926), 13.
Willis B. Powell, "Increased Farm Production Is Urgently Needed to Properly Adjust Florida's Balance Sheet," Florida Grower, XXXIV (May 26, 1926), 1.
Herbert Pann, "Florida liabilities," Proceedings of the Florida Takes Inventory Conference (Miami"J 1926), 59--50'.
-^Mayo, "Suggestions for Florida Farm Colonizations," 13-13.
- "Certified Farms Association is Formed," Florida Grower, XXXIV (August 21, 1926), 7.
>^Florida State Chamber of Commerce, Agricultural Committee, Agricultural Conference Proceedings (Jacksonville,
1926), i. ;
' Florida State Chamber of Commerce, Proceedings, 19, 21. J7Ibid., 19-20.
"Look Before You Leap into Florida," Florida Farmer, XXVIII (August 21, 1926), 1.
THE PARTNERSHIP PRINCIPLE APPLIED TO AGRICULTURE James Cash Penney was born In 1875 in Hamilton. Missouri one of twelve children. His father. James Cash Penney, was a farmer and minister. Penneyfs childhood was spent caring for his father's horses and cattle on their 400 acre livestock farm. His father and mother gave him a thorough education in religion. From the age of twelve Penney made business deals in which he both won and lost. In 1902.Penney opened his first store in Kemmerer. Wyoming, from which he built the J. C. Penney Company.
The agricultural colony at Penney Farms arose out of a feeling of personal responsibilit}^ which Penney held for the agricultural community in America. He always felt that the success of his chain store business was due to the business he received from farmers. The Penney stores had been
located predominately in rural areas and were dependent on
agricultural prosperity for their success. Like many of
AmericaTs "selfmade men" Penney believed that he should use some of his profits to provide service to. the community in return for his own good fortune.^ His desire to provide help to agriculture stemmed in part from the nostalgic memories of his boyhood days on the Missouri farm. He later recalled. "My father's love of fine horses and cattle had led me naturally as a young boy to share the ordinary chores
and care of animals." He observed that agriculture had
other values as well: "I have from boyhood understood the
restorative powers of new-turned soil and the associations
01 man_with four-footed animals." This identity with rural life coupled with a desire to aid his fellow man in part explains J. C. Penney's decision to undertake an agricultural project in Florida during the 1920s.
Penney had not always felt this obligation to help solve problems which were not directly a part of the dry goods business. For seventeen years he had devoted his life to building his chain into a major nationwide company. It had grown from the original store in Kemmerer, Wyoming,
In 1902, to 197 establishments in 1919, and Penney had be-
come a wealthy man. Total dedication to business was of
prime importance to him. He worked seven days a week and
expected loyalty and dedication from his employees. He was
convinced that his partner-ownership plan provided a good
opportunity for advancement to "promising" young men. He also believed that his stores performed a necessary function in the communities in which they were located by selling high quality goods at moderate prices. Although he insisted that his establishments provided a service, "Penney saw no need to help people in areas outside of his business relationships. He reflected on the early years of the company: "I am afraid the fact is that, while I did set high standards
for dealing with the public, my mind in those days was
solely on doing business." He was convinced that his dedi-
cation to the principles of the company demonstrated that
"a great and positive working force" was behind him. in his
It was not until Penney had several personal experiences that he began to look outside of the business world for "ways to help mankind. The first of these incidents came with the death of his first wife In 1910. In his grief he began to question his whole purpose for living and he wondered If he were missing something very important in.his life. He concentrated on his business to try to forget his problems, but he was constantly troubled by them. He was, at times, tempted by alcohol, which he had never indulged in heretofore. At one time when his spirits were particularly low, he even considered suicide. On his first trip to New York after his wife's death, he was plagued by insomnia. Hoping to find a cure, he took a walk and soon found himself wandering around the bowery. He visited a rescue mission and heard the testimonies about salvation from drunkenness. Penney claimed that he began to regain faith in himself and began to conceive of his philanthropic responsibilites to his fellow man^ In 1912 he took a world cruise with Dr. Francis Short, minister of the First Methodist Church in Salt Lake City which Penney's sons had attended. Penney credited Dr. Short for helping him to relax his mind in order to begin to establish for himself a code by which to live. Upon his return from the cruise he resolved to face life with a more positive outlook. However, his main concern remained with
his stores.1"1 His determination to work long hours resulted in a decline in his health. In 1919, Penney learned after
a physical examination that his insurance company had "up-
rated him" because of poor health.
The pressures of business finally forced him to seek
relaxation, and so on the advice of his doctors, he bought
an estate known as Whitehaven at White Plains, New York. Always interested in agricultural activities, he began to work with animal husbandry. He often'visited his stores located mainly in the rural areas and small towns of America and there he talked with customers, many of whom were farmers. From them he gained what he believed was a knowledge of the deficiencies in American agriculture. Improvin the quality of livestock- was one of the first things that needed doing, Penney argued. Once convinced, Penney took action; a herd of purebred cattle was endowed. In 1922 he purchased Emmadine Farms, a 720-acre tract, near Hopewell Junction, New York, where he planned to develop his pedigree cattle to be sold to farmers to Improve their own herds. The Emmadine-Foremost Guernsey Association was established
to distribute information on breeding techniques and animal
health resulting from research at the farms. The cattle project was seen by Penney as "something quite other than an expensive fad or hobby. There was new and constructive adventure in setting up a means of a permanent contribution to the advancement of the dairy industry." Penney did not stop with Emmadine, the project had "suggested. .a whole
new range of inquiry, into the application of science to agriculture. ... .1 began turning over in my mind the potential of applying to farm management the partnership idea.""^ He turned to Florida to attempt to apply this concept.
Since the end of the nineteenth century, Florida had been an attractive winter vacation spot for the wealthy. Palm Beach was established by Henry Morrison Flagler, who had moved to Florida after acquiring a great fortune in association vjlth John D. Rockefeller and Standard Oil. By 1912, Miami had also developed into a resort. The following year, Carl Fisher, builder of the Indianapolis raceway, began efforts to develop Miami Beach through dredge and fill operations and It quickly turned into a planned community
of expensive private homes, hotels, a polo field, and a 18
golf course. World War I had kept the wealthy from traveling to Europe and they began vacationing in Florida in
ever increasing numbers. In 1920 there were 614 residences
on Miami Beach. As part of his development, Fisher had
filled in a swampy island called Bull Island to support the
wooden bridge connecting Miami and Miami Beach. This structure was later replaced by the Venetian Causeway." Wealthy people built houses on this island and the name was changed to Belle Isle. Penney and his son had spent the winter of 1912 in Palm Beach, and he was impressed with the climate and scenery of South Florida. He continued to return each winter thereafter. Penney liked the Miami area and in 1921, he established an estate on Belle Isle and
during the next several years spent most of his winters there.25
The reports of the success of men like Carl Fisher,
Glenn W. Curtiss, the Lummus Brothers, and George Merrick;
along with the accessibility and the prosperity of Florida
touched off a spectacular land boom beginning around 1921,
reaching its climax In the late summer of 1926. South
Floridajj-..particularly the Greater Miami area, became, the
center of excessive land speculation and development. The Florida land fever was marked by hundreds of sub-divided developments, both real and imaginary, which were sold through extensive advertising and promotion. Land was traded and sold not for farm development or residential or business construction but often in the hopes of gaining fast profit. Penney witnessed the boom excesses while In residence at Belle Isle, and he characterized the Florida real estate market as "another New York Stock Exchange, roaring with ballooning values. Paper millionaires were being made overnight, and in such numbers, that many who did not meet these goals were sometimes regarded as oddities."
No one associated with the Florida land boom could
avoid getting caught up in the excitement of what was
happening, not even a man who was a fiscal conservative
like J. C. Penney. He looked at what was happening and declared faith in Miami's future: "I could see certain basic and permanent values in the picture as it related to
Penney Estate, Belle Isle, Miami Beach, Florida
Miami. I had an absolute conviction as to its future."*""
But he was, after all, a solid businessman and he wrote,
"All my innate caution warned me against such an over-
blown phenomenon." Perhaps because of his own farm background, he was more impressed with the agricultural future of Florida than with the inflated real estate market in the Miami area. He was convinced of this "because no other region on the globe offers tin [sic] superlative degree the same combination of advantages. Climate, soil, fertility, accessibility to the biggest markets of the world, with unrivallede [sic] transportation facilities thereto, large
possibilities for building home markets."^
Penney's enthusiasm for Florida gave rise to a large land venture on 120,000 acres In the south third of Clay County near Jacksonville. According to Penney he was "compelled to buy some timberland. Timberland in the primeval
category Is more elemental than real estate. Having bought
it I would forget it, allow its value to appreciate."-^
But Penney did not forget it. Agriculture, he contended,
was more important financially to Florida than tourism and
for it to prosper more experimentation and proper management
were required. He observed that if serious efforts were
made to improve marketing, transportation facilities, and
the products themselves the "possibilities [would be] 32
Penney*s optimism about Florida's agricultural future, the fact that he owned considerable timberland, and his
experiences at Emmadine Farms which encouraged him to seek other ways to help farmers, resulted in the establishment of a farm colony on his timber tract. His plan was to create a community where men who had been carefully screened could acquire property on terms which they could afford. Each would be "tried out" on a new farm to determine his suitability for the kind of life that Penney envisioned.......
After- a trial period if both the candidate and Penney were
satisiied steps would then be taken to purchase a farm. ^
Financing would be made available by Penney, and the settler would pay for the land out of his earnings. These farms were to be clustered around a small community which was expected to produce a "life of high order." This was to be.guaranteed by the "selection of the right kind of folks" and "by fostering religious, social, and civic activities having for their purpose, mutual help in the better understanding and solution of their personal and agricultural problems
The .idea for the organization of the project was rooted in the views which Penney held about the farmer. He felt that the life of the farmer was not fulfilling, but that it could be improved. He had faith in the potential of these men who, as Penney saw them, only needed help in establishing sound business practices. According to him, "There are many men in all parts of the country, not making much of a success. .who would become successful in a large way if given the right kind of assistance. He reasoned that the same
kind of program that had been used so successfully by the
J. C. Penney Company "cooperative participation in the
profits" could be applied to his farm colony. The J. C.
Penney Company was built upon a foundation of cooperation
between individual owners who used the advantages of large
scale management. The individuals supplied the company
with loyalty and hard work'while the central.office provided
massive buying power and expert supervision from specially
trained executives. Penney had witnessed how this had
.worked successfully with his company, and he was convinced
that it was a foundation upon which any successful business,
" 3 $
including farming, could be built -
-Penney remembered what advantages he had'received from
a loan advanced by his employers when he opened his first
store in Kemmerer. He planned to extend the same kind of
opportunity to young men who hopefully at some future time
could do the same for others. In the Penney Company each store manager had a one-third share in his store. He was expected to train employees in order for them to eventually get their own place of business on a similar partnership basis. ^ Those selected to participate in this arrangement were expected to have certain talents and attributes. Penney described" the kind of employee he wanted: "When I see a young man or young woman identifying him or herself closely with the work to be done, so closely that closing hour can pass unnoticed then I recognise the beginning of success. '.men who, carefully selected and trained, capable
of assuming responsibility, will then become part of this whole partner-ownership dream."
The Penney Company before it began to issue stock In 1926 operated much like a cooperative. The duty of the
-ci:oi kj- O j. gca.niZ 3 u IGn wets ou pauviud WHO -i-tssct -Lt: uUy mg ctllQ
management, two advantages beyond the financial reach of th individual owners. About half the stores had no legal connection with Penney since he held no share in their ownership. The alliance of the owners was voluntary and could have been broken at any time but this did not happen. The Increased purchasing power of the central offices helped keep prices low and profits high. This advantage kept the businesses together in a cooperative relationship. It was not until size forced the company to incorporate in 1926 that this system changed. The cooperative method had proves its worth; the organization grew rapidly and had few failur-The farm colony that Penney planned would also have a main organization to provide a variety of services to the individual farms. Each farm was individually owned, as compare! with the Penney stores which represented a three-member partnership.
The need for applying business principles wotild also be emphasized at the colony. Farmers would be taught to take inventories and to make appraisals of their holdings. The differences between capital, revenue, and profit would be stressed. Scientific research into the best methods of farm production would lead to a more economical cultivation
of crops in the same way that processes in a manufacturing
operation could be analyzed. The lack of economic organization was not the only problem which concerned an agricultural oriented capitalist like J. C. Penney.
Many sociologists and political scientists believed in the early twentieth century that rural life was declining. They pointed to increasing urbanization and argued that the physical Isolation of farmers prevented them from improving their status. The lack of organization in rural life was
considered the paramount problem to be resolved if the
American farmer was to survive.
There was concern about the role of social and spiritual activities in solving the problems of rural isolation. Albert Shaw, a leading agriculturalist, commented in 1921, that "there has been an obvious tendency toward, the social disintegration of the better types of small rural communities. the reconstruction of country life. .must to a great extent be brought about by the methods by which life has been made wholesome and agreeable for town dwellers.' Penney's acceptance of this premise can be seen in his plan to establish a small community center at the colony.
The concepts behind Penney's plan for a farm colony were not unique among leaders of agricultural reform. He, like many others, had "either a definite stake in agricultural matters or strong, humanitarian, philanthropic, or
'social gospel' notions." Penney demonstrated, both these attributes; the success of his business was in direct pro-
portion to prosperous farming, and he had come to understand that he had an obligation to use his money to aid those in need.
Penney Farms was not just another real estate development. It was founded ana maintained on an idea generated by Penney. He had convinced himself that"his own business philosophy as practiced in the company was a good one, and he was confident and determined that it would work in agriculture equally well. Like many "self-made men" in America,
Penney had a high respect for the value of rural life. From 1922 until the end of his life, he praised rural life and was committed to its improvement. Penney Farms was also the result of the publicity that Florida was receiving during the boom period. Penney believed in Florida's agricultural future.^ These conditions led to the establishment in 1925 of the farm colony at Long Branch City, seven miles west of Green Cove Springs, Florida.
J. C. Penney, Fifty Years with the Golden Rule (New York, 1950), Chap. 1, 2, 3, passim.
J. C. Penney, "Address: Third Annual Banquet at Penney Farms, Florida," February 21, 1928, MS, Penney Farms File, J. C. Penney Papers. This is a collection of letters, clippings, reports, and photographs in the Office of J. C. Penney, J. C. Penney Building, 45th Floor, New York, N. Y., 10019.
3Irvin G. Wyllie, The Self-Made Man .in America (New Brunswick, New Jersey, 1954J, 77.
^Penney, Fifty Years with the Golden Rule, 63
^Norman Beasley, Main Street Merchant: The Story of the-J. C. Penney Company (New York, 1948), 222.
Ibid., 70-71; Penney, Fifty Years with the Golden Rule, 73.
8 ' "
Penney, Fifty Years with the Golden Rule, 54, 73' 9Ibid., 73. XIbid., 119.
"'""'"For his activities in the company, particularly In educational matters, see Ibid., 109-119
Frank B. Sessa, "The Real Estate Boom in Miami and Its Environs (1923-1926)." (Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh, 1950), 8, 11.
Ibid., 17; Polly Redford, Billion-Dollar Sandbar (New York, 1970), 72.
~ySessa, "Real Estate Boom," 21.
2QHelen Muir, Miami, U.S.A. (New York, 1933), 1940. 21
Sessa, "Real Estate Boom," 30. 22Penney, Fifty Years with the Golden Rule, 122. ^Miami Herald, n.d., 1926, clipping in Penney Papers. 2ifTcbeau, History of Florida, 384.
Penney, Fifty Years wjth .the Golden Rule, 131.
^Sessa, "Real Estate Boom," 35. 28
Penney, Fifty Years 1th the Golden Rule, 131. 29Ibid.
'3 Forrest A. Lord, "Where Money Alone Will Not Buy A Farm," The Florida Farmer, XXIX (March 15, 1927), 4-5-
Penney, Fifty Years with the Golden Rule, 131.
Green Cove Springs Clay County Times, January 27,
Richard Woods Edmonds, "Unique Farm Development of 120,000 Acres in Florida," anufacturers1 Record, XCI (May 26, 1927), 75-76.
Penney, "Address: Third Annual Banquet."
J Green Cove Springs Clay County Times, April 17, 1926.
Penney, Fifty Years with the Golden Rule, 134-35; Penney, "Address! T"hird Annual Banquet."
37Beasley, Main Street Merchant, S3, 215; John C. Snowhook, "How J. C. Penney Is Solving the Farm Problem for Hundreds," Manufacturers' Record, LVII (February 10, 1927), 61-62.
Penney, Fifty Years with the Golden Rule, 78.
y Snowhook, "How J. C. Penney Is Solving the Farm Problem," 61.
^Beasley, Main Streeu Merchant, 71, 113.
^Penney, Fifty Years with the Golden Rule, 56.
^2Beasley, Main Street Merchantt 113, 144.
Burdette Lewis, "Florida Marketing in Practical Basis as a Remedy for Present Agricultural Ills," Farm and Live Stock Record, XXXIV (May 1920),.. 14; Ralph G. Gwinn, "Speech: Third Annual Banquet at Penney Farms, Florida," February 21, 1928, MS, Penney Papers.
^William Bowers, "Country Life Reform, 1900-1920: jt. Neglected Aspect of Progressive Lra History,11 a gr i c u i"cu r a -History, XLV (July 1971), 211.
Clayton S. Elsworth, "Theodore Roosevelt's Country Life Commission," Agricultural History, XXXIV (October, I960), 155; Lord, "Where Money Alone Will Not Buy a Farm," 4-5.
Albert Shaw, "From New York to Idaho," Review of Reviews, LXIV (1921), 179.
^Bowers, "Country Life Reform," 211.
^/yllie, Self-Made Man, 24-26.
^9Green Cove Springs Clay County Times, April 17, 1928.
THE ORGANIZATION OF THE PENNEY-GWINN CORPORATION
Before Penney's farm colony was established, the
Florida Farms and Industries Corporation had been-organized
by three corporations which held nearly 120.000 acres of
land in the county. Incorporated in Ohio, it received a
permit on January 11, 1921, to operate in Florida. The
largest of the three was Southern Cattle Feeding Company
which in 1918 purchased nearly 65.000 acres from the Dowlin
Shands Lumber Company. It fenced 60.000 acres and cleared
and cultivated 1,000 acres. The St. Johns River Cattle
Company held 50,000 acres of timber and pasture. The
BowlingShands Lumber Company maintained a small amount of
cutover timber land.
Capitalized at nearly $6,000,000, the corporation
planned to develop its combined acreage for farms and
cattle raising. The project was centered at a point seven
miles west of Green Cove Springs. When Florida Farms and
Industries began this enterprise there were a few farming
families already located at the site near Long Branch Creek
of Turkey Creek.^ Two and one-half- to twentyacre farms
which were fenced and with houses and out-buildings- were
offered for sale to prospective farmers. Land in the immediate vicinity of the development was subdivided Into tracts; eventually these totaled 300.^ At the center of
the area a town was platted to include the smaller parcels of land, a-store, a hotel, a school, a railroad station, and a cannery. This community was to be named Long Branch City, but it was never incorporated. In October 1921, the Bordenville Dairy Farm, located approximately one and one-half miles north of Long Branch City, was established. The project also had a poultry plant, a sugar cane farm, and mill, a railroad (the Florida Farms and Industries Railroad) to Green Cove Springs, and a camphor farm which
was established by the DuPont Corporation. Experiments were carried out to determine which plants would adapt to Florida's climate and soil. There were nurseries containing blackberry, blueberry, grape, persimmon, fig, pecan, and trifoliata plants."^ In addition to the nurseries and farms the Florida Farms and Industries planted 1,500 acres of potatoes including 100 acres of sweet potatoes, 500 acres of sugar cane, and 100 acres of watermelons.^ Five months
later, a profit of $400-$600 per acre on the sweet potatoes
was reported. During 1922, the project declined; the
farmers had become discouraged for a variety of reasons and
began to abandon their farms. J In 1923 the corporation
went into receivership and two years later it reported that
it had "suffered heavy depreciation and. .the financial
conditions. .[were] such that it [could not]. .continue
with its corporate function.""^ On February 4, 1925, the
Circuit Court of Clay County ordered that in "the best
interest of the stockholders and creditors" the property be
Florida Farms and Industries Store, Penney Farms (Long Branch City)
Johns Inn, Penney Farms (Long Branch City)
: FIGURE 5 '
Florida Farms and Industries Railroad Station, Penney Farms (Long Branch City)
In the meantime, J. C. Penney had been searching for Florida timber acreage in which he could invest. When he learned that the Florida Farms and Industries tract was
being put up for sale by court order, he decided to inspect
Q 0.. 16.' .........
one site personally. ne xexu that it met nis investment
needs and placed a $400,000 bid on the property. The court
approved the sale at the bid price February 24, 192$, and
the holdings of Florida Farms and Industries were purchased
by Penne]/ and Ralph W. Gwinn, attorney for the J. C. Penney
Company. Ralph Gwinn was a lawyer who graduated from
DePauw University in 1904, receiving his law degree from
Columbia University in 1907. After having been a partner
in the New York law firm of Gwinn and Pell from 1909, he
became the general counsel for the J. C. Penney Company in
Penney and Gwinn formed the J. C. Penney-Gwinn Corpora-
tion to manage these and their other Florida holdings. Besides the 120,000 acres in Clay County, these included several lots and an apartment house in the Miami Shores Development in Miami, and Gwinn Farms, Inc., a turpentine and cattle project in Alachua County. The company also owne< and managed the Saint Elmo Hotel and the Qui-Si-Sana Hotel in Green Cove Springs, near a large mineral spring also owned by Penney-Gwinn."'"9 The corporation held a total of $12,271,948.79 in assets. In addition to insurance policies and securities, Penney turned over to It 11,795 shares of J. C. Penney Company stock valued at $7,371,375-00; the
Emmadine Farm property in Dutchess County, New York, valued
at $577,503.37; and seven-eighths Interest in the Florida
Farms and Industries property, valued at $1,400,000.00.
He also made available $20,000 to finance the transfer of
this property to the corporation. Gwinn transfered to the
corporation his one-eighth share in the Clay County property
lvalued at $200,000, and his stock in Gwinn Farms valued at 20
$607,500. With all these varied interests, the real purpose was the administration and maintenance of the agricultural project to be located in Clay County.
Besides Penney and Gwinn there were others on the staff who were committed to the improvement of rural life and who helped formulate and operate the project. These men were given the responsibility of making Penney's plan for the farm work successfully. Vice-president of the Penney-Gwinn Corporation was Burdette G. Lewis, a criminologist and economist, who after graduating from the University of Nebraska in 1904, became the Johnson Scholar of Economics at the University of Wisconsin. He held a.doctorate from Rutgers University, and had served in government posts from 1907 to 1926 In New York and New Jersey before coming
to Florida. He also produced several economic studies in
agriculture and farm colonization.
D. Walter Morton, former administrator at the University of Southern California and Berea College, was resident
agent for the corporation."" His job was to supervise all aspects of the farm's development. He was one of the first
Map of Clay County Shewing Location of Penney Farms
arrivals at Penney Farms, and he helped start the community
church. He taught Sunday school and served as the first
director of the Memorial Home Community. To direct the
field wo^lc "r1 - 0- CIp^Ic. an expert in scientific farm
management, was employed. He had been dean of the vocational
school at Berea College and had managed three successful
fruit farms over a period of fifteen years. He had also
served as a city councilman and director of a bank in
Berea, and was active in the Young Men's Christian Associa-24
Working with his staff, Penney finally decided the organization for his project. While trying to adhere to
the organization plan of the J. C. Penney Company, he out-
lined other basic guidelines. y Land speculation, he felt, should be avoided so as to insure a stable community. He also argued that the project should not be announced too early so as to eliminate any connotation of it being a "boom" operation.2^ Farmers would be located on five-ten- and twenty-acre tracts and "Every tract of land [would] be sold to a man of known worth and ability and gradually
there [would] be developed a great and prosperous community 27
ana county." '
Of major importance was selection of colonists. Prospective farmers would not be solicited through advertising
or direct sale; each family would be examined as to their
agricultural abilities and character. Penney's stores were to become the main vehicle for locating prospects.
Managers were encouraged to recommend promising local
families to F. 0. Clark who would then Investigate their
background and character." Penney promised that "he would
oe careful to handpick the people to avoid disappointments." After speaking with" local townspeople who knew and had worked with the prospects, Clark would extend to those that qualified an invitation to become farm settlers in Florida.
The criteria for selection were outlined by the corporation. Unlike many other American farm colonies, Penney's project was not designed to aid poor, unsuccessful farmers
or tenants. Instead It sought out those who had already
proved they were good farmers. The directors of the proje
"would Insist upon the highest standards of morality: "The
project prefers people of high moral training and character.
Those who neither smoke nor drink. Those of middle-age with
some means In order to buy supplies as well as stock.nJ
Each farmer would have to prove himself to be "industrious,
thrifty, sober, God-fearing and home-loving."^ Financial security and willingness to do hard work were also desired: "We are primarily interested in. .men with experience on the farm, men who have been successful in saving a little money, perhaps $1,000, men who are willing to take advice from others. .men who read and think and are not easily discouraged. We must have people with strong backs, cheer-ful hearts, and alert minds." By accepting only "proven-individuals," the success of the colony, it was believed, would be guaranteed. While the method of selection remained
consistent, the purchase plan was modified, several times.
There was little risk in coming to Penney Farms as a settler. For one year a family could live without charge on a twenty-acre tract, which would have a house and outbuildings, but they would have to support themselves through their first crop. After the first year, the settler's performance was then to be reviewed. If the staff was pleased and the farmer satisfied with his farm, a purchase agreement would be signed. A percentage of crop earnings would go toward purchase. In this arrangement, the farmer was considered to be like a Penney store manager who purchased his one-third share out of the profits from his
store. If, however, the farmer was not satisfied, he could
sell his crop and leave without any further obligation.
The terms of settlement gradually changed as the staff
gained experience. For instance, the trial period was
shortened to six months. In August 1927, Walter Morton,
resident manager, told Penney that financial problems had
arisen due to the depreciation of the farms during the free
trial period. He recommended that the corporation begin
requiring rent or a deposit so that building repairs could
be accomplished. Reluctantly, Penney agreed to charge rent on the farms during the first year.'5 Whereas the cost of each tract had been determined by its capacity to produce a living, the corporation eventually fixed a specific price for the farms. These policy changes resulted in three separate purchase plans which were outlined by F. 0. Clark
in June 1927."
The first plan was designed for those families whose head of the household was between thirty and forty years of age. The family was expected to have between $800 and $1,200 with which to maintain themselves through the first crop. They would receive a farm, one which remained from Florida Farms and Industries, which would be located off the'main road, Highway 16. Valued at $4,000, the farm would be cleared, fenced, drained, and plowed. No payment was required the first year except for an insurance policy costing $10.00. The settler would be expected to pay for feed, fertilizer, and labor. If the colonist and the corporation were satisfied after the trial period, which ended on June 1, a ten-year sale contract would be signed with payments to be determined by the individual's income from his produce.
A more business-like plan was established for a "middle-aged man." He had to have more experience in farming and savings of $2,000 to $4,000. His twenty-acre farm would be on a hard-surfaced' road, and would have a new house costing from $1,000 to $2,400 above the value of the land. He would have to pay $18.00 to $24.00 per month rent during the trial period. After six months the farm .could be bought in a manner similar to the first plan. The only difference was a minimum surcharge of $500 per year for the house. This plan-was designed for a successful farmer since the amount of cash required during the
first year was relatively large.
The third plan was a direct sale of property, and it was intended for a farmer fifty years of age or older who wanted to come to Florida for health or other reasons. He was expected to have been "generally successful" and to have at his disposal $4,000 to $8,000. The farm tract was to be five or ten acres with a house costing from $2,000 to $3,000. The corporation would provide half the cost of the house and the buyer would pay the rest. The object of this plan was to provide a place for a retired farmer to obtain a living.
Soon after Clark explained the program, a brochure was published with a few modifications. Each new farmer, after January 1927, was required to pay $1,200 within sixty days after occupancy to cover improvements and possibly a new house. The occupant also was required to have $1,600 of Insurance on the house. "Insurance would cost $25.00 a year. In all cases of purchase, as soon as one-fourth of the cost was met, the farmer received'a deed to the property and assumed all new taxes and expenses.^
The Penney-Gwinn Corporation was to provide the farmer with certain services which were too expensive for him to assume. The philosophy was that a local organization of farmers could supply costly equipment which would increase production at a lower cost than was possible for individuals. Burdette Lewis described this concept: "The small farmer must not handicap himself by investments in all sorts of
machinery and equipment for his exclusive use. .machinery and equipment supplied by a central association soon leads to excessive delays, undesirable blunting of initiative, and high maintenance costs due to carelessness. The solutionis to be found by groups of small farm owners acquiring and
managing their own machinery and farm equipment."-1 The corporation made the Initial capital outlay for equipment, and it was planned that eventually the management of the machinery and supplies would be turned over to the farmers. In this, Penney-Gwinn functioned in much the same way as the central organization of the J. C. Penney Company, providing central buying and marketing services to the individual. Specifically the farmers received at nominal cost "seeds, plants, trees, shrubs, fertilizer, mules, farm machinery, home furnishings, and assistance in marketing." 2 The most important service of the corporation 'was agricultural experimentation and extension work. Since Clay County had no extension agent, a private agricultural school and extension service was established. The J. C. Penney-Gwinn Institute of Applied Agriculture was created "to promote art, science, or the like, or a. .college or technical school." It planned to furnish "specific, practical, and theoretical training In agriculture and homemaking or extension services. .[having] adequate classrooms, working
library facilities, and laboratories."
The Institute was to be staffed by agricultural experts under Albert A. Johnson, former head of the Farmingdale
School of Agriculture in New York. The faculty was drawn from all over the country, and included specialists in poultry, cattle, truck farming, machinery, heme economics, and ornamentals.^ The services of the. Institute would be furnished without charge. They included soil analysis, seed testing, advice on planting, help in developing drainage and irrigation systems, and instruction in "applying modern science and business principles to farming.""1' The two most important services were seed testing and soil analysis. The staff tried to discover which plants and seeds were most adaptable to Florida's growing conditions. The Institute began experimenting with many of the same fruits and vegetables tried by Florida Farms and Industries, and the results were made available to the farmers to guide them in their selection of a crop. Closely allied with the seed testing was soil analysis. Each farm underwent a complete survey resulting in a detailed map showing the specific location of different soil types. The farmer was supplied with a
key to the map which showed recommended plants for each
variety of soil. It was thought that by knowing which crops would do best on a particular soil the farmer's risk would be reduced.
Along with providing seed and soil information, the Institute had an agricultural college for students to come to Penney Farms to learn agriculture. Penney's involvement in youth programs from the early 1920s prompted him to find a special place for young people. He did not, plan to give
the students anything; they would be encouraged to work hard
to obtain a good education just as he had labored to develop
the J. C. Penney Company. Students would receive classroom
and laboratory instruction as well as practical experience
in real farming situations. The course of study was open
to young men and women with the equivalent of two years of
high school. There were two nine-month sessions which were
divided into two semesters. The students were required to
meet the same moral standards expected from the settlers.
Tuition was $50.00 a year with room and board supplied at
cost. Part-time work on farms was offered to those students
who had limited incomes. A minimum cash reserve of $50.00
was required of each student. '
The corporation, while primarily concerned with the
development of the farm colony, was also involved in several
private financial and experimental ventures. The corporation
maintained the Bordenville Dairy Farm which remained from
the Florida Farms and Industries. It comprised 436 acres
with 100 Guernsey cattle. Most of the milk was sold to
local residents. There was also a pine forest which supplied forest products and turpentine. The largest corporation project was the maintenance of a herd of 3,000
range cattle which grazed in the pine woods. Tung oil trees, a source for varnish, were planted on 1,000 acres and proved successful until tung oil began to be replaced with petroleum distillates, in the 1940s. A canning plant which remained from Florida Farms and Industries was reopened
to provide canned products for general sale and personal
use by the farmers. A 500 acre grove of Satsuma oranges
v.Tas also planted in an effort to develop a citrus culture
in Clay County. Some of the projectsrange cattle, forests, and dairysucceeded, but many of the experimental projects proved a failure. Ornamental horticulture had gained an important place in Florida agriculture during the 1920s. The corporation attempted to raise narcissus and amaryllis bulbs for a time, but this activity was a
disappointment, and it was replaced by timber and cattle.
The staff was aware of the need for improvement in all areas of agricultural production. In addition to the work carried out by the Institute of Applied Agriculture, the corporation began in 1927 and 1928 to participate in a number of agricultural experiments directed by departments in the School of Agriculture at the University of Florida in Gainesville some fifty miles away. In January 1927, an investigation into the effect of soil temperature and soil moisture upon the growth of Irish potatoes was begun. This project was run for over a year by the horticulture department at the University. During the same period the veterinar science department began a study of a disease known as salt
sickness in dairy cattle. This project was headed by Dr. 53
A. L. Shealy. A similar study was carried on under R. B. Becker and W. M. Neal in 1929.^ A major inquiry into different types of pastures and their relationship to cattle production was carried out by the agronomy department of the
University from 1930 to 1938. The corporation leased 5^0
acres of cut over flat-woods to the State Board of Education
ior the experiments. It also gave financial support to the agronomy department at a time when an economy-minded legislature had cut back on University appropriations."^ Directed by W. E. Stokes, an agronomist, the study attempted to compare the value of burned and unburned pasture lands and Improved and unimproved pastures.- A reforestation program was run by the state forest service in hopes of establishing better procedures in cutting and replacing forest
products. The University of Florida also provided extension
courses to the colonists in cooperation with the Institute.
Penney intended to provide the community at Penney Farms help to insure its success. The corporation's staff had the responsibility for implementing necessary programs. There was also a human factor: the farmers. Their experiences at the colony indicate how well the programs were carried out.
'Miller et al.,
;, Book 7, pp.
'Miller et al.,
"^Green Cove Springs Clay County Times, April 15, 1925; Penney, Fifty Years with the Golden Rule, 131
J. C. Penney to H. R. Penney, February 24, 1925; J. C. Penney-Gwinn Institute of Applied Agriculture, Annual Catalogue. (Green Cove Springs, 1927), Penney Papers.
"'"Secretary of State, Report of the Secretary of the
State of Florida for the Period beginning January T7 1921
and Ending December 3T7"1921, volume II (Tallahassee, 1922), -- --
Green Cove Springs Clay County Times, February 10,
Interview with Ruth Travassos, October 28, 1973, Penney Farms, Florida.
Green Cove Springs Clay County.Times, February 10,
6Clay County, Plat Book 2, p. 28. 7
Mary Miller et al. vs. H. L. Dowling Company, Florida Farms and Industries, et al., "Decree and Order of Sale," February 4, 1925, Circuit Court of Clay County, Chancery Order, Clay County Courthouse, Book 7, pp. 1-14
Clay County, Clerk of the Circuit Court, Incorporations, Clay County Courthouse, I, 202.
J. C. Penney-Gwinn Corporation, A_ Unique Farm Development (Penney Farms, ca 1927), 8-9; Miller et al., "Decree and Order of Sale;" interview with G. H. Blackman, April 26, 1974, Gainesville, Florida; interview with Travassos; information on the DuPont project was unavailable.
~^Green Cove Springs Clay County Times, April 17, 1925. 11
Florida Farmer,. V (March 5, ,1921).
Secretary of State, Report of the Secretary of the State of Florida for the Period beginning January 1, 1925 and Ending December 31, 1925, part 2, Volume II (Tallahassee,
T9Z6), 491 ~---
Milam, Mcllvane, and Milam, "Foremost Properties, Incorporated," comp. Walter C. Travers, Jacksonville, April 29, 1944, MS,. Penney Papers.
^ "Agreement: J. C. Penney, Ralph W. Gwinn, and J. C. Penney-Gwinn Corporation," Gwinn, Pell, and Hartsock, New York, December 8, 1925, Penney Papers.
The National Cyclopedia of American Biography Being the History of .the United States as Illustrated in the. Lives of the Founders, Builders, and DeTenders of the Republic and' of the Men and Women who are Doing the Work Moulding the Thought of the Present Time (New York, 1938), volume E, 256.
'"John C.Snowhook, "How One Man is Solving the Farm Problem for Hundreds," Manufacturers1 Record, XCI (February 10, 1927), 61. .
~^D. Walter Morton to Penney, October 10, 1925, Penney Papers; Penney Retirement Community Association, Life More Abundant, ed., Maude Coker (Penney Farms, Florida, 197377
~Green Cove Springs Clay County Times, April 15, 1925-25Ibid., April 17, 1925. 2 Ibid. 27Ibid.
Ibid., April 16, 1926.
Snowhook, "How One Man is Solving the Farm Problem," 61; Penney, Fifty Years with the Golden Rule, 132-33-
y Penney to Francis Short, March 23, 1925, Penney Papers 31
There were many projects which did prefer an "already proven farmer" to an unsuccessful one.
Norton to H. L. McMurray, July 28, 1927, Penney Papers 33
Forrest A. Lord, "Where Money Alone Will Not Buy a Farm," The Florida Farmer, XXIX (March 15, 1927), 5.
J F. 0. Clark, "How Families Are Chosen for Penney Farms Florida Farmer, XXIX (June 1, 1927), 9.
^Penney, Fifty Years with the Golden Rule, 133-34.
Penney to Lloyd Terwilliger, December 31, 1926, Penney Papers.
v Morton to Penney, August 18, 1927, Penney Papers.
Morton to Penney, August 18, 1927; F. 0. Clark "Type of Farmers Who Should Come to Pennev Farms." Florida Farmer, XXIX (June 1$, 1927), 10. "
39Clark, "Types of Farmers," 10.
^Clark, "Types of Farmers;" Penney-Gwinn Corporation, UniQue Farm Development, 24.
^Burdette Lewis, "Raising His Food Large Factor in Farmers' Success," Florida Farmer, XXIX (June 15, 1927), 9.
Penney-Gwinn Corporation, A Unique Farm Development,
J. C. Penney-Gwinn Corporation, Institute of Applied Agriculture, Preliminary Announcement, 1926-1927 (Green Cove Springs, 1926), Penney Papers.
. ^J C .. Penney-Gwinn Corporation Institute of Applied Agriculture Annual Catalogue (Green Cove Springs, 1927), 8, Penney Papers.
Institute of Applied Agriculture, Annual Catalogue, 2
Penney, "Address: Third Annual Banquet."
United States Senate Committee on Irrigation and Reclamation, Hearings on the Creation of Organized Rural Communities to Demonstrate the Benefits of Planned Settlement on S^ 412, 71st Congress, 1st Session, May 14-15, 1929 14
Penney, "Address: Third Annual Banquet."
. Penney-Gwinn Corporation, Institute of Applied Agriculture, 8-9.
Penney, Fifty Years with the Golden Rule, 148.
University of Florida, Agricultural Extension Service, Annual Report, 42nd Report (June 30, 1928), 59R
Agricultural Extension Service, Annual Report, 43^'d Report (June 30, 1929), 39.
^Ibid., 44th Report (June 30, 1930), 33, 52; Ibid., 52nd Report (June 30, 1938), 36.
Florida Board oi Control, "Biennial Report of the President of the University of Florida to the Board of Control," Report of the Board of"Control, (Tallahassee, June 30, 1930), 141.
Agricultural Extension Service, Annual Report, 44th Report (June 30, 1930), 33-
CHAPTER IV LIFE AT THE COLONY Penney Farms emerged as a thriving community between 1925 and 1928. The demise of Florida Farms and Industries had forced a gradual abandonment of Long. Branch City in the two year period before Penney and his associates arrived on the scene. When Penney took over the holdings of Florida Farms, he gave a major economic boost to the little community near Green Cove Springs. The J. C. Penney-Gwinn Corporation furnished the capital and support to the farmers and attempted to maintain the "high moral life" envisioned by its founder.
Before Penney Farms could receive new settlers, its physical, plant had to be renovated. The corporation plan-ned to salvage as many of the older buildings as possible."" H. C. Stokes, a local carpenter, was in charge of renovating twenty of the dwellings. He was also instructed tc plant fifteen grape bushes, twelve figs, six blueberries, and forty
blackberries on each farm unit before the farm families 2
arrived. Stokes* task apparently was not completed because
in A.ugust 1925 a new man. Bascom Franklin, was selected to
refurbish the delapidated structures.
Franklin was a carpentry instructor at Berea College where Clark, the corporation's farm manager, had also been associated. Franklin taught In the college for nine months
and then worked privately during the summer. In 1924 he
heard that there were jobs available in Lakeland, and he
came to Florida to do summer work. He liked the state and
planned to return to Lakeland the following year. During
the 1924-1925 term at Berea, Clark resigned to take over
his duties at Penney Farms. He was in charge of field "work
and needed help In repairing the farm buildings. He offere<
several of the'men at the college jobs at the project. In
the summer of 1925"he went to Lakeland to see Franklin, and
he convinced him to come to Penney Farms. Franklin and his
wife arrived in August 1925.
The Franklins drove first to C-reen Cove Springs in
their Model "A" Ford. In the latter part of the nineteenth
century Green Cove Springs had prospered as a resort for
northern visitors and the "curative virtues of the mineral
springs" at Magnolia and Green Cove Springs were famous.
There were a number of hotels and boarding houses. Then
with railroad development into South Florida and on the
Gulf Coast around Tampa Bay, most winter visitors stopped
coming to Green Cove Springs. As the tourist economy waned,
the community became a focal point of the area's timber and
naval store industry, the major resource of Clay County.^
It was a stable community with a grade and high school,
five churches, and several lumbering mills, but the town of 2,000 did not impress Franklin with its size or character.
From Green Cove Springs the Franklins drove west to
Long Branch City, as the site of Penney Farms was still known. The road which follows Highway 16 today ran through the cutover lands of the Dowling-Shands Lumber Company and was in 1925 little more than an unpaved trail bounded on either side by deep sand. As they came into the settlement there were small houses along the road where some of the farm" tracts of Florida Farms and Industries had been. The
Franklins first lived in the abandoned St. Johns Hotel, a
twostory wooden structure. Mrs. Franklin later remembered
that it was a "spooky place." The first night she barricaded
one door with a dresser, only to discover the next morning
a forgotten, unlocked door leading into the room.
Soon after his arrival, Franklin began making repairs
on some fifty of the dwellings, and he demolished many more.
He had brought in a painting crew from Berea, but other
workers were recruited from the small black population in
the area. There was no nearby saw mill, and Franklin only
had a minimum of needed materials. Unable to saw new lumber,
the men salvaged what they could from the demolished building
It took about two months to get several of the farms in
order. Each tract contained a house and a shed, and it was
fenced to keep out the range cattle.
In October 1925, the first families started arriving at Penney Farms. Walter Morton, the business manager of the corporation, reported that by October 10, nine farms were occupied, and four more were under "advisement." He expected twelve families from Indiana by October 20. More
were due from other Midwestern states and from Tennessee and Kentucky."^ Some were middle-aged farmers who hoped to make a new home in Florida, but others, especially several from Berea College, were students or former students seeking a start in farming?- To all of the settlers, Penney Farms looked to be a promising place to make a new beginning.
By February 1926, thirty-five to forty families had arrived,
including about fifteen from Berea.
Each farm was basically the same. A. twenty-acre rectangle containing house and shed and fencing. Each house had four or five rooms, but no electricity or plumbing. There were three basic designs, all wood-frame with vertical board and batten siding, 'usually painted white." Most of the cottages were rectangular in shape with-a gable roof of fairly low pitch. On one of the short sides was the entry through an open porch. A second design was square with a hipped-roof and a small pediment projecting from the center of the elevation. An open porch with a roofline reflecting the main roof ran across the front of the house. Another type of house was rectangular with a jerkin-head roof with a dormer containing a similar roofline. The entry to this house was through a hipped-roof porch running the length of the structure. Each house contained at least one brick chimney and sometimes two. The sheds on the farms were of standard construction: a hipped-roof supported by
wood posts. The structure was open except for one-fourth
of the space which was enclosed.
FIGURE 11 Typical Farm House, Penney Farms
Typical Farm House, Penney
Farm, Penney Farms ON
The farmers who came to the colony were not completely Independent. The concept of an integrated community where the members worked together became a reality, at least for a time. The central aspect of the community plan was to dispose of the farmers' physical isolation which, according to J. C. Penney, not-only affected-his style oflife, but also his .manner of farming. ...If scientific farm management were to improve the plight of the farmer, information collected- at the university level had to be distributed. Across the nation, state and federal extension services were attempting to disseminate this kind of data. But In 1926, Clay County had no extension agent and Penney and his staff felt -that the intensive and large nature of the project required more than the University of Florida extension service could provide. The founders also realized that the farmer might distrust university "experts." The average farmer felt that
these college people had little knowledge of the "real"
problems encountered in day-to-day farming. Penney Farms'
leaders hoped that by placing the educator in the community
suspicion on the part of the farmers would be eased.^ The
idea was to develop continuous interactions between the two
groups. It was also expected that the staff at the Institute
would become acquainted with the peculiar agricultural prob-
lems encountered m the area.
Information was disseminated to the farmers through
personal supervision, short courses, and lectures. "It seemed that hardly a week passed that the farmers were not
going to a meeting" to listen to lectures on farm prac-19
trees. y The Institute established planting schedules and
offered courses on caring for the scheduled crop. For
example, if potatoes were supposed to be planted in November,
instruction was given in October on the proper preparation
of the soil and how best to cut the seed. The Institute
followed up the course work with field supervision which
included making recommendations on the type and quantity
of fertilizer to use from planting to harvest. It not
only provided information, but it also undertook experimental
studies on new crops and planting methods.
The Institute also wanted to improve the heme life of
the farmer and his wife. In 1928 it added Lois Pearman, a
home economist, to its staff. It was her job to provide
information on all aspects of keeping a home. She taught
home canning, sewing., hygiene, and cooking. There was a
women's column in the Penney Farms News in which Pearman
provided additional household information and aids. The
University of Florida's extension service cooperated and
sent in home economists to give guest lectures on household 22
The Penney Farms News was the official news organ of the Institute from about June 1, 1927, to June, 1928. The
News was published in The Florida Farmer, one of the state's
leading agricultural magazines. y it contained stories about farming activities at Penney Farms. The staff wrote columns in which farmers were advised about the planting and caring
of their crops. The presence of the News in such a widely-read periodical advertised Penney Farms throughout the state. The articles provided a source of the quality of diversification practiced at Penney Farms which was becoming more widely accepted throughout the South. Penney and his staff understood the problem arising from a one-crop system such as tobacco, cotton, and peanuts. They wanted farmers to plant a variety of crops which might be a combination of vegetables such as potatoes, peppers, greens, and corn. Each farmer was encouraged to keep a few chickens and a cow and to plant fruit trees so that fresh fruit would be avail-able to the families. The hoped-for-result would be a self-sufficient farmer who could manage even in hard times and who might also acquire a good income from his surpluses. This kind of farming is exemplified by one Penney Farms family.
M. M. Travassos, an immigrant from the Azores, arrived as a young boy in the United States. In 1905, he purchased a sixtyacre farm with a twelveroom house near MIddleboro, Massachusetts, and moved there with his wife, Maria, and their children. He became a successful farmer, raising truck crops which he sold at a roadside stand. After World War I for health reasons he wanted to move to a warmer climate. At first he thought of California, where he heard there was a Portuguese colony, but then he was attracted by descriptions of Florida, and in 1919 he visited the state to examine the farm tracts offered by Florida Farms and
Industries. He was not impressed with the project and returned to Massachusetts. Apparently a cold winter changed his mind, because in 1920 Travassos left his family and
journeyed to Florida. He came to Clay County and bought a
iarm with a four-room house at Mellontown. Shortly afterwards he added a second twenty-acre tract. Finding that he could not handle both properties himself, he sent for his oldest son who arrived driving the family's Ford truck.
Travassos and his son managed their two farms successfully until Florida Farms and Industries went into receivership in 1923. Disposing of the property they moved to another tract nearer Green Cove Springs. Shortly after, the other members of the Travassos family arrived in Florida. Mrs. Travassos sold the farm in Massachusetts, and she and the children traveled by Clyde Line steamer from New York City to Jacksonville. There the family was reunited after four years at Christmas time, 1923. Their new home was a small dairy rented from the mayor of Green Cove Springs. The family were tenants, and to use the property they fed and milked the owner's cows. For income the family raised truck crops which they sold in Green Cove Springs at the hotels. They had worked the farm for almost two years when they learned about Penney's planned colony.2^
The Penney-Gwinn Corporation was looking for prospects to begin planting as quickly as possible. The former superintendent for Florida Farms and Industries suggested to Clark that he should talk to Travassos. Encouraged by the
offer of a free fsrm for a year with no risks, Travassos,
in October 1925. roved to a twenty-acre tract on Kentucky
Avenue. His four oldest children moved with him, but Mrs.
Travassos and the other children remained in Green Cove
Springs to finish the school year.
The first months at the new property were lonely.
There were very few people at the colony and the only ones
the Travassos family met were Franklin, the carpenter, the
mailman, and the man who took care of the mules for the
corporation. Several black families were living near the
settlement, but they apparently kept to themselves.27
By October 25, 1925, the peas were up and other vegetables,
turnips, collard greens, rutabagas, and mustard greens, were
growing. The oldest son carried vegetables daily in the
truck to the produce market in Jacksonville.
The Travassos farm was typical of those at Penney Farms. The house was a rectangular, board and batten structure, containing four rooms. Water was from a pump on the back porch. The yard was sparse at first but soon fruit trees and ornamentals from the Penney-Gwinn nurseries were planted. There was a shed for tools and supplies. In the case of Travassos the corporation offered free seed and use of tools. The children worked, and when needed local blacks were hired at ten cents an hour for a ten-hour day.29
In addition to truck farming, other crops and products were tried in ar. attempt to widen the economic base of the community. Probably the second most important undertaking
was poultry farming. The Penney-Gwinn Corporation had set
up a demonstration poultry plant designed for experimental
breeding as one of its private projects. Farmers also
began raising chickens for their primary income. Each
poultry farm had a house, shed, hen house, and a starter
brood. An example of poultry raising at Penney Farms was
the venture of Fleming B. Griffith, who came to Penney
Farms in October 1925, with no prior experience. He was
encouraged by the staff to try it. He agreed and received
a two and one-half acre farm and a house. With help from
the Institute two open front chicken houses were built and
100 chickens were supplied. Griffith learned about poultry
farming through the Institute. The following spring he
added 500 hens and the next fall another 1,000. There were
five or six of these farms at the project which supplied
the settlers as well as an outside market with fresh fowl 31
The corporation's ventures in dairying, citrus, ornamentals, and a canning factory provided jobs for many of the farmers. Some owners of twenty-acre farms worked part-time and others worked full-time for the corporation. Those
who worked full-time had options on two and one-half and
five-acre farms near the center of the community. There they could grow some food for home consumption.
Selfsufficiency was a major theme at Penney Farms, whether one was a truck farmer or an employee. The Institute encouraged the cultivation of a wide range of foodstuffs.
As a further spur, the corporation ran a contest in 1928 to see which farm family could become the most self-sufficient. Each farmer was to keep records of all food and supplies which he had to buy. The one who raised enough
food for his own use and spent the least amount of money
would be declared winner of the $500 prize.JJ
The formative period in the development of Penney Farms was during the year 1926, and the following two years were the high point In its history. Of the first forty-four farmers to arrive only six had departed in 1927. By January 1928, the community had a total of fifty-eight families operating farms. Most farmers worked diligently and followed the advice of the Institute's staff. As production increased, the colony seemed to prosper.
Long Branch City, as it was still officially named, became a bustling farming community stressing many of the attributes considered important in the maintenance of quality rural life.
Stores were opened to provide supplies. A church was esta-
blished to give the residents a good moral foundation, and
a community school was opened.In 1927, the community was
incorporated and the name was changed from Long Branch City
to Penney Farms. '
The time consuming journey into Green Cove Springs over rough roads for school was not the most satisfactory arrangement for the children. Remaining from the time of Florida Farms and Industries was a school which could be put in order and used. The woodframe building was two stories high with two rooms downstairs and a single large hall upstairs. The
school was reorganized and in 1926 Mrs. Bascom Franklin was
employed to teach the first eight grades. The following
year there were three elementary teachers and two high school
teachers. Most of these were from Berea College, probably obtained with the help of F. 0. Clark. The first school year started late in Octobet with twelve students. In addition to the regular teachers, Penney provided funds to hire a music teacher, a home economist, and a vocational agriculture teacher. School lasted for six months with Clay County paying the salaries of the regular teachers. To maintain the teaching staff, the corporation also provided an extra three months salary to teachers. The school grew as the farm population expanded, and by 1928 it had over 150 students.-^9
As soon as the Penney-Gwinn staff arrived at Penney Farms a community church was started.^ The first service was in July 1925, at the St. Johns Inn. The following week Sunday School classes were organized and they met in the school house with fifteen persons attending. The church expanded as the community grew, and by December 1925, there were some fifty members. In the summer of 1926, the congregation moved to a commissary building at the Bordenville Da'iry. Shortly afterwards the Reverend Mr. George W. Hall was hired as the first pastor.^ It was decided that the church was not to be affiliated with any particular denomination. The parishoners represented nineteen separate denominations, but there seems to have been little conflict within the congregation. By 1927, the church had increased to 100 members. Around It centered most of the social life
of the community. The church was host to several prominent speakers in its history, including Dr. Albert Shaw, the famed minister and writer; President Willis J. Hut chins of Berea College; Dr. Hamilton Holt, president of Rollins College; and Dr. W. W. Murphree, president of the University of Florida. J Regular church services were augmented by Sunday School and a bible school for the children. Holiday parties, outings, and picnics were sponsored for the young people.
Inadequate roads tended to isolate the settlement from Green Cove Springs, Starke, and other communities. As a result several business enterprises opened there, and It was
no longer necessary to always make the long trek in for
hardware and other commodities. It appears that J. D. Davis opened the first store in the community, but his prices were so high that F. 0. Clark organized the colonists into a cooperative store. By October 10, 1925, stock consisting of food, hardware, and other supplies had been pur-
chased, and the store building was under construction. The store was successful its first year, doing about $55,000 in business. Its profits were large enough to yield a dividend to each investor.^'''7 A drug store, two filling stations, a garage, and a machine shop were also opened. The St. Johns Inn was renovated as a hotel for guests visiting Penney Farms.
The corporation had tried to improve the community's public facilities. There were transportation connections so that the farmers were not quite so isolated by inade-
Site of Penney Farms Church, Commissary Building, Bordenville Dairy
quate roads. A major road building program was undertaken
by Penney-Gwinn Corporation. The network of streets at
Penney Farms, totaling twenty-five miles of paved roads and
seventy-five miles of graded road, was created over the
old dirt roads of Florida Farms and Industries. Penney
took an active role in getting the county to provide a number
of these roads.' In 1926, Clay County issued bonds for the
construction of State .Road #48, now Highway 16, between
Green Cove Springs and Starke. This road ran through the
center of Penney1s project. In order to speed up construction
Penney bought all of the $515,000 of bonds which were issued.
The standardgauge railroad remaining from Florida Farms
and Industries had sixteen miles of track which were improved
by the corporation. In addition, there was rolling stock
and a station house. The line connected to the Atlantic
Coast Line at Green Cove Springs, thus providing a convenient
means of shipping produce to northern markets.
There was no electricity at Penney Farms in 1926, but by the following year the corporation had financed the extension of power lines from Starke and promised that power
would soon be available to every farm. For recreation,
two swimming facilities were established near Penney Farms.
One was a swimming pool fed by an artesian well which kept
its level at a constant level. In addition, a dock and
two dressing rooms were built at Kingsley Lake.^ The church
sponsored swimming parties and even baptisms in the lake.
The farmers needed a way to dispose of their produce,
and the corporation helped set up a cooperative marketing 56
organization. Burdette Lewis, vice-president of the
corporation, insisted that agricultural success would be
possible when sound business principles were adopted by the
farmer. Since industrial management is based in large
part on successful marketing, the leaders of Penney Farms
insisted on a comprehensive plan of selling their produce.
In July 1927, D. D. Whitcomb came to Penney Farms under
contract with the corporation and was placed in charge of
marketing operations. He had migrated from Illinois to
Geneva, Florida, in 1919, as a truck farmer. The next year
he became field supervisor and inspector for the Sanford-
Oviedo Truck Growers Association, and then the South Carolina
Extension Service hired him as a marketing agent. He was
serving as chief of the Division of Markets when he trans
ferred to Penney Farms.
Whitcomb felt that the "keystone in the arch of orderly marketing [was] cooperation" and that Penney Farms had succeeded in attaining the desired level of cooperative interaction. According to him, "The problem resolves itself into one of systematic crop planting of the proper market variety at the right time, plus efficient harvesting methods, and
followed by a rigid standard of grading and packing in
acceptable containers. Whitcomb advised strict management of each farm product through every phase of production
just as with manufactured items. The controlling factor of distribution was supply and demand for a "quality" product.^
Whitcomb's opinion governed his marketing program at Penney Farms. The many regional produce markets were studied in order to evaluate the degree of demand at a given time. ^ Whitcomb supplied short and long term predictions on the relative value of potatoes, beans, peas, strawberries, and cucumbers. From his evaluations, he could recommend what to plant and where.to ship. Market evaluations were not the only consideration, however. The quality and grade of the produce was deemed a crucial part of the marketable value of the products. Whitcomb encouraged the farmers to follow a program of selection in their produce sales.^2 Of course the colony also participated in fair exhibits in
order to demonstrate the quality of Penney Farms produce
which was marketed under the Golden Rule Brand emblem.
The farm colony was praised by all involved as having made progress. In speeches and reports, the leaders cited examples of success stories. One man reportedly raised vegetables on forty acres which earned $12,500. Another farmer, an asthmatic, had moved from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and he had been so successful that he loaned his sons $2,000 to start a business While these reports cited results intended to illustrate the success at the farm colony, the fact is that by 1930 the colony had in reality failed.
Green Cove Springs Cla ; County Times, April 17, 1925.
Interview with Bascom Franklin, Penney Farms., Florida, January 3, 1974-
. S. Federal Writer's Project, Works Progress Administration, "Inventory of the Clay County Archives, 1936,"
14, 15- ........
Clay County, Board of County Commissioners and Town of Green Cove Springs, Board of Town Commissioners, The Broad Acres of Clay County, Florida: For General Farming ana Livestock, (Gainesville, Florida, n.d.), passim.
^Interview with Franklin.
From photograph of St. Johns Inn, n.d., Penney Papers.
.... g. . _. _....... .............. ....
Interview with Franklin.
J. C. Penney,"Address: Third Annual Banquet."
"^Morton to Penney, October 10, 1925, Penney Papers.
"'""'"Interview with Franklin; interview with Travassos. 12
J. C. Penney, "Speech: Second Annual Banquet at Penney Farms," February 17, 1927, MS, Penney Papers.
Interview with Franklin; interview with Travassos; old photographs in Penney Papers; Penney-Gwinn Corporation, A Unique Agricultural Demonstration, 19, 53, 56.
"^Ralph W. Gwinn, "Speech: Third Annual Banquet at Penney Farms," February 21, 1928, MS, Penney Papers.
H. Harold Hume, "Speech: Third Annual Banquet at Penney Farms," February 21, 1928, MS, Penney Papers.
D. Walter Morton, "Trained Agricultural Men at Call of Penney Farms," Penney Farms News, III (August 15, 1927), 8.
"^Interview with Mrs. Clark Failing, Penney Farms, Florida, February 3, 1974.
Lois Pearman, "Housewives' Column," Penney Farms News, III (August 1$, 1927), 14.
Interview with Travassos.
Cited in Penney Farms News. .
Burdette Lewis, "Merchandising Farm Products," Penney Farms News, IV (April 15, 1928), 12; Lewis, "Raising His Own Food, Large Factor in Farmer's Success," Penney Farms News, III (June 15, 1927), 9; G. L. Spurlin, "Farms Demand Business Ability as Well as Work," Penney Farms News, III (November I, 1927), 13-
Mellontown received this name in 1921, see Chapter
^Interview with Travassos; Green Cove Springs Clay County Times, April 17, 1925-
Interview with Travassos.
Morton to Ralph V/. Gwinn, October 25, 1925, Penney Papers; interview with Travassos.
Maude Coker, "The Three Travassos Sisters: Their Reflections on the Development of Penney Farms and Memorial Home Community as Told to Mrs. Maude Coker," typewritten manuscript in possession of Mrs. Maude Coker, Penney Retirement Community, Penney Farms, Florida.
."^Fleming Griffith Finds Poultry a Paying Business," Penney Farms News, III (August 18, 1927), 21.
Roswell Penney, "Questions and Answers Pertaining to Penney Farms, Florida," 1932, MS, Penney Papers.
-^Burdette Lewis, "Home Production Contest to be Staged," Penney Farms News, III (October 15, 1927), 9; "Grow Your Own Food," Penney Farms News, III (December 1, 1927), 9.
^TMorton to Penney, October 10, 1925, Penney Papers.
S. D. Hoffman, J. L. Stallings, and D. D. Whitcomb, "Full Planting Program Recommended for Truck and Garden Crops at Penney Farms," Penney Farms News, III (July 1, 1927), 10; J. L. Stallings, "Results of Soil Survey'on Penney Farms, Florida," Penney Farms News, III (July 1, 1927), 10.
Morton to Gwinn, October 25, 1925, Penney Papers. Interview with Franklin.
^Penney Farms, "City Charter of the Town of Penney Farms, Florida, April 23, 1927." Copy In P. K. Yonge Library of Florida History, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida.
Interview with Franklin; H. A. Hart, untitled manuscript in Penney Retirement Community Archives, Volume II, Penney Farms, Florida; Morton to Penney, June 26, 1927, Penney Papers.
Interview with Franklin; Clay County Board of Public Instruction, Teachers Daily Reports, School Year 1926-1927, 1927-1928.
^D. W. Morton, "Church in Center of Penney Farms Community Life," Penney Farms News, III (July 15, 1927), 3
""Interview with Franklin; interview with Travassos; interview with Failing.
^Morton, "Church in Center of Penney Farms," 8.
^Ibid., "Children's Daily Bible School Is Summer Feature," Penney Farms News, III (August 15, 1927), 1.
Interview with Franklin. ^Morton to Penney, October 10, 1925, Penney Papers. Edmonds, "Unique Farm Development," 75-6.
Penney-Gwinn Corporation, A_ Unique Agricultural Demonstration, 8, 9-
Penney, "Speech;" Foremost Properties, Incorporated "Questions and Answers Pertaining to Penney Farms, Florida, comp. R. K. P. [Roswell K. Penney], n.d., Penney Papers.
^Edmonds, "Unique Farm Development," 128. 51
Penney-Gwinn Corporation, A_ Unique Agricultural Demonstrat ion, 9.
Burdette Lewis, "Electricity Nov/ in Reach for All Farm Purposes," Penney Farms News. Ill (October 11, 1927), 12.
Interview with Franklin.
Penney to Morton, July 13, 1927, Penney Papers. The deck was located at the present site of Camp Rlanding, a National Guard Reserve.
^Morton to Penney, June 28, 1927, Penney Papers.
Edmonds, "Unique Farm Development;" interview with Travassos.
"Penney Farms Head Stresses Marketing Need," Florida Farmer, XXVIII (May 15, 1927), 5-
Morton to Penney, July 16, 1927, Penney Papers.
D. D. Whitcomb, "Marketing Golden Rule Brand Farm Products," Pe rms News, III (September 1, 1927), 15.
"4). W. Morton, "Penney Farms Head on Tour of Leading Produce Markets," Penney Farms News, III (October 1, 1927), 15. ^
^2D. D. Whitcomb, "Market Demands Quality Produce Says Whitcomb," Penney Farms News, III (October 15, 1927), 13-
Morton to Penney, August 17, 1927, Penney Papers.
Senate Hearings on Organized Rural Communities, 79*
THE MEMORIAL HOME COMMUNITY
- When Penney secured the Florida Farms and Industries
holdings In 1925. they included several parcels of property
In Green Cove Springs. Besides the two hotels. Saint Elmo
and Qui-SI-Sana, and the bathing pavillion. there was the
remains of a sawmill complex which contained dwellings which
had been used by the laborers.
The CowlingShands Lumber Company, one of the three
companies-, which had formed the Florida Farms and. Industries.
had been incorporated m 1911. It had located in Green
Cove Springs, where it built a sawmill on the south side of
the mouth of Governor's Creek, which ran north of Green
Cove Springs into the St. Johns River. By 1917. the plant
was producing lumber, barrels, and shingles. There were
aroung sixty workers' cottages, a company store, machine
shop, smithy, sizing mill, two wharves, and a stable on 3
the site. In 1925 the Farquhar Machinery Company of Jacksonville bought the sawmill and was in the process of demolishing it, when on March 31. 1925. the plant was destroyed by fire.^
What was left of the complex was included in the transfer to J. C. Penney. By February 1925. the dwellings had been reduced through neglect to around thirty-five salvagable cottages. While these structures were not that
valuable, Penney wanted to utilize them if possible. Then suddenly the idea came. As Penney explained it, "At four o'clock in the morning, I was awakened as if a voice had spoken to me. I had found a use for these houses. I went to the room of Mr. Gwinn, my associate, and awakened him, told him of my inspiration, which was to restore these houses and offer them to the different societies for the use of their superannuated ministers, returned missionaries, and retired Y.M.C.A. workers." Thus, according to Penney, was born the philanthropy which he would support for almost a decade.
Penney's commitment to help religionists stemmed from
his background and childhood experiences. His father, the
Reverend James Cash Penney, had served, without pay, the
Primitive Baptist congregation at Log Creek, Missouri.
Conflict over church and Sunday School matters resulted in
Reverend Penney being voted out of the church. Afterwards
Mrs. Penney also left the church. The arbitrary action of the church had an impact on the feelings of Penney. In later years he remembered, "The incident filled me with a searing resentment. At fourteen injustices will rankle. He [his father] and my mother had given so faithfully of themselves. .Now, in exchange for his devotion, he was read out of his church." If Penney resented the church's action, he did not turn against religion. He dedicated his
Florida cottages and later the Memorial Home Community at
Penney Farms "as a memorial to [his] parents."
Returning to New York from Florida early in the summer of 1925, Penney discussed his idea of a retirement community with several of his associates. His plan was to offer the cottages rent free to retired ministers and Y.M.C.A. personnel, who would be allowed to bring their families to Florida for the winter."^ Penney's associates liked his idea, and in May 1925, he began mailing letters of inquiry to various Protestant religious groups and to Y.M.C.A. secretaries, "outlining the plan.""'" Almost immediately some forty inquiries were received. Penney answered with a form letter describing the cottages as "in only fair condition and of course unfurnished. The majority of them have four or five rooms." He would make necessary repairs to put the structures into a livable condition. Those who came were under no obligation;; Penney wrote, "There are no strings attached to your using
one 01 these cottages, nor do I expect any return services."
By the fall of 1925, several families had accepted the
invitation to come to Green Cove Springs for the winter,
and Penney had instructed D. Walter Morton, business manager
of the Penney-Gwinn Corporation, to prepare the building.
Morton opposed using the old lumber company cottages and
suggested instead that twenty-five of the farmhouses at
Penney Farms be used by the ministers. This, he pointed out,
would be a "sufficient number to allow the community to have
a moral aire [sic]." His objections continued, and on October 9, 1925, he admitted that he had done little toward preparing the small dwellings. He apologized for replying
negatively to a letter of inquiry."'"' By October 25, 1925, his attitude had apparently changed because the "North Suburb," as the group of cottages were called, was reported neanng completion.
The delay in preparing the cottages- is evident in the story of the first of the retirees to arrive. The Reverend R. A. Cody, a minister from Lebanon, Tennessee, arrived in Green Cove Springs with his wife and son on September 19, 1925, only to find their cottage unprepared. They stayed at the St. Elmo Hotel until September 21, when they moved into an unfinished dwelling in which they "camped" for two weeks until repairs were completed. Even then, there was no screening on the windows, and no water, electricity, or sidewalks.~^
Others soon arrived, and by the end of October there
were seven families housed in the cottages. Ten more
families arrived in November. The men were active; many planted gardens and some tried building furniture."^ Social events such as fish fries and prayer meetings were also organized. The ladies supervised many of these functions. The Penmore Round Table was founded on October 30,
1925, and it became the first formal organization at Penney 20
Farms. The name Penmorefrom Penney and Mortonhad been
adopted as the name of the community. On November 25, 1925; the Round Table was replaced by the Penmore Place Association which represented all the residents and the Round Table became the association's social committee. Morton provided