|UFDC Home||| Help ||
The story of the Chases in Florida began in 1878 when Sydney Octavius Chase (1860-1941), having read about orange groves in Scribner's Magazine, came to Florida from Philadelphia. His brother, Joshua Coffin Chase (1858-1948), joined him in 1884 and together they formed Chase and Company that year. The Chase brothers came to Florida at the right time for Florida citrus and at the right time for them as investment entrepreneurs. Strong family ties in the North provided them with financial backing for their ventures. Joshua left Florida in 1895 to work in the California citrus industry. He returned to Florida in 1904 and rejoined his brother. Another brother, Randall, remained in Philadelphia and augmented his brothers' finances when convenient. Sydney and Joshua were also important civic leaders who took part in community development, most notably in the City of Sanford. Both were elected to the Sanford city commission. They also supported the development of Rollins College, worked with the Florida Historical Society, and were the benefactors of numerous charities.
Chase and Company began as an insurance company and branched out to storage facilities and fertilizer sales. The latter was the beginning of the company's lucrative agricultural supply division which remained in operation throughout the existence of the company. Although citrus was the primary interest, the company also invested in other agricultural pursuits including celery in central Florida, tung oil production in Jefferson County, and winter vegetables and sugar cane in the Lake Okeechobee muck lands. The company was also involved in the peach business in Georgia and North Carolina. The company was incorporated in 1914, with the Chase brothers owning 75 percent of the stock, and reincorporated in 1948. A second generation of Chases began its involvement in the family operations when Sydney O. Chase, Jr. (b. 1890) became a citrus buyer in 1922. He was later joined by his brother Randall who served as president of Chase and Company from 1948-1965. Outside the Chase Family, Alfred Foster, W. R. Harney, and William "Billy" Leffler figured prominently as company executives and investors. The company dissolved in 1979 when its principal assets were sold to Sunniland for $5.5 million.
The Chases' interest in citrus began when Sydney came to Florida and became associated with General Henry S. Sanford. The Chases would eventually own General Sanford's experimental farm, Belair, and the Chase family home in Sanford was located there. Over the years, the Chases invested in a number of citrus groves and owned others outright. In 1912, they organized the Chase Investment Company as a holding company for their farms. Initially, the company operated the Isleworth, Nocatee, Belair, and Kelly citrus groves as well as celery farms in Sanford. The company was renamed Chase Groves, Inc. in 1951. From time to time, Chase Investment was involved in real estate in Florida and North Carolina. The latter included Fort Caswell, a former military property that was held for a time and then sold. Unquestionably, the jewel in the Chase crown was the Isleworth grove at Windermere. Isleworth's four hundred lake-tempered acres carried the Chases through many difficult times. It proved to be the principal asset at the company's demise when it was sold to golf legend Arnold Palmer in 1984. Chase Groves dissolved that same year, 100 years after the founding of Chase and Company.