Material Information

Florida an address before the Potomac Fruit Growers Association, Washington, D.C., March 4, 1884
Hicks, William W ( William Watkin ), b. 1837
Place of Publication:
Washington D.C
Joseph Bart
Publication Date:
Physical Description:
16 p. : ; 15 cm.


Subjects / Keywords:
Agriculture -- Florida ( lcsh )
Description and travel -- Florida ( lcsh )
Nature ( jstor )
Hurricanes ( jstor )
Fruits ( jstor )
non-fiction ( marcgt )


General Note:
"Rural life is the ideal life, ideal life is in Florida"-T.p.
Statement of Responsibility:
by W.W. Hicks.

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of Florida
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
002656251 ( ALEPH )
01819506 ( OCLC )
ANC3335 ( NOTIS )


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W. W.'RICKS. 3 S|)

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MARCQE0 4, 1884.


(Persons desiring to Correspond with the
Author upon matters Floridian, can address
him at his Bome P. 0., Port Mason, Orange
County, Florida.)

WAsiBaIO1 D. C.


F LORIDA is the Canaan of our time.
It is more than a land of promise, it is
the land of realization.
I must not be understood to mean that in
Florida bread hangs pendant 'from the forest
trees, and cooked rations spontaneously pro-
trude from the earth for any wandering tramp
that ias s. along; nor that comfort, wealth,
ease and health, are gifts of nature without con-
ditions. No.
I mean to say that the climate is exceeding
good, that the land is exceeding good, that the
productions of nature are exceeding good, and
that life in all that land to him who knows how
to live, is exceeding good.
A man can go to Florida and fall among
thieves; and a nan can go to Florida and fall
into some wayside bog and inhale a deadly
pestilence; or one can go there and see noth-
ing but sand heaps with no sign of fertility,
and find no evidence of the milk and honey of
which so many poetize; or one may go there
and winder among the evergreen groves of the
Orange and the Lime, the Pine and the Cocoa-
nut and see nothing worthy, and nothing lusc-
ious, and nothing inspiring.
You see, it depends mlich upon the man, and
the motive that inspires him.
One will say, I have been to Florida and it
is all a fraud and every-body is a fraud. And

yet if you question him closely, you will find
that the sunshine was glorious in mid-winter;
that the happy birds caroled day and night;
that the soft breezes from Gulf and Ocean were
laden with the balm of rest and health; that
the skies above and the verdure beneath were
complements of the most perfect in nature and
the most bountiful in Providence.
The fact is, nothing is really bright to the
jaundiced eye, and nothing is fresh to the stale
spirit, and nothing is exceeding, or even mode-
rately good, to the unhappy dyspeptic. And
so some people go to Florida, take a top room
in some tumble-down house, in some decayed
relic of "before the war," and after playing
hide and seek for a month or two with the fes-
tive Musquito, resolve that life is a bore, that
industry is a nuisance, that Florida is a fraud,
and that-well there is nothing left but to write
to some newspaper, and, cuss it out.


In 1875, having just returned from a pro-
longed stay in the extreme southern part of the
State, I used the following words to describe
what appeared to me reasonable and just then.
*Having recently revisited portions of that
country, I can repeat with joyful emphasis
every word.
*South Florda my be said to include Orange Hemado, Polk,
Manatee, Sumter, RrPvard, Vohdla, Monroe and Ulde Counties.

"I place myself below the "frost-line," and
in a territory the.most beautiful by nature, apd
the most susceptible to the attentions of indus-
trial art, probably, on the Continent. It may
not compare in rugged grandure with portions
of the far West, up the Canyons of the Yellow-
stone, or within the picturesque valleys of the
Rocky Mountains; but.more beautiful, because
with us Nature is in repose and at rest, holding
in her lap the riches of a semi-tropical clime,
adorned. with perpetual spring, and regaled
with the unceasing concerts of the Oriole and
the Mocking-bird.
I speak particularly now of that country ly-
ing below the Indian River inlet and Lake
Okeechobee, and extending to old "Cesar's"
haunts,-beyond which rolls the Mexican Gulf.
Who can do justice to that climate?
The sick are restored to health, the poor may
speedily secure competency by industry, the
humble will naturally take on pride, and all
faces must shine with the light of beneficence
reflected from the sky above and the earth be-
neath, and borne in upon every feature by the
health giving breeze from the everglades, and
the balmy breath of the Gulf-stream.
Byron, in one of his raphsodies, speaks of
being "intoxicated with eternity." The sen-
timent is vague because too great to be taken
in quickly, and seems almost unnatural; but
whoever casts himself into the eddying bless-
ings of the clime of which I speak, will, if he
Shave a spark of sentiment, forgive the Poet's

The rheumatic and consumptive, with ordi-
nary care, lose their ailments here. Here's a
case. Eighteen months ago one came from the
bleakest part of the Maine coast, sore, lame,
and almost despairing. He was accompanied
with crutches. A few months enabled him to
throw them aside, and to-day you would rejoice
to take a tramp with him through the Koontie
forest, or better still in his boat upon the bosom
of the Bay of Biscayne. He is well.
SRheumatisms and my friend have parted
company, and his crutches are the relics of a
past age.*
A more recent case is in my mind-a case of
extreme suffering from Catarrh.
Dr. A.- Is a gentleman of ability in his
profession, long a resident in the West, but
who was given up to die by his friends and by
himself from pulmonary and catarrhal troubles.
He was induced six months ago to try the
climate of the region of which I speak. As a
last resort he consented, and banished him-
self from the luxuries of civilization to the
South Florida region. In less than three
month.; he was relieved of his catarrhal trouble.
and to-day is able to do an honest day's work
in the clearing, and looks forward to many
years of life and usefulness.
One may object that this is at the cost of
many pleasures and the delights of a higher civil-
ization and refined surroundings! True I
answer, but what are these to a man perma-
*Frm address befre Florida Fruigrowern Convenion 8s.

nently disabled, or to a dead man. The
greatest of blessings is life, and it is an open
question whether what men call civilization
and the refinements of society are sufficient
compensation for life's impairment, certainly
not for its loss. Besides, what is so companion-
able to the cultivated mind as close and con-
fidential communion with nature unvexed by
the tinkerings and defacings of modern society!
The heart of nature throbs her sweetest
secrets out to him who can trust and love her
in her pres'ine estate. And so, my friend, in
restored health, albeit dwelling somewhat apart
from the hurrying crowd, has also his compen-
The climate is also congenial to consump-
tives, because rude, abrupt changes in the
atmosphere are infrequent, and seldom so great
as to create inconvemenct.
- The Gulf Stream (I speak now of Florida
on the East coast) hugs the shore so devotedly,
that from the north, northeast, east, south-
east and south no chill can obtrude and re-
main long enough to do damage. But through-
out the whole peninsula the stoutest breeze is
tempered with a warm and genial spirit.
It is impossible to conceive of a more per-
fect climate taking it all in all. Of course
there is torrid sunshine, but with the sun comes
the breeze, and not a day in the year need be
lost on account of the heat.
Let no one suppose that every desirable
thing can be found there. I might speak
of the absence of much that many con-

sider essential. But the raw material for all
comfort, fresh from the bounty of nature is
there, and he is unworthy of life who would
ask for more.
There are few churches-only the mighty
out-spreading forests, "God's first temples "-
and no theatres, no liquor shops, and no
gambling houses, nor stock exchanges; in
short. NO refinements worth speaking of, only
nature everywhere, and breath from Heaven.
1 speak of the settlements immediately
about my home in Orange County. Local
option prevails in Florida.
Perhaps one may imagine that religion has
no place there! But you can readily infer
that irreligion cannot much obtain where
nature is so grandly uppermost.
A Sabbath spent in some settlements in that
region would be a revelation toyou who think
that religion to be worthy must be bandaged
and wrapped about with the vestments of ap-
proved churchliness.
Here is a picture: Seated on the warm
earth is a quiet group of men, women and chil-
dren I The trees shelter from the sun. The
preacher stands in the midst, while the sense of
God is everywhere. All voices ascend in song,
and the gentle winds waft it out and up into
the listening ear of the Infinite. Prayers are
not said, but hearts breathe out their wants
and thanks. The preacher discusses no mooted
point of theology or science; he leads all

thoughts along lines of truth that open at every
one's feet, and the lessons are benedictions on
every life.
Is one troubled;--the still small voice falls
from above or comes from around, or from
afar across the shimmering sea yonder, with
memories of loving ones far away. And the
bright heavens draw their curtains closer and
closer until all sorrow'and evil, all sadness and
discontent, all murmurings and complaining
are softened and mellowed and soon merged
in the sweet glow of the divine down-letting.
Or perhaps there is no preacher present, what
then ? Why some one tells a story of a life
long closed in the faraway Western prairie, or
in some great city with its vast monuments of
art and civilization. And there are sweet
touches of tenderness, of romance, of love,
and now and then a ruder start of memory.
The word of privilege goes round, and thus
the day is passed in honor, and the night brings
new revelations.


You will understand that I have nothing to
say here on the mere business side of any ques-
tion. But you will be pleased to hear some-
thing about the fruits and blessings of Florida
from a Florida standing point. There are
fruits in Florida that one must go there to en-

joy in all their perfection. Of oranges I need
not speak. The Guava is a royal heritage,
only we have not yet found how to market
them. There are numerous varieties, and
the fruit is delicious to a cultivated taste from
the tree, while every house-wife in the land
and every lover of sweets can descant with
eloquence upon the marmalades and jellies
made of this desirable fruit.
In the southern parts of Florida the cocoa-
nut grows apace. The tree grows enormously
and bears constantly. They are nature's
grenadiers-tall, stately and unfailing, with
more on their heads than tassels and plumes,
though these are ornamental. The cocoanut
is meat and drink in a thristy land.
Then we have the mango and maumee apple,
fruits one soon becomes familiar with, which
intimacy is never interrupted. IBt the sugar
apple is, to my thought and experience, the
choicest of all. There is nothing comparable
to it. Exquisite is a nice word, and orange,
mango, maumee, avacado pear, pineapple,
banana are names, the bear mention of which
sets one's mouth watering; but, my friends,
they are all common things beside the sugar
I can give you no adequate idea of it, and I
will not attempt to put experience of its lus-
ciousness into mere English, for, after all is
said that may be said, the apple itself must be
seen, handled, and eaten to be appreciated.
It cannot be transported.

I have heard that German babies never cry,
because the genius of the mother has invented
and prepared, what I might call sugar bags, or
some delicious and healthy condiment to feed,
humor and silence the mouth of the young
hopeful between times.
Nature with us is like the German mother,
and provides for her grown babies this deli-
cious condiment-this sugar-bag-which, in
reality, caters to our most sensitive palates;
developed the genial and good in our natures;
promotes gratitude and good-will, and takes
the shrillness from our crying and the bitter-
ness from our moods.
The fruit immortalizes that country, and a
true description of its deliciousness, its creamy,
frosted sweetness, its fragrance beneath the
protecting dimpled rind, so like the fertile earth
after soft showers, will immortalize its author.
Time fails to speak of the many small and
large fruits that abound in that clime and which
seldom see a Northern market. If I were ad-
dressing an audience of farmers under other
circumstances, I would speak largely of the
production of vegetables and the enormous pro-
fits arising therefrom,when properly conducted.
I would especially speak of those lands re-
cently reclaimed by drainage, most valuable
and most productive. In the near future or so
soon as industrious men learn the truth con-
cerning such lands, as fine farms will be found
upon the surface of their broad acres as can
be found upon the prairies of the West. These

lands may be found in almost every part of
Florida, either ready for the plowman or soon
to be ready. It would stagger your faith were I
to declare to you from my personal knowledge
and observation the proceeds and profits of a
single acre of such land as I now speak of in
vegetables alone raised for the early markets
in the North. This subject pertains more to
a bureau of correspondence than to a lecture
rostrum. Those of you who desire to know
concerning such lands, their location, sur-
roundings, value, cost of subjugation, produc-
tiveness, &c., &c., with a purpose to go hence,
may do so in fullest detail by correspondence
for the trifling cost of postage. My object is
to speak of those incidental blessings which
adorn and enrich home life in the solitudes of
that genial cliume.
On the general question of profits of labor in
Florida, I content myself with saying that judi-
cious labor in any country cannot be more pro-
fitable than in Florida. It is the country, we
are told, for the wealthy who desire to spend a
portion of the year where the frosts and storms
of a rigorous north cannot reach them.
This is true, but more is true. It is the
country for the industrious poor man whose
idea of life is comfort with health and long
life, and whose ambition to be rich does not
outrun the movements of natural laws, and who
is willing to sow that he may reap.
Some people only reap, and they are but
peculators of the industry of others.

Men who are failures elsewhere should not
emigrate to Florida under the delusion that
idleness will be profitable there. There as in all
the world it is true that industry is the road to
health and wealth, and is the patent of every
man's nobility. Honest work is the royal
secret of success; and because this is so, many
people fail in Florida and deserve to fail, as
Before I sit down I must pay respect to some
of the discounts of Florida. It would sur-
prise you to find a country without some dis-
counting features. I believe Florida has fewer
than any other country, certainly than any
part of our own country.
Semi-tropical countries must be studied from
a semi-tropical point of view. If you go there
from Maine or from the plains of the far West
you irill be apt to find many things uncon-
genial. There will be many little annoyances
extending from the simple red bug in the
forests to the sublime swoop of the devastating
hurricane. An unexpected breath of the North
pole may take a roving fancy to your young
vegetables ahd blooming guavass or limes, and
the result for the time being is not such as to
contribute to the utmost serenity of mind.
A month's or three month's labor may be
destroyed, and the golden realization may be
temporarily postponed. Or the season may be
unusually dry and unproductive and your best
endeavors may fall short of a fair compensa-
tion. But there are corresponding compensa-

tions here too. Your personal wants can,
without real sacrifice, be brought down to the
minimum, and not interfere with your happi-
ness if you have a good conscience. Last year's
bonnet upon your head will not occasion the
slightest disrespect on the part of your neigh-
bor, and a patch on the elbow or elsewhere
will not cost you a farthing in the esteem of
your fellow yeomen.
It will be simply said: "Mr. Smith has
lost his early crop," and "good morning,
Smith, sorry for your little loss, but better re-
sult next time, my friend. Can I do anything
for you ?'.'
Mr. Smith returnsto his labor with renewed
vim seasoned with the reflection that if the un-
natural frost has nipped his early vines, it costs
him nothing for fire-wood. and his good wife
and children are very well indeed.
Well, what about the hurricane?
Ah I that is more serious, and is some times
very destructive.
A hurricane is a wonderful : expression of
nature, and belongs to the sublime. Once in
about every five years that country is visited
by this so-called plague. It is sometimes very
destructive, always dreaded, but is in reality
nature's great revivalist. The hurricane in
South Florida is never so destructive as a Geor-
gia cyclone or an East India simoom, though
it partakes of the grandeur and power of both.
It must be seen, heard, felt and trembled
under, then watched as it passes away, leaving

isolation and flood in its track, and soon suc-
.eded by the gentlest and balmiest caresses of
mighty power I A peace offering after the
arful rupture in the skies and on the seas.
The still small voice after the earthquake,
Fire and the storm that rent the mountain
d piled up the sea I Then one believes in
d-the God who made and governs all
igs Peace is closely allied to terror, and
er a real hurricane the calmness is sweeter,
skies are brighter, the breezes are more in-
ring, the sun less torrid, and all the spring-
Sbuds and singing birdsseem to have greater
sciousness. There is purification, after
ich things grow apace and men think more
Him and better of one another.


cannot attempt much upon this point at
Time; but as some words are expected
nt it I may not ignore it entirely. I have
ady spoken of climate and somewhat of soil.
eight suggest the inference that such climate
Such soil should afford unequalled in-
cements to the industrious man or woman
3o is in search of home material. I can con-
ve of no country where industry pays better.
ust not be understood as speaking of profes-
bestof all professions-work.
d, in the sugarfield, in the

orange grove, in the vegetable garden. Work in
the clearing or on the meadow, at the saw mill
or the grubbing hoe, riving shingles in the
cypress swamp for your first cabin, or driving
hofit the cows. Such work I speak -of that
brings the.ruddy grow to the cheek and re-
newed strength .to the muscle, and long life.
Such work, I say, finds inviting fields, ample
encouragement, and fullest compensation i
Florida. More I need not say.