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Condensed version revised in October of 2009 by Donald R. Hensley, Jr.
Peace River Mining Co. # 2 with train
This is a rare but poor shot of Peace River Phosphate Co. # 2 with a work train circa 1901.
Photo courtesy of the Polk County Historical Archives of Bartow, Fl.

When the narrow gauge Florida Southern Railway reached Arcadia in 1886 there was only a sleepy little cow town and the builders paused only briefly before pushing the railroad south to Punta Gorda. Unknown to the railroad and the general public at this time, a great discovery had been made in 1881 by Captain Francis LeBaron of the Engineer Corps of the US Army, who was examining the lower Peace River area for the survey of a canal that would connect the headwaters of the St. Johns to Charlotte Harbor. Here he found and shipped to the Smithsonian 9 barrels of prehistoric fossils from the sand bars prevalent on the lower Peace River. He also noticed that there was a phosphatase quality to the fossils and the deposit they were found in was very valuable. The Smithsonian wanted him to return right away and lead an expedition for prospecting more fossils but Captain LeBaron was unable to return  due to his important duties at Fernandina and were put in charge of the harbor improvements there. Finally in December of 1886 he was able to return to the Peace River where he dug some test pits and sent the samples to a laboratory for analysis. Then his suspicions were confirmed as the test showed high quality bone phosphate of lime, and he tried in vain to round up  investors in New York, Boston and Philadelphia, but none of the money men would spend a dime on the project. Frustrated he left the US for the ill fated Nicaraguan Canal Project.
   Meanwhile, the test results became known to Colonel G.W. Scott who owned the
G.W. Scott Manufacturing Co. of Atlanta, GA and he quickly sent a representative down to Arcadia who made several large purchases along the Peace River. Also T.S. Moorhead of Pennsylvania who had learned about the deposits from Captain LeBaron but not the secret of their location,  traveled to Arcadia where he luckily stumbled onto the famous sand bars. Mr. Moorhead formed the Arcadia Phosphate Co. and the Scott Mfg. Co. quickly agreed to buy the entire output. The very first shipment of Florida Phosphate was made in May of 1888 when the first ten car loads were dispatched to Scott's Fertilizer Works in Atlanta, Ga. Soon after this G.W. Scott formed the Desoto Phosphate Co. at Zolfo where the Florida Southern Railway crosses the Peace River. However the biggest player was the Peace River Phosphate Co. (formed in January of 1887 (2)) which was located in Arcadia by M.M. Knudson of New York and they quickly built a narrow gauge railroad from the works on the river to the interchange with the Florida Southern. It is this company and its railroad that is the first direct ancestor of the future Charlotte Harbor & Northern. The Peace River Phosphate Co. began mining in the Winter of 1889 and most of the ore was shipped to Punta Gorda via the Florida Southern, where it was put on boats for export to Europe.
    Early mining methods was the pick and shovel method where the above water sand bars were hand mined and loaded onto  barges which were herded by
shallow water tug boats to the Drying Works located nearby. Soon the use of suction dredges were put into use and the mining spread all along the lower Peace River.
     Moorhead soon sold his Arcadia Phosphate Co. to Hammond & Hull of Savannah, a large fertilizer operation in that city. Moorhead then left Florida and returned to Pennsylvania, where he developed a phosphate mine Juanita County, PA and formed the narrow gauge Tuscaroa Valley Rail Road.(1) 
Hammond & Hull also owned the Charlotte Harbor Phosphate Co. which had their works at Hull, connecting with the Florida Southern by a short branch line. Wanting to connect the two plants Hammond & Hull built a narrow gauge railroad between Arcadia and Hull around 1890. The railroad served various load outs along the river where the barges full of pebble would be unloaded and raised to the railroad and loaded onto ore cars for the journey to the drying Plants at Arcadia and Hull. Hammond dropped out of the picture around 1890 and the new firm was known as Comer & Hull.
    The Peace River Phosphate Co. in the mean time had built a narrow gauge railroad north of Arcadia to their load-outs along the Peace River. Like the Comer & Hull operations, the ore was hauled to the drying plant at Arcadia where it was loaded into the narrow gauge box cars of the Florida Southern. When the railroad standard gauge its Charlotte Harbor Division in 1892, both the Peace River Phosphate Co. and Comer & Hull operations standard gauged their respective railroads. Joseph Hull of Comer & Hull purchased a half interest in the Peace River Phosphate Co. about this time.
    In December of 1894,  Joseph Hull consolidated the Arcadia Phosphate Co., Charlotte Harbor Phosphate Co., Desota Phosphate & Mining Co. & Peace River Phosphate Co. into the Peace River Phosphate Mining Co. (2)
    Peter Bradley of New York was one of the fertilizer capitalists (Bradley Fertilzer Co. (2)) that Captain LeBaron had first approached about the sand bars but was rebuffed.  In May of 1899 he was involved in the merger of 22 fertilzer companies into the American Agricultral Chemical Co. becoming vice president & a director of the new corporation.(2).  AACC began buying the stock of the
Peace River Phosphate Mining Co. beginning in June of 1899 and finishing up in January of 1902.(2)
    The Peace River Phosphate Mining Company Railroad consisted of a mainline running south from Arcadia to Liverpool. A few short branches connected the railroad to the Florida Southern (later the Plant System in 1896 and the ACL after 1902) at Arcadia, Hull and Liverpool. At Hull was the washing plant where sand was removed. Liverpool housed the drying plant and barge loading facilities. A branch running north for about 3 miles upstream from Arcadia served the many load outs along the river.
 A locomotive roster is incomplete as most of the early narrow gauge locomotives were probably second hand and were sold off by 1892.  The only exception was the 0-4-0t from Porter (c/n 1261) that was built in May of 1891 and was standard gauged in 1892, becoming Peace River Phosphate Mining Co. #1. 
Peace River Phosphate Mining Co. Locomotive Roster
Porter 1261 5/91
Original 36" gage-rebuilt to standard gauge.
Porter 1598 7/95
To Charlotte Harbor & Northern (CH&N)  # 1
To Southern iron & Equipment Co. (SI&E) # 621
To Weldon Lumber Co. # 5, Weldon, NC 6/28/1909
unknown - believed to be a 2-8-0 to CH&N # 3
Baldwin 27256 1/06
to CH&N # 4
Sold to SI&E # 1280 circa 1917
To Mayo Lumber co. on 5/27/1918
To C.H. Grayson Lumber Co. # 41
To Georgia Car & Locomotive (GC&L) #499
To W.C Sherman # 30 (Packing Crate Company in lake Wales, Fla)
To SI&E # 1888, to Moore Carr Lumber Co., Capitola, Fla 0n 4/21/1924
Baldwin /unknown
second hand  to CH&N # 5

    By the turn of the century the AACC  knew that the future lay in Land Pebble fields of Polk County and a business strategy of continuing the transport of this phosphate ore to Charlotte Harbor was agreed upon. As the Land Pebble phosphate production would be much higher then the River Pebble, an unbroken line of transportation was needed from Pierce to deep water off of Boca Grande. This would eliminate  the trans-loading into barges at Liverpool. Needing a State Charter they found a ready made one in the Alafia, Manatee & Gulf Railroad Co. that was incorporated on June 5, 1897 with a proposed route from Plant City to Charlotte Harbor. Buying the rights to this paper railroad in 1905 they quickly increased its capital from 1 million dollars to 2 million, and then changed its name to the Charlotte Harbor & Northern Railroad. Around this time the River Pebble had been mined out except for a new discovery of nearby Land Pebble near Nocatee, which they dredged a short canal to.They then mined this land area by dredge until it too played out around 1908 ending the 20 year run of phosphate mining in the lower Peace River, though the dry storage bins at Liverpool would operate until 1912. (2) Now it was time to turn the Peace River Phosphate Mining Co. RR into the Charlotte Harbor & Northern.

Revision Footnotes:
(1) George Peirson email 01/11/2007
Richard Fifer email 0205/2007

Peace River Dredge Boat
This is a Peace River Phosphate Co. dredge barge. On the far right is the boom holding the dredge hose. Two men on the bridge operate the boom. Below them is the pump which is connected via the long belt to the vertical boiler steam engine. The dredge pumps the slurry to the large tub on top, where the phosphate would sink and the water runs off the top into the outflow that runs behind the dredge. When the tub is filled, it is dumped into the ore barge alongside the dredge.

Peace River Tug boat
This is a good view of the Peace River Mining Co.'s tug boat.  The bridge is placed high so the skipper can see 360 degrees around him and also can easier look for any obstructions in the water below. This is basically a barge with a steam engine and a rear paddle wheel. Note the horizontal steam boiler and the firewood at the front of the boiler. Steam is piped to the engine at the rear which drives the big belt and the large paddle wheel pulley.

Peace River Phosphate Plant
This is good illustration of the loading plants used by the Peace River Phosphate Co. here a tug is bringing in another barge load of phosphate which will be shoveled into a conveyor that will raise it to the storage bins above the railroad track.Here it is dumped into small wet rock cars and then hauled to the drying plant in Arcadia. Note that the railroad track is elevated here and the  0-6-0 tank engine with a auxiliary tender and the use of an idler flat car as the bins will not clear then engine.

Peace River Pebble Plant
Here is another example of a riverside plant. This is the Desoto Phosphate Co. at Zolfo Springs and there is a direct rail connection with the Florida Southern as noted by the box cars on the right. Here an ore car is hand filled and then hauled up the incline by a donkey engine where it is dumped into the plant where the sand was removed and then transported to the drying shed where cord wood would be stack on the bottom and top and set on fire, drying the pebble in between.

An early company map that appeared in the Official Guides. Note the original mainline from Arcadia to Liverpool, though the Platt to Liverpool line has been demoted to a branch line. Note the projected route north of Pierce direct to Plant City and the Seaboard Air Line.

For more information and photos about the CH&N

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Part 2 - CH&N

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