Central Florida was a sparsely settled frontier at the end of Reconstruction. In the 1870s and 1880s, however, an influx of pioneers transformed this wilderness into a loose network of settlements. These early communities were linked by the steamships that navigated the St. Johns and Oklawaha rivers down through the chain-of-lakes— Lake Griffin, Haines Creek, Lake Eustis, Dead River, and Lake Harris.1 This river freight route, which ran from Jacksonville to Yalaha, soon became obsolete with the expansion of the railroad in the 1870s; regional development was no longer restricted by geographic proximity to navigable bodies of water. The increasing availability of inexpensive transportation provided the impetus for the growth of the lumber, turpentine, and phosphate enterprises. These extractive industries attracted large numbers of black laborers, but the primary economic activity of this period was small-scale agriculture.
Manning, Robert D.
"From Orange to Green "Gold": The Roots of the Asparagus Fern Industry in Florida,"
Florida Historical Quarterly: Vol. 62:
4, Article 5.
Available at: https://stars.library.ucf.edu/fhq/vol62/iss4/5