James A. Harris

/James A. Harris

James A. Harris (1874-1921)

Inducted 1998

Highlights

A Confederate veteran, Harris founded the town of Citra. In 1871 Harris established one of the first commercial groves in the state and intended to export his fruit to northern states. With Bishop, Hoyt and Co., in 1876, Harris began work to build a railroad spur linking the Florida Railroad Line with Citra and the first trains reached the town in 1880.

Citra

Commercial Grove

Bishop, Hoyt, & Company

Freezes of 1894 and 1895

Ocala Banner

Bio

James A. Harris was born on May 5, 1847 in Yalaha, Florida. A Confederate veteran, Harris founded the town of Citra. In 1871 Harris established one of the first commercial groves in the state. Unlike most other growers at the time, Harris intended to export his fruit to northern states. Harris exported oranges to New York, Philadelphia, and Boston He also exported the first grapefruit to the north which proved highly popular. The success he encountered there earned Harris the moniker of “Citrus King of Florida,” a title he tried to downplay. Harris’s success drew others to the Citra area, where the pineapple orange was created.

Essential to Harris’s operations were railroads and he soon became involved with the industry to help facilitate the transport of his crops. With Bishop, Hoyt and Co., in 1876, Harris began work to build a railroad spur linking the Florida Railroad Line with Citra and the first trains reached the town in 1880. By 1884, Citra was exporting over a half million boxes of fruit. Harris continued to prosper, as he began to offer citrus trees for export.

The severe freeze of 1894-1895 hit Harris hard. The damage was so great that Harris lost a majority of his trees. Harris eventually abandoned his groves and moved to Dunnellon, where he began work in the new phosphate industry. Even as Harris expanded his interest to include the Ocala House and Montezuma Hotel, his abandoned groves were bought by Crosby and Wartmann, who propagated seeds found there and prospered.

In 1919, Harris wrote a history of the citrus industry in Florida, which became widely disseminated, in addition to various other articles published in the Ocala Banner newspaper.