William J. Crosby (1866-1942)
Colonel Powe Groves
Charlie White Groves
Crosby-Wartmann Groves (Bishop, Hoyt Company & Marion Fruit Company)
William Crosby was a prominent figure in the Florida citrus industry in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Crosby was born in Bradford County, Florida, in 1868. He was a longtime public servant, holding office as a county commissioner, state representative, and then state senator, a position he held for a number of terms.
His involvement in the citrus industry began prior to the great freezes of 1894-1895 when he accepted a position as grove superintendent for the Colonel Powe Groves in Rockledge. In 1895, Crosby moved to Citra, whose citrus industry had been virtually destroyed by the freezes, to act as superintendent of the Charlie White Grove which he helped build. When recovery began slowly, Crosby eased the burden by planting vegetables between newly planted rows of citrus trees.
Crosby continued his involvement in the Citra region when he formed a partnership with E.L. Wartmann in 1908. Acting as the general manager of Crosby-Wartmann groves, a position he would hold until his death in 1942, Crosby acquired 502 acres of grove from the Bishop-Hoyt and Marion Fruit companies.
The first pineapple oranges were developed from these groves. Crosby marketed the new varieties and large quantities of fruit were shipped to markets such as New York, Philadelphia, and Chicago, and even international locations under the famous citra pineapple label. Crosby utilized refrigerated railroad cars to ship to these locales. Crosby was one of the first growers to use grove heaters, which helped the Crosby-Wartmann groves to survive cold weather in a region that had nearly had its industry wiped out at the end of the nineteenth century.
Crosby was known by his peers as a great man. He died in 1942, and was elected posthumously to the Florida Citrus Hall of Fame in 1967.