Dr. Frederick William Inman (1840-1910)
Florence Villa Citrus Growers Association
Freeze of 1886
Florida Citrus Exchange
Frederick William Inman was born in Parkman, Ohio in 1840. A former Civil War surgeon who first came to Polk County in 1882 from Akron, Ohio, Inman joined his father-in-law Dr. Mendall Jewett, who had purchased land on the north shore of Lake Spring a few years before. Inman was impressed by beauty of the area as well as the region’s potential of producing profitable crops. Inman’s wife Florence also sought a warmer climate for a lung ailment. He pioneered citrus development in Polk County and eventually developed 100 acres of citrus groves, making him one of the largest growers of his day.
Inman began buying acreage around Spring Lake and eventually settled on a site northeast of present-day Winter Haven. In 1887 he built a 10-room home named Florence Villa in honor of his wife. The house soon became a regular visiting area for other newcomers and friends drawn to the area by the couple’s praise. The family planted an orange grove on a large tract just north of Winter Haven in the mid-1880s, depending over the years for its prosperity on labor directed by the skilled African-American manager Dan Laramore. With the freeze of 1886, the Inmans took stock of their situation and thus opened their home to paying guests calling their hotel the Florence Villa. They hosted an increasing numbers of patrons, including Henry Plant. In fact, so many people started visiting Florence Villa that the Inmans were compelled to convert their home into a full-time, 49-room hotel. Thus the community of Florence Villa was born.
Inman operated the hotel until 1906 but also continued in the orange business. After studying California’s cooperative marketing system, Inman helped form the Florida Citrus Exchange in 1909. He served as President of the Exchange and headed the Florence Villa Citrus Growers’ Association until 1910. Inman labored unceasingly to lay the foundations of cooperative work in Florida. He was regarded as the “Father of the Organization Movement.”