James C. Swindell (1865-1931)
Underground Irrigation System
Federal Refrigerating of Cincinnati
James C. Swindell was born in Liberty County, Georgia in 1865. He moved to Florida as a young man and began to purchase land in Auburndale and property north of Lakeland. The land that he purchased quickly was converted to planting orange trees.
Swindell was one of the first Florida growers to use tractors to replace mules for care and cultivation of citrus in his groves. In addition, he designed and installed one of the first permanent grove underground irrigation systems, utilizing cooling water from a nearby ice plant. Swindell convinced the Federal Ice Refrigerating of Cincinnati to relocate to Lakeland for the purpose of creating railroad cars that could manufacture ice for the purpose of preserving fruit and vegetables that were being transported to the north. This project had far-reaching effects on the agricultural, manufacturing, and extractive industries of Florida. The citrus industry especially benefitted, since it was now possible to pick oranges in south Florida; put them on a train heading north; and have fresh fruit arrive in Baltimore, Philadelphia, or New York in less than a week. Swindell was also one of the first advocates for building paved roads in Florida, an important enhancement for Florida agriculture. The need for these hard roads became even more important during the 1920’s. Urban centers would soon be supplied with food.
Swindell’s other great contribution to the Citrus industry came when he introduced the Temple orange, one of the most popular varieties–easy to peel, and sometimes referred to the “zipper skin.”