Reverend Putnam Peter Bishop (1823-1896)
Bishop moved to Jacksonville in 1870 and served as a missionary for the American Baptist Home Missionary Society and established the first school in Florida for black preachers and teachers. Bishop and a brother organized the brand of Bishop, Hoyt & Company with Judge James H. Hoyt and his holdings at Citra, San Mateo, and Lake Panasoffkee soon became the largest in the state of Florida. He is also credited as the father of the Pineapple orange.
American Baptist Missionary Society
Bishop, Hoyt, & Company
Florida Fruit Growers Association
Reverend Putnam Peter Bishop was born in Panton, Vermont on March 2, 1823. He studied law with his brother, Judge Jesse P. Bishop, in Cleveland, Ohio. He eventually opened his own practice in St. Paul, Minnesota, after being admitted to the bar.
He later entered the Theological Seminary at Hamilton, New York, and was ordained in 1858. Soon thereafter, he married Sophia M. Lathrop, the principal of a girls’ academy, and the granddaughter of Judge Elisha Payne, one of the founders of what is now the Colgate University.
He became pastor of the First Baptist Church of Auburn, New York in 1861. He remained there for eight years before and in 1861 asked for a leave of absence to enlist in the Civil War, but poor health prevented him from entering military service and ultimately forced him to seek a warmer climate in 1868. Bishop relocated to Jacksonville in 1870 and served as a missionary for the American Baptist Home Missionary Society. While in Jacksonville, Bishop established the first school in Florida for black preachers and teachers. In 1870-71 he presided as the president of the first Florida Baptist Convention. In 1872 he founded the settlement of San Mateo on the St. Johns River between Jacksonville and Palatka.
James A. Harris wrote that many people called Bishop “the crazy orange preacher, because he talked so much about orange growing and claimed it would be the coming industry of Florida.” Harris helped Bishop further that claim by selling him 200 acres of wild orange trees along the south shore of Orange Lake, near the community of Citra. In 1876 Bishop and Harris began developing a railroad spur with the former Florida Railroad line, clearing a right-of-way between Hawthorne and Citra. (Prior to that time, citrus had been shipped by “team” to Iola on the Ocklawaha River, which was 12 miles away, and then by steamboat to Palatka and Jacksonville). In 1880, the first train arrived in Citra and was met by all 250 members of the community.
By that time Bishop and a brother had organized the brand of Bishop, Hoyt & Company with Judge James H. Hoyt. Bishop became the resident general manager. The original groves were located in Citra. By 1874 bishop had 80 acres planted and is credited with being the first to put into practice the idea of budding wild orange trees and converting them into groves. Bishop used the 18-inch gauge tram railway system to transport muck from Orange Lake to his Citra groves to help with re-planting and irrigation. While developing the Citra property, he was a guest of Dr. Parson Owens and purchased cuttings from him for grafting with his own citrus. He cultivated, packed and marketed it as the Pineapple orange under the label Bishop Hoyt Fruit Co. and it commanded the highest prices ever paid for oranges at the time.
Eventually his citrus holdings at Citra, San Mateo, and Lake Panasoffkee became the largest in the state of Florida. He is also credited as the father of the Pineapple orange.
He was a founder and first president of the Florida Fruit Growers’ Association in 1874, which was formed to help sell the increasingly abundant citrus crops. The Association was the forerunner of the Florida Citrus Exchange, and eventually known as SealdSweet Growers. In 1894 approximately half a million boxes of fruit were shipped from the Citra area. It became the largest shipping point for citrus shipping in the world during 1892 to 1894, accounting for approximately 20% of the entire state’s crop.
Numerous developments were made in the cultivation, picking, sizing, packing and marketing of citrus at Bishop’s groves. This included the invention of the Stevens sizer by one of his employees, H.B. Stevens. Other innovations, in 1885, included clippers and sprinkler irrigation.
Bishop’s contributions to his adopted state extended into politics. In 1877 he represented Putnam County as a member of the Florida House of Representatives. He also served as one of the original trustees of Deland College, later known as Stetson University. Bishop was 70 when the freeze of 1894 wiped out his holdings and his entire fortune was lost in a single night. He died two years later. The Crosby-Wartmann partnership purchased the Bishop-Hoyt groves after his death and marketed the fruit under the old Bishop-Hoyt name.
Primary Researcher: William G. Crawford, Jr., Esq.