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PIERCE

Polk Co., FLORIDA

From Mining Town to Ghost Town

CONTRIBUTORS

Original by G. W. Miner, June 15, 2003.

Additional information contributed by Richard Fifer, March 11, 2006

 

(Thank you both for adding to our knowledge base of this

nearly forgotten Florida industry AND ghost town! – GBS)

 

 

Pierce, Florida (four miles South of Mulberry in Polk County on Highway 37) was a mining company town of about 500 people and was my hometown in 1944. My granddaddy ran the general store, my daddy ran the gas station after the war, and other relatives ran the pharmacy, produce section, meat counter, post office, restaurant, etc.

 

In around the early 50's - or maybe a little before - the sewers went bad and the phosphate mine owners decided it was better to abandon the town rather that fix the problem as they owned & operated other mining towns nearby. So Pierce closed down and most of the houses were either razed or moved away to these other towns owned by the mine.  The company was American Agricultural Chemical Co. - which is now IMC Agrico Co.  - the makers of brand name "Agrico" fertilizer.

 

I went there around 1960 and found our home site in the woods - trees were growing up between the brick piers that once supported or house. The fishpond that my daddy built from native lime rock was still there. All the paved streets were still there. You could walk and drive around. Just no houses.  This was surely a ghost town!

 

My mother was born there in 1922 and went to Pierce last year (2002) with her cousin and came back home crying. Most of the town's site (at least where our place was) is now 40 feet under water where yet another phosphate pit now sits. She wishes she had just left it alone as this was very painful.

 

All that really remains there is bittersweet memories for my mom & me.

 

G.W. Miner

 

On March 11, 2006, I got this response to the posting of Pierce…(GBS)

 

Mr. Speck,

Hello. Last night, I came across your website, Ghost Town USA, which I really enjoyed. I was surprised to find a description of Pierce, a ghost town in Polk County. Like the author (Mr. Miner), I was born and raised in Pierce. Both my father and grandfather worked for the American Agricultural Chemical Company, which mined land pebble phosphate throughout "Bone Valley" (so-named because of the many Miocene-era fossils found when excavating the phosphate).

 

Since retiring three years ago, I have been researching the history of the phosphate industry in Florida - the early companies, the industry pioneers, and the many phosphate towns (like Pierce). Land pebble mining started in 1890, and, because of the lack of transportation then, companies would build housing adjacent to their mines. Some of these "towns" (such as Jane Jay, Pebbledale, Tiger Bay, and Christina) disappeared after a few years. However, many of these towns (such as Pierce, Brewster, Nichols, Pembroke, Ridgewood, Coronet, Agricola, San Gully, etc.) endured for decades. Each town was owned and run by the mining company that founded it, with health care, fire protection, and a commissary provided by the company. Initially, this paternalism bordered on peonage, but it moderated over the years.

 

Pierce was founded by Harry L. Pierce in early 1906, when he started the Pierce Phosphate Company. However, later in the same year, Harry sold his company to the American Agricultural Chemical Company (AAC), which began building the town in earnest. The town grew over the years, as AAC expanded their phosphate drying plant there and added a fertilizer plant and phosphorus plant. However, with employees now able to commute to work, AAC tore down the town in May 1954. Vestiges of the town existed until ca. 1994, when IMC-Agrico decided to mine the townsite. Nothing remains at Pierce except the company office of the Mosaic Company, which is the direct descendent of AAC and the Pierce Phosphate Company.

 

I have much more information on Pierce and other mining towns. I also have many photos of these towns, but I'm always looking to add more. I would like to see if G. W. Miner may have any Pierce photos or artifacts. Perhaps you could forward my e-mail to Mr. Miner, and he could then choose to respond or not. Thanks for you help.

 

Richard Fifer

 

(Gary’s note.  I did forward the E-mail, but have not heard if they connected.)

 

·        Latitude:  27.8350279 / 27° 50’ 06” N

·        Longitude: -81.9714734 / 81° 58’ 17” W

·        NW¼ Sec 36, T30S, R23E, TM

 

 

 

This was our Ghost Town of the Month for January 2008

 

 

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FIRST POSTED:  December 12, 2005

LAST UPDATED: December 24, 2011

 

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