Mining for Phosphate
Historical Overview of Boca Grande
Phosphate was discovered in the lower Peace River in 1881. This finding remained unpublicized until 1886 when the news began to spread and a number of quickly formed phosphate companies competed to purchase phosphate-bearing sites.
In the mid 19th century, phosphate was proven to greatly enhance the productivity of farmland. Competition was fierce for access to the rich tracts in the Peace River Basin as the demand in Europe and elsewhere grew. By 1902 the American Agricultural Chemical Company (AACCo), a conglomerate of America’s leading fertilizer manufacturers led by the Bradley’s of Boston, completed the buyout of the Peace River Phosphate Mining Company and became the leading producer of the region.
Phosphate is a product of fossilized animal bones but, predominantly from the accumulation, over millions of years, of the disintegrated remains of animal organisms that lived in the sea. One story tells of prospectors tying their rowboat to what they believed was a tree root only to discover that it was in fact a mastodon’s tusk.
The phosphate was mined out of the river bed, initially with picks and shovels and, later, with suction dredges, then dried and barged down the river to Charlotte Harbor to be loaded onto ships anchored in the deep water just inside Boca Grande Pass off the south end of Gasparilla Island.
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