A Brief History of Mulberry's Phosphate Industry

Thursday March 4, 2021 comments Tags: phosphate mining, phosphate industry


Did you know that Mulberry is actually the phosphate capital of the world? Phosphate is integral to the history of our city.


The history of Mulberry, like many cities in the US, dates back to the invention of the railroad and the industrial revolution. Long before this time, it was widely known that phosphorus was essential to the production of fertilizer, and it was extracted from bone black and bird guano. Around the time of the industrial revolution, it was discovered that phosphorite, or phosphate rock, was an even richer source of phosphorus.


This specific form of Phosphorus was found in a chain of Central Florida towns called the “Bone Valley” in 1890. This area was rich with the natural resource and was already connected by a railway, originally intended to transport lumber.


There was a train station in the heart of the Bone Valley, that soon became the single most significant hub for phosphate in the entire country. The most distinctive feature of this railway station was that it rested beneath the shade of a single mulberry tree. Naturally, as the phosphate mining hub blossomed into a city, it was christened as Mulberry. 


Soon after the city’s founding, it had become the fifth largest voter region in Polk county. Several successful businesses like the W.S. Badcock Corporation came out of the city, but none more significant than the booming phosphate mining industry. 


Many other related industries have sprung up out of phosphate mining to support it. For example, aggregate transportation vehicles can be spotted all over the highways of Central Florida. Once Mulberry was home to a railway junction for loading and unloading phosphate hauls, it is now home to Trans-Phos, the bulk transportation company that is proud to transport phosphate all over the country.

The phosphate industry is still a major player in Florida’s economy. Mining companies like Mosaic excavate the phosphite, hauling companies like Trans-Phos transport it, fertilizer manufacturers like Diamond R process it, retailers like Harrell’s sell that fertilizer to golf courses, and tourists from all over the country travel to Florida to play on our golf courses!


If you’ve ever asked yourself why Mulberry is called Mulberry, or driven by those big dirt hills and thought to yourself “I wonder what those big piles of dirt are…”, now you know! Those big piles of dirt are what transformed Mulberry from a few houses and a tree to a booming mine town!


The Mulberry Tree survived until the 1960’s.


Source: A Brief History of Mulberry, Florida By Richard A. Fifer Mulberry Historical Society