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Friday, August 05, 2011

Citrus Industry in Sanford, Florida, 25 Swedes Hired 1871

What Was Turmoil In The Groves

February 14, 1988|By James C. Clark of the Sentinel Staff
When the Florida citrus industry started in Sanford more than a century ago, finding laborers was a problem. Henry Sanford, the father of the modern citrus industry, first hired white residents, but soon dismissed them for failing to do the work correctly.
Next, Sanford hired black workers, who did good work, but were soon threatened by the fired whites. At one point, the whites attacked the blacks. The black workers left town.
Henry Sanford decided to try foreign labor. He hired 25 Swedish workers and brought them to Florida. The Swedes were to work for Sanford in exchange for their transportation from Europe, room and board, and a small salary.

The Swedes began arriving in 1871. There were 21 men and four women.
Almost from the start, there were problems. Florida's climate was radically different from Sweden's, and the Swedes were used to working inside. There was not enough work for some of the immigrants, especially the women. Some of the workers attempted to flee to Jacksonville. Three Swedes did make their escape, but were returned.
A second group of Swedes arrived in 1872, and caused even more problems. It was difficult to get them to work, even with encouragements such as extra food. They informed their bosses that in Sweden, Christmas was a three-day holiday and they expected to have the same holiday in the United States.
When their contract expired, those who had worked received 5-acre tracts near Sanford.
Henry Sanford gave up on immigrant labor and again hired blacks. And again there was violence as whites tried to force blacks from the groves. But eventually the attacks subsided.
The Swedes who remained in the area? They founded a town 3 miles west of Sanford and named it New Upsala.  

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