Big Hopkins Tract is coming potato country, reprint Melbourne Times, March 21, 1918.

Big Hopkins Tract is coming potato country, reprint Melbourne Times, March 21, 1918.

Published Date

  • published 1918

Geographic Term

  • Deer Park.


  • Response to article about Deer Park Proposition, known as Hopkins Tract, in Jacksonville Times-Union. Article from Jacksonville Times-Union is repeated in first column and most of second column. Last two paragraphs in second column and third column are comments from the Melbourne Times article.


Big Hopkins Tract is
Coming Potato Country
Over Six Hundred Acres of "Spuds" Now Growing
Where none grew before ---Thousands of Acres
Being Sold on the Crop Payment Plan
to Farmers ---Not Speculators

[left column]

(Reprint Melbourne Times, March
21, 1918,)

Some time ago the Jacksonville
Times-Union contained an interesting
write up of the Deer Park Proposition,
known in this section of Florida
as the "Hopkins Tract." And in
the main the story told is absolutely
true, with the exception of a slight
mistake in Mr. Hopkins' age. He is
seventy-three years young instead of
eighty years old, as the Times-Union
reporter would have the readers of
that paper believe. Let it be said
also that Mr. Hopkins is a stickler
for the truth which he says is always
good enough, or bad enough-
as the case may be.

Here is what the Times-Union said
several months ago, to which will be
added an account of what has been ac-
complished on the big tract since that

"Youth may be demonstrated at
eighty and a man may prove a community
builder even after he passed
three-score years and ten. George
W. Hopkins, who purchased a large
tract of land located in the western
part of Osceola counties about
seventeen years ago, has performed
this feat.

"For the first time in the history
of Florida, the methods of the Western
railways is being applied to land
development on the Hopkins tract.
Farms of forty acres and preferably
those of one-quarter to a whole section
are available to those who would
become a part of this great development.

"But to begin at the beginning and
tell what has been accomplished and
upon what material this remarkable
work has been wrought it must be
stated that the Hopkins tract contains
approximately 104,000 acres, of which
about 58,000 is timbered with pine and
cypress, and the remainder, or about
46,000 acres is prairie land. The latter
is practically clear, ready for the plow,
except for the hammocks of cabbage
palm and oak, which dot the landscape
here and there giving relief and variety
to the wide expanse and affording
desirable sites for homes and farm
building. The entire area is covered
with a luxuriant growth of wild
grasses and affords excellent grazing
for the herd of some eighteen thousand
native cattle that are maintained
upon it.

"The surface soil is for the most
part a dark-colored sandy loam, well
filled with humus. Along the streams
are beds of well matured, rotted muck
ripe for cultivation of many acres.
The entire area is underlaid with clay,
which in places is mixed with deposits
of shell or marl. This subsoil is
generally found at a depth varying
from two to three feet, but is some
what neared to the surface at places,
and at other places lies deeper. It is
impervious to water, and therefore
the land must be provided with a
drainage system to carry off the surplus
water from the heavy rainfall
occurring at certain seasons of the
year. For this purpose canals having
a width of twelve feet at the top, and
an average depth of about five and
one-half feet, are now being dug.
These canals will traverse the tract
at intervals of one-half mile, and will
afford a drainage outlet for each ten-
acre tract or larger unit. The canals
which have already been dug have an
aggregate length of more than fifty

"To the casual observer, the land
appears perfectly level. There is, however,
an average fall of about two
feet to the mile toward the St. Johns
river which is ample to insure a good
flok [sic] of water in the canals.
"A part of the Hopkins tract lying
from the edge of the marsh on the
east to Deer Park is now being of-

[center column]

fered for sale in forty-acre tracts to
to [sic] a section or more - and near laid
out villages, in smaller tracts if desired
the immediate vicinity of Deer
Park is now being offered for sale in
five and ten-acre lots, and in larger
areas of such size as may be desired.
The area at present open for settlement
contains 18,000 acres, and is
known as Deer Park farm lands. The
land is representative of the Hopkins
tract as a whole, which has already
been described, and includes all three
types, viz: Open prairie, muck beds,
and hammock land; with a considerable
proportion of the latter two. In
some respects Deer Park farm lands
are the most desirable part of the
entire tract, being close to the town
of Deer Park, and being elevated sufficiently
to insure ample drainage.

"Deer Park is located on a ridge
rising about forty-five feet above sea
level or about thirty feet above the
St. Johns river, low water, and fifteen
feet above the upper part of the
prairie, which it faces on the east.
This elevation affords perfect drainage
for surface water, and adds great-
ly to the healthfulness of the location.
Also on account of the elevation
and good drainage, there are
practically no mosquitoes.

"The Kissimmee-Melbourne road, a
branch of the Dixie Highway, forms
the main street of the town (Center
street). The portion of this road which
extends from Kissimmee to Deer Park
and across the Hopkins tract, is now
open to travel, and it is expected that
the portion lying in Brevard county
is open for travel, but not entirely
completed across the St. Johns marsh
towards Melbourne which is eventually
to be hard surfaced. In Osceola
county, reaching two miles east of
Deer Park, the contract is let for a
sand asphalt road. And when connected
up in the near future these
roads will form an important highway
for cross-state travel. The entire
road will be built with hard surface
(sand asphalt in Osceola county
and shell in Brevard county), and
will be an important highway for
cross-state travel.

"When Mr. Hopkins started his development
of this remarkable tract,
he realized the necessity of making
it accessible, so he built his own railroad
from Hopkins Station, on the
Florida East Coast, three-quarters
of a mile south of Melbourne, westward,
a distance of twenty miles to
Deer Park, which is the center of
the tract and development project.

At the present time planters have
700 acres in Irish potatoes and field
crops such as corn and beans and
forage. Two ditching machines are
busily engaged in drainage work,
while the other equipment consists
of seven tractors and other modern

By this time some one will be asking
the question: How much is Hopkins
paying the Times for booming
the sale of his lands? And, so, let
it be said right here that the Times
has been endeavoring to get a photograph
of the man who is doing this
great development work for some
time; but if we are able to secure a
cut to run it in connection with this
article, it will not be through the assistance
of Mr. Hopkins. He is not
a seeker after personal publicity and
he has repeatedly made the statement
that the lands he is now placing on
the market do not require any advertising.
And, so far as the Times is
aware, not an acre of the more than
16,000 acres sold during the past year
and a half has passed into the hands
of a land speculator. George W.
Hopkins is his own land agent. He
shows the land himself, drives his
own car and the land with the crops
growing thereon shows for itself.
But what are the methods of the

[right column]

western railways, now being applied
on the Hopkins, as quoted above?
Farms may be available to those who
would become a part of this great
development, but how? Perhaps the
relating of the following incident will
throw more light on the methods used
by Mr. Hopkins: A man from
the north, who was making an extensive
investigation of general farming
in Florida and who was familiar with
the methods in vogue by the numerous
land companies in the state, accompanied
Mr. Hopkins on a drive
over the tract and talked with a number
of the potato growers-just at
planting time, this was; and the man
became very much impressed with the
proposition. When they got back to
town the man asked Mr. Hopkins
what his price and terms were, and
his answer was, after naming the
price: "There are no terms! You
simply go on the land and go to work.
Pay me out of the potato crops, one-
third of the value until the land is
paid for." Mr. Hopkins figures that
a man who wants a farm badly
enough to get down to business and
work for it is entitled to a chance;
and he is so confident that his land
will make good that he is willing to
back the right kind of men in getting
the right kind of a start. Instead of
demanding a cash payment form buyers
he has in a number of instances
furnished the wherewith to purchase
seed potatoes and the fertilizer, and
in every case he has cut the main
drainage ditches and has drilled an
artesian well on every farm, to be
used in case irrigation is needed to
produce the maximum results. He
has also furnished the lumber and
other material for building the farm
homes and fences, and his judgment
tells him that the land will pay for
all these, providing, of course, that
the farmer will do his part in an intelligent

And now what are the net results
to date of the Hopkins methods of
agricultural development in Florida?
Over 700 acres of Irish potatoes growing
on a dozen or more farms, that
now promise to yield one of the best
crops ever produced in Florida.
Providential interference could, of
course, prevent the maturing of this
crop, but there are no pessimists on
the job. Mr. Hopkins takes no chances
with that kind of a farmer. Today
these potato fields are attracting
many sightseers from this section as
well as many growers from other
parts of the state. In fact, the men
who have the largest fields of potatoes
on the tract have had experience
in the Hastings and Bunnell districts.
W. A. Mack and H. C. Avant each
have ninety acres that are a wonderful
sight, and these men declare that
in all their experience they have never
seen a more promising yield of

Men who arrived on the ground too
late to plant a crop of potatoes this
spring have contracted for land and
are now preparing the soil for crops
of castor beans, and approximately
300 acres of these beans will be plant
ed within the next two weeks. The
farm tractors are kept going from
daylight to dark and the acreage to
be prepared for this and other crops
depends upon the capacity of the
tractors to do the work and at the
rate that land is now being contracted
for it will take a dozen motor
tractors to prepare all of the farms
for next year's crops. Mr. Hopkins
takes his pay for the land and for
other advances made out of one-third
of the potato crop. What the farmer
produces in the way of second
crops, such as corn, hay, etc, to provide
for his stock is a side issue so
far as Mr. Hopkins is concerned-
and he has little use for the man who
will not take advantage of every opportunity
to better his condition. He
believes that responsibilities gravitate
to the shoulders that can bear
them, and that life is too short to
spend much sympathy on the drone.

The great need of Florida today is
more men like George W. Hopkins,
of Hopkins, Florida. Men who are
not content to let their idle lands
wait for the unearned increments, that
will some day encourage idleness on
the part of future generations, but
who want to see things done here
and now-while they are still alive.
Mr. Hopkins has faith in himself and
faith in the Irish potato, the cow
and the hog, as mediums of exchange
for a farm in the Deer Park country.