The Immense Undertakings of the Port Inglis Terminal Company and Its Allies, the Dunnellon Phosphate Company, and Barker Chemical Company on the Withlacoochee River and at Its Mouth
Comparatively few people have any adequate conception of the scope and value of the great improvements that have been made by the above named corporations in the last few years, on the gulf coast and in the wilderness between it and civilization.
It is an oft-told story, how the Dunnellon Company, realizing that the railroads were not only charging unreasonable rates, but were not giving it adequate shipping facilities, set about opening its own way to the markets, and out of this necessity was born the Port Inglis Terminal Company, which has accomplished a ???? that would look ???? in any part of the world, let alone on a lonely coast where a dozen years ago houses could be counted on the fingers of one hand, and a five-ton fishing boat was more important than Mauretania ??w is to New York.
It is the opinion of experts that around the town of Dunnellon there are phosphate deposits that will last for fifty years, and it looks like the Dunnellon Company is building for a half if not a full century to come.
The headquarters of the company are at Rockwell, three quarters of a mile from Dunnellon, and there are its offices, besides a railroad yard and a well-equipped machine shop. Some of the largest phosphate mines are in the immediate vicinity, besides disintegrators, dryers and other apparatus necessary for putting the product in order to ship.
The Standard and Hernando Railroad doesn’t cut any great figure in rational time tables, but it is an important link in the chain of commerce, just the same. It has a good tract and road-bed, better in fact than some of our trunk lines; its engines are large and powerful, andthey haul long, heavy trains. The main line runs from Rockwell to Inglis, nine miles from the gulf.
Inglis a few years ago was an old road with a deserted house and two or three tumble-down outbuildings in it. It is where the works which provided salt for all that section were located during the civil war. The works were not extensive, consisting of some big boilers and some pans, but a large part of the neighboring country were dependent on them for salt for several years. There was also a ferry there, though for years it also had been abandoned. Now, besides the railroad station and yard, one big store and two or three smaller ones, a postoffice, church and a score or more of dwellings, there is the big plant of the Barker Chemical Company, covering several acres and doing good work as any factory of its kind in the world.
At Inglis the phosphate is loaded on barges and sent down the river. It doesn’t take long to load a barge. There is a slip in the bank of the river under the railway track. A barge is pushed into the slip and an engine pulls a train of cars out on the bridge. As each car comes over the barge, it stops, a lever is pulled and the phosphate pours out of the cars through chutes in the sides of the bridge to the boat. It takes twenty or thirty cars to load a barge.
A big drying shed is being erected at Inglis on the bank of the river at the end of the railway. It seems queer to see cement rollers and lamps out in the wilderness, but, is the proper thing to do when practicable.
At Inglis the phosphate is turned over to the Port Inglis Terminal Company. A stern-wheeler tug, which can almost run on a heavy dew, tows the barges down the river half way to the port, and turns them over to the sea-going tugs. A boat drawing eight feet, however, can go to the Inglis wharf. The sea-going tugs of which there are three, take the barges down to the port and to the ships, which lie in their loading berths about eight miles out. It looks to a landsman like the anchorage is entirely exposed and out at sea. Port Inglis, however, is inside of a height or a very wide and the weather in it is seldom rough enough to affect a big ship. The Port Inglis Terminal Company has a derrick boat and several house boats. As soon as a ship ties up to her buoy, the derrick boat or one of the houseboats is fastened alongside and the tugs begins bringing out the barges loaded with rock. The derrick boat has an immense dipper which will lift two or three tons at a time, and will empty a barge in a few hours. The houseboat crews are trained men, and aided by the ships ?onkey engins can load vessels almost as fast as the derrick boat and its huge dipper.
Port Inglis stands on an island in the mouth of Withlacoochee. The original channel to the sea was not a good one, so when the company went to work, it dredged out a creek to the north of the island and made a new channel. As the water inshore was very shallow, a channel had to be cut several miles out.
The island Port Inglis stands on is about a mile long by about a half a mile broad. Seven-eights of it is a marsh. At the northern end is the port with custom house, offices of the company, ship yard and coaling station. The shipyard is well equipped; the company can build and repair all its own vessels, of which it has quite a fleet. There are twenty tugs, steamers and ??????, eleven big barges, three houseboats for stevedores, eight sailing vessels and a dredge.
Port Inglis leads the world in shipping phosphate. Last year there were shipped 183,037 tons, more than Savannah by 10,000 tons, and exceeding Fernandina’s exports by nearly 12,000 tons. The custom house receipts last year were nearly five thousand dollars, all of which was manage fees. There are no imports except coal and pyrites, all of which are for the use of the company.But the day is probably not far off when a big trade in other goods will pass through this channel. All that is needed is cooperation and the building of a few miles of railway, and it will become the place of export and import for three big counties, namely, Levy, Citrus and Marion.
Loading in the pool at Port Inglis at present are four big ships, the smallest of which has the capacity of 1500 tons and the largest about 7000. There have been as many as eight large steamers off the port at one time.
Port Inglis is a pretty and healthy place as well as a busy one. It is entirely surrounded by salt water and there is nearly always a strong sea breeze, which is one of the best tonics in the world for tired bodies and minds. There is never any dust and very little malaria, for a salt marsh and a swamp marsh are no kin to each other.
Mr. Robert A. Alford, who is well known and much liked in Ocala, is collector of the port and superintendent for the company. Mr. Alford is a man of affairs, well versed in business and skilled in more than one trade. He occupies a pleasant cottage on one of the highest parts of the island, and those who partake of his hospitality are fortunate indeed. At present he is rather lonesome, as his wife and daughter are on a visit north.
Mr. C. E. Morris is bookkeeper for the company. He is well known to many Marion county folks, as he ran a steamboat on the upper Withlacoochee for several years. He has a daughter, Miss Ethel, attending the Ocala high school. He is now also on the lonesome list, his wife and younger children being in Georgia for the summer.
Mixon and Vidal run two well appointed and sufficient at Inglis and Port Inglis. Mr. Vidal conducts the Port Inglis store and also carries the mail and passengers between Inglis and the port. A trip on the weirdly beautiful Withlacoochee on his swift launch is an event to remember.
Mrs. J. H. McCormack conducts a big boarding house at Port Inglis. The rooms are clean and airy, the table well supplied and there is a magnificent view of the blue, smiling gulf and the shipping from the spacious verandas of the house.
Miss Carrie Coburn is the postmistress, and is as efficient and accommodating as an official ever gets to be.
Mr. G. A. Layne and his son, Byron, both well known in Ocala, are among the ship yard force, and both are doing well.
W. W. Carlton, who for some time clerked for T. B. Snyder in Ocala, has a position in the store of Mixon and Vidal, at Inglis. “Shorty” has to take only two steps where other folks take three, and can reach a shelf or two higher without a ladder, consequently he is an invaluable clerk. The local girls hope he will stay there until the persimmons get ripe.
Port Inglis has a perfect little gem of a school house. It is probably the best appointed of its size in the state.
There are no animals larger than a dog on the island and no vehicle larger than a wheel barrow. The roads are shell-covered paths, and the travelers thereon are not afflicted with dust or mud.
The bathing around the island isn’t good, owing to the shell bottoms, but the company has equipped its houses with bath tubs and supplys them with plenty of soft water, for which all the year round is best, after all.
The fishing in the waters near the island is superb. It is no trouble for even an amateur to pull in the finny beauties.
Port Inglis is not exactly an Eveless Eden, but the men are in the greatly majority. Almost all the men are employees of the Port Inglis Terminal Company. They are picked men, industrious and hight efficient.
Captain Inglis has a beautiful cottage on the southern end of the island. It is equipped with all modern conveniences and is a palace in miniature. His naptha yacht, Tuna, now out of commission, is an elegant specimen of marine architecture—comfortable, safe and speedy as well as pretty.
Captain Alfred is building a craft that will make a great torpedo boat in case of war. She is sharp enough to shave a dandy, and will make twenty miles an hour.
A man who gets an invitation to spend a day on one of the tug boats, taking barges out to the ships, is in luck, and it is his own fault if he doesn’t have the very best of a time. A tug boat is all business and business all the time and her captain and crew have to be just as proficient in their line as the captain and crew of a Cunard liner have to be in theirs. This rule had no exception on the tug Alexander Wyllie, on board which a member of the Star’s staff made the trip a few days ago.
The tug casts off the dock at the port at the proper stage of the tide, and goes up the river half way to Inglis, taking along an empty barge. At the half-way point she meets the stern-wheeler bringing down a loaded barge, and swaps without any boot. Taking the loaded barge in tow, the tug starts for the sea. The man at the wheel (generally the captain) has no sinecure on this river trip, particularly going up. In the first place, it isn’t child’s play to hold the wheel, and he must know the river and power of his boat to a fraction, for the river is crooked and the tow unwieldy, and a very little error would send one vessel or the other crashing into the bank. Coming down the river is easier, but his watchfulness must not relax until the boats are well out into the bay, clear of the shallow water and reefs. It also requires great skill to lay a loaded barge alongside a steamship when the waves are strong enough to smash a vessel if she hits at the wrong time or place.
A guest on the boat, however, doesn’t have to worry about these things. He is at home: he has the freedom of the boat, and if he doesn’t enjoy himself, it’s his own fault. He can sit on the upper deck and look at the sea and the ships, and the islands in the distance, or if he wants to talk, he can find plenty to talk to. When grub time comes he eats in the galley with the captain and crew. The food is abundant and well cooked and seldom fails to exact justice.
One of the best places on the boat is to sit on the rail by the engine room, watching the green water rush by, and listening to the rhythmic chant of the engines, as with the power of more than twice a hundred horses they push the boat through the waves and pull the unwilling and unwieldy tow along behind. There should always be a note of rest in the voice of the steam engine, for it is the song of a mighty giant, telling of the immense burden he has lifted from the muscles of toiling man.
Captain Joe Crevasse, the skipper of the Wyllie, is a veteran steamboat man, and he says (and he ought to know), that he has a good crew. The engineer (T. J. Levines)is almost a Marion county boy, for his home is at Montbrook, and he passed much time at Martel, in the employ of the Martel Lumber Company. The crew of the Wyllie were slightly grouchy over the fact that they were not on their regular boat, the A. E. Bigelow, which was being repaired, and which they said was a yacht to the Wyllie. The Wyllie, however, seemed to the newspaper man to be a good boat, and Captain Joe said, “She gets there, all the same.”
Source: Ocala Evening Star: 5-12-1908
Submitted by Linda Flowers
Transcribed, Formatted and Submitted by Linda Flowers