In the city of Frostproof, The Friendly City, Latimer Maxcy established one of the largest land holdings in the state with one of the most influential citrus groves and substantial ranches.
Latt, affectionately remembered as such, was born in Columbia, South Carolina on November 7, 1887. His family relocated to Florida in 1895, when shortly thereafter he began working for the phosphate mines earning 35¢ a day. This experience would prove significant for him in training with heavy machinery.By 1904 Latt showed his natural ability for agriculture by observing the strength and endurance of citrus and vegetable crops during an especially harsh winter in Frostproof. He then influenced his father, James Gregg Maxcy, to purchase land near Lake Reedy as prime land for citrus groves. He was blessed with the foresight to pursue land ownership in Frostproof for himself with his personal earnings by 1914. It proved to be a foundational move for the local citrus industry.
In the beginning of his citrus endeavors, Latt’s background in the phosphate mines enabled him to personally and actively be involved in the running of equipment for his packing company. He invested into other local grove holdings, but by 1917 sold his holdings to the Citrus Exchange, now known as Seald Sweet. This was the beginning Frostproof’s first lucrative and successful packinghouses, The Lake Reedy Packing Company, which later became one of the largest.
Through the years Latt’s business grew exponentially and his entrepreneurial talent extended above and beyond citrus. Just shy of a decade after starting the Lake Reedy Packing Company, it was closed in 1925 and Latt Maxcy, Inc. was founded. Then he organized Citizens Bank along with twenty other local businessmen. Around this time he also integrated a citrus canning facility and pulp mill into his packinghouse and revolutionized the industry’s practices. His brands Silver Nip and Golden Nip were trademarks of this canning and bottling improvement that was testified by their supremely fresh quality and flavor.
Latt’s expertise further extended into raising Florida cattle and by 1935 he acquired 80 acres in Osceola County. This site became the location of his ranch and home. He continued to purchase Florida ranchlands and eventually amassed 150,000 acres that stretched from the Kissimmee River just barely to Vero Beach. His influence on cattle ranching was no less influential and beneficial than his contributions to citrus. His expenditures are recognized in the areas of improved cattle production and general ranch management; selective breeding for disease control and resistance; and improved meat quality, from which came new breeds and strains of cattle.
In 1948, Latt founded Florida Citrus Mutual with a handful of local men and served as the first president. He had many other endeavors and accomplishments, such as building a library for the All Saints Academy in Winter Haven; annually granting college scholarships to Polk County students through The Maxcy Foundation; and induction into the Florida Citrus Hall of fame in 1971. On August 2nd of that same year, Latt Maxcy passed away. Truly he was an incomparable man of his time.
His descendants through the Wilson family have made significant contributions to the Latt Maxcy Corporation and the citrus and cattle industries as well. Son-in-law Peyton Wilson lived up to his father-in-law’s standard and pioneered new techniques with their dealings in both citrus and cattle. He was inducted into the Hereford Hall of Fame in 2008. His sons, Latimer and Clayton are continuing the tradition of business ingenuity and agricultural enrichment.
The family’s Island Pond Grove continues to harvest Valencia and Hamlin round oranges; grapefruit and select specialty fruit that are all bottled fresh and processed. Their existing cattle ranches continue raising primarily Herefords and Black Angus.
The preservation of Florida’s citrus and cattle industries is a task that is only achieved through years of dedication and multi-generational involvement. There are a number of central-Florida families that have not only cultivated and nurtured the citrus and cattle industry, but preserved it as a heritage as well. The Maxcy/Wilson’s are such a family. A legacy that is just as exemplary in quality and freshness as the citrus they bottle.
story by J.P. SMITH
photo by Carlton Ward Jr.
Latt Maxcy Corporation Past and Present, courtesy of Latt Maxcy Corporation