Mulberry City Hall
Location in Polk County and the state of Florida
|• Total||6.88 sq mi (17.83 km2)|
|• Land||6.18 sq mi (16.00 km2)|
|• Water||0.71 sq mi (1.83 km2)|
|Elevation||112 ft (34 m)|
|• Estimate (2016)||4,031|
|• Density||652.69/sq mi (252.00/km2)|
|Time zone||UTC-5 (Eastern (EST))|
|• Summer (DST)||UTC-4 (EDT)|
|GNIS feature ID||0287439|
Mulberry is a city in Polk County, Florida, United States. The population was 3,817 at the 2010 census. Mulberry is home to Badcock Home Furniture. It is part of the Lakeland–Winter Haven Metropolitan Statistical Area, with parts of unincorporated Lakeland on its northern boundary. Mulberry is home to the 334 acre Alafia River Reserve.
The first white settlers appeared in the Mulberry area in the 1840s. The first industry in the area was logging the longleaf yellow pine which dominated the area. Eventually the settlement grew to include log homes, stores, and saloons. The nearest sheriff and jail was hours away in Bartow and the town resembled a scene from the Old West as mob rule prevailed. Everyone carried a gun and Monday morning was a busy time for the coroner as he dealt with the victims of Saturday night's "troublemakers."
The town had no official name, but the railroad which came through town stopped at a mulberry tree to let off passengers and drop off the mail. The old mulberry tree became the de facto meeting place in town, and eventually gave the town its name. Several hangings took place from the mulberry tree. In 1886, phosphate rock was discovered in the Peace River, and the dominant industry went from forestry to mining. The phosphate industry gave the town stability and Mulberry was incorporated in 1901. In 1910 Mulberry's Masonic lodge was established and still is around today.
By 1919, many miners had joined the International Union of Mine, Mill, and Smelter Workers. In April, the union called a strike asking for a minimum wage and an eight hour work day. The mining companies brought in scabs from Georgia, and put down the strike by shooting up the town, killing two citizens.
Several black people were lynched in the early 1900s.
- Robert Davis June 27, 1900
- Dan Kennedy May 3, 1903
- Henry Gordon May 20, 1903
- John Bapes August 21, 1906
On August 19, 1919, Prairie Pebble Mine guards shot and killed two black citizens, including a two year old boy.
Geography and climate
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 3.2 square miles (8.3 km²), of which 3.1 square miles (8.0 km²) is land and 0.1 square mile (0.4 km²) (4.36%) is water.
|U.S. Decennial Census|
As of the census of 2000, there were 3,230 people, 1,328 households, and 925 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,053.3 inhabitants per square mile (406.2/km²). There were 1,611 housing units at an average density of 525.3 per square mile (202.6/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 76.5% White, 20.0% African American, 0.2% Native American, 0.3% Asian, 1.7% other races, and 1.3% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 4.4% of the population.
There were 1,328 households out of which 25.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 50.0% were married couples living together, 15.6% had a female householder with no husband present, and 30.3% were non-families. 25.5% of all households were made up of individuals and 14.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.43 and the average family size was 2.87.
In the city, the population was spread out with 23.3% under the age of 18, 7.6% from 18 to 24, 22.3% from 25 to 44, 21.1% from 45 to 64, and 25.7% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 42 years. For every 100 females, there were 92.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 88.9 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $28,247, and the median income for a family was $28,860. Males had a median income of $29,417 versus $20,965 for females. The per capita income for the city was $14,828. About 14.7% of families and 16.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 32.2% of those under age 18 and 9.4% of those age 65 or over.
The economy of Mulberry is dominated by phosphate mining. The Bone Valley is the world's most productive phosphate rock mining area in the world. According to the Chamber of Commerce, Mulberry is the "Official Phosphate Capitol of the World." The Mosaic Company operates the Nichols mine approximately two miles east of town. Mulberry is the home of Badcock Home Furniture, whose first store was opened in Mulberry in 1904 and which now extends to 365 stores throughout the southeast United States.
- State Road 37, which leads due north to Lakeland and south toward Bradley Junction
- State Road 60, leading west toward Brandon and east toward Bartow and Lake Wales
Public schools in Mulberry are operated by the Polk County School Board. The three elementary schools in the area are Kingsford, Purcell, and Sikes. Mulberry Middle and Mulberry High round out the educational system in Mulberry. Mulberry Christian Academy is a private elementary school where financial aid is available to families who qualify.
On June 15, 1994, a sinkhole appeared in a toxic waste disposal pond near the city of Mulberry. Phosphogypsum, the byproduct of the phosphate fertilizer industry, is highly toxic and mildly radioactive. The 110 feet diameter and 200 feet deep sinkhole dumped this toxin into subterranean caves that lead to the Floridan Aquifer. Drinking water for over ten million Florida residents comes from this aquifer. The company mining the phosphate, IMC-Agrico, now a part of The Mosaic Company, started the sinkhole remediation process immediately. It has spent over $6 million trying to repair the damage to the Florida water supply. 
On August 27, 2016, the Mosaic Company discovered a giant sinkhole under a gypsum stack. Over 200 million gallons of water contaminated with phosphogypsum disappeared into its 45-foot wide maw.
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- "Regional Assessment of Groundwater Quality in the Floridan, Biscayne, and Surficial Aquifer Systems". Retrieved 12 May 2016.
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- Lush, Tamara and Jason Dearen, "Neighbors anxious after Florida sinkhole contaminates water," Associated Press in the Orlando Sentinel, 29 Sept. 2016. Retrieved 29 Sept. 2016.
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