A federal surveyor, Francis Le Baron found phosphate in 1881 along the Peace River upstream. He was unsuccessful getting investors up north. George Washington Scott with others secretly started to buy up properties on the Peace River. They opened the first mining company the Arcadia Phosphate Company in 1887. More than 200 companies soon followed
Further north in Marion County, banker John Dunn of Ocala, a chemist and rebel speculator Alburtus Vogt discovered phosphate on Vogt's property Renfro Springs in Dunnellon. In no time at all, speculators, out to make a quick buck were buying up cheap land and prospecting for phosphate ( gray gold)
Mining labor was in short supply. There were no housing, schools, churches, law enforcement, courts. It was the wild west. Lynchings were commonplace, so too were gunfights and brawls. For a time, the Dunnellon mines took advantage of Florida's cruel convict labor system, a new form of slavery in Florida that lasted to 1923.