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The Uncovering of a Jacksonville Slaughterhouse

When one hears the term "Stockyards," Jacksonville may be the last city to come to mind. However, it played a major role in the expansion of the American meat packing industry a century ago. Today, Metro Jacksonville's Ennis Davis takes a look into the history of a forgotten Jacksonville industrial site still standing five decades after its closure: The Beaver Street Stock Yards and Farris & Company Meat Packers slaughterhouse.

Published May 31, 2012 in History      19 Comments    Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article


Establishing the Meat Packing Industry in Jacksonville

The Armour & Company slaughterhouse on Talleyrand in 1917. Image courtesy of Florida State Archives.

The meat packing industry is well known for its impact on the American Midwest.  In cities like Fort Worth, TX, industry lore has transformed early 20 century plants into national attractions.  In others, like Jacksonville, the story and impact on today's society has been lost.

According to page 707 of the January 30, 1919 Government Control of Meat-Packing Industry, a Google Books document, Armour & Company's decision to establish a packing house in Jacksonville resulted in the increased production of cattle in Florida and the Southeastern United States.

Mr. Hamilton: I must hurry along.  Mr. Armour, in a very interesting way you told the committee on yesterday about opening up southeastern stock-growing advantages by the establishment of a packing house at Jacksonville, FL and that placed upon the market by your means of distribution a large amount of meat food, did it not?

Mr. J. Ogden Armour: Yes; in Florida.

Mr. Hamilton: Well, in the southeast section of the country?

Mr. Armour: Yes, sir.

Mr. Parker of New Jersey: Let the witness finish his answers every time.

Mr. Hamilton: He did finish, as I thought.  Go ahead if you did not Mr. Armour.

Mr. Parker of New Jersey: That meat in Jacksonville is consumed either in the State of Florida or in the States right adjacent to Florida.

Mr. Hamilton: It has also caused a production of cattle there, hasn't it?

Mr. Armour: Yes, sir; it is also produced in Florida.  Formerly there was no live stock to any amount produced in Florida, nor in the South, but now they have gone into the raising of live stock down there.  It is entirely new event for them.  Do you want the history of the Jacksonville work?

Mr. Hamilton: No.

Mr. Armour: All right, then, I am through.

Amour & Company was a slaughterhouse and meatpacking company founded in Chicago, Illinois in 1867 by the Armour brothers. By 1880, the company was Chicago's most important business and helped make the city and its Union Stock Yards the center of the American meatpacking industry.

1910 image of Chicago Armour slaughterhouse courtesy of wikipedia at:

In the midst of a cattle shortage, Florida jumped on Armour's radar in 1912 when the company was offered 5,000 heads of grass cattle in Kissimmee.  After purchasing the cattle and shipping it to St. Louis, Armour sent representatives to scout the area and found prospects for beef production so good that they considered locating a plant in the state.  Once this became known, prominent businessmen of Jacksonville reached out and urged Armour to erect a plant at Jacksonville.  To insure a regular supply of live stock for the plant, Armour established a Interstate Stockyards near the Talleyrand slaughterhouse in 1916.  By 1919, the Armour owned Jacksonville plant was the only meat packing plant constructed by the "Big Five" in the Southeastern United States.  At the time, the big five were Omaha's Cudahy Meatpacking and Chicago-based Armour, Swift & Company, Morris & Company and Wilson & Company.

Although Armour's plant would cease to exist by the mid-20th century, another Armour link remains in Jacksonville today.  Armour established the Armour Refrigerator Line in 1883 in order to compete with rivals George Hammond (Detroit-based Hammond Company) and Gustavus Swift (Swift & Company).  By 1900, the Armour had the largest private refrigerator car fleet in America.  In 1919, the Federal Trade Commission ordered the company's sale for anti-trust reasons.  That entity became known as Fruit Growers Express (FGE), with its major repair shops at Jacksonville and Alexandria, VA.  Today, FGE is controlled by CSX.

Image courtesy of wikipedia at:

List of American Stock Yards in 1919

Bourbon Stock Yards Company - Louisville, KY

Brighton Stock Yards Company - Brighton, MA

Chicago Stock Yards Company - Chicago, IL

Cleveland Union Stock Yards Company - Cleveland, OH

Central Union Stock Yards Company - New Orleans, LA

Denver Union Stock Yards Company - Denver, CO

Dallas Union Stock Yards Company - Dallas, TX

El Paso Union Stock Yards - El Paso, TX

Fort Worth Stock Yards - Fort Worth, TX

Independent Union Stock Yards - St. Louis, MO

Interstate Stock Yards - Jacksonville, FL

Jersey City Stock Yards Company - Jersey City, NJ

Kansas City Stock Yards Company - Kansas City, MO

Laramie Stock Yards Company - Laramie, WY

Milwaukee Stock Yards - Milwaukee, WI

Nebraska City Union Stock Yards - Nebraska City, NE

Newark Stock Yards - Newark, NJ

New York Stock Yards - New York City, NY

Oklahoma National Stock Yards

Pittsburgh Union Stock Yards - Pittsburgh, PA

Portland Union Stock Yards - Portland,OR

St. Joseph Stock Yards - St. Joseph, MO

St. Louis National Stock Yards - St. Louis, MO

St. Paul Union Stock Yards Company - St. Paul, MN

Sioux City Stock Yards Company

South San Francisco Stock Yards

Salt Lake City Stock Yards

Union Stock Yards - Baltimore, MD

Union Stock Yards - Lincoln, Burnham, NE

Union Stock Yards - Omaha, NE

West Philadelphia Stock Yards - Philadelphia, PA

Wichita Union Stock Yards - Wichita, KS
Source: Government Control of Meat-Packing Industry

Farris & Company

Two butchers carving a cow between 1900 and 1915.  Image courtesy of Florida State Archives.

The story of Farris & Company starts with Najeeb Easa Farris, a Syrian immigrant who was born on April 6, 1883.  According to Immigrant Jacksonville: A Profile of Immigrant Groups in Jacksonville, FL, 1890-1920, a UNF Digital Commons document, During the turn of the 20th century, Syrian immigrants in Jacksonville typically owned businesses selling produce, dry goods, and groceries.  Adult members of the family worked with relatives until they could start their own establishments.  In 1910, Najeeb Farris and his wife Eva owned the Farris & Company dry goods store at 410 Davis Street in LaVilla.  By 1920, Syrians had become the fifth largest foreign born group in Jacksonville behind immigrants from England, Russia, Germany, and Canada.  This document goes on to state that Syrians were especially proud of their accomplishments because of the prejudice they encountered when they settled in Jacksonville.  Because most of the Syrian immigrants were Catholics, they were especially visible as targets of both racial and religious prejudice in a city that had become a center of anti-Catholic agitation between 1910 and 1917.

View looking down Beaver Street from the King Street intersection in 1953.  The perimeter of what was the Beaver Street stockyards can be seen on the right.  The Farris & Company slaughterhouse was constructed at the rear of this property in 1921.  Image courtesy of Florida State Archives

1925 Sanborn Map illustrating the stock yards and adjacent Farris & Company meat packing plant.

By 1920, Frank E. Dennis had established the National Stockyard at the intersection of Enterprise (Beaver) and King Streets, just west of Jacksonville.  This stockyard was constructed for the proper receipt and handling of cattle coming to the local market.  In 1921, Najeeb Farris established an adjacent meatpacking plant for beef production.  According to POWER, Volume 53, Issue 12 (3/22/1921), Farris' 4-story slaughterhouse was estimated to cost $50,000 to construct.  1925 Sanborn Maps at the Main Public Library's Special Collections illustrate a fire-proof structure with brick and tile walls, a roof and floors made of reinforced concrete.  A rail siding entered the property from the west to deliver shipments of live stock to the slaughterhouse's cattle pens.

1925 Sanborn Map illustrating Farris & Company.

1960 aerial of live stock yard and slaughterhouse site on West Beaver Street.

Najeeb Farris was the company's president.  Richard Farris was the vice president and Seabert Farris the secretary.  City Directories at the Main Public Library's Special Collections Department indicate all lived with their wives at 239 West 3rd Street in Springfield.  This residences was adjacent to the Dr. Horace Drew Residence overlooking Klutho Park and the downtown skyline.  It was demolished during the late 1960s for a parking lot.

Site of Najeeb Farris' Springfield home overlooking Klutho Park.

Running a Google search on the term "Farris and Company" identified a summary of a November 16, 1933 Supreme Court of Florida case at Find A Case.

This case, involving C.R. Duffin v. W.A. Tucker, provides additional insight into the company's operation and business model. In this particular dispute, it was revealed that C.R. Duffin was a traveling salesman employed by Farris & Company, a Florida corporation with headquarters in Jacksonville, FL, which said concern is in the wholesale meat packing and meat produce business.  Products produced and sold by Farris & Company included neck-bones, beef liver, pig tails, baloney, ribs, white bacon and Florida smoke bacon.

The document also states that drivers of refrigerated trucks owned and operated by Farris were sent to various cities accompanied by salesmen.  The salesman's role was to take orders for delivery of goods at a future date, while the driver delivered the goods ordered during previous trips.  Sales were only made to retail merchants and never to the individual consumer. With this business model, goods left the Jacksonville plant by refrigerated truck and were delivered to the refrigerator of the merchant, being out of refrigeration only a few minutes at a time.  Prior to this business model, shipment by express or other common carriers resulted in, goods becoming warm, mellow, and exposed to innumerable flies, dirt and other contaminating influences.

City Directories last list Farris and Company in 1958.  At time Najeeb was the president, Sam Farris the vice president and Julia Brown the company's secretary.  When the site's meat packing days ended, the property was taken over and operated as a cold storage warehouse for N.G. Wade Investment Company.  A Google search on N.G. Wade results in the obituary of Neill Gillespie Wade III, who passed on March 24, 2004 in Folkston, GA.  It states that the company was founded by his father Neil Gillespie Wade, Jr.  Neil Gillespie was born March 03, 1886 in Cumberland County, NC, died October 31, 1950 and was buried in Oaklawn Cemetary in Jacksonville, FL.  His company, N.G. Wade Investment Company still exists today and is located at 569 Edgewood Avenue South.

Today, the meatpacking industry is the largest manufacturing industry in rural America. Meat production in the 1960s and 1970s shifted from urban to rural areas, where large plants often operate two shifts in places with many animals and few residents.  It remains one of the most dangerous manufacturing jobs in the country with common injuries that include muscular trauma, repetitive motion disease, cuts, and strains.

Since 2001, the site has been used as the home location of Lockwood Quality Demolition, Inc.  However, the 91-year old slaughterhouse that Najeeb Farris constructed quietly remains standing as a memory of Jacksonville's days as an urban meatpacking center.

Article by Ennis Davis



May 31, 2012, 04:01:58 AM
Another piece of Jacksonville history. I'll be driving by that location soon and will stop and just think of the vibrancy that once surrounded that location. Thanks again Ennis.


May 31, 2012, 07:55:24 AM
Great stuff Ennis. Really love learning more about the city.


May 31, 2012, 08:34:50 AM
Awesome article. Good work, lake.


May 31, 2012, 09:33:54 AM
Hanging out around the stockyards will certainly clear your sinuses. Our paper mills smelled like rotten eggs, but stockyards smell like... well... you know.


May 31, 2012, 11:49:20 AM
Jacksonville, City of Lost Smells............................


June 01, 2012, 11:54:08 AM
I've always wondered what that building was.  Now I know. Kind of a foreboding place from the road.  I guess for good reason. Thanks for the story!


August 19, 2012, 11:35:14 AM
From my understanding and memories.... my father, Emmett Farris, was the President for the final years. My great uncle Najeeb had passed on. I was a young child, and remembering my father getting a phone call that a fire had broke out in the building. It was found that someone had tried to break into the onsite safe. They were unsuccessful in looting the safe, but the fire destroyed the offices and other parts of the interior. All the meats were ruined. We were unable to fulfill our contracts with Armour and Hormel, and were forced to close the business. I believe that was in 1965. Again, this is from memory. I reserve the right to be inaccurate.


August 19, 2012, 02:58:04 PM
^Welcome to Metro Jacksonville and thank you for sharing your memories.  Do you remember how may people were employed there at the time?


January 05, 2014, 03:35:54 PM
We had a family gathering yesterday, and the topic of this article came up. I do not know how many employees total there were. I do know that there were a number of family members that worked there, and we had a very large family. I do know of at least  8-10 family members, and in addition there were butchers, warehouse personnel, truck drivers and others. At one time, Farris and Company (or a subsidiary, Farris Brothers Meat) had a plant in Jacksonville, another in Tampa and a third in Miami. Overall, I have no clue of how many employees there were in total.


January 06, 2014, 08:33:52 AM
Read the article again and this sentence caught my eye... anyone know anything about this?

Because most of the Syrian immigrants were Catholics, they were especially visible as targets of both racial and religious prejudice in a city that had become a center of anti-Catholic agitation between 1910 and 1917.


January 06, 2014, 08:52:58 AM
National anti catholic fever had commenced a few years earlier, and Jacksonville had been going against the rest of the grain of the state because of its acceptance of the catholic groups here in town.

The Catholic Church here had been beloved as a result of two major instances.  One, the selfless service of the nuns of St. Joseph's who knowingly went to their deaths in order to minister to the sick and dying during the Yellow Fever epidemic, and then the miraculous seeming way in which the statue of Mary remained unscathed during the Great Fire of 1901.  Bishop Kinney personally came and aided the hurt and homeless regardless of their faith and provided shelter to all who came.

When he was replaced by Bishop Curle, the nuns of the area continued their mission of teaching all children, no matter what color or nationality, and defied the statewide ban against white women teaching children of color, and the Governor sent in State Troops to manhandle and arrest the nuns.

During this time, the great park system downtown had been called Dignan Park after the notably catholic Postmaster, Peter Dignan.

When the uproar over Jacksonville's refusal to stop teaching black and cuban children erupted, it coincided with two things:  The re emergence of the anti catholic KKK, and the Confederate Veteran's March in Jville.

The Park was stripped of its "Catholic" name, (Dignan) and renamed Confederate Park, and the state watched angrily as Bishop Curle took the religious right to teach all children---no matter what color--- to the Supreme Court, where he prevailed.

During the entire thing there was more statewide contempt for Jacksonville's 'liberal' ways, and it became a target.


January 06, 2014, 08:57:48 AM
Apparently Mr Claude L'Engle had a part in fomenting the agitation...


January 06, 2014, 09:04:04 AM
Apparently Mr Claude L'Engle had a part in fomenting the agitation...

He did,  He was the editor of the Metropolis, and was the leading 'principled opposition' in the city.

reading his old editorials is very wince worthy.

L'Engle was from the most cultured and respected family in the city, and he was a Fatio to boot.  His sisters started the Friday Musicale, and his cousin went on to help found Theatre Jacksonville, his neice was Madeleine L'Engle, the author of A Wrinkle in TIme.

But he was part of the new revisionist south, and a supporter of southern 'purity'.

He bought into the mythos created by The Clansman (later to be made into the blockbuster movie, Birth of a Nation) hook line and sinker.

He railed against blacks, jews, and catholics in an unsettlingly earnest and reasonable sounding way.

You can find old copies of his newspaper in the Florida Room in the Downtown Library.


January 06, 2014, 09:07:29 AM
Very interesting. We rarely hear that version of why Dignan Park was renamed Confederate Park. All of this also coincides with the era where many of our early 20th century black progressives started heading North and many of the movie companies beginning to expand west. This period also saw the Florida State Senate pass a bill prohibiting all racetrack gambling, leading the the closure of Moncrief Park (the Belmont of the South). One can't help but wonder what Jacksonville would resemble today if that one decade was handled differently from a cultural/social standpoint locally.


January 06, 2014, 09:12:20 AM
apparently a newspaper called "Dixie" also...  From Wiki...

Claude L'Engle (October 19, 1868 - November 6, 1919) was a United States Representative from Florida. He was born in Jacksonville, Florida where he attended the public schools and Duval High School. He engaged in mercantile pursuits and later became the editor and publisher of Dixie, a weekly newspaper.
L'Engle was elected as a Democrat to the Sixty-third Congress (March 4, 1913-March 3, 1915) but was an unsuccessful candidate for renomination in 1914 to the Sixty-fourth Congress. After leaving Congress, he again engaged in journalism. He died in Jacksonville, Florida in 1919 and was buried in Evergreen Cemetery.

A slaveholder as well...


John Claudius L'Engle (1800-1864) was a lawyer, slaveholder, and well- known resident of Jacksonville, Florida. In 1830 L'Engle married Susan Philippa Fatio (1806-1895) from the prominent Fatio family. They had eleven children including Edward McCrady, a Confederate Captain, and Francis Philip, father of Claude L'Engle, a newspaper muckraker and U.S. House Representative.

With his eldest son Francis, also a lawyer, John L'Engle founded L'Engle and Son. L'Engle involved Francis in his business deals, and kept notes on Francis' many business transactions.

L'Engle kept sporadic accounts on food, and, less often, on household goods he purchased. He wrote more detailed notes on larger transactions and what he owed and was owed, often trading in bonds, notes, and sometimes railroad bonds. As well as being a lawyer and businessman, L'Engle planted crops and owned property which he refers to as "2 lots" and "100 acres." In addition he bought and sold many properties.

Collection Scope and Content Note

In this small 86-page account book, John Claudius L'Engle recorded many of his business transactions from 1858 until his death in late 1864. The first 27 pages of this book are filled with detailed accounts of transactions, many written in paragraph form. Mostly these pages concern lending and borrowing money, occasionally through his business, L'Engle and Son. Often these transactions involved his oldest son Frank. At least one claim against L'Engle is listed, and a few pages concern food he or Frank bought. One page lists house hold goods. L'Engle owned 15 or 16 slaves in 1860 and 1861, five of which he refers to by name as Simon, Harry, Adam, Mooser, and Clarissa. Six pages are records of renting out these slaves including information on who rented the slaves, how long they were rented, and what was paid. He only once mentions selling a slave, when in 1859 he records that he"sold Jim for $150 cash." After a gap of 20 blank pages, two pages record crops planted in 1859, including sweet potatoes, okra, corn, and "Irish potatoes."
L'Engle also wrote from the back of the book starting with seven pages of line accounts, then three pages which included a paid account, the wages paid to a hired worker, and more details about lending out his slaves.


January 06, 2014, 09:16:35 AM
two different L'Engles, Bridge Troll.

Dixie was the school newspaper for Duval High, and I think there are a few copies of the paper in the library as well.  Some fairly terrible poetry of the era abounds, but still surprisingly informative.

Both the L'Engles and the Fatios had been slave owning plantation families.


January 06, 2014, 09:19:34 AM
two different L'Engles, Bridge Troll.

Dixie was the school newspaper for Duval High, and I think there are a few copies of the paper in the library as well.  Some fairly terrible poetry of the era abounds, but still surprisingly informative.

Both the L'Engles and the Fatios had been slave owning plantation families.

ah... I see... John Claudius vs Claude

John Claudius L'Engle (1800-1864) was a lawyer, slaveholder, and well- known resident of Jacksonville, Florida. In 1830 L'Engle married Susan Philippa Fatio (1806-1895) from the prominent Fatio family. They had eleven children including Edward McCrady, a Confederate Captain, and Francis Philip, father of Claude L'Engle, a newspaper muckraker and U.S. House Representative.


January 06, 2014, 09:20:07 AM
Did Claude respect for Francis F. L'Engle for establishing LaVilla?


January 06, 2014, 09:22:22 AM
Did Claude respect for Francis F. L'Engle for establishing LaVilla?

He was a bit out of step with the rest of his family.  He was kind of like that uncle whose always trying to convince you that Sharia Law is just around the corner, and 'they' are sneaking it in with the mexicans over the border.

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