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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 LakelandWinter 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 Mulberry 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 were 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 this mulberry tree. In 1886, phosphate rock was discovered in the Peace River, and the dominant logging industry gave way to mining operations. The phosphate industry gave the town stability, leading to Mulberry's incorporation in 1901. In 1910, Mulberry's Masonic lodge was established and remains operational today.
By 1919, many miners had joined the International Union of Mine, Mill, and Smelter Workers. In April of that year, the union called a strike asking for a minimum wage and an eight-hour work day, after which the mining companies brought in strikebreakers from Georgia. Electricity was cut off from both Mulberry and Fort Meade. On the evening of August 21, 1919, four mine guards for the Prairie Pebble Phosphate Company opened fire upon the town in an apparent attempt to break the strike, claiming that a man had shot at the power house in which they were sheltered. During the indiscriminate shooting, two adults were wounded and a two-year-old child was killed after being shot through the heart. Later that night, another black man was killed when the guards continued firing in Mulberry's black neighborhood. The sheriff's investigation found no evidence of a firearm in the accused man's possession nor at the location from which it was claimed he had fired. After quelling the rage of the townspeople, who wanted to attack the power house and mine guards, the sheriff arrested the four mine guards shortly after midnight.
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