The history and culture of Jensen Beach in the 19th century revolves around pineapple farming. In 1879, Captain Thomas E. Richards homesteaded acreage on the west bank of the Indian River which he named Eden. After sailing to the Keys for pineapple slips, he planted most of them on Hutchinson Island, with a few around his home on the mainland. Those on the island died or were eaten by bears, but those near his home prospered. John Laurence Jensen immigrated from Denmark and lived in West Virginia before coming to Florida. In November 1881, he qualified for a Homestead Certificate, giving him the right to settle on this land which today bears his name. Of course, he and other newcomers cleared the land for pineapple planting, reportedly with the help of Indians and Bahamian laborers.
By 1891, Captain Richards had the largest pineapple plantation on the Indian River. The fruit was packed in barrels or boxes at the plantations packing house, loaded onto riverboats, and transported to Titusville, the southern terminus of the railroad. In 1894, Flagler’s East Coast Railroad reached this area and growers loaded fruit directly onto the freight cars. In 1895, Jensen was called the “Pineapple Capital of the World,” shipping out 1,000,000 boxed of pineapples mostly in June and July. A pineapple canning factory was opened where fancy pineapples were put up in two-quart mason jars. Captain Richards produced and bottled a “pineapple digestive” to help relieve indigestion.
Eventually, along the sandy ridge from Sewall’s Point northward almost to present day Vero Beach, pineapples covered the cultivated earth. A hard freeze in 1895 devastated most of the small pineapple plantations. Also, two fires, 1908 and 1910, destroyed most of Jensen Beach and its remaining Pineapple farms. The industry finally collapsed in 1920 due to a wide variety of financial and agriculture problems. Growers decided to turn their efforts in another direction: raising citrus. The pineapple has become a symbol of Jensen Beach. The fruit legacy is celebrated annually during the Jensen Beach Pineapple Festival.