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Sugar baron got start in Tampa

Besides a Tampa street, Alonzo Charles Clewis gave his name to a town near Lake Okeechobee.

By MICHAEL CANNING, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published November 1, 2002


A very short residential street in Bayshore Gardens might seem like an insubstantial tribute to Alonzo Charles Clewis. But don't worry. "America's Sweetest Town" is also named after him.

Clewis, son of a Georgia plantation owner, arrived in Tampa in 1888 to work for the Hillsboro Loan and Abstract Co. Within a few years, he had established the A.C. Clewis Fire Insurance Agency. He also bought two firms that would eventually be known as the Tampa Abstract and Title Insurance Co., which he ran for 30 years.

Clewis also organized the Tampa Building and Loan Association. In 1914, it became the First Savings and Trust Co. of Tampa, which Clewis presided over until his death in 1944. He was involved with Exchange National Bank, Bank of West Tampa, Bank of Clearwater and Bank of Dunedin.

In 1915, Clewis bought huge tracts on the south and west shores of Lake Okeechobee after he learned the soil was ideal for growing sugar cane. After World War I, he and business partners John and Marian Horwitz O'Brien developed the land, then known as Sand Point. They formed the Southern Sugar Corp., which later reorganized as U.S. Sugar Corp.

Not long after establishing the sugar cane crops, Clewis brought in a rail line and partnered with Celotex Corp. Together they introduced other vegetable crops and further developed the town that would soon be renamed Clewiston.

U.S. Sugar Corp. remains Clewiston's largest landowner and employer.

-- Source: Tampa Bay History Center

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