Who was Fred Mahan?

Remembering the man who brought beauty to Jefferson County

Susie Reams
ECB Publishing, Inc.

He was born on Oct. 6, 1886, in Dodge City, Kan., and died on March 12, 1960, in Thomas County, Ga., but Fred Mahan was, for many years, a true resident of Monticello, Fla.
Mahan was a businessman and a horticulturist who created the Mahan Pecan while working in his nursery in Monticello. In the 1920s, Fred Mahan would own the second-largest pecan and ornamental shrubs business in the southeastern United States.
As if creating a new pecan variety wasn't a large enough contribution to horticulture, Mahan is also known for a massive donation that he made to Jefferson County in the early 1930s.
At the height of The Great Depression, Mahan's nursery donated many different types of plants and trees to the county's unemployment relief commission. Those donated plants would be used for the beautification of highways, churchyards and cemeteries in Jefferson County.
In 1931, then-president Herbert Hoover created the President's Organization for Unemployment Relief. The role of such employment-related organizations at both the federal and local level was to help create jobs to place work-ready individuals back into the work force. Mahan's donations of plants and trees provided a way for Jefferson County to employ the unemployed in order to beautify the county itself.
In 1935, the Coastal Roads Company of Miami got a contract of $20,175.82 from the state road department; the money was to help beautify and improve the highway from Tallahassee to Monticello. This included the clean up of many dead stumps that resided along the right-of-way across Lake Miccosukee. The Tallahassee-to-Monticello highway hired 45 workers at 30 cents per hour, which averaged out at $39.00 per month (with inflation, this equals approximately $730.38 a month in 2019).
Mahan donated more plants for this beautification project. These plants were most likely planted from Monticello to Aucilla Bridge on the Madison-Jefferson County line. Due to his generous donation, the stretch of U.S. Highway 90 between Monticello and Tallahassee was named "The Fred Mahan Drive.” The beautiful scenery of planted crepe myrtle trees alongside the road can still be seen by drivers who travel U.S. Highway 90, as many of the trees are still standing. If you ever drive towards Tallahassee, drive slow and take in the unique landscape.
After his death at age 73, Fred Mahan was buried in the Mahan Gravesites, on West Washington Street, in Monticello, where he was finally laid to rest in the county for which he had done so much.