HISTORY OF PASCO COUNTY
History of Lacoochee (1976)
The following article by Lorise Abraham appeared in East Pasco’s Heritage.
Prior to the year 1922, when Cummer first began construction of a sawmill in Lacoochee, the anticipated growth of this community in northeast Pasco County had not materialized. Prospective land buyers had once been brought in by train to invest in what promised to be a large manufacturing center. The area surrounding Lacoochee had prospered for a while by growing strawberries and running turpentine stills. At one time orange groves had lined the banks of the Withlacoochee River, just one-half mile from the center of town. It is said that the “Big Freeze” of 1898 completely wiped out every trace of any orange trees there. Eventually the remains of the homes of the grove owners also vanished.
In 1922 Cummer acquired the land in Lacoochee needed to construct a modern, completely electrified sawmill and box factory, the largest of its kind in the South. This continued in operation until 1959, bringing the long-promised prosperity to this area. At one time Cummer offered the largest payroll in Pasco County.
While the mill plant, company office, commissary, hotel, and doctor’s office were being built, as well as many homes for individual employees, a flurry of building activity began in the town of Lacoochee itself. In addition to the postoffice and general merchandise stores already there, many new private businesses were built. These included more general merchandise stores, garages and filling stations, restaurants, bakeries, dairy, drug stores, theaters, barber shops and shoeshine stands, grocery stores and meat markets, dry cleaners, pool rooms and bars, hardware stores, inns, and a social club, the Woodmen of the World.
The spiritual lives of the residents were enriched by the construction of several Protestant houses of worship, which included First Baptist Church, Oak Ridge Baptist Church, United Methodist Church, and Assembly of God Church. Christian fellowship in Lacoochee was not only a Sunday affair. The townspeople practiced their religion in an everyday manner by helping those of the community who were in need from sickness, poverty, or loss of personal belongings by fire or floods. To a community constructed mainly of lumber, fire was a daily hazard, not only to the mill site but to all the homes and businesses. Each fire was valiantly fought by Cummer’s own fire department, assisted by local volunteers, and when needed by the Dade City Volunteer Fire Department.
During the Second World War, labor at the mill became a problem because so many of the young men were called to the service and so many people went to work in the shipyards at Tampa. Lacoochee contributed more than vitally needed lumber to the war effort, giving up five native sons in this conflict. Lost in the European theater of war were the Lessig twins, Gerald C. and Harold L. Lessig, Robert Holt, and L. Hawkins. Paratrooper Carmen Thompson gave his life in the Pacific. Killed in action also were Francis Woods and James Mills of Trilby, both of whom had worked at the mill, and whose loss was deeply felt by Lacoochee people too.
Like so many Americans, Lacoochee people were devotees of our national sport, baseball. For many years the team enjoyed a friendly rivalry with the teams from Dade City and Brooksville. Almost everyone in town turned out for Sunday afternoon ball games. These were held at a ball park built on land donated for that purpose by Cummer.
The history of Lacoochee is unique because of the feeling prevailing throughout the community of “one family.” Many young people who grew up there have ventured out into the world to become leaders in their chosen professions. Lacoochee people take great pride in the achievements of their friends and neighbors. These accomplishments are spoken of without envy whenever two or more people from Lacoochee get together.
After Cummer reluctantly closed down the mill operation, the location was purchased by Wood Mosaic Corporation of Louisville, Kentucky in 1960. Wood Mosaic operated a plywood mill there until 1964. From then until 1971 the site remained unused, at which time the property was purchased by Interpace Corporation of Parsippany, New Jersey.
At present Interpace, with a work force of about 110 people, is specializing in the making of reinforced concrete pressure pipes for the transmission of water. Interpace is now one of the three main industries in east Pasco County, and the only industry in Lacoochee.
The town of Lacoochee still has a large population; several businesses continue to operate there. One of the most modern schools in the county was built there several years ago. This school operates day and night for the continued education of adults as well as children.