HISTORY OF PASCO COUNTY
See also the New Port Richey page. This page was last revised on Dec. 29, 2019.
1859. The Florida map accompanying the 1859 annual report of the Surveyor General shows Pittitochoscolee, where Port Richey is now located.
1860s. During the Civil War, a salt works was in operation at the Salt Springs, just north of Port Richey.
Dec. 1863. According to Rev. Capt. Leroy G. Lesley: Tampa’s Fighting Parson, by Spessard Stone, “In December 1863, [Lesley] and his neighbor David Hope were engaged in the production of salt, twenty- five miles southwest of Brooksville. ‘Hope, Leslie & Ryals’ advertised salt for $10 per bushel and that they’d give $5.00 per bushel for corn, or give one bushel of salt for two of corn. On January 16, 1864, ‘Hope & Leslie’ gave notice that they would sell their stock of 800 head of cattle, more or less, for $20,000; also for $8,000 their salt works, producing 10 to 15 bushels per day. In 1864 L. G. Lesley was taxed on 200 acres, valued at $500, with $500 in improvements, 10 slaves assessed at $10,000, for which he paid $71.84 in county taxes and $35.92 in state taxes. In 1866 he was taxed on 200 acres.” [At this time, neither Lesley nor Hope lived in what is now Pasco County.]
1872. James Washington Clark Sr. and some of his friends settle at the mouth of the Pithlachascotee River, according to Frances Clark Mallett. [According to The Genesis of New Port Richey he settled there in 1874.]
1876. Florida: Its Scenery, Climate, and History has: “PITTITOCHOSCOLEE—Settlement in Hernando County, on the Gulf Coast, a short distance above Anclote River.”
Dec. 2, 1878. The Hopeville post office is established. [It closed on Nov. 22, 1881.]
Nov. 1879. William Maxie Hope (1846-1900) marries Anna Olivia Sowers. It is the earliest known wedding in what is now Port Richey and New Port Richey. [Documents give several dates in November. Her widow’s pension claim filed in 1909 stated that she had married in Port Richey Hernando County. They may not have been local residents.]
Feb. 1883. The state of Florida sells several hundred thousand acres of land located mainly in what are now Pinellas and Pasco counties at 25 cents per acre to the Florida Land Improvement Co. Part of the city of St. Petersburg and almost all of the town of New Port Richey are on these lands.
May 1883. The Florida Land Improvement Co. sells part of its land, including the site of Port Richey, to Anson Peacely Killen Safford (1830-1891).
Dec. 1883. Aaron McLaughlin Richey and his wife and daughter settle near the mouth of the Pithlachascotee River.
July 9, 1884. The Port Richey post office is established. Aaron Richey was the first postmaster. [A Dec. 13, 1914, newspaper article written by Mrs. Gerben DeVries has: “On an island in the river near the Gulf of Mexico is a dilapidated wooden building in which, years ago, Captain Richey, from whom the settlement is named, conducted a store for the convenience of fishermen and a few scattering settlers. A small slot in one side of the building indicates where letters were posted in the early days, the store also serving as a postoffice.”]
Nov. 12, 1884. The incorporation papers for the Cootie (or Cooty) Land & Improvement Co. are filed. [In Jan. 1885, A. P. K. Safford sold his land to the Cooty Land and Improvement Co. On June 15, 1886, the Columbus Daily Enquirer (Ga.) reported, “Gov. A. P. K. Safford has just consummated a big land sale, selling 7000 acres between Anclote and Cootie rivers to northern capitalists for $31,000.” On Jan. 6, 1897, a newspaper reported that the Cootie Land Company “owns some of the most desirable land on the Gulf Coast, well adapted to vegetable and fruit-growing, dairying, and anything requiring fertile lands to produce.” In May 1897 the Cooty Land and Improvement Co. sold its land to Albert Sessoms and B. F. Bullard, turpentine and timber operators. In 1905 they sold their land to the Aripeka Saw Mills, a Georgia corporation.]
1886. An 1886 survey of the Port Richey area has these place names: Cow Creek, Cross Bayou, Deer Island or Green Key, Oyster Creek, Pith-lo-chas-Cootie River, Port Richie P. O., and Salt Bayou.
Mar. 25, 1886. An article in the Philadelphia Inquirer reports, “…on the Cootie river, about ten miles from here, there are bears, deer, wildcats, &c., to be found in profusion.”
1887. Oranges and Alligators: Sketches of South Florida Life by Iza Duffus Hardy has: “About nine miles north of Tarpon, near the mouth of the ‘Cootie River,’ the settlement of Tremont Springs is in process of formation, and, though in a very early stage as yet, promises well, on account of the fine quality of the land there, which for a mile or two back from the coast is a rich and fertile loam, wherein both the pine and the palmetto flourish abundantly.” [A “Map of Tremont, Pasco Co.” is labeled Gulf Coast Land Co., Tarpon Springs and Chicago. This proposed community would have been located in the Port Richey area.]
1888. Ruby Eugene Clark is born in Port Richey, according to her obituary. This is perhaps the first birth in Port Richey. [On Aug. 26, 1889, Victor Malcolm Clark was born in Port Richey.]
Jan. 29, 1889. A newspaper reports, “The young people of Port Richey, Florida, have organized an ‘Opossum Hunting Club.’”
Jan. 5, 1897. The Florida Times-Union reports, “Tarpon Springs, Fla., January 4.—Hon. John B. Walton was in town a few days during the week. He brought some prospective land buyers over from Tampa to show them the advantages offered for investment in lands north of the Pithlachescotee river belonging to the Cootie Land company. The company owns some of the most desirable land on the Gulf Coast, well adapted to vegetable and fruit-growing, dairying, and anything requiring fertile lands to produce. No place offers greater inducements to a colony of thrifty Swedes or Germans, as they are industrious and economical and on such land would build up a prosperous and self-sustaining community of intelligent wealth-producers. Every settler, of a good class, adds permanently to the wealth and development of its varied resources.”
July 18, 1903. The Tarpon Springs News reports: “PORT RICHEY. This week opened with wind and rain. Port Richeyites visiting in Tarpon Monday were: J. W. Clark, G. B. Harshaw, and Robert. McCreary and son. Second growth on orange trees seems thrifty. Services at M. E. church Sunday and meetings during week. A. M. Richey’s pear trees were damaged some by wind. The population of this settlement is 55 all told. D. H. and J. W. Clark caught two fine tarpon Monday, one a six footer. R. R. Premier is building a small boat. The Clearwater wharf contractor is here gathering cabbage palmetto logs. Our bathing has been ruined by much fresh water.”
Nov. 26, 1908. The Tampa Morning Tribune reports, “Ollie Tinny is putting up oranges on the Cootie river this week.” This refers to Oliver Cromwell Tinny (1869-1928).
1913. Father Felix Ullrich, Benedictine priest from the St. Leo Abbey, celebrates the first Mass offered in western Pasco County in the home of Mr. and Mrs. James H. Casey on Washington St. at Virginia Avenue, according to a Queen of Peace Church history. [Ullrich founded Queen of Peace Catholic Church in 1919 and became its first resident priest in 1922.]
May 9, 1913. The Tarpon Springs Leader reports: “Poles have been laid along the Tarpon Springs-Port Richey road, via Elfers, and within the next week or two wires will be strung and Port Richey will be in telephone communication with the outside world.”
July 4, 1914. Nearly 200 persons gather in H. R. Nicks’ grove near the mouth of the Pithlachascotee River for the third annual picnic of Port Richey settlers.
Aug. 7, 1914. The Kissimmee Valley Gazette reports:
Apr. 4, 1915. the Tampa Morning Tribune reports, “Work on the rock-asphalt road is about completed through Port Richey. The rock crushers are working to the limit preparing material for the road between Elfers and Tarpon. The Edwards Construction Company hope to have this last piece of road completed in the very near future, when the highway will be ready for use between Tarpon and Aripeka, across the coast portion of Pasco County.”
1917. LeRoy and Mary Jane Bailey of Jackson, Michigan, purchase the Clark homestead from J. Henry Sheldon and rename it the Bay Lea Inn. [Sheldon had purchased the home after Mrs. Clark died in 1915, according to F. C. Mallett. The Dec. 2, 1920, New Port Richey Press carries an ad for the Bay Lea Hotel, Mrs. M. A. Bailey, proprietor. A 1947 ad for the Baylea Inn invites people to Thanksgiving dinner.]
March 11, 1920. A newspaper reports that the nearby residences of Mrs. Miller and Joseph Leach in Port Richey burned to the ground.
Jan. 12, 1920. A deed with this date conveyed property from Henry Robert Nicks for a future park in Port Richey. The property was deeded to D. H. Clark, Charles Huffman, and M. L. Bailey in trust for the town of Port Richey, which was not yet incorporated.
Early 1920s. According to Florida Cracker Days, in the early 1920s B. H. Hermanson developed Booker T. Washington as an exclusive subdivision for blacks. The subdivision was added to Port Richey on Nov. 19, 1925.
Aug. 27, 1921. Reuben (Rube) T. Jones (1873-1921) and Herbert E. Scott, residents of Port Richey, are shot to death near Weeki Wachee Springs. [They had been camping in the area, with Jones’ wife and James W. Clark and his wife. The others in the group discovered the bodies. The murder was unsolved. Jones was formerly the Marshal of Tarpon Springs but had recently moved to Port Richey.]
Oct. 5, 1922. A newspaper ad appears for the Magnolia Tavern, “a family hotel at Port Richey within one block of the Cotee River near the Gulf. Fine fishing and hunting. Boats furnished. All home cooking—everything new and clean. M. Broersma, Prop.” [On Feb. 29, 1924, the New Port Richey Press reported that the “new Hotel York made its bow to the public” on Thursday evening. The Tarpon Springs Leader of Nov. 11, 1924, refers to the Hotel York, which it says was formerly the Magnolia Tavern and which it says York purchased “last winter.” On Aug. 21, 1925, the New Port Richey Press reported that York had sold the York Hotel, which he built two years ago, to O. B. Murphy and associates.]
1925. An advertising brochure depicts the York Hotel in Port Richey, named for Chauncey Freeland York. [It was later called the Manor Inn. A 1928 newspaper article refers to the Manor Inn. A Sept. 1930 newspaper reported that Mr. and Mrs. Fred Sass are to have charge of the Manor Inn for the winter. Another 1930 newspaper indicates it was renamed the Sass Hotel and was being operated by Mr. and Mrs. Fred Sass. A 1939 newspaper article reported, “The old Manor Inn property in Port Richey, sold by Harry Sperry two years ago to Mrs. Yolande Davis, is undergoing repairs.” According to F. C. Mallett, it was later sold to Bob Stuart and Mr. Ritter and dismantled to build cottages and homes.]
May 18, 1925. Gov. John W. Martin signs the special legislative act creating the town of Port Richey, according to a 1950 St. Petersburg Times article. [On June 19, 1925, the New Port Richey Press reported: “The City of Port Richey which was incorporated by a special act of the legislature just closed, will soon be organized with a full set of officials. The new officers, named in the charter, are Charles F. Hoffman, mayor; Clyde Daso, marshal; J. H. Sheldon, clerk, assessor, and collector; M. L. Bailey, W. E. Randall, H. C. Remling, Stephen J. Ross, and Victor Malcolm Clark, councilmen. An informal meeting of these officials was held last Saturday night, at which time it was agreed to hold an organization meeting on Saturday night, June 27th, when the new officers will take office and details of the organization will be perfected.”]
Nov. 1935. Port Richey Mayor John Nelson writes a letter to Florida Governor David Sholtz describing the city’s state of affairs.
May 12, 1953. Port Richey city attorney S. Algood Jr. gave a detailed report on the advantages and disadvantages of merging the city with New Port Richey.
July 1961. A new fire station/city hall is dedicated at 7824 Grand Boulevard (modern address).
Oct. 10, 1974. The New Port Richey Press reports that Port Richey held the dedication ceremony for the new city hall in the Port Richey Shopping Center last Saturday. U. S. Sen. Lawton Chiles attended.
Dec. 2, 1974. A new post office opens at 500 Washington St., just east of U. S. 19.
Dec. 26, 1974. A proposed merger of Port Richey and New Port Richey was discussed at the Port Richey city council meeting.
Dec. 9, 1975. Port Richey residents voted 201-84 against merging with New Port Richey. They also voted 145-126 against rescinding the charter and returning to Pasco County government. They voted 130-121 in favor of retaining the Port Richey charter and independent government.
June 15, 1978. The New Port Richey Press reports, “The Port Richey City Council voted 3-2 Tuesday evening to abolish its police department and to request that the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office provide temporary police protection. In one single motion, the council dissolved the department with Mayor Cox and Councilmen Spissak and Loser voting for the motion, and Councilmen Kelly and Raimond voting against it.” [A year later, the city police department was resurrected, according to a 2002 article in the Tampa Tribune.]
Dec. 12, 1978. Port Richey residents reject a proposal to abolish the city by a vote of 514-162.
1980. Gulf View Square Mall opens in Port Richey.
Apr. 9, 1997. Port Richey voters reject a proposal to merge the city with New Port Richey, by 673-216.
Mar. 4, 2002. Port Richey city government moves into a new building at 6333 Ridge Road, at the corner of Formel Avenue. [City headquarters had been located at a temporary headquarters in the Ridge Road Center since the old city hall at the former Towne Center site was razed about two years earlier.]
April 10, 2007. Voters in Port Richey rejected, by 454-375, a proposal to study the dissolution of the city. They also elected as the new mayor Richard J. Rober, who favored the continuation of the city.
Mar. 28, 2012. Port Richey Mayor Richard Rober announces he will resign, saying that the IRS plans to pursue legal action against him for under-reporting his income.
June 24-26, 2012. Tropical Storm Debby causes extensive flooding in western Pasco County.
July 2015. Mayor Eloise Taylor dies in office and is succeeded by Bill Colombo as acting mayor.
Feb. 22, 2019. Gov. Ron DeSantis removes Mayor Dale Glen Massad from office one day after he shot at deputies serving him a warrant. [On March 19, the governor suspended acting mayor Terrence Rowe.]
Sept. 30, 2019. Rep. Amber Mariano, R-Hudson, and Sen. Ed Hooper, R-Palm Harbor, announce a plan for legislation that would dissolve the city of Port Richey. The bill would require the Pasco County Commission to approve a dissolution plan within 45 days and for the city’s assets and liabilities to be transferred to the county by Sept. 30, 2020.
First Known Settlers of the Cotee Valley (1923)
This article appeared in the Tampa Morning Tribune on July 22, 1923.
While Capt. Richey and his family from whom the region about old Richey, Port Richey, and New Port Richey took their names, was one of the early settlers in the section, they were not the first of which history has record. Captain Richey arrived in 1883.
The honor of being the first settler in the Cotee Valley, so far as recollection and records go, belongs to James W. Clark, Sr., of Colleton County, South Carolina, who after the civil war, in which he served gallantly with Lee in Virginia, came to Florida, first to Brooksville, in 1871, and three years later, 1874, with his young wife, nee Miss Fannie L. Hope, of Brooksville whom he had married two years before that town, moved to the banks of the Pithlachascotee river and took up his residence about where the Bay Lea hotel now stands in New Port Richey. Mr. Clark died at Tarpon Springs, July 31, 1913, having reached the age of 75 years, lacking two months. One of his sons, David W. Clark, of New Port Richey, is one of the Pasco County Commissioners; another son, James W. Clark, Jr., is chief of the fire department in the town where his father settled nearly fifty years ago while one of his daughters, Mrs. Oscar W. Herms, is the wife of one of the leading botanists and florists in the state, living on the Cotee River just outside the New Port Richey bounds.
About the same time with James W. Clark, Sr., came Malcolm M. Hill, a native of Florida, birthplace not ascertained, bringing with him also his wife, whose maiden name was Emma E. Hancock. They settled also on the bank of the Cotee River, the old home of this couple being about where the Casson property on Massachusetts Avenue stands. Mr. Hill is still living, at Tarpon Springs. None of his children live in New Port Richey.
Robert (“Bob”) Nicks, born in Leon county, Florida, some 77 years ago, also came to the Cotee Valley, though not so early as Clark and Hill. Mr. Nicks arrived early in the year of 1904, became a large and influential property owner, and has lived there ever since.
Getting down to the early days of the town itself, many names stand out in bold relief in the memories and the associations of folk who know the start and growth of the Valley Movement. Some of the most prominent are Coming in 1911: W. N. Hargroves, B. H. Hermanson, W. W. McIntyre; In 1912: Frank B. Haworth, Emil Nyman, August Olson, Ralph Werner, Dan Wesa; In 1913: Frank I. Grey, Simon Noffsinger, Karl O. Olsen, Cornelius J. Stulting, James A. Swallow, Roy J. Stevens, and August Wick; In 1914: Fred LaFrance, Anthony J. Pauels, Henry C. Remling, F. N. Tideman, and others too numerous to mention.
Letter to the Governor (November 1935)
I have been Mayor of Port Richey for eight years, and for the last six months the Council have not been functioning, not being able to get a quorum together, and some of them have moved away from here, and nobody has been appointed in their place.
This Fall is time for Election, and I have posted Notice for Meeting or Caucus to nominate Candidates for Election (Councilmen and Mayor), and nobody attended.
Most of the people have neglected paying Taxes. We have no Bonded Indebtedness and no money in the treasury.
The reason for being incorporated is so we would not be taken in by our neighbor City, which has a heavy bonded indebtedness.
What shall I do?
John Nelson, Mayor
The Governor’s reply: “Dear Mr. Nelson: This is to acknowledge receipt of your letter with reference to your City affairs, and to advise you that this is a matter that you should take up with an attorney, as I have no supervision over municipalities in affairs of this kind. Sincerely yours, David Sholtz, Governor.”
25 Years Free of Debt Marked By Port Richey (1950)
This article appeared in the St. Petersburg Times on Oct. 29, 1950.
Celebrating a quarter century of existence, the City of Port Richey, in southwest Pasco County, this year looks back upon an enviable record of public improvement, free of worry over bonded indebtedness.
It is a point of pride with city officials that Port Richey has never, in all this time, offered any certificates of indebtedness although empowered by its charter to do so. According to one village patriarch, main purpose of the original incorporation was to protect local residents from being subjected to a big municipal bond issue, planned by neighboring New Port Richey in 1924.
Many changes have come about in Port Richey since May 18, 1925, when Gov. John W. Martin signed the special legislative act creating the town. In those early days, the city’s only paved thoroughfare was a county road nine feet wide, and such modern conveniences as electric lights, telephones, street lights, water mains and daily mail deliveries were unknown. Live stock ranged freely within the four square miles of incorporated territory.
Today, three of Port Richey’s main streets have been paved by the State Road Department and a fourth, Post Road, will soon be paved under a tri-party agreement between the City, New Port Richey and the Pasco County Commissioners, each unit underwriting a portion of the estimated $6,000 cost. Other streets are now shelled, the city has electric power and telephone service, a system of privately owned water mains using water supplied by the New Port Richey Water Department, and daily RFD mail delivery from the New Port Richey post office.
In 1925, the resident population was less than 100, according to census figures, but 500 according to post office officials. This year, the census gives the resident population as 398, but points out that in Winter, when the tourist population is added, it comes nearer 1,500.
During its 25 years of existence, Port Richey has been able to maintain an exceptionally low tax millage assessment to finance the City government. General operations tax levies, once said to have amounted to five mills, will be only four-fifths of a mill in 1951. The tax levy accounts for one eighth of City funds, the major portion being State cigarette tax, beverage licenses, utility franchise royalties, County road and bridge rebates and miscellaneous municipal permit licenses.
Highly satisfied with the low tax assesses valuations, Port Richey’s citizens have never requested city homestead exemption while seeking greater municipal benefits. No tax lien foreclosure suits have been instituted for many years, and complete tax collection is reported by officials.
Heretofore, under a gentlemen’s agreement, Pasco County Commissioners have collected road and bridge taxes, paying for labor in street maintenance with the City Council supplying materials. This year, starting July 1, county repair crews are confining their activities to unincorporated areas, the City assuming responsibility for increased street maintenance.
The City now maintains only two part-time salaried employees, the City Clerk-Tax Assessor-Collector and the Chief of Police. Special emergency police are sometimes appointed by the Mayor and fire department protection from the New Port Richey Fire Department.
Of the original incorporating officials, only three still live in the city, M. L. Bailey, Victor M. Clark and Henry C. Remling, all former councilmen. Others listed in the charter filed with the Secretary of State, June 25, 1925, were Charles H. Hoffman, mayor; Mrs. J. S. Sheldon, city clerk and tax-assessor-collector; C. N. Daso, marshal, and W. E. Randall and S. J. Ross, councilmen. Ross and Sheldon are now dead, Randall lives south of Tampa, Daso in a northern state and Hoffman’s whereabouts are unknown.
At present, Port Richey is experiencing some “charter growing pains” that promise to present a campaign issue in the forthcoming municipal election in December.
Terming the existing charter a “horse and buggy” document, former Mayor Harry A. Lashua asked the City Council to sponsor three changes:
1. Let the Mayor preside at Council meetings or give him a vote in city legislative proceedings.
2. Establish a police department in lieu of marshal and deputies.
3. Change method of selection of candidates for City office from present method of nomination by public caucus to use of petition filed with City Clerk.
When Council failed to act, Lashua quickly resigned, former Chief Councilman W. P. Stone replacing him as acting mayor.
City officials point out that, according to the charter, the Mayor can vote on City legislation, having the power to veto any resolution or ordinance enacted, with a four-fifths Council vote required to override.
Proposed change in the City police function, they say, would be a change in name only.
The charter provides that “Municipal elections shall conform as nearly as possible to the general election laws of the State of Florida, unless otherwise provided by a special ordinance.” Officials claim the public caucus method of nominating candidates for City office was established by ancient City ordinance, and that the charter does not need changing in this respect. They admit, however, that the city election ordinance needs rewriting.
Two mandatory provisions of the charter are not now exercised by the Mayor or Council, officials say. These are provisions retaining a city attorney, and the levying of an annual street tax up9on all able-bodied males over 21 years of age, unless they shall have paid into the City an equivalent amount of taxes in some other form.
Stone, whose term expires this year, sees the need of an airing of the charter provisions in question and a promise of further City improvements without raising City taxes.
“The charter now provides the Mayor all the power he could wish for,” says Stone.
History of Port Richey (1949)
This article is from a 1949 Port Richey Chamber of Commerce publication.
Aaron McLaughlin Richey was born on a farm near McConnellsville, Ohio, on January 19, 1837. He attended the public schools and later went to the Ohio University at Athens, Ohio. In 1860 he went west and spent some time at St. Joseph, Mo., and while there had the opportunity to go to California as “boss” of a wagon train. It took three months to make the trip and after he reached San Francisco did not like it and returned east by way of the Isthmus of Panama. After a short visit with his parents in Ohio he again went to St. Joseph where he later married a young widow with four children and lived there until forced by a severe throat trouble to seek a warmer climate. He decided to try Florida. He thought best to go if that would agree with his family so spent the spring of 1883 in Brooksville. His family was a wife with four children and he selected Brooksville because a friend of his in St. Joseph had just returned home from there and gave such a wonderful name to the town. The railroad only came as far south as Wildwood so the family had to finish the trip to Brooksville by hack. They secured room and board there with Mr. and Mrs. James W. Clark who during their stay with them invited them to go on a camping trip to their grove on the Cotee River. The Clark family had a small house on the river and also one in the grove and it was there this family saw the beautiful groves of Mr. Clark, Mr. M. N. Hill and Mr. H. W. Howse. They also saw a small grove owned by Mr. Felix Sowers which was for sale and which Mr. Richey bought. He also bought the Point, also owned by Mr. Sowers, May 1, 1883, and the family returned to St. Joseph.
The December following found the family on their way to Florida to live. As the railroad only went as far as Wildwood Mr. Richey chartered a freight car to bring their household goods to Cedar Keys where he chartered a schooner, the Eugene Battey, a flat bottom 18-ton boat, to bring their goods to the Point. A small two room house was there so the best things were piled in the house, the rest left in the yard to the mercy of the weather. This was in December, 1883.
Mr. Richey later built on to the small house and also built a house for a store which he ran for some time. He had a small schooner built in Cedar Keys to run from the Cotee to that town which he named the “Cootie.” This boat had to have a home port so Mr. Richey named the Point “Port Richey.” He also had a post office established there by the same name which he ran until he moved to Tarpon in 1891. The post office was moved to the home of Mr. Clark who was postmaster as long as he lived. The small grove Mr. Richey bought was enlarged to 15 acres. It was located at what is now New Port Richey. The 1895 freeze killed this grove.
In the spring of 1891 Mr. Richey had a severe heart attack and moved to Tarpon to be near a drug store as that town only had a doctor during the winter season. Mr. Richey died at the home of his daughter in Jacksonville April 5, 1912. Mrs. Richey died in Tarpon in September, 1899. The four families who lived on the Cotee, Mr. and Mrs. Hill, Mr. and Mrs. Clark, Mr. and Mrs. Howse, and the Richey family are together again in the cemetery at Tarpon Springs. The children who survive are Mrs. Alice Hill Nicks, S. O. Howse, Mrs. Ruby Herms, Mrs. Frances Liles, D. H. Clark, Victor Clark, Will Richey, and Mrs. Margaret Brown. The 1880’s were primitive days in that country. After settling there in 1883 it was three months before the family saw a woman other than the family. The only means of travel were by boat or horse and cart over winding roads through heavy sand.
History of the Port Richey Police Department (1973)
By JAMES R. JOHNSON
1926 – 1927
The marshall’s monthly income was $25.00. So far no name has been mentioned for anyone holding this position.
February 29, 1929
Following a lengthy discussion regarding the Marshall, it was referred to the Mayor and was recommended that the Mayor ask the present Marshall to serve as a councilman. This was done in the light of his past satisfactory service in that capacity. John Nelson then stated that he would serve as Marshall for one dollar ($1.00) a month if appointed. Since practically all the services of the marshall was needed along the river and Mr. Nelson was living on the river, it was deemed a fine arrangement. Mayor Nicks was asked to confer with the present Marshall and secure his consent.
March 12, 1929
Councilman Walter Smith moved to retain the Marshall’s salary at one dollar ($1.00) per month. Motion was seconded and the Marshall consented.
According to the 1928 budget for tax assessment, Clyde Daso was listed as the Marshall on the paper letterhead.
Budget showed H. H. Stupplefield as Marshall.
According to the meeting on January 14, 1930, a Mr. Chaddock was Marshall.
At this time he was to secure proper badge and turn the bill over to council.
September 30, 1930
A letter from Mayor Nelson with reference to the council giving consideration to just compensation to Marshall Chaddock for patrolling the city was read. After much discussion and the fact that the budget does not provided for such expenditure, Councilman Clark moved that Mayor Nelson be instructed that the Council requests the Marshall’s duties be those duties under which he was appointed.
January 12, 1932
At this meeting the Mayor nominated George Wolff as Marshall of the city. Confirmation was reached with a 3 yes – 2 nay vote. It was upon this vote that Mr. Wolff was elected Marshall.
February 9, 1932
At this meeting the council listened to complaints from residents as to lawless conditions in the community. As a lot of the laws being violated were state laws the council requested that the sheriff be called in for assistance.
March 8, 1932
A letter from Sheriff Dowling regarding appointment of Deputy for Port Richey was read and carried over for another month for action.
1937 – 1945
In this time span it was impossible to determine who held the position of Marshall. All spaces on the letterhead was left blank with respect to the Marshall’s name. Then on December 11, l945, the results of an election held that a Mr. J.J. Henly was elected marshall.
In the year spanned between 1945 – 46 nothing was ever mentioned about the Marshall. His duties weren’t brought up in any of the council meetings. Then in the election of December 10, 1946, a Mr. Marion Cowan was elected and sworn in as marshall of Port Richey.
The city Council of Port Richey called a special session for the purpose of passing Ordinance #11. The ordinance in condensed form follows. If further reference is necessary use the book covering the years from 1937 – 1950.
On April 14th, 1947, a special session was called pertaining to the imprisonment of persons sentenced by the mayor court of the City of Port Richey. With the necessary authorization given, the Mayor was able to confine people in the county jail.
Section l – When any person is or shall be sentenced by the mayor court of Port Richey he shall be imprisoned by either the city or county jail of Pasco County at Dade City.
Section 2 – The mayor has authorization made with the county commissioners or the Pasco Sheriff to confine and feed persons in the county jail.
1949 – 1950
In the 1949 – 50 budget the police department was given $150.00. This is the first time that any actual funding to the police department has been covered.
January 1, 1950
Port Richey decided to start a new set of books for the city at this time the police department was given $166.13.
It was discussed with Deputy Sheriff Basil Gaines and the State Patrol as to the patrolling of law enforcement in the city of Port Richey. It was then decided to hire a Deputy Marshall. At this motion a letter was sent to both the Sheriff and Florida Highway Patrol asking for their cooperation. Edwin Speller was the marshall and his salary consisted of $60.00 a month. It was at this point in time that record keeping became a requirement. All complaints were to be submitted to the council for reading.
In February 1960 Mr. E. W. Speller submitted a letter saying that he will resign as soon as a replacement could be found. At some point between February and April, Mr. Speller was replaced by a Mr. Mackanzie.
The specifications for what was the first actual patrol car consisted of the following:
a) the cost would be $1600 b) 1961 automobile c) standard transmission d) heavy duty generator e) heater with defroster f) 6 cylinder g) two door
When the present city hall of Port Richey was being built the approximate cost for materials and labor to complete side walls, roof, and one cell of the three proposed would be $l,250.00.
Between the years of 1961 – 1964 not much was mentioned about the Marshall. Then in 1965, the Mayor received a letter from Sheriff Thompson. He stated that the city should have a separate channel for their police radio because the Sheriff’s frequency was too crowded. Mayor explained that this will give the city a chance to be independent as far as the police department is concerned. The Sheriff frequency will be used for emergency only.
Then in 1967 the mayor appointed four men to be auxiliary Deputy Marshalls. These men would not receive any pay because they would be used only in case of emergency:
a) Wilbur Wellman b) William Potter c) Ulmont Robbins d) John Wonnings
Jumping to 1969 agreements were made with the Sheriff of Pasco County to be dispatched through their office. Up till this time all radio communications were operated through New Port Richey Police Department. It was at this time that Joseph H. Donahue took over as Marshall. Prior to this, he was Chief Deputy. Mr. Donahue hired two men for full time employment. Their salary consisted of $4,160.00 each. From 1969 to the present, Joe Donahue has been Chief of Police. From a department of two men, Mr. Donahue has conducted the growth of the Department up to its present size of eight patrolmen and two cadets. The department presently has two police cruisers and is expecting to obtain one more in the very near future. At the beginning of 1974 there will be two appointments made involving the position of lieutenant and sergeant.
The Mayors of Port Richey
Note: Hoffman was named Mayor by the charter; V. M. Clark was the first elected mayor. The name Slagle also appears as Slagel.
Port Richey Council Members
Port Richey: “Once Like a Wilderness” (1975)
This article appeared in the Tampa Tribune on May 15, 1975.
PORT RICHEY — Try to imagine a time when there were only four houses in Port Richey, the whole area was “like a wilderness,” and cattle-rustling and rum-running were nothing out of the ordinary.
If all that seems a little unlikely, take Mrs. Earl Woodruff’s word for it; Port Richey was a lot different in the old days.”
Mary Woodruff (born Mary Clark) was born in Port Richey 68 years ago, and has lived here all her life. She is related, either by blood or marriage, to three of the first families ever to arrive here: the Nicks, Clark and Hill families.
Her father, David Clark, was a member of both Port Richey city council and the Pasco County Commission, which then met in Dade City on Mondays. “I used to go with Dad to some of the commission meetings,” she recalls.
When they needed food or supplies, they would go by horse and wagon, or by boat, to Tarpon Springs. “That was where the nearest railhead was,” Mrs. Woodruff says. Later, her father opened the first grocery store in Port Richey, and also operated the post office.
She was a graduate of the Gulf High School Class of 1925. “There were only six of us in that class,” she says. “My dad helped build the school, too.” Present-day Pasco-Hernando Community College is located in the old high school building.
“My father moved to Brooksville with his family when he was a small boy,” she recalls. “They moved to the coast, then back to Brooksville, but later Dad moved out here to stay.”
The reason for all the moving back and forth, she says, was “cattle rustlers.” Her family raised cattle, along with a lot of other families in those days, and “the rustlers would kill you for your cattle,” she says. “In fact, they’d just as soon kill you as look at you.”
There were feuds between the rustler gangs, too. One day my father was out plowing in the fields when he heard some shots go by. It was the rustlers shooting at each other, but they missed!
“Then another time, dad said, a wagon came by with the bodies of two men the rustlers had killed. It was their families, taking them home for burial.”
But rustlers weren’t the only enemies in the early days. There were natural enemies, like panthers. “We would hear the hogs squealing at night, and we wouldn’t dare go out because we knew it was the panthers getting into the hog pen.”
“I remember my grandfather talking about the Indians killing people, too, but that was way before my time, even before my dad’s time.”
Mrs. Woodruff also recalls the days of rum-running and “rum wars.” “It was before Prohibition,” she says. “Rum-running was a big business back then.”
“The men would go out and meet the Cuban boats (called ‘smacks’) and trade sweet potatoes, hogs, watermelons, and citrus for the rum.” she says. “One of the boys I knew stole a hog one night and went out to meet one of the boats. He got a demijohn (five-gallon glass jug) of rum in return for the hog.
“But a Coast Guard cutter had spotted them, and fired over their bow. So they threw the rum overboard and headed back for shore. But the next day they went out to Anclote Key and found the jug of rum, still intact! The tide had washed it up, so they got their rum after all.”
Mrs. Woodruff claims the original spelling of Pithlachascotee was “Pithlachascoochee” and that the old-timers told her it was an Indian word meaning “jug of rum.”
“There were several prominent local people killed in those rum wars,” she says. “The big shots would fight for control of the rum trade.
“Until I graduated from high school, my dad would never answer the door. They always sent a woman to the door in those days, because if it was one of your enemies they wouldn’t shoot a woman.
“But they’d just as soon shoot you as look at you,” she repeats.
David “Hap” Clark Remembers (1991)
This article appeared in the Tampa Tribune on Dec. 30, 1991.
By STEVE McQUILKIN
It’s not hard for David Clark Jr. to think of Pasco County without traffic and strip shopping centers.
Clark, who was born in west Pasco in 1922, went off to college before U.S. Highway 19 was built and was nearing retirement when Gulfview Square Mall in Port Richey opened.
Clark, known as Hap, remembers when the county consisted mostly of pine trees and alligator-rich swampland and when congestion on U.S. 19 was caused not by cars but by cattle camping out on the road to keep warm. Those were the days of the open range, when fences were used sparingly, and scrawny range cattle roamed freely.
Clark, 69, remembers when most of the county’s leaders, including County Administrator John Gallagher, Tax Collector Mike Olson and former Sheriff John Short, were crank-playing schoolchildren. He remembers coaching Circuit Court Clerk Jed Pittman in football.
So what was it like growing up in Pasco?
“There was nothing to do because there was nothing here,” said Clark, owner of Clark’s Landing restaurant in Port Richey.
In the past four decades, Clark and other older natives have had to make room for Pasco’s 281,000 residents.
Clark’s grandfather, James W. Clark, moved to Pasco from Brooksville in 1880 – in part to safeguard his small cattle operation from rustlers, Hap Clark said.
During much of his childhood, the Clark family made a decent living raising cattle and tending orange groves. The market hubs in Florida were Cedar Key and Jacksonville, and early residents got to those cities by boat or rail. Clark remembers a 9-foot-wide road to Weeki Wachee that was replaced by a two-lane road in the 1940s – U.S. 19.
He spent much of his time fishing around New Port Richey and Port Richey. On the weekends, he and other boys would run into the woods trying to catch cows. “There wasn’t a lot to do here except play outside,” he said.
Once in the 1930s, he and a friend shot a woman’s pet rabbit while rabbit hunting. New Port Richey’s sole policeman punished the boys by taking away their shotguns for a day.
At the time, with west Pasco teeming with deer, bears and alligators, no one questioned why two boys would tote shotguns in broad daylight. “You could do anything you wanted to because you never got in anybody’s way,” he said. “Now you can’t seem to do anything without bothering someone.”
Clark and his playmates used to make their own versions of baseballs by wrapping string tightly and then using a needle and thread to stitch the ball together.
Clark said his father had his money in three banks that all failed during the Depression. The family was left without any cash but with a 10-acre citrus grove and a 10-acre farm. The older boys fished for food and extra cash.
During the Depression, many people moved into vacant homes in west Pasco until someone forced them to move out. Then they would move into another vacant home, he said.
“Things were much looser then, and people did pretty much what they had to do to get by,” he said.
At the time Clark attended Gulf High School, there were only 125 students in grades seven to 12, and the school’s area encompassed all homes west of U.S. Highway 41.
When he was old enough to drive, Clark and his buddies would race down Grand Boulevard.
“We used to go down Grand Boulevard like crazy people because there wasn’t any traffic and no law to speak of,” he said.
Clark, a retired teacher and administrator with Pasco schools, said he can’t believe how huge the county’s school operations have grown. Clark said there were only about 13 schools in the county until the early-1960s. Now there are 41.
Clark, who graduated from Rollins College in 1949, started as a coach and teacher, first at Zephyrhills High School and later at Pasco Comprehensive School in Dade City. He moved into administration and served as principal of Hudson Elementary from 1963 to 1979.
Until the late-1950s there were still only a few stores in New Port Richey, he recalled.
“We did most of our shopping in Tarpon Springs because there wasn’t much to get here,” he said.
Most of Pasco’s growth came after a developer from Pinellas started building in Holiday during the late-1950s and early-1960s, he said. At the time, the county had no zoning restrictions, and the developer was selling two-bedroom homes with carports for $5,990. Many of the homes are still standing, he said.
Indian Mound Is Marked for Posterity (2001)
This article appeared in the Tampa Tribune on July 3, 2001.
By CAROL JEFFARES HEDMAN
Motorists on Sunset Boulevard usually are too attracted by the waterfront scenery to notice the dirt mound on the south side of the winding road.
Today, the tall palms rising from the mound are the only remains of the wilderness once inhabited by American Indians.
But a tranquility still prevails at the spot, sandwiched along the populated shores of the Pithlachascotee River, that remains untouched by modern man.
There once were 20 to 30 mounds in Pasco County. But developers and hurricanes have destroyed all but the one known as the Oelsner Mound along Sunset Boulevard.
The Oelsner Mound is all that is left of a prehistoric culture dating back to the Weedon Island period of Florida’s history.
The Weedon Island Indians, who lived around 900 to 1600 A.D., were known for their pottery, which was sand-tempered in a variety of shapes.
Excavations of the mound indicate the Indians probably settled there about 1000 A.D. and remained for several hundred years.
S. T. Walker excavated the mound in Port Richey in 1879 for the Smithsonian Institute. According to his findings, Walker believed it to be a temple mound.
The mound and a smaller one about 100 yards east were also excavated in 1903 by Clarence B. Moore, an archaeologist with the Philadelphia Academy of Science. The excavation revealed numerous skeletons, arrow points, pottery and other artifacts in the smaller mound, indicating it was used for burial. That mound was later destroyed by developers.
No skeletons were found in the larger mound. The archaeologists theorize it was either used for residential or ceremonial purposes.
The late Martha Oelsner didn’t agree.
Known to most as “Aunt Martha,” Oelsner lived on the property from 1924 until she died in 1981. She believed the mound contains the remains of Timuqua or Calusa indians.
Those were two of five major American Indian cultures living in Florida when the Spanish explored here in 1513. The Timuquas and Calusas were thought to have lived in what is now Pasco County.
For several years after Oelsner first moved there in 1924, she told others that Indians from South Florida would come to the mound each spring and conduct ceremonies there. The Indians, she said, told her the mound contained the remains of their chief who was buried while astride a white horse.
Oelsner preserved the mound, which was designated as a historic site in 1983 by the Pasco County Commission and Historic Preservation Committee. She gave it in memory of her son, Rensleo.