History of Clay Sink (Slaughter) in Pasco County, Florida


Clay Sink (Slaughter)

Detail from a 1956 map

Slaughter was a settlement in the extreme northeast corner of Pasco County; it no longer appears on most maps. It is sometimes called Clay Sink. Riverland is now located on the other side of the Hernando county line. This page was last revised on April 20, 2017.

See a separate page on the history of the Clay Sink/Slaughter school.

A historical marker here reads:

Harrison and Martha Ann McKinney Slaughter acquired 120 acres in this area from Jesse Sumner May 20, 1862. The settlement that developed here was first called Slaughter after this pioneer family. Over time it became known as Clay Sink, after the clay sinkhole that is in the area. This cemetery was established on this hill of moss-draped oaks in 1873 when the Slaughters buried their infant daughter here. It is now maintained in perpetuity by the Clay Sink Cemetery Association Inc. On Feb. 19, 1897, the Clay Sink Missionary Baptist Church was organized with 21 members, with Elder G. A. Bryant, moderator. In 1904 a wood-framed building was erected on this site and served the congregation until the present pine building was constructed in 1956. The one-room Slaughter/Clay Sink school building was built in 1912 on Cobb Slough and moved in 1915 to this site that was donated by William Henry and Joanna Slaughter Boyett. It became the fellowship hall for the church in 1943 when the school closed due to consolidation. The teacher’s raised platform remained a part of the structure. Some of the early settlers who were charter members of the church were Slaughters, Sumners, Boyetts, Sapps, Robbins, McKinneys, Hardins, Mobleys, Gays, and Weeks. Descendants of these families still live in the area.

A picture taken at the dedication of the marker is here.

About 1838. Jesse Cary Sumner moves to Florida, according to the recollection of his grandson D. E. Sumner. (He is shown in Marion County in the 1850 census. J. C. Sumner died at his home in Hernando County on Feb. 12, 1871.)

May 20, 1862. Harrison Slaughter and his wife Martha Ann McKinney Slaughter acquire 120 acres from Jesse Sumner on May 20, 1862, according to the historic marker. Images of the grave markers of Harrison and Martha at Clay Sink Cemetery are here and here.

1877-78. Hernando County school records show a school at Tillis Hammock.

1879-80. Hernando County school records show a school at Tillis Hammock. The trustees are shown as H. Slaughter and C. W. Bryant. (C. W. Bryant is age 60 living in Slaughter in the 1910 census.)

1883-84. A list of Hernando County schools indicates that a school was established at Kalon on Oct. 1, 1882. The teacher was R. S. Pringle and the trustees were Steve Weeks, Harrison Slaughter, and J. E. Mills. A 1916 map shows the town of Kalon in Hernando County, very near the Pasco-Hernando county line.

Oct. 3, 1885. A deed shows that Harrison Slaughter transferred property in S24 T23 R22 to the Hernando County School Board.

Feb. 19, 1897. The Clay Sink Missionary Baptist Church is organized with 21 members, with Elder G. A. Bryant, moderator, according to the historic marker. According to the WPA history, the first settled pastor, 1897-1908, is Richard Calden.

1904. A church is erected, according to the historic marker. According to the WPA history, the church was erected in 1900. Before the church was erected, services were held in the schoolhouse.

Sept. 19, 1924. The Dade City Banner reports, “Rev. McDaniel of Lakeland preached an excellent sermon at the Baptist church of Slaughter Sunday. He was favored by a large congregation of interested listeners. There was also church Saturday afternoon and prayer services Sunday afternoon. … Mrs. R. S. Moseley, our Slaughter school teacher, and daughter, who have been boarding at Mrs. J. E. Brown’s removed to Mr. Mills’ Friday, where they will reside in the future.”

July 24, 1925. The Dade City Banner reports, “Slaughter, July 21.—Quite a number of the folks of this place were present at church at Riverland which, in spite of the rain was enjoyed by everyone. Rev. Bishop of Webster will preach at the Baptist church here next Sunday. We wish all to be present.”

Sept. 22, 1925. The Dade City Banner reports, “Saturday a raid in the Slaughter neighborhood resulted in the capture of two stills, both small ones. No arrests were made in one instance, while Bob Johnson, colored, not only lost his lard can outfit and a gallon of shine, but was also lodged in jail.”

Feb. 19, 1926. The Dade City Banner reports, “Roy Slaughter, son of N. S. Slaughter, formerly of Slaughter but now a resident of Atlantic Beach, was buried in the cemetery at Slaughter on Wednesday morning. The deceased was a veteran of the World War who incurred tuberculosis while in the service and his death occurred at the United States Veterans’ Bureau hospital at Asheville, N. C., Feb. 12th, the government shipping his body here for interment. Besides serving in the World war he is said to have been a member of Pershing’s punitive expedition into Mexico during the border troubles caused by the Mexican Revolution. Besides his father, he is survived by two brothers, both World War veterans, and one still in the service as a lieutenant of aviation.”

Apr. 13, 1926. The Dade City Banner reports that W. J. Bryant of Lacoochee, pastor of the church at Slaughter, has announced his candidacy for the nomination as member of the legislature from Pasco county, subject to the Democratic primary of June 8.

May 21, 1926. The Dade City Banner reports that W. H. Boyett of Slaughter has announced his candidacy for county commission from District 1.

June 15, 1926. The Dade City Banner reports:

Slaughter cemetery picnic will be held June 24. Everybody invited to come with well filled baskets. Miss Dolores Revels has been spending some time with her grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. T. O. Slaughter. We are having some fine rains. The folks out here are still picking and selling some strawberries and have picked and canned quite a few blackberries. We are sure glad to know that our road is being put through from Richloam to Slaughter.

June 25, 1926. The Dade City Banner reports, “Last week the community met and cleaned up and beautified the cemetery, one of the prettiest and best kept up rural burying grounds in Pasco county. Located off to one side and until recently almost inaccessible for lack of roads, Slaughter has been somewhat out of the march of progress. It is one of the finest trucking sections of the county and from now on will come rapidly to the front.”

Aug. 10, 1926. The Dade City Banner reports, “The Slaughter neighborhood is right up to the Hernando county line, and a road has been graded to connect it with Richloam, the postoffice and shopping point of the settlement. This road is to be hard surfaced but under present conditions we prefer to travel the Pasco county road.”

June 14, 1927. The Dade City Banner reports:

W . H. Boyett appeared before the board and asked that any balance left from the $40,000 appropriated for the construction of the Seventh street extension road be used to improve the road between Lacoochee and Slaughter. He stated that under present conditions the people of Slaughter were practically cut off from the balance of the county, and that both Lacoochee and Dade City were losing the handling of their strawberries and other crops grown there on this account. Colonel Auvil, on being asked for his opinion, stated that any balance of this fund remaining could be used for this purpose, if desired. Chairman Thomas opposed, saying he would not favor any expenditures or bonds that would increase taxes until the people of the Pasadena section were taken care of. Secretary Rerick of the county chamber of commerce urged that this money be used for Slaughter, as road conditions in that section were worse than in any other part of the county. On motion of Commissioner Dowling, seconded by Commissioner Boyett, it was voted to use any balance left for the building of this road, Dowling and Boyett voting aye, Commissioner McCarthy no, and Commissioner Clark not voting, as his district is outside the Highlands district.

Sept. 13, 1927. The Dade City Banner reports that J. A. Barthle was awarded the contract to construct five miles of hard surfaced road connecting Lacoochee and Slaughter.

Jan. 10, 1928. The Dade City Banner reports, “W. A. Barr, of Slaughter, was in the city on Saturday and reported that the Brinson’s store at Richloam, the only business building in that community, and which also housed the post office, was burned last Tuesday night, both building and contents being a total loss. There was a small amount of insurance. The origin of the fire is not known, but it is thought by many that the fire was incendiary, and for the purpose of covering a robbery.”

Sept. 9, 1929. The Tampa Morning Tribune refers to “Clay Sink cemetery, near Lacoochee.”

Jan. 23, 1931. The Dade City Banner reports, “Slaughter, Jan. 22—The death of James Boyd came as a shock to this community Saturday morning at seven o’clock. He had only been sick a few hours. Mr. Boyd was 77 years of age, and was born and reared in Georgia, and came here about forty years ago and made his home in this community. He was a member of the Bay Lake church, and has many friends and relatives there.”

Oct. 9, 1931. The Dade City Banner reports, “Pasco Baptist Association will meet in its forty-second annual session at Clay Sink church in the Slaughter neighborhood, October 13 and 14.

Aug. 18, 1933. The Dade City Banner reports, “Funeral services for Marion Lanier, aged 59, of Bay Lake, who died at his home Wednesday morning, were held Wednesday afternoon at Clay Sink Baptist Church. He was born September 2, 1873, in Kissimmee, and has been a resident of Bay Lake for many years.”

Nov. 19, 1937. Juanita Marlene Boyd, age 2-1/2, dies. She was a daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Walter Boyd. She was buried in the Clay Sink cemetery.

Aug. 7, 1940. Jack A. Mobley, known as “Uncle Jack,” dies at the home of his daughter, Mrs. Henry Weeks of Slaughter. According to his obituary, he was born March 13, 1872, and spent his entire life in the Slaughter community. He was buried in the Clay Sink Cemetery.

Feb. 20, 1942. Thomas Owen Slaughter, age 71, dies at a hospital in Wildwood. According to his obituary, he was a native of Pasco County and at one time one of the most prominent farmers and citrus growers. He moved to Oxford about two years ago.

Jan. 3, 1945. Mose Stephen Slaughter, 78, dies in a nursing home in San Antonio. According to his obituary, he was born Dec. 8, 1866, at Slaughter, and became a prominent farmer and stockman of Pasco County. For several years he has been living at Rerdell, near Slaughter, which was named for his father Harrison H. Slaughter. Funeral services were held at the Clay Sink Cemetery.

1947. The Dade City Banner refers to “Clay Sink settlement in Slaughter.”

Feb. 23, 2005. The St. Petersburg Times reports: “Pasco County commissioners voted Tuesday to add the Clay Sink Baptist Church, school building and cemetery to the county’s register of historic resources. The property is on 2 acres in the Withlacoochee State Forest near the Hernando County line. The school building, now a church fellowship hall, was built in 1912 and served as the county’s first voting precinct. The cemetery is a private graveyard, bearing the graves of about 500 people from the area’s pioneer families.”

2011. The St. Petersburg Times has: “Clay Sink has fewer than 100 residents in less than 20 homes. There’s a sawmill, the cemetery and a schoolhouse that closed in 1943. Now it’s a Sunday school room and fellowship hall.”

Clay Sink Baptist Church seen behind the cemetery sign

Among the Farmers of Slaughter (1923)


This article appeared in the Dade City Banner on April 20, 1923.

Situated in the northeast corner of Pasco county is the farming neighborhood of Slaughter, as it is officially known. The people living there call it “Clay Sink,” from a sink hole in the neighborhood. It is a flatwoods country, with cypress ponds interspersed here and there, and, at the present time is almost inaccessible in wet weather. While it is only fifteen miles from Dade City the best route to take is around by the new hard road past Lacoochee, across a corner of Hernando county and back into Pasco. A road is now being built from the bridge over the Withlacoochee on the river road that will afford direct communication between the two places. This road, which is a part of the Highlands District sand clay system will be graded high enough to permit travel in all kinds of weather and will do much to bring the people of the two sections together.

Truck and general farming form the main occupations of the settlers in this neighborhood. At one time it was one of the greatest strawberry growing sections of the state. This crop was dropped when the Plant City neighborhood was developed, on account of the inadequacy of shipping facilities. The branch of the Atlantic Coast Line running from Trilby to Sanford is the nearest railroad, and only furnishes one train each way, a day. This same lack of good service handicaps the growers now, but they ship out a good many crates of beans and cucumbers during the season. During the winter just passed hundreds of hampers of English peas were also shipped from here.

The soil of this section seems to be especially adapted for the growing of cucumbers. Unlike the Sumter county fields nearby, they seem to do as well in the fall as in the spring. Oddly enough, however, beans only do well here in the spring, while in the other neighborhoods mentioned they grow at both seasons of the year. The growers of Slaughter have never introduced the trough protection for their cukes used in other parts of the state. They are thinking seriously of doing so now, as the cold last February has caused their crops to be very late this year. In fact, they are just starting to ship beans and will not have any cukes on the market for another week, or more. They have no need of irrigation, as the soil seems to be drought proof. In fact, the heavy rains last fall drowned out a good many of their crops.

An effort has been made this year to revive the strawberry industry, once the leading one of this section. It has been only partially a success, owing to poor shipping facilities and the inability to reach the best markets. The yield was large and quality fine. With the completion of the good road, making it possible to quickly reach other shipping points, there is no doubt but what this will become one of the most profitable crops. This is recognized by the growers, many of whom are planning to increase their acreage.

At J. L. Wilson’s farm the writer saw some very good young corn growing. It was well advanced for its age and had a healthy color. His beans were full of young fruit and this week should see him make his first shipment. A good sized patch of strawberries were loaded with as fine flavored fruit as the writer ever tasted. They were simply going to waste, except as Mrs. Wilson was able to can, or otherwise preserve them. These strawberries were grown without fertilizer and have excellent testimony as to the fertility of the soil.

G. W. Fender is credited by his neighbors with being the “best farmer in the neighborhood.” This year, however, he says that he has lost his grip. His cukes and beans are looking fine, but are late and he has not yet made any shipments. He has a small patch of Irish, potatoes that are doing well. Corn, pindars, and other general farm crops are grown as well as truck. One odd thing impressed the writer when he visited this place. Some of his beans were growing in four foot rows and others in five. Both were planted at the same time. The ones in the five foot rows were twice as far advanced as those grown closer together.

J. D. Mobley is advancing in years and does not till a very large acreage. He has some of the best corn seen so far this season. It averages over five feet in height and was planted after the heavy frost last February. His cukes and other vegetables are coming on nicely and the same can be said for a good sized watermelon patch. A small seedling grove bore a heavy crop of fruit last winter and has set a good one this season.

W. H. Boyett has a fine crop of beans and cukes coming on. He also grows corn, velvet beans, peanuts and a full line of general farm stuff.

T. J. Morris is well ahead of the bean game and is shipping a good many hampers. His cukes are coming on and he has some fine looking corn.

T. O. Slaughter is in my opinion one of the best farmers in this vicinity. He has a habit of never planting one crop in a field. A row of corn or cane and one of beans, cukes or tomatoes is what the visitor finds in looking over his farm. In this way he says he is pretty sure to win out on one crop, if not on both. Last year on a tract of land 80 yards square he made 750 gallons of syrup and shipped 551 crates of cucumbers. This same rule is followed with all of his crops. It may cut down the cash returns to some extent, but as he says, “What’s the use of making so much money and having to spend it all at the store.”

Mr. Slaughter’s cukes seem to be somewhat ahead of his neighbors, and this week will probably see him making one or two small shipments. On the other hand, his beans are not as well advanced as some others. He has a fine field of tomatoes that are setting fruit and some well advanced watermelons.

P. O. Wiggins did well this past winter with English peas. He is following them with beans and cukes, like everyone else, and they will be quite profitable, provided the market holds up. Other places which were visited were the farms of Seby Boyd, J. A. Mobley, Willis Brown and F. J. Johnson. All had crops of corn, beans and cukes that were quite promising. At Mr. Johnson’s a good seedling grove was observed.

Young Folks Enjoy Candy Pull (1924)

Good Congregation Attend Church Services Saturday and Sunday

This article appeared in the Dade City Banner on Sept. 19, 1924.

Slaughter, September 9.—A jolly crowd gathered Saturday evening at the home of Mr. and Mrs. W. H. Boyett, while the young folks spent a pleasant time playing games, older folks cooked some delicious candy, which being done they had nice time pulling and later eating it, after which they all returned home, at a very late hour, having reported a very enjoyable time. Those enjoying Mr. and Mrs. Boyett’s hospitality were: Mr. and Mrs. J. M. Schrenck, Mrs. N. Boyd and little daughter, Marie, Mr. E. R. Luke and Frank Wilson, and Misses Linnie Boyett, Ida Mobley, Lillie Boyd, Corinne Jordan, Myrtle Kilpatrick, and Curtis Mobley, and Messrs. Nelson Boyd, James and Charley Johnson, Elbert, Ebbie, Merle and Sam Boyett and George Brown.

Rev. McDaniel of Lakeland preached an excellent sermon at the Baptist church of Slaughter Sunday. He was favored by a large congregation of interested listeners. There was also church Saturday afternoon and prayer services Sunday afternoon.

A jolly crowd of young folks accompanied by Mr. J. A. Mobley, gathered Friday afternoon at the Slaughter bathing place. While they were enjoying a pleasant time in the nice cool water, Mr. Mobley announced that it was time to go home. They all anxious for the time to come when they can go again and stay longer. Those attending were Misses Linnie Boyett, Ida and Eva Mobley, Louise and Viola Slaughter, Ruby Griffin and Ruth Brown, and Messrs. J. A. Mobley, Barney Brown, J. Layton and Floyd Boyett.

Mr. and Mrs. J. E. Brown and children, Lucile and Walter, and Mr. Gresham motored to Mr. Brown’s farm Friday afternoon.

George Brown and Effie Boyett were business visitors in Lakeland Saturday.

Among those who attended church out here Sunday were: Mr. and Mrs. J. M. Johnson and children, Mr. and Mrs. L. S. Brinson and children, and Miss Myrtle Selex and Clothilde Morris, and Mr. George Schrenck and Miss Dees.

Mr. W. H. Boyett was in Lacoochee Wednesday on business.

Mr. W. R. Jordan and son Ray were business visitors of Mr. and Mrs. H. Boyett Friday.

Mrs. R. S. Moseley and daughter, Virginia, spent the week-end with relatives and friends in Bartow and Kathleen.

Mrs. G. M. Boyett and little children were the guests of her sister, Mr. and Mrs. J. A. Mobley.

Barney Brown and Sam Boyett motored to Trilby Tuesday.

Mr. G. M. Boyett, J. L. Boyd, and Mr. J. A. Mobley were visitors Dade City Tuesday.

Mrs. R. S. Moseley, our Slaughter school teacher, and daughter, who have been boarding at Mrs. J. E. Brown’s removed to Mr. Mills’ Friday, where they will reside in the future.

Mr. C. A. Walker visited friends Sidney Sunday. Returning he brought with him his little daughter, Edith, who will spend a while with her father.

Mr. J. D. Mobley and nephew James motored to Lacoochee Wednesday.

Mr. G. C. Slaughter and Mrs. H. E. Revels of St. Catherine were guests of their parents, Mr. and Mrs. T. O. Slaughter, Thursday afternoon.

Mr. and Mrs. J. M. Schrenck, Miss Lillie Boyd and Mr. Charlie Johnson were the guests of Mr. and Mrs. W. Fender Sunday.

Doris Fender spent the day with her cousin, Frances Fender, Sunday.

Born to Mr. and Mrs. F. M. Harris Sunday, a fine baby girl.

Miss Louise Slaughter visited Misses Ida and Eva Mobley Sunday afternoon.

Mrs. Addie Patterson spent Sunday with Mr. and Mrs. W. C. Brown.

George Brown motored to Knight’s Station Monday, on business.

Mr. and Mrs. H. Robins and family who have been living here only a short time, moved to Socrum, last Saturday.

Mrs. J. L. Boyd and little son, Walter, spent Sunday afternoon with her daughter, Mrs. J. A. Mobley.

Messrs Herbert and Jake Parker were the guests of Mr. and Mrs. P. J. South Sunday.

Mr. G. C. Slaughter and Mr. and Mrs. H. E. Revels of St. Catherine were visitors at the home of their parents, Mr. and Mrs. T. O. Slaughter, Sunday, taking their mother and little nephew Gladyn back with them to spend a few days.

Mrs. Beck, Miss Lydia Slaughter and Mr. Jim Croft were visitors at the home of Mr. and Mrs. T. O. Slaughter Tuesday.

Mr. Gresham, who has been visiting his daughter, Mrs. J. E. Brown, and Mr. and Mrs. J. E. Brown and family motored to Ross Sunday to visit Mrs. Brown’s sister, Mrs. Chilson.

Virginia Moseley gave her schoolmates and a few friends a pleasant surprise Monday after school, at the school house, celebrating her 11th birthday. A table was prepared on which was placed a birthday cake, on which burned eleven candles. The cake was cut and enjoyed by all. Games were also enjoyed. All departed about five o’clock wishing someone would celebrate a birthday every day.

Mr. J. E. Brown motored to Groveland Monday.

Mr. George Weeks and family, who been living over at the Bevels’ place, moved to the Robins’ place.

“Back of Beyond” In Pasco County (1927)


This article appeared in the Dade City Banner on Feb. 25, 1927.

Probably one of the least known sections of Pasco county is located in the extreme northeastern corner, and yet it is one of the most fertile, and potentially wealth producing parts of the state, occupied by a score or so of hard-working, industrious farmers, and producing large quantities of strawberries, cucumbers, beans, and other products that, owing to its peculiar location, and the fact that its own county government has done very little in the way of furnishing it with roads over which these products may be hauled to marketing or shipping points, is credited in the production and shipping records of the state as being produced in Hernando and Sumter counties.

“And why not,” said T. O. Slaughter, whose father‘s name is perpetuated in the name of the community, and himself a man of three-score years, and one of its leading farmers. “ We have always been the tail of any improvements. Hernando county has done more for us than our own county ever has, for a hard road has been built from Richloam, our nearest railroad station, post office and express office, almost to the county line (their money gave out before they could complete it), while all that Pasco county ever did was to grade a road to Dade City, which in its present condition is not usable, and built another grade to the hard road near Lacoochee, part of which is almost impassable in dry weather on account of the sand. When we want to go to Lacoochee and Dade City we find it most convenient to go through Hernando county by Richloam, through the “Dark Stretch,” now a most excellent piece of road most of the way. This takes us about five miles out of the way, but is better than trying to use the dirt road built by our own county for us.”

The sentiments expressed by Mr. Slaughter the writer found were held by nearly everyone with whom he talked on a recent visit to the Slaughter community. These people feel that they have not had fair treatment, and this feeling, together with the fact that their best routes of travel lead in other directions, is causing them to make the greater part of their contacts with the outside world in other counties than the one in which they live, vote and pay taxes. The day the writer visited them several hundred quarts of as fine strawberries were hauled by truck to Webster, in Sumter county, where they were packed in refrigerator crates and shipped direct to northern markets. “It’s more convenient to ship by Webster, but if we could get to Dade City as easily, we would take them there,” the writer was told.

At the present time all the berries going from Slaughter are being shipped by express, but they are proving such a profitable crop that there is talk of increasing the acreage and producing sufficient to make car load shipments possible next year. This, however, is largely dependent on improved road conditions, making it possible for them to use Lacoochee as their shipping point, Webster being too long a haul for such large amounts while Richloam is on a branch line, with fast refrigerator freight service lacking. The hard surfacing of about seven miles of asphalt, that is already graded, from the end of the hard road near Lacoochee, through Slaughter, to where the road to Richloam crosses the Hernando county line, would give this community every road facility needed, and is all that they ask.

One handicap with which these people are struggling is the fact that their lands are low, and in wet seasons subject to overflow. This, however, will probably be overcome in time. The movement to clean out the Withlacoochee river, which is being pushed by Congressman Drane, at the instance of the Dade City Kiwanis club, will make a start possible along the line of flood control, and this can then be worked out by the cleaning of the channels of a couple of creeks, and the digging of one or two drainage ditches.

Notwithstanding the handicaps with which the people of Slaughter have been contending, there is a surprising- amount of vegetables and small fruits produced and shipped out. On his recent trip through this neighborhood the writer saw many fields of Irish potatoes, beans, cucumbers, sweet corn and other toothsome dainties growing. It is one section where fall crops of beans and cucumbers as well as spring crops of these vegetables, do well. Besides strawberries, which will probably become one of the leading crops, and vegetables, staple farm products are grown in abundance. Corn, cow peas, sweet potatoes, cane, sorghum and other grains and forage crops are cultivated by nearly everyone. Many of the farms have good dairy cows for home use, and milk and butter of the finest quality are found in the homes. While hog raising is not carried on on a large scale, home needs are looked after, and some meat, lard and other products are marketed.

Slaughter, for the first time, put on a community exhibit at the Pasco county fair this year, and was given fourth prize. Many of their exhibits were taken to Tampa and used in the Pasco county exhibit at the South Florida Fair, and all of this has tended to build up a community pride. An incident told by W. H. Mills, one of the leading farmers, will illustrate Mr. Mills has a fine black walnut tree growing on his farm, walnuts being a rarity in this section. Some of the nuts from this tree were in the community exhibit and were prominently displayed at the South Florida Fair. Recently Mr. Mills received a letter containing a check for $1 and a request that he send the writer six nuts for seed. The letter, it may be said, was from New Port Richey.

Slaughter is one of the communities whose development means much to Pasco county. That it will come to the front is an assured fact, but the rapidity with which it does, and the benefit that its development will be to other communities of the county depends largely on the co-operation given it by the county as a whole in making it more accessible, and bringing it to the front from “back of beyond.”

My Life in Clay Sink

Mrs. Pritchett’s residence, over 100 years old. A typical “cracker” house with modifications, e.g., the front porch screened in. larger picture

Mrs. Frances Fender Pritchett was interviewed by Theresa O. Smith for the EPHS web site, from which this article is taken. Frances Fender Pritchett was born August 22, 1913, in Clay Sink, Florida. She is the daughter of George and Annie Lacy Fender and married Richard Pritchett. Dick Pritchett was also known as Slim. Mrs. Frances has lived in the same house all of her life, all 97 years of it. The house was built the year she was born. She is not sure if she was born in this particular house as there was also a log house on the property that the family lived in prior to this house. Her daughters, Susan Jones McElveen (now deceased) and Barbara Boone, were born in this house. Her granddaughter, Roberta “Robbie” Jones Graham, lives with her now in this almost 98 year old house.

My daddy’s name was George Henry and my momma’s name was Annie, and I was the only child living. Now I had a brother that was seven years old that died in 1900, I believe. Anyhow, my Daddy came here from Green Swamp and back then, in the 1800s, you could come and improve 40 acres. I don’t know how much more you could get, but he got 40 acres. But then you had to stay on there a certain length of time. Then they would give you a deed. But you had to build a home, clear the land and stay there so long, you know. Calvin Coolidge signed his name on my deed. He was president you know and his signature is on my deed.

When my daddy got a place fixed, he wanted to go somewhere else, but he’d been living in Mascotte, Green Swamp and different places after they go married. After they got here and he got everything fixed, Momma said, “I’m not going anywhere else. We’re going to stay right here.” So that’s what happened.

Lumber for the house came from Groveland by train to Riverland then hauled up to the property by horse and wagon. Papa and his brother built the house which had four rooms with a separate room for the kitchen. The two buildings were connected by a breezeway and a covered porch. This porch was called a dog trot.

My momma and daddy married during the big freeze of 1895. Well, my brother was born about a year later, maybe, and he lived to be seven years old. But he lived to come here. And this is where he died. Momma said I was born 17 years later. He died of some kind of fever. Momma said she didn’t know what kind of fever, but anyway, he was out of his mind. See his fever, I guess, got so high. That’s the only thing I heard her say was he had the fever.

My Papa farmed, mostly cukes and beans, in the spring and summer. In the winter he trapped animals for furs and also hunted alligators. I would drive him to the traps. He bought a car but never learned to drive. I helped with the farming. When my Daddy got sick, I would go out and we had a big old black horse and he was trained. He knew just what to do, how to walk with a plow and all, and I’d go hitch him up and I’d plow. I’d work the field, and my Daddy would say, “When you get through with that working there, we’ll go fishing.” He loved to fish. I did too and we’d hurry up and get the work done and go fishing.

Daddy died when he was 57 years old. I was 16 at the time. I took care of Momma, staying here after I was married.

Let me tell you a story about two boys buried in our cemetery. This man, his name was Sumner, lived where Freda Boyett lives now, and he had cattle. That was back in the 1800s. He needed help with the cattle so he had this boy from Dade City to come work for him. He got to have rope, used to they didn’t have too much to work with, but he had a rope and he was going to send the rope by the boy to lend it so somebody that worked with cows. He got up here to this Flag Ford and the Indians got him. Two Indians killed him at Flag Ford on the river. So the horse came back that he was riding with his suspenders woven into the horse’s mane. So they knew then that the Indians had killed him.

So they put out to find him and found him up there close to this place and brought him back. They got the Indians and put them in jail. The Indians hung themselves that night. Well, there was no cemetery then so they buried this little boy, I guess he was about 10 or 12 or so, up there behind this house.

Me and my friend Vera decided to do something about that. We decided to give that little boy a resting place because there was another boy that was buried somewhere in the Flag Ford area. There was somebody lived there and a little boy that fell into a stump hole and burned up, so they buried him out there. His name was Mobley and he had a new hat. His family was burning stumps to clear the land. His hat blew off his head and into one of the stump holes. The boy went after his hat and fell in and burned. We wanted to give both boys a place of rest so we went to Leesburg and we got them a monument, each one, and we put on there their name and what happened to them. So that’s how they came to be in the Clay Sink Cemetery.

My Life in Clay Sink — Part Two

The old Clay Sink school house now being used as the fellowship hall at the Clay Sink Baptist Church

Mrs. Frances Pritchett, a lifelong resident of Clay Sink, is interviewed by Sid Taylor, employee of the Division of Forestry, August 26, 2006. Ms. Taylor was working on an oral history project for the Citrus County Historical Society. This article first appeared on the EPHS web site.

Sid: Go ahead, tell me about school.

Mrs. Frances: Well, I went to school at eight years old. One teacher taught all eight grades, and what we had to play with was baseballs, trip around the mountain, marbles, and stuff like that. And we had to carry our own lunch, and we had to put it up in the schoolhouse because the hogs would get it. There were wild hogs going everywhere and they would come in that schoolhouse and get your lunch.

Sid: How many kids were there usually in the school?

Mrs. Frances: Let’s see, I’d say there were 30, something like that. The schoolhouse is still there.

Sid: Did I pass it?

Mrs. Frances: It’s up there by the church house now, and they use it for a fellowship hall at the church. It’s the original school house, but they added on a bathroom and a front porch. But the rest of it is the original thing.

Sid: Wonderful. What was your teacher’s name?

Mrs. Frances: My teacher’s name was Mr. Hammer—H. A. Hammer—from Dade City. He taught all eight grades. I went to school and finished up the eighth grade, and that’s as far as I went. I didn’t go no further.

Sid: Tell me what you remember about the time during the Depression, when they started buying up this land out here, the Federal government.

Mrs. Frances: Let me see. I married in ’32 and we had it kind of rough. We didn’t have too much money, but we had our own meat, we had butter, we had syrups, we had meal for bread. We had all that stuff here at home, you know. We grew all that stuff, sweet potatoes. Anyway, then I had my two daughters during the depression and the War. We got along fine, we were rationed, but we never did go without anything we needed. I would go to the feed store and get these real nice feed sacks with real pretty printed stuff, looked like linen, and I made school dresses for the children to wear to school. Then we were helped out and everything went along nice and we got along fine during that time. Do you want to know what happened here one night?

Sid: Yes

Mrs. Frances: My husband he had from 3-11 at night. That was his shift (at Pasco Packing Co). So one night he came home about 12 o’clock. It was dark and when he turned out the lights at the front gate and opened the gate, something ran into him and like to knocked him down. He thought it was a dog.

He came out around the house but the dog was in the yard. Whatever it was ran by him like to knock him down, he said. Well, when he got along there about the chimney, it squalled out. It was a panther, and he had to go on around it to come in the house. And he thought that what had happened is his Momma was still living then, and this was her bedroom. He though that she fell off the bed. So he go inside. He looked inside and she was all right. About that time it hollered again. A panther. And then about that time the dogs taken after it, and that was it. But there are panthers here.

I’ll tell you something else that we done. My grandfather, my Daddy’s daddy, he was a Confederate soldier and he’s buried up there at Bay Lake, a cemetery between Mascotte and Bay Lake called Fender Cemetery. So he was buried there, so we thinking one day, I told Robbie (her granddaughter), “Call down here at Dade City at the Veterans place and see if we can get him a tombstone.” She did, but they said, “No, we can’t do that, but we’ll tell you what to do.” He said, “Go to Bushnell, up here to this place where they have the cemetery, you know.

Sid: The National Cemetery.

Mrs. Frances: Yes. “they will give you what you need to know.” And that’s what she did. They gave her the paperwork and they sent the monument on the truck, and we had to go up there and put it on the cemetery on the grave. It was nice, it had his name on it and all that. Then we got another one for my Grandpa, on Momma’s momma’s husband, and he is at Clay Sink. We got one for him. His name was Jim Lanier. We got one for him. He was a soldier, too. But we got two tombstones, one for each one of them. I thought we were proud of that, and those little boys’ tombstones, too. (See previous Clay Sink story for details on the little boys.)

Sid: Your grandfathers that you got the stones for, did they both live through the war or did they die in the Confederate War?

Mrs. Frances: They lived through it. Now. There’s something else I’ve got to tell you. My Grandpa Lanier, he built this, in Dade City, called the River Road. He took his slaves and made the bridge across the river. It’s called Lanier Bridge, and it stayed there. It was made in the 1800s and this man (at) Swiftmud. He had it restored, but it’s made out of cement and stuff, but it’s in the same location. He didn’t want to have a two-way drive. He had it one single-way drive, but my Grandpa Lanier started that with slaves.

The Beginning of Clay Sink

This article by Theresa Osbron Smith first appeared on the EPHS website.

There is a large sinkhole or clay pit in the northeastern section of Pasco County, only minutes from both Sumter and Hernando Counties around which a community developed in 1862 known as Slaughter or Clay Sink and which is very alive today.

Information for this story comes from pascocemeteries.org , fivay.org and other sources.

Harrison and Martha Ann McKinney Slaughter acquired this property from Jessie Sumner on May 20, 1862 owning 120 acres in all. This area and community, around Harrison and Martha’s property, became known as both Slaughter and Clay Sink. According to the McKinney Family “In 1873 Martha and Harrison had a child that was born and died. Harrison made a coffin for the infant, put it on his shoulder and told Martha he was going to find a hill for the infant’s grave.” This would be the start of the Clay Sink Cemetery.

Following this Harrison and Martha gave 2 acres for the cemetery and a church. The Clay Sink Missionary Baptist Church was formally organized on February 19, 1897 with twenty-one members, including Serena McKinney, Martha’s mother. Elder G.A. Bryant was the moderator in 1904 and erected the first church on the site The wood framed building served the Clay Sink Baptist Church for almost 50 years. There are members of the Bryant family buried here at the Clay Sink Cemetery.

In 1956 the old church was burned after being struck by lightening and was rebuilt using pine provided by the Withlacoochee State Forest. This building still remains on the property today and continues as the home of the Clay Sink Baptist Church.

Former pastors of Clay Sink Baptist Church include: John William Wright Gideons, 1909-1917 ; as was common for many pastors, he preached the first Sunday at Clay Sink and other churches on the remaining Sundays. He arrived at the church in various ways; driving his buggy, walking or a church member would pick him up, have dinner with a member and then preach the evening service before returning to Trilacoochee in the same manner as he arrived. He is the great-grandfather of Theresa Osbron Smith. (source: Vera Boyett; Myrna Gideons Osbron, granddaughter)

Bartley Dean Baldwin, early 1930’s; Everett Boyett said he and his dad used to pick up Pastor Baldwin on Sunday mornings and drive him to Clay Sink to preach. He would have lunch with a member of the congregation, preach again that evening and the Boyetts would bring him back to Lacoochee. His daughter, Betty Baldwin Haycraft, said she often accompanied her father to Clay Sink and would play with the kids there between services. Mr. Baldwin was usually paid in chickens and vegetables. He is the grandfather of Gloria Baldwin Hunnicutt. (source: J.W. and Gloria Baldwin Hunnicutt; Everett Boyett)

On September 19, 1885 Harrison and Martha Ann Slaughter deeded a portion of their property to the Hernando County School Board. The school building became known as both the Slaughter and Clay Sink Schoolhouse.

As Pasco County was formed from Hernando County in 1887, the Clay Sink School was transferred and became a part of the Pasco County School Board district. The school was not only known as the Clay Sink/Slaughter school but it was also known as Riverland.

For 27 years the Clay Sink/Slaughter/Riverland schoolhouse served the community of Clay Sink. In 1912 a one-room schoolhouse was constructed nearby on Cobb Slough. In 1915 the building was relocated to the cemetery property using a team of mule and logs to roll the building along.

However the property was not big enough to accommodate the cemetery, church and schoolhouse so William Henry and Joanna Slaughter Boyett donated additional acreage.

In 1935 the school board decided that only the six primary grades would be taught at Clay Sink, with the older students transported to Lacoochee. In 1943 the last class was conducted in the old Clay Sink schoolhouse as consolidation of the school system occurred and children were bused to Dade City.

Not letting the school building go to waste it was converted into a fellowship hall for the congregation of the Clay Sink Baptist Church. Today the schoolhouse still serves its purpose of a fellowship hall and remains on the cemetery property where it is maintained and cared for.

Former teachers of the Clay Sink/Slaughter/Riverland school include:

Enoch W. Gideons; he would often stay the week with the Pritchett family rather than walk home to Trilacoochee after the school day. He is the grandfather of Theresa Osbron Smith. (source: Mrs. Frances Pritchett)

C. R. Lyon; appointed teacher of Riverland School

M. S. Slaughter; appointed supervisor of Riverland School

D. C. Cripe; appointed teacher at Slaughter

Gertrude Slaughter; appointed teacher at Slaughter

As the Clay Sink community, church and school grew so did the cemetery. Many of the original charter members of the Clay Sink Baptist Church and pioneer families of the community are interred here.

Among those families are: Slaughters, Sumners, Boyetts, Sapps, Robbins, McKinneys, Hardins, Mobleys, Gays and Weeks. There are five generations of the Slaughter Family buried in the Clay Sink Cemetery. Also interred here are Rev. G.A. Bryant and family and S.R.A. Kemp and family; both families helped in the building of the Clay Sink Community.

There are many infants buried here at this cemetery. In the late 1890’s and early 1900’s Pasco saw the mortality rates rise due to malaria fever, whooping cough, and other diseases of those times. These diseases always attacked the children and elderly first, many times sparing no one.

Quarantine stations were established at many of the train depots in the area in the attempt of stopping these diseases from spreading, not knowing that these diseases were caused many times by insect bites. There are many descendants and relations to these families still living in the area and surrounding areas of Pasco County.

There are many graves in this cemetery that are marked with small headstones only containing the individuals names and no other information. There are a number of areas where the ground is sunken, indicating older graves, but at this time there are no records of who lies there. This is one of the older cemeteries in Pasco County and it holds a great deal of history. The Clay Sink Association is currently in charge of this property and they do a great job in keeping up this cemetery.

Mustard Gas Testing in East Pasco

In the 1940’s Jean Brinson Ward’s father, Titus Brinson, worked for the United States Forestry Service in the Brooksville-Richloam area. One of his jobs was to monitor the Richloam-Clay Sink area from the fire tower at Richloam. The US Army maintained a bombing range in the forest east of Clay Sink near a second tower called East Tower where they conducted mustard gas tests. Here is Jean’s story, which first appeared on the EPHS web site.

Mustard Gas is an oily liquid used as a shell filling in WWI and evidently used as a bomb filling during WWII as the US Army tested it at their bombing range near East Tower which was east of Clay Sink. They had goats and rabbits that they used during the testing to see what the effects would be on humans if a bomb filled with it was dropped on a populated area. Mustard gas is a violent irritant and has blistering properties that causes severe skin reactions. This area of the Forestry Department was headquartered in Brooksville. Mr. Lane who was the forester over this area got into the gas on one of his trips to the range. He spent several days in the hospital with severe skin burns and blisters from the gas. We could feel the earth shake when the bombs were dropped and our house was in Richloam which was about nine or ten miles from the range.

The soldiers who were at the range would get a new supply of commodities at the end of each month. If they had extras left over from the previous month they would throw some out on our front lane for us. . .coffee, tea, sometimes sugar, k-rations and other things that I can’t remember as I was a young child. These were things that were rationed for us. The commodities were in brown metal army containers. They would throw them out on Saturday evenings on their way into Dade City to the USO.

Richloam is in Hernando County and Clay Sink is in Pasco County. The Atlantic Coast Line Railroad (“The Goat”) ran through Richloam at that time. Richloam even had a depot, grocery store and post office during the 1920’s and 1930’s. The residents of Clay Sink bought their groceries at the store and used the post office. The post office closed the day I was born. The store which housed the post office was owned by my uncle, Sidney Brinson, and the building still stands in Richloam, not in the best condition. My brother, John, bought it from our uncle years ago.

In Pasco Hamlet, Past Looms Large (2007)

Tribune photo by ANDY JONES

Constructed of heart pine, Clay Sink Baptist Church is one of the few churches in Florida that are on state forest land. About 100 people attended Sunday services when the hamlet of Clay Sink was thriving in the 1920s and early 1930s.

This article appeared in the Tampa Tribune on Dec. 26, 2007.


CLAY SINK – This tiny community, dwarfed by the Withlacoochee State Forest that surrounds it, might have been run over by development by now, like many of Florida’s rural outposts, except for a quirk of fate.

The state Division of Forestry owns all the land in Pasco, Hernando and Sumter counties surrounding Clay Sink, including the 2 acres where the community’s old schoolhouse, historic cemetery and Baptist church sit. That dynamic has rendered this remote hamlet in northeast Pasco County useless to developers – and given the local congregation the distinction of being one of the few functioning churches within Florida state forests.

Now, a handful of current and former residents are trying to preserve the community’s history. With people such as 94-year-old Frances Pritchett aging, though, time is running short to capture the story of how her parents homesteaded, farmed and hunted here.

It’s the current generation’s responsibility, Clay Sink’s amateur historians say, to document Vera Boyett’s stories of young married life in the 1930s, when 100 or more people came to Clay Sink Baptist Church on Sundays to worship. They want to save the gravesites in the private cemetery, which dates back six generations.

Then there’s the one-room schoolhouse, which the church uses as its fellowship hall. The place where generations went to school now hosts big Southern-style meals after church events.

The Clay Sink community, so named for a sinkhole, dates back to about 1862, when the Sumner and Slaughter families acquired land here for farming and ranching.

Those days seem to loom largest in the minds of the people here today. Ancestors who started farms worked through intense heat without modern tools. Florida ranching and cowboy culture literally started in the wild.

People who survived those times became role models to later generations who revere their perseverance and guts.

“In the pioneer days, the people who came to Florida came for the same reasons people originally came to the United States,” said Robert Sumner, whose family dates back to the 1820s, before Pasco County was created. “People wanted to live in an area where they were free to do what they wanted to do without being fenced in, where they could develop their own church.”

The Slaughters started the graveyard after an infant girl died in 1873. Her father buried her in the best spot he could find – a hill on his family’s land. Eventually, the family gave 2 acres for a church and cemetery. Descendants of the founding families keep up the cemetery, and some of the same people make up the church congregation.

The school came in 1885 – again on land donated by the Slaughters.

The community fostered a complex economy by the 1930s, according to Jean Brinson Ward, the cemetery association’s volunteer historian. In addition to farming and ranching, the expansion of the railroad in the 1920s spurred a timber harvesting industry and a turpentine business.

The Great Depression kept much of the community poor, though.

When the turpentine and timber industries retreated in the 1930s, many people left.

In the late 1930s, the federal government started buying forest lands, first from the timber companies and then from area families. Ranching declined as grazing lands went into public ownership. The state of Florida became official owner of the public forests in 1958.

Today, Clay Sink is simply a cluster of farmsteads, homes and trailers on private parcels grouped around Lacoochee Clay Sink Road. State land engulfs the community, which you don’t stumble on by accident. The church, built of heart pine, offers weekly services and is the only remaining community institution.

Still, it’s a place people call home – even some who have moved away. Twice a year, members of the cemetery association drive up and meet in the old schoolhouse. They come to talk about finances and maintenance issues, but they spend a lot of time catching up and looking at pictures.

At the most recent meeting, in October, members decided to get estimates for repairing some of the cemetery’s oldest headstones, which are breaking and crumbling. Aside from showing respect for those buried there, the markers contain valuable genealogical information and need to be protected, said Henry Boyett, Vera’s son.

They applauded a new historic marker from Pasco County, discussed new cemetery markers honoring two boys who died during Clay Sink’s pioneer days, and talked about soliciting family histories to publish with the cemetery directory.

“We need to do it while we still have some of our older members living,” said Ward, 71, a retired schoolteacher who now lives in Dade City.

Ward has been looking for photos and combing through old census reports, newspaper clippings and funeral home records. She has several binders full of material, though she’s not sure what she’ll do with it all.

That Ward and others have started gathering the history of this place, where she raised her family and still goes to church, pleases Boyett. She likes to say Clay Sink offers both heritage and salvation.

“You don’t find this every place,” she said.

Links to Other Sites

List of Names on Cemetery Markers

Preserving a Space They All Worship: Clay Sink Baptist Church, 2007 St. Petersburg Times article

Salvation vs Preservation, 2005 St. Petersburg Times article

Clay Sink Cemetery, 3 photos from findagrave.com

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