HISTORY OF PASCO COUNTY
This page was last revised on June 25, 2019.
Nov. 11, 1886. Simon J. Temple purchases 280.74 acres of land for $1,026.69 from Florida Railway and Navigation Corp. [He named the area Abbott; it later became Zephyrhills.]
1888. Abbott is surveyed for Simon J. Temple, who owned much of the land.
Feb. 2, 1888. The Abbott post office is established. [The name was changed to Hegman in 1890 and back to Abbott in 1892. In 1910 the post office was either renamed Zephyrhills or discontinued and replaced with the Zephyrhills post office.]
Apr. 17, 1888. Abbott is platted and recorded in Plat Book Number 1 on page 5.
1892. An article in the Pasco County Democrat refers to John D. Austin of Hegman.
Aug. 3, 1899. The San Antonio Herald reports, “Mr. Tanner, a turpentine operator, with two colored assistants succeeded in arresting a colored fugitive, whom they located in Abbott. The prisoner, who is wanted for murder, was brought to Dade City and turned over to Sheriff Griffin for safekeeping until the sheriff of Hernando county could be notified and send for him.”
Mar. 6, 1906. The Gainesville Daily Sun reports: “One of the most important transfers in real estate recorded in Florida in some time was the sale of 18,000 acres of timber land, together with forty ‘crops,’ or 400,000 boxes, and the complete naval stores outfit of W. B. Phifer, located at Abbott, Pasco county, a few days ago. It is understood that the consideration was $90,000. A large acreage of the tract is virgin timber, and said to be among the finest for turpentine purposes in Pasco county.”
Feb. 1909. Capt. Howard B. Jeffries, a Civil War veteran from Pennsylvania, searching for a site for a colony for Union Civil War veterans, selects the site of Abbott.
Aug. 6, 1909. The land for Zephyrhills is purchased for the Zephyrhills Colony by Capt. Jeffries, according to a 1928 newspaper artice.
Sept. 26, 1909. The Tampa Morning Tribune reports, “The Stebbins Real Estate company, Tampa, has sold to New York Capitalists 35,000 acres of land in Hillsborough and Pasco counties for development.”
Sept. 28, 1909. The Tampa Morning Tribune reports, “J. L. Greer left Abbott last night for Jacksonville to transact business. Mr. Greer is the lumberman who recently transferred 35,000 acres of land in Pasco and Hillsborough counties to eastern capitalists for colonization purposes.”
Oct. 1, 1909. The Weekly True Democrat of Tallahassee reports, “A big colonization company has purchased 35,000 acres of land in the southern portion of Pasco county for colonization purposes. The settlement will be known as Zephyrhills, and it has already been arranged to settle 6,000 families thereon.”
Oct. 15, 1909. A newspaper reports that the State Department of Delaware issued certificates of incorporation to the Zephyr Hills Colony Co., to develop industrial farming and manufacturing colonies in Florida. The incorporators are Ferdinand M. Jeffries, of Pleasantville, N. J.; Wallace Campbell, of Bayonne, N. J.; William L. B. G. Allen and G. G. Baker, of New York. The capital stock is $500,000.
Nov. 9, 1909. An advertisement in the Tampa Morning Tribune has: “Mr. H. B. Jeffries of New York City, the Vice-President of the Zephyrhills Colony Company, is in the city [Tampa] and has opened up headquarters in Suite 219, American Bank Building, with the Stebbins Realty Co. He will be here only a short time, as he will soon move up to the Colony site, where he is now locating a town site.”
Jan. 27, 1910. The Zephyrhills Colonist reports, “There are a few houses near the station at Abbott now. It will be but a few months until it will be a bustling town.” It also reports, “Mr. Hennington’s store on the Colony Townsite is large and well stocked for the small community at present relying upon it for dry goods, groceries, hardware, etc., but by and by there will be need of enlargement and multiplication.”
Feb. 9, 1910. The Tampa Morning Tribune reports, “A. E. Stebbins, of the Stebbins Realty Company, of this city, has returned form Abbott, where he went to assist the purchasers in the Zephyr Hills colony to select their lands and reports that all were greatly satisfied and pleased with their purchases. He delcares that some of them were so well pleased that after being there a few days, they purchased additional tracts.”
Feb. 11, 1910. The Tampa Morning Tribune reports: “DADE CITY, February 10—Meager details of a dual tragedy have just been received here in which William Stafford, a prominent farmer of that section, shot and killed Joseph and Mit (?) Hale. According to the reports received, Stafford had accused the young men of taking hogs that did not belong to them and which were his property. Meeting on the streets of Abbott this afternoon, the quarrel was renewed, and from the best information obtainable the Hale boys picked a quarrel with Stafford. The latter went off and procured a double barrel shot gun, with which he shot both men. The bodies of the two dead men were taken to Dade City tonight and a coroner’s inquest will be held tomorrow. All of the principals are well known in this county.”
May 31, 1910. The name of the Abbott post office is changed to Zephyrhills. [A newspaper from November 10, 1909, listing towns, shows Zephyrhills colony.]
July 2, 1910. The Tampa Morning Tribune reports, “Captain J. B. Jeffries, of the Zephyr Hills Colony near Dade City, was in Tampa yesterday. The genial Captain has just returned form a trip to New York made in the interests of the colony, and reports that the affairs of Zephyr Hill are in a most flourishing condition. They are now mailing the 120,000 edition of the ‘Zephyr Hills Colonist,’ recently put out by the presses of The Tribune Publishing Co.”
July 20, 1910. The Tampa Morning Tribune reports, “Captain H. B. Jeffries, president of the colony, has engaged E. A. Nolan, of Tampa, to erect for him a house on the corner of Fifth avenue and Eighth street. The building will be two stories, with suitable porches.”
Sept. 7, 1910. The Tampa Morning Tribune reports that the school house will soon be completed. (See a separate article on the Zephyrhills school.) it also reports:
Aug. 2, 1911. The Tampa Morning Tribune reports that A. E. and J. F. Stebbins have bought out the interest of Capt. Jeffries and his associates in the Zephyrhills Colony Company, as Mr. Jeffries’ health has declined. The newspaper called it the largest land deal ever consummated in Pasco County.
Oct. 5, 1911. Vol. I, No. 1, of the newspaper the Zephyrhills Colonist appears.
1912. The Grand Army of the Republic Hall is constructed in Zephyrhills.
1912. The First Methodist Church traces its founding to this year, when 30 members met with the Rev. N. J. Hawley in the dining room of a home.
Aug. 1, 1912. The First State Bank of Zephyrhills begins operations, having bought out the McCormick, Stapleton, & Co., bankers, of Zephyrhills. [On July 16, 1915, the Dade City Banner reported that the banks in Zephyrhills have consolidated, with the American State Bank of Zephyrhills purchasing the assets of the First State Bank of Zephyrhills.]
Aug. 8, 1912. The Atlanta Constitution has: “Zephyr Hills, Fla. August 7.—Richard A. Burke, vice president and general manager of the Homestead Land company of Crystal Springs, near here, jumped in front of a fast moving passenger train today and was instantly killed. … Burke came here two years ago from Milwaukee, Wis., and was one of the foremost citizens in this section. No reason is known for the rash act.”
Jan. 5, 1913. The Tampa Morning Tribune reports, “The Colony Company is putting up a stand in the park for the band boys.”
June 27, 1913. An advertisement in the Tampa Morning Tribune states that Zephyrhills is a new town, three years old, and now has a population of nearly 2,000. It is on the main line of the Seaboard Railway.
Sept. 11, 1914. The Dade City Banner reports:
Sept. 13, 1914. The Tampa Morning Tribune reports that on Sept. 18 there will be a celebration of the laying of the cornerstone of the First Methodist Church. The bricks have arrived on the ground belonging to the S. A. L. for the new depot.
Sept. 18, 1914. The Dade City Banner reports, “Tuesday the citizens of Zephyrhills showed their progressiveness by voting in favor of good roads. They voted to create a special road and bridge district No. 4, and to build 20 miles of hard roads at a cost of $30,000, to be paid for in warrants of the district. The county Commissioners met Wednesday for the purpose of canvassing the returns and declared the election carried in favor of roads—and progress. With these roads and the Richland roads that have just been voted for and the good roads we already have this county will be in the front rank when it comes to good roads.”
Oct. 30, 1914. The Dade City Banner reports, “We have just instituted a new G. A. R. Post, ‘Farragut, No. 41, Dept of Florida.’ The officers of Farragut Post are: Commander, Benjamin Franklin Gilbert; Senior Vice Commander, H. W. Kirby; Junior Vice Commander, L. A. Barnett; Adjutant, Samuel E. Nyce; Quartermaster, J. C. Percival; Officer of the Day, C. G. Hopkins; Officer of the Guard, Rev. J. A. Ball; Chaplain, Rev. E. T. Gray; Patriotic Instructor, Lemuel P. Stovens. They already have between 25 and 30 members, with more coming. They have pledged themselves not to proselyte the members of Garfield Post—from which the members of this new Post have chiefly withdrawn—or in any way antagonize the welfare of that Post, preferring rather to cultivate the spirit of true fraternity, charity and loyalty towards all comrades, and thus give to these words meaning more than of “Sounding brass of a clanging symbol.” We are building a fine M. E. Church, which, it is expected, will be ready to occupy sometime in December.”
Nov. 13, 1914. The Dade City Banner reports, “O. N. Williams & Son, popular owners of the Dade City Racket store, announce that they will open up a racket store at Zephyrhills Saturday of this week. The store is to be run in connection with their racket store of this place and will carry a complete stock of dry goods, toys, novelties, and a general line of five, ten, and twenty-five-cent goods. The Dade City Racket Store is one of the progressive business houses of this city, and has enjoyed a liberal patronage from an appreciative public during its existence here, and while the store at this place will be kept up to its high standard, the proprietors will put in a first-class establishment at Zephyrhills.”
Nov. 17, 1914. The vote to incorporate Zephyrhills is held at the G. A. R. Hall. [It passed 65 to 12. W. C. Boggs was elected Mayor, and the five aldermen elected were N. L. Wright, S. J. Lyons, A. D. Penry, S. G. Allen, and W. J. McLaughlin. Peter O. Bobb was chosen marshal and P. T. Williams was chosen city clerk.]
Dec. 4, 1914. In an article about Zephyrhills, the Dade City Banner reports:
Jan. 29, 1915. The Dade City Banner reports, “J. M. Harvey, president of the Bank of Commerce, of Tampa, and the Latin American Bank, of Ybor City, in company with E. W. Stapleton, was in the city Monday, making arrangements to put a new bank in this place. The name of the new one will be The American State Bank of Zephyrhills. The capital stock will be $15,000, and it was virtually all subscribed before they arrived in town, except that which they were holding for resident stockholders. The preliminary moves have all been made, and the institution will be in running condition at the earliest possible moment. L. D. Stapleton, who is now at Ellenton, looking after the bank at that place, will be cashier. The Stapleton boys are well known and well liked at Zephyrhills, and will be intensely welcomed back in the financial world of Zephyrhills.—Colonist.”
Feb. 26, 1915. The Dade City Banner reports, “Rev. J. A. Davis, who has just recently accepted the pastorate of the Baptist Church of Zephyrhills, was in the city Saturday.”
March 26, 1915. The Dade City Banner reports, “The American State Bank of Zephyrhills opened for business Tuesday morning with pleasing ceremonies. A social reception was held in the bank, during which refreshments were served and carnations presented to the ladies and cigars to the men. J. M. Harvey, a leading banker of Tampa, is president of the new institution, and L. D. Stapleton, of Zephyrhills, is cashier, with E. W. Stapleton, assistant. With the opening of the new bank, this gives Zephyrhills two state banks, which should take care of the situation in that city for some time to come.”
May 14, 1915. The Dade City Banner reports, “A deal was consummated this week in Zephyrhills whereby Mr. Len Gilbert of that city became the owner o f the Zephyrhills electric light plant, he buying the business from Mr. W. M. Francisco. Mr. Gilbert came to Zephyrhills from Grand Rapids, Mich., about a year ago. Mr. Francisco was compelled to sell on account of his engineering business, which consumes the greater part of his time.”
Nov. 28, 1915. The Tampa Morning Tribune reports, “The dedication of the new Christian Church last Sunday was a grand success. A large crowd was in attendance at all the different meetings during the day, and a satisfactory program was rendered, according to published schedule. Rev. McHargue, of Jacksonville, was the speaker of the day. The solos of Mrs. U. L. Wright and Mrs. A. H. Harvey were fine, as they always are. The church starts out with good prospects ahead and its future is enthusiastically predicted.”
Dec. 13, 1915. The Tampa Morning Tribune reports, “There are three church buildings here, the Methodist Church North, which was completed this year at a cost of over $7,000, is one of the finest in the State, considering the size of the town; the Christian Church, which has been partially finished on a few months, will cost about $2,000 when completed, and the Union Tabernacle, where different denominations hold services, also a Catholic Church in the north part of town.”
July 16, 1916. The Tampa Morning Tribune reports, “This city is to have a real hotel. The Zephyrhills Hotel Company was organized here yesterday, to construct a two-story hotel building, with four storerooms and hotel lobby on the first floor, and twenty-five rooms, parlor and other necessary rooms and convenience on the second floor. The structure is to be of concrete blocks with stucco finish and modern in every respect. It is to be completed in time for the winter tourist business. The cost will be about $12,000.” [A 1971 newspaper article reporting on the demolition of the hotel has: “Built in 1917, the hotel was operated for several years by Mr. and Mrs. C. W. Wrennick who leased it from the Zephyr Hotel Co. It was owned by a time by Mr. and Mrs. G. F. Hosburg, who sold it to Mr. and Mrs. Howard Powell. They later leased it to Mr. and Mrs. Robert Richardson. It was again taken over by the Powells until Powell’s death. Their son Lawrence Powell then operated it until his death in an automobile accident two years ago.”]
Nov. 26, 1917. The Tampa Morning Tribune reports, “The new Hotel Zephyr is now open for guests. …. There has been quite a delay in opening the hotel on account of getting furniture caused by the congested condition of the railroads.”
Jan. 18, 1918. The Dade City Banner reports, “The council of this city did itself proud and greatly benefited the town by providing the people with a commodious city hall, located on Ninth street between Sixth and Seventh avenues. The council traded some property which the city owned for the building heretofore known as the ‘Tabernacle,’ a spacious hall 30 by 50 feet, provided with stoves for heating purposes and electrically lighted, and in the best possible location. The hall will not be rented for any purpose whatsoever, but will be for the use of all public meetings to be held by citizens of Zephyrhills. The council is to be commended for providing the citizens of this city with such a substantial public meeting place, and at the same time without expense to the town. Several public meetings have already been held at the new hall.”
Mar. 22, 1918. The Dade City Banner reports: “Zephyrhills was completely terrorized Tuesday morning shortly after one o’clock when a band of bank robbers blew the safe of the American State Bank and attempted to rob the bank of about $5,000. In the melee following the first explosion in the bank, in which twenty or more shots are said to have been exchanged between the robbers and citizens, Mr. A. B. Storms, a baker and prominent citizen of Zephyrhills, was killed by one of the bandits. Failing to gain entrance into the inner door of the safe, the bandits escaped in an automobile, which they had stationed in the edge of town, after cutting the telegraph and telephone wires, to prevent the alarm being given.”
May 25, 1919. The Tampa Morning Tribune reports, “Floyd Hennington has sold his grocery business to J. F. Stebbins, and will move to Wauchula to engage in the lumber business. Mr. Hennington was in the firm with his father, L. F. Hennington, the first business house in pioneer days, before the colony company was organized.”
Aug. 6, 1920. The Dade City Banner reports, “Col. H. B. Jeffries of Zephyrhills, Republican candidate for Congress from this district, was a caller on the Banner yesterday, and recalled that it was eleven years ago today that he bought the land for the Zephyrhills colony, which developed into one of the most successful colonies of the state and has the second largest town in the county today. Col. Jeffries is in dead earnest in regard to his candidacy and asserts confidence in his election.”
Aug. 26, 1921. The Zephyrhills Colonist reports that William H. Mountain was brutally murdered, and that Eugene Blakely was arrested but denied involvement.
June 16, 1922. The Dade City Banner reports, “The machine and carpenter shop in Zephyrhills owned and occupied by P. T. Williams was totally destroyed by fire early this morning. The building was near the home of P. E. Bobbs and the latter was in danger for a while. The loss amounts to $500 or more. The Dade City fire company was asked for assistance, but before the boys could start, a second message stated the fire was under control.”
Nov. 24, 1922. The Dade City Banner reports, “Zephyrhills, November 20.—The ladies of the Rebecca lodge and member of the Oddfellows lodge gave a supper Tuesday evening at the G. A. R. hall, the proceeds of which will be used toward buying new equipment for the lodge rooms. The Oddfellows recently had the misfortune to lose all their furniture and equipment in the fire which destroyed the Blodgett building on Fifth avenue a week ago last Sunday.”
Feb. 19, 1926. The Zephyrhills News reports, “Bandits entered The American State Bank Wednesday during the lunch hour, when it was closed, choked, bound and drugged the bookkeeper and escaped with approximately $11,000.00 in cash.”
June 11, 1928. The American State bank fails to open. [Zephyrhills was subsequently without a bank for about 20 years.]
Mar. 15, 1940. The Dade City Banner reports: “A fire of undetermined origin destroyed the former Hennington building and three adjacent structures, completely wiping out one of the business blocks of Zephyrhills last Saturday morning about one-thirty o’clock, during a period of high wind which quickly swept the buildings and caused a complete loss. The Dade City fire department responded to a call for assistance. However it and the Zephyrhills fire truck were unable to quench the flames, but by their efforts nearby buildings were saved.”
May 9, 1962. WZRH 1400-AM begins broadcasting, owned by Zephyr Broadcasting Corp, John Dent, President. [The station was acquired by Paul Lasobik on Oct. 16, 1963. It subsequently changed call letters to WPAS. The station now has the call letters WZHR.]
June 5, 2013. The name of the largest Powerball winner in history is announced. It is Gloria MacKenzie, 84, of Zephyrhills.
Building a Town Among the Hills (1910)
Zephyrhills Colony Has Wrought Transformation
Seven Months Ago, There Were Only Three People There—Now a Hustling Little City Exists
This article appeared in the Tampa Morning Tribune on July 17, 1910.
ABBOTT, July 13.—(Special.)—Seven months ago when the rising sun shot its rays over the hills at Abbott only three people were awakened. There were only three to awaken, Mr. and Mrs. Hennington and their son Floyd.
They looked up and down the street, the only street in town, the one leading from their store to the depot. Not a soul to be seen, not even a dog. Three dilapidated houses, inhabited by bats and owls. A more desolate scene could not be imagined. How a family like the Henningtons could be contented here is past all comprehension. It could not be anything man had done for the place, so we looked about to see what nature had done.
We saw beautiful hills, more than 200 feet in height, their long, sloping sides dotted with beautiful oak and pine trees.
We went to the top of one of the hills, said to be 230 feet in height. What a beautiful panorama was spread out. Hill after hill could be seen rising one after another for miles. While, nestling in the valleys, and on the lower hill tops, were farm houses surrounded by fields of corn, peach orchards and orange groves, small herds of milch cows. Some large droves of cashmere and Angora goats were seen on some of the hillsides. It was a grand sight.
When we read many years ago that story of Jules Verne, how he was shot from a cannon planted in the mountains east of Tampa to the moon, we did not believe it, we had never seen mountains east of Tampa, but what are these great piles of sand, clay and rock if not mountains? At any rate they look like mountains to one who has lived the past thirty years in the flat, piney woods of Florida.
This morning when the sun shot its rays over the hills at Abbott, several hundred people awakened. On looking out, up and down the streets and avenues, there are now over three miles of streets cleared up. One, Fifth avenue, is 90 feet in width, all others are 60. Men, women and children are seen going in every direction; some to their work, some to their places of business, while others with rod and reel to the Hillsborough river or some of the nearby lakes, returning with a string of trout (black bass).
What has brought about this great change?
Last fall, Capt. H. B. Jeffries, of New York City, bought through the Stebbins Realty Company, from J. L. Greer, a large tract of land. A company was organized, called the Zephyrhills Colony Company, with Capt. H. B. Jeffries as its president. The land was divided into five acre tracts and placed on the market. One section one mile square was laid out into town lots. The name of the town is Zephyrhills. The advent of this company was not heralded by a brass band or great magazine articles. The company had a few thousand papers printed by the Tampa Tribune Publishing Company, called the “Zephyrhills Colonist,” setting forth the facts about the land that they were placing on the market with a few letters from prominent citizens of Hillsborough and Pasco counties, making honest statements of the healthfulness and resources of this section. From this simple and straightforward manner of advertising, thousands of acres have been sold, and several hundred settlers have come and are building their homes. All seem to be contended, many of them buying more land and writing to their friends to come, that they have found a place where they can spend the sunset of life amid scenes of pleasantness.
The great majority of the settlers are old soldiers and draw a pension so their welfare need not be feared while they are bringing their farms and orchards to a paying basis. Since March 1, about seventy houses have been built, many of them on their acreage tracts. Those who have bought represent not less than 4,000 people, the majority of whom will be here by Christmas. Tampa had better look well to the east. This we judge is being done as we see Tampa people on the streets every day.
In some future article, I will make more personal mention of what is being done and who are doing it.
Postoffice Changed (1910)
Abbott Will in Future Be Known as Zephyrhills
This article appeared in the Tampa Tribune on July 20, 1910.
ZEPHYRHILLS, July 19.—(Special)—The name of the postoffice at this place has been changed from Abbott to Zephyrhills.
Mrs. Josephine Huntington [should be Hennington], who has so faithfully stood by the people in this section in maintaining a money order office when the compensation was scarcely worth mentioning, has been reappointed postmaster. This is justly due her for her faithfulness.
The business done at a postoffice is a good index to the growth of a town. Money orders paid for the month of April, 1909, one $10. Money orders paid for the month of March, 1910, 119—$2,869.40.
Captain H. B. Jeffries, president of the colony, has engaged E. A. Nolan, of Tampa, to erect for him a house on the corner of Fifth avenue and Eighth street. The building will be two-stories, with suitable porches.
Mr. W. R. Dunn has built a cottage on his residence lot, also a two-story store building on his lot on East Seventh street.
George Suinburn has completed his store on Fifth avenue.
Dr. Brinson has completed his building and is installing a soda fountain and opening up drugs for his store.
Mr. J. C. Price, of Minneapolis, Minn., with his two daughters, arrived yesterday. He has en route a carload of household goods and stock.
The Masons are contemplating the erection of a hall out of artificial stone.
Mr. Lyons, of Tampa, bought at lot on Eighth street, erected a building and stocked it with hardware all in a week. That is a fair illustration how business is rushed at Zephyrhills.
Monster Realty Deal in Pasco (1911)
Stebbins Brothers Buy Zephyrhills Colony
Price Is Up In Hundreds of Thousands; Entire Holdings Taken Over By Former Tampans
This article appeared in the Tampa Morning Tribune on Aug. 2, 1911.
ZEPHYRHILLS, Aug. 1—(Special)— The largest land deal ever consummated in Pasco county, and one of the largest in the State, has just been made public, wherein A. E. Stebbins and J. F. Stebbins, formerly doing business in Tampa, under the name of Stebbins Realty Company, bought out the interest of Capt. H. B. Jeffries and his associates in the Zephyrhills Colony company. While the price paid has not been given out, it must have been away up in the thousands, as the company is capitalized at $500,000 and their land holdings are large, lying in the hilly region of Pasco county. It is one of the finest bodies of land in the State and will produce anything adapted to this climate successfully and profitably.
This colony is one of the most successful in Florida, having sold lands to about 1,300 families, of which about 300 have already arrived and are building homes, opening up and otherwise improving their property. The population has reached about 1,000, with new people coming in almost every day, and the present indication is that there will be close to 3,000 people here before next winter is over.
The business in the future will be managed by A. E. Stebbins as president and J. F. Stebbins as treasurer. Those gentlemen have had over thirty years’ experience in Florida soil, having moved to this State from Illinois in 1877, and are competent to select land adapted to the different products grown in Florida. A. E. Stebbins served in the Eighty-Eighth Illinois Volunteer Infantry during the late Civil War, and hence is a suitable person in take the place of Captain Jeffries to look after the interests of the old comrades who are settling in the colony. While this is not exclusively an Old Soldiers’ colony, yet it is largely composed of Union Veterans and has the second largest G. A. R. post in the State.
A very attractive feature of this colony is its nearness to Tampa, the metropolis of South Florida, with its deep-water harbor second to none in the State and the work now going on will make it the largest and deepest in the State. With all this Tampa furnishes a market and a trading point for this colony, which is daily being demonstrated by the trade that is being carried on with Tampa by the colonists.
Captain Jeffries founded this colony and made it the most conspicuously successful colony in the Slate; and in doing so wore himself out by hard work, day and night, and suffered such damage to his sight that for some months he has not been able to attend personally to the business of the company. While in the North recently he was prostrated on the street by an attack of sickness, from which he has not recovered, and he found himself compelled by lack of strength to retire from the presidency of the company. He will continue in residence at Zephyrhills.
The company has laid out a park three hundred feet long on the east side of the depot, and is fencing and improving it in other ways. They intend to put down a well and install a system to water the entire park, have fountain, etc., and keep the place fresh and beautiful all the time with grass, flowers, shrubbery and trees.
At the meeting of the Masonic lodge of this place this week, the lodge decided to build a three-story brick building. J. L. Geiger, C. O. Halliday and C. C. Wetherington were appointed as a committee to locate the site. The first floor is to be occupied by a bank and two stores; second floor, office rooms; third floor, lodge rooms. This building is to cost about $15,000.
Mr. Francisco, a recent arrival from Michigan, is going to put up right away a two-story cement stone building, in which will be operated a drug store and ice-cream parlor. Mrs. Cunningham, owner of a large cement stone plant at San Antonio, is going to move her machinery here to supply blocks for this and other prospective buildings.
A gentleman was here this week to seek about a location for an ice plant. The parties interested in this enterprise have plenty of money and will put up their building of cement stone.
The Rise and Progress of Zephyrhills (1911)
This article appeared in the Zephyrhills Colonist on Nov. 23, 1911.
By SAMUEL E. NYCE
In February 1910 we made our first appearance at Abbott, now Zephyrhills. We arrived at 4 P.M. during a drizzling rain. The first impression was not an inviting one.
As we looked around, we found a few old and dilapidated buildings, about all of them paintless and lots of black walls. The buildings here were Hennington’s old store, the house directly opposite the station, the house now occupied by J. F. Stebbins, and one in the rear of same located along what is now called 7th Street.
The only one occupied prior to the organization of the Colony Company was Hennington’s store. There were also three R. R. houses about two blocks north from the station, and the shacks at the turpentine distillery occupied by Negroes. The distillery has now disappeared.
The main view before us were black oaks, on a tract opposite Hennington’s old store which was at one time cultivated. The Colony Company office was in the old house now occupied by J. F. Stebbins, but faced the east, since turned so as to face 5th Avenue.
We made our appearance at the office of the Colony Company rather disgusted at the surroundings, and the conditions existing.
We were royally received by Captain Jeffries and Mr. Moore, and on inquiry we found that the only place for lodging etc., was with Mrs. Davis at the Colony House opposite the station and then we went and found her house was well filled, but that she would feed me, provided I was willing to sleep in the school house in the woods on the other side of the R. R.
Of course with the rain and night approaching we were ready to accept almost anything and we were reconciled to the conditions existing.
After supper we were told that a number of men were ready to go to the school house in the woods and I accompanied them, bringing up the rear. It was dark and as I followed them, stumbling, and tumbling a number of times, I was reminded of the night marches under similar conditions in the Army of the Potomac. At last we came to the school house, rather an ancient building and uninviting lodging place, surveyed the field and, being tired was soon in the embrace of Morpheus.
Next morning the sun rose before we did and soon disappeared behind the clouds, with threats of more rain. The schoolhouse was located on what is now 9th Street between Third and Fourth Avenues. We returned to the Colony House, had breakfast and then returned to the office of the company, not pleased, and felt like leaving at once.
We were invited to see an orange grove, in company of others just as we were. We were taken to Captain Renfroe’s grove, about three miles from the office, and all hands were pleased. It seemed that this was the turning point, seeing what could be done in this wilderness. The sun came out in full glory and the day was a delightful one, and we had a better opinion of the surroundings.
At this time, no doubt fully convinced of the success of the colony, Mr. Hennington laid the foundation for, and commenced the erection of his new store, also a few new houses were going up and a number of men commenced operations.
The only streets opened were 5th Avenue, and this only partially, and a few cross streets, perhaps a block. Willis Geiger had erected a house on 6th Street above 5th Avenue, which was then among the oaks, and several were in the course of construction.
There were some tents, part tents answering for a habitation but no real homes had been erected, save those mentioned, and the greatest complaint existed. After a few days we secured lots and land and made preparations to build, then returned north for one month, and when we returned found great changes and all for the better.
In most every direction the saw and hammer were heard, mostly by amateurs. Geiger & Geiger’s store, Orcutt’s barber shop, the Zephyrhills Inn, Mr. Summy’s home—these places had, Phoenix like, arisen, the black oaks were disappearing and general industry appeared to be on.
The newcomer made inquiry from the native and it seemed no two had the same idea or the same way of cultivating. In consequence, some colonists did one way and some another in planting, while some followed northern habits. Some started correctly, more incorrectly, and the errors were a great education to the tiller of the soil.
We had our ups and downs; not all the newcomers were desirable or beneficial. The place, being new, like all other new places received the adventurers and, for a time, raised more or less discontent. According to their ideas they had expected the streets paved with gold, and that they could lay under the orange trees, simply picking off the fruit. They had an idea it was no work.
For a time the growls were infectious, but they soon disappeared in one way or another for the colony’s good. If any remain their places will be taken by these less in expectation but more industrious. Other places have received their growls or will receive them.
In these early days, nigh unto two years ago, colonists were ignorant of farming conditions in this climate, all being used to frozen soil in northern climates. This was a different proposition, but clearings were made by some and preparations to plant.
Zephyrhills Has Taken on a Splendid Growth (1912)
Is Handsome Little City of 1,500 People
Many New Settlers Arriving. Evidences of Substantial Prosperity on All Sides
The following article appeared in the Tampa Daily Tribune on Jan. 6, 1912.
Zephyrhills, Fla., Jan. 4—Zephyrhills is located in the highlands of Pasco County, about (illegible) feet above sea level; no swamps, and, best of all, no mosquitoes. There is plenty of good water and it is the healthiest place in the state of Florida. We are on the main line of the S. A. L. railroad, thirty-eight miles from Tampa by rail and twenty-seven by wagon road. Dade City is our county seat and is located nine miles north. The town was formerly called Abbott, in February, 1910, the colony was started. At that time there was but few buildings here. Today in the town site there are about 300 residences. The colony covers 35,000 acres and all told there are about 450 houses built. People from the north have come in and bought five and ten acre tracts and cleared, fenced and built on them and are now raising all kinds of vegetables, etc. We have a population of 1,500. New people are arriving every day. We have twenty-two business firms in town. Many new buildings are being built for businesses and dwellings. Mr. Francisco, our druggist, has just completed a large two-story cement block building for his drug store and ice cream business, on the north side of East Fifth avenue, and is now comfortably located in it.
One of the most beautiful places in the colony is a park which was put in by the colony company. This park is sixty feet wide and 300 feet long. The park was started in August, 1911, and has been kept up in the best of shape. They have now installed the overhead irrigation system. The town has now got what is called a Welfare league. The purpose of this league is to build up the welfare of the colony. They have made a great improvement in the streets, having hauled sawdust in and covered up the sand. This is much better for teams to haul heavy loads over.
The most important thing of our beautiful little city is our school house. A little more than a year ago there
was a small one-room school building located on the hill south of Fifth avenue, where school was held. Only one
teacher was employed, as there were but few pupils. In the spring the teacher was turned off, as there were not
enough pupils to justify carrying on the school. Today Zephyrhills has a four-room, two-story frame school
house, five teachers and 150 pupils. This shows very plainly that Zephyrhills is growing, and we are proud to
say that we have one of the best schools in Pasco county, with Prof. J. W. Sanches [should be Sanders] at the head. We have two churches—Baptist and Tabernacle—where services are held every Sunday morning and night.
Zephyrhills now has an up-to-date newspaper shop, where a weekly paper is published. This paper was started in October, 1911, and edited by George H. Gibson, who with his family moved here from Nebraska. The name of the paper is “Zephyrhills Colonist.” Since October 3, the date of the first publication, up to the present date, there has been 55,000 copies issued. Next week’s issue will be the anniversary number of the Colony, which will be 11,000 copies, eight pages, home print, printed on heavy book paper.
Next month (February) the G. A. R.’s will hold their state encampment here, and there is a large crowd of comrades expected.
Ground is being cleared for the erection of the new G. A. R. hall on Sixth avenue, east of the Colony house.
Jenkins and Hennington, who have been operating a hardware store on East Seventh street, have sold out to J. H. Stewart & Son of Ohio. The new firm took charge at once.
B. F. Gilbert, formerly postoffice inspector for Pennsylvania, is now located in his new residence in the northeast part of town. Mr. Gilbert came here in November and at once commenced building him a new home to spend the balance of his life here. He thinks there is no place like Zephyrhills, and that there is a bright and prosperous future for it.
A. E. Stebbins, president of the Zephyrhills Colony company, is now living in his new residence on Fifth avenue. This is one of the best residences in Zephyrhills.
Many new buildings are under construction in the colony now. New arrivals are coming every day. Some who have already purchased and others who come here for that purpose are building.
The handsome new residence of Mr. Lean is fast nearing completion. Mr. Lean, with his wife and daughter, arrived here from Washington state in November.
Mr. Gear, who recently arrived from Pennsylvania, is erecting a handsome residence in the southeastern part of town. Mr. Gear and wife were here last winter and were not very favorably impressed with the place and returned home, but as this winter slowly came on they decided that Zephyrhills was not so bad after all and in December they returned and since have concluded to build them a home here.
Charles Larson of Loup City, Neb., arrived in the colony Sunday evening for a month’s visit. Mr. Larson says when he left Nebraska there was six inches of snow on the ground and the thermometer stood six below zero. This makes the cold chills run up your back to stop and think of it.
Dr. E. A. Lyman and wife of Red Wood Falls, Minn., arrived in Zephyrhills Wednesday evening for an extended visit with the former’s father, E. A. Layman, also sister, Mrs. E. C. Cook. They expect to visit St. Petersburg, Tampa and other cities of the south before returning home. […]
Zephyrhills Scene of Much Activity (1912)
Winter Visitors Rapidly Filling City
New Buildings Being Erected by Homeseekers Adding to Appearance of Town
This article appeared in the Tampa Daily Tribune on Jan. 13, 1912.
Zephyrhills, Fla., Jan. 13.—Zephyrhills has as fine a lake of water as any community would desire. Since the last two rains the upper lakes have filled up and run over, thus sending the water down this way and filling up the lake in the western part of town. This lake covers about ten acres and is surrounded by beautiful live oaks. The grounds used for a ball diamond are covered with the high water.
Charles Larson, who has been visiting friends and looking over the soil in the colony, returned to his home in Loup City, Nebraska, this week. While here he bought two lots in the business part of town on Fifth avenue. When Mr. Larson left his intention was to return with his family to Zephyrhills.
A joint installation of Garfield Post and Garfield Relief corps was held at the Tabernacle last Saturday afternoon. After the installation the president, Mrs. Leekley, gave a short talk. Mrs. Prisk, on behalf of the corps, presented Mrs. Leekley, Mrs. Cook and Mrs. Calvert with recognition pins. Mrs. Lowry then presented Mrs. Prisk, the retiring president, with a recognition pin. Mrs. Prisk then presented the corps and post with the history of the stars and stripes, to be framed and hung in the lodge hall. Mrs. Laura B. Prisk, the retiring president, was the founder of the corps here and has done much for the society.
J. E. Jones, a young man who came to the colony about ten days ago from Indiana, died Thursday afternoon. He was a young man about twenty-three years old. The body was shipped to his home in Indiana on Sunday. He leaves a mother and one sister.
Zephyrhills is to have a new restaurant in a few days. W. M. Davis and Floyd Hemmington are the promoters. They will occupy the old drug store building on East Fifth avenue.
W. I. Jenkins and George Siggins are starting in the auto liberty business in Zephyrhills. People wanting to make a hurry-up drive now have an opportunity. Mr. Jenkins was formerly in the hardware business before selling to J. H. Stewart & Son.
Mr. Maxwell is building a home on West Fifth avenue, just back of Hennington’s department store. Mr. Maxwell arrived from Ohio a few weeks since, suffering very much from asthma, but is greatly improved.
Mrs. Theodore Johnson died at her home in Zephyrhills Saturday night. Mrs. Johnson, with her husband, came to Zephyrhills about two months since to spend the winter, in the hopes of regaining her health, which has been very poor for a number of years. Mr. Taylor, her son-in-law, and Fern Taylor, a grandson, were here spending the winter with the couple. Mr. Johnson and Mr. Taylor returned to their home in North Dakota with the body Sunday night.
School opened Tuesday morning after the Christmas holidays.
E. A. Lyman and wife, who are visiting relatives here, visited Tampa and St. Petersburg this week, returning to Zephyrhills Wednesday.
Why do so many people form the north come to Zephyrhills for their health? Because this is high, dry and free from all disease.
Work has commenced on the new G. A. R. hall on Sixth avenue and Eighth street.
Mr. Willard, who sold his tract of land north of town a few days ago, has commenced the erection of a large two-story frame dwelling on Ninth street, north of the Tabernacle.
Mr. and Mrs. J. W. Nicodemus of Newcomerstown, Ohio, arrived in the city Wednesday night. Mr. Nicodemus is a breeder of thoroughbred English bloodhounds, and seems to bear the distinction of producing the finest dogs in America.
Miss Daisy Fuller, the actress, who was visiting her parents in the city a few days last week, went from here to Atlanta to fill an engagement.
George P. McMillen is building a residence in the southern part of the city.
George Orcutt, our newsboy, has won the prize for the month of December for selling the largest number of the Saturday Evening Post in the state of Florida.
V. D. Burt and wife, of Sheridan [should be Chardon], Ohio, arrived in the city Friday noon.
Mr. Shepherd, an old gentleman living in the northwest part of Zephyrhills, is desperately ill.
Mr. and Mrs. C. A. Hart visited Tampa Wednesday.
Roy Elgin and wife, of Jennings, Kansas, arrived in the city Monday to make this their future home.
Zephyrhills, the Town of Much New Building (1912)
165 New Structures Are Counted from One Spot.
Electric Light Plant Installed. Many Other Signs of Substantial Progress.
This article appeared in the Tampa Daily Tribune on Feb. 9, 1912.
Zephyrhills, Fla., Feb 9.—Work began on the roof of the G. A. R. hall to get the building cover by the end of the week. This hall is 34×100 feet, with a covered porch 14×30.
The hall is 14.6 in the clear inside. This is a big undertaking for an organization no larger than the local post, but the work is going forward as though there was thousands behind it. Great credit is due the old veterans for undertaking so large a proposition and finishing it along as they have done.
Chas. Soper is building a residence on Eighth street, south, with the assistance of Shapbell & Ogden.
Rev. E. E. Gray will have the frame up for a fine dwelling on Fourth street, near Sixth avenue, before the end of the present week. But, what’s the use? There is so much of this class of work going on that there is no keeping track of it.
The Colonist of February 1 quotes E. E. Brown of Grand Rapids, Mich., as saying that he counted fifteen dwellings from a certain coign of vantage when he was in Zephyrhills a year ago, but counted 165 the other day from the same spot. He claims that his eyesight was “about the same” in both cases.
Our merchants reports business exceptionally good in all lines with trade in wire fencing very heavy. This feature of trade points to great activity in improvement of acreage.
W. Francisco has installed a 150-light dynamo and recently turned on at his drug store the first electric lights ever seen in Zephyrhills. The plant proved a success in every respect.
A big deal is on of which your scribe is not permitted to speak in detail at present, which means much to Zephyrhills, but the deal is certain to go through.
An up-to-date moving picture machine for the Post & Holbook show room is on the way from New York city. W. Francisco will furnish the electric “juice” for operating the same.
The foundations are laid for the Post & Holbrook building on the corner of Eighth street and Sixth avenue. This structure is 25×50 feet and two stories high. The first floor will be fitted up as a moving picture theater and the Masons will fit up a lodge room on the second floor.
Zephyrhills Will Lay Cornerstone on Sunday (1914)
SPLENDID PROGRAM HAS BEEN ARRANGED
Band Changes Its Name—Public Schools Open—News Notes and Personals
This article appeared in the Tampa Morning Tribune on Sept. 13, 1914.
ZEPHYRHILLS, Sept. 12.—(Special)—Zephyrhills has planned to have a grand day on next Friday, September 18th, when her people will celebrate the laying of the cornerstone of the First Methodist Church. The program will start at two-thirty with a concert from our excellent band, the boys having volunteered their services for the afternoon. Dr. R. A. Carnine, the District Superintendent of the Jacksonville District of the St. Johns Conference, will be with us and will deliver the address, assisted by Rev. F. N. Laphorn, who will conduct the ceremony.
The Zephyrhills Cornet Band has changed the name of that organization to the Zephyrhills Citizens Band. The reason being the support received by our citizens who have always been loyal and stood by that organization.
Last Monday was the opening day of our public school for the years 1914-15. When the school had assembled, Garfield Woman’s Relief Corps, represented by their president, Mrs. DeRyder, and the patriotic instructor, Mrs. J. L. Geiger, accompanied by a few of its members, presented to the school a very nice present, the Stars and Stripes, which was need by the school very badly.
Frank A. Feltcher has purchased a very fine blooded horse, also a nice buggy and harness, which he surely is enjoying.
At last the bricks, some tens of thousands, have arrived on the ground belonging to the S. A. L., and behold our dreams of a new depot. The contractor for the brick work has been let to our boss bricklayer and plasterer, John Ellis. The carpenters are now at Wildwood putting up some buildings, when finished, they will come to this place and our new depot will soon be a reality.
The usual band concert was held last evening from the bandstand. Under the instruction of Prof. W. L. Wright, the band is favoring the public with some first class music.
Mr. and Mrs. C. McWheaton left last Monday for Dade City, where they have accepted positions as teachers in the public schools there.
W. J. Deshaw, of Charlotte, Vermont, arrived in our city the first part of the week and has designs on our vicinity.
L. A. Durnell, living some two miles north of town, brought two samples of millet in with him last Tuesday, which from its size surely demonstrated what can be done in Florida with that crop. Mr. Durnell came here a year ago, and has got himself a very nice home, has opened up a farm and it was on this new land this millet was raised. Why send North for it when it can be raised right here at home all over the State?
Watson Spoeltra, son of Mr. and Mrs. Geo. Spoeltra, died here last Saturday, September 5, 1914. He was born in Grand Rapids, Mich., January 8th, 1896. He came here last fall with his parents, seeking some place that might in some way benefit his health, which was very poor, he having a short while before contracted consumption, but the fiat had been issued and death, finally relieved him. The funeral was held from his home last Sunday at two-thirty p. m. Service conducted by Rev. J. A. P. Harris.
The young man making the long bicycle trip from Tampa to San Francisco by the way of New York, passed through Zephyrhills last Thursday. September 2.
The new barber shop and jewelry store on the corner of Fifth Avenue and Seventh Street, makes a very neat appearance since completed.
J. F. Stebbins, Treasurer of the Colony Company, returned home last week from a business and pleasure trip in the North.
Mrs. Joseph Heaton left last Thursday for Newton Falls, Ohio, for an outing for the benefit of her health.
Mrs. E. A. Hill has again opened her ice cream parlors, etc., last Friday at the old stand.
E. E. Brown is putting up a large double apartment house at Gulfport for rental purposes and a home for himself.
Quite a number of our citizens were in attendance at the Pasco County Singing Convention at Richland last Sunday, and all report a first class time.
Mr. and Mrs. W. R. Black, and Mr. Black’s sister, Mrs. Walker, has returned to Zephyrhills last Wednesday evening from their visit to old haunts in the North.
Mrs. Sarah C. Sage returned home from New York State last Wednesday morning.
Waldo Francisco now has charge of the road work for the north one quarter of Pasco County, and we opine the people of Dade City will be satisfied with the job when it is completed.
Lloyd A. Gibson went to Fort Lauderdale last Tuesday morning where he has accepted a position as foreman in a printing office.
Mrs. W. J. McLaughlin, son and daughter, returned to their home at Zephyrhills last Saturday evening after an extended visit with relatives and friends in Illinois and West Virginia.
Mr. and Mrs. W. B. White celebrated Labor Day at Ocala with friends.
Mr. and Mrs. M. Yingling returned last Saturday from their summer’s vacation at Newcomerstown, Ohio. They both enjoyed their trip, but, as usual, were glad to return to Zephyrhills.
The territory to be incorporated in our city, as decided upon, will be the entire boundary section and one-fourth of section fourteen, joining eleven on the south. The original town of Zephyrhills and Moore’s Addition, comprising eight hundred acres. The question will be put before the people for final action on November 3, 1914, election day.
The infant child of Mr. and Mrs. Bennet Ogden died last Wednesday night, after a very short sick spell.
Mr. and Mrs. Geo. E. Hall, parents of Mrs. Chas. E. Gibson, spent a couple of days in town this week.
The people are now returning from their summer visits to the Northern States, many new faces are seen each evening stepping from the train to stand upon the soil of the best city in the best State in the Union. They come and go, but the largest per cent, either stay in Zephyrhills or locate in some other part of the State. Once in Florida they cannot leave for good, but as one party said this week upon his return from the North after a two yours absence, “When I drive over the country and see the fine young groves where only two years ago stood pine forests, it makes me feel as if I wanted all the land in Florida I can buy and settle down to live a thousand years.” Hurrah for Florida.
Mayors of Zephyrhills
Recollections of Mrs. Melville Hall
This article appeared in the Tampa Tribune, date unknown.
On the eve of Zephyrhills Founders’ Day celebration pioneers are recalling the good old days.
Fifth Avenue, where the festivities will be held, was a sand street and the only sidewalks were wooden. Horses and oxen were hitched to oak trees where the Chamber of Commerce building now stands and wagons and buggies parked in the shade. The large oak in front of City Hall was a mere switch way back when.
Electricity was provided by a one cylinder gas engine with belt-driven generator, operated by Waldo Francisco. Plumbing was in the Chic Sale manner, and the pure water for which Zephyrhills is now famous was pumped by hand. There was no telephone service.
Copies of the Zephyrhills Colonist, printed by the father of present Mayor Floyd Gibson, who is also publisher of the Zephyrhills News, on a plant brought here from Nebraska, wended their way back North to tell kinsfolk in wintry climes of life in sunny Florida, and gave folk on their homefront the news. There were no radios then, either.
The Seaboard Railroad, which came through in 1896, had a whistlestop north of town called Herndon. Part of the present depot was built in ’96. Greer’s Mill, north of town, was a major industry and Jim Greer had sawmilled the townsite and sold it to Capt. J. B. Jeffries to start the Zephyrhills colony.
Grand Army hall, Garfield Post, now the American Legion hall, was an imposing porchless edifice on 8th Street where the town’s few Model Ts had difficulty negotiating the deep sand. The Zephyrhills Cornet Band, forerunner of the Citizen Band, cut a figure in parade circles from St. Petersburg to St. Cloud. Without uniforms for two years, they blossomed forth in spic and span white shirts, pants and caps in the third year as they continued to tootle their way into the hearts of a music loving citizenry. Young couples spooned ’neath the moss hung oaks by Zephyr Lake and Professor Morris’ Museum was a cultural center.
Mrs. Ruth Isadora Marsh, who will be 94 years of age October 10, and who is active in church, Chamber of Commerce and civic circles as well as in the management of her apartment properties, related interesting sidelights on the area as she first knew it to the Tribune.
Aunt Dora, as she is affectionately known, is credited by Earl Hart—himself a pioneer, a realtor and presently serving as publicity chairman for the Lions Club which sponsors the annual celebration — as having started Zephyrhills on its way up following the collapse of the boomtime era.
Coming to Pasco County from Lawrenceville, Ill., in 1913, Aunt Dora first settled in Dade City and lived in the old Lanier house. She later operated restaurants at the present site of the Dade City hotel and in the Wettstein building. Urged by Dr. Parker, a retired dentist, to reopen Hotel Zephyr, which had been closed for two years, she decided to cast her lot with the struggling town of Zephyrhills. With the town’s only bank closed and drummers off the road because of the economic situation, this gentlewoman pioneer, assisted by her nephew James Fyffe, renovated the hostelry and opened for business.
A Dr. Sanburn, connected with the University of Florida at Gainesville and owner of grove property in the Lake Pasadena area near the present Jim Hammett grove, was the first customer of the new venture.
At the time the Lake Pasadena area, located between Zephyrhills and Dade City on historic Fort King Road near LeHeup Hill—the brow of Florida, overlooking the sea—was a flourishing Winter resort with large lakeside hotels. The Ernestville store and postoffice, located on the hillsite where Henry Bozeman is presently building his home, was the community shopping center where another pioneer, Mrs. Reese Knapp, recalls buying her first pair of shoes.
Having boarded at Aunt Dora’s in Dade City, Dr. Sanborn advertised her good cooking along Fifth Avenue and Mrs. L. M. (Neukie) Neukom who, with her son, George Neukom, presently operates the oldest business in Zephyrhills, was one of the first local customers. Through Dr. Sanburn’s good offices a crew of ten Florida Power workmen came to put up at the hotel. From that time on the business has prospered.
Earl hart had a grocery store in the hotel building where Roy Kaylor now has his hardware business, and the late beloved Uncle Jim Geiger operated a general merchandise store on what was later to be Gall Boulevard, named in honor of Walter R. Gall, former State Road Board member, and now a prominent grove owner, realtor and operator of a sand and silica business.
Gall arrived in Jacksonville with his wife and children from Edwardsburg, Mich., on Thanksgiving Day, 1922 after making the trip in a Model T Ford. It is related that what with struggling through deep sand and fording unbridged streams the trip from Jacksonville to Lakeland, where his father, the late Edward Gall, wintered, consumed two days. On this two-day jaunt the dream to build highways in the state of his adoption, which was later to reach fulfillment, was born.
Aunt Dora recalls having gone by train to Tampa from Dade City to buy groceries. She described the trip, when ventured by automobile, as arduous. There seemed to be more rain then than now, she said, and as we went the 12th Street route by Greer’s Mill through Crystal Springs we were always glad to reach Hillsborough County and travel on their fine eight-foot paved road.
Emil and Amalie Reutimann had come over from Switzerland and settled in Tampa. It was recalled that in moving here to open the town’s first garage they stopped their car on the Crystal Springs road to put water in the radiator. The family cats jumped out and disappeared into Six Mile swamp. After being retrieved by the children, who balked at the thought of leaving their fine pets to be killed by bobcats licking their chops atop cypress stumps, the cats were hauled aboard and the family came on to Zephyrhills, where the garage they established is still being operated as a modern automobile dealership by their son Emil “Buzz” Reutimann, former city councilman, who is also well known in auto racing circles.
Reese Knapp, another pioneer who knew Zephyrhills when, came here from West Virginia in 1899. He recalled that the first general store here was run by a man named Moates; that Downing and Blount ran a turpentine still where Herman Chenkins’ big Natural Food Products building now stands, and that there was a sawmill where Walter Vogel has his Standard Oil station. Floyd Hennington ran the old general store on the corner where the Gall real estate office is now located.
Time has marched on and Zephyrhills is a progressive little city now. Many of the oldtimers still take active parts in business, civic and church affairs. Civil War veterans with flowing beards, chin whiskers and handlebar moustaches no longer parade down Fifth Avenue. In their stead tomorrow will march Legionnaires, Veterans of Foreign Wars, United Spanish War Veterans and many young and not-so-young citizens, all proud to be a part of community life in the town that grew from A to Z—Abbott to Zephyrhills.”
Golden Anniversary of Zephyrhills
This article appeared in the Tampa Tribune on Mar. 9, 1960. It was provided by Monica Wise.
Miss Lynn Nichols was crowned Miss Zephyrhills tonight after winning the contest staged at the Municipal Auditorium to climax the two-day, golden anniversary Founder’s Day Festival. The new queen is the daughter of Mrs. R.R. Nichols and the late Mr.Nichols, and won the title over nine other girls competing in the finals of the contest, one of the features of the 11th annual Founder’s Day event. Chosen first maid was Miss Delores Jones, whose guardian is Mrs. Elizabeth Flemming, Miss Linda Freeburg, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Roy Freeburg, was named second maid. More than 8,000 spectators jammed the city’s main street this morning to watch the longest parade in Zephyrhills history. Music of three bands—Pasco High School of Dade City, Gulf High School of New Port Richey and the hometown pride, Zephyrhills High School—enlivened the line of march.
Parade Officials: J. Robert Hinds was parade marshal; Freddy Peterson, famed Danish-born artist was the master of ceremonies for the fun and frolic event. He was joined on the reviewing stand by R.L. Bryan, Bartow, first secretary of the Zephyrhills Colony Company, the initial developer of the town; Mrs. Harry L. Rice, Mayor of Zephyrhills, and Pasco County Sheriff Leslie Bessenger. F. Earl Hart and C.A. (Biff) Hough were co-chairmen of the annual event sponsored by the Lions Club.
Judges for the parade entries were Mrs. G.H. Whitman, Joe Collura and Pasco County Agricultural Agent, J.F. (Jimmy) Higgins, all of Dade City.
Prizes Awarded: Prizes were awarded by the Lions club in these categories: Best decorated out-of-town floats—Plant City Queen/Strawberry Festival, first; Dixie Lily Milling Company, second; and Culligan Soft Water Service, San Antonio, third. Hometown floats included: Bufferteria, Inc., first; Bank of Zephyrhills, second; and Joe Herrmann’s Inc, third.
Best decorated automobile—Gold Star Mothers of the Veterans of Foreign Wars; oldest vehicle in the parade-PeniSaver stores oxen-driven rare schooner brought here by L.W. Wilson of Arodarko, Oklahoma; best decorated bicycle—David Guthrie; most typical mounted cowboy in the parade-Sandy Simons; most typical mounted cowgirl in the parade—Linda Reece.
Best pioneer costumed man in the parade—Owen Lefevre; best pioneer costumed woman in the parade—Mrs. Martha Windnagle.
Oldest in Residence: Woman living longest time in Zephyrhills was Mrs. Edwina Beaver, who came here as a baby from her native Hudson on March 10, 1910, eight days before Abbott changed its name to Zephyrhills. Man living longest time in Zephyrhills was G.R. (Bob Williams, who moved to Abbott from his native Delhi, Louisiana, on November 9, 1909.
Best matched horses and riders as a group were the Egypt Temple Shrine Patrol. Residents and visitors found themselves tossed into the “lions den” hoosegow and had to “fine” themselves out with coin of the realm, which went into the sponsoring group’s eyesight conservation fund. Everyone either watched of “joined” in as kiddies rode all manner of time-honored contraptions, ate cotton candy and popcorn and patronized food and drink booths manned by members of local organizations.
Talent Show: Miss Alice Zimmerman directed a talent show in the early afternoon and there was a pie-eating contest for youngsters. Mrs. Jody Evans pounded the ivories for the corn-huskers who furnished music for square dances and Virginia reels.
The festival got under way yesterday at the Zephyrhills West Elementary School in ceremonies in the new cafetorium at which County School Superintendent, Chester Taylor of Dade City officiated.
Street Dancing: Street dancing and community singing to lively music by Mrs. John Thompson on her electric organ played on the reviewing stand along with a 100-year old foot pedal reed organ played by Mrs. T.O. Mays who were also on the afternoon agenda. Mrs. Wynn Jones led the singing.
Preliminary judging of 27 beauty queen contestants took place at intermission time of “Scandals of “60,” a follies production by Zephyrhills Junior Woman’s Club with Mrs. Robert Ahrens as director in municipal auditorium last night.
Merle M. Bright, Mrs. A.J. Thompson, Mrs.Henry L. Kinnard, Jr. and Ralph Barefoot, served as judges and selected the finalists from whom the queens and maids were chosen. The ten finalists were: Karen Etter, Lynn Nichols, Linda Freeburg, Alice Faye Bembry, Sandra Pricher, Delores Jones, Margaret Ann Johnston, Ann Fazio, Carolyn Maddux and Janet Weicht.
History of Zephyrhills (1956)
This history was written by X. L. Garrison, a former General Supervisor for the Pasco County School District, for the Zephyrhills News in March 1956. This is a transcription of the article as printed again in the News in 1994. The article was provided by Madonna Jervis Wise.
The history of the Zephyrhills area has been compressed into less than a century.
Many of our elderly citizens who were children in the early years recall seeing the land covered with virgin timber, saw it worked for turpentine, helped cut the timber, watched the stumps pushed out, and saw the land seeded to pasture or set in citrus groves.
Others now living in Zephyrhills witnessed how this land has passed through well defined stages, each of which has left its mark on the land and the resources. The first stage was turpentine production when the trees were tapped. The second, lumbering, overlapped the first.
During these early stages many settlements were started. Some of these grew into towns, others hang on today as crossroad settlements, while others have faded into memory. All of these towns had an active phase filled with romance of exploitation and activity. Some of these nearby settlements were Greer, Herndon, Childers, and Lumberton.
The third stage was a combination of exploitation and produce. The exploitation of this period was mostly real estate development and financial manipulation. Much of the agricultural production was attempted on locally unsuited soil and in a climate hostile to the more northern plant.
A few illustrations from surrounding communities: Crystal Springs tried to build an industry on dasheens; Columbus Grant and others grew cotton at Chipco; and the Sunnybrook Tobacco Company raised tobacco around Dade City.
Most of the farmers were from the north and many of them came from cities. Markets had not been developed and transportation for produce was primitive. Most of these products soon disappeared, leaving only relics like the old cotton gin at Chipco.
Cattle took over from produce and dominated agriculture until the 1930’s. Within the last 35 years, improved pastures and blooded stock have made the cattle industry thrive, but the increased cost has led to concentration. Acres devoted to citrus have increased rapidly in recent years (Remember, this article was written prior to the disastrous freezes of the past two decades — Editor.)
Chickens joined the other two C’s, cattle and citrus as a cash crop starting in about 1925. Even though the value of agriculture products has grown rapidly, the number of farmers has decreased.
Contrary to the opinion of some, Captain Jeffries was not the first to visit the Zephyrhills area, nor was he the first to recognize the potential of the town site.
Before Jeffries and Moore of the Zephyrhills Colony Company entered the picture, two major operations had taken place: the trees had been turpentined and the timber had been cut. Due to soil conditions, the trees were covered with only a few branches, so the timber was much in demand. A town site had been chosen and platted at this place more than 20 years earlier.
The first settler who left his mark was Alias E. Geiger (pronounced Giger at that time), who had moved to this area from Ocala just after the Civil War. His son, James Geiger, ran a store and together with Bramlett, operated a sawmill just south of town near Childers.
James Geiger’s daughter, Mrs. Joel Turner, still lives in Zephyrhills. Many other farmers, turpentine men, and sawmill operators worked in the area. Prominent among these were the Hills. When Pasco County was formed in 1887, the site of Zephyrhills was controlled by Simon J. Temple, who had purchased the land Nov. 11, 1886, from the Florida Railway and Navigation Company. Temple paid $1,026.69 for 280.74 acres. After the Florida Railway and Navigation Company became involved in litigation, H. Rieman Duval was appointed trustee for the company. He issued another deed to Simon J. Temple Jan. 31, 1895, conveying the same property. However, Temple had developed and sold much of the land before 1895, and a cloud hung over some titles for years.
The village of Abbott, named in the honor of Dr. Abbott who ran a drug store and practiced medicine here for a number of years, was laid out for Simon J. Temple at the present site of Zephyrhills and the plat was recorded in Plat Book Number 1 on page 5, April 17, 1888.
Temple and his wife Sarah sold lots for $50.00 each during the first three years.
Lydia E. Mote paid $400 for a plat of land between the railroad and the road. Later the value of the lots sank to $25 each.
Temple sold the trustees of Oakdale School, W. Mote, A. E. Geiger, and J. C. Geiger, two lots for $30. These lots were sold to the Zephyrhills Colony Company for $1 in February 1910.
Abbott became a voting precinct before 1893; candidates for county office considered the Abbott vote important and much campaigning went on in the area. Hennington, who ran the store, was considered a key man in politics. James Geiger was another active political worker.
Captain Hall, who came from Georgia, had a turpentine still about where Lake Necessity retention pond is now located. He had barracks for his Negro workers just west of what is now Gall Blvd. He was a big operator and worked the area for several miles in each direction.
James Greer, who operated a mill as “Greer Brothers,” owned much of the land in southeast Pasco County. He had a sawmill, planing mill, kilns, and other equipment just south of the present Highway 301 at the foot of Greer Hill. Greer was quite a town between the busy years of 1900 and 1910. Some relics of the Greer operation have been found on the Valle Oaks Golf Course land.
The mill company operated narrow-gauge railroads for miles around. A visitor described these trains as she saw them in 1907: She told how the Negro workers were carried to the woods before daylight and then cooked breakfast over open fires; she said that the toots of the whistles calling the workers to the train late in the afternoon was “very touching.”
These trains were pulled by wood burners, sometimes referred to as “copperheads” because of the copper boilers which all good engineers kept highly polished. One of these locomotives purchased by Greer is still operating in Collier County. The tracks were laid on rough logs and were frequently moved to keep up with the logging crews.
Greer, who was a practical man, recognized the value of the townsite and secured as much of it as possible. Later, he refused to sell it in small tracts.
The Seaboard depot which was constructed in 1896 is still standing as the old part of the present depot. The Abbott station shipped a great deal of naval stores and timber.
The First Baptist Church of Zephyrhills was formed in 1902 as the “Lakeview Baptist Church,” but this same group had held outdoor meetings since 1888. Six Mile Pond Church sponsored the Lakeview group.
Captain H. B. Jeffries served in Pennsylvania’s 28th Calvary during the War Between the States. He spent several winters in Florida and visited the state during the summers at least twice before 1909.
Jeffries wrote the Stebbins Realty Company of Tampa and asked them to find a place in south or central Florida large enough for a colony. He laid down the following requirements for the location: The land must be high and fertile. Oranges must grow well. There must not be any swamps, mosquitoes, or malaria. The water must be good.
Stebbins found three sites, and Capt. Jeffries visited the locations recommended by the Stebbins Agency. He chose the 35,000 acres which are now a part of Zephyrhills and suburbs.
While he was investigating the site, Capt. Jeffries was cooled by a pleasant breeze; therefore, the name “Zephyrhills” was decided upon for the colony of pensioned Civil War veterans and their families.
The Zephyrhills Colony Company was formed in January, 1910, to advertise and sell Zephyrhills among the veterans of the “Grand Army of the Republic” throughout the north.
Hundreds of old soldiers bought land; some came to build homes. One of the first to buy was John Zanette of Alaska. Others were from Oklahoma, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Nebraska, Illinois and many other states.
The Zephyrhills Colony Company was H. B. Jeffries and his son-in-law, Raymond Moore, and their wives. Jeffries signed deeds as vice-president through May of 1910; he later signed as president.
The Deed Books showed that the Zephyrhills Colony Company purchased the following land plots: James L. Greer and Mattie Greer, 40 acres for $160; 3360 acres for $1 and other considerations; 40 acres for $160 and 1,070 acres for $1 and other considerations.
It has been estimated that the lands cost the Zephyrhills Colony Company between three and four dollars per acre. They bought lots in the old Abbott plat from the school board and a few individuals. On Oct. 24, 1910, the Circuit Court gave the Zephyrhills Colony Company a clear deed to its land after a suit to quiet title.
The Zephyrhills Colony Company has many earmarks of the land developers of the boom era of the 1920’s in Florida. The advertising was similar to that of the modern developer. The buyer was urged to buy five acres for prices ranging from $75 to $100, and a city lot was to be thrown in free; but here was the joker: the city lot was a 30-ft. one and extra lots to make a building site were $50 each. In fact, many more lots were sold than given away.
The second modern characteristic was the small down payment; a $75 tract could be bought for $7.50 down and $5 per month for 15 months, or a total of $82.50; on a $100 tract, the terms were $10 down and $5 per month for 20 months or a total of $110.
Even as early as 1910, additions were being made to the town. Raymond Moore platted Moore’s first addition, south of South Avenue, Dec. 20, 1910.
Oakside Cemetery was surveyed in November, 1910, but the survey was not filed until Aug. 16, 1911.
M. Yingling filed his first addition to Zephyrhills east of 20th Street Dec. 13, 1911.
Many churches were founded in the first decade of the town. “Suffering Hills,” as the town was sometimes called by its neighbors, soon became known for its many and varied kinds of churches.
By the end of 1912, the population of Zephyrhills was said to exceed 1,500. The city was incorporated in 1915.
Simon Geiger, Member of Oldest Family, Recalls Town as It Was (1964)
The following article appeared in the Zephyrhills News on Mar. 12, 1964. It was supplied to this web site by Madonna Wise.
By JAYNELL LEHEUP
Zephyrhills has enjoyed its 54th birthday party and a man whose four grandparents came to this spot nearly a hundred years ago recalls the old days.
Simon J. Geiger of nearby Knights Station, a retired depot agent, was born and reared here. He was a young man of 18 when the crossroads village of Abbott became Zephyrhills, a colony paradise for Civil War Veterans and their families.
Simon Geiger was born (Jan. 11, 1892) on the farm of his maternal grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. John David Spivey, who in 1871 began homestead claim to 160 acres about two miles east of the present Zephyrhills.
The Spiveys came here by covered wagon from Georgia because their home had been destroyed by Sherman’s Union forces during the Civil War.
Mr. Geiger’s paternal grandparents were Mr. and Mrs. Abram Elias Geiger, who homesteaded 160 acres west of Zephyrhills. Geiger Cemetery is on part of what was this original Geiger property. Abram Geiger’s family had moved to the Plant City area about 1860. Abram, at the age of 15, joined the same Florida Company in the Civil War to which his father belonged. Also in this group was a Captain Renfroe and the Rev. H. D. Ryals from what is now Zephyrhills.
Abram and Sarah homesteaded their west Zephyrhills property about 1880. They raised six sons and seven daughters. All deceased now, most are buried in Geiger Cemetery and their descendants make up quite a portion of the present Zephyrhills area population.
Each first Sunday in May a reunion for this branch of the Geiger family is held in the city park in Lakeland.
Simon Geiger started to school in Abbott in 1899 in a one-room school. The teacher was “Professor” Sealey. [Probably actually Staley —jm] At a wood rack south of the railroad depot, Simon would meet his father, who brought in loads of wood to see to the wood-burning trains. If Simon missed the ride home in his father’s wagon, he had a 2-mile walk home through the woods ahead of him.
In 1911 Simon helped haul many loads of lumber drawn by oxen for the buildings going up in Zephyrhills. In 1910 he helped unload the first two railroad cars of lumber for the colony.
The first load went to his two uncles, James and Dallas, for their new grocery and general store.
The other load of lumber went to F. C. Orcutt for his Orcutt Building, which housed the first barber shop in Zephyrhills. Simon received his first “store haircut” there on a bright Saturday in 1910. Mr. Orcutt treated him because he had helped with the lumber for the building.
Also in 1910 Simon helped haul lumber for the first Zephyrhills High School, where he completed his schooling in 1911. J. W. Sanders was principal and he later was county judge for many years.
In the summer of 1911 Simon’s father was foreman of the crew who marked out the right-of-way for the Fort King Road in this area.
In 1912, Simon Geiger was employed at Hennington’s general store, which stood where the A&P supermarket is today. In the mornings Simon would take his order book and set out on foot to cover one section of town, east or west, while Floyd Hennington, Jr., took the other section. They returned to the store about noon, put up the orders and then delivered them by wagon and mule.
Nov. 13, 1912, Simon began work with the Seaboard Airline railroad and he retired several years ago.
The first car Simon Geiger remembers seeing in Zephyrhills was owned by a Mr. Stauffer. The car had high wheels and solid tires and was a single-seat International.
Cattle drivers usually made their headquarters at the pens at Branchland where they camped out. …
Zephyrhills’ History Is Recalled (1973)
The following article appeared in the St. Petersburg Times on Mar. 9, 1973.
ZEPHYRHILLS — Residents of Zephyrhills are eagerly awaiting the 63rd anniversary March 12-13 of the founding of this community.
Founders Days Festival, sponsored annually by the Lions Club of Zephyrhills, commemorates the changing of the name from Abbott to Zephyrhills, March 10, 1910.
The small community, which grew up on both sides of the Florida Railway and Navigation Co., was named in honor of a Dr. Abbott, who ran a drugstore and practiced medicine.
Abbott was platted and recorded in Plat Book Number 1 on page 5, April 17, 1888. It became a voting precinct before 1893, and candidates for county offices conducted much campaigning here deeming the Abbott vote important.
The first settler here, Alias E. Geiger, coming from Ocala just after the Civil War, purchased land from Simon J. Temple, who originally purchased the land Nov. 11, 1886, from the railway. Pasco County was formed in 1887.
Geiger’s descendants still live in and around Zephyrhills. His son, James L. Geiger, ran a store here and with Zeb Bramlett operated a sawmill south of town at the Childers settlement. James was later to be one of five signers of the charter granted by the Florida Legislature in 1915 for the Town of Zephyrhills, which later was ratified in a special election on Feb. 15, 1916.
The price paid by Temple back in 1886 was $1,026 for 280 acres.
James Greer, W. Mote, and J. E. Geiger were other pioneer settlers. Greer operated a sawmill, planing mill, and turpentine stills at the foot of Greer Hill several miles north on what is now U. S. 301. He helped construct the seaboard depot, which vanished several years ago when the seaboard Coast Line Railroad discontinued service here.
Capt. H. B. Jeffries, who had served in Pennsylvania’s 28th Cavalry, spent several summers and winters here and conceived the plan of establishing a community for retired Civil War veterans and their families. He and his son-in-law, Raymond Moore, purchased the 3,500 acres on which Zephyrhills now stands from the Stebbins Realty Co. of Tampa.
Tradition has it that while being cooled by the gentle zephyr breezes blowing into Zephyrhills from neighboring Greer and LeHeup Hills on the north, Jeffries coined the name “Zephyrhills.” On March 10, 1911, the town of Abbott moved from A to Z.
Hundreds of old soldiers bought land, coming from New York, Michigan, Oklahoma, Ohio, Nebraska, and Illinois. John Zanette even came from Alaska.
Jeffries and Moore organized the Zephyrhills Colony Co., and as early as March 1910, additions were being made to the town. Moore platted Moore’s First Addition south of South Avenue on Dec. 20, 1910, and M. Yingling filed his First Addition to Zephyrhills east of 20th Street on Dec. 13, 1911.
By the end of 1912, the population of Zephyrhills was more than 1,500, and the city was incorporated in 1915.
Zephyrhills is still growing. Thousands of new homes have been built, and some 85 mobile home parks are now located in and around the city.
Zephyrhills Economy Traveled Rocky Road (1989)
Century Saw Change from Agricultural Town to Retirement Community
This article appeared in the Suncoast News on Feb. 25, 1989.
By JAY BOHREN
The 20th century has seen Zephyrhills progress from an agricultural town to a tourism and retirement community with an economy based on services.
Actually, says longtime resident Owen Gall, retirement is what got Zephyrhills started. In the early 1900s Capt. E. B. Jeffries founded the Zephyrhills Colony Company to promote retirement lots to Civil War veterans. (Union veterans, that is.)
Throughout the ’20s and ’30s farming remained the base of the local economy. “There was a cotton gin here when we came (in 1922), and a turpentine still, and a tobacco barn in Dade City,” Gall said.
The Depression hit Florida even before the rest of the country, says Fred Gill, who’s lived in Zephyrhills for 63 years. When the Florida land boom busted in ’27 or ’28, it hit Zephyrhills hard. The only bank in town closed, and so did the main local industry, the Greer lumber mill on old Wire Road.
But 1936 did bring U. S. 301 through Zephyrhills, and it’s been a major link between East Pasco and Tampa ever since. The ’40s, Gill says, brought at least one industry to town—the Hercules Powder Company, a firm that ground up pine stumps and sent them to Brunswick, Ga., to be made into turpentine, rosin and charcoal. The closest thing Zephyrhills got to a war industry was the Zephyrhills Municipal Airport, built in 1942 as a training ground for the Army Air Force. In 1947 the airport was deeded to the city, which has run it ever since.
The ’50s had their ups and downs for Zephyrhills business. The Hercules company left town, and lots of workers went with it. But it gave the School Board its plant site, on which Zephyrhills High School was built in the mid-’70s.
And in 1952 Kentucky dairy farmer Jack Linville came to Zephyrhills to found what was to become its biggest single business: the Zephyr Egg Co. “We started off with 500 chickens and we have more than 2 million now,” says Danny Linville, Jack’s son and now Zephyr Egg’s general manager. Jack Linville’s strength, Danny says, lay in running his own feed mill, from which he marketed feed to all the neighboring counties. Now Zephyr Egg employs 200 people and daily sends off 22 truckloads of eggs all over Florida.
The ’50s saw the beginning of what is now a well known fact about Zephyrhills: it attracts an influx of retirees and tourists from the North.
That really got going in the ’60s. Back then, says Gill, “When retired people came here, they could buy a real nice home for $7,500.” And, Gill says, the ’60s was when Pasco started to get an overflow of people from Hillsborough and Pinellas counties. They could live here and be close to city amenities without paying such high taxes.
In 1961, Don Robinson took advantage of Zephyrhills’ one important natural resource: good-tasting water. He founded the Zephyrhills Corp., which through its bottled water has spread the name of Zephyrhills all over Florida. With 50 workers, Zephyrhills Corp. ranks only after Zephyr Egg as a local employer.
In the late ’60s and early ’70s, “downtown completely died out,” according to Linville. There’s some disagreement about that, of course. No doubt the new outlying shopping centers drew business away from 5th Avenue, the old retail shopping district. You can’t get groceries downtown anymore, and it’s almost impossible to do your shopping on foot. But Neukom’s Drug Store and Jim’s 5 and 10 are still holding on strong.
It was in the ’70s that Zephyrhills really acquired its look of today: large, sprawling subdivisions of manufactured homes and mobile homes, with restaurants and shopping plazas lining the main roads, and a population that nearly doubles in winter. Betmar Acres started in the ’70s, says city Councilman Jim Bailey. “It began to snowball after that, and commercial growth came to keep up with it,” he said.
The ’80s brought more of the same—plus doctors to take care of the retirees. In the ’70s, Bailey says, there were only two or three doctors in town. Now there are 60 or 70. East Pasco Medical Center opened in 1984 and has spawned a host of surrounding medical offices. “What it’s brought to this community has been tremendous,” Bailey said.
Zephyrhills has been less successful in attracting new industry. The only tenant of the municipal airport industrial park, the E Systems electronics firm, closed down in 1987. And Zephyr Rock and Lime, a mine southeast of town that sells crushed limestone for use in concrete, has filed for bankruptcy and may shut down unless the Iafrate Construction Co. of Detroit is willing to buy it. The mine once employed 36 locals but is down to a skeleton crew of eight.
The freezes in 1982 and ’83 damaged the citrus industry in Zephyrhills and made it even more reliant on a recreation and service economy.
As for the future? Bailey predicts Zephyrhills will continue as a retirement town but is also on its way to becoming a bedroom community for Tampa. He figures only 15 to 20 percent of Zephyrhills residents now commute to Tampa to work but notes that “the growth on 581 and 587 is up to the county line now and coming this way.”
“Wesley Chapel and Saddlebrook will continue to grow,” he predicts.
City Manager Nick Nichols has expressed hopes that the inflow of working-age people, fleeing overcrowded Tampa for a more comfortable small-town life, will provide a local labor base and make the airport industrial park a workable proposition after all.
Zephyrhills Preserving Historic Buildings
This article appeared in the Zephyrhills Sun.
by CHRIS CURRY
ZEPHYRHILLS—Not so long ago, the “Aunt Dora” Marsh at 38344 Fifth Ave. was a tangible link to Zephyrhills’ past. Built before 1895, it was the city’s oldest standing house according to the 1992 book “Historical Places of Pasco County.” It was also a longtime home to one of the area’s more well-known residents, Dora Marsh, a Lawrenceville, Ill. native who ran the Zephyr Hotel from 1933-43. After retiring in 1943, Marsh bought the house, living there until she died at age 104 in 1965. Today, this house—interwoven in the city’s history—is gone, torn down in the last decade without any consideration of its significance.
When I got here we had a couple of historical buildings come down because we had no review policies that had to be followed before a historical property could be torn down,” said Zephyrhills development director Todd Vande Berg. Following the loss of some significant historic properties, Zephyrhills has spent the last two years working on local, state and federal levels to preserve its old buildings. Using grant money, the city hired an architectural consulting firm to prepare a detailed inventory of 443 buildings that were 50 years or older. Buildings that met United States Department of the Interior criteria were selected as “contributing” structures in a state historic district, roughly bordered by 11th Avenue in the north, South Avenue to the south, 7th Street to the west and 12th Street in the east. In this state district, seven buildings that date back to the early 20th Century have been identified for possible inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places. They are:
We tried to keep the exterior as close to the original as possible, which you have to do to receive the state grant,” Hansberger said.
We’ve done pretty good. It looks a lot better than it used to.” If the building is put on the National Register Historic Places, more federal grants and tax credits will be available. But Hansberger said there are too many rules involved to make it worthwhile.
It’s a pain in the neck to be in the historic register,” he said.
We’re not planning on it at all. If we wanted to fix up the building, we’d have to conform with all these guidelines. If you want to tear down a building, not that we’d ever want to, you need an act of Congress.” While getting properties on the National Register is not one of the city’s imminent goals, Vande Berg said Zephyrhills’ own Historic Preservation Board, formed by a January 2001 ordinance, is currently working on guidelines for a planned local historic district that would have the same boundaries as the state district. The local district, which will also have to be established by a city ordinance, will probably base its standards on those of the Department of the Interior.
We’ll look at major things like demolition, add-ons and that new buildings be compatible with the goal of historic preservation,” he said. In October, the Historic Preservation Board will present guidelines for historical preservation to the Zephyrhills City Council in a draft of the historic district ordinance.
Essentially, if the structure has a historic value, no changes can be made to alter that value,” said preservation board chairperson John Geiger.
The idea is to identify some properties that are old and preserve them before something will happen to them.” Geiger should be well versed in the history he is working to preserve. His family’s history in the area goes back to the mid 19th century. His great-grandfather, A.E. Geiger, was one of Zephyrhills’ founders. His grandfather, James “Uncle Jim” Geiger, was prominent general store owner and a city councilman. Some buildings significant to the family history have disappeared from the Zephyrhills landscape, including James Geiger’s old store and the “Aunt Dora” Marsh house, where, according to “Historic Places of Pasco County,” James Geiger married his wife, Jo. In addition to the guidelines and rules for protecting historic properties, the proposed ordinance will also include incentives for preservation.
Our opinion is it’s good and dandy to have all these tools in place, but when you get down to it, folks want some incentive for what you want to accomplish,” Vande Berg said.
FOUNDER’S DAY 1994
A Visit with Three Zephyrhills Founding Families
— Smith … Gall … Krusen
This article appeared in the Zephyrhills News on Mar. 3, 1994. It was provided by Madonna Wise.
Christine Krusen Douglas remembers when she would go over to Neukom’s Drug Store and order a vanilla cake, “and there was another drug store named Skinner’s,” she said.
“We came here in 1932 from Daytona Beach and moved into an apartment house behind the Baptist Church. We couldn’t find a house big enough to rent, so we lived in all four of the apartments. Dad’s mother, Christine Krusen, lived with us.”
According to Christine’s husband, Henry Douglas, Mr. Krusen bought 13,000 acres, mostly on credit, for two dollars and seventy-five cents per acre. This was the beginning of Krusen Land and Timber Company. He built a sawmill and paid off the land by selling lumber. As popular as it is now, there was no market for pecky cypress back in those days.
Henry Douglas said that the Atlantic Tank Company of New York was an important buy of what was called tank cypress. It came from the heart of the old trees. It was used to build water tanks on the top of buildings, storing water to be used in case of fire. Henry said some of those tanks can still be seen atop old New York City buildings. The wood was also used for brewer’s tanks, oil tanks and tanks for canneries. It was called “The Wood Eternal.”
Christine said her father, known by his friends as Andy, first bought 40 acres where he built the sawmill, their family home and a number of tenant dwellings. This was near the recently restored Atlantic Coastline depot. Mr. Krusen also built a company store. “I used to work there on Saturday mornings, sacking up sugar, beans and grits. They really loved them and asked where they could buy some. My dad loved to tease people and he gave them a bag of grits. He said when you go home, plant them and you can grow grits like anybody else can.”
The above reminded Henry Douglas of a story in which one of their grove employees also liked to be a tease. Friends who sampled Krusen-grown oranges remarked that they were the sweetest oranges they have ever tasted. It happened that the company supplying fertilizer to Krusen experienced a shortage of bags and brought a surplus of discontinued Dixie Crystal Sugar sacks and used them to package the fertilizer. By showing the pile of empty bags to his friends, he convinced them that the sweetness of the fruit was because they fertilized the fruit with sugar. The old virgin strands of cypress contained some extremely large trees. From one of these trees Krusen was able to saw out nine thousand board feet of lumber. At the height of his business, Krusen employed three hundred men, turning out a million feet of lumber per month.
Christine (her father called her Mitz or Mitzie) told of a man who bought lumber on credit. He owned the money for years before finally showing up one day with a chest full of silver dollars to satisfy the debt. “It looked like a pirate’s chest and my daughter, Andra, still has it.”
A steel smoke stack over Krusen’s mill was 151 feet high and weighed nine tons. Because cypress was so dense and took over a year to air dry, the company kept an inventory of three to four million feet.
After being a B-17 pilot in World War II, Henry, in partnership with Ed Madill, started a flying school at the Zephyrhills airport. One of his students was Christine Krusen. It was this meeting that led to their marriage. They both graduated from the University of Florida, Henry with a degree in agriculture. His education made for another good marriage with the Krusen operation which expanded into cattle and citrus.
“I met Mr. Krusen before meeting Christine,” Henry recalled. He hired me to fly Otis Allen to Okeechobee to pick up cash for a shipment of cattle. The husband and wife brought out a dishpan full of ten and twenty dollar bills and counted them out at the kitchen table.
Now known as the K-Bar Ranch, Henry and Christine spoke of the pasture which extended just north of Tampa Palms. Pebble Creek is on land that used to be part of the original 13,000 acres.
“That area was what we called Red Brook Hammock, and when we sold it, we rounded up the cattle right where now is the clubhouse,” Henry said. Henry and Christine are reminded of the early sawmill days as they enjoy handsome cypress wood accessing their Saddlebrook home.
The Galls-Owen Gall’s father, the late Walter Gall, bought for three dollars per acre per about 30,000 acres under the old Florida Murphy Act. This was back well over fifty years ago. He timbered the land and resold much of it for seven and eight dollars an acre. Some of this land became Saddlebrook.
With his wife, Ann, Owen lives on the north edge of town on what remains of his citrus grove after selling most of his land for the new Publix, Wal-Mart and the East Pasco Medical Center.
He remembers back to when his mother, Lola, owned a local restaurant called the Orange Blossom Café. This was the stop where busloads of eager real estate buyers would come in from St. Petersburg. During this time of inflated prices in the 1920’s, hundreds of lots that were sold for around ten thousand dollars a piece came back to the city, during the Great Depression, for non-payment of taxes.
In the 1930’s Owen said that a man who did some publicity work for the City was paid, not in money, but by receiving a deed for 300 city lots. Owen’s father got a letter from the man offering the 300 lots at twenty-five dollars a piece, but turned him down because he said they weren’t worth it.
Owen stated that also in the 1930’s father Walter along with Dr. B. A. Thomas owned the Zephyrhills News. One of the writers for the News had been a publicity man in the political campaign of President Woodrow Wilson. In thinking of that reporter, Owen posed the rhetorical question, “Do all newspaper men like to drink?”
A man by the name of Gibson later bought the News. “I went down one day to look up an article,” Owen recalled, and “found that Gibson had thrown out all the old newspapers.”
A graduate from Zephyrhills High in 1930, Owen said that their sixtieth reunion four years ago was attended 100%. He’s looking forward to the sixty-fifth next year “to see what they all look like.”
A Gator, he went on to study agriculture in Gainesville at the University of Florida. It was a boys college then with an enrollment of 2,500. Former Governor Dan McCarty was a classmate.
His early school days were interrupted when the old wooden Zephyrhills School burned down. Grace Cripe Dew, who still lives on top of LeHeup Hill north of town, was one of his teachers.
Owen’s father’s parents came from the south of France. On his mother’s side the name was Riggenberg and they came from Riggenberg, Switzerland. Walter’s father was Edward Gall. He spent his last days in Zephyrhills as did the Riggenbergs.
Owen joined the Arkansas National Guard in March of 1941. The company was activated and sent to Alaska shortly before the Pearl Harbor attack. He was surprised the Pearl Harbor base was not standing ready because in Alaska they were on alert every day, well in advance of December 7th.
“The United States was not prepared for war,” Owen said. “Our mortar ammo was left over from World War I and would not fire accurately.”
“Dad was on the Florida State Road Board when Highway 301 was brought through town,” Owens recalled and said that his mother, Lola, was the Zephyrhills Postmaster during many of those early years.
Walter was personnel director of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) in Jacksonville during some of the depression years. He recruited thousands of unemployed men and put them to work on various government projects.
Another project of Walter’s was the Gall Silica Sand Mine located about thirty-five miles east of Zephyrhills. At different times, Owen and his brother, Louis, looked after the operation.
Owen finally requested, “Don’t make this article too flowery.” He joked and said that he wouldn’t want to come down to the paper and have to call us liars.
“I pulled up our water from a forty-foot open well,” laughed Matilda Reutimann Smith, widow of Cullen Smith, Sr. “Didn’t even have a crank, just pulled it up hand over hand with that old rope—no electricity in the house either.” The two-seater outhouse was equipped with a well-used Sears Roebuck catalogue. The pages were softened by crumpling a couple of sheets and rubbing them together, according to Mrs. Smith who is known to her friends as Tillie.
From her comfortable house in the middle of Silver Oaks, Tillie told of how Cullen finally piped water to the cow barn and as an afterthought, brought a pipe and faucet up to the back porch. “We still didn’t’ have water inside,” Tillie exclaimed!
Her grandson, Lance Smith, who is active in the local Silver Oaks development, said that the golf course is on land that was formerly called the “Little Pasture of the Smith Cattle and Grove Company.” Smith Cattle and Grove is still the name of the company, but it now has no groves and only one cow.
Number two hole at Silver Oaks Golf and Country Club is where the cow pens stood when a younger Lance Smith, now 31, was a helper in the cattle operation.
Landscaping surrounding luxury homes could benefit from the rich soil left behind form the hundreds of cows that grazed there for decades, and residents of East Pasco County will benefit from the YMCA to be built on almost six acres of land donated to the City by the Smith family.
In Silver Oaks on a site east of the new bypass and north of Geiger Road, construction of the “Y” will begin next month. According to Lance Smith, the facility is scheduled for completion this fall. Tillie, a bright and cheerful 84, was happy they were able to donate the land.
“No,” she probably won’t be personally using the “Y,” but the boys probably will.” Tillie could be one of the reasons Zephyrhills is called “The Friendly City.”
She speaks fondly of her family, remembering when her parents, Emile and Amalie Reutimann, in 1925, started the first Zephyrhills Chevrolet dealership.
The former Amalie Waffler married Emile in 1910 after which they came to the United States from Switzerland, settling in Tampa, where he worked as a machinist. In 1915, Zephyrhills was the next stop, with Emilie setting up shop as an auto mechanic, which evolved into the Chevy dealership.
Tillie grew up in Zephyrhills as a classmate of her husband-to-be. They were in school together until Cullen went off to nearby St. Leo which was then only a high school. He graduated in 1928, the same year Tillie finished at Zephyrhills High. She then went to Florida State College for Women (now FSU) but was glad to come home after a year and one-half.
She was twenty-three and he was a year older when they were married by Judge Sanders in the Pasco County Courthouse. “I was 39 when Susie was born,” Tillie said when she mentioned the youngest of her six children. “We were still using kerosene lamps when Brantly was born (in 1940), then finally the house was wired for electricity.” This was out in the “Big Pasture” by Handcart Road. The pasture was an area of around 3,000 acres. Lance’s great grandfather, Brantly Smith, hauled timber for railroad cross ties to the old Greer Sawmill, just north of town. The transportation was a team of oxen.
The “Big Pasture” saw the beginning of the Smith Cattle and Grove Company. It was stocked with Florida range cattle, also known as piney woods cattle. These were descended from some of the animals originally brought over centuries ago from Spain.
Brantly, the patriarch of the Smith family, was one of the original members of the Florida Citrus Commission. The freeze of 1895, according to family lore, was thought to end the citrus business in the area. In the freeze of the 1980s, the Smith family’s citrus business did end.
Thinking back again, Tillie remembers shopping in town when there were no paved streets and when sidewalks were made of boards. She recalls Edmondson’s Livery Stable where you could rent a surrey with a fringe on top—and Zephyrhills had a fence around it to keep the cows out, and when bread was ten cents a loaf at Floyd Hennington’s grocery.
So, as Tillie Reutimann Smith looks out her window over the fairways that used to be the “Little Pasture,” it’s a long way and a long time from the “Big Pasture” where she would do the family laundry by building a fire under the backyard iron wash kettle.
The Lucius Sibley Family in Zephyrhills (1995)
This article was written by Roger Sibley Sr. for the Zephyrhills Historical Association in May 1995, and given by his daughter, Carol Sibley Wideman.
The Lucius Sibley family arrived in Zephyrhills on January 10, 1924, after 3 weeks on the road from Kansas City, Kansas. Nearly half of the 2100 miles was dirt road or single lane paved road. Many small streams had to be forded because there were no bridges over them and several rivers we had to be ferried across. The ferries held two or three cars. We were held up in St. Louis because of a breakdown. It took three days to repair the Model T we were driving. We were in an open touring car. In Kansas City, we had a 2-door sedan but Dad thought it would be too heavy and we would not need a closed car in sunny Florida, so before we left he traded the body with another man who had an open touring car. We about froze before we got to warmer weather. There were six of us: Mother and Dad, Robert, the oldest, was about 14, Frances was 12, I was 9, and the youngest, Ralph, was 6. I remember that from Brooksville to the outskirts of Dade City was sand roads; from Dade City to Zephyrhills, we came on Wire Road. The only paved street in Zephyrhills was 5th Avenue from 12th Street to 1st Street. The road to Plant City was a dirt road through old Crystal Springs to the Hillsboro County line. From there to Plant City was a brick road. We went to my paternal grandmother’s house on 10th Street, just south of the Methodist church, across (5th Ave. and) the alley; the house is still there. The Methodist Episcopal Church was on the corner of 10th Street and 5th Avenue with Stephens Hall just west of it. It was nearly new, being built in 1923. Grandmother, Ellen F. Marston, was a member there and we went to Sunday School and Church there. We stayed there about a year until Dad could add on to a little house on 10 acres that was grandmother’s. It was given to her when she bought the lots in town to build on for $50.00 a lot. She had 3 lots.
I started school in the 3rd grade at the grammar and high school in the block between 7th and 8th Avenues and 5th and 6th Streets. I went to the 4th grade the next year in that school and in 1926 they built the new school: a 2 story brick school where the present Stewart Middle School is. I started the 5th grade there and finished high school in 1933. That summer the school caught fire in the chemistry lab and burned the top floor. School classes were held in various buildings around town for abut 3 years. Finally, the county got enough money to rebuild the school. They eliminated the second floor and added more rooms to the bottom floor. The auditorium was not damaged and is still used.
When we came here there were about 500 people. About 1925-1926, they paved two blocks of streets on each side of 5th Avenue; 11th Street to the new school and only streets that had curbing. Later paving of streets was without curbing to save cost. About 1927, the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad was built and the brick depot. South Avenue was paved to get to it, and 9th Street was extended from 3rd Avenue to meet South Avenue. My Dad opened a lumber yard in 1925 on south side of 5th Avenue, east of 9th Street. It was a Ford Agency and garage that had closed. The Michigan House was on the comer of 9th Street and 5th Avenue. It was a rooming house of which there were several around downtown to accommodate winter visitors. We called them snow birds. He also built the Lee house and a rooming house on the corner north of the police station, which at that time was the Christian Church. He also built a brick building for the Zephyrhills News at the corner of 5th Avenue and 6th Street where the Baptist Church recreation building is now.
About 1928, he moved the lumber yard to a site on Fort King Road and 7th Avenue on railroad property. He operated this until the World War II. In about 1943 material was not available so he closed it and dismantled the building and sold all the material which was sheet metal and wood frame. He also bought Hohenthaner’s hardware store and moved it to the Zephyr Hotel building. He later moved to a double store space at the other end of the hotel building. This was sold in 1946 to Kaylor.
I spent most of my growing up years working in the lumber yard after school and summers. By the time I was 14, I was driving the trucks and delivering materials. In 1935, I married Carleta Cook. By then, I was working in the hardware store that Dad had started in the early 30s. In 1940, I went to Jacksonville to work with a contractor then building the Naval Air Station. In 1941, I had gotten a Civil Service job in the carpenter shop and the family moved up there in 1941. We stayed there until 1949 when we moved back to Zephyrhills. We bought what was then the Peterson Building on 5th Avenue with two extra lots next to the theater building. Carleta and I started a Ready-to-Wear clothing store in the bottom floor and we lived in the top floor. I was doing carpenter work for awhile then started building houses for customers. In 1953, we built a new building next to the Peterson Building for a larger Ready to Wear family store. I started more construction building by then. The first large building I built was the 2-story block education building for the Baptist Church. Then, I built the Presbyterian Church and the Episcopal Church on 16th Street, the Assembly of God Church on 10th Street, a Wesleyan Church on A Street near the A.C.L. Railroad, the fire station and annex, the City Hall annex, the Alice Hall building, the Florida Power substation building and Florida Power office building, and the new Zephyrhills News Building. In 1959, I started my own house on Zephyr Avenue, in which we still live. I also built many houses: Vincent and Libby Peel’s house, Lester Bales house, and others too numerous to mention. After we moved to Zephyr Avenue, I took the top half of the Peterson building in which we had lived for 10 years and moved it to 13th Avenue and 14th Street and made it into a duplex apartment, later selling it. I tore down the lower half of the building and built a 50’ x 80’ building which was occupied by Senn’s 5 & 10 for several years and now by Lamplighter Furniture Store. Lee Reed Insurance is in the first building we built for a clothing store, having closed the store about 1965 when shopping centers got to be too much competition and later sold the building to Sam Surratt for his insurance agency. I also sold the other building to the furniture store.
There have been a multitude of changes in Zephyrhills over the years: Highway 301 was built as a new route to Tampa. Before that, we had to go to Plant City, then take 92 to Tampa. In the early 30s, Zephyr Park was what was called a tin can tourist park. People would live in tents and cook on little portable stoves all winter and go back north for the summer. Gradually some started to build home-made trailers to live in. Gradually the industry began making factory trailers. About 1952, Pop Winters and Gordon Winters bought a little trailer park that was along the lake and 54 followed to the right and over the old narrow bridge that is still used as 1st Street bridge. Then the Road Department straightened out 54 and Winters had to move as the new route went right through the little park and recreation hall he had built. I worked with Gordon Winters for several months moving his buildings all across the narrow part of the lake to the property he bought from the city which was their first air field built in 1933 or 1934 by W.P.A., who cleared all the land to make a level air field. The W.P.A. also built the swimming pool which is now gone and the old City Hall at 5th and 7th Street and the Woman’s Club building. After Winter’s Park was so successful, everyone started building trailer parks of which there are nearly 200 around Zephyrhills now.
Tourist Homes, Rooming Houses, Boarding Houses, Cabins or Hotel (2006)
This article is reproduced with permission from the Southern Genealogist’s Exchange Quarterly, Vol. 47, No. 199, September 2006.
By JON R. FERGUSON
I was born and reared in Zephyrhills, Fla. It seemed to be “a perfect square mile.”
Actually my twin brother, James (Jim) Donald Ferguson and I were born at home just west of town on Ryals Road on May 21, 1934.
We soon moved into town and lived in several locations before finally settling on Third Street between Seventh and Eighth Avenue. The house number was 712 until it was changed to comply with the 911 directions.
The population was small and neighbors knew neighbors…and everyone was your neighbor! We grew up being able to recognize a stranger. We knew the names of most of the citizens and even adopted some as aunts, uncles or grandparents.
The city was “protected” by having a cattle guard (cattle gap) on the north, south and west side of town. The airport and dump were on the east border and a fence on the city limits on the west fully defined our hometown.
Streets were pretty much straight, but not necessarily parallel. For instance. North First Street began at U. S. Highway 301 at the cattle gap. The highway was also known as Seventh Street. So Sixth, Fifth, Fourth, Third and Second Streets angled off of First before it reached the South end at Highway 54 at the cattle gap. None of these streets were paved until much later. There were only 20 Streets. Life was good.
Zephyrhills has always been known for its good drinking water and was a destination for tourists since it was founded. Many winter visitors pulled their trailer homes to a park in or near the city, but if you came to spend a short time, where could you stay?
Well, if you were related, or a personal friend, you might find hospitality in someone’s home for a few days. Other alternatives were in homes designated as “Tourist Homes.” Often the owners lived in the house and simply rented a room or two to guests. There were several of these scattered around town.
Another alternative was the Boarding Houses. Perhaps the most famous was “Aunt Dora Marsh’s Boarding House” on Fifth Avenue. Many single men loved to stay there where they could get good meals, and have their lunch packed for them to carry off to work.
I suppose that “Hotel Zephyr” was always part of downtown, but I don’t recall it ever being the hub of activity. I knew a few folks who stayed there for a long time, and even remember back when I worked at the bank downtown, when they tried to revive a buffet there.
Stone Cabins Court, south of town, and on the west side of Highway 301, was an innovation. The cabins were individual rooms (perhaps with a bath), built of stone.
The office may have been in a service station or bar. This was a forerunner of motels, which came along much later.
Of course some folks who stayed for a season would share their house with others. Perhaps that is where the idea for building duplexes and triplexes came from.
Garage apartments were popular. Then a true innovation: garden apartments. The first one I remember was on about Sixth Street and Third or Fourth Avenue behind Reutimann’s Garage. Accommodations change, yet life is good.
Sharing Family Memories: Unusual Easter Surprise (2012)
This article is reproduced with permission of the author from The Southern Genealogist’s Exchange Quarterly, Dec. 2012, vol. 53, no. 224.
By JON R. FERGUSON
Nadine and I were living in a small house at 717 11th Street in my hometown of Zephyrhills, Pasco County, Florida. Our first two children had been born. We were cramped for space and had moved our bed into the dining room for comfort. The wall-mounted phone hung between the dining room and our bedroom. Before daylight on Easter morning, April 1963, the phone rang. Panic struck. One expects only emergency or vital news at that time of day.
I answered and identified myself. The message on the other end was: “We have a body for you.” My reply: “Pray tell, whose body do you have?” “Hope Greathouse Tincher, when she was brought in on Good Friday she told us that she would die on Easter and that you knew all about her plans and would take care of them.”
Now the facts are this: My first job after high school was at Pasco Packing Company in Dade City. At that time it was the largest citrus processing plant in the world. Hope Greathouse worked in the personnel department. I saw her from time to time as I passed her office. I transferred to various offices while there during my four years tenure. I sometimes visited with her after hours while we were waiting for transportation home. During those periods we chatted about various things, including auras that we could detect around people as they passed near us. The dream she had of a row of ladders seeming as one lining up along the highway in front of a citrus grove; and her wishes to have her ashes buried on her property … but that was in 1951-1955.
Hope Greathouse married her first husband again and became Hope Greathouse Tincher and lived in Indiana. Her husband had been hit while walking across a street and was killed. She returned to her little house between Zephyrhills and Dade City. That house was the first school house in Pasco County. She had Alaskan Husky dogs. I knew Hilda, another dog lover with the same type of dog, and had introduced them. Little did I know that the two would become friends, visiting almost daily. Hilda raised dogs for sale and was a practical nurse. Hope had diabetes and required shots and medication. She spent more of bird seed and dog food that on groceries and had purposely run out of insulin.
On Good Friday I received a phone message from Hilda that she had found Hope in a diabetic coma and she asked what to do. I told her to call 911 immediately. She did. Hope was transported to the hospital in Dade City, but had roused enough to tell the attendants that they should call me about her plans. I swear she had never told me any final plans.
I waited until daybreak on Easter morning and called Lair’s Funeral Home, the only local funeral home. Ralph Lair and his wife and son lived upstairs over the funeral home and I supposed that they would be getting ready to attend the Sunrise Service held locally, so I called. Sure enough, they were up and ready to take calls. Yes, Hope had made all prepaid arrangements with them and Ralph would pick up the body later that day. Well, now what do I do? The next day I went to work in the Bank of Zephyrhills where I was a loan officer. The bank’s attorney had an office in the bank building, so I made an appointment to tell him the story and ask for his advice. He suggested that I apply to become Administrator of the Estate. I did. I was duly appointed. I searched the house hoping to discover a Will. I was hoping that a will would provide for Hilda’s care over a period of time. The only will I found was signed but not witnessed. I toyed with the idea of witnessing it and having another person sign it, but didn’t. I took it to the attorney the next day and he sighed when I told him my frustration, but said I did the right thing. The names of three cousins were on that will … the only way I would ever have found them … the cousins had no contact in many years … and no mention of Hilda. A consultation was held with the attorney and we devised a plan: Hilda would be reimbursed for the travel expense for her visits and would take the dog to her place and care for it with funds provided for its upkeep. The cousins would share the remainder when the property was sold. The only personal property to be split was an old gun and the manuscript of a book that Hope had written but never got published.
In due time one cousin came to witness and Ralph Lair and I tore the bag of ashes and dumped them into a hole dug by a post-hole digger under a certain plant in her yard that she had identified to me early on. She became part of her own estate!
Zephyrhills Police Chief Named; Ex-Chief Speaks Out (1958)
This article appeared in the Tampa Morning Tribune on Feb. 14, 1958. The article was provided by Charlie Estepp, great grandson of police chief Reuben W. Wells. Estepp says that records show Wells was sworn in as police chief in 1932, resigned in 1940 and was subsequently rehired, and was forced to resign in 1958, but that the city contends he only held that title from 1954 to 1959. Photos of Chief Wells are here and here.
ZEPHYRHILLS, Feb. 13. (Special)—Lance C. Edgeman, 35, has taken over the job of Zephyrhills’ chief of police and is serving by pro tempore appointment of Mrs. Harry L. Rice, mayor. Confirmation of his appointment and the setting of his salary by the city council is expected at the regular meeting Monday night.
Edgeman succeeds R. W. Wells, whose resignation was accepted by the city council Feb. 3 and reported in The Tribune the following day.
Former Chief Wells asked the press to clarify news stories in both the Tribune and the Zephyrhills News listing ill health as his reason for resigning, “in order that my friends may know I am not sick as the articles would seem to indicate.”
Wells said he did not resign for reasons of health or on his doctor’s advice and that, as a matter of fact, he did not submit a letter of resignation as police chief but merely signed a typed resignation delivered to him at his home Feb. 3.The letter was read at the regular council meeting that night.
The former chief told The Tribune he talked with Mrs. Rice, who is in charge of the police department, on Sunday preceding the council meeting. He said he told her medicine he was taking for a heart condition had made him “jittery” and that he preferred to not drive the patrol car until he finished taking the medicine, and offered to check meters, keep the police desk, etc. for the time being.
Mayor Rice, when questioned, issued a statement setting forth the conversation with Wells at her home Sunday afternoon after he telephoned wanting to talk with her. She said the chief stated he had a heart condition and was no longer able to drive the patrol car; that the only work he felt capable of doing was desk work and perhaps serving as police relief officer.
“I assumed he was willing to resign and believed that to be the intent of his visit particularly since he told me he felt in all fairness to me, as mayor, and to the council he should tell me of his physical condition. I told Chief Wells the only desk job we had was already filled and on Monday sent him the letter of resignation which he signed without protest,” the mayor said.
“Any policeman in charge, or on duty, must be capable of responding to any type of call or emergency. Obviously that means ability to drive and perhaps even use physical force. Even if physical force were not required, the expenditure of nervous energy entailed in police work would mean endangering the life of a man with a heart condition,” the mayor’s statement said.
Edgeman was born and grew up in Conway, Ark., where he was graduated from high school and attended Arkansas State Teachers College. He also is a graduate of Miami Police Academy and of the University of Florida’s special police school.
A veteran of World War II, the new chief served as a paratrooper with the 82nd Division’s demolition group in the South Pacific. Injured in a jump, he went on limited service MP duty with the provost marshal’s office at Fort Hays, Ohio, after being hospitalized in Letterman General, San Francisco, Cal., and Fletcher General, Cambridge, Ohio. He is a member of the Disabled American Veterans, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and the American Legion.
After being discharged from the Army, he returned to Plant City to assist his father, Leonard Edgeman, in the operation of a freight line prior to coming to Zephyrhills and joining the police department in 1953. He later became a Pasco County sheriff’s deputy and was serving in this capacity when appointed chief. He is married to the former Miss Barbara Graham, also of Conway, and they have four children.
First Minutes Almost Lost For All Time (2012)
This article appeared in the Zephyrhills Free Press on Aug. 23, 2012.
By GARY S. HATRICK
On Nov. 20, 1914, the Town of Zephyrhills had its first official meeting. The minutes were kept in a nondescript composition book. In 1987, former city sanitation worker, the late Alex Laginess was preparing to empty the dumpster at the Zephyrhills News. He called public works Director Rick Moore about a bunch of old stuff being thrown out from the News building. “All the workers know that I like looking at historical documents and old things,” Moore said. “So whenever they’d find something in the dumpster, they’d call me to come take a look at it.”
Moore is a history buff with a special interest in Zephyrhills history. His wall is lined with old photographs from the early days. He went out to the dumpster to look at what Laginess had found. What he saw was a bunch of old invoices, a painting signed by fondly remembered former News editor Bernie Wickstrom and an old notebook. The notebook was obviously old, the pages were yellow and the cursive letters were written in old style. “After reading it,” Moore said. “I realized it was the meeting of when the city was first formed. The city’s first minutes.”
Moore speculates that the minutes were loaned to Wickstrom at some point for research. “He would never have thrown it away,” Moore said. According to former News controller Linda Wood, after Wickstrom died in September of 1987, his children took what they wanted of his personal belongings. The left over items were discarded. Moore kept the composition book for a few years until the city began to keep closer tabs on things historical. At that time he turned it over to the city where it is kept in the city’s safe.
The minutes record the first action of the city as the swearing in of the city clerk and marshal by the first official mayor W.C. Boggs. During the next week, Boggs presided over the first meeting of the town council until S.G. Allen was elected president of the council and took over running the meetings. The other board members were W.J. McLaughlin, N.L. Wright, S.J. Lyons and A.D. Penry. The first order of business for the new board was to establish three standing committees, Ways and Means, Rules and Ordinances and Streets and Improvements. Another committee was added about a month later, Sanitary and Fire.
Meetings were to be held each Monday evening at 7 p.m. The first Monday meeting was held Nov. 30, 1914. The minutes read “Board met in regular session all members being present. Moved and seconded that we adjourn. Motion carried. City Clerk P.T. Williams and President Allen dutifully attested to each meeting. On Dec. 14, a list of 27 rules was established for the conduct of meetings. Perhaps the most unusual by today’s standards of sunshine in government is one that reads; “Whenever it shall be determined to transact any business in secret session. The president shall direct all persons except members of the Council and its officers to withdraw and the doors to be closed and kept closed during such secret session. Every Board shall observe strict secrecy of all proceedings; matters, remarks votes and of all other occurrences during such session whereof secrecy is enjoined by the Board.”
Although it was not listed as the first ordinance of the town, the entry for the first ordinance voted upon read “An ordinance in relation of the adoption and promulgation of ordinances.” What is listed, as ordinance number one is an ordinance that established a business, occupational and professional license.
However it was not long after the town imposed a fee on the local merchants that there was a complaint. On Jan. 18, 1915, the minutes read “Mr. Sailes appeared before the council and protested against the amount of Town License relating to the selling of fish.”
On Feb. 15 some matters of law and order were addressed. Floyd Gibson was sworn in as “night watch” for the town and $9 was drawn from the town’s funds to purchase a revolver and handcuffs for the town marshal. Today you would probably never see monies other than salaries given to city government leaders, but not so in 1915.
Two entries on Aug. 16 tell us that council member McLaughlin was paid $16.75 and Mayor Boggs was paid $18 for putting sawdust on 3rd Street.
With overtones of River City, Iowa, it seems that on March 6, 1916, there was trouble right here in Zephyrhills. Trouble with a capital T that rhymes with P and that stands for pool. An entry reads: “Moved by W.J. McLaughlin and supported by S.J. Lyons that the Town Clerk be instructed to ask Mr. John Bennett to close the building belonging to him which is now used as a pool room saying to him that same has become objectionable. Motion carried.”
The minutes are filled with references to old Zephyrhills names and businesses. Some notable ones are the GAR Hall, the M.E. Church, the Zephyrhills Colonist (now Zephyrhills News), the Zephyrhills Inn and interestingly considering the source of many of our snowbirds: the Michigan House.