HISTORY OF PASCO COUNTY
Zephyrhills’ Increased Activities (1922)
Pushing Forward for Better Schools, Municipal Light, Ice and Water Plants and a Tourist Hotel
By C. B. TAYLOR
This article appeared in the Dade City Banner on June 9, 1922.
“Your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions,” sang the old Hebrew prophet. Capt. H. B. Jeffries, being neither old nor young, did both, for he dreamed of a colony in the Southland where his old comrades of the Civil War could spend the sunset of life, freed from the rigors of the northern winters.
Like St. Paul he “was not disobedient to the heavenly vision,” and endeavored to make his dream come true. The result is the thriving little town of Zephyrhills, second in size in Pasco county only to Dade City and, with the exception of New Port Richey, the youngest city in the county.
Prior to 1909 the site of Zephyrhills was the, now almost forgotten, railway station of Abbott, where trains dashed contemptuously by or halted impatiently when flagged, the locomotives snorting indignantly at being stopped at so insignificant a spot. A turpentine still and a backwoods general store were the only signs of life.
Today a thriving, up-to-date town, with good substantial business houses, cosy little homes, wide, graded streets, side walks, electric lights and a cheerful, energetic, boosting citizenry are found. The old still is gone but the store still remains, in a new location, and has grown into one of the model dry goods emporiums of South Florida, carrying an up-to-the minute stock and drawing a clientele of particular buyers from a radius of thirty miles.
When I first visited Zephyrhills I expected to find an old soldier’s town where the clocks had stopped fifty years ago, the people living mostly on memories of the past. I found a town of good stores, hustling business men and a spirit of progress that means the place will go ahead with leaps and bounds. The day I was there a petition was being circulated asking the town council to call an election to vote $100,000 worth of bonds to buy and enlarge the electric light and ice plant, install a water system and pave the business streets. In the first twenty minutes the petition was circulated, twenty-seven signatures were obtained. The next evening I was told that seventy-seven property holders had been asked to sign it and only two had refused. A spirit like that is what builds up a town. It gets somewhere.
Ten new homes were built during the past year. Last winter the leading hotel was full the entire season and turned away an average of ten people a day. It is NOW booked to full capacity for next winter.
Plans are on foot for a number of projects. A company is being formed to build a modern tourist hotel. The site has been selected and a $75,000 edifice is projected.
Another project that is taking tangible shape is the opening of a cannery where all kinds of vegetables will be handled, kraut will be made and a cold storage plant installed. Inquiries have been received from a number of brick making plants and efforts are being made to locate one or more on the clay hills between Zephyrhills and Dade City.
Up to this last year the town has relied chiefly on its old soldier settlers and its increasing tourist business as the principal means of growth. Zephyrhills was considered a nice quiet place to live or to spend the winter in. The surrounding territory was good farming and grove land but no serious effort to develop it was made except as individual owners set out small groves. The fact that a great proportion of the population were elderly people, most of them drawing pensions for service in the Civil war, did not make for development of the surrounding country. Last summer several men got together and organized The Zephyrhills Vegetable Growers Association. Forty acres of land were purchased, and most of it cleared. Ten acres was put under irrigation and planted in cucumbers, and C. C. Culbreath of Bushnell engaged as manager. Mr. Culbreath was an old hand at the cuke game having followed it for 25 years. He used eight carloads of “pecky” cypress lumber for troughs, worked day and night when necessary and shipped his first cukes two weeks earlier than they had ever been shipped from this section before. Three thousand crates were shipped during the season and the returns were phenomenal. The capital of the company is $10,000.
On that capitalization a dividend of ten per cent was declared after paying all the expenses of installing and operating the plant. Ten more acres will be put under irrigation this year.
The success of the Growers Association has caused others to venture into the game. The unprecedented drouth of this past spring has shown that irrigation is a requisite for some crops, as one man told me “we may not need irrigation next year, very likely we won’t, but if we do we’ll need it d–n bad, so we’re going to put one in.”
Several projects for irrigated truck farms are under way. The Dixie Vegetable Company is probably the most advanced. It is capitalized at $10,000 and its stockholders are Mr. and Mrs. J. W. Lair, J. F. Ricketts, B. F. Parsons. James Kerr, John Hohenthaner, and L. D. Stapleton. An option has been taken on forty acres of land adjoining the present cucumber farm and the deal will be consummated as soon as the title papers are ready. Work of clearing and developing will be started within the next thirty days and ten acres put under irrigation as a starter.
A. E. Stebbins is planning to irrigate five acres of land, a Mr. Forrest, whom I was unable to see, will do likewise and while I was inquiring about these projects a farmer whose name I failed to get came into the hardware store to inquire the cost of putting in a five acre plant. The air of Zephyrhills is full of rumors of others who will go into the trucking game next season and it is stated that at least a hundred acres of land will be put under irrigation this summer.
Other crops besides cucumbers were raised around Zephyrhills last season. Inquiry at the railroad station showed that Agent B. F. Parsons had billed out five car leads of citrus fruit (most of the citrus around Zephyrhills is packed and shipped at Dade City), five car loads of cabbage and three cars loads of cukes by freight. Three more cars of cukes were shipped by express.
A short distance south of Zephyrhills is a forty acre muck farm, owned by a Highlands county newspaper man, Frank Adams. The place is certainly a rich piece of land, solid muck for an average depth of six feet. This past season L. D. Stapleton, A. E. Stebbins, J. F. Hennington and others had the place leased. Mr. Stapleton said that while it was possible to keep the ground moist underneath by means of the irrigating ditches the drouth caused the tops of the plants to die, thus cutting down the crop considerably. He had dug his crop and had only made four hundred bushels of Irish potatoes off of six acres of land, without any fertilizer. Messrs. Stebbins and Hennington were digging theirs when I was out there and expected to average not over a hundred bushels to the acre. These gentlemen were holding their crops for a better market and had not shipped any when I called.
The soil of this farm is certainly rich and full of humus. On Mr. Stapleton’s part where the crop had been taken off a couple of weeks before, elder bushes and weeds of various kinds had sprung up and were from six ten feet in height.
Ditches for irrigation and draining have been dug, the water coming from two wells, one an artesian 145 feet deep, the other only 19 feet deep. This method of irrigation has not proven very successful, as it does not wet the surface of the ground, causing the stalks of the plants to burn when the weather is as dry as it was last spring. With an overhead irrigation system there is no telling what crops could be raised, the only fertilizer needed being some potash to neutralize the excess of nitrogen in the soil. It is believed that Mr. Adams intends to return this fall and put the entire farm in celery. The only drawback this place has for a winter crop is the danger of cold as the temperature is about two degrees lower than in the surrounding country. There are a number of other good farms close to Zephyrhills, some of which will be told of further on in this article and others in future writings.
Zephyrhills is, to the best of my knowledge, the only town in the county that supports a band. It has been in continuous existence since 1912 and is one of the best small town bands in the United States.
A Mr. McDonald was the first director and at that time there were 16 pieces besides the drum major. Waldo Francisco was the next leader and for the past nine years N. L. Wright has been in charge. The organization owns its hall, a neat frame building on Fifth avenue, where rehearsals are held every other Tuesday night. On the Tuesdays there is no rehearsal a concert is given on the square by the station. The people of the town are very properly proud of their band and support it liberally. It is neatly uniformed and presents a fine appearance on parade. The membership at present consists of:
N. L. Wright, leader. Irving Leekely, drum major. Lawrence Percival, cornet. Mr. Howard, cornet. Harold Skogstad. clarinet. George Sowers, clarinet. Lloyd Curtis, tenor. Morris Chancey, tenor. Mr. Rogers, trombone. John Hohenthaner, alto. Jesse Reagan, alto. D. A. Storms, baritone. Edward DeLong, bass. E. G. Tompkinson, bass drum. John Stirling, snare drum.
Having been founded as a colony of old soldiers, Zephyrhills is a strong Grand Army town. Two posts of the order with their respective Relief corps circles are active, affording social relaxation for the old veterans as well as looking after their material welfare when necessary.
Efforts are being made to organize a post of “The American Legion” as well as a Women’s auxiliary among the veterans of the last war. The organizing of these younger soldiers here would be carrying on the traditions of the town and the post would be able to take up the work of the older men as the march of time causes them to lay it down.
Masonic, Odd Fellows and other fraternal organizations have active lodges and are doing good work, both in the building up of their orders and in advancing the common good.
The Women’s club of which Mrs. H. B. Dimm is the able president, is active in all good works. The all-the-year membership is small averaging about twenty-five, but they have the spirit of a legion and assisted by visiting club women in tourist season they are doing good work.
A spacious lot on Fifth avenue has been bought and plans are being drawn for an up-to-date club house and civic center which will soon be built. A circulating library will be maintained and will supply a long-felt want. In civic work the ladies are maintaining the pretty little park opposite the railway station. It is the first sight viewed by the visitor as he alights from the train and with its neat grassy lawn and tropical shrubbery creates a pleasant first impression. Recreation Park on the western edge of the city is also under their care.
Classes in Florida history and the legal status of women are well attended and full of interest. The ladies are backing with all their might a movement to organize a chamber of commerce and are planning on an old fashioned Fourth of July celebration and get-together meeting this year, to which the citizens of all the neighboring towns will be invited.
Zephyrhills might well be called the “Village of Churches” not that it has so many church buildings, for there are only four, I believe, but there are so many religious organizations.
The Methodist church is the leading church and has a neat edifice on Fifth avenue. The Rev. Alfred Evenden has been the pastor for the past three years and under his care growth has gone forward by leaps and bounds. The salary, which was very low when he took charge, has been increased a hundred and fifty per cent. Several thousand dollars have been spent in installing a heating and lighting system. A new portico entrance that would not disgrace a much finer building has been built.
The neat and comfortable parsonage has been improved with the addition of a water system and new bath room with modern plumbing.
Three hundred new hymn books have recently been put in the church.
The greatest advance, and one of which Mr. Evenden is properly quite proud, is the new parish house now in process of erection. It was made possible by the bequest of the late James Nixon Stevens, though this legacy will not cover the entire cost, it will be called Stevens Memorial hall.
The building will be a bungalow style structure, 40 by 70 feet, and will contain an assembly room with a large stage having dressing rooms that can be used as class rooms, a kitchen for the use of the Ladies Aid society and a stereopticon room. Later a gallery will put in the assembly room greatly increasing its seating capacity. With the completion of this building all the social and educational work of the church will be located here and the church edifice will only be used for worship.
The Baptists have a very neat little church and are an active body. They have no resident pastor and services are held twice a month. Other religious organizations are the Christian, Pentecostal, Christian Science and Roman Catholic bodies, all of which are active. An interdenominational community church is housed in a neat stone building.
Good schools, primary, grammar and high, are maintained in Zephyrhills and have a good attendance, not only from the town proper but from the outlying districts, the children being transported at public expense. A petition was circulated a short time ago to bond the district for $50,000 for the erection of a new high school building. This was turned down by the county school board on the grounds that the assessment was too low. The matter is not dead however, for the people of Zephyrhills want that new school building, and naturally they will find a way to get it.
The Colonist is the name of Zephyrhills’ Newspaper, and it was started before the town was. The story is interesting as Capt. Jeffries told it to me.
In 1909 when he had bought the land for his colony he had the Tampa Tribune print ten issues of 150,000 copies each of a four page eight column paper which he mailed under one cent stamp throughout the north. Every word in the paper was written by Mr. Jeffries and every article was telling of the advantages of the colony he was establishing at Zephyrhills. I do not know whether Capt. Jeffries had selected the name for his colony or not then but the paper was called “The Colonist” anyway.
The present paper is owned, edited and published by C. White, a thoroughly competent practical newspaper man and a polished gentleman. He is issuing a readable, newsy, weekly paper that is well supported by the town and which is working diligently for its upbuilding.
Capt. H. B. Jeffries, mention of whom has been made before, is the real founder of Zephyrhills, and for that matter he was the originator of the idea of founding colonies for G. A. R. men in Florida. At the time he first suggested it, he was an editorial writer on the National Tribune, and he finally persuaded his associates to take the matter up. A preliminary advertisement brought so many replies that it showed clearly there was a demand for such an enterprise.
Some time was spent by the captain and his associates in various parts of the state looking for a suitable tract of land and at one time the colony was almost located at Bushnell. Mr. Jeffries associates, however, preferred the St. Cloud section and on his disapproval organized a company leaving him out.
The captain immediately set out to start a colony of his own. In his search for suitable land he was frequently told that Pasco county was the best location but could never find a tract large enough for his purposes. Finally A. E. Stebbins and Son, real estate men of Tampa, wrote him that they could secure from thirty to sixty thousand acres of good land, among the hills of Pasco county and with good water. Mr. Jeffries had already seen this land but as it was owned by Greer Bros., who were in the saw mill business, had no idea it could be bought until the timber had been cut.
Finding it could be had, he closed the deal and associating the Messrs. Stebbins with him started advertising the colony. At first he confined his efforts to the states of Maine, Pennsylvania and Ohio, offering five acres of land and a town lot, to be drawn by lot, for $50, $5 down and $5 a month. Many responses coming in, he broadened his advertising field, and on December 28, 1909, moved to Abbott, as the place was then called, and made his home in one of the houses left by the turpentine people who had moved away. The only other people there was the Hennington family who owned a store Surveying started Jan. 2, 1910, and on February 5, had progressed so far that the first drawing of allotments took place.
Mr. Jeffries was very desirous that no purchaser should have any just cause to complain, and had the surveyor note down all five acre tracts “that he wouldn’t be willing to have himself” and these were quietly withdrawn from the lands to be allotted.
After two years Capt. Jeffries’ health broke down from overwork and he sold his interests to the Stebbins who conducted the affairs of the company until very recently when they sold out to Mr. R. A. Kinney.
Mr. Kinney is planning to push the building up of Zephyrhills in every way possible. He will build a number of nice cottages this summer, is interested in the proposed new hotel and many other enterprises. At present Mr. Kinney is not advertising very much but he is planning an extensive campaign this fall and it is confidently expected that the place will make decided advances under Mr. Kinney’s guidance.
Dr. J. F. Stebbins, having sold his interests in the Colony Company, is setting up a saw mill along side the Seaboard track. It is the doctor’s intention to enlarge the mill and put in a dry kiln and planing mill as soon as the business warrants.
The State Bank of Zephyrhills is a real live institution and interested in anything that tends to the upbuilding of the community. J. M. Harvey of Tampa is president but L. D. Stapleton, cashier, and all the directors are local men. The bank has enjoyed a steady growth since it was organized and now has deposits totaling approximately $200,000. The outstanding loans are $160,000. Mr. Stapleton is very enthusiastic over the future prospects of Zephyrhills especially over the trucking possibilities. He is interested, personally, in the Dixie Vegetable Co., raised quite a crop of Irish potatoes on the muck farm and has an interest in a thirty acre melon crop, raised by S. Ryals. An account of this crop, together with the rest of Mr. Ryals farms, will be given further on.
Mr. Stapleton, like all the other Zephyrhillites I met, is an enthusiast on water. They have exhibited samples of their water at the last two South Florida fair and got blue ribbons both times. It is good water and I don’t blame them for being proud of it.
Charles C. Lewis, proprietor of the Zephyrhills News Depot, is in Charleroi, Pa., on business, and in his absence Mrs. Lewis is very capably running the business.
All the leading papers and magazines, including the Banner, are sold by Mrs. Lewis, who also carries a good stock of confectionery and smokers’ supplies and has built up a very good trade.
F. O. McDowell has a very nice grocery store and has built up a good business. He started with a stock of less than $200 and now carries one of $2500 which is growing some. Mr. McDowell evidently mixes his religion with his business as I noticed several texts on his walls and he keeps a Bible lying on his counter. Perhaps that is the secret of his success.
A. D. Penry has a dry goods and ladies furnishing store that is certainly a credit to the town. His stock is complete and up-to-date. He states that this past winter was not quite as good as usual but the summer trade is holding up well.
The Penrys are pioneer settlers of the town having settled there when there were only three houses in the place. They are located in their original quarters having moved onto another street once and then returned. They have seen the town grow and their business has grown with it and they are consistent boosters of the place.
The Sweet Shop, operated by J. W. Bates, is prospering. The past winter was a good one and summer business is holding up well. A new refrigerator is being put in that will keep his stock in first class shape during the hot weather and an oyster bay will be added when the months with an “R” come in.
W. R. Wrennick, proprietor of Hotel Zephyr, had the misfortune to lose his sight some year ago. This handicap does not prevent his being a great booster for Zephyrhills and a leader in all progressive movements. Mr. Wrennick is one of the main guys in the movement to bond the town for waterworks and street paving and is overjoyed at the success he had had in getting signers to the petition. He anticipates no trouble in getting favorable action from the town council, as they are all working together for the good of the town.
The Hotel Zephyr has had the best season in its existence having been full to capacity the entire winter and many visitors were turned away daily for lack of room. The full capacity of the house has already been booked for next season and the upper floors of the next block have been leased to provide more room. The hotel closes June 1 and will re-open in October.
A good substantial grocery and meat business has been built up by Zeb Smithson who is located on Fifth avenue. Mr. Smithson says that last April was the best month he had this past season and while the usual warm weather let up has set in it is still quite satisfactory. Compared with previous years while the volume of business has fallen off the percentage of profits in the same so he has no complaints to make. Mr. Smithson has great confidence in the future of Zephyrhills and with the building of the National Highway through the place and the completion of the civic improvements now being planned, expects it to grow rapidly.
William Finch, real estate dealer, reports a large number of inquiries from the North being received and a considerable amount of property is changing hands. He says there are no vacant houses in town to rent that he knows of and that there is an opening for the man who will build small cottages or bungalows for rental purposes. He is planning to build at least one such house himself, and may put up more. Mr. Finch is a Californian who prefers to live in Florida. He is a firm believer in the future possibilities of the oil business in this state and tells an interesting story of being shown a cupful of crude oil found “somewhere in the swamp” by some prospectors who took an oil lease on the country round about. Mr. Finch himself has a place located where a suspicious looking seepage occurs and intends to collect some of it and make a test to see if it will burn. He states also that a neighbor of his finds traces of oil in the water drawn from his well.
A comparatively newcomer in Zephyrhills is S. P. Boyer, who is building up a very satisfactory grocery and meat business. He had a fine trade this past season and looked forward to a slump with the coming of summer, but the falling off is much less than he expected. Plans are under way now for an extensive enlargement of the business and equipment this coming fall and Mr. Boyer sees no reason for the town not grow and prosper if every one will get together and push.
Dry goods, millinery and undertaking keep J. W. Lair and his charming wife quite busy. They carry a large and complete stock and have very satisfactory trade that is growing steadily.
Mr. Lair is an enthusiastic booster of Zephyrhills and believes the place has a great future and that conditions are much more promising than at any time in the past eight years.
Where in the past, the place was mostly an old soldiers’ town, with the development of the cucumber industry there is a more permanent backing. The past season did not see as many tourists as formerly but those that came were of a better class than usual, and spent a large amount of money. Many of them seemed to be greatly interested in the town and surrounding country and probably will return another year and invest here.
As a place of residence, Mr. Lair considers Zephyrhills has few equals and no superior in the state, its location cannot be surpassed, and the absence of flies, mosquitoes and sand flies, as well as malaria, make it one of the healthiest places in the state. “In fact,” said Mr. Lair, with a smile, “if it were not for the large number of old soldiers living here, who must, in the course of nature, pass away, my undertaking business would not be worth following up.”
A month ago, two young men, E. A. Stebbins and J. R. Storms, bought the Home Bakery and are now busy extending the business. First class breads, cakes, pies and others goods of this nature are being turned out and while the usual summer quietness affects the business some it is greatly overcome by the energy and push of the young bakers. In addition to supplying the local demand, no other baker’s goods are handled in town so far as I could learn. Shipments are made daily to merchants in Dade City and Crystal Springs.
Plans are on foot to put in a new oven as the present one is too small for the winter trade and an electrically powered dough mixer will be installed. Scrupulous cleanliness in all departments is insisted on and the premises are being freshened both inside and out with paint.
The Cash and Carry store owned by E. G. Tomlinson is a prosperous appearing place notwithstanding its location some distance from the business center of the town. The business is growing steadily, being much better this year than last and Mr. Tomlinson is greatly encouraged over his prospects. The stock is quite complete and is arranged in a manner that attracts the eye, show … play counters being used.
Mr. Tomlinson is one of Zephyrhills younger business men and is quite active in the church, civic and business life of the town.
P. A. Peterson conducts a jewelry business both in Zephyrhills and Dade City, the Dade City branch being in charge of Mrs. J. B. McKeithen. He, personally, has charge of the Zephyrhills store, where he has the most complete stock of watch and jewelry repair parts to be found between Jacksonville and Tampa.
Equipment for melting gold and the manufacture of rings and other articles of jewelry, such as are usually found only in larger cities, has been installed. A very complete stock of diamonds, pearls and other precious stones are carried and one must be extremely hard to please who could not be satisfied with what Mr. Peterson has to offer. He is an interesting talker and being a jeweler of the old school when the trade was learned only by long years of apprenticeship thoroughly understands the finer points of jewelry and watch repairing.
Mr. Peterson has a very attractive yard around his combination home and shop where a five year old Sicily lemon is bearing profusely as well as limes, guavas, pears and many handsome flowers.
Probably as fine a compliment as was ever paid a town and the people of the surrounding country was paid by John Hohenthaner when he told the writer, “I have been in the hardware business for thirty years, seven of them in this place. During this last seven years I have had less trouble up my collections than anywhere else I have lived. Business here is very good and satisfactory.”
Mr. Hohenthaner has a neatly arranged store and his very complete stock is most attractively placed. He is a worker for the up-building of the town and is financially interested in one of the new irrigated vegetable farms that is being started. At the same time he keeps posted on all other developments and assists them in every way possible.
Mrs. M. E. Lindstrom is the proprietress of a very popular restaurant which did a very satisfactory business this past winter. While the summer has caused a falling off she is now doing much better than she expected.
The local central office of the Pasco Telephone Co. is located in Mrs. Lindstrom’s place and her daughter, Miss Inez, is the capable and courteous operator.
“The Oldest Inhabitant” is the title which Mrs. L. F. Hennington takes great pride in. At that she is simply a charming business woman who has just reached the most attractive age. Twenty-two years ago, when the flag station of Abbott consisted of a naval stores business, and Zephyrhills was not even thought of, she opened up a country general store where she sold “A little of everything and not much of anything.” By a close attention to business, fair treatment of her customers and a studied care of their needs, she built up a good business with the scattered farmers for miles, around, and when the still moved away and Capt. Jeffries descended from the train to start his colony, that is and ever will be his greatest monument, she was on hand to welcome him and help to install the party, as comfortably as possible, in one of the old houses left by the departing turpentine men.
Having great faith in Capt. Jeffries, plans she assisted him in every way possible and some years before even he thought the place would grow to it, she erected what is yet the finest frame business building in the town and moved her business into it. At the same time she cut her business down to an exclusive dry goods and ladies furnishing store, which she located in one side of the building and established her son, J. F. Hennington in the other side of the grocery line.
As the town grew Mrs. Hennington’s business grew and prospered. Her building soon became a land mark that was known for miles around. Country teams crossing the railroad track all stopped there. Tourists and new settlers arriving on the trains all were attracted. By keeping a stock of the best quality of materials and up to the minute, or just a little ahead, an increasing clientele has been attracted that extends as far as Brooksville.
Mrs. Hennington believes in Zephyrhills. She says that it felt the inflation of war times less than any other place and therefore the business depression of the last year has affected it less.
Less than a year ago Mrs. Hennington established “The Woman’s Shop” at Lakeland. She was unable to get a ground floor location and was obliged to take rooms in an office building. Notwithstanding this handicap, Miss Mae Burkett, who is in charge, has built up a very satisfactory and growing trade.
J. F. Hennington has a well stocked grocery and feed store that does a very satisfactory business. Mr. Hennington has a nice way of arranging his stock, using tables instead of counters and high shelves, the result being everything is easily seen and accessible. Mr. Hennington says the town is prosperous, business very good and the future extremely bright.
The postal receipts of a town are a good barometer of the business conditions of the town. The post office at Zephyrhills has only been a third class office a few years. During that time the receipts have climbed from $1000 a year to $3,500. Zephyrhills is growing steadily.
A new business and one that is prospering, is the feed, seed, spray and fertilizer store started by D. A. Storms. This young man is a graduate of the Agricultural college of the University of Florida and knows what is good in the line of agricultural supplies. His place of business is crowded with the stock he carries and a twenty-four foot extension will be erected this summer to accommodate it. A permanent stone building to take the place of the temporary galvanized iron one now in use is being contemplated and will be erected as soon as business conditions improve. From all indications this will not be long. Mr. Storms carries quite an assortment of raffia which is used by the ladies in pine needle and other fancy work. He has only been in business a couple of months but is well established and does an extensive business, customers coming to him from the surrounding country for miles around.
Six years ago E. Reutiman started the Zephyrhills Auto Company in a small building on the road running towards Crystal Springs. Now he has a large well equipped garage there and has also taken over the old National Highway garage in the heart of town. Both places are well equipped to do repair work on all makes of cars and in each one a crew of mechanics are busy all the time. A complete stock of Ford parts is carried all the time as well as those used in all standard makes of cars. Mr. Reutiman is an expert automobile mechanic and gives his personal supervision to every job and never turns any work loose until he is convinced it is satisfactorily done. He has welding and battery equipment which is handled by experts.
Mr. Reutiman’s business has grown with Zephyrhills and he is a firm believer in its future.
A growing business of the town is the grocery store of D. C. Penrod. A good stock of standard articles is carried and attractively displayed. This business is being extended by the installation of a modernly equipped meat market.
S. L. Austin is the proprietor off the City Barber Shop. It is a small neat place and does a good business. A Cleaning and Pressing Club is run in connection with it.
Among the earlier settlers in the town was C. A. Hart who helped build many of the homes in the town as well as in the surrounding country. For himself he put up a good apartment and rooming house that is known as the Buckeye Apartments. The coming of the war and the high wages paid in the north tempted him to leave Zephyrhills but he returned this last fall and found the place had changed so he hardly knew it. He has reopened the Buckeye Apartments and this winter did a good business renting apartments for light housekeeping as well as ordinary furnished rooms. With the coming of summer the rooming business has fallen off but a good restaurant business is being built up. Good meals are served at moderate prices and a special feature of chicken dinners on Sundays is proving very attractive.
Mr. Hart has seen Zephyrhills grow from nothing to its present size and is confident its growth will continue. As he puts it, “We haven’t got started good yet.”
C. H. Curtis, the real estate and insurance man, reports that while real estate is a bit quiet, the insurance business is holding up fine. Mr. Curtis considers that the prospects for the future are good.
The modern drug store o f C. H. Neukom would be a credit to a much larger town. Mr. Neukom does a very good business, though it is not as active now as in the winter. He is local agent for Grafonolas and the store is often filled with music lovers listening to the fine instruments he has on exhibition.
Mr. Neukom is a booster for his town and believes that as soon as good roads are built to it a rapid growth will ensue. He favors building one or two good roads to attempting to build a large number of temporary ones.
Mention has already been made of the irrigated cucumber farms of the Zephyrhills Vegetable Growers Association. This is the pioneer farm of the kind in the vicinity and its wonderful success is the cause of the great interest being taken in organizing other companies to raise vegetables under irrigation. The writer tried several times to interview C. C. Culbreath, the manager of the farm, and find out exactly what was done and how he did it. Two visits to the farm failed to locate Mr. Culbreath and the only information obtainable was what he received from outside sources and may not be exactly accurate. In a general way the association was organized last summer with a capital of $10,000. Forty acres of land was purchased, and about thirty acres were cleared. A well over 300 feet deep was bored and 10 acres were put under irrigation and planted to cucumbers the week after Christmas. One or two car loads of stable manure (reports differ as to the amount) was put in the hills and a ton of commercial fertilizer was used on each acre. The plants were protected from cold by wooden troughs, eight car loads of pecky cypress was used in their construction.
Picking began about the middle of March and about 3,000 crates were shipped during the season. The returns were sufficient, according to the most moderate stories told, to pay all operating expenses, half the cost of installation and a ten per cent dividend was paid to the stockholders. The cuke crop has been followed by a crop which, thanks to the irrigations system and the fertilizer left from the previous crop, will no doubt be the best in the county. Unless all signs fail it will yield over fifty bushels of corn to the acre. On the ten acres joining the cucumber ground tomatoes were planted. These had the same treatment as the cucumbers when it came to care and fertilizing but had no irrigation. As a result of the drouth they are a total failure. The association is so well pleased with their success this past year that they are planning to double the acreage under irrigation and it is rumored are negotiating for more land.
From an irrigated truck farm to a non irrigated general farm is a far cry. There are a number of them and very successful ones, too, in the vicinity of Zephyrhills but only two will be mentioned in this article. The first one belongs to W. M. Ryals and is especially note worthy because of its good corn , raised without fertilizer or irrigation. Mr. Ryals prides himself on knowing how to raise corn and his average yield is forty bushels to the acre. This year on account of the drouth he probably will only gather twenty-five or thirty-five bushels to the acre. At that his field is a pretty sight with its rows of tasseling stalks ten feet or more in height and the broad dark green leaves rustling in the breeze. An extra nice field of Jap cane, and a fine citrus grove are also very noticeable on Mr. Ryals place.
Mr. Ryals is an extensive cattle owner and the day the writer called had marked forty calves which he said was only a starter to what he had to do. A large herd of Poland China and Duroc hogs are kept on the place in pasture.
S. Ryals, a brother of Will, has a twenty-five acre melon patch that is ripening fine melons that will average from thirty to forty pounds weight. L. D. Stapleton of the Zephyrhills bank is associated with Mr. Ryals in raising this crop. A smaller patch for home use is in fine shape also. Two nice budded groves are looking fine and his assortment of general crops are in good shape. Mr. Ryals believes in efficiency in farm management and has a good assortment of modern farm implements.
What bids fair to be one of the largest poultry ranches in the county has recently been started by F. D. Jamesson formerly director of an Agricultural school in Greece and a specialist on animal and poultry husbandry.
Prof. Jamesson has lived in the United States for many years and was a very successful poultry raiser at Vineland, N. J., the second largest poultry growing center in the country.
He has everything figured out as to investment for a successful farm and rates of return, claiming that a successful farm requires an investment of about six dollars per hen and that the cost of feed would be a dollar and a half per year. Each hen should pay a net profit of three dollars per year on this investment and cost of maintenance.
Mr. Jamesson keeps four coops of chickens and plans to replace his flock every three years, one house each year. Besides these he has brooder houses and a “crazy house” where he puts them when they want to set, and a nest house where they lay. He has twenty acre range for them and keeps troughs of mash and running water where they can always be accessible.
Brown Leghorn roosters and Black Minorca hens are Prof. Jamesson’s specialties, the cross producing what he calls “an amplified Leghorn,” producing a larger egg than the Leghorn and a smaller one than the Minorca which is too large in a section where eggs are not graded. In raising his roosters, twelve Leghorn hens of a high laying strain are selected and their eggs are hatched. These hens transmit their laying quality to their sons who in turn transmit them to their daughters. In crossing, the old gentleman says, it is necessary to use breeds which are complements to each other and not opposites. That is, take two breeds that produce white eggs, not one that produces white and another one brown.
The marketing of eggs is a matter of importance that is sadly neglected according to Prof. Jamesson. In New York, outside of the nearby “state” eggs, they are graded in seventeen grades according to color, size and other characteristics, and prices range accordingly. Eggs from California, which are graded and packed in accordance with these standards, bring higher prices there than Southern eggs which are not graded but go in mixed lots. The difference in price between the higher grades and the ungraded eggs frequently amounts to twenty cents per dozen. Mr. Jamesson is enthusiastic over the possibilities of poultry raising in Florida. He is just getting started but with his knowledge and ability and the favorable conditions of this state he will undoubtedly be successful and become a large contributor to the success of the community.
The citrus industry of Zephyrhills is fitly represented by H. Q. Ward who has forty-five acres of fine groves and operates an extensive nursery business called from his native state The Green Mountain Nurseries. Mr. Ward does not go in for quantity but quality in his business, and confines his nursery to 15,000 trees. No business has been solicited for some years but last season he had orders for double the number of trees on hand. He endeavors to improve the quality of his stock and has been testing some late varieties of fruit that he finds always come true to seed. Mr. Ward takes pride in the fact that during the period of inflated prices he held his down to the standard and now that there is a tendency towards lowering them below normal he holds on at a fair standard price for a quality article.
He does not think the citrus business can be over done if the public is educated up to the value of the fruit for as he says “Oranges will cure more people than pills.”
Mr. Ward believes that excessive spraying is detrimental and that proper cultivation and pruning will keep trees healthier than a spray.
Mr. Ward has made a success of the citrus business because he has used his brains in developing his groves. They are good advertisements for Zephyrhills.