HISTORY OF PASCO COUNTY
Samuel Pasco (1834-1917)
This page presents some information about Samuel Pasco, for whom Pasco County is named. Another portrait is here. This page was revised on Jan. 12, 2019.
Samuel Pasco was born in London on June 28, 1834. [The Washington Post on May 20, 1887, reported that he was “of English descent and a West Indian by birth.” Presumably this is incorrect.]
He immigrated to the United States with his family and settled in Charlestown, Mass., in 1846.
He graduated from Harvard College in 1858. He moved to Florida in 1859 and was principal of Waukeenah Academy, near Monticello from 1860-1861.
During the Civil War he entered the Confederate Army as a private in the Third Florida Volunteers. He spent a week in January 1863 in Brooksville in order to get some stragglers to return to their outfit, the Third Florida Infantry Regiment.
He was wounded and captured at Mississippi Ridge, and remained in prison until March 1865, when he was paroled with the rank of sergeant.
He returned to Florida in 1865 and was again principal of Waukeenah Academy from 1865 to 1866. He was clerk of the circuit court of Jefferson County 1866-1868. He was admitted to the bar in 1868 and began a practice in Monticello.
On October 28, 1869, Pasco married Jessie Denham (b. Jan. 16, 1847; d. Aug. 20, 1921).
He was a member of the Democratic national committee from 1880 to 1900. He was a presidential elector on the Democratic ticket in 1880.
In 1884 Pasco was a candidate for Governor but withdrew in favor of Edward Perry.
In the 1880s Pasco built a large frame house in Monticello. This home is now known as the Pasco-Anderson house and is locatd at 710 W. Washington Street.
He was president of the State constitutional convention in 1885, and a member of the state house of representatives in 1886-1887. He served as speaker in 1887.
On May 19, 1887, Pasco was elected as a U. S. Senator by the Florida legislature. He succeeded Charles W. Jones. Pasco defeated Goodrich (Republican) by a vote of 84-17. It took 25 ballots for Pasco to win. It had taken 89 ballots until the Democratic party chose Pasco as their compromise candidate; other major contenders were former Governor W. D. Bloxham and incumbent Governor E. A. Perry.
In 1887, when two new counties were created from parts of Hernando County, the name “Pasco County” was suggested for the southern county by a member of the legislature, Dr. Richard C. Bankston. His suggestion was an alternative to “Banner County,” the earlier name under consideration, which proved unpopular. In a letter to Mrs. J. A. Hendley dated Nov. 25, 1927, Bankston recalled:
On June 2, 1887, Governor Perry signed into law “A Bill to Divide the County of Hernando and make therefrom the Counties of Citrus and Pasco.”
On Oct. 24, 1891, the Bismarck Daily Tribune reported:
Presumably, the above represents an instance in which Pasco visited the county named for him. Another such visit has been found several years later.
In Feb. 1893, Governor Mitchell appointed Pasco to be the U. S. Senator ad interim beginning on March 4 and ending with the election of a senator by the legislature in April.
Pasco was appointed by the Governor to serve beginning March 4, 1899, until the legislature could select a new senator. On May 19, 1899, Pasco was defeated for re-election.
On June 9, 1899, Pasco was appointed by the President as a member of the Isthmian Canal Commission. He served until 1905.
On Oct. 29, 1900, son Lt. William Denham Pasco was killed in the Spanish-American War.
On Jan. 17, 1904, the Atlanta Constitution reported, under news of Moultrie, “Hon. and Mrs. Samuel Pasco, of Monticello, Fla., are guests of their daughter, Mrs. J. C. Sims, at the manse.”
Pasco died in Tampa at the home of his daughter, Mrs. J. C. Tims, on March 13, 1917. He was interred in Roseland Cemetery in Monticello.
In a eulogy delivered at the funeral of Samuel Pasco, Gen. B. W. Partridge said, “In the third year of his life in the South—the call to arms and war between the States startled this great land of ours. Samuel Pasco—without a drop of kindred blood south of Mason and Dixon’s Line—without a penny of investment in the South—with loved ones and influence and wealth at home in Boston—with nothing to offer but a splendid manhood and spotless life—faced the problem of a choice. With that calm temperament that always characterized his conduct in life he left the quiet school house—not alone—carrying with him fifteen of the young men—whose fathers were satisfied to give them up to the care of their worthy preceptor.”
In 2015 a controversy developed over whether Pasco and two other confederate soldiers should be inducted into the Florida Veterans Hall of Fame.
Namesake Stranger to These Parts
The following article appeared in the Tampa Tribune on July 3, 2000.
By CAROL JEFFARES HEDMAN
Today we debut a column designed to help newcomers, old-timers and anyone in between learn more about Pasco County’s colorful history. This first installment focuses on the man for whom the county is named. Do you know how Pasco County got its name?
Some residents may be aware their county was named for Samuel Pasco, a popular Florida politician in the 1880s.
But many folks know little else about the man who, it is said, never stepped foot in these parts. [Later research found this to be untrue –jm]
The tale of Samuel Pasco began to emerge when the county celebrated its centennial in 1987. That’s when historians Eddie and Patsy Herrmann of Dade City and James Horgan, a Saint Leo College professor, began their research. Carroll Jennings, of the Pasco Centennial Committee, also became obsessed after being cast as Samuel Pasco during the 100th anniversary celebrations.
The foursome found that Pasco was more than a popular politician. The English-born teacher was a Harvard graduate, a Civil War hero, a lawyer, a Baptist, and, above all else, a Democrat.
Samuel Pasco was born June 28, 1834 in a cluster home in London, some 200 feet from St. Paul’s Cathedral. Most entries in England have his surname spelled “Pascoe,” and it wouldn’t have been uncommon for the family to have dropped the e.
John Pascoe or Pasco, a bookseller, and his wife, Amelia, moved with their infant son, Samuel, to Prince Edward Island, Canada. They settled in Charlestown, Mass., a Boston suburb, when Samuel was 7.
Pasco graduated from Harvard College in 1858 with a bachelor of arts degree. He returned there in 1872 to complete his master’s.
About the time Pasco earned his bachelor’s degree, some Southern planters in Florida were organizing an academy to educate their children. They asked the president of Harvard to recommend a principal for the school, located at Waukeenah in the southern part of Jefferson County.
Pasco got the nod and accepted the post in the Panhandle.
He soon became sympathetic to the South’s cause in the Civil War. He closed the academy and, with 15 of his older students, enlisted in the Confederate army, serving in the Third Florida Regiment.
Pasco’s devotion to the South and his comrades was recorded in the wartime dairy “Camp Fires of the Confederacy” by Clarence Smith. In the chapter “Private Pasco,” Smith tells how one of Pasco’s former students, Pvt. Tom Pettus, was wounded during a heavy exchange of fire in July 1863 near Jackson, Miss.
Under covering fire, Pasco went out among the wounded to find Pettus and returned him to the Confederate lines. Pettus died the next day, but Pasco was commended for his efforts by Gen. John Cabell Breckinridge, vice president of the Confederacy.
Pasco himself was wounded in November 1863 at Missionary Ridge, near Chattanooga, Tenn., and taken prisoner. He remained at Camp Morton, Ind., for 14 months, ignoring efforts by Northern friends who pleaded with him to take an allegiance oath to the Union.
He was released with an exchange of prisoners shortly before the war ended.
Pasco returned home to Monticello, the county seat of Jefferson County, where he was elected clerk of the circuit court in the interim between the Confederacy’s surrender and the Carpetbaggers’ regime, when Northern politicians came to take charge.
Pasco was forced out as clerk with the coming of the first Republican governor during Reconstruction.
Admitted to the Florida Bar in 1868, Pasco joined the law office of Col. W. S. Dilworth, his old regimental commander.
In 1872, Pasco was elected to the state Democratic Executive Committee and became chairman in 1876, serving in that role for the next 10 years. During that time, he led the party to state victories in 1876 and 1880. One of his greatest accomplishments was leading the successful move to restore home rule in Florida, re-establishing county governments.
Pasco was elected president of the Constitutional Convention of 1885, which set up Florida’s cabinet form of government and established the poll tax, a prerequisite for voting that limited the opportunity for blacks, particularly.
Pasco and Gen. Edward A. Perry were nominated for governor at the Democratic Convention of 1886. After the convention vote was deadlocked, Pasco withdrew his name in the interest of party harmony.
It was Perry who signed the bill on June 2, 1887 that established Pasco County.
Samuel Pasco was elected to the state House of Representatives in 1886 and was speaker of the House when elected to the U.S. Senate the next year.
During that time, a delegation from a small town in southern Hernando County arrived in Tallahassee to lobby for a new county.
It was late in the session, and it looked doubtful the delegation from Dade City would succeed in securing a new county with the proposed name of “Banner.”
Most of the legislators favored forming the new county, Richard Bankston, who drafted the bill, has written. But the name received opposition because nearly every member thought he came from the banner county.
Newly elected Sen. Pasco was popular in the South because of his allegiance to the Democratic Party, which battled to oust Republicans who were viewed as Northerners who came to take over Southerners’ land during Reconstruction.
So the Dade City delegation revised its bill, naming the proposed county “Pasco.” Within four hours after it was introduced, the bill creating Pasco County was unanimously passed.
There’s no evidence Samuel Pasco ever visited the county that took his name that day in 1887. He probably was too busy.
In 1889, Pasco was appointed to the Isthmian Canal Commission, the presidential committee that laid the groundwork for construction of the Panama Canal.
Pasco supported U.S. ownership of the canal, and his views were incorporated in the commission’s recommendation. The Panama Canal was completed in his lifetime but didn’t open until 1920, three years after his death.
Pasco was re-elected in 1893 by state legislators (the people didn’t get to vote until 1913) for another term in the U.S. Senate. But the lawmakers voted him out in 1899, in retribution for his efforts two years earlier that led to the ouster of Florida’s senior senator, Wilkinson Call.
Pasco married Jessie Denham of Monticello in 1869. They had two daughters and three sons. He died at the home of one of his daughters in Tampa on March 13, 1917, and is buried in the town cemetery at Monticello beside his wife and a son who was killed in the Philippines during the Spanish-American War.
Descendants (Under Construction)
Some of this information was provided by Valerie Kennedy-Grisham and Robert L. Pasco.
Children of Samuel Pasco and Jessie Denham:
Harvard Biography (1898)
The following is taken from “Report of the Class of 1858 of Harvard College – Prepared for the Fortieth Anniversary of Its Graduation” (1898). The photo is Pasco’s graduation photo at Harvard, taken in 1858.
SAMUEL PASCO.—Born in London, England, June 28, 1834; son of John and Amelia (Nash) Pasco.
In January, 1859, he took charge of the Waukeenah Academy, Jefferson County, Fla., where the commencement of the war found him. He enlisted in the Third Florida Volunteers, Aug. 10, 1861. The regiment, after some little time, was ordered to join General Beauregard’s army at Corinth, and was attached to General Bragg’s army during his Kentucky campaign. He was frequently detailed as clerk at regimental and brigade headquarters, and at the adjutant-general’s office. He was in the battle of Chickamauga, and at Mission Ridge, in November, 1863, was left on the field with his legs shattered by minie-ball. He was a prisoner in different hospitals for nearly six months, and then sent to camp Morton, Ind. Here he remained until paroled in March, 1865, when he returned to Florida.
He resumed his place in the academy, but having been elected Clerk of the Circuit Court, he removed to Monticello, the county town, in January, 1866. He was then appointed clerk of the Criminal Court, and of the town council. He performed much of the office work by deputy, and gave his own time to the study of the law. He was admitted to the bar, Oct. 5, 1868, and went into partnership with his instructor, Mr. Dilworth, who died in September, 1869, and left Pasco a large practice, almost all of which he was able to retain. He formed a new partnership in the spring of 1877, and the firm name was Pasco & Palmer. He was a member of the town council for nine years, declining a re-election in 1878.
For some years he has been a trustee of Jefferson Academy. He is a prominent Mason, and was for three years Grand Master of the Florida Grand Lodge. He received the degree of A. M. in 1872.
He married Oct. 28, 1869, Jessie Denham, daughter of William and Elizabeth (Scott) Denham, of Monticello. Their children are: Elizabeth, born Aug. 19, 1870; Emily, born June 18, 1873; William Denham, born Dec. 14, 1875; Samuel, born March 21, 1878; John, born Sept. 20, 1880; and James Denham, born February 25, 1883.
He has practised law in Monticello without a partner since 1881. Was chairman of the Democratic State Executive Committee from 1876 to 1888, and since 1880 was a member of the Democratic National Committee. Was presidential elector at large in 1880, and led the ticket. At the state convention, in June, 1884, was a candidate for the gubernatorial nomination, and it first received a plurality of votes, but, to prevent a deadlock, withdrew his name, and on his motion General Perry was nominated unanimously. Served as a member of a State Board of Education, 1879–80. Was nominated by both Democrats and Republicans a member of the Constitutional Convention, held in June, 1885, and was elected without an opponent, and on its organization was elected its president on a unanimous vote. In December, 1886, elected representative from Jefferson County to the House of Representatives of Florida, first held under the new constitution, and on its organization, April 5, 1887, was elected its Speaker.
He was nominated for United States senator by the Democrats by acclamation for the term which began in 1887, and May 19 was elected by a vote of eighty-four to seventeen, and took his seat as a senator from Florida at the opening of the Fiftieth Congress. He has made many Masonic and political addresses, and speeches on public questions before the Senate, and some of the latter have been published in the pamphlet form. He wrote a chapter on Florida in a work entitled “Why the Solid South.” He has published nothing else in a permanent form.
He wrote to the Secretary, March 24, 1898: “There have been few changes in my life since our last report in 1888. I was re-elected to the United States Senate without opposition at the close of my first term in 1893, and now my second term is drawing to a close. The Legislature to be elected in Florida next November will choose my successor, and the people, who have already treated me so generously, seem disposed to honor me with a third term. I have served at different times on some of the leading committees of the Senate. When the Democrats controlled the organization, I was chairman of the Committee on Claims, and have also served on Public Lands, Military Affairs, Commerce, Rules, and others. Last year the Vice President appointed me as one of the Board of Visitors to West Point, and I served as such. I resigned as chairman of Democratic State Committee in 1888, but I am still a member of the Democratic National Committee, and few, if any, of the present members have served longer than I have. There have been no changes in the membership of my little family since the last report. My two older sons have gone through Hampden Sidney College, in Virginia, and are continuing their studies, one at the Columbian University, Washington, where he is taking an engineering course, the other at the University of Virginia, where he is studying law. The third son is a cadet at the Virginia Military Institute.”
Address, Monticello, Florida.