Early Residents of Pasco County

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This page was last revised by Paul Herman, Digital Media Archivist, West Pasco Historical Society, on May 20, 2024.

James Honour. St. Clair, from the Gulf High 
School 1942 yearbook

JAMES HONOUR ST. CLAIR (1871-1949) was a long-time teacher in Pasco County. He was born in Marion, S. C., on December 8, 1871. He attended the University of Georgia and began his teaching career in Georgia at age 17 as an assistant to his father who was also a teacher. He moved to Florida in 1919 and taught one year at Oak Hill near Dade City and two years at Pasco High School before moving to Elfers in 1921. He served as principal of Elfers Junior High School and then taught at Gulf High School from 1923 until his retirement in 1941. At Gulf he taught Latin and English and coached baseball and basketball and was known as “Pop” St. Clair. He taught for 53 years. In 1947 the athletic field at Gulf was dedicated in his honor and on Nov. 28, 1952, a memorial plaque was placed at the southwest corner of the field during ceremony at half-time. The Gulf High Future Teachers of America chapter was named for him.

In Tales of West Pasco Ralph Bellwood wrote:

Jumping from the far corner of the County at Aripeka where Kolb lived, to Elfers, we find another outstanding personality whose influence will be felt through generations to come, for he imparted culture and learning through precept and example as an educator. We refer to Professor J. H. St. Clair. He taught in Gulf High school for many years. Principals came and went, but Professor St. Clair was perhaps the strongest personality that Gulf High has ever had. He was a quiet, dignified man, with a knack of getting ideas over to his pupils, as few educators have. He was an avid fisherman and caught more bass out of the Cotee and Anclote rivers than any other single man in the area. He not only taught hundreds of young people, but gave three teachers from his family, one being Mark St. Clair (now retired) who for a number of years was Superintendent of Public Instruction for Pasco County. Indeed, the St. Clair family has been a family of educators. The Professor’s Mother and Father were teachers. His wife and three children were or are now teaching, and two of his grandchildren are teaching at present.

The 1942 Gulf High School yearbook is dedicated to St. Clair, as follows:

Because he is devoted to the ideals of our school, We look up to him. Because he is firm and sincere, We respect him. Because he understands modern youth We trust him. Because he is like our own fathers We revere him. To such a friend, MR. J. H. ST. CLAIR The Senior Class of Gulf High School affectionately dedicates this the first volume of “THE BUCCANEER.”


  • Mark, q.v.
  • Mrs. Katie DeLamorton, a music instructor at McFarlin Park Elementary School in Tampa
  • Mrs. Mary Lou Knight, a member of the first Gulf High School graduating class in 1924. She became a librarian at Clearwater High School.

MARK ST. CLAIR (died in 1995 at age 90) served as Pasco County Superintendent of Schools from 1949 to 1957. He was born in Statesboro, Ga. His family moved to Dade City in 1919. He attended 7th through 9th grades there. In 1921 his family moved to Elfers. St. Clair was a member of Gulf High School’s first graduating class in 1924. He graduated from Florida Southern College in Lakeland in 1928. He was the principal at Trilby and Lacoochee before being elected Superintendent of Schools. He subsequently was an assistant principal in Leesburg. Lorise Abraham, a student at Lacoochee, recalled, “Prof. St. Clair was principal in my day and everybody, just everybody loved that man, even when he had to reprimand us. Now, it really takes a special talent to have students love you even when you’ve been forced to give them a licking or a lecture! Prof made learning so much fun and he always brought humor into the classroom with him.” In 1926 St. Clair married Alice Mullin, a teacher. She died in 1960. He married Helen Jackson Swartsel in November 1962.

EDGAR SAPP (1896-1985) and his wife Florence Dix Sapp lived in the house abandoned by Aaron M. Richey after Richey moved to Tarpon Springs. Sapp subsequently moved to Anclote. In a 1983 newspaper article Sapp recalled that there were 14 houses at Anclote when he moved there in the early 1900s. He was a commercial fisherman for 70 years. He was born in Bradenton. In the 1900 census he is shown as 14 years old, a fisherman. He married on Oct. 31, 1915. A listing for Cycadia Cemetery shows Edgar Sapp died on Feb. 2, 1985. [Some information provided by Audrey Thomas Newton and her mother Frances Irene Sapp Thomas, daughter of Edgar and Florence Sapp.]

GENE SARAZEN (1902-1999), one of the greatest golfers of all time, wintered in New Port Richey. More information is here.

FREDERICK R. SASS (1871-1945) arrived in Florida in 1912 and purchased a hotel which was under construction by the Port Richey Company, and which became the Sass Hotel. He wrote in The Genesis of New Port Richey that “Mrs. Sass was the first woman to live in New Port Richey.” Fred Sass was a talented painter; a painting by him of Elroy Avery hangs in the New Port Richey Library. Many examples of his art were exhibited in St. Petersburg, where he and his wife Ollie M. (1878-1957) retired. They were both born in Missouri.

JOHN RICHARD SAWYER II (1861-1935), an early resident of what would become Elfers, had a fish camp he built on stilts off shore between Green Key and what is now Gulf Harbors, according to the recollection of a son Irvin Sawyer (1914-1993). His obituary says, “Sawyer, who was in his 75th year, was born February 12, 1861. He had made his home in the Elfers community for 53 years, settling there following his marriage.” John R. Sawyer II married Georgia Joanna Butler. Their first child, Fred Sawyer, was born on Feb. 28, 1886, and could be the first male child born in the settlement which became Elfers.

ROBERT LOCHRIDGE SEAY (1856-1937) was a prominent resident of Dade City for 60 years, according to his obituary. He was born in Water Valley, Ky., on July 26, 1856. As a young man he moved to Fort Dade and set out citrus groves and later entered the livery business. He married Carrie Turner in Florida. He died on Nov. 21, 1937. He was followed to Florida by his sister and brother-in-law and by his parents. His father, Dr. Charles Thomas Seay (1824-1907), was a local physician.

GASINGAMER or GLASINGAME G. SHEFFIELD (1818-1898) probably came to what later became Elfers around 1868. He is shown as a farmer in the 1870 census. His wife was Marguarite (1828-1900). [These are the spellings in the 1870 census; their grave markers at West Elfers Cemetery have Gaim G. and Margaret.] The 1870 census shows their children Julia, 20; John, 19; Moses, 16; Martha, 10; Mary, 8; and Ellis Lee, 4. Mary married J. O. Brown, q.v.

MOSES D. SHEFFIELD (1854-1928), a son of G. G. Sheffield, lived at Elfers for 60 years according to his obituary. The 1880 census shows that Moses Sheffield was born in Georgia, and that he was a sponger living in Hernando County.

J. HENRY SHELDON is named as the postmaster of Port Richey in 1918 and 1920 newspapers, although his wife Emma E. Sheldon is listed as the postmaster from 1916 to 1920 in official records. He came to the Port Richey area in 1915, according to Avery. He was selected as a member of the original New Port Richey city council in 1924, and in 1925 was named (by charter) the first clerk of Port Richey. He operated the Sheldon House, a hotel which was advertised in newspapers in 1918 and 1919. He later operated the City Market, a grocery store in New Port Richey. He died when he was thrown by a horse, around 1953. He is buried at Belleview Cemetery in Marion County. A son was Harvey O. Sheldon (b. about 1897), who married Jane Gray Edwards, a longtime teacher in western Pasco County. He died at age 56 at Bay Pines.

JENNIE SHELDON (1899-1994) taught school in Pasco County for 47 years. She was born Jane Gray Edwards in the Bahamas and was brought to the U. S. by her uncle John Edwards when she was three years old. At age 19 she married Harvey O. Sheldon (born about 1897) and she then worked at the Sheldon House, a hotel operated by her father-in-law. According to her daughter Edna Brower, she started teaching at about age 18. Jennie recalled in a 1978 newspaper article that from 1918 to 1920 she taught grades 1 through 8 at the Port Richey school. School board minutes of April 5-6, 1920, reported that the Board appointed Miss Corinne Jordan to teach at the Port Richey school, succeeding Mrs. Sheldon. School board minutes of Jan. 7, 1921, show she was appointed to teach at the Elfers School. During the depression, she walked from her home in Elfers to Pierce Elementary to teach; teachers were not allowed to ride the school buses. By 1935 she had transferred to Pierce Elementary School and subsequently taught at Richey Elementary School when Pierce Elementary closed. On July 6, 1945, the New Port Richey Press reported that her resignation from Pierce Elementary School was accepted by the school board. She received a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from Florida Southern College in 1950. She retired at the end of the 1969-70 school year. She was born on Dec. 4, 1899. She married Harvey Sheldon, Conrad L. Keller (1886-1958), Steve Voelker, and Russell Crane. She died on Jan. 24, 1994. Her children are Wilford H. “Skid” (GHS ’37, died in 2008 at age 88) and Edna (GHS ’39).

JACOB NATHANIEL SHOFNER (1823-1899) was a prominent businessman in Dade City. He was b. in Columbus, Ga., on Jul 8, 1823; m. Georgia Anna Gresham; d. Nov. 6, 1899, Dade City. He was the father of Dr. T. L. McElroy of DeLand, Tobe Lee Shofner of Dade City, M. G. Shofner of Palmetto, and Mrs. J. S. Root.

TOBE LEE SHOFNER (1861-1927) was an early businessman in Dade City. He was born in Newton, Miss., and came to Dade City in 1884, according to his obituary. He and his father built what was then the largest mercantile business in the town.

George Sims GEORGE REGINALD SIMS (1876-1954) was a leading developer in the Florida boom years of the 1920s. He moved to New Port Richey in 1916. He purchased the Port Richey Land Company, owner of some ten thousand acres along the Pithlachascotee River. He became acquainted with movie celebrities while spending the summer months at his home in Great Neck, Long Island, and he invited them to the area, hoping to develop it as another Hollywood. He donated land for city parks, one of which is named in his honor. He was a native of Detroit and he attended the University of Michigan. His parents were Walter R. Sims and Elizabeth Knowles Sims. He married Marjorie Bartlett Byington (died, age 77, in 1965) on March 1, 1904; she was selected as Queen Chasco in the first Chasco Fiesta in 1922. The New Port Richey Post reported in January 1916, “George R. Sims, of Chicago, President of the Port Richey Co., has erected a bungalow near the Boulevard and facing the Club House grounds and the Cootie River, and expects to spend the greater portion of his time enjoying the pleasures of this section, as well as assisting in the development of one of the prettiest little cities in the state.” He was born in Detroit. On Dec. 5, 1930, the New Port Richey Press wrote that Sims “is known as the ‘Father of New Port Richey.’” He was often called “Reg.” A son, George Reginald Sims II (d. in Tampa on July 22, 1989) was often called “Bunt.”

HARRISON H. SLAUGHTER (1840-1905) was a farmer and pioneer settler. The area where he settled was called Slaughter or Clay Sink. He married Martha Ann McKinney (1839-1903), who was the widow of William Gay, whom she had married about 1859 at Newnansville. She had three children with Mr. Gay, and at least ten children with Mr. Slaughter. According to descendant Frank McKinney, Slaughter escaped a Yankee POW camp during the Civil War and fled to the Everglades. A historic marker which will be placed here has: “Harrison and Martha Ann McKinney Slaughter acquired 120 acres in this area from Jesse Sumner May 20, 1862.” A deed shows that Slaughter transferred property in S24 T23 R22 to the Hernando County School Board on Oct. 3, 1885. Martha Ann and Harrison Slaughter donated the land for the Clay Sink cemetery after they buried their infant daughter there in 1873. Harrison Slaughter was born in Georgia on Oct. 7, 1840, and died on Sept. 2, 1905. Martha Ann McKinney was the daughter of John McKinney and Serena Crane. Martha Ann was born on May 9, 1839, and died on Oct. 6, 1903. She came from Alachua County but was born in Alabama.

MOSE STEPHEN SLAUGHTER (1866-1945) was a farmer and stockman. His obituary has: “He was born at Slaughter, December 8, 1866, and became a prominent farmer and stockman of Pasco county. For several years he has made his home in Rerdell, not far from the community of Slaughter, long ago designated as Precinct 1 of Pasco county and named for his father, Harrison H. Slaughter, who came to Florida from Virginia as a pioneer.”

THOMAS OWEN SLAUGHTER (1870-1942) was a Pasco County native and one of the most prominent farmers and citrus growers. He was married to Mrs. Louanna McCollum Slaughter. His daughter Mrs. D. S. Bishop was living in Dade City at the time of his death.

Rev. B. G. SMITH (1873-1924) was pastor of the College Street Baptist Church in Dade City for three years, until the time of his death. He was born in Twiggs County, Georgia, on Jan. 29, 1873, and was educated at Locust Grove Institute and Mercer University. He entered the ministry in 1898. He served as pastor of the Vineville Baptist Church at Macon, Ga., and also at East Point Ga. He served as a state evangelist in Georgia for 12 years before returning to the pastorate to take charge of the church at Coma, Ga. He then transferred to Monticello, Florida, before coming to Dade City. He was pastor of College Street Baptist Church in Dade City at the time of his death. His obituary states, “During his pastorate in Dade City his church made the greatest growth in its history, receiving over 300 new members and placing, for the first time, its financial affairs on a sound footing. In accomplishing this result the spiritual life of the church and its membership was not lessened but increased, so that it became one of the greatest moral and spiritual forces in the city.”

JOSEPH H. SMITH (1847-1924) was an early resident of Hudson. The following biography was contributed by Judith Jolly.

Joseph H. Smith was born in Terre Haute, Vigo County, Indiana, in 1847. On March 21, 1864, at age 17, he enlisted with other Indiana volunteers for service in the Civil War. From May 13-15, 1864, his unit fought in the Battle of Resaca, Georgia. His injuries were such that he “was a great and frequent sufferer all his remaining life.”

Research has not yet revealed the next 20 years of his life. It is presumed that he married and perhaps had a family. It is also presumed that he remained in Indiana.

By 1887, he was in Florida and was the organizing and ‘first settled’ pastor of present-day First Baptist Church, Bushnell in Sumter County (Alachua Baptist Association). In 1888, he also served Bethany Baptist Church in Pasco County. Per WPA records, he remained at the Bushnell church through 1890. Florida Baptist Annuals record him in Bushnell from 1890 to 1892, and in Magdalene, Hillsborough County, from 1893 to 1897. In 1898, his address was Pasco, Pasco County, Florida.

In 1902, per South Florida Baptist Association records, he was pastor of Clearwater Baptist Church (present-day Calvary). That same year, per Pasco Baptist Association records, he was pastor of Tarpon Springs Baptist Church. In 1903-1904, he lived in Lacoochee, a busy sawmill community in Pasco County and pastored Emmaus Baptist Church, a member of Pasco Baptist Association.

About 1904, per Hudson, one of the Makers of America series, he moved to that community on Pasco County’s west coast. He was appointed postmaster of Hudson on June 27, 1906, a post he retained until 1921. In 1906 and 1907, he also pastored Good Hope Baptist Church in Hudson. He remarried in 1908, per the 1910 census. It was a second marriage for Joseph H. Smith and for Florence, his wife. He is listed in Pasco Baptist Association records as an ordained minister through 1912 and in Florida Baptist Convention records through 1921.

Joseph H. Smith died at his Hudson home on January 19, 1924. He was age 76. His obituary from the Dade City Banner of Feb. 8, 1924, follows:


Hudson, January 29.—Brother Joseph H. Smith died at his home at Hudson on Saturday the 19th, after two weeks of intense suffering. All that a skilled physician could do was done for him, as well as the best of nursing, but a time seems to come to all when nothing awaits. Brother Smith was born at Terre Haute, Ind., in 1847, and was 76 years of age. He enlisted at the age of 17 with the volunteers of his state, and continued with the army until the close of the war. He was wounded at the battle of Resaca, and on account of this was a great and frequent sufferer all his remaining life. Brother Smith had preached all through this part of South Florida, and in consequence as well as because of his superior intelligence and knowledge of the Bible was widely and favorably known. His fireside and veranda were favorite gathering places for those who enjoyed such conversation. He will be greatly missed by all. He was buried in the Baptist cemetery at Elfers on Sunday, the 20th. He leaves a widow, Mrs. Florence Smith.

“The Baptist cemetery at Elfers” is the present-day West Elfers Cemetery. Due to cemetery neglect and vandalism over the last many years, there is no remaining evidence of his gravesite.

John G. Snell JOHN G. SNELL (1857-1943) served as Justice of the Peace of New Port Richey for 21 years. On Nov. 11, 1924, the Tarpon Springs Leader reported that Snell had been elected justice of the peace on Tuesday by a vote of 49 to 2. He was born in Albany, N. Y. According to WPH, “He came to New Port Richey in 1918, settling first in Brooksville, later moving to New Port Richey.”

FELIX SOWERS (died, 1884) married Martha Ann Bradshaw (died, Aug. 22, 1893) on June 29, 1843, in North Carolina. In the late 1850s he moved to Atlanta and was living there in the 1870 census. An article in the Atlanta Constitution of Sept. 6, 1876, mentions that Felix Sowers built the smoke stack for a new cotton factory. By 1879 he was living in Hopeville, which would become Port Richey, as his daughter wrote that she was married in Port Richey on Nov. 11, 1879. The 1880 Hernando County census shows him as 62 years old, born in North Carolina, and it shows his wife M. A. as 61 years old, born in Virginia. On Jan. 30, 1883, Sowers received a deed for S30, T25, R16E, the South half of Lot 2. This area is near the mouth of the Pithlachascotee River in what would later become Port Richey. He also owned the NE4 of the SE4 of S32, T25S, R16E, which is apparently on what is now Grand Boulevard. In 1883, Sowers sold his property on the coast, which included a house, to Aaron McLaughlin Richey, who established the first Port Richey post office there. Felix Sowers is buried at Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta, where the records indicate he died in 1884 at age 60.


  • Winfield Scott, m. Lewis G. P. Hope in 1882
  • Martha (or Marcella)
  • Anna, m. William Maxie Hope in what would become Port Richey on Nov. 11, 1879. The CSA records for her indicate that she moved to Tampa in April 1900.

WILLIAM ALBERT SPARKMAN (1875-1945) was a Pasco County surveyor and practiced in the county as a civil engineer. He was born in Williamson County, Tenn. His wife Ida was deputy clerk of Pasco County.

JAMES IRVIN SPIVEY (1837 or 1838-1911) was a Civil War veteran from Georgia. He is one of the county commissioners shown in this 1909 photo. He often led services at Oakdale and nearby communities. The following is from The History of Zephyrhills 1821-1921:

Irvin Spivey had a most unusual voice with a unique carrying quality. General Gordon of the Confederacy discovered this. He proceeded to make the most of the attribute. Bellowing like a bull, Irvin Spivey transmitted signals in code that could be heard for miles. Most of his bellowing was done in the Smoky Mountains of Virginia. The enemy learned that Gordon’s frequent devastating raids were in some way connected with this bellowing bull, and, unless they were well prepared, would avoid confrontation. On one occasion, the battle being joined, Gordon realized that his supply of ammunition was running out. He sent for young Spivey and said to him, “If you have ever bellowed in your life, do it now. It is our last hope.” The maneuver was a success. The enemy apparently decided that Gordon’s force, known to be one of the South’s best, was reinforcing the forces that the scouts had reported, and retreated. “The Bull” was given a citation and presented with a gold fountain pen engraved with his name and the date of that battle, September 4, 1864.

According to Judy Hughes, James’ brothers and sisters were: John (q.v.), Dannell, Patrick “Parrot,” Dora, Effie, and Minnie. They are all from around Douglas, Ga. Their parents are Mathew and Adelina.

A detailed timeline of Spivey as a Florida Baptist minister is here.

JOHN DAVID SPIVEY (1840-1921), a Civil War veteran from Georgia, and brother of James Irvin, filed for homestead land between Pretty Pond and what is now Lake Zephyr. He built a home and called the place Oakdale. He held Baptist services in his home and later the Spivey brothers erected a building which was used for a combined school and church until the Lakeview Baptist Church was built. School board minutes of Sept. 5, 1887, show the Oak Dale School (No. 21), with trustees A. E. Geiger, J. D. Spivey, and M. G. Frizell. He married Roxie Ann Wooten (1845-1895) and in 1898 he married Delilah Wilson Seeley.

WILLIAM SEBRON STANDLEY (1834-1914) and his wife, Fannie Bradley Standley, arrived after the Civil War. They are shown in the 1880 census in Precinct 7 of the 60th district of Hernando (now Pasco) County. William, who was born in Alachua County, served in the Civil War. He was wounded at Sharpsburg, Tenn., and later captured by federal forces near Murfreesboro, Tenn. William and Fannie are buried in Mount Zion Cemetery. picture

WALTER RALEIGH STANLEY (1860-1944), a son of William Sebron Standley, was “well and favorably known throughout this section of the state,” according to his obituary in the Dade City Banner. Walter Raleigh Stanley dropped the D in Standley.

SAMUEL H. STEVENSON (1810-1897) and his wife Elizabeth Osteen (1820-1900) were apparently the first property owners in what would become Seven Springs, perhaps by 1860. At this time, the area was part of Hernando County. He is shown on the Hernando County tax roll of 1860. Records show that his voter registration in Hernando County was accepted by mistake on Aug. 28, 1867, as he was born in Canada and did not exhibit documentation of his naturalization. He replied that he had taken the oath and that he would have nothing more to do with it. On Nov. 11, 1871, the Florida Peninsular reported that Samuel H. Stevenson attended the Tax Payer’s Convention of Hernando County. According to Julie J. Obenreder in WPH, Mrs. Stevenson performed the duties of midwife and assisted in the birth of many babies. Stevenson acquired land near Clearwater through the Armed Occupation Act in the 1840s. According to Ash, their children were:

  • Mary Elizabeth Stevenson (1841-1891).
  • Sandusky Stevenson (1845-1934), married William James Harden Mobley
  • Henry Washington Stevenson (1848-1907), married Elizabeth Tennessee Luffman. Their first child was Mary Elizabeth Stevenson (b., Seven Springs, Sept. 2, 1875; d. December 1958).
  • Sarah Ann Stevenson (1851-1940), married William J. Baillie
  • Jane T. Stevenson (1854-1934), married Jesse Hay
  • Constantine “Bud” Stevenson (1857-1897), q.v.

The 1850 census for Hillsborough County shows the children of Samuel Stevenson as Martha Jane, Mary, Henry Washington, and Sandusky.

CONSTANTINE “BUD” STEVENSON (1857-1897), married Mary Ann Louisa Luffman (1854-1948). According to Mary’s obituary, she was born at Silver Springs and lived to the age of 93 years, seven months, and four days. They were married at Seven Springs on Dec. 23, 1875, and lived there several years before moving to Hudson. See the Whitehurst-Whidden-Stevenson feud.

The children of Constantine and Mary Stevenson:

  • Samuel H., b. Oct. 10, 1876, Seven Springs; d. 1881 or 1883 at Hudson
  • Cora, b. 1878, Seven Springs, m. J. G. “Gip” Brown on Feb. 2, 1902
  • Alva, b. 1880, Seven Springs, m. William M. Mosely in Nov. 1910, d. 1958
  • Richard D., b. 1882, d. 1964, q.v.
  • Pearl, b. Feb. 14, 1885, Hudson; m. Lewis Gaines
  • Eliz “Bessie,” b. July 7, 1887, Hudson; m. John Bragg; d. 1978
  • Olive B. “Sweetie,” b. Jan. 21, 1891, Hudson, m. John Morgan Weeks (founder of Weeks Hardware in Brooksville)
  • John Hugh, b. Sept. 19, 1893, Hudson, d. May 25, 1909, in an accident

Clearwater Pioneer Resident Celebrates Her 93rd Birthday at Home in Elfers

This article appeared in the Clearwater Sun on Oct. 12, 1947.

ELFERS — Mrs. Mary A. Stevenson, member of a pioneer family that first homesteaded the land upon which northern Clearwater is now built, and who later moved to the section of Seven Springs about the time of the War Between the States, was very proud to be able to celebrate her 93rd birthday recently.

While her eyesight troubles her, she is able to go about easily except for a lameness caused when she recently slipped on a rug. “Drat it,” said Grandma, “If I had my way every last rug would go out the door!”

Still keen of mind, she loves to tell of the old days, especially of her marriage to Constantine Stevenson, who was “the nicest looking young fellow around,” at the time she was 15 years old.

She related how the hurricane and tidal wave of 1870 made water back up in the creek north of Clearwater and swept away everything the family possessed. “All the buildings were leveled, stock was killed and parts of featherbeds were found in the trees.”

“Speaking of Stephenson, Creek,” said Grandma, “It makes me so mad. These young fellers don’t know how to spell the name of that creek. It should be S-T-E-V-E-N-S-O-N! Not the way they spell it now-a-days.”

Having lost everything in the 70 storm, Constantine and family moved to join others who first settled around Seven Springs back in the 1850s to engage in the cattle-raising business. “One year they branded over 150 young calves. Children who came to the Springs with the early families were many times sickly but after they lived there a while, bathing in the river and drinking the water, they grew fat a pigs. There are five different kinds of spring water there, plain, sulphur, bluestone, and freshwater,” she said.

Telling of a family experience, when her father-in-law, Capt. Sam Stevenson, “first moved up to the Springs, there were plenty of Indians in the woods…. In the Indian War (before the War Between the States) the Indians would be so bad that they would “cut the heel strings of the white women, take their children from their arms, bash their brains out against a tree and then throw the dead bodies into the river.” Captain Stevenson and his men rounded them up, drove them to Tampa, where they were shipped to the Everglades Reservation.

Years later, the family planted an orange grove and brought in sheep. The wolves “used to howl so much at night in the woods, and kill many sheep. One night we lost 25,” Grandma related.

“At that time, there were plenty of wild pigeons and geese. Young men used to build fences by splitting rails, 200 rails being a day’s work. After the rail-splitting job was completed, all the neighbors would enjoy a frolic.”

On her first trip to Tampa, about 1871, Grandma stated, the bridge over the Hillsborough River had just been built, and driving over it, she and her young husband “were behind a team of horses. Next came a team of oxen, followed by a horse and buggy. At that time, there were in Tampa only a post office, two stores, a hotel and a blacksmith shop under a large mulberry tree. And later there was built a wooden sidewalk from the blacksmith shop to the postoffice. The streets were just old sand trails.

“In 1871, Tarpon Springs had just started its sponge hooking. Later came the great freeze of 1895 which killed all of the citrus, and then the Spanish-American War.”

She has a daughter who married one of the Spanish-American veterans, and now is living in Tampa

RICHARD D. STEVENSON SR. (1882-1964) was born at Seven Springs, the son of Mary Ann and Constantine Stevenson, and the grandson of Samuel H. Stevenson. On July 9, 1905, he married Sarah Early Hicks (1892-1969) and they lived in Port Richey at what is now Route 595 and Pine Street. They owned a 20-acre farm which they sold in 1908. They later purchased many acres of land in the Elfers area. In 1915 Stevenson started a small real estate business, advertising in northern papers, according to WPH. He was a member of the school board for 18 years. According to Ash, he operated the first real estate office in western Pasco County in his home from 1910 to 1923. She wrote, “He sold property, sight unseen, to Northern residents and others.” He was elected to the Pasco school board in 1936 and served until Jan. 4, 1955. Children:

  • Pauline, b. Mar. 12, 1909, Elfers; m1. Wilfred G. Bailey (1905-1933); m2. Albert L. Ash Jr. (b. 1911); d. June 4, 1994. She was the author of Florida Cracker Days in West Pasco County 1830-1982.
  • Eva Lois, b. Nov. 13, 1910, Elfers; m. Walter C. Little; d. Dec. 1982
  • Infant, b. Dec. 30, 1912; d. Jan. 1913
  • Howell Howard, b. Mar. 22, 1915; d. Jan. 2, 1920
  • Gertrude, b. July 9, 1917, Elfers; m. Cullen R. Burgess
  • Wilmon Matthew, b. June 22, 1919, Elfers; m. Elizabeth Alfantis (1924-1960); m. Alma Grill Bedson; d. June Dec. 31, 2007. His daughter, Beva Joan (1944- ), married John Karay.
  • Harmon Constantine, b. Mar. 7, 1922, Elfers; m. Gloria Kelly
  • Hazel, b. Oct. 1, 1924, m. Don E. Uzzle. They had three children:
    • Steve Uzzle (1944- ), who married Sandra Safranek
    • Richard Uzzle (1952- ), who married Lynelle Murtagh
    • Gregory Uzzle (1955- ), who married Mona Hnilica
  • Richard D. Jr., b. Oct. 30, 1926, Elfers; m. Audrey Delane Potter; d. Sept. 21, 2005. He was an engineer for the Florida Department of Transportation and the recipient of the James Dean Engineering Award for his work on the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. Children included Richard III and Robinson Stevenson-Barrus.

HENRY STRAUBER (1898-1973) was elected a county commissioner in 1972 but died in office the following September. Before being elected to the county commission he was the County Coordinator, and he was instrumental in the establishment of the position of County Administrator. Strauber Memorial Highway is named for him. He was a founder of the Southwest Pasco Volunteer Fire Department. Earlier, he had served four five-year terms as Fire Commissioner in Bethpage, N. Y., and three terms on the Bethpage School Board.

BARTOW DANIEL STURKIE (1861-1928) served as the sheriff of Pasco County from 1904 to 1916 and from 1920 to 1924. In 1913 he performed the first legal hanging in Pasco County. He also served four terms as city marshal of Dade City. He was born in Opelika, Alabama, on Aug. 14, 1861, and died in Chattahoochee. He came to Hernando County in 1879, living near Brooksville for two years. He came to what is now Pasco County in 1881. He married Alice Gertrude Harrell (b. Sept. 4, 1861; d. Aug. 2, 1907, Dade City). Their children were Robert Bartow (q.v.), Ashford, and Fay.

ROBERT B. STURKIE (1887-1932) was an attorney, mayor of Dade City, and in 1930 was elected to the state legislature. He was born in Dade City and lived in Pasco County all his life except for time in the military. He served in the Spanish-American War and in World War I, when he was a Lieutenant Colonel. He married Franc L. Trough (1889-1929), a classmate at Stetson University. They had one child, Alice Carroll, who died in infancy. He served as mayor of Dade City in 1912-13. In 1929 he married Mrs. Edith Akin Collins of Leesburg. His father was Bartow Daniel Sturkie, a Pasco County sheriff.

HENRY H. STUBBLEFIELD (1873-1953) was an early settler who served on the Port Richey City Council in 1925. He married Winnie Lawton (b. July 7, 1889; d. April 24, 1940), who was an early school teacher in Port Richey before their marriage. H. H. Stubblefield died on Dec. 24, 1953. In 1923, Winnie Stubblefield wrote the following for the Tarpon Springs Leader, one of a series of recollections by early settlers.

I really can’t see why I should tell my story for I have no home as yet to point to with pride, and no wonderful tale of immense sums of money earned. Mine is the everyday story of the family who comes to Florida with a limited amount of money and tries to get a foothold while the country is young and land is cheap. Fifteen years ago my husband came to Florida and invested in ten acres out Hudson way. Twelve years ago I was teaching in Florida, in Port Richey, and met my husband, who was here looking after his land. We were married and went back to Ohio, where we lived until two years ago. During that time our babies grew along toward maturity. You know what they say about Florida sand. I believe I had my shoes full, for we both felt it was time for us to go south and see what we could do about our land, lying idle all this time. So we sold out and packed our personal belongings and started for Florida. Arriving in Tampa, we purchased 200 hens, loaded them onto our truck with the children and other effects, and started for Port Richey, the land of our future home. We arrived, but what was our dismay to see where the house once stood a mass of ashes and debris. Our house was burned. We stood a minute overcome by the catastrophe, then turned the truck around and headed for Tampa. We purchased an army tent and returned to Port Richey and camped out. Of those long, weary, dreary, days when we worked like negroes clearing the palmetto land of the discouragements I cannot tell, but we finally cleared the land and got started, built a screen porch where we could eat and sleep in comfort, bought a cow, built a shed for fodder, and house the chickens, and on the whole we had a wonderful time accomplishing what would in time be the home for our future. It has not been comfortable. I missed cruelly the comforts of my Ohio home, but somehow we folks in Florida forget the hard part and let the sunshine in and it is in this way we accomplished so much. There is something in this lovely southern state that keeps us happy in spite of difficulties and now we are so busy planning our new house, and the grounds about it, we have succeeded, and have found there is a profit and a living in the combination fruit, dairy and poultry farm. It isn’t the farm so much as the man, tho of course we have fine truck lands that will grow the best of vegetables, but you have to work, and you must accumulate your finances dollar by dollar, the same as in the north. Are we sorry? No, a hundred times no. When we have as good a home here as we left I in Ohio, I shall be the happiest and most contented woman in Pasco county.

SUMNER. Information about the Sumner family is on a separate page here.

SAMUEL WALTER SURRATT, JR. (1920-2012). The following article is taken from the Zephyrhills Free Press of Aug. 16, 2012.

Former Councilman Sam Surratt Dies At 92


Samuel Walter Surratt, Jr. passed away Tuesday morning surrounded by his family and under hospice care in Dade City.

The former councilman had battled with Parkinson’s disease, heart disease and pneumonia.

Surratt was born in Decatur, Ala. March 26, 1920 to Samuel Walter Surratt, Sr. and Nellie Evelyn Howard Surratt. His family moved to Clearwater, Fla. when he was in the fifth grade. After high school he moved to Dade City. He was married on July 31, 1941. He moved to Zephyrhills in 1944.

In Dade City Surratt owned the Iron and Welding Works located next to the Pasco County Courthouse in the building that now houses the Law Firm of Greenfelder, Mander, Murphy, Dwyer & Morris.

Joining the Army in 1945 he served in France where he was a ships welder.

The years after World War II were years of significant change for the country. Modern ways of doing things and a growing and more mobile population meant that small towns could not continue to do things the way they had been done for many years.

It was in this post-war Zephyrhills that Surratt began serving on the city council in 1954. Except for one break after his first term, he would remain on the council for 23 years until 1977. The reason he served an odd number of years is because he served the last year of the term of retiring council member, Herman Wolfe. He served as president of the council from 1975 to 1976.

As one of the city elders, Surratt helped guide the city through the crucible of rapid change.

During his tenure he saw the building of City Hall and Zephyr Haven Nursing Home, the establishment of a city sewer system and the sale and development of the right-of-way that belonged to the Seaboard Railroad and ran right along the U.S. Highway 301 corridor.

In an interview about 10 years ago, Surratt recalled his time on the council.

In those days, Surratt said, a lot of people didn’t pay taxes. “We didn’t have the money that they have now,” he said.

Since the city didn’t have a budget for the city department heads, the city responsibilities were parceled out to the individual city council members. The council members served as heads of committees. One member had parks; another had streets, another finances and on it went. At city council, members would report on their committee to the rest of the council.

Surratt’s son, Sam, recalls driving down the street in a truck with cold mix and tamping the repair material into potholes when his father was in charge of streets.

“He was so dedicated to this community and the people of this community,” the younger Sam said, “He had a passion for this community.”

The council met at what is now McClain & Alphonso, P.A. at 38416 Fifth Avenue. That was the city hall and the police chief’s office.

Surratt related an anecdote about a day when someone had purchased a gun and wanted the police chief to check to see if it was in good working order. Neither thought there was a round in the chamber but there was and when the chief was checking the trigger, the gun went off and the bullet shattered the window of a pool hall that was across Fifth Avenue. Laughing, Surratt said, “Them that was in there shooting pool – they scattered.”

Unlike today when such an incident would warrant an investigation and big headlines it was just considered an accident and it was quickly forgotten except as an amusing story. “At that time, they never paid much attention to it,” Surratt said.

During Surratt’s tenure as a city servant, they build the original portion of the current city hall. They sold certificates to pay for it and it cost $450,000, Surratt said.

The land for the retention pond across the street cost $47,000. That is an area where Surratt believes the city missed an opportunity.

The retention pond was part of the land that belonged to the Seaboard Railroad. When the railroad pulled out of Zephyrhills, the railroad right-of-way went right through town. Surratt was approached by a man that told him that the city could purchase the land for $350,000. Surratt was in favor of the proposal, but the majority of the council “didn’t want to get into the real estate business.”

“We lost out on that thing,” Surratt said. He felt that way because, besides the city having to purchase the retention pond property later, the land was purchased by individuals and sold as prime property that now sports fast food restaurants and other businesses. He thinks that cash should have gone into the city’s coffers.

The city’s Oakside Cemetery is a beautifully kept historical site. An historical marker touts the cemetery as a “hallowed tract” which is the “burying ground of veterans of six wars…the Civil War, Spanish American War, World War I, World War II, the Korean Conflict and Vietnam.”

It was not always so beautiful.

“Our cemetery was really run down,” Surratt said. “There wasn’t anyone to care for it.” Surratt made a motion to charge a fee that would cover the cost of upkeep and the cemetery got a makeover.

When Surratt first took his seat on the council, the city was not on a city sewer system. The city was growing and the septic systems were not meeting the needs.

Believe it or not, city sewers were not a popular idea. “When we started talking about sewers, the people went up in the air. We had to just go ahead and do it and it turned out to be one of the best things we ever did. People don’t like change.”

“I’ll tell you what,” Surratt said. “When I was on there I enjoyed all of it and I had to do the best I could and usually it worked out pretty good.”

Well, maybe he didn’t enjoy all of it. Surratt was on the council during the turbulent time of 1976 that saw the police chief, fire chief, city manager and others including the now-retired police chief Robert Howell fired.

The late James Bailey was a newcomer to the council at that time. He found a comrade in arms in veteran member Surratt. “We fought and fought that thing, Jim and myself,” Surratt said.

Later the council members who fired them were recalled, and the fired city staff rehired except for city manager John Phillips who had found another job by that time.

“People don’t know how much is lost when you go through something like that,” Surratt said.

Surratt didn’t just serve in government, he got his hands sooty spending 21 years as a member of the volunteer fire department.

Standing behind him in all those decisions was his wife Raybelle nee Rachael Britts.

“Every Monday night for over 20 years he was somewhere either the city council or the fire department,” Raybelle said.

Surratt met her at the old Crescent Theatre in Dade City. “I went in there one time and Raybelle, she graduated from Pasco High, she was selling tickets there. “I wanted a date but I didn’t get very far.”

Their marriage of 71 years would seem to prove that he got far enough. “I guess I worried her to death,” Surratt chuckled.

The Surratt’s had two children, Sam who operates Lee Reed Insurance and an older daughter who passed away when she was 51. He left quite a legacy of names as there are currently five Sam Surratt’s, Raybelle said.

When he retired, Surratt spent some time on his hobbies of hunting, fishing and gardening especially raising orchids, and went to “Scratch” at Barb’s Restaurant faithfully until his health prevented him from doing so.

Surratt’s service was honored by him being chosen to be one of 10 grand marshals in the Centennial Founders’ Day Parade in 2010. If there was anything he regretted in the changes he helped direct it was the loss of the small town atmosphere.

“If you went down West 54 and you met a car, you would wave at them because you knew them,” Surratt said with a tinge of sadness. “That’s no more.”

Sam belonged to several organizations within the city and he was a Mason for more than 50 years.

Services for Surratt will be held at First United Methodist Church of Zephyrhills on Saturday, August 8, 2012 with arrangements made by Whitfield Funeral Home. After the funeral he will be laid to rest in the cemetery he had helped clean up years ago with his beloved orchids inscribed on his stone.

Two photos of Surratt are here and here.

JOSEPH F. SWARTSEL (1847-1924) and his wife Sarah (1848-1934) migrated from Kansas to Florida in November 1912. They arrived in Tarpon Springs by train and traveled to Elfers by mule and wagon. They planted a nursery of citrus stock on land they had purchased while in Kansas located where the first phases of the Colonial Hills subdivision are now situated. Children included:

  • Howard B. Swartsel (1881-1938). At the time of his death he was production manager of the Holly Hill Fruit Products Co. in Davenport, where he had lived for nearly 9 years.
  • Noah Morningstar Swartsel (1883-1961). (picture) He married Sadie Connell (1885-1947) on Feb. 3, 1907, in Lyon County, Kansas. He returned to Elfers in 1939 with his family after working in several locations in Florida in the citrus industry. Sadie taught at the Elfers school around 1919 to 1921. Children:

    • Maxine Swartsel (m. Gause), taught school in Tarpon Springs
    • Ross V. Swartsel (d. 1997)
    • Joseph Dale Swartsel, graduated from Gulf High School in 1945 (picture). Wife: Mary K.
    • Everett “Eddie” F. Swartsel, graduated from Gulf High School in 1946 (picture). A son is Mark Swartsel (GHS ’69).

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