Zephyrhills Schools – Pre-ZHS


Pre-ZHS Education in the City of Zephyrhills

Earliest Schools in Present Pasco County

by Celia Anderson, 1929 ZHS Graduate and ZHS Librarian

Before 1887, when Pasco County as such did not exist but was part of Hernando County, few organized attempts to provide schooling can be documented. Although Tampa, a short distance south, was already well on the way to becoming a flourishing city, even a tourist center, settlements in what is now Pasco County were small and scattered. Adults were busy establishing homes and making a living with the result that work, rather than education, was emphasized. Parents sometimes arranged with their neighbors for two to four months school sessions, paying the teacher by the “boarding-around method” in the absence of money for salaries.

In 1887 a section of Hernando County was carved out to form Pasco County. The first county school board was elected in 1888 and slow but steady progress began in the school system. G.W. Beardon was elected the first County Superintendent of Schools. A “three-mile” limit was established by the Board, stating that no school should be located within three miles of another. Another decision of the Board was that a teacher would be hired and paid when the enrollment reached twenty pupils. It was decreed that a well should be dug at each school. An interesting rule was that adults could visit schools only on business or by invitation—no one could attend just to see what was going on. A Christmas holiday of three days was established. Teacher’s monthly salaries listed at the time were: $45 for a teacher having a first grade certificate; $30 to $35 for a second-grade certificate; and $20 to $25 for a third grade certificate. An item in early school board minutes mentions E.B. O’Berry as a teacher at Slaughter earning $30 a month. Later in life Mr. O’Berry served several terms as Pasco County Superintendent of Schools.

The earliest school mentioned by name in the area of Zephyrhills was Oakdale School in the community of the same name situated between Tuckerton (Richland) and the site of present-day Zephyrhills Institution, as indicated in Rosemary Trottman’s well-researched book, The History of Zephyrhills, 1821-1921. Doubtless there were early, short term schools near Abbott, the settlement destined to become Zephyrhills. Ellerslie School, near the Polk County line and New River School, west of Abbott were other early schools.

In or near Dade City were schools such as Townsend House, near Spring Lake. Prospect School over the years, in more than one location, was built on the Handcart Road near the Gaskin settlement. Hebron School (near Trilby) and Macon School (former name of Trilby) were combined to form Compromise School. Matchet Lake School, on King Lake, Dr. Wirts’ former home; Blanton Sumner School; Hatton School and Chipco School (formerly Oakland School). Buddy Lake School (present Lake Pasadena, according to Rosemary Trottman, historical writer and member of a pioneer family); Indian Lake School, just north of the present Pasco-Hernando Community College (Dade City campus); River Land School near Slaughter; New River School at Earnestville near Buddy Lake; O’Berry School, near Trilby; St. Joseph’s School, Clay Sink School, Owensboro School near Trilby; Darby School were among the better known schools of the period. Professor P.W. Corr’s South Florida Normal Institute, although private, was used by the county. It was situated in Dade City on the corner of Church Avenue and Fourteenth Street near the present campus of Pasco Middle School. Myrtle Hunt (Mrs. Jerry Hunt) reports that the Chipco settlement and depot were on the property now belonging to Myrtle and her sons. Mrs. Hunt’s grandfather’s, J.E. Burnside and N.E. Eiland, both lived in Chipco at the time.

From the Land O’ Lakes Historical Trail, This area was served by a two-room schoolhouse, known as the Drexel School. In 1948, a new $50,000 school was built here, and the Drexel School became its lunchroom. It is named after Judge James Wilton Sanders, who was previously the principal of Zephyrhills High School, and from 1912 to 1920 served as the school superintendent.

Reports the following regarding the school building where Sanders Memorial School in Land O’Lakes is now located with information about one of the previous ZHS principals…This area was served by a two-room schoolhouse, known as the Drexel School. In 1948, a new $50,000 school was built here, and the Drexel School became its lunchroom. It is named after Judge James Wilton Sanders, who was previously the principal of Zephyrhills High School, and from 1912 to 1920 served as the school superintendent.

Now Forgotten Union Country School Was Located Out by New River on West 54, Zephyrhills News, March 9, 1972

With the 23rd annual Lion’s Club sponsored Founder’s Day Festival celebrating Zephyrhills 62nd birthday anniversary, recollection of a little remembered 2-teacher school just west of New River is timely. Union School of Pasco County was located at Kenny, a community several miles west of what was then Abbott and is now practically forgotten save by real old timers.

C. Milton Truex, who resides at 715 Carol Avenue in Betmar Acres, has provided the Zephryhills News with a photograph of the student body taken outside the 2-room frame schoolhouse in 1907, when his father, Professor W.W. Truex, and Miss Omah Geiger had been teachers at the school for three years.

Truex was born in Hillsborough County, His father, Professor Truex was teaching at Richland when banks failed in 1908 while Theodore Roosevelt was president.

The family moved to Valrico and Milton Truex went to work as an apprentice sterotyper for the Tampa Tribune. In 1927 he answered a yen to go to New York City, where he worked for the Herald Tribune. After a time he married the former Miss Marion Youngkin, returned to Tampa in 1952 and resumed work with the Tribune. Retirement time rolled around January 1, 1965 and the couple came to Zephryhills as permanent residents. Truex’ sister, Mrs. Vida Morley of Tampa sent him the old photograph.

Excerpts form “It Takes a lot of Living To fill Those 90 Years” by Daniel I. Cripe

Early School days…

My early school days were divided between Sand Pond, Greer, and Zephyrhills. When I think of Sand Pond, I visualize a little one room building in the Southwest corner of Fort King and Bozeman Roads. It was there for years. Originally there had been one in the woods just north and east of there in the woods. Later there was another one room school built just north of there where May Gaskin lived for many years before her son Med Junior.

The Sand Pond School that I remember was the community center where all of the important things happened. We had Sunday School there every Sunday. Often times ministers of difference denominations came and preached for us. We had picnic dinners there on the ground quite often and on Christmas we had a program with a Christmas tree and all of the trimmings. People brought presents and hung them on the tree.

We put on plays and had speeches by young and old. Mr. Bosfield would give his rendition of Casey at the Bat. That was a favorite.

Mr. Haste had one that started off, “There was Carlo tugging away at my coat sleeve,” and I can’t remember any more, but the title was, Asleep at the Switch.

My sister, Hazel McKillips, had one—“The Patience of Job”

I came on stage dressed raggedy, sat down and said:

“Let me sit down a minute stranger, I ain’t done a thing to you. Now don’t you start cussing, a stone got in my shoe.

Yes, I’m a tramp. What if some folks say that we’re no good. But a tramp has to live I reckon, though they say we never should. It was down in Leheigh Valley that me and my people grew. It was the village of blacksmith—yes, and a good one too.

Me and my daughter, Nellie—Nellie was just sixteen and she was the prettiest creature that valley had ever seen.

Beaus she had a dozen. They came from near and far, but most of them were farmers and none of them suited her.

Along came a stranger, young, handsome, straight and tall. Dam him, I wish I had him, strangled up against that wall.

He was the man for Nellie. Nellie knows no ill. Her mother tried to tell her but you know how young girls will.

Well, it’s the same old story, common enough you’ll say. He was a smooth tongue devil and he got her to run away.

It was less than a month later that we heard from the poor young thing. He had gone away and left her without even a wedding ring.

Back to our home we brought her. Back to her mother’s side, filled with a raging fever, she fell at our feet and died.

So give me a drink, bartender, and I’ll be on my way. I’ll tramp till I find that scoundrel, if it takes till Judgment Day.”

Zephyrhills High School

I have never seen a picture of the Greer School House, except the one I drew for our Historical Association. It is very much like the real thing. The picture at right, is a copy of the one I drew and submitted along with the description to the Historical Association, December 4, 1984.

It was in 1914 that the Cripe children attended the institute of learning known as the Greer School. A Mr. Martin was Headmaster that year and his daughter, Vera Martin, taught the primary grades in the smaller room which was attached to the main structure. Mr. Martin also had a son, Laury, who attended the school and the three of them traveled daily from their home in the northern part of Dade City in a top-buggy propelled by a black horse. During the day, the horse was tied to a tree with a box nailed to it. In the box was some grain to charge up the horse for the trip home in the evening. Really he parked the horse behind the building but if I placed him there in the picture, you would not be able to see him. Mr. Martin wrote with a flourish of beautiful letters and although I tried hard, I could never nearly match it. He was also the first person I had seen with an artificial (or glass) eye as we called it in those days.

The road running by the school was a sandy dirt road which wove its way south-westerly through the woods, over the hill and around a small lake to the small metropolis of Phelps Station. The settlement included the Herndon Post Office and a turpentine still operated by the Powell Brothers, also about a dozen houses for employees.

The Hendon Post Office was about twelve feet square and was run by a Mr. Eddie Vogt (who was also a master photographer). Mr. Vogt picked up the mail bag, which had been kicked out of the mail car door as the train went through (northbound at 10:00 a.m. and southbound at 4:14 P.M. Mr. Vogt hung the outgoing mail bag on an arm contraption beside the tracks and it was snagged from the mail car door. After the mail was sorted, Mr. George Overstreet would deliver mail addressed to Greer, Florida to the Greer Post Office for distribution. In those days a letter addressed to I. Cripe, Herndon, Florida, came through with no problem. I attended the third grade at the Greer School after attending the Sand Pond School in the first and second grades. Later the school districts changed and were assigned to Zephyrhills School.

The little house just north of the school beside 301 was the home of a black family we knew as Aunt Sally Richardson. She had about seven boys.

This is some of the remembrance of Greer School which I will pass along to those who might happen to pass this way. I remember one incident there—one noon the children were playing drop the handkerchief. I was sitting too close to the circle and one of the big girls running fast got out of the circle and bumped my nose with her knee. The blood flew and teacher had me lie down on my back on the step for quite a while, until it stopped.

After a year at Greer, we were transported to Zephyrhills by Mr. Rabe Overstreet in a canvas covered wagon, drawn by two white mules. That was our transportation for about half of the term. When the county money ran out, we walked. It was only three miles.

When we arrived at school, I looked the teachers over and decided on a Miss Storms, who all of the kids seemed to like. When classes began I was shunted to another room where there was a teacher with no personality and her only credentials were that she was a sister to one of the trustees.

One day, not too far into the term, as I was coming out of the building, I could see my old friend, Johnnie Stephensen on his back out on the tennis court and Harold Foster on top of him, pounding him. I ran to him and as I grabbed Harold by one leg to pull him off, he kicked me on the nose with his other foot. I turned and ran for the school house where I should have stayed in the first place.

They rang two bells, one to get into line and the other to march into your room. I remember once I was busy when the first bell rang and was a little late getting into my room. As I ran by the drinking fountain near the door, Professor Roberts had me cut off and jerked his belt off and made a pass at me and the belt wrapped around the drinking fountain with a loud bang. He was a big ugly fellow and most of us boys were afraid of him. I don’t seem to see any teachers anymore that the children are afraid of since a niece of mine retired a few years back.

I had a teacher who never smiled and one day she was walking up and down the aisles pronouncing spelling words for us to write on our pads. She told us to pay close attention as she was only going to pronounce them once. I guess I let my mind wander just a little bit and I asked her to please repeat the word. She ignored me. I asked again and she ignored me. She walked with a crutch on one side. I tapped lightly on her crutch with my pencil and stirred up a bees nest. She said, “David, you go up to Mr. Robert’s office and explain what you just did.” I went slowly trying to get my ducks in a row. I would love to have a tape of that explanation. I always said that if I ever met Mr. Roberts in the next life, I would, at the very least try to break one of his wings if he were that lucky.

Zephyrhills High School

The school which is describing, the original Zephyrhills School is the one at right. This photo appeared in the Zephyrhills Colonist on March 20, 1919, labeled, “The School House of 1909.” This board and batten building, constructed near the end of the nineteenth century, once housed the schoolhouse in Abbott Station which became the city of Zephyrhills in 1910.

Pasco Superintendent of Schools, David Thrasher, is leaning back  in chair at right in photo above at the Attorney’s office of Ephraim Green in the early 1900s

Pre-ZHS History from Jeff Miller of fivay project

Prior to 1900—education from 1887 to 1897 in the Zephyrhills area

•   The Abbott School is listed in the school board minutes of August 7, 1893. A.E. Geiger is shown as the supervisor. On September 4, 1893, G.B. Pixton is shown as the teacher. On August 2, 1897, Addie Sumner is shown as the teacher. On June 6, 1898, A.G. Geiger was appointed the supervisor of the Abbott School. On August 1, 1898, J.W. Osborne was assigned to teach at Abbott. On July 1, 1901, C.F. De La Mater was appointed the teacher at Abbott. On July 6, Bessie E. Miller was named the teacher.

•   On August 4, 1908, the school board approved a petition from school districts #5 and #18, known as Abbott and Union, to consolidate the two districts into one to be known as Abbott #5.

•   On July 5, 1909, Carrie Geiger was appointed the teacher at Abbott.

•   A school called Oak Dale is shown in a list of Hernando Schools from the beginning -0ctober 1, 1883 (Note that Pasco County had not yet been formed). The trustees were J.M. Abbott, Elias Geiger and Jno Spivey.

•   Oak Dale School is shown in the Pasco County School board minutes of September 5, 1887. It was discontinued in 1888 with students transferring to Richland and Childers.

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