HISTORY OF PASCO COUNTY
High Hill in Pasco County Got Name From Tragedy in Bygone Day of Mail Coach
Weary Traveler Walking to Tampa Killed by Panther While Stopping for Rest—Site Offered for Courthouse
This article appeared in the Tampa Sunday Tribune on Jan. 16, 1927.
By CARL B. TAYLOR
DADE CITY, Jan. 15.—About a quarter of a mile north of the highway connecting Dade City with the western side of Pasco county, and almost opposite the spot where the hard road known as the Ehren cut-off branches, is a small hill that rises from the surrounding level, and frequently submerged plain that extends for some distance in all directions. Part this hill runs a well defined, though now abandoned, dirt road, once one of the important arteries of communication for this entire section of the state, the old stage route between Brooksville and Tampa.
Over this road in the days before the railroads had penetrated far into the peninsular section of Florida the mails from the north were brought once, twice or three times a week, the ox teams of early settlers struggled as they pulled their loaded wagons in its sandy ruts.
The hill has for years been known as Dixon’s Hill, and it stands out a notable landmark, visible from long distances. In the days when huge herds of beef cattle ranged the surrounding planes, it was noted as the assembling place for the cow hunters engaged in the round-ups.
The naming of this hill goes back to the earliest days of white settlement of the country lying between Brooksville and Tampa, and perpetuates one of the tragedies that so frequently feature pioneer life.
To Allan Pearce, one of the oldest residents of Pasco county, who made the first surveys of this section, the writer is indebted to the story of the tragedy that resulted in Dixon’s Hill receiving its name.
“In 1853 and 1854,” Mr. Pearce said, “a prospector, as we called them in those days, came through this country named John Dixon. He was traveling on foot and carried with him a valise. Night overtook him as he reached Fort Taylor, located near the present line between Hernando and Pasco counties, and he stopped for the night at the old Bill Whitfield place.
“Next morning he started on, following the stage road towards Tampa. Between the settlement at Fort Taylor and that place there was then nothing but wilderness. Dixon was never seen alive again, but his fate can be deduced by circumstantial evidence that is too conclusive to be disputed.
“Evidently Dixon turned aside from the road, which was simply a pair of wheel ruts through the sand, when he reached the hill and sat under a tree to rest. He had walked many miles and was hot and tired and evidently fell asleep. While sleeping, a panther, of which there were many in those days, attacked and killed him, and then, having satisfied its appetite, dragged his body into a lake at the foot of the hill and left it.
“The tragedy was discovered a day or two later when my father, S. J. Pearce, in company with Henry Hancock, John Mizzell, and John McNatt, Sr., who were returning from a trip to Tampa, stopped to camp on the hill. They found Dixon’s valise, saw the tracks of the panther, and the signs of the struggle, and following the trail made by dragging the body, discovered it submerged in the muddy bottom of the pond.
“It was impossible for them to recover Dixon’s body and it was left where it was found, but they took his valise home with them and, by examination of its contents learned that he had relatives in Jacksonville, and sent it to them, together with a report of his fate. Ever since then this place has been known as Dixon’s Hill. I was only a boy at the time, but I can remember the event clearly.
“Dixon’s Hill,” said Mr. Pearce, “is located at the center of Section 9, Township 25, Range 19, and is in the geographical center of Pasco county. At the time the county was formed, The Aripeka Saw Mills, owners or this property, offered it to the county as a site for the courthouse and county seat.”