HISTORY OF HERNANDO COUNTY
Webb’s Historical, Industrial and Biographical Florida (1885)
This is a transcription of the entry for Hernando County in Webb’s Historical, Industrial and Biographical Florida (1885), by W. S. Webb and Co. Last edit: Jan. 26, 2017, at 7:46 p.m.
Population in 1880, 4,248. Its area is 1,700 square miles, or 1,088,000 acres.
Lying for 60 miles along the Gulf of Mexico, and almost completely surrounded on the other three sides by rivers, it is almost an island.
Underlying many portions of the county are large beds of limestone, marl and sandstone, the second unrivaled as a fertilizer and the third a most valuable building material.
The lands in Hernando county are about equally divided between pine hummock and swamp. These lands are both fertile and durable; some of them have been in constant cultivation for twenty-five years and show no signs of failing.
These lands will produce very fair crops for several years, and when well fertilized and cultivated will yield heavy crops of sugar and cotton. Corn, oats, rye, rice, peas, potatoes, tobacco, vegetables of all descriptions, together with the numerous varieties of fruit peculiar to the climate, are successfully and profitably grown.
The high lands have proven very productive of sisal hemp, agave, manilla and other textile plants.
The hummocks are almost invariably high and rolling—thoroughly drained by the natural water-shed. The soil is a rich fine vegetable mold mixed with fine sand or sand and clay intermixed, and resting on a substratum of clay, marl or limestone.
To estimate or predict the possibilities of a soil and climate like this would be next to an impossibility. Actual experiment has demonstrated the fact that besides the citrus family, the ordinary field crops, and an almost endless variety of garden vegetables there can be grown profitably over one hundred different varieties of fruit, trees, plants and shrubs, including many valuable medicinal gums and barks.
Sea-Island cotton, the most valuable grown, produces from 150 to 200 pounds to the acre. Rice is easy of cultivation, grows well on high lands and yields from 25 to 75 bushels to the acre. Corn varies from 10 to 50 bushels to the acre. Rye and oats are good crops. Peanuts grow well and are remunerative, yielding from 50 to 100 bushels per acre.
Hernando is one of the finest tobacco sections in the State. This valuable weed frequently grows all the year round, making a crop fully equal, in every particular, to the best imported Havana. It requires careful and skillful attention, and with proper cultivation will yield from 300 to 700 pounds per acre of the cured leaf.
The sweet potato is one of the most valuable crops the new comer can plant.
Irish potatoes are a good and profitable crop.
Arrow-root, cassava and coontie all grow well, and are profitable crops.
Among the fibre plants, sisal hemp, jute and manilla have been tested and proven successful.
Indigo is indigenous to Florida, the pine forests being frequently covered with it for miles.
The castor bean grows from year to year and attains the size of a tree.
In fruits they have lemons, limes, citrons, oranges, peaches, plums, Japan plums, a number of varieties of grapes, pineapples, figs, guavas, pomegranates, dates, bananas, persimmons, both the wild and Japanese, LeConte pears and others.
Pecan and hickory nuts thrive.
Both tea and coffee grow well.
Strawberries are unsurpassed in size, color, flavor and perfume.
Whortleberries, blackberries and dewberries grow wild in the utmost profusion.
In the production of vegetables this county cannot be excelled either in variety, quantity or quality.
For fish, oysters, sponges and turtle the coast of Hernando is justly celebrated. Thousands of dollars are annually realized from her fisheries and the business is practically undeveloped.
Until about four years ago Hernando was, owing to a want of transportation, almost a terra incognita; since that time various causes have tended to bring this fine county into favorable notice, and the result has been quite a large accession to its population and wealth.
No county in the State offers greater attraction or variety for a residence or advantages for the successful prosecution of agriculture and horticulture than Hernando. Transportation, enterprise, industry and immigration, will soon make it one of the wealthiest, most prosperous and desirable portions of the State.
ADD. A new post-office and settlement, established in November, 1884.
ANCLOTE is located at the mouth of the Anclote river, 30 miles from Tampa, reached via the various steamers and sailing vessels, and by the Gulf Coast back line of stages. It was settled in 1868 by the Meyers Bros., Harrison and W. A. Cobb, and now contains a population of about 40 families. There are two churches, the Anclote Baptist, Rev. Mr. Cadden, pastor, and the Methodist, Rev. Mr. Miller. There are two land companies located here, the Lake Butler Villa Co., and the Florida Land and Immigration Co. Among the prominent residents are Mr. J. M. Murphy, a well-known and popular author. The postmaster is Mr. J. M. Craver, who is also a notary public.
BAY PORT, at the mouth of the Wekiwachie river, is a shipping point for that section as well as for Brooksville and surroundings, and Hernando county generally. It has two hotels, one or two stores, and has quite a coasting trade on the Gulf with Cedar Keys. Population, 150.
BROOKSVILLE, the county seat, almost centrally located, is an incorporated village with a court-house, jail, two churches, several stores and the Florida Crescent, a newspaper. It is regularly laid out and is situated on one of the highest points in the county, some 300 feet above the gulf level. It is surrounded by fine bodies of hummock. It is 16 miles from the gulf.
CHIPCO is located about one mile from Gordon survey railroad. About thirty hours’ ride from Jacksonville: fare, about $11.50. Established in 1882. Population about 50. Among the owners of large bearing groves near here are Messrs. Clint, Pearce, Henry Hutto, John Obery, and others. Mr. H. K. Bankston is postmaster.
COVE BEND. Name changed to Floral City (which see).
CRYSTAL RIVER is a small settlement on the river of that name about 40 miles from Ocala and 30 from Cedar Keys. It was settled in 1842, and now contains a Baptist church, Rev. Mr. Harrolson; a post-office, Wm. F. Gaines, postmaster; and a population of about 100 families. Farming and fruit culture are the principal industries. Opportunities for good laborers are excellent. Cattle raising is profitable, and there is an excellent opening for live industrious men.
ELLERSLIE. A country post-office established February, 1884.
FLORAL CITY is located three miles from the Withlacoochee river, on Cholo Apopka lake. It was settled in 1883 by two or three families, but in 1884 had 30 or 40. Rev. E. B. Pooser is pastor of the M. E. church here. The settlers are all white and from nearly every state in the Union. Among the owners of noted orange groves are Messrs. W. A. Duval, J. W. Fleming, J. C. Clements, J. A. Hampton, J. J. Pyles, F. G. Powell, and others. The South Florida College will be chartered at the Legislative session of ’85. Mr. J. W. Fleming is postmaster.
FORT DADE is a thriving, progressive town of about 2,000 inhabitants [perhaps should be 200?] situated near the eastern boundary of Hernando county, on the line of the Florida Railway and Navigation Co., and upon that proposed by the extension of the F. S. Railway. It is 30 miles from Tampa, and 42 from Wildwood. The first settlement was made by Newton A. Carter, who removed hither from Sumter county in 1869, and planted a large orange grove which is now in bearing. The town contains several churches of different denominations, presided over by Revs. R. E. Bell and G. W Watk; three academies, viz: Oak Grove, Clear Lake, and Ellustie. Prof. Eatherly, Dr. Pringle and Robt. O. Carter, Esq., in charge. A newspaper, the Fort Dade Messenger, established in 1882 by a stock company, and now published by W. C. Sumner with J. G. Wallace editor; and a post-office with Mr. Robt. J. Marshall, postmaster. There are four large saw-mills with an average product of 2,500 feet per day. This is a good range for cattle and sheep, and new settlers are paying much attention to this branch of business. The more prominent men who have lived or are living here are Messrs. Robt. Sumner, A. C. Sumner, W. A. Carter, Col. D. H. Thrasher, Levi Eiland, Joseph Tucker, W. C. Sumner, R. M. Wilson, Dr. Cochrane, W. A. Jones. Those who own large orange groves are Messrs. W. A. Jones, Dr. Cochrane, R. M. Wilson, Joseph Tucker, W. A. Carter, Mr. Moore, G. C. Pearce, Levi Eiland, Mr. Wordson, Geo. Pinkston, Mr. McLeod, et al. The inducement to settlers of the right sort are manifold, and there are good openings for many lines of business for those who have the requisite energy and push.
FORT TAYLOR is a post-office settlement located on the hack or stage route between Brooksville and Tampa, and is 10 miles south of the former place. Cultivating the orange constitutes the chief industry, and several promising groves are located in the vicinity. The postmaster is Julia A. Heigler.
GULF KEY, or as the sailors call it, Hammock Creek, is situated on the southwest coast of the county, 16 miles southwest of Brooksville. It is one of the best natural harbors on the Gulf coast, the chief seaport of this great county, and has suddenly sprung into prominence. Besides being a regular stopping place for the new steamer “Gov. Safford,” its shipping consists of two sloops, one schooner, and numerous smaller craft, running between this port, Yellow Bluff, and Cedar Keys. The towns of Hammock Creek, Indian Creek, and La Clede are all together, and embraced in the post-office named Gulf Key. The place is quite new and thinly settled yet, as the lands are held by the few residents, the Disston Company, and Major John Parsons. The population is about 32, but as soon as the lands are surveyed and on the market, the place will improve rapidly. At present there is a post-office, warehouse, and wharf, freight and passenger line to Brooksville and Fort Dade, one store, and a fishery. In addition to the Hammock Creek harbor, the town also possesses another valuable harbor in Indian Creek, which is to be soon improved by a new road from the Brooksville road to its mouth, where a new wharf and warehouse will be built. The last-named stream, like Hammock Creek, has its source in a clear spring near the centre of the town, and flows northwest and empties into the Gulf at the northwest corner of the town, while Hammock Creek flows southwest and empties at southwest corner of the town. The La Clede portion of the town commences at the springs, or sources of the twin creeks before mentioned. It extends west on both sides of the Brooksville road, and on account of its beautiful, healthy table and rolling-pine lands, is the most thickly settled. Most of the residents own portion of the rich hammock land lying near the town, which they successfully cultivate, while having the advantage of living on the adjacent pine hills. Although not yet possessing any hotel, yet with all the natural advantages named the future of this beautiful seaside resort and commercial port will surpass the highest anticipations. James Arnold is the postmaster.
HATTON was settled in 1882 by M. G. Rowe, the present postmaster. Brooksville, the nearest town of importance, is 25 miles distant, the U. S. mail line, and Capt. Graham’s mail line of stages running between the two points; fare, $2.50. There are several small lakes in the vicinity. Fine grazing lands are to be found here, and fruit culture is carried on extensively, oranges being the principal product. Among the owners of fine groves in this town are D. H. Thrasher, Lewis Parish, W. R. Mills, J. M. Wiley and others. M. G. Rowe is postmaster.
HERNANDO is 27 miles from Ocala on the northeast, 25 miles from Brooksville, the county seat, on the south, and 15 miles from the town of Crystal river on the west; on Lake Chalo Apopka, which is 20 miles long, and from 4 to 5 miles wide, navigable for good size steamboats. There is no stage line. Private conveyances to Ocala, the nearest railroad station, time one-half day; fare from Ocala to Jacksonville, $5 to $6. Settled in 1881 by E. Croft, W. G. Croft, and Dr. C. E. Nickerson, at which time there were six families. In 1882 there were eleven, 1883, eighteen; 1884, twenty-five. Have one church organization and a school. R. R. Bridges, president, Wilmington, Weldon, Wilmington & Columbia and Augusta Railroads, owns nearly 800 acres of land in immediate vicinity. E. G. Agnew & Co., of Ocala, own large bodies near. There are valuable stone quarries and plenty of good clay. The Withlacoochee river is 5 miles distant. The shores of the lake are bordered with young orange groves, which will be in bearing in a few years, the owners of the more prominent of which are I. D. Spooner, T. Harrison, A. D. Tompkins, and Duey & Co. The society here is of the best, and many of the residents have ample resources. There is a good opening for merchants and mechanics. Orange Grove Academy is a thriving institution, Mrs. Perkins, principal. There is a saw-mill here of good capacity. Insects and mosquitoes are but little known. The name of the postmaster is W. G. Croft.
HUDSON was named in honor of its first resident, Mr. Isaac W. Hudson, who settled here February 5, 1879. It is a landing on the gulf coast, 50 miles south of Cedar Keys. The first mail arrived July 3, 1883. It is now brought on horseback twice each week from Brooksville. Mr. Hudson started with capital enough to go on for one year, and has succeeded in supporting a large family by raising sweet potatoes, sugar- cane, corn, peas, melons, tomatoes, etc. He has a small orange grove in bearing, and cultivates the lemon, lime, citron, grape fruit, guava, banana, fig, plum, peach, pear, persimmon, grape, etc. A good view is had of the Gulf, and there are but few swamps in this section. Those coming to settle would find it to their advantage to bring two good mulch cows, and two good farm horses. Port Richey, 7 miles south, is a new settlement. H. W. Howse, J. W. Hudson, W. M. Lang, A. M. Bellamy, W. G. Frierson, A. W. Blanks, H. C. Bush, W. W. Chaney, W. J. Hilliard, James Worley, Jesse Hay, and M. D. Tillman [perhaps should be Fillman] are the more prominent residents and orange growers. Negroes are a curiosity, and there is a good opening for a hotel and saw-mill. Transportation by water good. Public school; the name of the postmaster is John W. Hudson.
ISTACHATTA is situated on the Withlacoochee river, and is a small settlement and landing. It is about 12 miles across the country from Brooksville, and has steamer communication with Lake Panasoffkee, not far distant.
LECANTO was settled in 1862 by Dr. William Morton, and has now a population of about 125. The village contains a Union church, Rev. J. B. Harolson, rector, and a high school, E. A. Harrison, principal. The post-master is Mr. John E. King. Farming is the chief occupation, prominent in which line are Messrs. H. B. King. Josiah King, John A. Allen and J. J. Davis, the same being largely interested in orange growing. There is a good opening for saw-mills, and a large lime-stone quarry could be worked to advantage.
LENARD is located on the proposed line of the “International Railway and Steamboat Co.,” in the eastern part of Hernando county. It was settled in 1881 by the present postmaster, W. S. Kuster, and now has a population about 150. There is a Baptist church, Rev. —Boastic, and good county schools. The climate is healthy, and there are good openings for a general merchandise business.
MANNFIELD is situated midway between Chalo Apopka Lake and the Gulf of Mexico, 7 miles from the Homosassa river. Fare by steamer to Cedar Keyes, $2. Two days to Jacksonville. It was settled in March, 1884, by citizens of sixteen different states, mainly from Indiana. The population at present is about 50 families. Mr. Edward Burr is postmaster.
ORIOLE is located on the lake of the same name, one and a quarter miles from the Withlacoochee river. Stage and rail to Jacksonville, fare $6. It was settled in 1884 by J. A. Clarkson, Jr. Among the owners of noted orange groves are Messrs. Charles Giddens and Mr. William H. Smith. The settlers are all whites, and from Maine to Georgia. The population is about 100, and new settlers are coming in rapidly. M. H. Homing is post-master.
PORT RICHEY is located in the southwestern portion of Hernando county, in about 28° 15′ north latitude, on the point of land between the Pithlachoscotee river and the Gulf of Mexico. Mr. A. M. Richey owns the land on the point north of the mouth of the river, and the land adjoining east and north is owned by ex-Gov. A. P. K. Safford; south of the river is owned by the Disston Land Company, immediately on the coast and river. The land Mr. Richey owns was entered from the State by Felix Sowers in January, 1883. He made but little improvement and deeded the land to Mr. R. in July, 1883, who moved from St. Joseph, Mo., in December, 1883, built additional house-room, fencing, and a store, and keeps a general stock of merchandise needed in a country- store in a new country. He also had a schooner built to do his freighting and the freighting for this portion of the coast. She makes regular trips between Port Richey and Cedar Keys. The freighting of vegetables during the winter and spring, and oranges in the fall, is beginning to be an item of some importance; and it is expected the business will be more than double next season. In October, 1884, Gov. Safford and Mr. Richey surveyed the land immediately on the point into town-lots and put them on the market for sale. The name of the town will be Port Richey, the same as the name of the post-office (A. M. Richey, postmaster). There is a good outlet by way of the Gulf, and a fair prospect for a railroad in the near future. This section has been overlooked by home-seekers because it is off the more frequented lines of travel by rail and stage. In consequence, the settlers are scattered and somewhat isolated, but almost universally prosperous and contented, knowing that when the advantages of this part of the country are known, there will be an immense boom here, and they will not have worked and waited in vain. Some of the finest and most productive land in the State is situated along the Pithlachascotee River, land that will, without fertilizing, produce the most abundant crops of grain and vegetables, and grow the thriftiest, healthy orange trees. There are a great many trees from six to ten years old, from the seed, that are loaded with oranges, the trees as large as many of the trees in other parts of the State are at fifteen years of age. The chief industries in the neighborhood are orange-growing, vegetable-farming, stock-raising and fishing. The settlers, almost without exception, are raising orange groves, and many of them making their living off the vegetable crops grown among the orange trees, while waiting for the trees to come into bearing. Mr. Richey has a young grove of ten acres planed in the hummock a mile up the river, which has made a wonderful growth. The best bearing groves in the neighborhood are those of Jas. W. Clark, M. N. Hill, Mrs. Worley, H. W. Howse, Asa Clark, Hay, Sheffield, Brown, etc. But one of the greatest attractions of this part of the county is the Gulf coast, with its invigorating breezes, salt water bathing; its sailing, boating; its supply of oysters, turtles, crabs, and almost endless variety and unlimited supply of the finest fish. The islands and points are frequented by water-fowl of different kinds, and the hummocks and scrubs by abundance of squirrels, opossums, raccoons, deer and some bear. For a health or pleasure resort, they acknowledge no superior in the State. There is a wide range in the prices of land. Some of the Disston land can be bought as low as $2.50 per acre. Good pine land from $5.00 up. Hummock land from about $20 up to almost any price, much of it not for sale, because owned by parties who are improving it. Orange groves coming into bearing would bring almost any price asked. There is nothing in the way of stocks or bonds so safe to hold or so sure to pay a good percentage on the estimated value.
ROSE HILL is a post-office located on Rose Hill, 8 miles from Brookside [should be Brooksville], and 5 from Floral City. It was settled in 1864 by T. C. Jenkins, Esq. The postmaster, Mr. Charles G. Wilson, now delivers mail to about 50 families. There are two churches and two schools within a radius of 3 miles. There is one saw-mill in successful operation, and another in process of construction. Owners of leading orange groves are Messrs. Mayo and Baker, Dr. Wilson, Mrs. Dick and Mrs. Chapman.
SAN ANTONIA [should be San Antonio] was settled in 1881 by Judge E. F. Dunne. The population in 1882 was about 150, which has increased to 350. The town is located on Clear lake, and the largest town in this section is Tampa, 35 miles distant, to which Graham’s stage line runs twice a week. The San Antonio Herald, if not already established, will be soon. There is a Catholic church here of which Rev. Father E. Stenzel is the pastor. The land is generally rolling, the soil good, with plenty of muck for fertilizing purposes. The Withlacoochee river, near here, is navigable, and there are several large lakes in the vicinity in which the finny tribes await the disciples of Walton. There are two excellent schools here, the Clear Lake High School, R. O. Carter, principal, and the San Antonio Academy, Mrs. Carrie Mullan, teacher. Among the representative men of the place and owners of fine orange groves are Judge E. F. Dunne, Dr. Joseph Corrigan, Rev. R. E. Bell, C. F. Gailmard, John Platt and N. A. Carter. There is a fine opening here for a mercantile business.
SCRUB is a small farming settlement near the Withlacoochee river, 9 miles northeast of Brooksville. It is 2 miles from the steamer landing and about 30 from the nearest railway. The postmaster, C. B. De LeMater, Esq., delivers mail to 36 families in his district.
STAGE POND is in the centre of an agricultural district about 12 miles north of the county seat Brooksville, Population, 250.
TOMPKINSVILLE. A country settlement on Apopka Lake.
TUCKERTOWN is in the extreme southeastern part of the county, a growing place connected with the outside world by telegraph, Mr. J. W. Tucker’s orange grove is one of the handsomest in the county. Population over 100.
TWIN LAKES takes its name from Twin Lakes, on which it is situated. It was settled about the year 1830. It has a good school, churches, etc. The people are profitably engaged in fruit and stock raising. The prominent orange-growers are: Messrs. W. R. Nicks, Joshua Mizell, W. H. Haycock, M. D. Eiland, John O’Neil, and John St. Clair. Land is worth from $10 to $75 per acre. A railroad is surveyed to this point. The post-office was established in September, 1884. W. F. Jackson, postmaster.
WISCON was settled by C. C. Peck in 1882. It is 6 miles from Brooksville, and 13 miles from Bayport. It is a thoroughly western settlement, most of the citizens coming here from Wisconsin. Our correspondent believes that there is a fortune to be made here in dairy farming, and that for invalids there is no healthier place in the State. Further information can be obtained by writing to Mr. C. C. Peck, postmaster.