The Historic Hernando Preservation Society has actively sought to recognize significant historic sites in Hernando County by the installation of historic markers through the Florida Division of Historical Resources Historic Marker Program.
On Saturday, September 7, 2019, the Historic Hernando Preservation Society dedicated Hernando County’s newest historic marker commemorating the planned community of Garden Grove. Made possible by HHPS Board member Roger Sherman, the marker is located on the east side of US 41/ Broad Street, just north of the Spring Hill Drive intersection.
Marker Side 1 reads:
Garden Grove was carved out of the Chocochatti Hammock, first inhabited by the Upper Creek Nation and then by pioneer families such as the Hopes and Crums. The area remained largely undeveloped up to the 1920s. By that time, the Florida Land Boom, which started in West Palm Beach and Miami, had spread to the west coast of Florida. Many real estate companies were created and bought large tracts of land with the intention of luring new residents and businesses, along with investors interested in land speculation. Developments such as Hickory Hill, Russell- Hale Heights, Mundon Hill Farms, Dixie Acres, Nobleton, Mountain Park, and Masaryktown sprang up from 1924 through 1926 in Hernando County. One such enterprise was Garden Grove, platted in 1924 and surveyed by G.D. and H.D. Mendenhall, Civil Engineers. Garden Grove originally contained some 13,000 acres with plans for over 1,600 residential, commercial, and small farm lots. It was bounded by the Tampa Northern Railroad on the east and bisected by a portion of the first state road, No. 5 (later US 41) on the west. Plans included a city square and lakeside park, as well as a grand main street called Station Boulevard leading to the train depot.
Marker Side 2 reads:
Advertisements in newspapers promised a holiday atmosphere and described an idyllic environment. A mobile and newly affluent middle class with leisure time sought to speculate and turn investments into quick profits, often quadrupling them within a year. As a large influx of new residents was expected, the county built roads to Garden Grove from Spring Lake and Aripeka. A bus route from Tampa to Garden Grove began along with passenger train service. By 1926, some of the planned roads were laid out and a number of homes constructed. The Methodist-Episcopal Church South became the first house of worship. A one-room school was built, and operated until 1948. Such speculation, however, was unsustainable and the real estate bubble burst in the mid-1920s, just as Garden Grove was beginning to grow. The company sold back some properties to their original owners for pennies on the dollar. The Garden Grove corporation became inactive in 1936. It was not until the 1950s that development in the area resumed with new home and road construction, along with the donation of land by the Crum family for the Garden Grove Baptist Church.
The Town of Centralia historic marker was dedicated on September 23, 2017 by the Historic Hernando Preservation Society. The marker commemorates the location of the historic town of Centralia, a short-lived but large-scale logging and sawmill community. The marker was made possible in large part to a donation by archeologist and HHPS board member William Rosst.
Marker Side 1 reads:
This site was once the location of one of Florida’s largest lumber mills. As demand for insect and rot resistant cypress increased, the J.C. Turner Lumber Company began the logging of over 15,000 acres of Red Tidewater Cypress, cedar, and pine in coastal Hernando County. The Turner Company financed the construction of the mill in 1910. It was known locally as the Tidewater Cypress Mill. Eighteen miles of narrow-gauge tram lines were laid through the swamp to connect the mill and logging areas to the Tampa Northern Railroad. Laborers used steam-powered skidders to transport cut logs onto railroad cars. The logs were then dumped in a pond near the sawmills. The large double-banded saws, powered by electricity generated from four steam boilers, could cut 100,000 board feet each day. The finished wood was stacked in a 160-acre drying yard for up to four years. The dried wood was sent to the planing mill to become roof shingles, lath, and construction lumber. The finished lumber was sold locally, or transported sixteen miles by rail to Brooksville, where it continued to the port in Tampa and was loaded onto ships headed to the company’s wholesale distribution yard on the Hudson River in New York.
Marker Side 2 reads:
Located a few miles north of Weeki Wachee, the “boom town” of Centralia sprang up to support the 1,200 mill workers and their families. The wealth of timber seemed inexhaustible, luring men and industry from all corners of the earth. A post office opened in 1910 followed by other businesses, including a general store, drugstore, Mrs. Varn’s Centralia Hotel, the Hungry None Restaurant, and a Greek bakery. The general store, run by George Gamble, boasted more stock than any store in larger towns like Jacksonville or Tampa. Centralia offered other amenities such as a resident doctor and dentist, schoolhouse, and community church offering Catholic and Protestant services. There were no saloons, however, as the mill’s general manager, Edgar A. Roberts, forbade drinking. Soda pop was the drink of choice. The trees were exhausted by 1917, and the mill shut down soon after. The town struggled along for a few more years but was mostly abandoned by the 1920s. Only the foundations of this once mighty mill remain. The Turner company reseeded the land with slash pines in the 1960s. Purchased in 1985 by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the land became part of the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge.
The Chocochatti Historic Marker was dedicated by the Historic Hernando Preservation Society on May 30, 2014, with representatives of the Seminole Tribe of Florida attending. The marker commemorates the location of Chocochatti, an early Seminole village in Florida.
The marker text reads: The first colony of Muskogee-speaking Upper Creek Indians from Alabama was established nearby in 1767. British surveyor/naturalist Bernard Romans identified the settlement as “New Yufala, planted in a beautiful and fertile plain.” It later became known as Tcuko tcati, or “Chocochatti,” meaning “Red House” of “Red Town.” It was here that the Upper Creek Indians were transformed into Florida Seminoles. The Chocochatti Seminoles were prosperous commercial deer hunters, traders, farmers, and cattlemen. Chocochatti town and prairie was their home for nearly 70 years. The Brooksville region, historically known as the Big Hammock, processed rich soils for their crops, an abundance of game, and prairies ideal for grazing cattle. Turbulent times came with war in the early 1800s, culminating with the passage of the Indian Removal Act of 1830. By 1836, the Chocochatti Seminoles, under the leadership of Fuche Luste Hadjo. “Black Dirt,” chose to emigrate to present-day Oklahoma, at the outbreak of the Second Seminole War. Others chose to resist, eventually being forced into South Florida, where they prosper today as an unconquered people, the Seminole Tribe of Florida, whose character speaks volumes to humankind.
Chocochatti Historic Marker
The Bayport Area Historic Markers describe the history of this coastal area of Hernando County and its involvement in the Civil War. The marker was prepared by the Historic Hernando Preservation Society along with Hernando County. They were dedicated on March 30, 2014.
The fossilized remains of many prehistoric animals and plants are buried in the Bayport area. During the Eocene Period, 45 million years ago (MYA), the Gulf covered this region. Local Ocala limestone deposits contain marine remains of shells, plants, and mammal bones, including those of early shark toothed whales, now-extinct sea boas, and sea turtles. By the late Oligocene Period, 30 MYA, the shallow sea over west Florida began to recede, and land animals and plants began to live in the area. During the Early Miocene Period, 23-10 MYA, vast forests of conifers and deciduous trees supported giant pigs, rhinoceroses, and small camels. Fossils of small rodents, carnivores, and early horses have been found in sinkholes near Brooksville. In the Late Miocene Period, 10-4.5 MYA, the fossil record shows that many species of the 3-toed horse were hunted by false saber toothed cats and bone eating dogs. Sea levels were lower during the Ice Age, 1.5 MYA-13,000 YA, and the Gulf’s coast receded to 70 miles west of Bayport. Large mammals, such as mammoths, mastodons, ground sloths, and saber tooth cats roamed these coastal lowlands. Their fossilized remains have been found in Weeki Wachee Springs.
The first people who arrived in the Bayport area around 13,000 years ago are called Paleo- Indians. The Bayport area was much cooler and drier then, and the Gulf of Mexico was 200 feet lower. Paleo-Indians used large spears with stone points to hunt mammoth and mastodon. By 9,000 years ago the climate had become warmer and sea levels rose. This change led the Archaic Period people to pursue a hunting and gathering life style. These people also used stemmed spear points for hunting, but also gathered shellfish and caught fish in nets and traps. By 2,500 years ago the Deptford Culture people living around Bayport lived in small settlements along the Gulf. They used shell tools and their diets relied heavily on marine resources. A Bayport burial mound excavated in the late 19th century contained artifacts that dated from the Weeden Island Culture 1,100-1,700 years ago. Evidence of the Safety Harbor Culture people dating from 1,000 to 450 years ago was found within a burial mound at Weeki Wachee Spring and contained early Spanish Contact Period artifacts. These native people were living around Bayport during the expeditions led by Panfilo de Narvaez in 1528 and Hernando de Soto in 1539.
Bayport was a shallow-water gulf port town in the 1850s. The town was designated the Hernando County Seat and a port of delivery by Congress in 1854. Before the Civil War, the port shipped lumber cut from locally grown cedar trees, which was widely used to make pencils. By 1861, the town consisted of approximately 40 houses, a customs house, warehouses, and a wharf. The plantations and ranches surrounding Bayport supplied cattle, natural resources such as turpentine from native longleaf pine trees, and cypress and pine lumber. Salt made from sea water in evaporation ponds, along with cotton and corn, helped support the Confederate fighting forces. The Union blockade of Confederate ports forced blockade runners to use smaller and more innocuous ports such as Bayport. As the Civil War progressed, Bayport became a haven for blockade runners operating between Florida’s gulf coast and Cuba, providing numerous critical war commodities for the Confederate war effort. Between 1862 and 1865, vessels belonging to the Union’s East Gulf Coast Blockading Squadron intercepted eleven blockade runners near Bayport.
Two attacks targeted Bayport in 1863. The first attack, on April 2nd, used seven boats from the Union warships St. Lawrence, Sagamore, and Fort Henry. They advanced to within 400 yards of Bayport under difficult conditions. The Confederates hid four of six blockade runners up a nearby creek. Union forces found the schooner, Helen, captured its crew and set it afire. Confederates burned the sixth vessel, a large schooner loaded with cotton that was anchored in the harbor and ready for sea. The Union boats withdrew from the battle with disabled guns. On September 14, a Union squadron consisting of the warships James Battle, Two Sisters, Annie, and two boats from the Fort Henry targeted a British side-wheel steamer flying a French flag. Confederates burned the steamer and a nearby warehouse and the Union boats withdrew. The Florida Public Archaeology Network and Hernando Historic Preservation Society in 2010 located mid-19th century ship remains, possibly related to these battles. The Gulf Archaeology Research Institute in 2014-15 found the original harbor and Confederate positions north of Bayport County Park.
During the First Spanish Period (1565-1763) Florida served as a military defense post. In 1763, under British control, agricultural commerce became important. Control of Florida returned to Spain in 1783. In 1818, Andrew Jackson mounted a campaign against the Seminole Indians in North Florida that helped the United States secure Florida from Spain in 1821 and pushed the Indians south. The Second Seminole War (1835-1842) forced the Indians out of Central Florida, and the Florida Armed Occupation Act of 1842 opened the area to settlement. John Parsons, a war veteran from New Hampshire, built a large house in 1852 that became a post office and general store. He also constructed a causeway, a wharf, a custom house, and a light house. In partnership with David Levy Yulee, Parsons brought goods from Brooksville by wagon for shipment out of Bayport that were then transported by railroad from Cedar Key to Fernandina Beach. Major exports were cotton, produce, and timber. During the Civil War, Bayport exported salt and beef for Confederate troops, and was under attack by Union forces. Bayport served as the Hernando County seat from 1854 to 1856.
Bayport had to be largely rebuilt after the Civil War. The Eberhard Faber Pencil Company of New York acquired 40 acres of land in Bayport in 1866. Cedar trees were cut and floated down the Weeki Wachee River to Bayport for shipment to Cedar Key. Bayport continued to be a major port of export until 1885, when Brooksville acquired its first railroad spur. By then, the area had been featured in nationally circulated travel guides and was a popular haven for fishermen, boaters, and sportsmen. John Parsons’ home became the Bayport Hotel following his death in 1888, and for many years after 1909 was managed by Frances Goethe. She and her son Henry operated a commercial fishing operation that shipped fish from Bayport to Centralia, a nearby lumber town with a railroad spur to Brooksville. The hotel ceased operations and burned in 1942. During Prohibition, Bayport’s remote location gave rise to bootlegging operations. During World War II, a radar installation was in use for bombing practice by planes from MacDill Air Force Base. A former bird rack rookery, built and used to collect dung from cormorant birds for fertilizer production, was used for target practice by the Army Air Corps.
Location:U.S. 41 at Courthouse in Brooksville.
Description: Hernando County originally embraced Hernando, Pasco, and Citrus counties. It was created by the Territorial Legislature in 1843 and named for Hernando DeSoto. In 1844, its name was changed to Benton County in honor of Senator Thomas Hart Benton of Missouri, but his moderation during the Missouri Compromise caused extremists in the legislature to change the name back to Hernando. DeSoto, now Brooksville, was the first county seat. The present boundaries of the county were set in 1887.
Location:398 Broad Street
Description: In 1924-26, a group of Slovak and czech immigrants moved down from New York and Pennsylvania to establish a farming community in Florida, and bought about 10,000 acres in Hernando County. They founded a town here, which they named after Thomas G Masaryk (1850-1937), “founding father” and first president of the independent republic of Czechoslovakia, formed in 1918 with the help of U.S. President Woodrow Wilson. They named the town’s streets for American presidents and for Slovak and Czech patriots and writers who contributed to the independence movement. Initial attempts at growing citrus and vegetables failed, but eventually a thriving egg poultry farming community developed. Slovak cultural traditions were maintained for more than one half century. The building on this sit was erected in 1925 as the “Masaryk Hotel” for initial housing of newly arrived settlers, and retained that name until 1997.
Sponsors: Masaryktown Board of Directors and the Florida Department of State
Location: along S.R. 50.
City: Ridge Manor
Description: Shortly after Florida became a U.S. Territory, Fort Brooke was constructed at the mouth of the Hillsborough River and Fort King was established near the present site of Ocala. In 1825, work was begun by the federal government on an overland route connecting those fortifications. This “Military Road” was improved and soon was known as the “Fort King Road.” It was an important transportation and communication link during the Second Seminole War (1835-42), a conflict over the removal of Indians from Florida. This route remained a vital mail and wagon road during the 19th century development of central Florida. Presently, U.S. Highway 301 crosses the course of one of the oldest major roads in Florida, the Fort King Road.
Sponsors: sponsored by Hernando County historical commission in cooperation with department of state
Location:22495 Chinsegut Hill Road
Description: In 1842, South Carolinian Bird M. Pearson staked a claim on 5,000 acres and called it Tiger Tail Hill, one of the few surviving plantations in Florida and the one of the oldest houses in Hernando County. Pearson built the manor house’s east wing in 1847 and later residents expanded it, beginning in 1852. He raised citrus, cattle, and sugarcane. In 1904 Chicago residents Raymond (1873-1954) and Margaret Drier (1868-1945) Robins purchased the property and named it Chinsegut Hill, an Inuit word meaning a place where lost things are found. The estate served as a retreat from the couple’s tireless activism on behalf of workers, women, and the poor. Guests entertained here included Thomas Edison, Senator and Mrs. Claude Pepper, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, J.C. Penney and Helen Keller. During the Great Depression, the Robinses suffered severe losses and donated Chinsegut to the federal government, collaborating with the Department of Agriculture on an experimental station to benefit Florida farmers. In return, the couple could live there until their deaths. New Deal workers improved the property and built two cabins in 1933. In 1958, the University of South Florida acquired the property for use as a conference center.
Sponsors: THE UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH FLORIDA AND THE FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Location: Spece 2, tier 3, lot 18, Brooksville Cemetery
Description: One of the area’s early white settlers, Charlotte Crum is the first known burial in the Brooksville Cemetery. Her death occurred immediately following the Second Seminole War (1835-1842), and is symbolic of the epic collision that occurred in Florida as diverse cultures struggled for control of the expanding American frontier. Born 1792 near Savannah, Georgia, Charlotte married Col. Samuel Robert Pyles who in 1824 moved his family to what later became Alachua County, Florida. Following Pyles’s 1837 death, Charlotte married Richard R. Crum who secured this portion of land through the Armed Occupation Act of 1842, settling at Chuccochattie, less than one mile south. While traveling nearby September 12, 1842, Charlotte, her daughter Rebecca Harn, granddaughter Mary Catherine Harn and escort John Francis McDonnell were fired upon by a party of Seminoles who were unaware of the war’s end and evidently retaliating for recent aggressive acts by white settlers eager to remove the area’s native population. In the ensuing struggle, all escaped but Charlotte, who was killed and whose death received sensationalized attention. She is buried here, less than one-eighth mile from her home in a grave once entombed with brick.
Sponsors: THE HERNANDO HISTORICAL MUSEUM ASSOCIATION, INC. AND THE FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Location: 38219 Richloam Clay Sink Road
Description: In 1921, the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad (ACL) decided to relocate its depot in Riverland to Richloam. Soon after, in 1922, Postmaster Lucius Sidney “Sid” Brinson moved the Riverland Post Office to the growing community of Richloam and opened a general store. The 1920s were a chaotic time in Richloam. In 1926, Pasco County Deputy Sheriff William O’Berry was shot and killed east of the store while attempting to arrest Charles Davis, a worker at the local turpentine still, over the theft of a dog. In January 1928, the store was robbed and burnt, likely from arson, but was rebuilt soon after in February of that same year. The store and post office continued to operate until the late 1930s, when the Great Depression forced the ACL to close the depot. In 1936, Brinson closed the store and post office and relocated to Sarasota. He rented the building as a residence to the Mills family until the 1950s. After sitting vacant until 1973, Brinson’s nephew, John Brinson, acquired the property. John Brinson’s son, Eric Burkes, renovated the general store and reopened it in 2016. This general store was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2017, and is the only remaining building from the Richloam community.
Address: 38294 Richloam Clay Sink Road
Description: This is the site of the former Schroder Land and Timber Company (SLTC) clubhouse. John Schroder, owner of the SLTC, purchased large tracts of land in Hernando and Pasco counties, including the area later known as Richloam. Built around 1916, the clubhouse served as both the company headquarters and the home of its foreman, Lucius Sidney “Sid” Brinson. While SLTC used much of its land for logging and turpentine production, other parts were sold to prospective farmers. The company brought buyers to the area on a train, nicknamed “The Goat,” and the clubhouse included a demonstration farm to showcase local crops. In 1926, SLTC sold the clubhouse and most of its land in the area to the Richloam Land Company (RLC). Hoping to take advantage of the Florida Land Boom, RLC continued to sell lots to new farmers, but had limited success. In 1936, as part of the U.S. Land Resettlement Program, the federal government acquired the land in Richloam from the SLTC, RLC, and other private owners. Some land owners resisted resettlement. The Works Progress Administration began replanting previously clear cut pine trees. In 1954, the State of Florida purchased the Richloam land and incorporated it into the Withlacoochee State Forest.