HISTORY OF PASCO COUNTY
Coleman and Ferguson
Coleman & Ferguson Co. (1934)
This article appeared in the Dade City Banner on Nov. 30, 1934, on the 50th anniversary of the company.
The Coleman & Ferguson Company, which was established in
the pioneer days of Dade City, is planning to celebrate their fiftieth
anniversary, December first.
This company has developed into what we believe is Florida’s
largest independent country department store from a warm friendship
that was started in Atlanta, Georgia, where Mr. H. W. Coleman and Mr.
W. N. Ferguson first became acquainted, and this friendship lasted
Mr. H. W. Coleman was born in Henry county, Georgia, about
twenty miles from Atlanta, in 1856. When eighteen years of age he
entered the employment of Mr. D. P. Ferguson, in Jonesboro, as a clerk.
A few years later Mr. Ferguson went to Atlanta and engaged in the
manufacture of wagons and implements. His son, W. N. Ferguson, was his
bookkeeper, and Mr. Coleman became the traveling salesman. The two
young men were the closest of friends, and along with their work
attended a business college in the city together.
In 1882 Mr. Coleman married Miss Ella Dorsey of Jonesboro, and
a year or two later made a business trip further south into Florida
than he had gone before, and must have seen visions of the development
of this state, for on his return to Atlanta he announced to his friends
that he was going to Florida to stay. Mr. Ferguson was pleased with the
idea and in a short time they were looking for a business site in this
part of the state.
Mr. William N. Ferguson was born in Atlanta, Ga., September 10,
1860. After coming with Mr. Coleman to Dade City in 1884 he met ...
...there was a great deal of sickness and several deaths, so
one of the first purchases was "coffins," as they were then called, and
they sent Harry Carleton over to Leesburg for them.
Among their first purchases were two barrels of hard cider and
some candy from "Black, the candy man," of Atlanta. About this same
time the First National Bank opened in Tampa, which was a town of about
When the Seaboard railroad was built, about 1886, the business
location was not entirely satisfactory, and a new town was laid out to
the south of the old site. Coleman & Ferguson bought a block in the
center of the plat and built a larger store to accommodate their
increasing business. This store was burned about 1896 and they erected
the building which was moved back to make way for the new brick store
in which they are now located.
The fire was followed by the "big freeze" which ruined so many
people in Florida, but with grit and confidence Coleman & Ferguson
pushed ahead with their business, overcoming every obstacle and
threatened catastrophe. Their trade has come from a radius of thirty
miles around Dade City, and they have done considerable jobbing
business with smaller country stores. From the very start they have
been foremost in the mercantile life of Dade City.
When Pasco county was set off from Hernando county and all the
villages were after the county seat, Coleman & Ferguson built the
first court house at a cost of $2,000 and gave it to the county. Later
when a larger building was required and the site was again contested,
it was bought largely through their efforts that it was retained in
Coleman & Ferguson bought the land where the Edwinola Hotel
now stands and gave it to Mr. Delcher for a hotel site. Here the first
hotel stood until destroyed by fire.
Mr. Coleman was interested in the Bank of Pasco County since
its inception, built the bank home, the first brick building in Dade
City, and was vice-president and a director for a number of years
before his death. He also helped materially to build the Masonic Hall,
being a member of the lodge; bought and gave the land for the school
house, and both he and Mr. Ferguson gave largely toward the building of
the various churches and all charitable work of the community.
In 1904 Mr. J. Y. O'Neal, the present manager, was taken on by
this firm, remaining with them ten years, when he resigned to assume
the duties of postmaster of Dade City. This position he held for the
next five years, or until the death of Mr. Coleman, which occurred in
March of 1919. At this time a corporation was formed and Mr. O'Neal was
made vice-president and general manager.
Mr. Ferguson retired from active participation in the company
at that time, enjoying his summers in his home in North Carolina and
his winters in Tampa, where he died in January 1930.
The present building of red brick and tile, two and one-half
stories high, and measuring 60 x 123 feet, is located on the exact spot
where the business has been conducted for thirty years. This building
has cement floors and is as nearly fireproof as any building can be
made. It is equipped with an automatic sprinkler system, which combined
with its construction, makes the fire insurance almost nil. ...
Pioneer Tells Early History of
This letter was published in the Dade City Banner on Nov. 30, 1934.
Coleman & Ferguson Co. (1934)
Winter Haven, Florida,
November 8, 1934.
Mr. J. Y. O'Neal,
Manager, Coleman, Ferguson Company.
Dade City, Florida.
Dear Mr. O'Neal:
Relative to our conversation with reference to me being a pioneer customer of your store—
What do I remember the day Coleman and Ferguson opened for business at Dade City. I was just ten years of age.
Prior to Coleman and Ferguson opening business at Dade City,
there had been several small stores, and when you called for many
things these small merchants did not have in stock, they would take
your order and have it shipped by the next wagon which was the only
transportation at that time to Dade City. Coleman and Ferguson opened
business with a bang, operated their own teams for moving their goods
from Wildwood which was then the nearest railroad.
Their store was first located in Old Town near the present
site of the Ice and Power plant. It was a huge one-story building about
one hundred and fifty feet long. The people in Sumter, Hernando as well
as Pasco county all thought them foolish, the idea of such a big store
in this neck of the woods. The goods began to arrive by the time the
roof was on the building. In a few days that store was filled with
merchandise of all kinds at first, except bolt cloth goods and ladies'
dress goods. I have heard them say many times they just did not have
room and time to bother with that class of merchandise. However, they
had plenty of all other stock. They had a long rack built through the
center of the store from front to rear; the rack held saddles of all
kinds, bridles and harness and red virgin wool blankets for cattle men,
cow whips, etc. This was to supply the cattle men trade. Also they had
a complete stock of buggies, fine harness wagons, both one and two
horse. They had guns of all dimensions, mostly muzzle loaders, as
people in those days purchased black powder and shot and gun caps and
did the loading with ram rod. I will say, however, the old deer hunter
always brought home the bacon those days.
They also carried a complete and up-to-date stock of
groceries. All flour was packed in 196 pound wood barrels, half barrels
98 pounds; very few people purchased less than half barrel of flour.
Their opening stock of shoes was the largest and most complete
that had ever been shipped south of Palatka at that time, to any one
firm in Florida. I have heard that verified by several old traveling
shoe salesmen who knew. They drew the shoe trade from everywhere.
Children bought shoes who never knew what shoes were, except homemade.
They were also pioneers in Christmas goods, toys, etc. I have
seen their store so jammed with people during Christmas week that
getting what you wanted to buy was like the old Country Post Office at
mail opening time.
About 1887 the town of Dade City had convinced Coleman and
Ferguson that they would succeed and they needed more room. Hence they
built a very large two story building where the present store is
located. In the meantime there had started up several stores, very good
merchants, one J. T. Lawrence & Bro., and W. J. Thebeaut and Bro.,
and W. J. Thebeaut and Bro., but for some reason they quit; also C. C.
Grace & Co., who operated a chain of gents furnishing goods all
through Georgia; they also moved away.
When Coleman and Ferguson moved to their new building, their
stock was as complete as humanly possible to make it. Their stock of
clothing and ladies' dress goods was as up-to-date and as high quality
as the world’s market afforded. In fact, everything that C & F sold
was of only goods with a world-wide reputation for quality and
thoroughly established. I have never known a person to buy anything
from them and complain of getting an inferior product, or being over
charged or any mistake not being gladly corrected. That was the type of
those men and the reputation they had throughout South Florida. Coleman
and Ferguson controlled the American Fence Company products; they sold
fence to all hardware dealers in South-west Florida as well as to
C & F always rendered a service and courtesy in their store that I seldom have seen equalled in any business.
The reminiscing of the Coleman, Ferguson Company affords me a
great pleasure, because I have learned a great deal by observing the
difference in the various characters of this life. For many years it
has been my humble place in this world to gain trade for my employers
by rendering a service. Often it comes to me so plainly how these
pioneer merchants took hold here and made a great success. There was
nothing small about C & F and I have observed that it is the little
things in a business or anything else, that discourages, destroys and
otherwise brings failure.
I have been a constant customer of C & F since they
started business 50 years ago. I am glad to say if I could live another
50 years and Coleman and Ferguson would continue in this business, I
would still trade with them. I have always admired the spirit of
Coleman, Ferguson, & Co.
D. E. SUMNER.
Mr. Sumner has a daughter and son living near Dade City, Mrs.
A. V. Bugbee, who with her husband operates the restaurant and Mr. Joe
Sumner who lives on one of Mr. Sumner’s nice groves.