EARLY HERNANDO COUNTY HISTORY
A Hernando County Timeline (to 1887)Jenkins refers to the 1876 document written by Cyprian T. Jenkins which appears below. Stanaback refers to A History of Hernando County 1840-1976 by Richard J. Stanaback. This page was last revised on Dec. 29, 2015.
1539. Hernando de Soto’s expedition lands in Tampa Bay. According to Florida Indians and the Invasion from Europe by Jerald T. Milanich:
North of Tampa Bay, the de Soto expedition marched though several other villages. The first was at the Plain of Guacozo, thought to be on a north-south trail near Dade City in Pasco County. It was at this location, about fifty miles from their campsite on the Little Manatee River and forty miles from Tocobaga, that the Spaniards saw the first native cornfields in Florida. Farther north, near modern Lacoochee, they came to another village, called Luca. A third village, Vicela, is thought to have been near modern Istachatta in northeast Hernando County. North of it on a large lake was Tocaste, a village thought to be the Duval Island archaeological site at the southern end of Lake Tsala Apopka in Citrus County. European artifacts have been found at sites all around Tampa Bay and at sites to the north in Pasco, Hernando, and Citrus counties. They provide good evidence for the presence of native groups in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The impact of these early Spanish entradas on the people around and north of Tampa Bay may have been devastating. The relatively small native population was hard hit by disease and warfare, a double blow. Following de Soto’s army’s excursion through the region, the Spaniards never again mounted an overland expedition to Tampa Bay or the area immediately to the north. Perhaps they knew what those sixteenth-century armies had done to the native populations.
1767. Indians establish a settlement called Chukochatty by 1767 [The Seminoles of Florida].
1823. Chicuchaty appears on a map. [Other spellings found are: Chicuchate (1826), Chihuchaty (1831), Chichuchate (1833), Chichichate (1834), Chicuhatte (1837), Chocochattee (1838), and Chocochatee (1839). Chocachatti Elementary School in Brooksville opened in 1999. The name, which was approved by the Hernando County School Board by a 3-2 vote, was suggested by the school’s first principal, Michael Tellone.]
1823. From Like Beads on a String: A Culture History of the Seminole Indians in Northern Peninsular Florida by Brent Richards Weisman:
The most informative account of these villages appears in a letter sent to Territorial Governor William P. Duval by Horatio S. Dexter in 1823. Dexter, by vocation a trader and merchant and one-time representative of the speculative Alachua Company, was also something of a frontier diplomat and was employed by Duval to inform the peninsular Indians of an upcoming council at Moultrie Creek. ... Leaving Pilaklikaha, Dexter traveled twenty-eight miles southwest to the settlement of Chukochatty (variously spelled), also known as Red House, Red Town, or New Eufala (near the present city of Brooksville, Hernando County), settled by migrants from the Creek town of Eufala in eastern Alabama as early as 1767 (Swanton 1922:403). At the time of Dexter’s visit, Simaka was the town chief and owned 3 slaves, 160 head of cattle, 90 horses, and a number of hogs. The prosperity of this settlement was so marked that two years prior to Dexter’s visit 60 black slaves residing there were lost in a Creek raid from the north. Twelve miles south of Chukochatty, Dexter entered a village on the border of a lake where corn, pumpkins, and watermelons were grown. Four miles farther was the settlement of Tomahitche, a series of dispersed hamlets situated so as to take advantage of the savanna pasturage in the area. The hamlets shared a common field planted in corn and rice. These settlements were just southwest of present-day Dade City (Pasco County), on the highlands west of Lake Pasadena.
1824. Seminole Indian Chief Black Dirt leads a band of Indians into the area of Chocochatee, fleeing a death sentence pronounced by a tribal council after he signed the Treaty of Payne’s Landing.
Jan. 25, 1834. An act to create Hillsborough County is approved. The description of the boundary of the new county mentions “the Indian village of Toachatka, 40 miles from Tampa.” [This village was apparently located 2 to 3 miles northwest of what is now Blanton, according to Charles Blankenship. The name is also spelled Toachadka, Toacadka, Toachudka, Toachudor, Toachadco, and Toachadoo in other documents.]
Dec. 23, 1836. Construction begins on the fort that would become Fort Dade, at the intersection of Fort King Road and the Withlacoochee River, near present day Lacoochee.
Mar. 6, 1837. At Fort Dade General Thomas S. Jesup and five Seminole chiefs and representatives sign the capitulation in which the Seminoles agreed to emigrate.
Dec. 2, 1838. Fort Cross is established north of Brooksville.
1839. Fort Dade is abandoned.
1840. Sen. Thomas Hart Benton introduces the Armed Occupation Act, which would give title to 160 acres of land, guns, and ammunition, tools, seed, and maintenance for a year to any veteran who would clear five acres, built a house and live on the land and protect it from Indians for a period of five years. [It failed to pass.]
About 1840. Fort DeSoto is established to give protection to settlers from Indians.
18xx. New Hope Methodist Church north of Istachatta is first built of logs with a dirt floor. [It served also as a school and a fortress from the Wahoo Indians. The log building burned and a second church was built with a puncheon floor and a stick chimney and a cistern for water. A frame building was erected in 1886. The church may have been the earliest church in Hernando County. Information from an article by Corvene W. Hampton.]
1841. The Proceedings of the general convention of the Protestant Episcopal Church held in New York notes that the Rev. Mr. Matthews has been appointed by the Society to be the minister at De Soto in Hernando County.
1842. The first white child born in the county is Isaac Nathan Jewett Garrison (Garrason), son of Isaac Garrason and the former Mrs. Laura M. Johnson. [Isaac and Laura married while he was attending the Florida Statehood Convention in St. Josephs, Territory of Florida.] The second birth in the county is a daughter of James A. Boyet [Jenkins].
1842. The Law family settles in Spring Hill.
Feb. 21, 1842. John Curry’s party departs the Arredondo Spanish Grant for Chocochattee Old Town located six miles east of Fort Cross and forty-six north of Tampa.
A contemporary narrative written by Lt. Marsena R. Patrick (1811-1888), the resettlement officer, reads as follows:
This party was raised, mostly on the Arredondo Grant & dates from the 21st of February 1842. Many of the persons composing the party are men of wealth & have several negroes. The Troops have erected a block house near the old Chocochattee Town for the protection of the party. The old Fields belonging to Tiger Tails band are those selected for cultivation this season while lands are preparing for Cultivation next year at the foot of the Annuteliga Hammock. The Land is considered by planters, equal to any in East Florida & its proximity to navigable Streams emptying into the Gulf of Mexico renders it a very desirable position. Most of the women & Children of the Party are left at Fort Wahahootie until houses can be thrown up for them by the Party. Subsistence is now furnished from Fort Cross, but will probably be supplied from Tampa, after a few weeks.
[Note: National Archives Roll 261 Letters Received by Office of Adjutant General (Main Series) 1822-1860. W47-216, 1842. Research shared by researcher, Dr. Joe Knetsch, Florida DEP, Land Division, Tallahassee, FL to C. C. Blankenship in 1990’s. Periods have been added to the narrative. According to Charles Blankenship, who provided the list of names, the combined total of persons traveling from the Arredondo Grant to the Chocochattee Old Town area was 159. Not all later in 1842 and early 1843 were to receive land permits for what was to become Hernando; some went to Marion and Hillsborough counties.]
Aug. 4, 1842. The Armed Occupation Act is signed into law. [The act encouraged settlers to occupy, clear and use up to 160 acres of remote land, provided it was not within two miles of a military post. It made available 200,000 acres of land. The new version of the bill eliminated the provisions for free food, seed, and weapons.]
Sept. 12, 1842. Charlotte Crum, wife of Richard R. Crum, is attacked and killed by Seminoles near Chuckachattee. She was killed while riding between today’s Brooksville and Dade City. An account by Rev. John Cole Ley in Fifty-Two Years in Florida (1899) reads:
The war continued until 1842, when a treaty was made and hostilities ceased; there was still danger, and an occasional massacre. The last one was that of Mrs. Crum. She, her daughter, Mrs. Harn, her granddaughter, Miss Mary Harn, and Mr. J. F. MacDonell were riding, the latter driving the carriage, and Mrs. Harn riding on horseback. A number of Indians fired upon them. Mr. MacDonnell was shot through the chest, but sprang into the bushes and escaped. Mrs. Crum was killed. Mrs. Harn caught her daughter by the arm, assisted her upon the horse, and they escaped. I have heard this related by each of the survivors. Mr. MacDonnell lived to an old age, raised a large family, was honored and loved in his county, and passed to his reward in January, 1894.
[Jenkins describes the killing as the “first Indian outrage” in the county. The Sept. 12 date is based on the account in the Oct. 1, 1842, St. Augustine News. Another account of the event is here. See also the entry for R. R. Crum on the early settlers page.]
Dec. 1, 1842. A petition dated Chuccochattee, December 1st A. D. 1842, from “we the undersigned citizens inhabitants, of that portion of the Territory of Florida, known as the Chucochatee, Annuttaliga, and Homosassa settlements,” asks the President and Congress to “fulfil so much of the promise made us by the commander in Chief, as will enable us to prepare the lands we have selected under the new occupation law to Garner one crop—by granting a continuation of subsistance.” The list of signers is as follows:
Lloyd E. Dillon, E. J. Knight, E. T. Hart, Elisha Carter, Charles Goodrich, Hiram Parish, Jno A Bag, John OConnor, Michael Torney, Patrick McFeeley, F. Mathis, Wm Pennelton, R. Hall, Wm Cooley, George Rawls, Richard R. Crum, Joseph Moore, David B Turner, Sam L Moore, A J Moore, Michael Shultz, Dennis Gill, John E Johnson, R W Clark, A. H. Morse, S T Branch, Rufus Hoyt, A H Crum, J. N. Garrison, W. M. Garrison, Robt. D. Bradle, William Hamby, Richard Wiggins Senr, Richd C. Wiggins Junr, Daniel Wiggins, Wm McKinney, David D. Crum, John Boyet, J Garrason, Henry Harn, Joshua Stafford, Richard L Garrison, Edward Boyet Sen, Edward Boyet Jun, James Baker, A A Baker, J. B. Baker, J. W. Baker, George W Davis, William Davis, John F Baker, James A. Boyet, Wm Taylor, James W Glendon, Thadeus L. Baker, Jacob Wells, William Hope, Jesse Carlisle, J. W. Riggs, W. W. Turkes, John B Allen
1842-1843. Isaac Garrason carries about 100 Armed Occupation Act Land Permits to the Newnansville East Florida Land Office to be processed and returned to the settlers. [Source: FHQ 40:47, Armed Occupation Act of 1842, James W. Covington]
1843. William S. Coffee marries Elizabeth Allen. It is the first marriage in the county [Jenkins].
1843. A. Devours is appointed a minister by the Methodist Conference. He is the first minister in the county, according to Jenkins. [According to Roger Landers, in 1844 the first minister in Hernando County was Andrew Jackson Devours, appointed by the Georgia Conference of the Methodist Church. The 1850 Hernando County census shows John C. Atkins as a 55-year-old Methodist preacher.]
1843. The first physician in the county is Dr. L. Rogers, according to Cyprian T. Jenkins. [The 1850 Hernando County census shows two medical doctors, John C. Bates and Columbus Alexander, both age 26.]
Jan. 1843. A bill is introduced in the Florida House to create a new county to be called Amaxura, which was the Spanish name for the Withlacoochee River. The bill was amended, with the name changed to Hernando.
Feb. 24, 1843. Hernando County is created from the southern part of Alachua county and parts of Hillsborough and Mosquito counties.
Mar. 6, 1843. Peter Karr Baillie is given a permit for 160 acres of land in sections 7 and 17, T 22, R 19, near Brooksville, according to information on a deed dated Dec. 24, 1850. [Info from Jeff Cannon.] Brooksville, on Mar. 6, 1843.
Nov. 6, 1843. An election is held in Hernando County. The three precincts are Chocochattee, Homosassa, and Toachadka (?). The results were as follows:
[Information from the election certification document provided by Linda Hill.]
1844. The state legislature required that court be held at the home of Isaac Garrison at Chuckochattee. [The county seat was subsequently moved to Fort DeSoto, where it remained until 1853.]
Mar. 6, 1844. The legislature approves an act altering the boundary of Hernando County:
AN ACT to alter and change the present boundary line of Hernando County.
Mar. 6, 1844. The legislature approves an act to change the name of Hernando County to Benton County:
AN ACT to alter and change the name of Hernando County.
[According to Hernando County: Our Story by Alfred A. McKethan: “The first territorial legislators from Hernando County, James Stanley and James Gibbons, were elected in 1843 and 1844 respectively. Because of the appreciation of the settlers for Sen. Thomas Hart Benton’s role in passing the Armed Occupation Act, they petitioned the legislature to change the name of Hernando County to Benton County.”]
Mar. 15, 1844. The legislature approves an act providing “that the Sheriff and Clerk of the County Court of the county of Benton be, and they are hereby authorized and allowed to keep their offices at their respective homes or places of abode; but nothing herein contained shall be construed, as to prevent the Sheriff and Clerk of said Court, to have all the papers and books of their respective offices at the Court House, during the session of the Courts, or at any other time when required.”
Mar. 15, 1844. The legislature approves an act authorizing William Pennington to operate a ferry on the Withlacoochee River at Fort Clinch for ten years.
July 7, 1844. Rev. John Tucker, a prominent Baptist minister, baptizes J. W. Hayman in Lake Lindsey. This is the first record of any religious activity in the community. [Eden Baptist Church was constituted in September 1845. Rev. Tucker is listed in a report as pastor of Eden Baptist Church in 1848. Thus, it is assumed that he was instrumental in the organization of the church in 1845. The church was led during its early years by pastors John Tucker, Daniel Simmons and R. L. Wooley. The congregation numbered 20 whites and 5 blacks in 1848. In 1856 it reported 34 members (15 white and 19 black). A new church was built in 1884. Information from a 2007 newspaper article and Old Brooksville in Photos and Stories.] According to Roger Landers, in 1846 congregations of Lake Lindsay Baptist Church and nearby Methodist Church were founded.]
About 1845. The Wall and Peterson families settle in Spring Hill.
1845. William Cooley is appointed the first postmaster at Homosassa.
1845. Maj. Isaac Garrison is appointed the first postmaster of Chocochattee.
Jan. 1845. James Gibbons is appointed postmaster for Fort Dade, according to A History of Zephyrhills 1821-1921.
Jan. 30, 1845. A post office is established at Augusta. The first postmaster was Albert Clark. [The post office was discontinued Oct. 17, 1860, soon after Clark was murdered. The Augusta post office was near Lake Lindsey and near the Old Crystal River Road dead end, across State Road 476, according to Virginia Jackson. A detailed listing of Hernando County postmasters is at Jeff Cannon’s web site here.]
Mar. 3, 1845. Florida becomes the twenty-seventh state.
May 26, 1845. The Benton County voter list for the first statewide election follows:
BATES PRECINCT. Election Inspectors: William Harn, James M. Bates, James Harn. Election Clerk: Charles Goodrich. Other names: Tucker, John; Bates, Fleming; Bates, James M.; Bates, Wilson; Garrason, M.; Goodridge, Charles; Harn, James; Harn, Wm.; Mizell, Morgan; Mizell, Joshua; Moody, H. M.; Pennington, Henry.
June 2, 1845. In the election to select a representative to the first General Assembly of the State of Florida, Michael Garrason receives 265 votes. [The district he represented consisted of Alachua (including Levy), Marion, and a part of Benton counties.]
1846. Arthur Morse is appointed the first postmaster of Chassowitzka.
1846. A map shows Ft. Cooper, Chocochattee, and Fort Dade. It shows the Crystal and Weekiwachee rivers.
June 13, 1846. The Tallahassee Floridian reports that the Benton County grand jury has called for adherence to the patrol law “as we are of the opinion that that important law is much neglected.” The report warned citizens and officials that slaves had “too much privilege in carrying arms, and more particularly violating the Sabbath day.”
Oct. 20, 1846. Peter Peterson is convicted in the Circuit Court of Benton County of an assault and battery on John Alvary and is fined $40. [He was unable to pay and an execution was issued to the Sheriff commanding him that “of the goods and chattels, slaves, lands and tenements of the said Peter Peterson he cause to be made” the said sum of money. The excecution was issued by Malcolm C. Peterson, Clerk of Circuit Court for Benton County, on Aug. 7, 1850. An old deed recites that the execution was levied on October 22 that year and the sale was made on the first Monday in December to Perry G. Wall for $45. It was signed by Sheriff Nathaniel M. Moody and dated Feb. 4, 1851. The witnesses were Levi S. Whitehurst and M. C. Peterson. Information from Back Home: A History of Citrus County, Florida.]
1848. Perry G. Wall becomes Judge of Probate of Benton County.
1848. A post office is established at Cheesehowiska. [It operated until 1849.]
Apr. 17, 1848. Letters written by David Hope, Berrien Harville, and E. M. Harville in support of the AOA application of David Hope are sworn and subscribed by E. J. Knight, the Benton County Justice of the Peace. [They were sent to the Newnansville Land Office and the Receiver, Jno Parsons, and Registrar, Samuel Russell, confirmed the same. It was then forwarded to Washington where on the 1st of November 1848, the Patent (#46) was issued. Information from Charles Blankenship.]
Sept. 25, 1848. A powerful hurricane strikes the Tampa Bay area. A report said, “At Clear Water Harbor, and in parts of Benton County, the destruction is very great.”
1849. The Army rebuilds Fort Dade west of the present location of Dade City.
1850. A map shows Homosassa, Ft. Cross, Augusta, Melendez, and Ft. Dade.
1850. The population of Hernando county is 604 whites and 322 black slaves. Census records show settlers at Buddy Lake, Chocochatta, Annuttalagga, and Melendez.
1850. Frederick Eugene Lykes, who had been a teacher in South Carolina, builds the Spring Hill school, said to be the first school in Hernando County, on what is now West Ft. Dade Avenue, near Citrus Way. [His son, Howell Tyson Lykes, was educated at the Spring Hill School. Information from The Early History of Schools in Hernando County by Virginia Jackson, Richard Stanaback and Bob Martinez.] The 1850 Hernando County census shows a 17-year-old school teacher, James J. Heeling. A history of schools in Hernando County is here.
July 4, 1850. The Floridian and Journal publishes a report of a convention of delegates from Benton County which met to give expression to the wishes of the people of the county on the subject of the removal of the Seminole Indians. The report is headed, “Melendez, Fla., July 4, 1850.”
Oct. 4, 1850. A post office is established at Melendez, with William Hope as Postmaster. [It was discontinued on July 31, 1855.]
Dec. 24, 1850. The Governor approves a bill to change the name of Benton County to Hernando County. [The bill was passed by the House of Representatives on Dec. 11, 1850, and by the Senate on Dec. 13, 1850. The bill reads:
AN ACT to change the name of Benton County to that of Hernando County.
[However, a Juror’s Certificate dated April 30, 1851, has the name Benton County handwritten on it.]
1851. The Howell family settles in Brooksville.
1851. Peter Laws is appointed the first postmaster of Spring Hill.
1851. A steam-driven sugar mill begins operation at Homosassa. [In 1864 the plantation house was burned by Union forces.]
1851. Union Baptist Church is organized in what would become Brooksville [McKethan]. [John Townsend was one of the principal backers. Frederick Lykes and Thomas C. Ellis were the first clerks. The church met in a wooden building a mile southwest of downtown Brooksville. In 1855, Joseph Hale willed the church a larger tract. In 1857, the church moved into a wooden structure built on that land on North Main Street across from today’s Hernando State Bank. By the end of the 1850s, the church was operating a school with 100 students. In the 1870s, the teachers were Profs. Addaholt and G. B. Ramsey. In 1889 the church was renamed the First Baptist Church of Brooksville. In January 1899, the church burned, along with about one-fourth of Brooksville. A new structure was built on the same site. Information from Stanaback.]
Jan. 11, 1851. The Floridian and Journal reports on legislative action on an act to permit George W. Andrews to practice medicine in Hernando County.
Aug. 27, 1851. A post office is established at Fort Taylor. The first postmaster was Robert Bradley.
1852. Bay Port is settled “by John Parsons, I. Garrison, John E. Johnson, C. T. Jenkins and others,” according to an 1876 article by Cyprian T. Jenkins. [More about Bayport is here.]
Jan. 7, 1853. A joint resolution of the Florida legislature relating to the establishment of a port of entry at Bayport is received by the U. S. House of Representatives.
Early 1853. The county seat is changed from DeSoto to Pierceville, according to a source. [This may be incorrect.]
Aug. 5, 1853. The Ocala Mirror reports:
We are advised by a friend that Nicholas N. Branch, of Hernando, who was arrested on the 6th ultimo, charged with the murder of his negro slave, Lucy, and who was committed for trial by Justices Garrison and McLendon, was brought before his Honor, Joseph B. Lancaster, under a write of Habeas Corpus, and after an examination of the testimony upon which he had been committed, was admitted to bail in the sum of two thousand dollars, on the 28th ultimo. His Honor stated the prisoner’s guilt was not evident; nor was the presumption strong; hence he felt himself called upon to enlarge him upon bail. Our friend further tells us that the negress found dead was so decomposed that she could not be identified; and that there are some reasons to suppose that the slave Lucy is still living.
Aug. 20, 1853. The Cedar Tree post office is established, with James M. Bates the first postmaster. [Jesse H. Tucker was appointed postmaster on 11/26/1858. The post office was discontinued on March 29, 1867, and reestablished on October 16, 1867. David Osburn was appointed poastmaster on 10/16/1867. Daniel C. Ryals was appointed postmaster on 05/09/1871. The post office was discontinued on February 12, 1872.]
Nov. 9, 1853. The Boston Daily Evening Traveller reports that at a meeting in DeSoto, Hernando County residents stated that they were against any action to remove the Seminoles by force, and that such action was not merited, as the Seminoles showed no inclination to be hostile unless attacked.
1854. Thomas H. Parsons is appointed the first postmaster of Bay Port.
Mar. 22, 1854. Charles J. McMinn of Hernando County appoints William Hope Sr. of Liberty County, Ga., his attorney to receive all claims McMinn has in the estate of Richard F. Baker, deceased, which is due McMinn through his wife Mary H. McMinn. William Garrison, Clerk of Court of Hernando County guaranteed the signatures of the Notary Public who certified the signature of Charles J. McMinn on the above power of attorney. [from Liberty County, Ga., deeds, book O, pp. 69-70]
Aug. 4, 1854. A post office is established at Pierceville, with James B. Hogans as Postmaster.
Oct. 21, 1854. Election returns in the Floridian and Journal in Tallahassee include:
HERNANDO.—Congress, Maxwell 124, Brown 70. House, Parsons 92, Bradly 80—both Democrats. “Removal,” 173.
Dec. 1854. The legislature chooses Bay Port to be the county seat, directing the move to occur after June 1, 1855.
1855. Perry G. Wall is elected probate judge, defeating William Iredell Turner, 106 to 80. [He was re-elected probate judge in 1857, 1859, and 1861.]
Oct. 13, 1855. The Florida Peninsular reports that Smart, a slave owned by Mr. Blocker of Ichepuckesassa, drowned in the Withlacoochee River on Sept. 1.
Oct. 20, 1855. A letter to the editor of the Floridian and Journal in Tallahassee reads:
This will inform you that the Democracy of Hernando have as usual sustained their principles. We have elected all our County officers with the exception of the Clerk, Mr. Frierson, who has been defeated by 5 votes. Mr. F. had been a whig until this fall, and had the most popular Know Nothing in the County to contend against. Neither Know Nothingism, nor any other humbug, can ever overthrow the Democracy in Hernando.
Dec. 15, 1855. The Florida Peninsular carries an advertisement for H. C. Bellows and Co. Dry Goods, Ft. Dade.
1856. The legislature repeals the selection of Bay Port as county seat and recommends that the voters should choose a county seat site which would be located within five miles of the center of the county. Until the new choice was made, court was to be held as close as possible to Pierceville.
1856. A map shows Homosassa, Augusta, Melendez, Springhill, and Ft. Taylor. Another 1856 map shows Homosassa, Ft. Cooper, Augusta, Ft. Lindsey, Bayport, Springhill, Pierceville, Ft. Taylor, Spring Hill, Ft. Dade.
April 7-15, 1856. James R. Nicks attends Spring Term Circuit Court in Hillsborough County, serving as a witness in the State vs Nicolas N. Branch [Carol Bouknecht, researcher to C. C. Blankenship from Florida State Archives RG350, carton 9, folder 7].
May 14, 1856. Seminoles besiege the isolated cabin of Capt. Robert Bradly and his family near Darby. Two of his children were killed. The event is now known as the Bradley Massacre.
May 22, 1856. Rep. Preston Brooks of South Carolina attacks abolitionist Sen. Charles Sumner with his cane. [Later that year, the citizens of Hernando County chose to rename the new county seat Brooksville. The word Brooksville is found in print in the 1850s. However, the name of the Pierceville post office was not changed to Brooksville until 1871, and the name Brooksville seems not appear on maps until that time.]
May 31, 1856. A committee of citizens asks Gen. J. Carter at Tampa for protection from attacks by Indians. [The text of the letter is here.]
July 19, 1856. The Florida Peninsular reports that Hillsborough and Hernando counties have been deluged with rain.
Oct. 15, 1856. Land is given to the county for the establishment of a court house, the gifts of John L. May and Joseph Hale, transferred to the county by May and William Hope, executor of the Hale estate. The land was located on a hilltop northeast of Pierceville. The new county seat was subsequently named Brooksville.
Dec. 27, 1856. The Governor signs legislation moving the court house to Brooksville.
1857. The Crystal River post office is established.
1857. A 2006 newspaper article by Roger Landers has:
A subscription school opened in the newly established town of Brooksville in 1857. Classes were in Union Baptist Church, where the SunTrust Bank employee parking lot is currently located on W Jefferson Street. In 1858, the Brooksville Academy got a new home next to the church. The two-classroom school brought great pride to the community. But the principal, William E. McCaslan, left the school in October 1860 after passing the Florida Bar examination. When the Civil War broke out, many of the academy’s young men volunteered for Confederate service. Shortly thereafter, the school closed. The trustees later sold the building and land.
July 11, 1857. The Florida Peninsular carries an advertisement: “Sealed Proposals will be received by the Commissioners of Hernando County to build a court house. Said building to be 50 by 35 feet, and two stories high. First story 10 feet and the second story 15 feet, between joints. The windows to be furnished with good substantial rolling slat blinds, painted green. Perry G. Wall, Judge of Probate, & Ex-efficio Pres't Board of Com.” The bid called for the construction to be completed by Sept. 1, 1858.
1858. In an election for Assemblyman, James R. Nicks receives 139 votes and Elias J. Knight receives 95 votes. [Charles Blankenship, consulting archives at the state capitol.]
Jan. 16, 1858. A letter with this date printed in a newspaper, written from Pierceville, says that a half-mile away is Brooksville, the county seat.
Feb. 11, 1858. A list of guests at the Ocala House includes a Dr. Hardic of Brooksville.
March 21, 1858. The black members of the Union Baptist Church, Brooksville, begin holding separate communion from the white members [Roger Landers].
June 12, 1858. The Florida Peninsular mentions H. Fabian, sheriff, Pierceville.
1859. A post office directory lists these post offices in Hernando County: Bay Port, Cedar Tree, Fort Dade, Fort Taylor, Pierceville.
Jan. 4, 1859. Gov. Madison S. Perry nominates Thomas C. Ellis, Cyprian T. Jenkins, Chas. Parsons, and James R. Nicks as Commissioners of Pilotage at Bay Port [C. C. Blankenship, House Journal, Florida House of Representatives. Blankenship found other papers suggesting that only Ellis, Jenkins, and Parsons were sworn in]
Jan. 13, 1859. The Florida Peninsular prints a letter describing a December 1858 trip by two men to Hernando County. Some excerpts follow:
Brooksville is the county town, and has a beautiful site. Located in the heart of one of the richest sections of country in Florida, and surrounded by staunch planters, it cannot be other than an interesting and thriving little city in a few years. The first building which strikes the eye of a stranger is the court house, which presents a very handsome exterior; if built in a substantial manner, it will answer the purpose for which it was erected and be an ornament to the town for many years. As yet, Brooksville boasts but few residences, but the lots are all well-sold, and will, undoubtedly, be improved. The fact which most particularly commends the place to me is, that the citizens have exhibited their good sense by erecting a house for public worship, which forms the nucleus of future greatness. ... This is not all, an academy of learning is established and in successful operation, under vicinity. I was told that from sixty to one-hundred pupils attended this school during the last session, and that the enterprise had given general satisfaction. Up to this time, the church has been used as the school room, but there is in course of completion a suitable building for that purpose—to be styled the “Brooksville Academy.” This building is 30 X 60, and will accommodate a large number of scholars. ...
[Newspaper article provided by Jeff Cannon.]
Jan. 13, 1859. The Florida Peninsular reports that J. N. W. Vermillion of South Carolina was fatally injured in an accident while traveling on the stage coach between Sumpter and Brooksville on Dec. 31, 1858.
Feb. 5, 1859. The Florida Peninsular has advertisements for Dr. T. P. Gary and Dr. John P. Wall, physicians in Brooksville.
April 1859. Arthur St. Clair, the slave of Mrs. Matilda May, is received for membership in the Union Baptist Church. St. Clair became the minister for the "colored congregations," later known as the Bethlehem Baptist Church. [Information from Roger Landers.]
June 3, 1859. John E. Johnson (born, 1823 in Rye N. H.) and his six-year-old son John P. Johnson (born, Jan. 28, 1853), drown in Bayport.
Oct. 15, 1859. The Florida Peninsular reports, “We learn that the election in Hernando County resulted in the re-election of the old County officers, to-wit: Judge of Probate, P. G. Wall; Clerk, M. C. Peterson; Sheriff, C. J. McMinn.”
1860. A map shows Homosassa, Augusta, Pierceville, Springhill, Bayport (county seat), and Ft. Taylor.
1860. The population of Hernando county is 1200.
1860. The returns for the De Soto Masonic Lodge No. 32 in Brooksville are as follows: Officers: Samuel E. Hope, W M; William M. Garrison, Secretary; Charles J. McMinn, S W; C. R. Alexander, S D; Joseph M. Taylor, J W; William J. Baker, J D; William Hope, Treasurer. Master Masons: Aaron P. Frierson, Abraham Hay, Richard C. Wiggins, Thomas W. Wilder, John F. Baker, James R. Nicks, James W. Baker, John B. McNatt, John Eubank, Francis B. Hagan, John L. Branch, Rufus Hoyt, William D. Eubank. Brooksville’s De Soto Lodge discontinued in 1862 during the Civil War, and never resumed. [Source: Proceedings of the Grand Lodge, Freemasons Florida 1860-1866, Florida State library, p. 431. C. C. Blankenship, researcher. See also an 1857 De Soto Masonic tribute on Jeff Cannon’s web site here and an 1862 Brooksville Masonic tribute here.]
June 2, 1860. The Florida Peninsular reports that the county Democratic convention was held at Brooksville on May 21. Thomas C. Ellis, chairman; William M. Garrison, secretary. Delegates to the state convention are: Cyprian T. Jenkins, Washington T. Mayo, Nat W. Hollant, Perry G. Wall, Thomas C. Ellis, Fred Lykes, and William D. Eubanks.
June 9, 1860. The Florida Peninsular reports that Eoline A. Henderson, age 5 months, daughter of John H. and Elizabeth C. Henderson, died at Brooksville.
Aug. 1860. A medical journal includes a letter from Dr. H. G. Lungren of Brooksville, Florida.
Oct. 20, 1860. The Florida Peninsular reports:
We learn that the citizens of Hernando County, on Saturday last, hung Hamp. a slave belonging to the estate of Albert Clarke, for being the immediate cause of the death of his master. The negro confessed that he was promised two hundred dollars by James Boyd (a step-son of the deceased) and Mrs. Clarke (decedent’s wife)—$100 respectively,—as a compensation for talking the life of the master, and that he committed the murder (as stated last week) accordingly. Boyd and Mrs. Clarke are now in charge of the people, closely guarded; and, it is hoped, evidence will be found sufficient to convict them by law as accessories; the conviction of their guilt, with the people, is already a fixed fact.
[See the entry for Nov. 3, 1860. Another newspaper account names the hanged man “Hampton.” and uses the spelling Arthur Clark. It reports that Clark was killed on Oct. 8.]
Oct. 20, 1860. The Florida Peninsular reports:
After a very creditable examination one day this week, Mr. W. E. McCaslan, of Brooksville, Fla., was admitted to practice Law within the State of Florida. Mr. McCaslan was formerly the Principal of the Brooksville Academy, and, as such, established himself in his affections of his acquaintances for his sobriety, ability, and integrity. We predict for him a successful career in the practice of law.
Oct. 27, 1860. The Florida Peninsular reports:
In Hernando County, on the 15th (?) inst., a special election for Sheriff (to fill the vacancy occasioned by the death of the lamented McMinn) was held, which resulted in clothing with that dignity our young and worthy friend, Thomas Law. Good luck, Tom! Be sure that so much of the law as is entrusted to your custody be well executed, and, in the course of time, with good fortune, you may be the maker of good LAWS yourself.
[Charles J. McMinn had died from pneumonia on Sept. 25.]
Nov. 3, 1860. The Florida Peninsular reports, “The investigation of the circumstances attending the recent murder of A. Clarke, in Hernando County, which terminated last week, resulted in the commitment of James Boyd, a step son of the deceased.”
Jan. 10, 1861. Florida secedes from the United States.
March 1861. Meetings of a battalion of the 20th Regiment of the Florida State Militia are held in Brooksville. [At that time, a militia company was formed in Brooksville under the command of Capt. LeRoy G. Lesley. Its missions were to protect the blockade runners who were to operate out of Bay Port and to furnish drivers for any cattle gathered from those grazing free on the plains of South Florida and sent to Confederate forces in Virginia. Information from Stanaback.]
May 14, 1862. The 3rd Florida Infantry arrives in Montgomery, Alabama, by train. [The Hernando Guards, Company C had placed their mascot, a Florida Wildcat upon the locomotive. From that day on, they were known as the Hernando Wildcats. Source: Hernando County Confederate Soldier, Thomas Benton Ellis, Sr., typescript, P. K. Yonge Library of Florida History & Dr. David J. Coles article “Ancient City Defenders: “The St. Augustine Blues,” Page 79, Vol. 23 of El Escribano, St. Augustine Historical Society, 1988.]
Oct. 15, 1862. Seven days after the Battle of Perryville, Kentucky, and the Confederate retreat back to Tennessee, Samuel Pasco, detailed as Clerk at the Headquarters, made the following observation: Passed “Wild Cat” to-day & carefully examined its strong fortifications. [Source: (Clerk) from U. S. Senator S. Pasco, April 30, 1909 letter from Monticello, Fla. in CSA Florida Pension file (A02380, p. 21) for Frank E. Saxon’s wife, Lula Hope Saxon. (Observation) Private Pasco: A Civil War Diary, compiled and transcribed from 1862-1864 diary entries by descendants, William Pasco & William Gibbons, 1990, McAdams Multigraphics, Oak Brook Illinois, p. 9.]
1863. With C. T. Jenkins captured and imprisoned in Boston, his wife, Eliza, turns to teaching school at Bayport to support their family. [Roger Landers]
Jan. 11, 1863. Private Samuel Pasco (having left his Regiment on Nov. 27, 1862, for Florida to get absentees of his Regiment, p. 19) arrived in Brooksville by coach accompanied by Dr. Mayo of the same town, (p. 24) met Randolph Saxon and other members of Co. C. [3rd FL Infantry Regiment]. Sunday, Jan. 11 Attended Church with pastor, Mr. Breaker. Jan. 12 Met with Lt. Lang. Jan. 13 Ate supper with Dr. Mayo & his wife (p. 24) Jan. 15 Found Dunham at store, walked to Lt. Lang’s to arrange matters...taking on the men. Jan. 16 McCants ate dinner with Pasco. Saturday, Jan. 17 Stage from Tampa came and Pasco’s party left after dinner. (p. 25) Thus, Samuel Pasco, for whom Pasco County would be named, spent one week in Brooksville in the Winter months of 1863. On his way back to the Regiment, he learned of the “fight at Murfreesboro,” along with casualties. (p.25). [Info from Charles Blankenship]
Sept. 8, 1863. In a letter, Captain Samuel E. Hope (1809-98) of C Company, 9th Florida Infantry, reports his company’s response to a black raid on a plantation near Crystal River.
Fall 1863. Samuel J. Pearce is elected probate judge. [He resigned on March 14 and went to Fort Myers to join the newly formed Union 2nd Florida Cavalry.]
Apr. 16, 1864. An advertisement in the Cotton States newspaper of Gainesville reads: “Notice. The undersigned will sell their Joint Stock of cattle all of one mark and brand, in the best range in Hernando Co., 800 head more or less. We marked and branded 190 calves last Spring and Summer, and have seen and heard of at least 20 more. Terms Cash, price $20,000. Also our Salt Works in Hernando county where the purchaser can make from 10 to 15 bushels per day, wood and water convenient. Price $8000, one half cash, time on the other half. HOPE & LESLIE.”
May 28, 1864. In a letter to the State Comptroller, Sheriff and Tax Collector John L. Peterson describes conditions in Hernando County:
In consequence of the operations of the enemy in this county and in South Florida every man who could use a musket was placed in service. A good deal of time has been lost in scouting after the enemy and in running Negroes from their reach. My fellow citizens thinking it of more importance to defend the country than to assess taxes which could not be collected if the country fell under the control of the enemy. This county has been partially under the control of the enemy in so far as all as all persons who did not flee up the country had to take up arms in its defense. An attack is expected here in Brooksville Thursday next and preparations are being made to repel it. We will fight them though they out number us three to one with what success remains to be seen.
July 1864. An expedition marches northward from Anclote River to Brooksville, meeting some resistance from assembled Confederate troops hastily organized to protect the city. The Federal troops won this engagement (known locally as the “Brooksville Raid”) and marched to Bayport, where they and the auxiliary force landing from gunboats sacked Rebel operations. The skirmish between Union “raiders” and local Confederates is reenacted annually in the county. Union troops marched northeast to within a mile of Brooksville and then turned west to rendezvous at Bayport with other Union forces. Along the way, they raided the plantations of David Hope, William B. Hooker, Thomas C. Ellis, Leroy G. Lesley and Aaron T. Frierson. [A detailed article about Hernando County in the Civil War is at Jeff Cannon’s web site here.]
Oct. 3, 1864. Capt. Samuel E. Hope is elected as a representative to the legislature for Hernando County, without opposition [Source: election certificate dated Oct. 8 signed by William Garrison]
Nov. 29, 1865. In an election, David S. Walker receives all 75 votes cast for Governor from Hernando County [Source: election certification dated Dec. 4].
1866. A map shows Homosassa, Augusta, Ft. Lindsey, Springhill, Bayport, Pierceville, Spring Hill, Ft. Taylor, Ft. Dade, and Pittitochoscolee.
July 7, 1866. The Florida Peninsular publishes a letter from Rev. J. H. Breaker explaining why he was no longer pastor of the Baptist church at Brooksville. [In the letter, Breaker wrote that he had consented to preach to the colored members of the church, although he preferred that separate churches for colored members not be established. Referring to the Baptist church in Brooksville, the newspaper reported, “Between one hundred and fifty and two hundred members were added to that church, we think in the winter of 1862.”]
Oct. 6, 1866. The Florida Peninsular reports that Mr. Baker of Hernando County accidentally gave his wife the wrong medicine, causing her death.
1867. A 2006 newspaper article by Roger Landers has:
In Hernando, the Brooksville School Society organized a school in 1867, and Morgan Chapman of Jacksonville became teacher of the Brooksville Colored School. By the time the Freedmen’s Bureau was operational in Hernando, the school was in trouble and could not pay the teacher. All male freedmen between the ages of 16 and 45 were required to pay a $2 tax to support education. In September 1867, the school closed for lack of funds; Chapman left the county and went back to Jacksonville. In early 1868, another school opened with James H. Roberts as teacher. He was a disabled Army veteran (U.S. Colored Troops) and a minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Zion church. He found himself at odds with the trustees—all Baptist—of the Brooksville Colored School. Although he tried hard, at one time having 45 students, the lack of funds also caused that school to fail. In May 1868, A.T. Frierson sold land on S Lemon Avenue to the trustees of the colored school. With support of the Freedmen’s Bureau, a building for the school was constructed. The school also doubled as the home of the Bethlehem Baptist Church.
Landers also wrote that in 1883 the school moved to East Broad Streeet. In 1918 a new building was built where the old Lykes Hospital now stands. The school moved to School Street in 1935 to a new building provided by the WPA. The school was renamed in 1939 for R. R. Moton. The deed, dated May 5, 1868, lists the trustees as Aurthur Sinclair, Sampson Jordan, Glasco or Glascoe Hudson, Hampton Sinclair, and Tony May. The deed was provided by Jeff Cannon.
1867-1868. There are 261 whites and 176 blacks registered to vote in Hernando County. [This data comes from Florida Voter Registration Lists 1867-68, published in 1992 by the Tallahassee Genealogical Society, Inc., and compiled by Mavis Gurr Day and Carol Bouknecht. Information was transcribed from the Voter Registration Rolls, 1868 (Record Group 151, Series 98) at the Florida State Archives. The study shows that the delegate for the 16th Election District, consisting of Sumter and Hernando Counties, was Samuel J. Pearce.]
Jan. 26, 1867. The Florida Peninsular mentions attorney S. Y. Finley of Brooksville.
May 31, 1867. In a report to the Freedmen’s Bureau, William G. Vance writes that it would be a great benefit to all if the two places in Brooksville that sell liquor, one of which is owned by the sheriff, could be closed. He also writes that the Freedmen School at Brooksville closed a short time ago but that a new school has been started with a white teacher, Mrs. Hagler.
June 22, 1867. The Florida Peninsular reports:
The hammocks are well distributed. In the county of Hernando, for instance, south of Brooksville, (the county seat) lies the Garrison Hammock, about two miles long and ¾ mile wide. The Chocochata Hammock south east of Brooksville six by three miles. The Annutaliga Hammock north north west of Brooksville, about ten miles long and from two to ten miles broad. The Joe Garrison hammock, three by one miles. The Wall hammock, west, three by one ½ miles.
Early 1868. A Hernando court permits Adeline Frierson to collect wages from the employer of a Negro on the ground that she owned him. [The judgment was set aside by the military commander.]
1868. A teacher’s report for March-June 1868 shows a black school in Brooksville supported in part by the Freedmen’s Bureau, meeting in a building owned by the Brooksville School Society. It shows 14 male and 21 female students enrolled, with one black teacher.
Dec. 19, 1868. The Florida Peninsular reports that Samuel Simmons of Hernando County was shot and killed on Dec. 11 by a negro named Alfred. No arrest yet.
Feb. 1869. Two black men are lynched in Hernando County, according to testimony before a Congressional committee. Both had been implicated in the killing of a boy and were in the custody of the sheriff at the time.
July 24, 1869. School Superintendent Theodore Sylvester Coogler submits a report to the state on the Hernando County Board of Public Instruction: “No census of the youth has been taken. All attempts to organize the board have failed.”
July 28, 1869. The Florida Peninsular reports that Isham Munden of Hernando County was murdered by an unknown assailant.
Aug. 1869. County Judge Samuel J. Pearce writes to Gov. Reed recommending the appointment of William Washington Wall as county commissioner, describing him as “one of the best financiers we have.” [Wall obtained the appointment and became president of the board. J. G. McKeown was appointed Justice of the Peace, and William L. Frierson was appointed Tax Collector.]
Aug. 11, 1869. The Florida Peninsular reports that Henry Gideons, age 14, of Hernando County was murdered while tending the sheep of Anderson Mayo, by Coleman Wilson and his son-in-law Laiborne, both colored. Both were lynched.
Oct. 13, 1869. The Florida Peninsular reports that Joe Byrd, colored, convicted of killing two men in Hernando County, was sentenced by the circuit court at Brooksville to be hanged.
Dec. 15, 1869. The Florida Peninsular reports: “William H. Smith, sheriff of Hernando County almost instantly killed Marvel M. Edwards, Representative of the same county at Brooksville on the 6th. We learn that Smith and Edwards were both drinking at the time. Edwards, who weighed only 144 pounds insisted that he was the best man in Brooksville; to which Smith said it was a damned lie, whereupon Edwards 'made for him' and received the contents of Smith’s pistol in his breast. Further, that after Edwards was shot, he beat Smith unmercifully, then fell back and died. Smith not content with shooting him, stomped on him after he was dead, and then he jumped on his horse and rode off saying 'I guess I'll be living in the swamps for a while.' Smith was arrested, brought before two Justices of the Peace and admitted to bail in the sum of $500.”
Dec. 22, 1869. The Florida Peninsular reports that Joseph Byrd, colored, was hanged at Brooksville for the murder of Washington Scott.
1870. The population of Hernando county is 2938.
1870. A list of Hernando County post offices has: Bay Port, Cedar Tree, Fort Dade, Fort Taylor, Pierceville.
1870. Rev. Thomas W. Long of the A. M. E. Church Jacksonville district, visits Brooksville. [His missionary work led to the founding of the Mt. Zion A. M. E. Church in Brooksville. Rev. Long traveled by foot and later described a perilous journey walking from Brooksville to Tampa. Long may have visited Brooksville in 1869. The Allen Temple of the A. M. E. Church opened in Brooksville in 1887. Information from Laborers in the Vineyard of the Lord: The Beginnings of the AME Church in Florida, 1865-1895.]
About 1870. Theodore Sylvester Coogler, who was originally brought here from South Carolina by Frederick Lykes to teach the Spring Hill School, becomes the first Superintendent of Public Instruction. [He established school in a log hut located next to the Public Library today. Later, another school was started at Union Street Baptist Church on North Main and the Brooksville Colored School on South Lemon. By 1872, there were ten public schools, in 1875 there were 22 schools, and by 1880 there were 45 schools in the county, most of them one-room schools. Information from The Early History of Schools in Hernando County by Virginia Jackson, Richard Stanaback and Bob Martinez.] Sheldon Stringer became school superintendent in 1877.]
1870-1871. The report to the state on the school system by Theodore S. Coogler, County Superintendent of Schools, wrote:
Schools 10, gain 3; pupils 287, gain 43. Amount assessed for 1871, $572.04—this tax was paid by the collector into the state treasury for the Board of Public Instruction, which does not appear to have received it. Total expenditures for schools, $511.12 ... We have permitted the majority of the patrons of each school to select the time when they prefer the school to be taught. Hence, six out of ten schools have selected the months of June, July, and August; as during these months, they can send all their children. We have but one school at this place (Brooksville), and it is a colored one. It is the largest and best attended school in the county. The second term of this school has just ended, the number of scholars being 72. And it has been taught by a southern white lady, who has discharged her duty faithfully and well. I attended the examination of the pupils on the last day of this term, and having attended the examination of the first term, I was able to form a just estimate of the progress made by the colored pupils, and I am free to admit that my former belief (having been a slave owner) of the mental capacity of the Negro underwent a complete change, and I am convinced that all they need is half an opportunity, and they will develop as much mental calibre as any othe race..
This report was apparently written in April 1872.
Mar. 2, 1870. The Florida Peninsular reports: “Mr. Thos. Seely, of Brooksville, has been appointed Sheriff of Hernando county, vice W. H. Smith, removed.” It also reports: “Mr. Henry Rountree, of Crystal River, has been appointed County Judge, ad interim, of Hernando county, vice S. J. Pearce, elected to the Assembly.”
Apr. 27, 1870. The Florida Peninsular reports:
HEADS OFF.—We learn that the following chopping bar has been done in Hernando county, to-wit: Z. Seward appointed sheriff, vice Thomas Sealy removed; Capt. F. Lykes County Commissioner vice W. W. Wall removed; and that W. L. McMinn Clerk of the Circuit Court, has resigned, and that C. C. Keathly has been appointed in his stead. Other removals and appointments are said to be on tapis. Query: Who is making these removals and appointments? Gov. Reed, who is not in the State, the colored Secretary of State, Weeks or Gleason?
May 11, 1870. The Florida Peninsular reports that Mr. E. Bettman and Capt. F. Worth opened a store at Tuckertown.
June 15, 1870. The Florida Peninsular reports:
A COUNTY JUDGE SHOT.—We learn that Henry Rountree, County Judge for Hernando County, was shot at his residence on Crystal River, in that County, on Monday night, 6th inst. The following are the circumstances of this deplorable affair, as we have heard them.
[On July 27, the newspaper speculated that the perpetrator might have been the husband of his colored mistress.]
The newspaper also reports, “We learn that Hon. S. J. Pearce has been appointed U. S. Deputy Marshal to take the census for Hernando and Hillsborough counties, and we hope that the citizens generally will render Judge Pearce every assistance in their power in the discharge of his duties.”
June 22, 1870. The Florida Peninsular reports that Peter William Law, age 20, died of typhoid pneumonia after a severe and protracted illness on June 16 at Spring Hill.
Dec. 7, 1870. The Florida Peninsular reports:
ACCIDENTALLY SHOT.—Mr. John Anderson, of Hernando County, while out hunting one day last week, was thrown from his horse, his gun went off and the whole charge entered Mr. A’s shoulder, inflicting a dangerous, and it is supposed, a mortal wound.
The newspaper also mentions attorneys W. J. Barnett and Joseph B. Wall of Brooksville.
1871. The Florida Gazetteer by J. M. Hawks lists the officeholders: County Judge, Henry Rountree; County Clerk, Christopher C. Keathley; Sheriff, Z. Seward; Tax Assessor, Berry Bagwell; collector of Revenue, W. L. Frierson; School Superintendent, Perry G. Wall; Justices of the Peace: Henry Rountree, Crystal River; Jason T. McKeown and L. J. Strickland, Cedar Tree; J. W. Brown, Anclote; W. L. McMinn, Brooksville.
Jan. 4, 1871. The Florida Peninsular reports:
CUTTING AFFAIR.—We learn that a difficulty occurred at Brooksville on Wednesday last, between some white men and negroes, which resulted in the cutting of a negro’s throat by a white man named Wm. Mickler. The negro is mortally wounded.
Jan. 10, 1871. The name of the Pierceville post office is changed to Brooksville. [Another source gives the date Jan. 1.]
July 5, 1871. A county school board is organized. [According to a report of the county schools superintendent, “The County Board organized on the 5th of July 1871, and for that year we succeeded in organizing and having taught only three schools. ... The doubts of success entertained for and the opposition to the entire system seemed almost hopeless of being overcome.”]
Sept. 4, 1873. A Savannah newspaper reports that famed gunman John Wesley Hardin killed a man named May in Brooksville. [According to other sources, Hardin was on a cattle drive through central Florida when he came by Brooksville looking for a man named Allen May, a former slave and member of the Union Baptist Church.]
1874. The name Brooksville appears on a map.
1875. The annual report indicates there are 17 schools in the county, with attendance of 475. Expenditures for the schools were $1,425.
1876. George W. Geiger is Hernando County justice of the peace in 1876-1877, according to Florida’s Black Public Officials, 1867-1924.
Nov. 1876. Arthur St. Clair, a county commissioner, and Benjamin Saxon, sheriff, travel to Tallahassee with the election returns from Hernando County. Their trip took almost a week, and Saxon died in Tallahassee. A newspaper report stated, “He brought the seeds of death with him from the swamps in which he was compelled to lie out of nights.”
Feb. 1877. David L. Hedick is appointed sheriff.
May 6, 1877. Rev. Arthur W. St. Clair (or Sinclair) of Bethlehem Baptist Church, black, marries Dave James, black, and Lizzie Day, white.
July 8, 1877. The Sunland Tribune reports:
Towards the close of last week we heard a rumor of two colored men having been killed in Hernando, some ten or twelve miles from Brooksville on the road between the latter place and Fort Dade. Since then we have seen several parties from that county and have learned the following particulars: It seems that on the night of the 26th June Rev. Arthur St. Clair was returning from a church where he had preached to the people of his own color, and where also the colored people had held a mass meeting for the purpose of choosing delegates to the colored convention at Tallahassee, when a short distance from the church, he was met by a party of men and shot dead. On the report of the gun being heard at the church, Henry Loyd and John O'Neil ran down the road to where it occurred, when the former was shot and killed also. A colored woman riding was riding St. Clair’s horse and St. Clair was walking when the assassins came upon him. The first shot fired at him did not take effect when he started to run, but he was pursued by the assassinating devils and shot in the head. When Loyd and O'Neil came up, Loyd was shot down at once, O'Neil mad his escape by getting into a pond and swimming out of reach, though frequently fired at. During the melee the Negro woman made her escape or possibly she would have met the same fate.
[According to Florida’s Black Public Officials, 1867-1924, Arthur W. St. Clair was born in 1837 in Alabama. He was a mulatto, a farmer and Baptist minister. He was the Hernando County voter registrar 1867-1868 and a Hernando County commissioner 1875-1877. According to Florida Politics in the Gilded Age, 1877-1893, St. Clair was murdered on his way to the Tallahassee Negro convention.]
July 1877. The Sunland Tribune reports that a mass meeting in town condemned the crime and called for diligent efforts to bring the assassins to justice. A formal resolution was drafted on July 7 and sent to Governor Drew. It was signed by Sheldon Stringer, chairman; C. C. Keathley, secretary of the commission; C. T. Jenkins, Daniel H. Mickler, Ruben B. Walker, William R. Nicks, Joseph B. Mills, Anderson Mayo, Heney B. Russell, Frank E. Saxon, G. B. Hughes, William M. Garrison, F. M. Hedick, P. A. Snow, William J. Baker, and J. J. Hale, Sect.
Aug. 11, 1877. Another mass meeting is held in Brooksville. Resolutions were passed passed condemning the editors of the Sunland Tribune and the Ocala Banner for printing false statements about events including the reports of Mary Tuner. Another resolution claimed that all Hernando County citizens were of as good character as any other county in the state.
Aug. 25, 1877. The Sunland Tribune lists the family and business relationships of some of the 20 signers of the resolution: S. C. DeBriud, the law partner of T. S. Coogler; Coogler, the brother-in-law of R. M. McIntosh; William Hope, the father-in-law of F. E. Saxon and James M.Rhodes; Samuel Hope was their brother-in-law and son of William Hope; David Hope, the uncle of Saxon’s and Rhode’s wives; J. J. Pyles is the son-in-law of David Hope; and W. R. Cray is the brother-in-law of William Nicks.
Sept. 1, 1877. The Sunland Tribune reports that Mary Tanner, who was the black woman reportedly with Rev. Sinclair on the night he was murdered, gave a deposition about the Hernando murders in which she named twenty members of prominent families in the murder. She said the murder of Sinclair occurred at about 10 p.m. and through the moonlight she saw a crowd of about 20 men on horseback and armed. After they were surrounded by these men, Sinclair recognized several of them and called them by name. The men then covered their faces with their hats. Sinclair was shot, and in the confusion that followed Mary Turner escaped. When asked whether she had been at the coroner’s inquest, she replied that she had, and that she knew several of the men on the jury were involved with the shooting. Her interviewer indicated that she was intelligent and articulate. She had lived in Brooksville all her life and knew the men she accused. Mary Turner alleged that Mr. Saxon, Mr. Rhodes, Mr. Center, Mr. McIntosh, Mr. Hennes/Hennis, Mr. O'Berry, William and Robert Nicks were all involved. She claimed that George Cross had shot Sinclair.
Sept. 29, 1877. The Hernando County court house is destroyed in a fire at 1 a.m.
Oct. 6, 1877. The Sunland Tribune reports:
About 1 o'clock A. M., on Saturday morning of last week, the courthouse was discovered in flames in both the lower and upper stories. Some of the citizens arrived about the time the flames were beginning to burst out of the windows, and prompt efforts were made to save the records, but in vain. Nothing was saved; all of the county records were destroyed. Only through herculean efforts was the store of Mr. John Hale saved. From the rapidity with which the flames spread there is little doubt but that the incendiary made free use of kerosene oil. The floors had just been carpeted with a layer of sawdust in preparation of the expected term of court, and it is surmised that this offered a good medium next the walls and partitions for saturation with the inflammable fluid.
Oct. 13, 1877. The Sunland Tribune reports that Hernando County is in chaos as members of prominent families are accused in acts of murder and arson.
Dec. 22, 1877. The Sunland Tribune reports that John Geiger was killed in Hernando County on Dec. 18.
1878. A second court house is built, constructed of lumber sawed at Theodore S. Coogler’s mill, the first to operate in the county [Stanaback]. [Another source gives the date 1879. The second court house remained in use until 1911.]
Mar. 30, 1878. The Sunland Tribune reports that J. R. Claw, tried for burglary in Hernando County circuit court, was sentenced to eight years in the penitentiary.
Apr. 27, 1878. The Sunland Tribune reports that three colored persons drowned at Brooksville: Allen Frierson, his son Ivander Frierson, and Nero Evans.
May 25, 1878. The Sunland Tribune reports that Tony Sumner accidentally shot himself.
May 29, 1878. The Pemberton Ferry post office is established, with James T. Pemberton the first postmaster. [The name changed to Magnolia on August 5, 1881. Francis M. Townsend was appointed postmaster on 08/08/1881. The name was changed to Pemberton in Sumter County on April 14, 1882. Francis M. Townsend was appointed postmaster on 04/14/1882. The name was changed to Istachatta in Hernando County on September 4, 1882. Francis M. Townsend was appointed postmaster on 09/04/1882. Edward T. Pooser was appointed postmaster on 09/15/1900.]
Oct. 19, 1878. The Sunland Tribune reports that Charles Jordan killed his sister-in-law and Thomas Jump killed his brother-in-law.
1879. A post office is established at Stagepond. [It operated until 1903.] A post office is established at Pleasant Plains.
Jan. 4, 1879. The Sunland Tribune reports that Louis Valentine of Hernando County was killed by his neighbor William Cray Jr.
Jan. 11, 1879. The Sunland Tribune reports that William Cray, 66, murdered Samuel Valentine on Dec. 23, and was captured in Gainesville. It also reports that James M. Rhodes of Brooksville was assassinated in his home. [Rhodes was killed at the gate to his house on Jan. 6; the killing was thought to be in retaliation for the whipping of young Cray.]
Jan. 18, 1879. The Sunland Tribune reports that Griff Germany, colored, of Brooksville, was wounded but has recovered. He is not dead, as had been reported.
Jan. 25, 1879. The Sunland Tribune reports that Tony May, colored, was arrested in Marion County on Jan. 6 on charges of murdering James M. Rhodes of Brooksville. [On New Year’s Day, Tony May’s wife and 14-year-old son were killed. This is described as a “failed assassination attempt on the black leader” in African Americans on the Tampa Bay Frontier.]
Feb. 1, 1879. The Sunland Tribune reports that W. M. Lee Hope, age 9, son of Mrs. and Mrs. S. E. Hope of Anclote, died on Jan 17 of dropsy.
Mar. 11, 1879. David L. Hedick, sheriff, is killed bringing two men to jail. [The murder prevented court from being held in the county.]
May 10, 1879. The Sunland Tribune reports:
We regret to have to record another outrage perpetrated upon the citizens of Hernando. About 1 or 2 o'clock A. M. on Wednesday the building, in which county records have been kept since the burning of the Court House in 1877, was discovered on fire. Messrs. Keathley & Hancock arrived in time to rush in and save the Records, papers, &c., and with the assistance of other parties coming on the ground partly saved the building. This was the work of incendiaries—as from all appearances they forced open a door in back part of the house and built the fire on the top of Sheriff’s desk—and their object was the same as caused the burning of the court house, to destroy the records, registration list &c., and thereby prevent the special term of court being held there in June. The citizens are indignant and the county commissioners have offered $1,000 reward for the perpetrators and $1,000 reward for evidence that will convict the parties of burning the court house. We hope that they will be discovered and suffer the extreme penalty of the law.
May 17, 1879. The Sunland Tribune reports that Hernando County commissioners are offering a $2,000 reward for information about the burning of the court house.
June 5, 1879. The Sunland Tribune reports that Judge William B. Center was shot and killed near Brooksville and carries an editorial complaining about crime in the county, the burning of the court house and killing of witnesses. [It was believed that Center was about to identify the person responsible for the burning of the courthouse and he was killed to keep him quiet.]
June 19, 1879. The Sunland Tribune reports:
We learn from Hon. H. T. Lykes that the two men, Thos. Jump (white) and Chas. Jordan (col.), who were confined in jail here on the charge of murder, have been tried, found guilty and on the juries' recommendation to mercy, sentenced to State Prison for life, by the circuit court now in session in Brooksville. He further says that, so far ... grand jury had been unable to discover the murderer or murderers of Judge Center, and that there was no evidence against Joe Davis and Bob Roberts, the parties arrested at the Keys last week, charged with the crime.
1880. The population of Hernando county is 4248.
1880. A post office is established at Cove Bend. [It operated until 1884.]
1880. The Florida Crescent, the first newspaper to be printed in Hernando County is established by Col. Fred L. Robertson. [Another source has 1879. The newspaper was later absorbed by the Brooksville Register.]
Mar. 4, 1880. The Sunland Tribune reports that J. W. Williams (alias Herb Williams), who was a refugee from justice for six years, having been sentenced to the penitentiary in 1874 for horse stealing, was killed at Brooksville.
Oct. 11, 1880. An election is held to approve the incorporation of Brooksville and elect the first city officials. They were: W. J. Barnett, Mayor; Frank E. Saxon, Marshall; James A. Jennings, Clerk; Theophilus Wiggenbotham, John J. Hale, Fred L. Robertson, D. F. McGuire, Christopher C. Keathley, W. S. Hancock, T. J. Hook, and George W. Thomas, Aldermen. Keathley was the council’s charter president. [In 1885 the legislature approved in act which legalized the incorporation of the Town of Brooksville. The act became law without the governor’s signature on Feb. 22, 1885. Some doubts had been expressed as to the legality of the 1880 act of incorporation.]
June 25, 1881. The Sunland Tribune reports that J. B. Whisnant was shot by John Steele at Brooksville.
July 2, 1881. The Sunland Tribune reports that children of Sheriff J. Bart Mickler were murdered by Sidney King, colored. On July 16 the Sunland Tribune reported that the youngest son, Bloxham, was recovering from wounds, but on Aug. 6 reported that he had died. [The Bartow Observant reported on July 7, 1881, “the culprit, a black named Sidney King was working out a fine for burglary with the Sheriff, but suddenly left his job, entered the Sheriff’s house and began plundering it. When King was discovered by Mickler’s three sons, he shot two and cut the other’s throat. When the Sheriff returned home, the man took flight and fled. He was pursued and captured by the indignant citizens and hung.” On July 14, 1881, the Waukesha Freeman reported, “Three children of Sheriff Micken, of Hernando county, Fla., aged 8, 11 and 14, were murdered by a negro in whose charge they were left. After robbing the house, the fiend endeavored to kill the father on his way home, but, instead, was captured, confessed his crime, and was lynched in presence of 200 citizens.”]
July 23, 1881. The Sunland Tribune reports that Jesse Timmons, colored, of Brooksville, was shot and killed by Thomas C. Cook, a merchant.
July 23, 1881. The Tampa Guardian reports:
It really does seem that Hernando County is doomed to be the scene of more murders than any other place in the State. There is scarcely a week that passes but what some sort of crime is committed in that county. There appears to be a dreadful fascination, with the people of that locality, both white and black, in the taking of human life. Within the last three weeks no less than five murders have been committed in that county. First, the two children of Mr. Mickler, killed by Sidney King, then followed the murder of King by lynching; next was a man by the name of Ashley, killed while catching his horse on his own premises by unknown parties. The fifth and last, is the killing of a colored man named Abe Timmons by T. J. Pearce, better known as T. J. Cook, of Brooksville.
[The Guardian article was reprinted in the New York Times on July 29.]
July 30, 1881. The Sunland Tribune reports that Mrs. Mary Pearce of Hernando County, widow of Jonathan Pearce, was killed by lightning last Monday.
1882. The Fort Dade Messenger is established.
1882. A post office is established at Tompkinsville. [It operated until 1891.]
1882. A post office is established at Hernando.
July 3, 1882. The Newark Daily Advocate reports, “Three negroes named Turner were killed, and several other negroes were wounded, and several whites slightly hurt, in an encounter at Brooksville, Florida.” [On July 6, 1882, the Sunland Tribune reported that Henry Turner, Jim Turner, and Rube Turner, all colored, were killed in a racial riot started by them. A later account says: “In 1885 (sic) three black Turner brothers were shot to death by whites at the County Courthouse when they revolted against a public work program. In those days men aged 17-45 were required to work on county roads for six days, or pay 50 cents a day waiver fee. The Turners refused either route when their shift came up and marched with their guns to the courthouse, where a brief 'inquiry' was followed by a gunfight. Accounts indicate two of the brothers were killed in the courthouse and a third on the courthouse steps trying to escape.”]
1883. A post office is established at Lecanto and at Scrub.
Dec. 25, 1883. A black man named Fagan is lynched for murderous assault in Hernando, according to a web site. [A Dec. 29, 1883, newspaper reported, “At Brooksville, Fla., two negroes, arrested for shooting two whites, were taken from jail and shot dead.”]
About 1884. A second newspaper, the Brooksville Register, is founded by Col. Austin S. Mann.
1884. Post offices are established at Add, Oakdale, Rosehill, Mannfield, Oriole, Wiscon, and Floral City.
1884. The first Blanton school is built east of Blanton Lake. [Information from Blanton Town, which also has: “It was the first school built with lumber in Hernando County. Some of the first teachers were: Mrs. Minerva Murphy, Charles Copenhaver, Blackburn Wray, and Mrs. Edmund Blocker. Edmond O’Berry was the substitute teacher.”]
1884. John Hollfield in murdered in Brooksville. [Five men were later arrested and charged with the murder.]
Oct. 8, 1884. A post office established on Mayo Hill. [It was discontinued on July 31, 1894.]
Dec. 18, 1884. The Blanton post office is established. Horace J. Charles was the first postmaster.
About 1885. Spring Lake Methodist Church begins worship services in a structure near the old cemetery which overlooks Spring Lake, on land donated by Alatha Hope [Stanaback].
1885. Post offices are established at Orleans, Arlington, Rural, and Fairmount.
Nov. 25, 1885. John L. Crawford certifies that the 1885 Florida State Census shows 1,259 families in Hernando County [Charles Blankenship].
1886-1887. The Florida State Gazetteer and Business Directory lists these post offices: Add, Anclote, Arlington, Bay Port, Blanton, Brooksville, Carmel, Chipco, Crystal River Dade City, Earnestville, Ellerslie, Fairmount, Floral City, Fort Dade, Gulf Key, Hernando, Homosassa, Hudson, Istachatta, Lecanto, Lenard, Loyce, Macon, Mannfield, Mount Lee, Oakdale, Oriole, Orleans, Port Richey, Rose Hill, Rural, Saint Thomas, San Antonio, Stage Pond, Tomkinsville, Tuckertown, Twin Lakes, Wiscon.
1886-1887. The Florida State Gazetteer and Business Directory shows W. C. Zimmerman as Hernando County Superintendent of Public Instruction.
1886. Post offices are established at Citronelle, Bee Tree, and Viana.
Oct. 29, 1886. A letter written on this date in Brooksville from Mrs. Hattie D. Foy to her mother Mrs. John Davis includes the following:
It was dark when I reached here last night, so went to “Hernando Hotel,” the best kept house I have been at, either North or South. This is a good boarding place, but it ought to be, for I pay $2 per day or $9 per week. But then I have fire in my room, and tonight, for the first time in Florida, I sit by a fire. Last night was the coldest we have had—slept with sheet, three blankets and spread over me, and then was cold. When the sun is two or three hours high it is very pleasant here, and the air seems to be so pure and good. ... Brooksville is a smaller place, (only 500), but healthful location. Have two churches here, Baptist and Methodist, the Presbyterians and Episcopals have organizations, but no church buildings. B. is situated on a hill and gradually slopes each way. This country is more rolling and has more good land than any in the State. It is 18 miles from Gulf coast, has one railroad and expects another this winter. Mother, I wish you were here to enjoy eating sweet potatoes and fresh fish; I never tasted any so good as they are here. In two or three weeks they will begin to gather oranges to ship. Some are just beginning to turn; the trees grow as large as half grown apple trees, and the oranges look like big green walnuts on the trees. They are fine eating now; so much better flavor than what we get North.
1887. A post office is established at Bay City.
Feb. 16, 1887. A newspaper reports, “Greg Armington has bought the Brooksville Register, the official Democratic paper of Hernando county, Fla.”
June 2, 1887. Florida Governor E. A. Perry signs into law “A Bill to Divide the County of Hernando and make therefrom the Counties of Citrus and Pasco.”
Nov. 7, 1887. The New York Times reports that William J. Bledsoe, United States Deputy Marshal, was arrested in Macon, Ga., yesterday, charged with being one of the five men who assassinated John Holifield at Brooksville.