EARLY HERNANDO COUNTY HISTORY
A Frenchman in Florida (1890)The following is a 1975 translation at Holy Name Priory of an excerpt of Un francais dans la Floride: notes de voyage (1890).
At last, Brooksville! Metropolis of the county of Hernando. I arrived there at 8 PM bent by exhaustion, sore but content. Already the darkness was covering the town for more than an hour. I kept wondering why our cart had no lanterns and was told they were not needed in this county. The horse's instincts were more dependable than us humans.
I paid twelve dollars, a little more than 60 francs, for the hardship of travelling sixteen hours (from Ocala) on those sandy roads. It is really nothing.
I rested comfortably in a good bed at the boarding house. I had been offered a room with two beds; one already occupied, but I said that the company of cockroaches crawling all over the walls were enough companions to charm my solitude. When I awoke, I realized Brooksville was just a small town, in fact plain country. The streets gave a faithful image of a chain of green hills with ravines and clips, where horses, cows, mules and pigs graze peacefully in good accord and friendship with the inhabitants.
Looking up, I saw a great number of vultures flying above the remains of a dead donkey. I went quick to my guns. “Stop that, immediately!!” I was warned or it will cost me five dollars for each dead vulture. They told me that even in Paris there was not a broom to get the streets cleaner than these scavengers. They were indeed picking the carcass very clean, but unfortunately they did not take it away. It was not their job. It was nobody's job. Job here means any kind of work, enterprise or dirty employment. Too bad! It is not the vultures job to dispose of the debris covering those grassy streets with dirty papers, old pieces of leather, rusty irons, old rags, broken wooden boxes, tin cans and old rotten clothes.
Nobody thinks of mending in Florida. A loose button can fall of without the fear of being replaced by a happy rival. A tear in your garment? Nobody will stop it from extending at liberty. A splash of mud? Oh, the wind will brush it off.
Clothing is discarded only after it has passed from the shoulders of the white people to the backs of the blacks. Once the Negro can no more see in which hole to put his arms or legs, it is dropped at public places, along with the company of old hats, shoes etc. at the great joy of cockroaches, bedbugs, fleas and other mites who feast on human sweat.
I took a walk to the public square, up to Main Street. The houses are of square shape, standing on wooden blocks about fifty centimeters high. They look like immense cupboards on legs. The business areas are flanked by enormous signs and look more like shanties at the fair. Most of them are stocked with general merchandise which means anything from butter to jewels, ham as well as lace, shoes, crockery etc. If you don't have cash, you can exchange a bull for a complete set of clothes, the difference in money is accredited to you, until the whole value of the meat is spent. You can buy anything you desire to better your life: an umbrella, a hat, writing paper, cigars, a subscription to Le Figaro. There are two drugstores, their display is attractive and appealing. I saw three more houses where the pharmacists and the doctors made their studies, but if I were sick, I'd be suspicious of their prescriptions and the way they were prepared. In fact I would have more faith in some specialties shipped in boxes or bottles from the North. One can always assume that the medicine might have been approved by some Academy in New York. I saw a doctor so sure of himself he certified himself. In the pharmacies you can buy whiskey, rum, alcohol, and any strong liquor or drug with a prescription if you're sick.
There are also merchants of tobacco, a barber shop, attorneys at law, a notary public, renter of horse and buggy, a coachbuilder, saddlery, carpenters, restaurants, boarding houses, a skating rink, three printers who also edited newspapers, a hardware store, merchants of grain and feed, a watchmaker and a painter. All this represents the business world of Brooksville. There is also a large hotel [Hernando Hotel] well kept, well furnished and most comfortable. Property of Major John Parsons. Managed by L. Y. Jennes. The cooking is in the care of a Negress, wife of old man James, once the slave of a man named Garay. It's a beautiful hotel, but very expensive at three dollars a day! Including the room that amounts to ten to fifteen a week. The hotel is situated at the highest point in Brooksville in the middle of an orange grove. On this plateau there are nice villas, shaded by orchards. There is also the Post Office/Telegraph Office and the Court House. The Court House is a tribunal for all degrees of jurisdiction, from a simple police arrest up to the functions of Municipal Criminal Court. It serves as City Hall, Theatre etc. On this same hall, one can receive a death sentence and also get married there. As it is also not the job of vultures to clean up the Court House, its floor never receives injury from a broom. With everyone bringing in more dirt from their shoes, you feel your feet sink as you walk in that mixture of sand, orange peels, flypapers and cigar butts. The only thing being cleaned up there is the accused.
There are four churches, a Methodist and a Baptist for the white people. The Baptist pastor is Rev. Frank DeCourcy. There are two Negro churches. The devil himself could never know what they adore amid their strange chants, tapping of feet, hands clapping and shouting words from the louder mouths. All those buildings are made of wood without foundation, just like all the other homes in Florida. They really look like churches, with their steeples and all. From a distance they look as if they have been put there on the lawn, like monuments the children make with their blocks, and can be taken apart piece by piece.
Brooksville has two schools. One communal and one mixed. In the latter the teacher tries to teach and speak French (a star for the teacher). The children go to school barefooted. The town is administered by a Mayor, a Commissioner, Secretary of Town Hall, Municipal Treasurer and Alderman. For the School Board, there is the Principal and four other members.
For the county, the Sheriff is both Commissioner and hangman. For the Court, there is the Judge, the District Attorney, the monitor and a jury of twelve for both civil and criminal cases. The session takes place twice a year in March and April. The tribunal has one Judge and it's enough. He holds a session only once a month (a man of leisure).
At first I couldn't understand a single thing about the strange and imperceptible people of this town. Looking at the inhabitants, I did believe that the number of them was not enough for all the churches and schools and stores. Wait until Saturday and you will see, they told me.
It is Saturday, day of the market!! Market of what? Nobody is bringing in anything. I saw all the people crowding the wooden sidewalks, but with no carts full of vegetables, nor fruit or chickens. No busy farmers unloading their products from their gardens at the Public Square. In the picturesque invasion of the town by the country folks, I was hoping to see a farmer's wife offering a fat skinned duck to the beautiful arrogant lady of the city. Nothing like this happened. If the farmer brought products of any kind, he immediately exchanged them at the general stores for provisions of various kinds. He may return home with some commodities, but very little money. The latter is a rare thing in Florida. It is consumed as fast as it is earned.
Saturday is more of a business day for the stores of the town than for the county folk. In fact the denomination of country people does not exist in Florida. That you live in the town or the woods is the only difference. Everybody is the same. A visit to the town on Saturday will convince you of that. You see nomads, no vehicles of delivery. Everybody comes like proprietors in their buggies (light vehicles set on four thin wheels), sometimes in heavy wagons pulled by two mules and also on horseback.
These cays of transportation bring into Brooksville a number of matrons and young girls from the woods. In their neat white dresses, and wide brim hats, they look like fresh bouquets of daisies, carried into town by a Fawn or Satyr. The men wearing their beard goatee stale, look like gods of the fields and forests with their huge hats, collarless shirts, fronts tucked inside their boots, they could also be taken for nomadic peddlers. All men in America are called gentlemen so; they are. Our French horse traders and pig vendors do not look as well.
Strange things happened here. With my own eyes, I saw a few gentlemen completely out of place here, with their stylish well tailored suits, fancy hats and boots. Their whole attire as fashionable as George Brummels.’ Their wives and daughters dresses looked liked creations of some New York designers. But how I prefer the light white muslim dresses, the wide becoming hats of the American girls so freshly beautiful in the sunlight of the eternal Spring of Florida!
Recollections of William Hope (1890)
William Hope was born in 1808 and died in 1898. This interview took place on Christmas Day, 1890. It was published in The Polk County News on Jan. 9, 1891, and apparently in other newspapers before that date. Hope states that he was the first white inhabitant of what is now Hernando County.
I will be 83 years old next February. Fifty-seven years ago to-day I ate dinner in Jacksonville. I was on my way from Liberty County, Georgia to Newnansville in Alachua County in this state, then a territory. I was camped on the back of what was called Brandy Creek on the outskirts of Jacksonville. What is now the largest city in the state was then a small village on the banks of St. Johns. It had no tavern that amounted to anything, no railroads, no steamboats, well nothing just a little place. I might have done better for myself by purchasing property and remaining there for land was of little value, but I was a farmer and looking for a farming country. Since then I have had an interesting life on the frontier. Always an advocate of progress, I was the first white inhabitant of what is now Hernando County.
When I arrived in Newnansville, the United States Court was in session. There I met a group of noble pioneers, men who won an honorable place in the history of Florida. Together we fought Indians, entered the wilds of the peninsula, leveled the forests, and opened the fairest state in the Union to our children and to others following them from other states. Of all the fearless band then assembled at Newnansville, only two are left - Thomas C. Ellis of Gainesville and myself. There is no better man in the state than Tom Ellis. I have known him for 57 years and have never known him to do anything of which he need be ashamed.
C. F. Jenkins followed us into this country. He was as true as steel and is still living in Homosassa. I settled at a place near Paine's Prairie and lived there until the Indian War broke out. We erected forts as places of refuge for our women and children, and then men went on the warpath. Those were times that tested men.
It was during the 1855-56 war (Indian War) that I came to Choctahatchee Prairie where I now live. Three other families came with me. We were the first white people in this country. At the time it was part of Alachua County which then extended from its present northern boundary at the Hillsborough River. Not many legal papers were served here then. D. I. Yulee was our lawyer, and a queer one he was, but very persistent. And what he couldn't gain by knowledge, he gained by perseverance. If Yulee had lived and remained in Congress, he would have had our Indian War claims paid long ago. I don't know what the matter is with Call. He is one of us and knows what we went through. We depend on him and still hope he will get our claims paid. But I have lived without the $10,000 due me for 30 years and can continue.
The county seat of Alachua County was Newnansville. It is hard to realize how large the county was. The site of the present city of Gainesville was a wilderness in which wild game abounded with little fear of molestation. There was fine grazing on the prairie, and not only wild game, but fat cattle and hogs ranged there in all that great area - from where Gainesville now stands to Tampa Bay. There wasn't a house in Gainesville. Ocala, Micanopy, Leesburg, Sumterville and Brooksville are all of a recent date, and the large population now inhabiting that area that I had ridden over had nothing to attract my attention but wild game and even wilder savages. I would have remained on the place I had settled on the prairie if I could have secured titles, but it was embraced in the Arredondo (Spanish) grant, which had not been passed on by the courts. So I pushed on and it was a good move. I got good title to 4,000 acres of fine land, and in its sand I will be laid to final rest. I say it was a good move for in Alachua, the orange is not a success, while here without fertilizing I have raised the grove which now supports me with greater ease than the 200 slaves I once owned.
The fertility of our lands were soon noised abroad, and this part of the county was settled with first-class people from Georgia and South Carolina, men with positions and standing were recognized. Their descendants are here yet, and they stand the peers of any of the recent importations. We erected mills and built churches and school houses. Ministers and teachers came. One of the first preachers we had was the venerable editor of the Palatka Herald, who was a Methodist circuit rider, and we were all glad to see him once a month. Brother Pratt was a jovial fellow and carried the Gospel to our firesides as a pleasant message and not an anathema from the throne of an avenging God.
Among the good men I remember who vied with each other in advancing civilization were Capt. James McKay, W. F. Mayo, Judge James Geittis and O. B. Hart of Tampa, P. G. Wall, Fred E. Lykes, W. F. Mayo, and others of Hernando County. Our expectations were fully realized as to the fertility of the soil. It yielded abundantly, and we were happy and contented. Hon. Thomas P. King of Gainesville was the judge of our circuit court, for at that time we had been admitted as a state.
Those good men have passed away except for P. G. Wall and Judge King. Our old judge was good enough for us. His legs though were the smallest I ever saw, always got there and never ran away. And although the recent importations keep others on the bench, we were always satisfied when Judge King passed upon our differences, for we tried him and knew what he is made of. But a large part of our recent immigration left their country for their country's good, and it is justice that they don't want. They think we old fellows and our children are fools by the side of them, but we old fellows know all about each other and each other's needs. A new order of things is on hand now. Our Negroes were freed and we were left to scuffle. We were equal to the emergency. Our lands were fertile and soon brought the fine orange groves into bearing, and I guess we have got a chapter that will run smoother.
You must excuse me. I am not as spry as I used to be. I must go and see about my sheep on the prairie. The eagles are trying to eat all my lambs, and it keeps me busy to drive them off. And besides, I can't shoot a rifle as good as I could when I was young, although I killed two eagles the other day. Hope I will see you again next Christmas.
Settlement & Latter History of Hernando County of Florida
The writer is Cyprian T. Jenkins (1811-1893). This document was transcribed by John Willis Fuller in November 1990. He indicates that paragraph breaks and punctuation were added in some places but original spelling has been retained, and that where handwriting could not be read, best guesses were substituted in brackets.
On the 4th of August 1842 Congress of the United States passed an Act known as the Armed Occupation for East & South Florida granting to all able bodies men & head of families settling south of Township line No. 9 & 10: 160 acres of land & 1 years rations. The settlers to reside upon and cultivate 5 or more acres of land for 5 years when title would be given.
The government failed to furnish the rations for more than one month, which brought severe suffering upon many of the people & a large number had to return to their hold homes. The purpose of the act was to drive out the Indians & open the country to settlers. This result was accomplished & the hardy & gallant men doing more than the army could do.
In 1846 Congress amended the act by giving an additional 160 acre to the settlers who had no water on the lands they selected for their donation by paying $1.25 per acre.
The present county of Hernando was original Alachua from which were made in1842 by the Legislative Council of Florida 3 new counties viz Levy after the Hon. D. L. Yulle--Marrion & Benton. Benton after T. H. Benton of U. S. Senate. The name of the latter was changed to Hernando by Act of the state legislature in 1846.
The Withlacoothee River forms the Northern & Eastern boundry of the county thence south to the township in of 25 & 26, thence to the Gulf of Mexico. The Gulf is the Western boundary. The length of county is about 60 miles the average breath is 26 to 30 miles.
The earliest settlements were made at the following places:
At Crystal River by Capt Pope Hunter, Niel Furgurson, Samuel Richmond & 20 other settlers--At Homosassee River by Capt Wm Cooley, Francis Mathews, Thos Chave [Chase? Chare?], Wm Willson and others[?].
The settlements on the North part of the Annullalaga [?] hammock was made by Wm S Coffee, C. T. Jenkins, William Taylor, David Turner, Wm Harris, Eli Hart, Albert Clancy, Wm Meunx [Meuny?] & 30 others.
At Lake Lindsay by B. U. Baker, Elias Knight, James Haynes [Hays?], Wesley Baker, John Baker, John Boyet & 30 others.
Chocochattee was settled by Capt Wm Hope, David Hope, Isaac Garrison, R. Crum, Capt Wm Tucker, John Taylor, James A. Boyet & 50 others.
Fort Taylor by Capt R. Bradley, Enoch Mizell, Joshua Mizell, John Tucker & 20 others.
At Toachudco or Fort Dade by Wm Harn, James Harn, Henry Harn, M. Garrison, James Standly & 30 others.
At Spring Hill by Capt Peter Law, M. C. Peterson, John Bassett, Wm Garrison & 20 others, besides others in different portions of the county making in all about 300 families & men. And to do Military duty which was imposed upon all.
The first child born in the county was Isaac K. Garrison, son of Maj. Isaac Garrison. The second birth a daughter of James A. Boyet, both born in 1842.
The first marriage was Wm S. Coffee to Elizabeth Allen in 1843. The first Minister of the Gospel was A. I[?] Devours appointed by the Methodist Conference of the state in 1843.
The first murder was that of Wm S. Coffee by Wm Harris also in 1843. The first lawyer was Col. B. M. Pearson afterwards one of the judges of the supreme court. The first physician was Dr L. Rogers 1843.
The first Indian outrage was the murder of Mrs Crum wife of R. Crum Sept 20th, 1842. Two children of Capt R. D. Bradley were killed by the Indians in 1856. Besides these murders, there ware several other Indians alarms which caused the settlers to gather into fortifications for protection & self defence.
The county has been represented in the State Senate by Hon R. D. Bradley, John Eubanks, Joseph Taylor & now by Dr. H. Lykes. In the House of Representative by James Standly, M. Garrison, Isaac Garrison, Dr. L. Rogers, Charles Russell, C. T. Jenkins, John Parsons R. D. Bradly, M. C. Peterson, James Nicks, Samuel Hope & sence the war by Marrel[?] Edwards Pierce Hope & Carter.
The first steam mill was erected by Joseph Hale in 1852. Joshua Stafford was the first man who planted sweet oranges he brought them from Madison County 30 trees Hon D. L. Yulle was the first man who planted an orange grove in 1852 on Homosassee River. C. T. Jenkins planted the first fig tree brought from Madison County also the first guava. Doct Wm Mayo the first pineapple.
Bay Port was settled in 1852 by John Parsons, I. Garrison, John E. Johnson, C. T. Jenkins and others.
At this date July 4th 1876 there remains in the county of the original settlers Capt Wm Hope, David Hope, Wm Garrison, Joshua Mizell, Wesley Baker, John Ba[ker? lost in photocopying], John Bassett, Jessee [?] Tucker, McBain [?] Harrell, C. T. Jenkins, & the widows of Capt Peter Law, M. C. Peterson, Isaac Garrison, R. Bradley, Mr [or Wm?] Darby. All the others have died or removed from the county.
The first settlers were all hardy men & good Indians fighters & had been accustom to hardship & sustained themselves in the hours of trials & many privations they had to under[go?] & well do they deserve a greatfull remembrance by the country.
Bay Port Fla
William Michael Hope 1846-1864
Life for William Michael Hope most likely began in Newnansville, Alachua County, 1846. His parents, Henry Hope and Alatha Frances Garrison, were definitely still in Alachua. Henry paid 1846 Taxes on his land and his wife sold a house located in the town of Newnansville in May of 1846. Michael's AOA Land permit for 160 acres in Hernando was not proved out or patented, which tends to show Henry continued to live in Alachua rather than the newly formed Hernando County.
When the 7th U. S. Census was taken in 1850, Henry Hope's family was living in Hernando, which had been renamed Benton County. The enumerator incorrectly listed the head of household as David rather than Henry, but Alatha and young Michael were correctly named.
William grew up and continued to live in Benton, which again was renamed Hernando by the 7th Census. The 1860 Census is missing and only the 1860 Tax Records reveal that the was in Hernando.
The very next year, the Civil War broke out. Young William enlisted in Captain Parson's Independent Company but was discharged for being underage at 15. Back home he received a Civil War letter in March of 1863 from one of his neighbors by the name of Francis R. Nicks. His letter was published in the FSGS TFG Quarterly as to "Dear Mike."
Just as soon as William Michael turned 17 years of age, he re-enlisted in Captain Samuel E. Hope's Company C, 9th Florida Regiment. His Company was ordered to just west of Jacksonville at Camp Finegan. From there, William wrote a Civil War letter home to his father:
Henry R. Nicks of Dallas, Texas, shared his Great-Grandmother's Brother's letter from north Florida to his home in Brooksville.
Abandoning Camp Finegan for Lake City, the 9th and prepared for a battle with Union troops. William Michael may have participated in the Battle of Olustee during February of 1864. Sometime afterwards between March and April, William Michael went to the Lake City Hospital and died of measles. There were many cases of small pox reported among the soldiers of both sides. William M. Hope does not have a grave marker or tombstone to view. He is among many buried in a common grave in the Lake City area.
How the County Was SettledThis article appeared in the St. Petersburg Times on Oct. 25, 1992.
By VIRGINIA JACKSON
Sen. Thomas Hart Benton of Missouri placed a bill before the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives in 1840, the purpose of which was to rid Central Florida of the Seminole Indians.
The bill was known as the Armed Occupation Act, and it was passed in 1842.
Settlers who came to this part of Florida would be given 160 acres if they agreed to live on the land for five years, cultivate 5 acres and build a dwelling. They also were supposed to receive guns, ammunition and food, but the government did not follow through with those promises.
The settlers came to Florida in the same way settlers journeyed West - in covered wagons carrying their families and whatever belongings they could bring along.
Some of the settlers who came during this time were Maj. John D. Parsons, who settled land at the mouth of the Weeki Wachee River. Another group included 23 settlers who crossed the Withlacoochee River at Istachatta on the way to the Annuttaliga Hammock, in what today is northern Hernando County.
They were going to construct a block house.
Some of them were William S. Coffee, C. I. Jenkins, Eli Hart, Albert Clark and William Muen. Another group that crossed the river and came to homestead land were M. Baker, B. W. Baker, Wesley Baker, John Baker and quite a few other members of this family.
They stopped at a lake we now call McKethan Lake and made two rows of their wagons. During the day, the men and boys would go out to the homesteads and work, leaving several men to guard the camp and the women. Here, they had a fresh supply of water. It took several years to get all the houses built and the land cleared.
The Spring Lake area was settled by Edward M. Harville and Capt. John Townsend. Those who went to the Chochatcha area included William Hope, David Hope, Isaac Garrison, R. Crum, Capt. William Tucker, John Taylor, James A. Boyett, Jehu Mizell, James Lanier, Richard Wiggins, John Wiggins and Daniel Wiggins. Old Spring Hill settlers were Peter W. Law, Malcolm Peterson, Perry G. Wall, John F. Bassett and William Garrison.
As more settlers came into this area, the need to form a county became apparent, and on Feb. 24, 1843, an act and resolution of the Legislative Council of the territory of Florida was passed. It made Hernando a county (named for early explorer Hernando De Soto), with the boundary beginning at the mouth of the Withlacoochee River and running all the way to the Hillsborough River, then cutting due west to the Gulf of Mexico, then along the gulf back to the Withlacoochee, also to include all islands along the coast.
In 1844, to commemorate Benton's introduction of the Armed Occupation Act, Hernando County's two legislators, James Stanley and James Gibbons, placed a resolution before the Legislature to change the county's name to Benton County.
The resolution passed, but the name change did not last long. In 1850, after Benton became a leader in the anti-slavery movement and after a confrontation on the floor of the Senate with Sen. Henris S. Forte, Benton County residents petitioned the Florida Legislature to change the name back to Hernando.
In the 1850s, a new wave of families came into Hernando County.
The Fredrick Lykes family settled in Old Spring Hill. The Anderson Mayo family purchased land 1 mile north of Lake Lindsey called Tiger Tail Hill and renamed it Mayo Hill. The Frank H. Ederington family settled not far from there on a hill they called Mount Airy. Today, it is known as Chinsegut Hill.
The family of Matthew Raiford Howell bought 160 acres just northwest of the courthouse. The Hale family moved to the Melendez community south of Brooksville. And John May purchased 160 acres from Richard Wiggins that ran northeast of the courthouse.
Stringer House Is a Home to HistoryThis article appeared in the St. Petersburg Times on Jan. 24, 1993.
By VIRGINIA JACKSON
The Stringer House, home today to the Heritage Museum, sits on land once part of a 160-acre parcel deeded to Richard Wiggins in 1843 under the Armed Occupation Act.
The act, introduced by Sen. Thomas Hart Benton of Missouri, offered 160 acres of free land, together with food and munitions. The bill stipulated that in order to take advantage of this offer, settlers had to agree to build a dwelling, cultivate at least 5 acres of the land and remain in the area for at least five years.
After much research of the information available, it is felt that the original four-room structure was built by John May after he purchased the property from Wiggins in 1855. The records, contained in the original courthouse, were lost when the building was destroyed by fire on Sept. 29, 1877.
John L. May was a contractor who built several houses in Brooksville. He lived in a house on the corner of the street that now bears his name - May Avenue - with his wife, Marena, and their two daughters: Matildas, who married John Barnes, and Annie, who married C. P. Rogers. It is believed he moved to the Stringer House sometime between 1855 and 1858, when he died. His wife and children remained in the house.
Eight years later, on Dec. 25, 1866, Marena married Frank Elmore Saxon, whose picture is now hanging next to the fireplace in the living room.
Saxon was a Civil War hero who was a member of the Hernando Wild Cats, a unit of the Florida 3rd Regiment of the Confederate Army. He was the first to be wounded in a battle called Honeymoon, which took place near Jacksonville. After the Civil War, he became a delegate to the Florida Legislature, representing Hernando County, and in his later years became clerk of the Hernando County Circuit Court.
Two children were born to Frank and Marena Saxon - a son, Frankland Schmidt Saxon in 1867, and a daughter, Jessie May Saxon, in 1869. Their son lived only one month; their daughter died in 1872. Unfortunately, these were not the only tragedies to strike. Marena also died, on Feb. 19, 1869, while giving birth to Jessie May.
After Marena's death, Frank Saxon married Tululu Hope, daughter of William Hope (one of the earliest settlers of Hernando County). Saxon had another house built, south of May Avenue, for Tululu and himself. This house was constructed of cypress and is now known as the Scarborough House.
The May home was sold several times after Frank Saxon left. The records of those transactions, however, were lost in the courthouse fire. The first records after the fire are dated 1883, when J. H. Reddic sold the May-Saxon house to Jennie Johnson for $600.
The house was then purchased by Dr. Sheldon Stringer Sr., a relative of the Lykes Brothers, in 1903, for $2,600. He bought the house after his home, near the hospital until recently known as Lykes Memorial Hospital, burned down.
Dr. Sheldon Stringer Jr. and his wife had three children: Frederick, Sheldon Jr. and Marguerite. Frederick went to law school in South Carolina and later returned to Brooksville to practice law. Later, he served as an elected judge of the Hernando County Circuit Court. He lived in the house for a while until his death. His sister, Marguerite, also died after her marriage to Dr. Quinn.
Betty Stringer Faircloth, the daughter of Judge Frederick Stringer, was the last of the Stringers to live in the house. Dr. Early Hensley and his wife, Helen, bought the house from Betty in October 1980, and the Hernando Historical Museum Association Inc. leased it with an option to buy from Dr. Hensley.
The house itself has gone through many changes during the years since the first building was constructed in the 1850s. The most extensive remodeling occurred during the time the Stringers lived there.
The structure you see today is a 12-room, seven-gable house with gingerbread trim. It stands four stories tall, has ceilings 10 feet high and has double sliding pocket doors. The original four rooms (consisting of the living room, dining room and two rooms directly above) contain fireplaces connected by a single chimney.
The Hernando Historical Museum Association has been restoring the lovely house since 1980, for the purpose of providing a home for Hernando County history and artifacts. Many hours of work have gone into this task and have been generously donated by many dedicated people.
Eugene Lee, of Clover Leaf Farms, for example, spent many hours scraping, sanding, priming and painting the trim and railings, then re-installing them in their proper place. Many of these items were just lying around in rotted condition and required repair or reproduction.
Other volunteers scraped, repaired or replaced plaster as well as lath in various rooms throughout the house. One room on the second floor has been completely redone from floor to ceiling and now depicts a school room from the early 1900s.
The living room is furnished with turn-of-the-century furnishings that came from families in Hernando County. The mantle in this room is original to the house and required a lot of work to restore it to the condition seen today. An oil painting, also located in this room, is an original painting that hung in this house in the early 1900s.
The kitchen is thought to have been a separate structure. "Summer kitchens," as they were called, were very common in the South. They were built away from the main house, mainly because of the potential hazard of grease fires on wood-burning stoves.
What we now call the kitchen was most probably a breakfast room or informal dining room. It has been restored and furnished with items from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The original spring-fed well is under the kitchen floor. A pie/food safe from the 1880s, displayed in the kitchen, was a very important item in order to protect baked goods from flies, bugs and dust.
It is believed the room beyond the kitchen, currently being used as an office, may have been the servants' quarters at one time.
Much has been accomplished since the house was first opened to the public. As with any house, however, there is always something else to be done.
Virginia Jackson is director of the Hernando Historical Museum Association. The association's Heritage Museum, at May Avenue and Jefferson Street in Brooksville, is open for tours from noon to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Admission is $2 for adults and 50 cents for ages 12 and under.
Hernando Countians in the Civil War
Soldiers of Florida, first published in 1903 and again in 1983 by Richard J. Ferry, compiles the Muster Rolls of three distinct companies of Hernando County, Florida Confederate Soldiers.
SOF, pages 40-41, lists the Old Guards [many who were Seminole Indian War Veterans] who mustered in on March 29, 1862 and mustered out on May 17, 1862. The list includes early Hernando settlers: Hill, Hope, Law, Townsend and Wall.
SOF, pages 105-107, lists the entire roll of Captain W. Terry Saxon's C Company (Hernando Guards & later known as the Hernando Wildcats) of the 3rd Florida Infantry Regiment. The Regiment was formed in 1861 and after combining with the 1st and 4th Regiments remained until April 1865. Action included Perryville, KY and Murfreesborough, TN.
SOF, pages 211-212, lists Captain Samuel E. Hope's C Company, 9th Florida Infantry from June 21, 1862 to April 1865. The Company originally mustered in at Bayport. They saw action at Olustee and later in major battles in Northern Virginia.
Many CSA Veterans are buried throughout Citrus, Pasco and Hernando County and elsewhere. Additional sources of sketches, cemetery locations and pension files are:
Transcribed Letter from Senator Samuel Pasco