HISTORY OF PASCO COUNTY
The Lacoochee Hyatts
By ALDORA HYATT
William Reeves Hyatt, Sr. 1895 - 1967
Alice and Reeves Hyatt arrived in Lacoochee, Florida, with two small children, Sue Marie and Bee Wee, sometime before the birth of their third child, Aldora, in 1928. They lived next to the railroad spur that ran between the Seaboard Airline Railroad and Cummer Sons Company’s sawmill. An extension of this street (today’s Coit Road) ran eastward past the Cummer Hotel along the north side the lumber yard to the school house and beyond.
In about 1935, they moved to the house next to the pay office on Superintendents Row where they lived until 1943 when they were moved by the company to Cumpressco, which, in the mind of a 15-year-old girl, seemed to be about one million miles away down a dirt road into a swamp east of Dade City.
In the summer of 1944, the company moved the logging operation that had been at Cumpressco to Crow’s Bluff on the St. Johns River south of Deland. So, the Hyatts moved to Deland where they lived until Mr. and Mrs. Hyatt moved to Grady, Alabama (Ms. Hyatt’s hometown), where they lived for the rest of their lives.
While in Lacoochee, Mr. Hyatt was in charge of all building maintenance. His shop was located behind the old commissary and doctor’s office near the railroad spur. The houses for Black employees were located in company quarters across the railroad spur. As was the custom in those days, the local sheriff had deputized Mr. Hyatt, a Cummer employee, to uphold law and order on Cummer property. He had two specific assignments, one was to oversee the Black community, and the other was to meet a train from Jacksonville each Friday morning that would bring a payroll pouch filled with cash for that week’s payroll. Concerning the Black community, any stranger trying to enter that area had to go through Mr. Hyatt. If he determined the stranger’s business was not in the best interests of the community the stranger was denied access and invited to leave town posthaste.
Mr. Hyatt’s duties turned to pleasure when Mr. (Edward) Roe, a high Cummer official from Jacksonville, came to town. Mr. Hyatt, an avid fisherman who had lost part of one arm to just above the elbow years earlier, had no difficulty in rowing the two men around one or the other of the two lakes near Lacoochee where Mr. Hyatt kept his fishing boats.
Mrs. Hyatt occasionally did some substitute teaching at the Lacoochee School until she went to work at the Post Office, where she worked until they moved to Cumpressco. After moving to Alabama, she again went to work at the Post Office in Grady and eventually became postmaster, the position from which she retired in 1965.
In Pasco County, she became widely known for her beautiful singing voice and sang solo at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Dade City. She was accompanied on the piano by Mrs. Joe (Gladys) Quick when she sang on WFLA radio under the sponsorship of the Tampa Tribune.
Beginning in 1939, Sue Marie Hyatt taught third grade for several years in Lacoochee. In 1943 she married Bernie Morrison when he was with the 10th Fighter Squadron of the Army Air Corp based at the airport in Zephyrhills, Florida.
Bee Wee Hyatt graduated from Pasco High School in 1939 and enlisted in the Navy that same year. After ten years in the Navy, he transferred to the Air Force and was eventually stationed in Orlando, where, as a medic-paratrooper-frogman in the Rescue Service, he was involved in the recovery operations of the astronauts landing in the ocean on their return to earth from outer space. At the time of his death in 1961, Bee Wee was an Air Force Master Sergeant.
Aldora Hyatt attended Pasco High School and Deland High School before graduating from the University of Montevallo in Alabama, with a degree in music and a minor in recreation. She retired in 1978 as Superintendent of the City Recreation Department in Columbus, Georgia. (Note: Aldora still lives in Columbus, and has a vacation home in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida.)
(The Lacoochee Hyatts is one of many stories collected by Nell M. Woodcock about life in that sawmill town that once thrived in east Pasco County, Florida)
Picture courtesy of J. W. Hunnicutt