Land O’ Lakes

The name Land O’ Lakes did not exist when this map was published in 1941.

Some pictures of Land O’ Lakes are here.

Dr. Susan MacManus talked about the history of Land O’ Lakes and showed lots of photos from her two books about the Lutz-Land O’ Lakes area on Sept. 28, 2013. A video of her entire presentation is here.

The historic marker reads as follows:

Following removal of the Seminoles, resettlement of this area began in the 1880’s with establishment of a stagecoach relay station between Brooksville and Tampa. Several small communities later developed in the vicinity, most of them lumber and turpentine towns along the railroads. In this general area were: Big Cypress, Disston, Drexel, Ehren, Fivay Junction, Godwin, Mexico, Myrtle-Denham, Pleasant Plains, Shingleton, Stemper and Tucker. By the 1930’s citrus cultivation was the area’s principal industry. With consolidation of schools and post offices, and following a public contest, the community was named Land O’ Lakes on September, 1950.

The name Land O’ Lakes now applies to an area which earlier consisted of numerous small towns.

Hernando County school board records from 1877-78 show that a school existed at Pleasant Plains. The school may have been in existence earlier; school records before that time were lost in a fire. In 1879 a post office was established at Pleasant Plains, although it operated only briefly.

In 1883 a post office was established at Diston, although it was originally in Hillsborough County. It was renamed Drexel in 1888.

In 1893 a post office was established at Myrtle. A school existed at Myrtle by 1895.

In 1898 a post office was established at Shingleton.

On July 10, 1925, the Dade City Banner reported:

Development aggregating several million dollars was announced Friday afternoon immediately after the sale of 640 acres of land including the town site of Denham to a syndicate of New York capitalists. The transaction represented $480,000 and was handled through the firm of Knight Bros. of Tampa. The New York syndicate is headed by Joseph B. Lowndes of the Joseph B. Lowndes Real Estate Company, together with L. Umanoff, president of the Lee-Nest Construction Company, Jacob Wielenken, president of the Tappscott Construction Company, and Adolph Herzog, all of Jamaica, N. Y. Property purchased by the New York men lies on both sides of State Road 5 and Highland Road No. 9, at Denham. It includes a portion of the shores of Lake Padgett, said to be one of the prettiest deep cypress lakes in Florida. It is served by the Tampa Northern railroad, which company, it is said, has agreed to erect a new station in keeping with the development. According to Joseph B. Lowndes, spokesman for the purchasers, a modern town, high class in every respect, will spring up upon the shores of Lake Padgett. He expects actual work to begin within 90 flays. He announced yesterday afternoon that the name of the town would probably be changed from that of Denham to one more appropriate; that a hotel and club house, together with 100 dwellings would be among the first of the operations. The developers plan to bring their own organizations from the north to accomplish the work.

According to MacManus, Drexel had a Baptist church, Church of God, railroad station and agent, and water tower, but no cemetery. The Drexel Missionary Baptist Church was founded in the fall of 1929 by Rev. E. D. Vining and Mr. and Mrs. H. C. Douglas. The church met in the Drexel schoolhouse. In March 1931 it moved to the YMCA hall on State Road 5. The property on which the current First Baptist Church of Land O’ Lakes stands was purchased in October 1931. On April 3, 1932 the mission was organized into a church and chose the name Drexel Missionary Baptist of Ehren Florida. In 1949 the church changed its name to Land O’ Lakes Baptist Church. Then in October 1959 the current name of First Baptist Church of Land O’ Lakes was chosen. (Information from the web site of First Baptist Church of Land O’ Lakes.)

The first site of the Drexel Church of God was on U. S. 41 just north of the old overpass. Material from an old Ehren school building was used to construct the church, which later became a TV repair shop. Rev. Willie R. Sanders organized the congregation. Established in 1938, it is the predecessor to the Land O’ Lakes Church of God.

According to MacManus, “When the one-room school at Myrtle got too crowded, a decision was made to build a larger, two-room structure to be named Myrtle-Denham School. Mike Riegler, a school district trustee at the time, donated five acres for the school. While the Myrtle-Denham school was being built, the younger students attended school in the Lake View United Brethren Church building while the older ones continued studying at the Myrtle School. Myrtle-Denham School, built in 1934, was located on S. R. 54 just east of U. S. 41. It functioned until 1948 when its students were transferred to the newly opened Sanders Memorial School in Land O’ Lakes. The old school became a residence, then was torn down in 1997.”

During World War II a tourist attraction known as Dupree Gardens was in operation.

Sanders Memorial Elementary School opened in 1948. It was built to replace smaller, wooden schools at Myrtle, Denham, Tucker, and Drexel.

In 1949 the name Land O’ Lakes came into existence. A discussion of the origin (and spelling) of the name Land O’ Lakes is here.

Land O’ Lakes High School opened on July 3, 1975. Also in the summer of 1975 the Pasco County school system opened new offices on U. S. 41 in Land O’ Lakes, near the geographic center of the county. Until that time, administrators had worked in several locations in Dade City, Zephyrhills, and New Port Richey.

Land O’ Lakes experienced rapid population growth beginning in the 1990s.

On Oct. 27, 2012, presidential candidate Mitt Romney spoke at a rally at Land O’ Lakes High School.

The intersection of U. S. 41 and State Road 54 on May 15, 2006.

A Beautiful Suburb of Two Cities (1927)


This article appeared in the Dade City Banner on Apr. 22, 1927.

By Carl H. Rerick, Sec. Pasco Co. Chamber of Commerce

Without definite bounds, but lying alongside the Hillsborough-Pasco county line for several miles, and intersected by State Road No. 5 and the Wesley Chapel and Odessa roads, is a part of Pasco county known as Denham-Myrtle. A feature of the section is the numerous lakes that dot the landscape so that nearly every resident has a lake, or shares one with a neighbor. They are lakes which maintain a steady height and have a modifying action on the temperature. Everyone there claims that when there is a cold snap the temperature is several degrees warmer there than in the surrounding country.

The soil is adapted to the growing of oranges and grapefruit, and considerable of it here and there is ideal for trucking.

It is strictly a country community with Lutz, across the county line, its nearest town and postoffice. By paved road it averages about 18 miles from the court house in Tampa, which is its natural market.

It is also suburban to Tampa in that much of the real estate is owned by Tampa men, and Tampa people come here for country occupation or recreation.

There are fifteen bearing groves in Denham-Myrtle, aggregating 650 acres. Fourteen of these range from five to forty acres, while one of 400 acres is the property of A. C. Clewis, president of the First Savings and Trust Company.

These groves went through the cold weather of early January exceedingly well. The writer had the pleasure of viewing the Kraemer grove, with its manager and former owner, John Pursley. There are ten acres of Lou Gim Gong orange trees with the fruit on the trees — approximately 1,000 boxes, and said to be 80 per cent bright. Mr. Pursley fired his grove the coldest night, which accounts in part for saving this crop, which will surely bring the owner a good price.

R. M. Leonard, real estate broker and owner of several beauty parlors in Tampa, is a trucker and country gentleman in Denham. He owns Lake Como, a beautiful body of water covering about 40 acres, and his comfortable and commodious home is but few feet from its shore. Here he and his family and guests have a good bathing beach, and are to have the best of fishing, as Mr. Leonard has arranged with the fish commission for stocking it with fish. Mr. Leonard has 115 acres of land, besides that in Lake Como, and it not only surrounds this lake, but extends on to Lake Moss.

Mr. Leonard bought this property as unimproved land three years ago, and has already spent a considerable fortune clearing, building and converting it into the beautiful country estate which he intends it to be. He and his neighbor, Mrs. Pursley, are off the state highway and have succeeded in getting a county road opened and graded, but are blocked by the Seaboard, which has so far refused to permit a crossing of its tracks.

Mr. Leonard has trucked on forty acres the last two years successfully and profitably. Last year he sold 25,000 pounds of sweet potatoes to a Tampa chain store and received three-fourths of a cent per pound above the price this corporation could have bought elsewhere. Among his crops this spring are 23 acres of Hastings Prolific corn, the earliest planted now about 30 inches high, three acres of watermelons and 400 hills of Honey Dew Melons. As few have succeeded here with this latter delicacy, his success will be noted with interest.

There is an acre plot of blackberries from which he expects to get 7,000 quarts of berries this summer. Mr. Leonard has a strawberry patch near Lakeland, and he will plant five acres on his home estate where he expects them to do equally well.

A rosebed set in January looks as if it had been growing a year, and Mrs. Leonard keeps the house supplied with roses from it.

However, if one asks for the leading farmer and trucker in this vicinity, he is likely to be sent to J. H. Sinclair, who has a farm bordering on Worthington Gardens. Mr. Sinclair came here from Tampa also six years ago, and has made a success with vegetables, eggs, poultry, and pork. As he is on a paved road from which his garden is in view, much of his market comes to his front door. However, he has a regular poultry and egg route in the city, and prides himself on holding his trade through quality and service. Mr. Sinclair has several rows of strawberry plants, planted six weeks ago, that are perfection in their thriftiness, and will supply the plants for a considerable acreage. Berry growers, looking for location, would do well to see these plants and the soil in which they are growing, and which can be duplicated here and there in this section.

The poultry industry is in its infancy in Denham but there are enough poultry folks interested to organize a poultry association with M. M. Pickett, president, and Mrs. A. E. Hill as secretary.

Mr. Pickett dropped the trade of lithographer in Chicago to produce eggs in Pasco county, although he is just within the county line, and gives Deer Lake as his residence. Mr. Pickett is ingenious and handy with tools, and his poultry houses are well worth a visit from any poultryman receptive to ideas. His principal house is 14 x 60 feet. He uses cypress poles for roosts, fastened together in sections, which can be lifted by pulleys for cleaning the floor. He has dispensed with dropping boards, which he considers unnecessary in this climate, but the floor is scrupulously cleaned every morning. The runs are made attractive to the hens by leaving the second growth oak and palmetto for shade and protection against hawks.

As to poultry being profitable, Mr. Pickett cites that in March he got 2,700 eggs from 120 hens, now fourteen months old, and have been laying all winter, and which promise to do better this month. Out of a lot of 200 baby chicks he raised, he sold 64 fryers for $74, which paid for the baby chicks and part of their feed, and he has between 60 and 70 nice pullets. We believe this is the same lot he told us he bought of the Budanna Poultry Farms at New Port Richey, and the pullets are now laying at four months old.

The Pickett Poultry Farm consists of six acres lying on the east side of Thirteen Mile Run and near Lake Bird. Cypress form a wind-break on three sides. The soil is sandy loam of a fertility that will raise all of the green feed for the poultry yard, and supply the family with fruits and vegetables.

Mr. Pickett is going it alone now, but he expects to have the assistance of one or more of his sons as the business grows.

Mr. and Mrs. A. E. Hill, former Hoosiers who have lived here several years, recently built an 80-foot poultry house and 20-foot breeding house at their home place, about a half-mile west of the Denham station, and are starting in the fryer business. This spring they have sustained a heavy loss of baby chicks which they had bought from different hatcheries, but when they find the cause and rectify it they will undoubtedly do well, as they have a well equipped plant for the business.

A. H. Zimmerman, general manager for Fugazzi Brothers of Tampa and Clearwater, is the owner of the Camp Lake Farm, distinguished by its Dutch windmill house. W. H. Higgins, a Tampa musician, lives on the place, and the two have about a thousand birds in partnership.

The above, we understand, are the leading poultry raisers in the Denham-Myrtle section, and a visit to their plants is sufficient to show that this popular branch of husbandry is well suited here alone, or with citrus growing or trucking.

Happy 50th

Land O’ Lakes celebrates the 50th anniversary of a vote at a Denham Drexel Civic Association meeting that changed the area’s name.

This article appeared in the Tampa Tribune on June 14, 1999. Thanks to James Dennison and Madonna Jervis Wise for the article.


LAND O’ LAKES. Fifty years ago, the ayes had it. Land O’ Lakes was born by popular vote at a June 13, 1949 meeting called by the Denham-Drexel Civic Association. It would be another year though, before the state recognized the name and the federal government opened a Land O’ Lakes post office.

Before the name change, the area splintered into small communities, including Ehren, Drexel, Denham, Myrtle and Fivay.

The area was going through a growth spurt. It was becoming home to more people looking for a quiet, rural lifestyle. It was a popular vacation destination for visitors from the “North, many lured by the Dupree Gardens.

There were First Baptist Church and Drexel Church of God, a PTA, a Home Demonstration Club, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 551, and a new school, Sanders Elementary.

It was time to bring residents together into a community with one name, the civic association decided.

Selma Wells attended the meeting and cast a vote.

Wells, nearing her 91st birthday, still lives on Ehren Cutoff property she and her husband, Bascom, bought when they moved here from Detroit in 1941.

Bascom Wells ran a grocery story on the corner for about 25 years, she said. After he sold the building, businesses came and went. It housed a lawn mower shop when it caught fire and burned to the ground last year, Wells said. Her husband wasn’t alive to see it destroyed, though. He died 15 years ago, she said.

Shortly after arriving, Wells got involved with the Home Demonstration Club. She was the group’s secretary.

“There were only six or seven of use women in it,” she said. We got together at each other’s homes and learned about taking care of a home.”

Ginny McCumber, daughter of longtime schoolteacher, Gertrude Godwin, now lived near Orlando. She was 27 at the time of the meeting.

“I don’t remember many people not wanting the name (Land O’ Lakes)”, McCumber said. “The biggest discussion was over how to spell it.”

When she married her husband, Russell, McCumber’s parents gave the couple a piece of property on what is now School Road.

They later offered it for Sanders Elementary, built in 1948.

The civic association meeting was in the school, McCumber said.

Not everyone favored the name change.

Elizabeth MacManus, born and raised in a home overlooking Goose Neck Lake, just east of Collier Parkway, didn’t attend the civic association meeting. She was a young mother, busy with her daughter, Susan, a toddler at the time.

Susan MacManus is now a political science professor at the University of South Florida. She and her husband, Cameron, have another daughter and son, both of whom are doctors in other states.

Elizabeth MacManus, 76, and Susan recently wrote what many longtime residents consider the definitive history of the area. The book, “Citrus, Sawmills, Critters and Crackers-Life in Early Lutz and Central Pasco,” was published last year by the University of Tampa Press.

Mike Riegler, MacManus’ father, was the first permanent settler of what became Lutz.

At one time, Lutz’s northern boundary ran up to State Rad 52 in Gowers Corner, she said. In time it dropped south to Lake Patience Road and eventually a few miles south of State Road 54.

She still prefers to think of herself as a Lutz resident.

“I was born in Lutz,” she said. “I can’t help it if they chopped it off.” Her siblings, George Riegler, Gloria Herms and Ann Avriett, are still living in the area. Susan MacManus lives within walking distance.

Milford Joshua (M.J.) Dennison was vice president of the civic association. He raised his family in a house that once stood at Livingston Road and State Road 54. That area was known by a stagecoach rough that went through it, Myrtle-Denham Cut-off, said Dennison’s son, James.

Until his death two years ago at age 77, Dennison still referred to his hometown as Denham.

“Most people, even though they voted for it (Land O’ Lakes), they still used the old stage coach name,” James Dennison said.

It’s unclear where the name Land O’ Lakes came from. Two people received $25 checks for submitting winning entries: Edna Blair and an unknown man, MacManus’ book says.

Some say the name was borrowed from the Minneapolis-based Land O’ Lakes butter company. Others say it was a reflection of the multitude of lakes in the area. Both explanations have merit.

Melt Godwin, 59, was born and raised in the community once known as Ehren. The family home was on Ehren Cutoff, next door to what is now the Pasco Food Bank. His mother, Ila Mae, taught at the Drexel School with Gertrude Godwin. His father, Melt Godwin, Sr., was a longtime commissioner.

“I was there the night they named it,” Godwin said. “The mothers were passing out these little pieces of paper. There weren’t any copy machines back then, so everyone was told to buy the butter and cut the name off the package to vote.”

Godwin said his parents voted in favor of the name. It made sense to them, and most often because of the watery region.

“There used to be an overpass on 41, just south of the high school,” Godwin said. “If you stood at the top of it, you could see nine different lakes.” In the dry season the area took on a nickname. We called it Land O’ Ponds,” Godwin said with a laugh.

The Fourth of July celebration program from 1949 reports the area’s change to the name Land O’ Lakes.

Central Pasco Full Of Historic Sites (2003)

The following article appeared in the Tampa Tribune on April 18, 2003.


LAND O’ LAKES - Even before Florida achieved statehood in 1845, settlers ventured into the wilderness of the eastern part of what later became Pasco County.

Next, Pasco’s coast beckoned newcomers.

Central Pasco was slower to be settled. But plenty of folks now know about the area’s virtues, and it has become the fastest growing part of Pasco.

The influx of subdivisions is crowding out historic sites that dotted the once isolated countryside. But plenty of history is left, with several sites listed in the Pasco County Historical Preservation Committee’s book The Historic Places of Pasco County. An Internet site even suggests traversing the “Land O’ Lakes Historical Trail.”

The preservation committee and the Pasco County Commission in 1981 dedicated a marker commemorating Land O’ Lakes' history. Placed at the Land O’ Lakes Community Center on U.S. 41 North, the marker relates how settlement of the area began in the 1850s after the establishment of a stagecoach relay station between Brooksville and Tampa.

The land had opened up to settlement soon after the Seminoles who once roamed the forest were forced by an 1830 U.S. government order to leave for reservations west of the Mississippi River.

By the late 1840s, a Hernando County businessman operated the Concord Stage Line, cutting through the center of what is now Pasco County. Relay stops were established where fresh teams could replace exhausted horses.

One station was located at what was called 26-Mile House. Before long, a few log cabins were built around the relay station and a small community developed.

A Community Called Ehren

The stage line stopped running about 1856. But with vast stands of timber, sawmills dotted the countryside. One of those was Ehren Pine Sawmill, established near the 26-Mile House by Fredrick and Louis Muller of Germany along what is now County Road 583.

Ehren Pine Sawmill employed about 100 workers and had homes for some to live in. Others owned property near the mill in the community that became known as Ehren.

Another historical marker is in Ehren Cemetery, located off County Road 583, called Ehren Cutoff. The marker explains that “Ehren” means “place of honor” in the Mullers’ native German. [However, according to MacManus, Frederick Ernest Müller named Ehren for his hometown in Germany.]

A post office opened in Ehren on Jan. 17, 1890. It burned and was rebuilt several times before closing in 1950. At one time it was listed in “Ripley’s Believe It Or Not” as the smallest post office in the country.

Ehren Cemetery, with graves dating to the early 1900s, includes several homemade tombstones. Impressions of leaves are made in the concrete, with names scribbled into cement. Osteen, McDaniels and Jones are early family names found in the cemetery.

By 1910, Ehren boasted a hotel and school, along with the sawmill.

With the sawmills that dotted central Pasco came a need for a railroad to transport the lumber to market.

In 1907, Tampa Southern Railroad put down tracks along the old stagecoach route. A station was built at what is now U.S. 41 and State Road 54. It was called Denham Station, named after the train’s fireman [actually named for the general manager of the Tampa Northern Railroad--jm].

Several other small communities developed along the railroad line, including Drexel.

Drexel originally was named Diston, a misspelling of Hamilton Disston, the Philadelphia entrepreneur who rescued the state when it was on the verge of bankruptcy by buying 4 million acres. Edmund Dunne, who brokered the land deal, founded the Catholic Colony of San Antonio in east Pasco.

A post office was opened at Diston in 1883. It was renamed Drexel in 1888 and closed for good in 1902.

Drexel was located west of today’s U.S. 41 at Drexel and Lake Thomas roads.

Butter And Lots Of Lakes

The entire area was known as Denham-Drexel until Sept. 1, 1950, when it was officially changed to Land O’ Lakes.

The usual story has it a contest was held to select the name. Three people suggested Land O’ Lakes, appropriate for an area with 50 lakes within 18 square miles.

Two of those proposing that name were a tourist from Michigan and a woman named Sis Hahs Kerns, who wrote community news stories and distributed copies herself. The Hahs family had moved to the area from Fredericktown, Mo., in 1914.

Also suggesting the name was real estate agent M.H. Sears, who brought butter with the popular Land O’ Lakes brand to the meeting.

Sears' real estate office at 5110 Land O’ Lakes Blvd., now home to Land O’ Lakes Realty, is listed on the historical trail compiled by Steve Rajtar of the Florida Trail Association. His Land O’ Lakes trail is on the Web site www.reocities.com/krdvry/florida.html Other structures listed as historic include the Clark House, 21538 Hopson Road. The residence dates to about 1919. Its windows are noteworthy for their novel design, according to The Historic Places of Pasco County.

William J. and Maude Clark came to Land O’ Lakes in 1933 and paid $10 a month for the property. It’s now owned by their daughter Emma Lou Clark Harvey.

The Hale house, 21846 Vagts Lane, was the large estate home of Arthur B. Hale. He was appointed chairman of the state road board in 1937 by Gov. Fred Cone.

Born in 1888 in Tennessee, Hale moved in 1907 to Tampa, where he was a mechanical engineer. He also worked in refrigeration with the Tampa Ice Co. and later owned Hale and Buerke Electric Co.

During World War II, Hale headed the War Production Board in Tampa. He died in 1942 at 54.

Hale Road, off U.S. 41, is named for him. The house is now owned by the estate of August Vagts.

The Riegler house, at 2506 Collier Parkway, is obscured from public view but still stands as tribute to George “Mike” Riegler, who established the first citrus nursery and grove in what is now Land O’ Lakes.

Riegler, a native of Germany, came to Florida and was the first permanent settler of the new town developed by North Tampa Land Co. and originally called North Tampa, now Lutz, settling there in 1911.

He soon moved to Pasco County, near 20-Mile Level Road, and established the citrus nursery and grove. His nursery provided trees he had budded to stock raised from the seed of rough lemon. The budwood came from eight trees he purchased from Glen St. Mary Nurseries, one of the oldest in Florida, established in 1882 near Jacksonville.

The house is now owned by Riegler’s granddaughter, Susan MacManus, a political science professor at the University of South Florida and an author. Included in her publications is the 560-page “Citrus, Sawmills, Critters & Crackers” that she and her mother, Elizabeth Riegler MacManus, wrote on life in early Lutz and central Pasco.

Sanders Memorial School, 5126 School Road, was built with a $50,000 bond to replace the two-room Drexel School. The old school became the lunchroom and the “new” facility was finished in time for the 1948 academic year.

The school was the vision of Judge James Wilton Sanders, who served as principal of Zephyrhills High School before his tenure as superintendent of schools from 1912-20.

A third historical marker was placed in the Land O’ Lakes area last year at the site of Dupree Gardens.

The 1940s tourist attraction originally was intended as a place for Tampa lawyer William Dupree to hunt and relax.

Located east of what was then State Road 5, now U.S. 41, and Ehren Cutoff, Dupree built a log cabin and spent his days planting an exotic garden of flowers, fruit trees and palms.

The result was so beautiful that Dupree’s friends persuaded him to open the 25 acres to the public on Dec. 1, 1940.

The gardens eventually closed, and Dupree sold the property in the early 1950s, with some of the land developed as home sites and a parcel that included Dupree Lake opened as a nudist camp. Some 400 acres were citrus groves. The lodge was converted into a private residence.

Last year, a Tampa company announced plans to build 1,100 homes, plus some commercial space, on 471 acres that included Dupree Gardens.

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