HISTORY OF PASCO COUNTY

Early Residents of Pasco County

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This page was last revised on Nov. 5, 2016.

SOUTHWICK B. DAVIS (1844-1927) first visited what would become New Port Richey in the spring of 1914 and moved here in November 1914. His wife died in 1919. He married Mrs. Harriet Calkins of Chicago in 1922; they had not met in person until one hour before the wedding but had corresponded for several months. [See an article by him in the Genesis of New Port Richey.]

BENNER DAVIS (1873-1943) was a farmer who lived at Prospect. He was born in San Antonio on Aug. 24, 1873, the son of Samuel Washington Davis and Mary Davis. He was married to Mrs. Alice E. Davis. Children included Mrs. Francis Smelt of Tampa and Mrs. Theo Dawson, Mrs. Rebecca Hancock, and Miss Iantha Davis of Dade City.

BYRL EDWARD WALLACE DAWKINS (died, 1953) is shown as a 37-year-old black farmer in Ehren in the 1920 census. He married Mary Hawkins, who is shown in the census as 27 years old. The following article, by Lori B. Cunningham, appeared in the Tampa Tribune on Feb. 15, 1991, which the newspaper reported was Mary’s 100th birthday.

Mary Dawkins' parents began their lives as slaves.

As her life passes into its second century, Dawkins does not talk about her family’s part in what seems such distant history.

Instead, Dawkins, who turns 100 today, focuses on the world that has been hers since 1924 - a small farm in central Pasco and a large family.

She does not actually farm anymore. But she still has an affinity for the land.

"Sometimes I come out and she’s over here in the garden," said Dawkins' youngest daughter, Ola Mae McClendon, 54. "She’s going slow, but she’s raking and chopping."

Though Dawkins walks with a cane, she rejects help getting out of a chair and still hikes herself up on an old-fashioned brass bed that seems to overwhelm her small frame.

"I call her Miss Independence," McClendon said of her mother, who is thin and stooped but spunky.

Unless the rain keeps her inside, she will make her daily jaunt behind her house to survey the tomatoes, sweet potatoes and greens growing there. Even a cold, windy day did not keep her inside recently.

"I feel like moving around," Dawkins said. "I don't give up."

Asked for the secret of her longevity, Dawkins said, "The Lord’s helped me."

Her hearing is good. And if she needs glasses, she will not let on.

"She threads her own needle," McClendon said. "Actually, she threads it for me. I think she just does it to show me up."

Dawkins has lived in the same weathered, tin-roofed house for 67 years. She gave birth to 11 of her 13 children there.

McClendon said she and her mother did some figuring. They counted 37 grandchildren, 68 great-grandchildren and 11 great-great-grandchildren.

"That’s as far as we could go," McClendon said.

Her first child, a boy, was born in 1907. The next born, a daughter, at 83, is her oldest living child.

McClendon lives in a trailer across from the family home on the land off County Road 583, otherwise known as the Ehren cutoff.

Back when this area off Cypress Creek Well Field Road was called Ehren, Dawkins' husband, Byrl Edward Wallace Dawkins, worked at the sawmill there for $1 a day.

He saved his money and bought the parcel for $150, McClendon said. The Dawkinses became farmers.

That was about 70 years ago.

The family’s house was built and it stands today much as it did then. Except now there is indoor plumbing, added in the early 1950s.

Mary Hawkins married Byrl Dawkins when she was a young teen-ager, McClendon said. They moved to Ehren in 1918, living in a two-story house near where they settled eventually. Dawkins was a preacher at the African Methodist Episcopal church in Ehren.

When the couple’s house burned to the ground, they bought the nearby seven acres of land and friends and neighbors pitched in to the build the tin-roofed house Dawkins still lives in today.

"That’s the way they used to do," McClendon said.

Just about all of Ehren worked at the sawmill, she said. After moving to the farm, Dawkins took to selling the produce they grew to the workers and to people who would gather at the junction of what is now State Road 52 and County Road 583.

"He used to peddle vegetables in his wagon," she said. "They called him preacher Dawkins, the vegetable man."

Byrl Dawkins died in 1953, she said, and the family finally sold the wagon.

Mary Dawkins was born Feb. 15, 1891, in Alachua County to Reuben and Dinah Hawkins.

McClendon said her grandparents were children when Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 freeing blacks held in slavery. Dawkins said she does not remember where her parents lived but McClendon said she thinks it was South Carolina.

Cora Hill, 61, a fellow member of the Mt. Zion AME Church in Dade City, which honored its oldest member Sunday, said Dawkins never talked much about her parents' early life as slaves.

"It wasn't a very ideal thing for her to talk about," she said.

Dawkins said she does not remember much about her life before coming to Ehren.

Despite some memory lapses, Hill said, Dawkins' mind is still sharp.

"She’s very easy-going - mild, yet jovial," Hill said. Even now, she loves to tease and joke with visitors, Hill said.

When asked recently how she met her husband, Dawkins corrected, "He met me."

GEORGE W. DAYTON (1866-1944) was admitted to the bar in Florida in 1895 and practiced law in Dade City until 1912. He was a member of the Florida State Senate in the sessions of 1909 and 1911. In 1912 he returned to Texas where he had lived earlier. He practiced law again in Dade City from 1927 to 1933, when he returned to Texas. He was born in Hancock, County, Ill., and was buried in Valley View, Tex. A brother was O. L. Dayton of Dade City, q.v.

Judge ORVILLE LIMBAUGH DAYTON (1878-1963) was born in Valley View, Texas, on a ranch on July 29, 1878. He recalled, “Our house had neither doors nor floors, and we had to borrow a big Newfoundland dog from the nearest neighbor to keep the wolves away at night. This neighbor was 15 miles away and the nearest railroad was a long walk of 75 miles.” He came to Dade City in 1890. He graduated from Pasco High School and attended Hartwell Institute in Hartwell, Ga., and then entered the law office of his brother G. W. Dayton. He first won election as a Pasco County judge in May 1899, two months before his 21st birthday. He was installed the following January after reaching the required age of 21. After serving as county judge for four years he became clerk of Pasco County court for a short time, and then became prosecuting attorney of the county court. He then became a county judge again from 1914 to June 30, 1927, when he was appointed circuit judge to fill a newly created seat in the Sixth district. He retired from that position in 1933 to enter private practice. Dayton also served as mayor of Dade City. His brothers were G. W. of Dade City, q.v.; A. C. of St. Petersburg; F. H. and J. E., who both stayed in Texas. Orville L. Dayton died in Tampa on April 14, 1963. Children:

  • O. L. Dayton Jr. (1909-1998), a circuit court judge, married Sara Knight. A son is Bill Dayton, an attorney in Dade City.
  • George C. Dayton, a state senator and attorney for the Florida State Road Dept.

AGNES DEAL (1924-2006) served on the Pasco County School Board from 1974 to 1990. She spent 30 years as a registered nurse and taught at Pasco High School. She was born on Jan. 17, 1924, in Alabama, and moved to Florida in 1953 from Mississippi and settled in Dade City in 1954. She died on Nov. 11, 2006.

ANGELO DECUBELLIS (1864-1950) was an early settler who came here about 1913. He was born in Montreal. A brother, Janvier (January) came about the same time, and another brother, Pierre (Peter) arrived several years later.

JANVIER (JANUARY) DECUBELLIS (age 63 in the 1930 census) and his wife Rosina (age 46 in the 1930 census) were early settlers who came here about 1913. The 1930 census shows children George J., 27, Anthony, 19, and Ralph, 5. Their 15-month-old child Henry wandered into a pond behind their home east of New Port Richey and drowned in a tragic accident in 1924. Ralph DeCubellis died in World War II on Saipan in June 1945. Janvier was born in Italy; his wife was born in Canada. Janvier died in 1949 in Gadsden County, Florida.

Peter DeCubellis PIERRE (PETER) DECUBELLIS (1875-1972) migrated with his wife Frances (1886-1964) and five children to Florida from Montreal in 1919 or 1918. Four more children were born in Florida. They came to Florida for the warm weather because Frances suffered from bronchitis. Pierre and Frances were born in Italy. They had ten children, one of whom died as a baby and is apparently not listed here:

  • Fred
  • Anna
  • Isadore (died Feb. 15, 2005, age 93), m. Ina Littell. (Children: Kay Sue, Stephen, Timothy, Germain)
  • Michealine I. (Mickey), born May 9, 1914, m. William Desmond Little (q.v.), d. April 30, 2009
  • Antoinette Josephine (Neszery), b. 1916, d. 2000. She attended Gulf High School through the 8th grade. A daughter, Carol Neszery Malone, graduated from Gulf High School in 1956.
  • Judith (Housend)
  • Albert
  • David
  • John

In a 2003 interview, David DeCubellis (died in 2004 at age 80) said that he was the road and bridge superintendent for the county from 1960 to 1985. "The first road I helped build was Nebraska Avenue. It was an old dirt road and we built it up. I paved the part of [State Road] 52 that goes from Bellamy Brothers Boulevard to Dade City." He also stated that he named DeCubellis Road for his family. "We raised everything we ate on that 60-acre farm. We had pigs, turkeys, chickens, cows and ducks. There were 350 head of cattle and 500 hogs. We grew all kinds of vegetables and had sugar cane that we made syrup from. And an orange grove."

JAMES A. DELCHER (1837-1900?). The following is taken from Memoirs of Florida (1902):

James A. Delcher, owner and manager of the Dade City Hotel, and a popular and highly esteemed citizen, was born in Baltimore, Md., in 1837, son of John W. and Sarah J. (Kelley) Delcher, natives of Baltimore of Irish ancestry. His paternal grandfather was Valentine Delcher, an early settler of Baltimore. Mr. Delcher was reared at Baltimore and educated in the public schools, and in his youth served an apprenticeship in sailmaking with Edward J. Ballard. During his later life in that city he was one of seven members of the McDonough Place company, which built over a thousand brick houses on North Broadway, between Chew and Gay streets, in Baltimore, in the years 1868-78. His associates in this memorable enterprise were Charles H. Mercer, George W. Bowen, Simon Godibert, Robert Reed, N. M. Smith, and Joseph Merritt. In 1884 Mr. Delcher came to Hernando county, and when Pasco county was established he erected the hotel at Dade City, having faith in the future of that region. In 1889 he made his home at Dade City and undertook the management of the hotel, although he had not at first contemplated this step, having built the hotel to rent. Since then he has taken an active part in the public affairs of the county and has been honored with local office. In 1890 he was made chairman of the city council, and in 1894 elected by the people to the office of county commissioner. Upon entering the board he was elected chairman in 1895, a position he has held to the present time, giving the county the benefit of his financial ability, with the good effect of ridding it of an oppressive debt, and putting its financial affairs upon a business-like basis. Mr. Delcher has been a member for many years of the Masonic order. He was married in Baltimore, April 19, 1865, to Elizabeth A. Bowen, of an old and prominent family of that city, and they have had six sons and two daughters: James B., of New York city; George D. B., of Jacksonville; Harry Slicer, of Dade City; J. Henck, of Bloomingdale, Fla.; Thomas Benton, who died in October, 1900; William, of Jacksonville; Verna Lucile, and Corrie Belle. Four generations of the family are now represented at Mr. Delcher’s home.

On May 19, 1922, the Dade City Banner reported that the body of Mr. Delcher was moved from the Dade City Cemetery to Jacksonville, the present home of his mother. The article reported that he had died 22 years ago and that he had built the first hotel in Dade City on the site of the Edwinola.

HARRY S. DELCHER (died, May 8, 1927), a son of James A. Delcher, was a well-known merchant in Tampa. He began as a clerk in the Coleman and Ferguson grocery store in Dade City before moving to Tampa.

Frances Bonnie Demareset Mrs. FRANCES “BONNIE” DEMAREST (1884-1964) operated the Sally Shoppe on the Boulevard in the 1920s and 1930s. On Aug. 30, 1929, the New Port Richey Press reported:

Evidence of improvement in local business conditions here is seen in the fact that the Sally Studios, operated by Mrs. Bonnie Demarest, have increased from two to ten girls, who are kept busy creating the beautiful pins, clasps and ornaments manufactured by the Studios. Mrs. Demarest reports that large orders are arriving daily, and the local postoffice is kept busy shipping the orders out to all parts of the United States. The pins and other ornaments are made by a secret, patented process, using a waxlike substance on gold base, which makes an ornamental, attractive and at the same time serviceable gift when completed. The line comprises vanity cases, perfume bottles, lingerie clasps, rings, bracelets and a miscellany of objects so dear to the heart of the feminine sex. The factory was started here by Mrs. Demarest several years ago and was an instant success, giving employment for many local girls.

Frances J. Thornton was born Feb. 7, 1884, in New Jersey but grew up Brooklyn. She married five times. Her first husband was Edward Goate; his father, William Bloomfield Goate (1848-1934), taught music at Gulf High School in the late 1920s and early 1930s.

Bonnie Tobias writes:

After Frances' divorce from Edward Goate she became a racecar driver but was not allowed to compete against men. She and other lady drivers competed at the "halftime show" so to speak. They competed against each other and even against airplanes...all over the country and in England. It was during her racing years her nickname Bunny mutated to Bonnie.

To provide the Sally Shoppe with shells for her specialty items Bonnie had a shell sorting workshop in St Petersburg in the alley way now next to the museum where all those special exhibits are shown. Judy took me there a few years ago. Judy used to sit and help the ladies to sort shells according to size. Bonnie would use the shells to cover tiny bottles and face wash brushes and earrings.

Her second husband was Richard Ravenhall. She purchased the property for the Sally Shoppe and her nearby home while married to him and she retained the properties at their divorce. In 1927 she married Daniel R. Demarest.

She died in October 1964. The Sally Shoppe was named for daughter Sally Goate (1905-1960). Sally married J. Clinton Lockard in 1930. Sally’s daughter was Jane "Judy" Frances Lockard (married name: Gurnow). Judy was born in Tarpon Springs on Sept. 18, 1934, and graduated from Gulf High School in 1953. In the 1940s Sally married Ray Huddleston.

ROBERT HENRY DE MERRITT (1858-1935) is described as a pioneer resident of Elfers in his obituary. The 1900 census shows him living in the Anclote precinct with his wife Sarah, daughter Julia, stepdaughter Mary Baker, and stepson Charles Baker.

Gerben DeVries GERBEN MYER DEVRIES (1880-1953) was born in Pella or Keokuk, Iowa, but grew up in Michigan. He first visited Port Richey on the day after Thanksgiving in 1913; he moved his family here from St. Johns, Michigan, in June 1914. He created the legend which is the basis of the Chasco Fiesta. He became the first postmaster of New Port Richey in 1915, and held the position for 21 years, retiring in 1935. He also was a prominent citrus grower. He married Pearl Wilcoxon in 1903. She died of smallpox about 1907. He married Ellen Knapp (1882-1953) on Nov. 9, 1909. Ellen died three weeks after her husband. His daughter was Amorita Lenore (b. Apr. 22, 1904; d. Oct. 16, 1997).

Grace Cripe DewGRACE DEW (1904-2000) taught school for 30 years. Grace Virginia Cripe was born March 20, 1904, at Honey Grove in Juniata County, Pennsylvania. At age 7 her father, Isaac Cripe, moved the livestock via freight car and she and her mother Anna came by boat to Jacksonville and over land to Dade City. She graduated from Zephyrhills High School in 1921, the salutatorian of her class. She was 16 years old when she “substituted” in high school teaching science when the regular teacher was out at Zephyrhills. She began her teaching career officially a year later with one year at a small school at Bay Hill, 10 miles west of Bushnell. She then taught at Sand Pond, Greer, Zephyrhills, Trilby, and Dade City Grammar School. She married Bill Dew in 1929. She died on July 20, 2000.

ADAM DICK (1860-1942) was a blacksmith who came to San Antonio about 1890. He moved to Dade City around 1922. He was also the janitor of the courthouse. He was born in New Albany, Ind. One of his children was John F. Dick of Trilby.

WILLIAM HENRY DINGUS, SR. (1890-1959) in 1927 formed a partnership with Frank I. Grey for the sale of real estate. The partnership lasted until just before Grey’s death in 1956. Dingus was born in Floral City, Fla. He was living in Aripeka in 1918 when he entered the Army. He delivered the mail in Aripeka. Dingus moved to New Port Richey in the 1920s.

HENRY CLAY “H. C.” DOUGLAS, JR., (1921-2010) was born Feb. 20, 1921, in Dora, Ala. His parents were Annie Maye Hodges and H. C. Douglas Sr., of Land O’ Lakes. Henry’s love of flying led him to join the U.S. Army Air Corps while in his early twenties. Based in Framilingliam, England, he flew B-17 bombers, completing 30 combat missions in the European Theater. As a lieutenant in the 390th Bombardment Group and Eighth Air Force, Henry was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal, followed by three additional oak leaf clusters to Air Medal, and additional citations for exceptional performance under heavy enemy fire. Upon returning home and while awaiting college admissions, Henry became a flight instructor at Zephyrhills Municipal Airport, which had served as the 10th Fighter Squadron base during the war. It was then that he met Christine Krusen, his wife of 63 years. She was taking flight lessons as a birthday gift from her parents and Henry was her instructor. They married August 7, 1947, became graduates of the University of Florida and returned to Zephyrhills, where Henry “Doug” joined Christine’s parents, I.A. (Andrew) and Dorothy Barron Krusen, as an integral part of the promotion and further development of Krusen Grove and Cattle Co. (later becoming K-Bar Ranch) which the Krusens pioneered in the 1930s. K-Bar Ranch was well known for breeding award-winning Charolais, Charbray, and Brahma cattle for many decades. Henry’s love of agriculture and his ranching career spanned over 60 years, where he served as president of the Florida Cattleman’s Association, president of the National Charolais Association, president of the American International Charolais Association, and numerous agricultural boards and councils affiliated with the University of Florida. He also served on the Zephyrhills City Council for 10 years, the Board of Directors of SunBank, and was active in the Rotary Club. He was a member of the First United Methodist Church in Zephyrhills. Douglas died on Nov. 9, 2010, at Zephyrhills. He and his wife Christine were members of the ZHS Class of 1944. Their daughters are Susanne Miller (ZHS ’69) of Tallahassee, Jennifer Blackburn (ZHS ’71) of Clarkesville, Ga., and Andra Douglas (ZHS ’77) of New York City. [Information from his obituary in the Tampa Tribune and from Clereen Morrill Brunty.]

Rollo Draft ROLLO DRAFT (1883-1963) moved to New Port Richey from Grand Rapids, Michigan, with his wife Alice (1889-1986) in 1914. On Aug. 24, 1915, following year their son, Lewis Charles Draft, died age 5. His funeral was the first in New Port Richey. He and B. H. Hermanson opened a dry goods store on North Boulevard and Main Street in New Port Richey and a hardware store and lumber yard on South Boulevard. His obituary says that he helped incorporate New Port Richey in 1916 and served on the first city council for three years. [There seems to be no other evidence that this earlier incorporation took place; Draft did serve on the first city council created under the incorporation of 1924.] The Drafts were married in Grand Rapids, Michigan, on May 5, 1909. Their children were Mrs. Ruth Knudsen, Mrs. Jacqueline S. Robinson, and Melvin C. Draft.

Melvin Draft MELVIN C. DRAFT (1922-2006), a son of Rollo Draft, was an accountant for 23 years for the Stauffer Chemical phosphate-processing plant before leaving to run his business, Pasco Office Supply. He established seven nursing homes and helped organize Citizens National Bank in Port Richey, of which he was vice chairman. He was a director of Ellis Bank. He has been a benefactor of First Baptist Church in New Port Richey. He contributed $1 million to the University of South Florida School of Business, which will name a new building in his honor [Information from a 2003 Tampa Tribune article and from his son Robert]. He was a 1941 graduate of Gulf High School. In 1958 his seven-year-old son, Melvin Draft Jr., was killed by a falling palm tree.

Judge EDMUND F. DUNNE (1835-1904) was born in Little Falls, New York. He went to California in 1852 where he was elected to the California legislature in 1862. In 1864 he served on the constitutional convention for the new state of Nevada and later served eight terms as a member of the Nevada judiciary. In 1874 President Grant appointed him chief justice of the Arizona Territory. Dunne’s legal position that Catholics and other religious groups should receive tax funding for their schools caused President Grant to force his resignation. According to a biography in Great Floridians 2000, after his removal, Dunne was hired by Hamilton Disston, a wealthy Philadelphia saw manufacturer, to select lands in a four million-acre purchase Disston had made in Florida, and in 1881, Dunne was given 50,000 acres of land to begin the Catholic colony of San Antonio. However, according to an account in Dunne People and Places by Joe Dunne, in 1882 Edmund Dunne purchased 50,000 acres of land in through the assistance of his brother John, who was the attorney for the Disston Company and controlled large tracts of land in Florida. Eddie Herrmann suggests that Dunne may have had rights to the land but did not own it. Dunne explained the procedure to a reporter for the Baltimore Catholic Mirror in 1885:

I was selected by Mr. Disston as his attorney to go to Florida and assist in the selection and to supervise the taking out of the title deeds. I obtained, as part of this arrangement, the right to have the first selection, out of the purchase, 50,000 acres of land for a Catholic colony, with the privilege that when I had sold a certain amount I should have the further privilege of taking another 50,000 acres for the same purpose. This contract was made August 10, 1881. On August 19 I was in Florida and began the work of this selection.
On February 15, 1882, he selected the colony’s site in Pasco County. In 1889, Judge Dunne conveyed his own lands to the order of St. Benedict and a small party of monks led by Father Charles Mohr, O. S. B., arrived to establish a monastery and Catholic school and to found the town of St. Leo. On Aug. 17, 1899, the San Antonio Herald reported, “Hon. E. F. Dunne, the eminent jurist and founder of San Antonio, has left Jacksonville and taken up his residence in Baltimore.”

The information in this paragraph was taken from Dunne People and Places by Joe Dunne. Details of Dunne’s early education are not available, but as an adult he could speak several languages and had an expert knowledge of history and theology. In 1874 Dunne visited his friends and relatives in Uí Riagáin on his way back to America from a law case he was dealing with in London. He is said to have verified that his father was “the legitimate legal heir of Iregan and chief of the tribe” during this visit. The Genealogical Office in Dublin do not have a record of this pedigree so Judge Dunne may have only received verbal agreement from Irish historians of the day. Pope Pius IX created him a Knight of the Order of St. Gregory the Great in 1876 and in 1879 he received a brief from Pope Leo XIII raising him to the rank of Commander of that Order. At the St. Patrick’s day celebration at Fort Wayne, Indiana, Dunne 1881 he delivered a famous Land League Lecture which was later adopted and published by the State Land League of Illinois. He established the Catholic colony at San Antonio in pursuance of a project he had previously submitted to Pope Pius IX. The Pope had studied the project in detail as presented by Cardinal Berardi and declared that “I bless this plan and the author of it and will pray for his success.” He remained in the colony until 1889 establishing there four Catholic churches, several schools, a convent boarding school for girls and St. Leo’s Military College for young men. In recognition of his work for the Catholic Education system, in January 1884 Pope Leo XIII granted him and his descendants in the male line in primogeniture the title Papal Count. In memory of his roots he took the title Count d'Oriagan. He was one of the most noted Catholic laymen in the U.S.A. and was also one of the finest orators of his day. Dunne married Josephine Warner, daughter of Col. Francis Warner of Vicksburg, Mississippi, in Paris in October 1872. Their children were Maria del Carmen, Eugene Antonio, Hilda, Brian Baru, and Mary Eithne.

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