HISTORY OF PASCO COUNTY
Early Residents of Pasco County
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BENJAMIN H. GAINES (1845-1895) was an early settler. He was born in Dallas County, Alabama, the son of Lewis Clark Gaines and Mary Jane Whitehead. He is shown as a 23-year-old farm laborer in the 1870 census. In the 1880 census he is a commercial fisherman. He is remembered for the Gaines orange grove which outlived him for more than a hundred years. Benjamin planted the grove and built a home for himself and his family about one mile east of the West Elfers Cemetery. He and his wife lived in that home for the rest of their lives. He married Rosannah C. Baillie (1847-1899). He was a trustee of the school board. Benjamin died Sept. 19, 1895. Children were: Anna Maria (1871-ca. 1875); Lewis Clark (1872-ca. 1875); Maud (1873-ca. 1875); Rosalee Victoria (1878-1910), married Samuel Benjamin Baker (1871-1914); George Benjamin Franklin (1882-1937), married Sarah; Bertha Mae (1884-1962), married Rhuben Gause (1880-1972); Lewis Clark (1886-1955), married Daisey Pearl Stevenson (1885-1969).
LEWIS C. GAINES (1886-1955) was a deputy sheriff of Pasco County for 14 years and was the senior Deputy Sheriff of West Pasco County at the time of his death. and also served on the police force of Tarpon Springs for several years. He was born in the area which became Elfers. A son was Basil Hugo Gaines (1912-1986), who became a Pasco County sheriff.
LEWIS GASKIN (1822-1905) and his family settled on Buddy’s Lake (now called Lake Pasadena) in 1855, according to Historic Places of Pasco County. He was born in South Carolina. According to Vicki Oliver, he was in Jefferson County, Florida, in 1848.
JAMES D. GASKIN (1855-1917), a native of South Carolina, was an early settler. He married Martha Barnes (1856-1910).
LEWIS JACKSON GASKIN (1861-1930) was born Jan. 18, 1861, and died Aug. 13, 1930. Lewis Gaskins is shown as a farmer living at Earnestville in the 1886-87 Florida State Gazetteer and Business Directory. He was a trustee of the Prospect School, which his children attended. In the 1900 census he is Louis J. Gaskins. In the 1910 census he is Jackson Gaskin. In the 1920 census he is Jack L. Gaskin. He married Frances Olive (1862-1932). She was born on July 28, 1862, and died Oct. 15, 1932. Her obituary listed survivors as sons W. N. of Lakeland, John of Ocala, and Vivian of Dade City, and one daughter Mrs. N. K. Williams.
JAMES LEWIS GASKIN (1875-1938), a farmer and cattleman, lived his entire life in Pasco County. He was born on Jan. 20, 1875, the son of James D. and Martha Barnes Gaskin. James Lewis Gaskin died at the home of his brother in the Prospect community on Aug. 14, 1938. His obituary listed as survivors three sisters, Mrs. Mary Childers, Mrs. Martha Knapp, Mrs. Emily Harrell, and seven brothers, Jude F., Matthew, Leroy, Fred, Lawrence, Mead, and Marvin.
WILLIAM MATTHEW GASKIN (1882-1944) was a farmer and lifelong resident of Pasco County. He was born on Dec. 5, 1882, the son James D. and Martha Barnes Gaskin. On March 24, 1943, William’s oldest son, Cecil Gaskin, was killed in action in Tunisia. According to his obituary, survivors were two sons, Herbert P. Gaskin of Kissimmee and Cpl. Virgil W. Gaskin, AAF at Amarillo, Tex.; five daughters, Mrs. R. J. Storch and Miss Inez Gaskin of Tampa, Alma, Mildred, and Zuma Mae of Dade City; six brothers, S. M., L. M., J. F., Fred, and Marvin of Dade City, and Leroy of Tampa; three sisters, Mrs. R. F. Knapp and Mrs. Mary Geiger of Zephyrhills, Mrs. Emily Harrell of Tampa, and four grandchildren.
JOHN JACKSON GASKINS (1897-1945) was a County Commissioner who was engaged in the citrus and cattle business. On Feb. 21, 1945, he was killed by a Seaboard passenger train which collided with his truck at a crossing two blocks south of the station in Zephyrhills. His wife, driving behind him in their car, witnessed the accident. He became a county commissioner on Jan. 7, 1941, and was serving his third term when he was killed. He was a Pasco County native, a son of Jack Gaskins, a pioneer settler in Pasco County. He was survived by his wife Mrs. Ruth Arnold Gaskins, two brothers, W. N. Gaskins of Lakeland and V. C. Gaskins of Dade City, and a sister, Mrs. N. K. Williams of Dade City.
EDWIN J. GASQUE (1865-1932) owned the Edwinola Hotel, which was named for himself and wife Lola. He was born in Marion County, South Carolina. His father, Jehu Gasque, a planter, was of French Huguenot descent. His mother’s maiden name was Emeline M. Richardson. Edwin attended the University of Kentucky. He operated naval stores in Georgia and later in Florida. According to his obituary, he built many of the older residences in Dade City. In 1912 he opened the Hotel Edwinola. In 1902 he married Lola Mobley. Their three children were Edwin Jr. of Dade City, Mrs. Fred Varn of Jacksonville, and William R. of Dade City.
JOHN GEIGER was born in Germany. He moved to Florida from Pennsylvania and homesteaded 640 acres. He set aside five acres of the farm for a family cemetery. His son John Jr., killed in the Civil War, was the first person buried in the cemetery. Children:
ELIAS JASPER GEIGER (1871-1942) was a prominent farmer and stockman of Zephyrhills and an uncle of J. Don Geiger, county prosecuting attorney. He married Alief Virginia Spivey. Children:
JAMES LAURENCE GEIGER (1874-1951) married Josie Louise Seale (b. Nov. 1, 1876; d. Sep. 2, 1921) on March 20, 1895, at Abbott (now Zephyrhills). He was Postmaster from 1911 to 1921, or according to postal records, from 1913 to 1922. In Oct. 1911 he announced his candidacy for sheriff of Pasco County, saying he was born near the present site of Zephyrhills. Children: Blanche, James E., William A., James Donovan, and Gladys.
CEPHAS GEIGER (b. 1895) is shown as the teacher at the Cootie School in school board minutes from June 1913, and is shown as the teacher at the Seven Springs School in school board minutes from July 1916. He was born Oct. 27, 1895, in Abbott (now Zephyrhills). His parents were Abraham B. and Lucinda Geiger, both born in 1866. In January 1915 he was teaching at Groveland. On Feb. 15, 1916, the newspaper of Pasco High School reported: “The normal had a call yesterday from Mr. Cephas Geiger of Zephyrhills. Cephas is a strong teacher. He has just completed the term of his school in Lake county.” He enlisted in the military on July 29, 1917 and was discharged on Feb. 8, 1919. On May 24, 1919, a newspaper reported that Geiger closed the term of school at Blanton and will spend his vacation at home with his parents, Mr. and Mrs. A. B. Geiger.
GEORGE A. GILBERT (1879-1979) was born in Leesburg, Ga., the son of James Ross and Maria Adams Gilbert. He served as engineer on various boats from 1901 to 1911. He gave up steamboating in 1911 and worked for a year in the Atlantic Coast Line freight office. In 1912 he bought a soda-water plant in Kissimmee and began bottling. He moved this plant to Haines City in 1913. In 1916 he and his brother-in-law G. H. Boring bought the Coca-Cola Bottling Co. in Dade City. Gilbert married Alice Jordan (died, 1949) in Dade City in 1901. She was the daughter of Henry and Eliza Lanier Jordan, early settlers in Pasco County. Children: Thelma, Vera (Mrs. Turnbull), Christine (Mrs. Sam Slough), Imogene (died in infancy). [Information from his autobiography in East Pasco’s Heritage.]
REV. MOZELLE L. GILBERT (1857-1951) came to Florida because of poor health in 1881 and first settled in Hudson, where he and his wife planted an orange grove and built a home, according to his obituary. However, the 1880 census of Hernando County shows him and his family living near Pasadena (in what is now Pasco County), and shows a one-year-old son who was born in Kentucky, implying he came here in 1879 or 1880. He was appointed by the Governor as the first Pasco County school board member in 1887. In 1889 he was ordainted minister of the Primitive Baptist Church near Plant City. He was chairman of the board for 12 years before becoming the Pasco County schools superintedent. In 1894 he was elected to the school board. In 1896 he ran for Superintendent of Public Instruction but lost the election. In 1908 he was elected Superintendent, and took office on Jan. 5, 1909. He was born in Mayfield, Kentucky, and studied law at Clinton College in Kentucky. For 34 years he was associate editor of Zion’s Landmark, published in Wilson, N. C. He was editor-in-chief of the Baptist Watchman and associate editor of the Spiritual Land Council and the Primitive Baptist. He died at his home in Dade City. His obituary lists his survivors as his widow, Mrs. Levia Bennett Gilbert; seven children, Mrs. Carlos G. Hamilton, Lester Gold Gilbert, Mrs. Robert C. Millar, Jacksonville; Wendell V. and Clifford O. Gilbert, Dade City; Mrs. C. H. Smith, Arcadia; and Mrs. Aborn H. Smith Jr., Orlando, and 19 grandchildren. Mozell Gilbert is the grandfather of Chesterfield Smith, a past president of the American Bar Association.
JACKSON J. GILLETT (1832-1900) was born in Columbia Co., Florida, in Feb. 1832, the son of Anderson and Sarah Gillett. On June 19, 1852, he married Malinda Morgan, the daughter of Ephraim and Mary Parker Morgan. After Civil War service they moved farther down the peninsula. He died in Pasco County on Aug. 8, 1900. [Information from Cracker Times and Pioneer Lives: The Florida Reminiscences of George Gillett.]
GEORGE W. GILLETT (1880-1939) was born on Jan. 12, 1880, and died on Dec. 7, 1939, according to his obituary. He was survived by his wife, Mary Bell Gillett, 3 sons, Wesley, Leroy, and Aaron Gillett, 3 daughters, Mrs. Ella Mae Conner, Mrs. Julia Bell Cox, Mrs. Mary Louise Jenness, one brother, James Gillett, 2 sisters, Mrs. Julia Brady and Mrs. Lenora Edwards. He was buried in the Hudson Cemetery.
EDWARD DECATTOR GOETHE (1860-1936) was born in Georgia on Sept. 24, 1860, to George Goethe and Harriet Box Goethe. According to files in the Huxford Genealogy Library in Homerville, Ga., Edward married Mary Aldridge in Georgia in 1881. Edward was enumerated with his father and mother, brother John, and sister Roxeana on the 1880 Hillsborough County census. He married Anna Eliza Garrison in Hernando County on June 16, 1887. Edward died Feb. 22, 1936. Annie died July 21, 1943. Both are buried in the Anclote Cemetery. According to his obituary, Mr. Goethe came to the Anclote section as a child six years old from Georgia with his parents, and had lived there ever since. He died at his home in Anclote. A photo is here. Their children were:
LUCY GREEN (died, 1924). On Feb. 22, 1924, the Dade City Banner reported, “Aunt Lucy Green, an old slave time darkey, was buried in Trilby Wednesday. Aunt Lucy was about a hundred years old, she was an old time slave darkey and was thought lots of by the white people as well as colored.”
JAMES LEE GREER (died, 1936) purchased from B. W. Blount a tract of land where he erected the largest sawmill in this part of the state around 1900. A post office is established at Greer on June 22, 1900. On Jan. 7, 1921, the Dade City Banner reported that "the saw mill of the Greer Lumber Co. at Greer, five miles south of Dade City, was destroyed by fire last night." He was later elected President of the Bank of Tampa and organized a lumber company in Tampa, where products of his mill were sold. The 1910 census shows him as 43 years old, born in Georgia. He died at a hospital in Albany, Georgia, on Jan. 30, 1936. A son was J. L. Greer Jr.
FRANK I. GREY (1883-1956) arrived in New Port Richey in 1912 for a short vacation, and decided to move to the area. On Nov. 19, 1914, the Tarpon Springs Leader reported in its Port Richey news column: “A pleasant event of the week was the wedding of Frank I. Grey and Miss Mary Casey, two popular young people of this town which took place in Tampa Thursday Nov. 19. The bride is a native of Noblesville, Indiana, coming here with her parents, Mr. and Mrs. J. H. Casey, a year and a half ago, and Mr. Grey came here from Lynn, Mass., last fall. The best wishes of their many friends go with them in their new relations.” The couple opened Grey’s Market and later was employed in real estate with George R. Sims and in 1924 he opened his own office, merging it in 1927 with Henry Dingus Sr. His obituary in the New Port Richey Press of Oct. 18, 1956:
Frank Irving Grey, 73, realtor and pioneer of New Port Richey died early Monday morning in Tampa’s St. Joseph Hospital. He was born in Rowley, Mass. and settled here 43 years ago at the age of 30. A civic leader from the early boom days up until the time of his death, he served as mayor of the city as well as councilman, a member of the Board of School trustees and helped organize the first church and post office in the area. He was in the real estate business with a partner, Henry Dingus, Sr., for many years and just recently opened a new office on West Main street with his two sons. He and his wife had the honor of being the first couple to be married in the City of New Port Richey after its founding. Was a member of the Community Congregational Church, the Quarterback Club, Shuffleboard Club and was at the forefront of practically every civic and fraternal order organized in the city. Survivors include his wife, Mary E.; two sons, James E. of this city and William F. of Port Richey; two sisters, Mrs. Alta Noyes of Newburyport, Mass and Mrs. Olga Witham of Rowley, Mass; one brother, Harry C. of this city and seven grandchildren. Funeral services took place Wednesday at the Community Congregational Church with burial at Pine Hill Cemetery. Duval Funeral Home in charge. Pall bearers were: Henry Potter, Henry Falany, Desmond Little, H. J. McIntyre, R. W. Fowler and Fred K. Marchman.
Mary E. Grey died on March 18, 1968, at age 71. Children:
HENRY CLAY GRIFFIN (1852-1933) was the second mayor of Dade City, an early sheriff of Pasco County, and the owner of the Griffin Drug Co. He was born in Bainbridge, Ga. According to his obituary, he was in charge of construction of the Orange Belt railroad (later the Atlantic Coast Line) from Sanford to St. Petersburg and other construction projects of various kinds. For six years he was personal claim agent for the Atlantic Coast Line railroad. He served as Sheriff of Pasco County from 1896 to 1904. He was the Supervisor of State Prisons during the administration of Governor Gilchrist. Upon the death of his oldest son Clarence, H. C. Griffin took charge of the Griffin Drug Store and hardware business, remaining in charge of the drug business until his death. He was survived by two sons, Dr. L. S. Griffin of Jacksonville and Henry C. Griffin Jr. of Dade City, and two daughters, Mrs. George S. Finch and Mrs. Floyd Carmichael of Atlanta. Another son was James Clarence Griffin (1874-1915), a prominent Dade City businessman.
JOHN WESLEY GURNEY (1844-1926) was born in Massachusetts, the eldest son of Abner and Armelia (White) Gurney, a lineal descendant of Samuel and Susannah White of the Mayflower. He was a Civil War veteran. He and Julia Armina Gurney (1851-1934) were married on Feb. 22, 1874. They came to New Port Richey in the fall of 1920. Their daughter:
JAMES GILLILAND GUTHRIE (1840-1898). According to WPH, "A Dr. Guthrie who came to the Hudson area about 1883, from Missouri, was the first doctor in western Pasco according to all the old records. He remained in Hudson only a short time then moved his practice to Tarpon Springs." An 1886-87 directory shows J. G. Guthrie as a physician at Gulf Key. According to The Blue and Gray Tour, he moved his family to Tarpon Springs in 1891, where he also engaged in sponging and owned several orange groves. Guthrie was born in Butler County, Pennsylvania. He served as a nurse in the Civil War and later earned a degree in medicine from the University of Pennsylvania. He then served as a doctor for the U. S. government before moving to Sparta, Illinois, in 1877.