HISTORY OF PASCO COUNTY
Early Residents of Pasco County
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JAMES HONOUR ST. CLAIR (1871-1949) was a long-time teacher in Pasco County. He was born in Marion, S. C., on December 8, 1871. He attended the University of Georgia and began his teaching career in Georgia at age 17 as an assistant to his father who was also a teacher. He moved to Florida in 1919 and taught one year at Oak Hill near Dade City and two years at Pasco High School before moving to Elfers in 1921. He served as principal of Elfers Junior High School and then taught at Gulf High School from 1923 until his retirement in 1941. At Gulf he taught Latin and English and coached baseball and basketball and was known as "Pop" St. Clair. He taught for 53 years. In 1947 the athletic field at Gulf was dedicated in his honor and on Nov. 28, 1952, a memorial plaque was placed at the southwest corner of the field during ceremony at half-time. The Gulf High Future Teachers of America chapter was named for him.
In Tales of West Pasco Ralph Bellwood wrote:
Jumping from the far corner of the County at Aripeka where Kolb lived, to Elfers, we find another outstanding personality whose influence will be felt through generations to come, for he imparted culture and learning through precept and example as an educator. We refer to Professor J. H. St. Clair. He taught in Gulf High school for many years. Principals came and went, but Professor St. Clair was perhaps the strongest personality that Gulf High has ever had. He was a quiet, dignified man, with a knack of getting ideas over to his pupils, as few educators have. He was an avid fisherman and caught more bass out of the Cotee and Anclote rivers than any other single man in the area. He not only taught hundreds of young people, but gave three teachers from his family, one being Mark St. Clair (now retired) who for a number of years was Superintendent of Public Instruction for Pasco County. Indeed, the St. Clair family has been a family of educators. The Professor’s Mother and Father were teachers. His wife and three children were or are now teaching, and two of his grandchildren are teaching at present.
The 1942 Gulf High School yearbook is dedicated to St. Clair, as follows:
Because he is devoted to the ideals of our school,
MARK ST. CLAIR (died in 1995 at age 90) served as Pasco County Superintendent of Schools from 1949 to 1957. He was born in Statesboro, Ga. His family moved to Dade City in 1919. He attended 7th through 9th grades there. In 1921 his family moved to Elfers. St. Clair was a member of Gulf High School’s first graduating class in 1924. He graduated from Florida Southern College in Lakeland in 1928. He was the principal at Trilby and Lacoochee before being elected Superintendent of Schools. He subsequently was an assistant principal in Leesburg. Lorise Abraham, a student at Lacoochee, recalled, "Prof. St. Clair was principal in my day and everybody, just everybody loved that man, even when he had to reprimand us. Now, it really takes a special talent to have students love you even when you've been forced to give them a licking or a lecture! Prof made learning so much fun and he always brought humor into the classroom with him.” In 1926 St. Clair married Alice Mullin, a teacher. She died in 1960. He married Helen Jackson Swartsel in November 1962.
EDGAR SAPP (1896-1985) and his wife Florence Dix Sapp lived in the house abandoned by Aaron M. Richey after Richey moved to Tarpon Springs. Sapp subsequently moved to Anclote. In a 1983 newspaper article Sapp recalled that there were 14 houses at Anclote when he moved there in the early 1900s. He was a commercial fisherman for 70 years. He was born in Bradenton. In the 1900 census he is shown as 14 years old, a fisherman. He married on Oct. 31, 1915. A listing for Cycadia Cemetery shows Edgar Sapp died on Feb. 2, 1985. [Some information provided by Audrey Thomas Newton and her mother Frances Irene Sapp Thomas, daughter of Edgar and Florence Sapp.]
GENE SARAZEN (1902-1999), one of the greatest golfers of all time, wintered in New Port Richey. More information is here.
FRED R. SASS (died, 1945, age 74) arrived in Florida in 1912 and purchased a hotel which was under construction by the Port Richey Company, and which became the Sass Hotel. He wrote in The Genesis of New Port Richey that "Mrs. Sass was the first woman to live in New Port Richey.” Fred Sass was a talented painter; a painting by him of Elroy Avery hangs in the New Port Richey Library. Many examples of his art were exhibited in St. Petersburg, where he and his wife Ollie M. retired. They were both born in Missouri. His name appears as Fred G. Sass in a 1919 newspaper.
JOHN RICHARD SAWYER II (1861-1935), an early resident of what would become Elfers, had a fish camp he built on stilts off shore between Green Key and what is now Gulf Harbors, according to the recollection of a son Irvin Sawyer (1914-1993). His obituary says, “Sawyer, who was in his 75th year, was born February 12, 1861. He had made his home in the Elfers community for 53 years, settling there following his marriage.” John R. Sawyer II married Georgia Joanna Butler. Their first child, Fred Sawyer, was born on Feb. 28, 1886, and could be the first male child born in the settlement which became Elfers.
ROBERT LOCHRIDGE SEAY (1856-1937) was a prominent resident of Dade City for 60 years, according to his obituary. He was born in Water Valley, Ky., on July 26, 1856. As a young man he moved to Fort Dade and set out citrus groves and later entered the livery business. He married Carrie Turner in Florida. He died on Nov. 21, 1937. He was followed to Florida by his sister and brother-in-law and by his parents. His father, Dr. Charles Thomas Seay (1824-1907), was a local physician.
GASINGAMER or GLASINGAME G. SHEFFIELD (1818-1898) probably came to what later became Elfers around 1868. He is shown as a farmer in the 1870 census. His wife was Marguarite (1828-1900). [These are the spellings in the 1870 census; their grave markers at West Elfers Cemetery have Gaim G. and Margaret.] The 1870 census shows their children Julia, 20; John, 19; Moses, 16; Martha, 10; Mary, 8; and Ellis Lee, 4. Mary married J. O. Brown, q.v.
MOSES D. SHEFFIELD (1854-1928), a son of G. G. Sheffield, lived at Elfers for 60 years according to his obituary. The 1880 census shows that Moses Sheffield was born in Georgia, and that he was a sponger living in Hernando County.
J. HENRY SHELDON is named as the postmaster of Port Richey in 1918 and 1920 newspapers, although his wife Emma E. Sheldon is listed as the postmaster from 1916 to 1920 in official records. He came to the Port Richey area in 1915, according to Avery. He was selected as a member of the original New Port Richey city council in 1924, and in 1925 was named (by charter) the first clerk of Port Richey. He operated the Sheldon House, a hotel which was advertised in newspapers in 1918 and 1919. He later operated the City Market, a grocery store in New Port Richey. He died when he was thrown by a horse, around 1953. He is buried at Belleview Cemetery in Marion County. A son was Harvey O. Sheldon (b. about 1897), who married Jane Gray Edwards, a longtime teacher in western Pasco County. He died at age 56 at Bay Pines.
JENNIE SHELDON (1899-1994) taught school in Pasco County for 47 years.
She was born Jane Gray Edwards in the Bahamas and was brought to
the U. S. by her uncle John Edwards when she was three years old.
At age 19 she married Harvey O. Sheldon (born about 1897) and she then worked at the Sheldon House, a hotel
operated by her father-in-law.
According to her daughter Edna Brower, she started teaching at about age 18.
Jennie recalled in a 1978 newspaper article that from 1918 to 1920 she taught grades 1 through 8 at
the Port Richey school.
School board minutes of April 5-6, 1920, reported that the Board appointed Miss Corinne Jordan to teach at the Port Richey school, succeeding Mrs. Sheldon.
School board minutes of Jan. 7, 1921, show
she was appointed to teach at the Elfers School. During the depression, she walked
from her home in Elfers to Pierce Elementary to teach; teachers were not allowed to ride
the school buses. By 1935 she had transferred to Pierce Elementary
School and subsequently taught at Richey Elementary School when
Pierce Elementary closed. On July 6, 1945, the New Port Richey Press reported
that her resignation from Pierce Elementary School was accepted by the school board.
She received a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from Florida Southern College in 1950.
She retired at the end of the 1969-70 school year.
She was born on Dec. 4, 1899. She married Harvey Sheldon, Conrad L. Keller (1886-1958), Steve Voelker, and Russell Crane.
She died on Jan. 24, 1994.
Her children are Wilford H. “Skid” (GHS ’37, died in 2008 at age 88) and Edna (GHS ’39).
JACOB NATHANIEL SHOFNER (1823-1899) was a prominent businessman in Dade City. He was b. in Columbus, Ga., on Jul 8, 1823; m. Georgia Anna Gresham; d. Nov. 6, 1899, Dade City. He was the father of Dr. T. L. McElroy of DeLand, Tobe Lee Shofner of Dade City, M. G. Shofner of Palmetto, and Mrs. J. S. Root.
TOBE LEE SHOFNER (1861-1927) was an early businessman in Dade City. He was born in Newton, Miss., and came to Dade City in 1884, according to his obituary. He and his father built what was then the largest mercantile business in the town.
GEORGE REGINALD SIMS (1876-1954) was a leading developer in the Florida boom years of the 1920s. He moved to New Port Richey in 1916. He purchased the Port Richey Land Company, owner of some ten thousand acres along the Pithlachascotee River. He became acquainted with movie celebrities while spending the summer months at his home in Great Neck, Long Island, and he invited them to the area, hoping to develop it as another Hollywood. He donated land for city parks, one of which is named in his honor. He was a native of Detroit and he attended the University of Michigan. His parents were Walter R. Sims and Elizabeth Knowles Sims. He married Marjorie Bartlett Byington (died, age 77, in 1965) on March 1, 1904; she was selected as Queen Chasco in the first Chasco Fiesta in 1922. The New Port Richey Post reported in January 1916, "George R. Sims, of Chicago, President of the Port Richey Co., has erected a bungalow near the Boulevard and facing the Club House grounds and the Cootie River, and expects to spend the greater portion of his time enjoying the pleasures of this section, as well as assisting in the development of one of the prettiest little cities in the state.” He was born in Detroit. On Dec. 5, 1930, the New Port Richey Press wrote that Sims "is known as the 'Father of New Port Richey.'"
HARRISON H. SLAUGHTER (1840-1905) was a farmer and pioneer settler. The area where he settled was called Slaughter or Clay Sink. He married Martha Ann McKinney (1839-1903), who was the widow of William Gay, whom she had married about 1859 at Newnansville. She had three children with Mr. Gay, and at least ten children with Mr. Slaughter. According to descendant Frank McKinney, Slaughter escaped a Yankee POW camp during the Civil War and fled to the Everglades. A historic marker which will be placed here has: "Harrison and Martha Ann McKinney Slaughter acquired 120 acres in this area from Jesse Sumner May 20, 1862.” A deed shows that Slaughter transferred property in S24 T23 R22 to the Hernando County School Board on Oct. 3, 1885. Martha Ann and Harrison Slaughter donated the land for the Clay Sink cemetery after they buried their infant daughter there in 1873. Harrison Slaughter was born in Georgia on Oct. 7, 1840, and died on Sept. 2, 1905. Martha Ann McKinney was the daughter of John McKinney and Serena Crane. Martha Ann was born on May 9, 1839, and died on Oct. 6, 1903. She came from Alachua County but was born in Alabama.
MOSE STEPHEN SLAUGHTER (1866-1945) was a farmer and stockman. His obituary has: "He was born at Slaughter, December 8, 1866, and became a prominent farmer and stockman of Pasco county. For several years he has made his home in Rerdell, not far from the community of Slaughter, long ago designated as Precinct 1 of Pasco county and named for his father, Harrison H. Slaughter, who came to Florida from Virginia as a pioneer.”
THOMAS OWEN SLAUGHTER (1870-1942) was a Pasco County native and one of the most prominent farmers and citrus growers. He was married to Mrs. Louanna McCollum Slaughter. His daughter Mrs. D. S. Bishop was living in Dade City at the time of his death.
Rev. B. G. SMITH (1873-1924) was pastor of the College Street Baptist Church in Dade City for three years, until the time of his death. He was born in Twiggs County, Georgia, on Jan. 29, 1873, and was educated at Locust Grove Institute and Mercer University. He entered the ministry in 1898. He served as pastor of the Vineville Baptist Church at Macon, Ga., and also at East Point Ga. He served as a state evangelist in Georgia for 12 years before returning to the pastorate to take charge of the church at Coma, Ga. He then transferred to Monticello, Florida, before coming to Dade City. He was pastor of College Street Baptist Church in Dade City at the time of his death. His obituary states, “During his pastorate in Dade City his church made the greatest growth in its history, receiving over 300 new members and placing, for the first time, its financial affairs on a sound footing. In accomplishing this result the spiritual life of the church and its membership was not lessened but increased, so that it became one of the greatest moral and spiritual forces in the city.”
Joseph H. Smith was born in Terre Haute, Vigo County, Indiana, in 1847. On March 21, 1864, at age 17, he enlisted with other Indiana volunteers for service in the Civil War. From May 13-15, 1864, his unit fought in the Battle of Resaca, Georgia. His injuries were such that he "was a great and frequent sufferer all his remaining life."
Research has not yet revealed the next 20 years of his life. It is presumed that he married and perhaps had a family. It is also presumed that he remained in Indiana.
By 1887, he was in Florida and was the organizing and ‘first settled’ pastor of present-day First Baptist Church, Bushnell in Sumter County (Alachua Baptist Association). In 1888, he also served Bethany Baptist Church in Pasco County. Per WPA records, he remained at the Bushnell church through 1890. Florida Baptist Annuals record him in Bushnell from 1890 to 1892, and in Magdalene, Hillsborough County, from 1893 to 1897. In 1898, his address was Pasco, Pasco County, Florida.
In 1902, per South Florida Baptist Association records, he was pastor of Clearwater Baptist Church (present-day Calvary). That same year, per Pasco Baptist Association records, he was pastor of Tarpon Springs Baptist Church. In 1903-1904, he lived in Lacoochee, a busy sawmill community in Pasco County and pastored Emmaus Baptist Church, a member of Pasco Baptist Association.
About 1904, per Hudson, one of the Makers of America series, he moved to that community on Pasco County’s west coast. He was appointed postmaster of Hudson on June 27, 1906, a post he retained until 1921. In 1906 and 1907, he also pastored Good Hope Baptist Church in Hudson. He remarried in 1908, per the 1910 census. It was a second marriage for Joseph H. Smith and for Florence, his wife. He is listed in Pasco Baptist Association records as an ordained minister through 1912 and in Florida Baptist Convention records through 1921.
Joseph H. Smith died at his Hudson home on January 19, 1924. He was age 76. His obituary from the Dade City Banner of Feb. 8, 1924, follows:
Hudson, January 29.—Brother Joseph H. Smith died at his home at Hudson on Saturday the 19th, after two weeks of intense suffering. All that a skilled physician could do was done for him, as well as the best of nursing, but a time seems to come to all when nothing awaits. Brother Smith was born at Terre Haute, Ind., in 1847, and was 76 years of age. He enlisted at the age of 17 with the volunteers of his state, and continued with the army until the close of the war. He was wounded at the battle of Resaca, and on account of this was a great and frequent sufferer all his remaining life. Brother Smith had preached all through this part of South Florida, and in consequence as well as because of his superior intelligence and knowledge of the Bible was widely and favorably known. His fireside and veranda were favorite gathering places for those who enjoyed such conversation. He will be greatly missed by all. He was buried in the Baptist cemetery at Elfers on Sunday, the 20th. He leaves a widow, Mrs. Florence Smith.
"The Baptist cemetery at Elfers" is the present-day West Elfers Cemetery. Due to cemetery neglect and vandalism over the last many years, there is no remaining evidence of his gravesite.
FELIX SOWERS (died, 1884) married Martha Ann Bradshaw (died, Aug. 22, 1893) on June 29, 1843, in North Carolina. In the late 1850s he moved to Atlanta and was living there in the 1870 census. An article in the Atlanta Constitution of Sept. 6, 1876, mentions that Felix Sowers built the smoke stack for a new cotton factory. By 1879 he was living in Hopeville, which would become Port Richey, as his daughter wrote that she was married in Port Richey on Nov. 11, 1879. The 1880 Hernando County census shows him as 62 years old, born in North Carolina, and it shows his wife M. A. as 61 years old, born in Virginia. On Jan. 30, 1883, Sowers received a deed for S30, T25, R16E, the South half of Lot 2. This area is near the mouth of the Pithlachascotee River in what would later become Port Richey. He also owned the NE4 of the SE4 of S32, T25S, R16E, which is apparently on what is now Grand Boulevard. In 1883, Sowers sold his property on the coast, which included a house, to Aaron McLaughlin Richey, who established the first Port Richey post office there. Felix Sowers is buried at Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta, where the records indicate he died in 1884 at age 60.
WILLIAM ALBERT SPARKMAN (1875-1945) was a Pasco County surveyor and practiced in the county as a civil engineer. He was born in Williamson County, Tenn. His wife Ida was deputy clerk of Pasco County.
JAMES IRVIN SPIVEY (1837 or 1838-1911) was a Civil War veteran from Georgia. He is one of the county commissioners shown in this 1909 photo. He often led services at Oakdale and nearby communities. The following is from The History of Zephyrhills 1821-1921:
Irvin Spivey had a most unusual voice with a unique carrying quality. General Gordon of the Confederacy discovered this. He proceeded to make the most of the attribute. Bellowing like a bull, Irvin Spivey transmitted signals in code that could be heard for miles. Most of his bellowing was done in the Smoky Mountains of Virginia. The enemy learned that Gordon’s frequent devastating raids were in some way connected with this bellowing bull, and, unless they were well prepared, would avoid confrontation. On one occasion, the battle being joined, Gordon realized that his supply of ammunition was running out. He sent for young Spivey and said to him, "If you have ever bellowed in your life, do it now. It is our last hope.” The maneuver was a success. The enemy apparently decided that Gordon’s force, known to be one of the South’s best, was reinforcing the forces that the scouts had reported, and retreated. "The Bull" was given a citation and presented with a gold fountain pen engraved with his name and the date of that battle, September 4, 1864.
According to Judy Hughes, James’ brothers and sisters were: John (q.v.), Dannell, Patrick "Parrot," Dora, Effie, and Minnie. They are all from around Douglas, Ga. Their parents are Mathew and Adelina.
A detailed timeline of Spivey as a Florida Baptist minister is here.
JOHN DAVID SPIVEY (1840-1921), a Civil War veteran from Georgia, and brother of James Irvin, filed for homestead land between Pretty Pond and what is now Lake Zephyr. He built a home and called the place Oakdale. He held Baptist services in his home and later the Spivey brothers erected a building which was used for a combined school and church until the Lakeview Baptist Church was built. School board minutes of Sept. 5, 1887, show the Oak Dale School (No. 21), with trustees A. E. Geiger, J. D. Spivey, and M. G. Frizell. He married Roxie Ann Wooten (1845-1895) and in 1898 he married Delilah Wilson Seeley.
SAMUEL H. STEVENSON (1810-1897) and his wife Elizabeth Osteen (1820-1900) were apparently the first property owners in what would become Seven Springs, as early as 1866. At this time, the area was part of Hernando County. Records show that his voter registration in Hernando County was accepted by mistake on Aug. 28, 1867, as he was born in Canada and did not exhibit documentation of his naturalization. He replied that he had taken the oath and that he would have nothing more to do with it. On Nov. 11, 1871, the Florida Peninsular reported that Samuel H. Stevenson attended the Tax Payer’s Convention of Hernando County. According to Julie J. Obenreder in WPH, Mrs. Stevenson performed the duties of midwife and assisted in the birth of many babies. According to Ash, their children were:
The 1850 census for Hillsborough County shows the children of Samuel Stevenson as Martha Jane, Mary, Henry Washington, and Sandusky.
CONSTANTINE “BUD” STEVENSON (1857-1897), married Mary Ann Louisa Luffman (1854-1948). According to Mary’s obituary, she was born at Silver Springs and lived to the age of 93 years, seven months, and four days. They were married at Seven Springs on Dec. 23, 1875, and lived there several years before moving to Hudson. See the Whitehurst-Whidden-Stevenson feud.
The children of Constantine and Mary Stevenson:
Clearwater Pioneer Resident Celebrates