HISTORY OF PASCO COUNTY, FLORIDA

History of the Pine Hill Section,
New Port Richey

See also:

Booker T. Washington School

Pine Hill Cemetery

This page was last revised on Feb. 12, 2017.

In an article dated December 1921 appearing in a brochure promoting New Port Richey, Elroy M. Avery wrote, “As to morals, disposition, and color, the people are white; there is not a negro resident in New Port Richey.”

According to one source, the first African-American settlers in the area came around 1924 from Georgia. They lived in the Pine Hill section of New Port Richey.

A letter in the New Port Richey Press of Oct. 17, 1924, thanking white people for their donations towards the building of the Little Home Baptist Church reported, “We are having day school here now, and again we wish to thank the kind white ladies who have furnished the school room with books for the education of our children.”

On June 14, 1927, the Dade City Banner referred to “Booker T. Washington city, a colored suburb of Port Richey.”


Pine Hill A Shadow of Boom Town

This article appeared in the Tampa Tribune on Jan. 3, 1984.

By SARA NICHOLAS

Laura Birch remembers the day in late April 1925 when she and her family left their farm in rural Georgia and headed south on a train bound for West Pasco County.

Pine Hill was a fledgling black community then, a fistful of hand-hewn log cabins scattered about the empty fields and swamps that used to cover Port Richey east of U. S. 19.

Hosea Bryant remembers traveling from Georgia on a long train crowded with other black families heading for Florida’s west coast.

It was a boom time — there were jobs as servants, cooks and chauffeurs for wealthy white landowners and real estate developers such as Henry Dingus Sr. and William Grey.

Developers were riding the crest of a building boom as the 1920 saw Port Richey and New Port Richey turn from fishing and trapping outposts into full-fledged municipalities.

Bryant and the men of Pine Hill found work laying roads, erecting bridges, hewing rock from the quarries where Southgate shopping mall now stands, and putting up many of the commercial buildings still along Main Street, New Port Richey.

Bryant and black work crews helped build the Suncoast Theater, the bridge across South Boulevard and the Hacienda Hotel.

A large man with a pleasant, weather-lined face, Bryant, 70, recalls how he helped build the second and third stories of the Suncoast Theater by hauling “Georgia buggies” of cement on hand trucks up wooden ramps, pulled upward buy two men at the top with long hooks.

During the 1920s, the numbers of migrating blacks from Georgia swelled into the hundreds, and Pine Hill soon spilled over into a second community — named for black inventor Booker T. Washington — that used to lie across Ridge Road, where the predominantly middle class Regency Park subdivision now lies.

But the boom that brought prosperity to West Pasco went bust in the 1930s.

The Great Depression wiped out personal fortunes and wrought devastation on the area’s black community.

Jobs were out of reach for the men of Pine Hill and Booker T. Washington.

“People’d just get here and have to turn around. We’d tell them don’t come here, there’s nothing here,” Bryant says.

Many black families moved back to Georgia. The Booker T. Washington community all but disappeared as residents boarded “the long train back to Georgia,” recalls Bryant. “People just left. They cleared out and headed back to Georgia where they came from.”

Pine Hill residents who stayed behind subsisted on vegetable gardens, home-raised chickens, and fish from the deep, well-stocked lakes that residents still fish in today, behind the Union Baptist Church on East Pine Hill Road.

It was difficult for blacks to get credit from local banks.

Bryant says he tried to get a $300 bank loan to buy a new truck in 1947 when he got out of the service.

Even though he owned 20 acres of land in Pine Hill, Bryant says he repeatedly was denied the loan.

“It (the land) was no good. They wouldn’t take a chance,” Bryant says.

Though the onset of World War II brought a return of prosperity to West Pasco and provided jobs for Pine Hill residents in the military service and blossoming citrus industry, Pine Hill’s boom days were gone forever.

Today, Pine Hill is a shadow of its former self — in its population, size and spirit.

A much larger Pine Hill that used to stretch from U. S. 19 to Congress Street has shrunk to a few dozen acres bordered by East Pine Hill Road to the south. Oakleaf Road to the north and east, and Madison Street to the west.

In the late 1920s, the two black communities boasted more than 1,000 residents, old-timers recall.

According to the 1980 census, 115 blacks live in a census tract that includes Pine Hill, and a mere handful in West Pasco outside Pine Hill.

Blacks today account for less than one-half of one percent of the population of West Pasco.

As Port Richey and New Port Richey have grown up around it, Pine Hill remains a ward of the county — a glaring hole between the two adjacent municipalities.

Though most Pine Hill residents still own the land they live on, industrial parks and a satellite communications center have moved in along Madison, encroaching on the shrinking subdivisions from the west.

A mobile home park has squeezed Pine Hill from the north.

Once a quiet dirt road, East Pine Hill to the south has become a noisy, crowded two-lane blacktop used by trucks and cars to bypass Ridge Road to the north.

Sunday church sermons at Pine Hill’s Union Baptist Church are punctuated by honking horns and racing engines, something the old-timers say they still can’t get used to.

From the four roads that delineate its boundaries, Pine Hill is barely visible. [The remainder of the article is unavailable.]


Union Missionary Baptist Church

Union Missionary Baptist Church, 2014 photo

This history of the church was taken from the Union Missionary Baptist Church web site in 2011.

Union was founded in 1915, 50 years after the end of the Civil War. Although the Emancipation Proclamation was signed in 1863, slavery did not end until the end of the war in 1865. Therefore, the Founders of this church were just barely free.

A further look at the period between 1915 and 1936 tells us that UMBC was formed from the two African-American churches in the Port Richey community: Paradise Baptist Church and the other being Pleasant Hill Baptist which is our current church. During the 20’s Paradise Baptist Church was located in a new subdivision for African-Americans called “Booker T. Washington.” Apparently this community flourished during the roaring 20’s until the Great Depression of the 1930’s. Economic reasons caused many of the people in “Booker T. Washington” to move away, leaving the church pretty much depleted of its membership. As a result, the two churches united and moved to its current location on Pine Hill Road forming the United Missionary Baptist Church.

The original structure was on the other side of Sister Burch’s home next door. This structure was built by Sister Burch’s father and members of the church, “block by block.” They started in 1949 and completed it two years later in 1951. This church building was built by faith without a mortgage or loan.

The name was officially changed from “United” to “Union” in 1955. After 1972, many Pastors came and went. The rapid turnover is a testimony of the struggles the church has overcome. From the onset, the church did not have a resident Pastor. Originally, services were held twice a month on the 1st and 3rd Sundays. This practice continued until the late 1980s. The church stabilized in 1998, when the Lord sent Pastor Ronald Smart to Union and we have been on an uphill climb ever since.


Interview With Laura Burch (1987)

By JOSEPH ARNOLD

It you were to go down Congress Street coming north out of New Port Richey you would eventually come to Pine Hill Rd. Turning on to this road is almost like taking a trip to a completely different world. The place is Pine Hill, the only black community in West Pasco. It encompasses less than four blocks, and sits just outside the city limits of New Port Richey. When you first come into Pine Hill off Congress, you immediately notice several business etc. on the south side of the road, but the north side is vacant almost. All of the black community is located on the north side of Pine Hill road. The first house on the north side sits quite a ways back from the road.

Directly in front of that sits the burned out shell of a stone house built by Charlie Jones.

Next you come to a series of small trailers, the second of which is owned by Laura Burch. Her trailer sits next to the church parking lot. The Union Missionary Baptist Church has been here ever since anyone can remember, but it has moved from it original spot. Then crossing a small dirt road which appears to have several homes on down it. This is right next to the Pine Hill cemetery, the only property on the north side of the road in the city limits. It a nice-sized cemetery, quite a good number of people into to. Just to the west of the cemetery is the Arline house, the home of Mrs. Dorethra Arline. It is a plain block house, a relatively nice house as houses go in this neighborhood. A small dirt road next to her house leads back along a fence to reveal the home of the Thomas family, a very nice little house, definitely the nicest around in all of Pine Hill. A little to the north of this house is a pig pen with several good-sized pigs and a strong smell in the heat of the summer. Then finally is one of the Winthrop houses. There are clothes lines strung out all over the yard and trash lies scattered on the ground. The house is wooden, no knob on the door. In general it is in pretty bad shape. The steps up to the house is a good 2 and 1/2 feet and is made of cinder blocks and boards. Back behind it is at least one other home and several sheds. One thing that a person sees throughout Pine Hill is a gang of kids when sometimes they all hang out at various houses in the front yard.

One of my motives for working on this was the fact that in studying west Pasco history one finds very little if any information on Pine Hill. Now many of the people who have lived most of their lives at Pine Hill are no longer with us, and it was my hope to capture some of this heritage of this unique place by interviewing the people. I had the opportunity to begin this in a summer class in oral history.

Since records and documents about Pine Hill are quite scarce and to be able to meet the requirements of the class, interviews were conducted with those who lived there and people who were familiar with it, both black and white.

This history is limited by the memory of the people and their embellishments and to the willingness of the person to discuss this matter.

Laura Burch (b., Mar. 13, 1912; d., March 24, 2008) lives next to the church in a trailer. She came to Pine Hill 1925 when she was 13. She came with her parents from Georgia and has lived at various places around Pine Hill since she moved here. Miss Burch is a member of the Union Missionary Baptist church. Ms. Burch was 75 at the time of this interview.

If you could tell us your name, and when you moved to Pine Hill?

My parents moved to New Port Richey in April 1925.

Where did they come from?

From Georgia.

Any specific place?

Oh, we moved left Georgia, went to St. Petersburg, left there 1925.

Where in Georgia?

I don’t remember the town, but it was Lawrence County.

What were your parents’ names?

My father’s name was Charlie Jones and my mother’s name was Zenola.

Do you know why they left Georgia and came to Florida?

Yeah, he was farming, and he just got tired of farming. He thought it be better to live ....

How old were you when you moved to New Port Richey?

I was 13.

Was there a school here when you moved here?

Yes, the old school was in that lot right here (behind house). It was a church building. In later years we moved it over here and this was the little building we went to school in.

Do you remember your first teacher?

No, I don’t remember.

Was it just a little one-room school house with stove etc?

Yes, grades one through eight.

Did you have relatives nearby, other than your parents?

A cousin, named Lumbard Fulton (?). [Jeff Miller note: A newspaper article refers to a Columbus Fulwood as the school supervisor.]

When you first came here what did your parents do?

He was just a common laborer, anything he could get to do. My mother was the same, working for households.

How many people were living here at that time?

Quite a few, couldn’t say how many.

Did you know people who lived outside of Pine Hill?

I knew almost everybody. After we lived here a while, I learned the names of most of the people around here. There was not that many.

Was this the only black community around when you came here?

When we first came here, it was. In later years, around 1925-27, another subdivision called Booker T. Washington.

Where was that?

Up U. S. 19 on the right, about a quarter of a mile.

You had church services in the small school building over here?

Yes.

Did you do anything special for church?

No, not really. Every Sunday we went to Sunday school and church, nothing special.

Who was the minister or who led the services?

At that time I think his name was H. Lee. Lived in Tampa. He used to come over on weekends.

Were there any people you would say were eccentric or different that you remember?

No.

Did you have any chores or responsibilities as a child?

Just homework, and things around the house, cooking and cleaning. I had to do a lot because my mother was sick at the time and I did most of the cooking at that time.

Did you have a garden?

No, but my brother did.

What was the typical meal like?

Just common food, vegetables, regular, nothing special.

You cooked it over a wood stove?

Yes.

Do you know when the old church was built?

It was here when we got here.

Do you know when Union Missionary Baptist Church was built?

It’s on there, but I can’t remember what it is.

Were there any special customs that went on a wedding, a funeral, or otherwise?

None that I can think of.

Services were held every Sunday?

Not every Sunday. Sunday school every week, church twice a month.

The minister, did he come from out of town?

Yes.

Is there a regular minister now?

No he comes twice a month now

Who is the minister now?

Carlton Bennett from Largo.

Were baptisms held in the church?

Now they are. Then they were held at the river till we put a pool in the church.

You went to the river?

Yes.

Any specific place?

Yeah, we used to go over to the landing on the river.

What did you do for entertainment or enjoyment?

Just little parties among ourselves.

What was Christmas like?

Just like the others, gifts, presents, trees, tree at church.

Where was your first home here at Pine Hill?

The first house we lived in was way up U. S. 19, about 3 or 4 miles. It was an old building next to the road and we moved in. There was no houses, just one or two. My dad bought land here and built a house on that street over there. It wasn’t a street then.

Do you know whose stone house this is up the street?

That was built by my brother Charlie Jones, and he and his wife lived there till they moved to Tampa. He sold it. Some lady bought it, then it burned.

Did most of the social activities center around the church?

Yes.

The house your father built, was it wooden?

Yes.

On stilts or anything?

No, just on blocks.

How often did you travel into town?

Any day. Once or twice a week, we walked. Had no car or transportation.

Did people have home remedies?

No.

Was medical care easy to get here?

There was one doctor here and he came.

Were there midwives?

No, not that I know of. I never had a chance to use any.

Did you attend Booker T. Washington School?

Yes.

Who was your teacher?

I’ve had two or three. Mrs. Hoskin from Tampa, only had school 8 months. Another, Glubble from Plant City.

Do you know Mrs. Copeland?

Yes, but I didn’t go to school with her.

Do you know when the new school opened?

I remember when it was built but not when. When they built it, it was up on U. S. 19, but they moved it down here.

What kind of attitude did the people take to people at Pine Hill?

They were just as courteous as they could be. I knew the Greys, the Weiskopfs, all the people.

If there was one thing you could tell someone about Pine Hill, what would it be?

I don’t know.


Recollections of Pine Hill — Julie Obenreder

Julie Obenreder came to New Port Richey in 1945. She was a nurse and a midwife. She recalled that she delivered at least 50 black babies, usually at no charge, at residences in the Pine Hill section before West Pasco Hospital opened and admitted black patients. The following is a transcription by Joseph Arnold of recollections she gave to him. At the time, Mrs. Obenreder was 74 years old.

This is Julie Obenreder talking to Joseph Arnold. What date is it Joseph? July 14, 1987.

We came to New Port Richey in August of 1945. We lived on East Trouble Creek Road, where Roy’s parents had some property. They had several acres out there, and we lived there because we lived in their house for a while when we first came down, before we built our house next door.

I never had heard of Pine Hill before I came to go out there, because they came after me and that’s the first I ever knew about Pine Hill.

And I didn’t then even know what it was called — the Colored Quarters. Everybody called it the Colored Quarters. Even the black people who lived there called it the Colored Quarters.

And the impression I had of it — well I’ll tell you, it was quite an impression, because I went out there in the middle of the night and we went in on an old sand road. It was so deep, it was like sugar sand, and we plowed through that in a truck and we got out to the church. And then the man I was with, Mr. Lee Winthrop, he had come after me to go out and deliver a baby for his wife Ellie Mae. And he said, now we got to get out and we’ve got to walk. So we got out and we walked through the graveyard all across there, and you can imagine how that felt to me, a white girl, never been around any black people, going through a graveyard in the middle of the night.

But he was very, very polite and he kept saying, no harm come to you, nobody’ll harm a hair of your head. He called me a his “white angel.” And there we go, walking through there, tripping over stones, you know, tombstones.

And it was a terrible thing. Roy was with me. He went with me. He remembered that. We went out there to the house. And when we got to the house, the houses were all built up on pillars, like way off the ground, 3 or 4 feet off the ground. That’s probably why they never got taken away in a hurricane, because the winds could just go around them, you know. And so there wasn’t any step that I could get up on, and Lee said, now wait and I’ll get a box for you to get up on. So he went across the yard and he came back with an orange crate. Those crates held a bushel on each side, I believe, and they were divided in the center with a wooden divider. They were pretty sturdy and pretty heavy. So they put it down there and I crawled up on that to get into the house.

That was about a month after we came to Florida. We hadn’t been here very long. In fact, I wondered how they even knew I was here. I never did find that out, how they knew that I was here and that I was a nurse. I don’t know how they found that out.

They didn’t have any medical care. You asked how they received medical care. Well, they didn’t have any. It was nonexistent for the black people because if they did come to the doctor’s office where I worked later, when I worked in the doctors’ offices, they had to go to the back door.

And I have seen them go back there and sit for 4 and 5 hours in the sun out on the step to wait to get in and see the doctor. They weren’t allowed to come in the waiting room and they weren’t allowed inside the building until the doctor would go and bring them in the kitchen in the back door. And then they could come in there and the doctor would talk to them, and sort of more or less fluff them off with a couple of pills, you know.

He never really gave them any care and they never ever paid a bill. That was something they never did. They had innumerable insurance policies, the black people, that they paid 2 and 3 dollars a week for, through these insurance agents who would go out there and sell them insurance which was really worthless. But they sort of took them for that, you know. They did pay that insurance because they felt like it was a good thing but it wasn’t. It wasn’t worth anything really, and there wasn’t any place for them to use it anyway.

There was no hospital. They weren’t allowed in the hospitals. Of course there wasn’t any here anyhow but there was one in Tampa for real serious surgical things. If they had to go to the hospital they could go to Clara Frye in Tampa, which was an all-black hospital. But it closed shortly after the, I think in the early 60s it closed, and it was around ’64 or ’65 before the hospitals were integrated down here.

If there was an extreme emergency they could go over to Dade City to the hospital there, I think it was called East Pasco Hospital. They would give them emergency treatment there for real serious things but they couldn’t go in to have a baby or anything like that. So they just had to fend for themselves, really. So that’s when they got a hold of me, they used all of my abilities as much as they could, you know.

The houses were basically two-room shanties. At that time out there in the quarters, they were really filthy, dirty places. They had no furniture. They had stoves, little wooden stoves, two-burner jobs, you know. And usually they had three legs on. One leg would be off and set sideways, tipped on a couple of bricks or something like that or stones that they’d have under it to keep it sitting up so they could sit a pan of water on it to heat. And then there’d be an old dirty table in the kitchen.

And usually they just sat on boxes or wooden chairs, no legs, no backs, you know just things like that. They had no sanitation, no water in the houses or anything like that. They had wells outside and dragged the water in. They had one kitchen, one bedroom, that was it.

In all the places that I saw, all the buildings I was in out there when I was there in the ’40s, they just had the two rooms, and there was always only one bedroom and one bed, and I never could figure out — there’d be 8, 10, maybe 15 people living in that two-rooms and only one bed and I don’t know where they slept.

There’d always be a great big pile of dirty clothes in the corner. They had no clothes closets. When they took off their clothes, they threw them down on the floor, I guess. And, like Roy said, their clothes were always nice and white. That was one thing they liked to do, was wash. And they washed and they hung things out in the sun. I suppose that’s why they were so white, you know, because they scrubbed them on scrub boards and then they hung them out in the sun and it bleached them.

But they did have nice white clothes, but the kids were always filthy dirty. They had loads of worm problems, with what do you call them, not tape worms, ring worms. They had loads of ring worms. They’d get that out of the sand, you know. And the kids would sit in the sand and play and they would eat in the sand and everything. And of course they had other worms, too. They had pin worms.

Every time we would get a sample at the lab on any of the kids when they were sick, it would always come back just infested with worms. And so they had loads of worms but they’d get these out of the sand.

They would put a bunch of grits or food, whatever, it was usually grits, just cold grits, in a tin plate like a pie tin, and they’d go out and sit in the sand and eat with their fingers, so of course you know they got the sand, they got the worms from the sand and all that stuff in their system. They were all infested with worms.

One little girl out there had asthma so bad, that she just doubled up to the ground to get her breath. We used to give her shots of aminophylline and those were intramuscular. So the doctor gave me a standing order that if he wasn’t in town and she had one of those attacks, I could give her aminophylline. So I used to go out there, even in the middle of the night, and give her shots and she couldn’t breathe.

She grew up and she got married. She outgrew, as they often do, they outgrow that asthma, you know, sometimes when they get older, and she did. I saw her when she was about 25 years old one day, and she had married and had two kids at that time of her own. She had married a real nice fellow from Tarpon Springs and they had a real nice home out there. And she outgrew her problem.

I never knew of any other nurse in this area at the time that I was doing the work, that went around here and did anything. There must have been some nurses somewhere but if they were, I don’t know where they were because they didn’t any of them make any appearance.

And there was a nurse in Elfers that eventually we got a hold of that came in and took care of the patients at night after we started the clinic there at the Richey Clinic on the corner of Delaware and the Boulevard. Dr. Sprankle had that. And her name was Anna Gaines, and she came in and helped nights after we started the clinic. She was related to the Gaines that you’ve read about. Basil Gaines was the sheriff here, and she was related to that family. She has passed away now, because she was older then too.

There was lots of segregation. There wasn’t anything but segregation. The school was segregated, and they had signs around the town in certain places that said, n***** get out of town before the sun sets. And there just seemed to be an unwritten law that they knew. Come sundown, they had to go home. You’d never see a black in this town after six o’clock at night.

The women worked in town here, and the men worked in the packing house, basically. And Butler Laundry down here hired a lot of blacks from the Colored Quarters. She used all-black labor in the laundry there, and all the affluent people in town had a maid and they’d walk in.

I remember one black woman, her name was Maggie. And she was crippled. It looked to me as if she’d had in her youth maybe a broken leg. It was never set. That’s what it looked like. And she walked real crippled. And she used to walk all the way from Pine Hill in every day to work in one of the houses of one of the women. And I delivered 3 or 4 of her daughter’s children out there.

I don’t know how Pine Hill ever got its name. It was just always called Pine Hill. I would think it was because there were so darn many pine trees out in that area, you know, when the blacks came there and settled. They probably named it themselves, Pine Hill. I don’t know.

And I have a lot of friends out there, I think. I think Laura Burch is one of my friends. In fact I see her in the store and she always hollered at me and says hello. And they call me Miss Obie. And they all talk to me. And Ellie Mae has always been a friend to both me and my husband. He did a lot of things for her. He used to fix her tires on her car, stuff like that.

The kids went to Clearwater if they wanted to go to high school, you know. After they got out of that school out there, they had to go to Clearwater. And Ellie Mae drove a bus. Well, it was a so-called bus. It was a station wagon. It held I think 6, 7 kids, and she used to take them back and forth every day to Clearwater in that station wagon-bus to school. I suppose she got paid for it. I don’t know. I imagine the school board probably paid her, because that was when she was always forever having trouble with that old bus. ...

We had plenty of those. We had plenty of babies born at Pine Hill. I had one born that was a stillborn. I had only one stillborn in all the time that I delivered babies out there. And that was Dr. [deleted]’s patient. He was out on the Gulf that day and he wouldn’t come in. He was fishing and he got word that he was supposed to come in but, you know, they didn’t care whether they came or not. He didn’t bother to come so I went out with Ellie May and had the stillborn and that was the only one I ever had that was stillborn. And I tried so hard to save that baby and did everything I could, you know. I did artificial respiration. It looked pretty good when it first was born, and I did everything. When I got home I called the doctor and told him he should go out there. So he went out and he told me the next day, he said, there wasn’t anything you could have done or that I could have done had I been there. He said it definitely had been dead probably two or three days. So we were just lucky that she went ahead and had it, you know. But that was the only stillborn.

And then Ellie May had one that was a preemie. It only weighed about, I could hold it in the palm of my hand, you know. I don’t know what it weighed, maybe just a couple pounds. And I was afraid that it would never make it. And I said to her, now I’m going to run in town and get some things to help with this baby. And I said, you keep it warm. I laid it on her chest and I said to her, now you keep this baby nice and warm and don’t do anything till I get back. And I rushed in and I got some hot water bottles and a little thing that I could feed it with, you know, a dropper. And I got things to make a tent so I could maybe keep it warm and things like that with blankets. They didn’t have blankets or anything else. And I got some nipples and things. I could give it some sugar water if I got it around them where it could be anything.

And when I got back out there she was sitting up in the bed nursing it, and it was just glub, glub, glub, glub, eating like a little pig! And I sad, “Oh, my gosh, what are you doing, Ellie May?” She said, “He was hungry! I was feeding him!” So she fed him, and he’s about 6 feet 6 now. He weighs probably 195 or 200 pounds! He grew up to be a great big, tall black person (laughs).

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