HISTORY OF PASCO COUNTY
This page was last revised on April 28, 2018.
June 14, 1888. The San Antonio News reports that the general business manager of the Benedictine Order in this country has been examining the San Antonio colony to determine whether to establish a college here.
June 4, 1889. Gov. Francis P. Fleming signs into law an act passed by the legislature incorporating “the Order of Saint Benedict of Florida.” The act authorized the corporation to establish a college.
Names of the school:
1890 - St. Leo’s College, changed to Saint Leo’s Military College during the first year
Sept. 14, 1890. St. Leo’s College, the first Catholic college in Florida, is dedicated.
Oct. 18, 1890. A post office is established at Saint Leo.
Feb. 24, 1891. Residents vote to incorporate Saint Leo. [Dr. Joseph Felix Corrigan (1846-1918), the attending physician of Saint Leo College, was elected the first mayor and his home served as the town hall. Others elected were: city clerk, E. G. Gailmard; marshal, Michael Forster; councilmen, J. S. Slevin, B. M. Wichers, N. P. Bishoff, Wm. Grus, and W. L. Mobley. Saint Leo was incorporated by an act of the legislature on June 2, 1891. The town’s web site says St. Leo became a town on July 4, 1891.]
Feb. 7, 1895. A temperature of 16.8 degrees is recorded at Saint Leo.
June 16, 1898. The San Antonio Herald reports, “An ordinance of the town council of St. Leo prohibits bathing in Clear Lake without a bathing suit. This ordinance will be strictly enforced in the future and bathers are warned to provide themselves with the necessary garments. Violators, when seen, will be fined to the full extent of the law.”
Feb. 2, 1899. The San Antonio Herald reports, “At the municipal election lately held at St. Leo, the following gentlemen carried the day by a goodly majority: E. G. Gailmard, Mayor; R. F. Martin Bunning, F. Ed. Delabar, and J. E. Scott, Aldermen; F. A. Delabar, Clerk; and R. Stuntenbeck, Marshall.”
Feb. 8, 1900. The San Antonio Herald reports, “At the town election held recently in Saint Leo, Mr. R. Batchelor was elected mayor by a majority of six votes. Mr. R. Stuntebeck as marshall was re-elected, as was the Board of Aldermen with one or two exceptions.”
July 30, 1900. W. R. Clark and R. D. Golding are drowned in Lake Pearce, near San Antonio. They were out fishing and their boat capsized.
July 24, 1901. The New York Times reports:
JACKSONVILLE, Fla., July 23.—News reaches here from San Antonio, Fla., of a terrific electric storm at that town. Services were in progress at the time in the Catholic Church. This church was struck by lightning and partly wrecked. Father Benedict, who was in the confessional at the time, was knocked unconscious. It was first believed that he was dead. Miss Gerner, who was kneeling near the entrance, and several others, were shocked severely. The building was set on fire, and the entire interior seemed to be in flames at once. There was a panic and a wild rush to get out of the church. Many were bruised during this scramble for safety. Father Benedict was unconscious for several minutes. He recovered and is reported to-day to be well almost. The interior of the church was damaged badly.
Mar. 25, 1906. The cornerstone of the new Abbey is laid. (The building was completed in 1913.)
1911. The three-story Holy Name Convent and Academy is moved by two oxen half a mile from the north end of the San Antonio Plaza to St. Leo.
1918-1919. The 1918-1919 Florida State Gazetteer and Business Directory entry for St. Leo gives a population of 100 and lists: Charles H. Moore, pres. St. Leo College and postmaster; Abbey Printing Co.; J. F. Corrigan, physician; A. Delabar, express agent; Jesse Dunne, mayor; Hill Crest Grove Co., citrus fruit growers; P. Jerome, railroad agent; Charles H. More, pres. St. Leo College; Jack Osborn, truck grower; Benedict Roth, notary public; St. Leo College, Charles H. More, president; St. Leo College Orchestra and Band, M. Hartinger, director.
July 18, 1924. Tommie Thompson is elected Mayor of St. Leo, replacing St. Leo Frater Thomas, who had resigned earlier.
May 21, 1926. The Dade City Banner reports:
An election to decide on changing the name of San Antonio, St. Leo and Currie’s golf course to Lake Jovita, has been called by the city commissioners. Superintendent Page, of the Atlantic Coast Line railroad, made visit here and declared if the three towns could be united and one municipality formed, the Coast Line would build a modern stone or tile depot north of Lake Jovita at the borders of St. Leo and San Antonio. The old depot is inadequate and unsightly. St. Leo is an important stop because of the college and will be of greater importance, when the golf course is completed. Abbott Charles Mohr has agreed to the change and will give up the postoffice, express office and the name of the town of St. Leo to have one larger and more important postoffice and depot. While there is considerable sentiment among the older residents against the change, the election will carry by a large majority, according to best information. Much annoyance is caused by the name San Antonio because of the larger city in Texas of the same name and considerable confusion results in freight, wire, mail and other business. Those advocating the change also call attention to the fact that “Lake” is a great asset in the name of any Florida city.
May 25, 1926. The Dade City Banner reports:
In the last issue of the Banner a dispatch from San Antonio told of the calling of an election to consolidate that city with St. Leo and the Jovita Golf course, under the name Lake Jovita. The account said that Abbot Charles of St. Leo Abbey had agreed to give up the railroad station, express office, postoffice and the name of the town, St. Leo. This dispatch was clipped from a Tampa paper and was received by them from their regular accredited correspondent and was supposed to be authentic. Since the publication of this report the Banner has been handed a copy of a letter written by Abbott Charles to the San Antonio city council and W. E. Currie, president of the Hill Crest Grove Company, in which he favors the change of the name of San Antonio, and the consolidation of the railroad stations and express offices of the two communities, but is not willing to surrender the St. Leo postoffice or the charter incorporating St. Leo as separate town. This letter from Abbott Charles was written before Easter. He is at present in the north on business, and so far as can be learned has not changed his position in this matter. The date of the election, which will be confined to San Antonio, simply decides whether the name of that city shall be changed to Lake Jovita or not, and has been set for June 2.
June 4, 1926. The Dade City Banner reports, “After an existence of many years the town of San Antonio passed peacefully away on Wednesday, to be succeeded by the municipality of Lake Jovita, the citizens of the place approving the change in a special election by a vote of 65 to 26.”
July 23, 1926. The Dade City Banner reports:
San Antonio, with its change of name to Lake Jovita, is passing out from the frame structure era to more permanent building. L. Herman is building a two-story tile and stucco business block to his addition to the city, containing three store rooms on the first floor and 11 rooms above. Oliver Hoehn is tearing down the old Florida House preparatory to building an apartment house, at a cost of $20,000. Mr. Hoehn is building a brick bungalow nearby for his own residence. Carl Harig is building a brick bungalow on his 12-acre tract on North Curley street. J. H. Barthle is arranging to build a brick business block on the present site of his store and Mr. des Rosiers is planning for a similar improvement for his store. Rumor has it that two parties are planning on building a hotel and it is hoped that at least one will materialize this year, as it would be well patronized the coming tourist season. It is rumored that plans are prepared for the building o f the new Atlantic Coast Line station on Pompance street, a half mile from College boulevard.
On Nov. 23, 1926. The Dade City Banner reports, “Lake Jovita, Nov. 22—One of the landmarks of Florida, and one of the most famous buildings in Pasco county gave way to progress this month when the old Florida House of this city was dismantled. A new modern brick bungalow is being built on the property which is owned by Oliver Hoehns. The hotel was a famous meeting place in the early days and politicians from all over the county and state met here and decided important matters. The county was much larger in those days and it played an important part in the affairs of the state. The old building was well preserved and Mr. Hoehns used many of the timbers for framing the new bungalow.”
June 1, 1928. The three-story science building of Saint Leo College is destroyed by fire.
Jan. 7, 1945. The St. Leo gymnasium is destroyed by fire.
2006. About 80 Lake Jovita residents present the town commission with a petition asking to secede from St. Leo. The town commission voted against it.
May 12, 2014. Gov. Rick Scott signs a bill that de-annexes from the town of Saint Leo 85 homes and two dozen empty lots in Lake Jovita Golf and Country Club.
St. Leo’s College Dedicated (1890)
This article appeared in the Tampa Journal on Sept. 18, 1890.
Sunday, September the 13th, will forever occupy an important place in the annals of the widely known and flourishing Catholic Colony, the chief town of which is San Antonio, picturesquely built on hills among charming lakes.
Yesterday, at 9 a.m., St. Leo’s College, the first Catholic College built in the State of Florida was dedicated here by Rt. Rev. Bishop Haid, of North Carolina. The dedication ceremonies were witnessed by 500 people after which Pontifical High Mass was celebrated by the Rt. Rev. Bishop assisted by Rev. Fr. Charles and Fr. Basil. The sermon was delivered by the Bishop. The San Antonio Brass Band, led by Fr. Roman, played during mass in the tall tower of the principal college building. The college is to be conducted by the Benedictine Fathers of Maryhelp Abbey, N. C., Rev. Fr. Charles, president. The buildings just completed are spacious, well lighted and ventilated, and supplied with every requisite for a comfortable student’s home. They have been erected on an eminence overlooking Lake Jovita. The college opens to-day with thirty pupils. The Benedictine order is one of the oldest in the Catholic church and renowned as educators. How fortunate are we to possess at this early day in our history so grand an educational institution. At St. Leo’s College, the most approved methods and the most efficient means are adopted to stimulate, test and develop natural talents, and to insure the acquisition of a thorough training and education.
The Benedictines here are a branch of the North Carolina house, who started there only eight years ago, a few poor men and now have a property and institution worth $2,000,000, and have aided greatly in the development of the surrounding country by showing what can be accomplished by industry and intelligent methods.
Here, we also have another educational institution to be proud of, Holy Name Academy, conducted by the Benedictine Sisters, opened last September. The academy building which fronts the plaza would be an ornament to any town, is large and commodious, affords young ladies all the privileges of a thorough education. No part of Florida offers greater inducements to homeseekers than this particular locality for many substantial reasons.
On Sunday afternoon, at St. Thomas, three miles west of San Antonio, a very thrifty and attractive settlement noted for its especial healthfulness and richness of soil, another dedication took place. The Rt. Rev. Bishop and attendant priests drove out from San Antonio, and St. Thomas’ new and handsome little church was dedicated to the Mother of God. The ceremony here was witnessed by a large crowd. The San Antonio band playing after the services.
The church at St. Thomas was built mostly by the contributions of wealthy citizens of Quebec, a number of whom own groves in the neighborhood and two French gentlemen who own land adjoining the church. The church lot was donated by Col. A. J. Dallas, of Orlando. The people of St. Thomas are justly proud of their new church and feel deeply grateful to those who took a large share in furthering the attainment of this grand work now completed, and desire to thank especially Mr. Thos. C. Waugh and Count De La Londe for their continued and valuable assistance.
Letters of congratulation pour in to-day and well they may, when we consider how rapid and substantial has been the growth of San Antonio Colony. Only six years ago it was established in an almost unbroken forest, and behold now a college, academy, churches, good public roads, railroads, mills, beautiful homes amid great groves of oranges, lemons, etc., farms, pastures and last, but not least, phosphate mines, which, from developments being made, show that therein is contained a fortune.
Historical Sketch of Saint Leo (1938)
This article appeared in the Dade City Banner on Oct. 21, 1938.
The incorporated town of St. Leo, near here, so well known for its fine schools, is outstanding for another reason, that is no city taxes have ever been levied. This fact, to other towns where city taxes have been of prime consideration, makes a very unique incorporation among the cities and towns of the country.
Another unusual attribute of this town is that none of the officers draw any salary.
Mrs. M. Dunne Wichers interestingly sketches the story of the incorporation of St. Leo and some of its history as follows: “It was decided in 1891, by the residents of rounding Lake Jovita, to incorporate as a town. Accordingly the said residents were notified to meet at the home of Dr. J. F. Corrigan on February 24, 1891. The notice was signed by J. F. Corrigan, B. M. Wichers and N. P. Bishoff. The citizens of this community were each warmly urged to be present to celebrate the birthday of this new town and they were reminded that unless there was a unity of spirit and a willing co-operation, the desired benefits would not be realized, also that there must be a very friendly feeling to insure success and true contentment.
Accordingly the residents did assemble at the appointed time at the home of Dr. J. F. Corrigan on February 24, 1891, the date announced, and voted unanimously to incorporate. St. Leo was incorporated by act of the legislature on June 2, 1891, and comprised all Section 1. Township 25 South, Range 20 East, and all Section 6, Township 25 South, Range 21 East.
Officers elected at that time were mayor, Dr. J. F. Corrigan; city clerk, E. G. Gailmard; marshal, Michael Forster; councilmen, J. S. Slevin, B. M. Wichers, N. P. Bishoff, Wm. Grus, and W. L. Mobley. This election of officers was attested and notarized by John S. Flanagan of San Antonio, the sister town o f St. Leo, but not at that time incorporated.
This new town of St. Leo was the first town in Pasco county to pass a no fence law to abolish the awful nuisance of stray cows and hogs, destroying crops.
This group of public-minded citizens formed the nucleus of a community of attractive homes and thriving citrus groves. There is also in this incorporated town, St. Leo College and Prep school with many fine buildings and splendidly kept grounds, and a short distance from this school for boys and young men, is the Convent of Holy Names for girls, and also a school for small boys under twelve years of age. These schools are among the best in the state, with practically all teachers, holding college or university degrees.
All records of the town of St. Leo, with minutes of all meetings since the incorporation, are kept in the archives of St. Leo College.
Present officers of the town of St. Leo are mayor, J. H. Dunne; city clerk, Fr. Edward Martineau; councilmen, William Green and Peter Dunne.”
A Convent on the Move (1989)
In the Summer of 1911 the three-story-frame Holy Name Convent building was moved from the center of San Antonio into the town of Saint Leo. The six-week move is documented in James J. Horgan’s Pioneer College, ©1989. Thanks to Eddie Herrmann for transcribing this section of the book.
As Saint Leo was taking to motorized wheels, Holy Name Priory experienced an unusual movement itself in the summer of 1911: the entire convent-academy building, a three-story behemoth 140 feet long and 75 feet wide, was physically hauled from its original 1889 site on the north end of the San Antonio Plaza, a distance of a half-mile, to the current location of the priory. It took six weeks. “The most amazing thing about that move,” remembers Walter Friebel, who witnessed it at the age of nine, “is that it was done with only two oxen.” And what was more remarkable still, the sisters continued to live in the building the whole time.
“The Benedictine Sisters of San Antonio began to move their Convent building over to St Leo town,” wrote Benedict Roth on July 5, 1911. “The job was done by a Mr. Reed, Baptist preacher of Tampa. — This was the building Mr Wm Sueltenfuss erected in the eighties for a hotel, and which he sold to Bishop Moore for a Convent building.” The sisters felt restricted in their 10-acre plot on the piazza, and the St. Augustine Bishop had purchased 40 acres for them a half-mile to the east. With more land, they could develop their academy; and it was cheaper to move than build anew.
W. H. Reed was “a man who really knew what he was doing,” remembers Walter Friebel. With a crew of a half-dozen black workers, he used a pair of oxen and a winch, anchored to a “dead man” timber buried deep in the ground, to pull the building along. “But before he started, he raised the building up, put planks on the ground, put planks on the floor joists underneath, and then put rollers between them so they would roll.” Then a steel cable was stretched around the whole girth of the convent, which had been braced throughout, and connected to the winch, anchored some 50 feet ahead of the building. The oxen simply walked around and around the winch, stepping over the cable a foot off the ground each time, as they had been trained to do. The building slowly inched forward on the planks and rollers, which the workmen pulled from the rear of the building and set down in front again as it advanced. When the convent had traveled the 50 feet to the winch, they unhitched the oxen, dug up the “dead man” timber, moved it another 50 feet, re-buried the anchor, hitched up the team again, and the building crawled forward once more. They could do barely one setting a day, recalls Friebel. They also moved the sisters’ windmill and water tank tower standing up. In that laborious fashion, a repeated process of anchoring, ox-winching, digging, and re-anchoring, the crewmen shepherded the convent for a month and a half, as they also cut a path through the woods to its new location.
Sr. Annunciata Newman, who had joined Holy Name Priory as a 17-year-old in 1910, recounted the adventure in 1975 at the age of 82. “Many people said this moving was impossible. Some did not want the Sisters to leave town, others could not see a three story move on logs by a big horse or two oxen for such a distance. Mr. Reed of Tampa and Mother Rose Marie could not be discouraged.” In fact, the city fathers of San Antonio were not enthusiastic about the project. As arrangements were getting underway, the Town Council refused to approve the “partation” Reed sought, and authorized Councilman W. A. Semmes at its morning meeting on June 30, 1911, to go to Dade City “and employ a lawyer to get an injunction restraining the cutting of trees on streets & plaza and moving convent across same.” There must have been a flurry of protests, for the council called a special meeting; that very evening, reconsidered, and voted “that the partation be granted Mr. Reed to move across the streets and cut 2 oak trees, 1 on the street and one in the plaza.”
The nuns of Holy Name went about their business as best they could throughout the disruption. The community had nine sisters, and there were 13 boarding students on hand throughout the summer. “Most of us slept in the Convent during the moving, either on the first or second floor. One can imagine our difficulty with laundry etc. It was a long time before we had light or water in the house,” wrote Newman. During the day Sr. Marie Dolores had classes in St. Anthony’s School for the academy girls. “The kitchen stayed in San-A. Sister Frances cooked the dinner there. Sister Annunciata often took the pans & pots home in the evening.” At one point, the rattle of the cook ware caused their carriage horse “Maudas” to bolt, with her companion Sister Angela screaming, “My God let me out!” But no damage was done. “Sister Mary, with Mr. Reed’s big horse, buggy and big umbrella brought the dinner to where ever it might be served.”
“When the rain fell in torrents and the ‘dead man’ came up,” she continued, a workman named Sneed used to “send Mother word for us to sing. We often sang ‘The Star of the Ocean is risen.’ Next to the Sisters’ bath room was an organ. Here Mother and Sister Annunciata sang.”
One particular thunderstorm was particularly memorable. “When the Convent left the road, it leaned and we feared it was falling. One night to add to the terror a storm came up. Dan Lane, a God sent, who worked for us during the moving, walked around the Convent watching to see if the wedges moved and listening for squeaks. Sister Mary and Mother moved the mattresses from ‘phone room to opposite side and back as the storm progressed. Sister A. slept on a sofa — thinking — dear Lord let it rain and the house fall I am too dead for sleep to walk with Mother.”
Wrote Newman in conclusion: “During the last of June until August 14th we really lived in a ‘fish bowl’”.
Bernard V. Lyons had been a pioneer 9-year-old student during Holy Name Academy’s brief coeducational era at its inauguration in 1889. He recalled the outcome of the 1911 project in a 1958 interview: “The foundations were so solid that the moving was considered highly successful; the 10 x 12’s were banded around, which facilitated the move and kept the foundation intact.”
However, Benedict Roth, who recorded the arrival of the convent on August 17, 1911, noted that the structure barely survived: “When it reached its present site the building was just about to collapse and fall down, and it would have ‘spread out’ on the ground were it not for timely proping [sic] up it received. So it was left facing East. It had been proposed to let it face South and only about thirty feet from the public highway, where foundations for it had already been made, namely brick pillars of large dimensions!!!”
Before the monumental moving was completed, 9-year-old Walter Friebel had an adventure of his own with W. H. Reed’s team of oxen:
Jimmy McCabe and I used to take care of his ox when he went to Tampa. And one time we decided we were going to take an ox ride. We got the oxen out and we hitched them to an old cart and we came uptown. And north of the post office was what we called at that time Spectacle Pond. Where it went down a little dry, there was always a stretch of land between the two ponds, which looked like spectacles, and we called it that. And we went a-riding with the oxen. We got up there and they got away, and we jumped out of the cart, and they ran into the water and the yoke started to float. The yoke on top of an ox is wood, and the bottom that went around their necks was iron pipe, and they had pins through it. Well, when they got into the water, the yokes started to float and the pins came out, and the bottom of those yokes fell off, and we had an awful time. Finally, we got the oxen together and put them back in their pen, but we never saw the man any more. We were scared of him.
In the fall of 1911, Mother Rose Marie Easly dispatched two sisters to the North “to beg,” as Sr. Annunciata put it. They collected $4,500 to pay the expenses of moving the convent.
On September 10, 1911, Roth noted that Abbot Charles had agreed to provide the now neighboring sisters with a perpetual gift: “Sunday, Feast of the Holy Name of Mary, Prior Aloysius, by order of Father Abbot, sent P Jerome to the Holy Name Convent building now safely moored in the State-incorporated Town of Saint Leo at about 12-leisure minutes’ walk from the Saint Leo Abbey, to say Mass therein, which commission (!) is henceforth to be carried out daily ‘semper in terram’ (always) by a priest from the Abbey, as promised the Sisters by Fr Abbot.”
The 45 acres of new land on which the transported building now rested had been acquired in the midst of controversy. There was nothing like a land dispute to produce an electrifying exchange, as was the case in Charles Mohr’s battles with Judge Dunne in 1893-1899 and with the “French Huguenot” in 1915 - 1917. This time, Mohr’s involvement was only peripheral, but he found himself under attack nonetheless.
In the 1880s and 1890s, Benedict Wichers, one of the Catholic settlers who antedated Judge Dunne’s colony, was operating a grove and nursery on 120 acres of land embracing the current sites of Holy Name Priory, the Grotto, and the Saint Leo golf course. “He was growing and shipping nutmeg, cinchona (quinine), and snake root (for mental disturbances) to the Brandt Drug Company in New Orleans,” noted Madaline Govreau Beaumont in the San Antonio centennial history. His brother Dr. Edmund Wichers, who resided in Germany, had loaned him money. The doctor’s pastor, prompted by the Wichers’ concern about his investment, wrote to Charles Mohr in the summer of 1895 and asked him to look after Dr. Wichers’ interest. “After a second letter,” Mohr wrote in 1897 then in the midst of the blow-up, “I finally consented to take a hand’ in this to me very disagreeable affair.”
Benedict Wichers did not welcome Charles Mohr’s inquiries. Dr. Wichers wrote to the Saint Leo president on September 17, 1895, from Gronau, Germany, that he was concerned about his brother: “I wish you would please convince my brother of the groundlessness of his suspicions. He imagines that somebody has written me calumniating him. But my distrust in him is founded upon his own letters to me, in which I find countless contradictions.”
Evidently a suspicious man by nature, B. M. Wichers imagined a deep conspiracy in the works when he lost his land in 1897 and blamed the bishop, the sisters, and Charles Mohr in particular for betraying him. The problem for Benedict Wichers was that he did not have full title to the land on which he was operating his business. In reality, the property was owned by the Florida Central and Peninsular Railroad. The government had designated it as “railroad land” 40 years earlier. Benedict was aware of this, but assumed incorrectly that his “homestead rights” would take precedence. In fact, his brother Dr. Edmund told Mohr that he had written the nurseryman “more than twenty times” inquiring about the title of the land, but had not gotten a satisfactory answer. Finally, through Benedict Wichers’ inattentiveness, it was lost.
John Flanagan, San Antonio’s most aggressive real estate entrepreneur in that era, was not only an exuberant booster of opportunities in the Catholic Colony, but a merciless acquirer of whatever land was available. Flanagan bought the 120 acres of Wichers’ “squatter land” from the railroad in 1897, sold 40 acres of it to Bishop John Moore for use by the San Antonio sisters, and donated a four- acre strip to Saint Leo at the lake inlet along the border of the college’s “Judge Dunne Forty” and the sisters’ land.
Benedict Wichers was outraged and shouted “clerical conspiracy,” completely without evidence, in a stormy letter to John Moore: “After you left here on your last-visit to San Antonio, the report was spread that you had bought the land from under me on which I live and which to your own knowledge I improved and lived on for six-teen years.” He added that he “could not think that a Bishop could be guilty of such an act,” and declared that he would fight for his rights “in court to the bitter end,” even “if the fight should last twenty years.”
The legal fight was brief. Benedict Wichers did file suit in the U.S. Land Office, but lost his claim. In the meantime, he vocalized wide complaints about all those he felt had wronged him. But he was pressed to temper his broadsides and agreed to write an “apology.” It turned out to be somewhat left-handed:
I herewith take everything back the people say, I had said against the sisters and the priest, except that I said Father Charles where [sic] in my estimation nothing than a liar and a thief.
Standing on the border of this business and ruing the day he had ever agreed to look into Wichers’ affairs at the behest of his brother, Mohr was not happy with this “retraction.” Wichers wrote another on December 15, 1897: “I hierwith [sic] take everything back I have said against Rt. Rev. Father Charles and Bishop Moore. In the hope of putting the matter to rest, Mohr himself wrote out an elaborate statement the next day, and sent Bro. Leo Fuchsbuechler to get Wichers to sign it:
Know all by these presents that I Benedict M. Wichers having by a decision of the U. S. Land office been refused a title to the 120 acres of land upon which I had labored for more than sixteen years under the impression that my claims to said 120 acres were good and would be sustained, did feel much aggrieved at such a decision of the U. S. Land office setting aside my claims. That upon J. S. Flanagan’s purchasing these 120 acres of land from the Florida Central and Peninsular Railroad Company — selling part of same to Rt. Rev. Bishop Moore and donating part of same to St. Leo College — alias “The Order of St. Benedict of Florida” — suspected that the aforementioned Bishop Moore and St. Leo College were the agitators in this matter, that they had supplied J. S. Flanagan with money and that though he purchased aforesaid 120 acres in his own name, that in reality he was only acting as the agent for the said Bishop Moore and St. Leo College. In the heat and excitement of the moment I said a great many uncomplimentary things against Rt. Rev. Bishop Moore and particularly against Father Charles — the President of St. Leo College. Upon investigation I find that my assertions were untrue and by this written apology do hereby withdraw any and all statements that I have made against the Rt. Rev. Bishop Moore and Father Charles.
The hapless and intemperate Benedict Wichers had a right to complain at seeing the land disappear from under him, even though he neglected to take the proper steps to confirm his title. But his neighbor Jack Osburn came to his assistance and let Wichers re-open his nursery operation on part of the Osburn farm on what is now the east end of the Saint Leo golf course. His brother Dr. Edmund Wichers wrote Mohr that he himself considered the Saint Leo superior blameless in the affair: “I cannot understand why my brother should be so embittered against you. . . .I do not find that you have done him the least injustice. On the contrary you have always endeavored to avoid even the semblance of any injustice.”
Added the far seeing Mohr as he shared his troubles in an 1897 letter to his friend, college physician Dr. Joseph Corrigan: “Please return all papers. They will constitute an interesting chapter in the history St. Leo some day.”
History of St. Leo College Preparatory School