HISTORY OF PASCO COUNTY

Saint Leo

Pictures of Saint Leo

This page was last revised on June 19, 2017.

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
By 1903 - 1917 St. Leo College
1917 - 1918 St. Leo College Preparatory School
1918 - 1920 St. Leo College
1920 - 1923 St. Leo College High-School
1923 - 1927 St. Leo Academy
1927 - 1929 Benedictine High School
1929 - 1964 St. Leo College Preparatory School

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.


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)

Holy Name Convent and Academy on the plaza in San Antonio

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:

Notice!
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.

B. M. Wichers

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
and Holy Name Academy 1956-1964

By GORDON WINSLOW

1. Saint Leo College Preparatory School for boys offered high school and college preparatory degrees to male students for both boarding and day students, while the neighboring Holy Name Academy (1889-1964) offered high school and college preparatory classes to female boarders and day students graduating some 500 students during its years of operation. Over 700 Saint Leo College Preparatory School students graduated during its years of operation through 1964. (from 1959 until 1964 - the Preparatory School and the College co-existed) Although Holy Name Academy was an all female institution, many of the female students attended classes at St. Leo Prep. School. No male students attended classes at Holy Name Academy. The last class graduating from Holy Name Academy was the class of 1963. Since there were no girls available to the Prep School class of 1964 they were allowed to share socials with the Junior College. Instead of a prom they went to Daytona Beach under heavy chaperon escort.

2. The original buildings at the Benedictine enclave were St. Scholastica Hall at Holy Name which was completed in 1912 and torn down in 1978, and St. Leo Hall which still stands with modifications since 1906 as part of the Abbey. St. Leo Hall was completed in 1920 and for many years its eastern end was the classroom building with the western end serving as the monastery. The chapel was located on the third floor and was used until the abbey church (The Church of the Holy Cross) was completed in 1948. The first buildings for both institutions were actually wood frame buildings. The original Holy Name building was located on the north side of the San Antonio city park and was moved in 1912 to the location of the present priory building. By the way they now call it Holy Name Monastery. (The first abbey building was located approximately where present day McDonald Center is.) By 1965 St. Leo and Holy Name had closed the secondary schools in order to make their facilities available for St. Leo Junior College, later a four year college and now a university with a graduate degree program. In 1964 the Benedictine Sisters joined forces with the Benedictine monks of Saint Leo Abbey in providing services, resources, and staff for Saint Leo College (now Saint Leo University).

3. The students attending Saint Leo College Preparatory School and Holy Name Academy came from very distinct backgrounds. Many students from 1956-1961 were children from a parent who had attended the particular institution, a Latin student from a nominally aristocratic family from Central, South America or the Caribbean, from parents whose circumstances warranted their offspring to have an uninterrupted superior education, and local students who wished either a college prep. or religious education. Several of the “problem students” were culled out by their senior year. (For example, the actor Lee Marvin was expelled for some unorthodox behavior; the rumor being that he threw a fellow student from the second floor dormitory which may be a myth but Lee Marvin himself told his biographer the following. [Lee Marvin was expelled from several schools for offenses ranging from smoking and drinking to excessive absenteeism. On one occasion, he was ejected after throwing a fellow student from a second story window. "He felt that he was justified," biographer Dwayne Epstein recalled. "He told him if he said what he had said one more time he was going to throw him out the window, and he never backed off from his word."] He later was to be hailed as an alumni probably for marketing purposes.) Many students simply went home at the end of a semester or an academic year to never return. Some simply walked to highway 52 and hitched a ride home during the school year. Leaving was not restricted to the boy’s school but was also prevalent at Holy Name.

4. It needs to be noted that St. Leo offered classes in 1956 to students from the seventh grade through senior high. In 1959 the seventh grade had been dropped in anticipation of the Junior College which began in the 1959-1960 school year. The first building for the Junior College was the Library which served for both the college and the prep. school, housed the college classrooms. In 1958-59 the new wing of the Monastery was now under construction.

5. All classes were prescribed, only one elective was allowed in any year. Four years of English was mandatory, as was two years of a foreign language, two years of math, two years of science, two years of history and four years of religion. Physical education was given to all students after the regular class work as was band, woodworking and other such activities. All club and individual activities were done after school hours.

6. At Holy Name the student’s day was structured. Early mass began each morning, followed by meals, classes, free time, evening devotions; social events, sports, off-site trips were scheduled. There was a set of rules and booklet for both institutions. In 1959 the St. Leo booklet was titled Manners and Customs with an introduction by Carl Baerst, student council president 1958-59) Upon registration there were guidelines given to each student to follow, i.e. dress codes, conduct, visitation, etc. At St. Leo every student had to attend mass daily except Saturday. The non-Catholic students also attended mass but sat in the back of the church and were not required to participate. While religion was mandatory for students, non-Catholic students were given ethics classes. Mass started the day, then breakfast in assigned seating. Lunch and dinner were the same beginning with prayer and ending with prayer. Dinner required either a coat and tie or a jacket with the shirt collar outside the coat collar. During dinner or after the headmaster would give announcements and ate a separate table with many of the teachers and all the prefects. Each class ate together with a Junior Class student as a table monitor at each table of ten. The seniors were dormitory monitors living in various areas with the class they monitored. Also present in the dormitory was a prefect, either a priest or a person studying to be a priest called a Frater. It was mandatory to attend all meals, mass and class. There were no excuses for being absent unless a student were ill and that had to be overseen by the infirmary. (It was the custom of the infirmary to hand out aspirin for every reported illness (different candy coated aspirin for different complaints) unless the student had a fever or passed out. There were a few instances when food poisoning occurred and when this occurred most of the students were ill.)

7. The food was prepared by Mexican Carmelite Sisters. The food was mostly grown by the monks. Across from the school was the dairy where fresh milk was obtained. The beef came from a ranch near Bradenton and other items were obtained from other locations. There was a pig pen in a “valley” between St. Leo and Holy Name. Years later the pigs were relocated, and a beautifully landscaped sidewalk enhanced the area.

8. Social activities for the female and male students were almost exclusively joint activities which included dances, social get-togethers, football rallies and the like. Co-educational swimming and off campus social events were not tolerated. Visiting hours for Holy Name Academy were set and any St. Leo Student wishing to visit a Holy Name student had to ring a doorbell and ask for the particular female student by name. All interactive contact had to be done on the open breeze way or gazebo, on the sidewalk excluding the walkway to the “boathouse” which served as a multi-function building. All dances were held on the top floor of that “boathouse” with second level being a series of shower stalls and toilets. During social functions one toilet was used as a men’s facility. Calling the girls at HNA was done freely and without much difficulty. At St. Leo all dances were held in the gymnasium. Each function had assigned chaperones from both the Priory and the Monastery.

St. Leo Dormitory

There was one building only for all the Prep. school students, St. Edwards’ Hall.

St. Edwards’ Hall was built like an “E”. The long part of the E was called the “drag” which ran East and West (from the gym side to the Church side) and the two wings from the “E” were called “drags” which ran North to South (the South being the St. Francis Hall end). The center wing housed utility areas. (The center wing was built in 1957 or 1958. It was in full operation for the 1958-59 school year)

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Center wing first floor was a reception area and a large area for meetings and socials. Center wing second floor Center wing third floor was a recreation room with sofas, chairs, tables, a TV and ping pong table with no balls. Off from this was a large game shower with 8-10 shower heads.

Tobacco Road — First floor West/Church side
Moe Alley — First floor East/gym side
Main Drag — First floor West end
Diaper Alley — Second floor West/Church side
Diaper Drag — Second floor West end
Hogans Alley — Second floor East side
Jr. Alley — Third floor East/gym side
Jr. Drag — Third floor from Junior Alley to rec room and showers
Sr. Drag — Third floor from rec room and showers to Senior Alley

At the north end of the six alleys there were trash chutes. Invariably someone would flick a lighted cigarette down the chute and cause a fire. Most often the students would put the fire out with containers of water.

Someone once placed a cherry bomb in a toilet causing it to crack and break open.


Saint Leo Chronology

By GORDON WINSLOW

1889. March 11, The Benedictine sisters established Holy Name Academy with 40 boys and girls.

1892. A U.S. Weather Bureau is established at St. Leo and operates through 1956

1893. Holy Name Academy is Chartered by the State

1897. Holy Name Academy graduates its first student Bessie Bowen

Sept. 25, 1902. Saint Leo Priory is elevated to an Abbey.

Nov. 27, 1902. Charles Mohr becomes the first Abbot.

1910. School colors are first mentioned as “Purple and Gold” and remain until changed in 1959 when the college opened to “Green and Gold”. The prep school maintained the purple and gold through 1964.

June 3, 1920. Saint Leo College becomes a college preparatory school

Sept. 1920. Holy Name sisters open Saint Benedict’s Preparatory School ages 5-12 (sixth grade)

Oct. 1920. Holy Name girls begin chemistry, physics, botany labs at St. Leo on Saturdays

1920. Saint Leo Hall is completed

1921. Saint Leo College High School earns accrediting.

April 11, 1926. Construction begins on St. Edward Hall (named for King Edward) and completed by Christmas

Oct. 1926. The school’s paper first appeared under the name "Junior Spasms," in local newspapers, changing its name several times

1929. Name changed to Saint Leo Preparatory School (When the student body reflected grades 7-12 to compliment Holy Name’s St. Benedict Prep., is not known; there could have been a 7th grade since 1920)

June 1929. The first “The Lion” Yearbook is published

Summer 1932. Camp Saint Leo opens

Sept. 12, 1941. Carmelite nuns take over Saint Leo kitchen duties through 1963

1944. Holy Name sisters open Camp Jovita

Nov. 30, 1944. Father Bede Gale designs a coat-of-arms for Saint Leo Prep

Jan. 6, 1945. The gymnasium and the science building are burned by locals. (The new gym was rebuilt in the same place as the old one in 1945. The science building was diagonal to St Edward Hall on the corner near the gym and never rebuilt)

1945. WLEO Radio is formed by Donald Daino out of St. Edward Hall with loudspeakers on the dorm room [Horgan]

1947. WVJA, Voice of Junior Alley, Radio is formed by John McCullough [Horgan]

April 1951. Construction on Saint Francis de Sales Hall begins

1953. WLEO is rebuilt by Bob Bennett '57 and Jim Cassilly '57 using Cassilly's transmitter broadcasting from the gym

June 1954. Father Marion Bowman becomes third abbot

April 1957. Construction begins on a new library and center wing of St. Edward Hall

1958. Construction begins on abbey addition

Sept. 1958. Last 7th grade matriculates. It is being phased out in anticipation of college freshmen

Sept. 1959. A junior or two-year college opens but is never called a “Junior” college, with 67 freshmen.61 men and six women, Elizabeth Barthle ’59 HNA, Gigi Corrigan ’59 HNA and four nuns. The Abbey operated two institutions for the next five years, until the Prep School was closed in 1964. From SLP class of 1959 that enter the new college: Jim Toner, John Kao, Paul Herrmann and Bill Bailey.

1959. Monastery Wing occupied by Freshman of the College and is known as the first College Dormitory

1959. Crawford Hall begins Construction

1959. Father Robert relieves Father Stephen as Prep Headmaster

Spring 1961. Crawford Hall was dedicated.

June 1961. The first graduates of the college receive diplomas

March 1962. Groundbreaking for the William P. McDonald Student Center

May 23, 1964. The final commencement of Saint Leo College Preparatory School

May 29, 1964. The final commencement of Holy Name Academy

Apr. 29, 1965. The College was formally incorporated as a separate institution from the Abbey but still controlled by it

Sept. 1965. Benoit Hall opened

1967. Snyder Hall was erected

1969. Marvin Hall was dedicated but renamed Henderson Hall in 1980.

Jan. 29, 1969. The board severed the Abbey, making it not longer a Benedictine institution. (This was done because of the dwindling monastic community)

1970. Father Fidelis Dunlap becomes the fourth Abbot

1978. The Saint Leo Press closed in the fall of 1978

1985. Father Patrick Shelton is elected fifth and last abbot. From this point on only an administrator heads the Abbey

Aug. 24, 1999. Changes name to Saint Leo University


Golf Courses Part Of History (2001)

This article appeared in the Tampa Tribune on Oct. 2, 2001.

By CAROL JEFFARES HEDMAN

ST. LEO - Since opening two years ago this month, Lake Jovita Golf & Country Club has garnered praise from golfers, as well as from sightseers motoring past the lush manicured greens and flourishing flora along State Road 52.

The course was designed by architect Kurt Sandness and PGA Tour player Tom Lehamn, past winner of the British Open. But the two can’t take all the credit for the natural rolling terrain that first drew golfers to east Pasco County in the early days.

The original course, also named Lake Jovita, was built in the 1920s during the real estate boom years in Pasco County and was considered one of the best in Florida by golfing great Gene Sarazen, who lived part time in New Port Richey.

Lake Jovita Club was developed by W. E. Currie, who bought the 600 acres wrapped around Lake Jovita in the mid- 1920s from the heirs of doctor Joseph Corrigan, who arrived in the area in 1884.

Currie also was influential in getting the name of nearby San Antonio changed to the City of Lake Jovita after it was confused with the Texas town.

Because St. Leo had only a mail depot, Currie had goods for the project shipped to the train depot at San Antonio. But a lot of the materials mistakenly were sent to Texas.

Longtime San Antonio resident Joe Herrmann, who worked at the golf course as a young teen, recalled the time Currie needed concrete blocks for a building at the course. None were available locally, but Herrmann’s father, Lucius, found some in Tampa.

Currie ordered and paid for two carloads of concrete blocks to be shipped by rail the 25 miles to the San Antonio Depot. Three months later, the blocks were found in San Antonio, Texas.

Currie pleaded his name-change case, along with a real estate broker who thought City of Lake Jovita was a more appealing name for recruiting newcomers. A referendum resulted in the name being changed in 1926.

Currie also planned a housing development along with his golf course. But like many in those days, his plans never developed when the Florida boom collapsed, resulting in bank failures in 1926.

The permanent clubhouse never got built but the temporary one sufficed, providing a dining facility, showers and a “lying room” or lounge.

The 18-hole course had fences and cattle caps to keep free-range cows and hogs off the fairways and greens.

Lake Jovita Club’s prosperity helped local teens Leo DeRosier, A. O. Kiefer and Herrmann earn money as caddies. Herrmann carried bags from morning to night 365 days a year to make enough money to support 10 people during those tough years, he recalled.

Herrmann’s father had lost all his money when the Bank of Dade City folded in 1926. For the next four years, Joe, eldest of the eight children, worked at the golf course, plus delivered three newspaper routes and attended school.

Course Folds, San Antonio Returns

But with the Great Depression, only the wealthy could play golf, and Currie’s course eventually closed in the early 1930s. And the city of Lake Jovita returned to its original name in 1931.

The golf course property eventually was purchased by William Lee, who turned it into citrus groves. Prominent grower John S. Burks later purchased the property. His heirs eventually sold it to developers Lake Jovita Associates to be returned to a golf course once again called Lake Jovita.

The course opened for play on Oct. 19, 1999.

While the course was being developed, the old water tower that once was used for irrigation at the original course and an old hand pump were refurbished and remain near the 11th tee.

Other reminders of those days tower over golfers. A colonnade of palms marks the location of the three-story mansion Corrigan had built on 40 acres of lakefront property he bought for $4,000. The home, which had a private chapel, burned in 1913.

The land was part of the Disston purchase of 1881 when that $1 million purchase of 4 million acres saved the State of Florida from bankruptcy. Judge Edmund Dunn, former chief justice of Arizona, had negotiated the deal for Hamilton Disston. In return, Dunne obtained development rights on 50,000 acres as part of his fee.

Dunne’s Catholic Colony Land Co. sold the land in the 1880s. Corrigan bought his first parcel and settled there.

Corrigan, whose brother was archbishop of New York, was the attending physician at Saint Leo College from 1890 to 1920, served as the first mayor of the Town of St. Leo when it was incorporated in 1891, and was the closest friend to Abbot Charles Mohr, the first abbot of Saint Leo Abbey.

Corrigan sold Mohr 40 acres in 1892 for $2,500 to be used as a pasture for Rosie, a cow that had been traded in lieu of college tuition for one student. Four years later, Corrigan provided an abutting 20-acre muck tract for $500 and donated a third of an acre triangular piece of land between the college and the lake that became the site of the monastery cemetery in 1901.

Corrigan also contributed a 30-foot-wide strip of pine trees for firewood in 1896, the parcel running east through the 40 acres behind his homestead, according to information researched by James Horgan for his book Pioneer College.

The plantation came into question when Corrigan died in 1919. His heirs sold the property adjoining the college to the north and east to Currie. In 1987, nearly a century after Corrigan joined the founding staff of Saint Leo College, the school - now a university - initiated the purchase of his 100-acre homestead from the Burks estate.

The Pasco County Historical Preservation Committee plans to erect a marker at Lake Jovita Golf Club, designating it as a historic site.

This Course Went Bust For Good

Another area golf course was also lost to the collapse of the Florida real estate boom.

Only the clubhouse was completed for the Dade City Highlands Golf and Country Club. Located on a hill off St. Joe Road, west of Dade City, the developers spared no expense in furnishing the clubhouse, but the wicker furnishings were repossessed a short time later.

A subdivision just east of the golf course was also proposed. The plat for Golf Course Estates was filed May 6, 1925 with the Pasco County Clerk’s Office and included 3 1/2 acres.

But that project collapsed with the Florida land boom. The city acquired the land for back taxes and for years it was left vacant, with only the red brick streets remaining.

In the 1950s the subdivision was developed as Golf Course Estates. But most folks call it “Tank Hill” because of the city water tank that overlooked it.

A second subdivision was also platted around Highlands Golf and Country Club. Called Golf Terrace, the development was platted Aug. 8, 1925 and fronted St. Joe Road.

Golf Terrace never got as far as having its roads constructed. For years the only course in the area was adjacent to the current Lake Jovita course. Built in 1963 by Saint Leo Abbey, the course is still a picturesque asset to the countryside.

It has had a number of owners throughout the years but has been owned by Saint Leo University for two years and is called the Abbey Course at Saint Leo University.


Sisters Serve Up Tradition (2002)

This article appeared in the Tampa Tribune on Nov. 22, 2002.

By CAROL JEFFARES HEDMAN

SAN ANTONIO - The Benedictine Sisters at Holy Name Monastery again will feed Thanksgiving dinner Thursday to those in need and alone.

The sisters’ commitment “to respond with the compassion of Christ to physical, emotional and spiritual hungers” prompted their first Thanksgiving dinner seven years ago.

That same commitment first brought five sisters from Pennsylvania here 113 years ago to found what initially was called Holy Name Priory.

The Benedictine sisters came at the request of townsfolk in the Catholic colony of San Antonio, established in 1882 as the realization of Judge Edmund F. Dunne’s dream.

Soon after Dunne founded San Antonio, he asked priests, monks and nuns to come provide religious services and education for the colonists.

But it took four years before Bishop John Moore of St. Augustine recruited a bilingual priest, Gerard Pilz, to come provide Catholic services to the 400 colonists, more than half of whom spoke German.

Pilz, the first Benedictine in Florida, was responsible for elementary schools in San Antonio and nearby St. Joseph that had been staffed by lay teachers.

In December 1888, the priest wrote to the head of St. Joseph’s Convent in Allegheny, Pa., near his home territory, asking her to take charge of his schools.

At Pilz’s invitation, five Benedictine nuns set out from Allegheny on Feb. 24, 1889. Sister Agnes Behe was delayed en route. Mother Dolorosa Scanlan and Sisters Boniface Feldmann, Josephine Feldung and Agatha Giesler arrived four days later, probably on the Orange Belt Railway. Behe joined them June 24.

On March 1, 1889, the sisters founded Holy Name Priory.

The Hotel That Never Was A Hotel

Dunne already had set aside land for a convent. Instead, the sisters got a nearly ready building in San Antonio that was constructed as a three-story hotel by William Sultenfuss.

The large hotel, built in 1887, was north of what was called San Antonio Plaza, now known simply as City Park. The structure was never used for a hotel because colonists were afraid it would draw undesirable types to town.

Instead, Sultenfuss sold the building in 1888 to the bishop, even before the nuns arrived, to be used as a convent.

In September 1889, the sisters at Holy Name Priory started teaching at St. Anthony and St. Joseph elementary schools.

At the convent, the sisters began conducting classes for Holy Name Academy’s 40 students, both boys and girls at first, some as old as 20. Among the early students was Mary Ansley, future grandmother of U.S. Sen. Bob Graham, who noted the fact in his 1985 commencement address at Saint Leo College.

Saint Leo College officially was founded, with Saint Leo Abbey, on June 4, 1889 when Gov. Francis P. Fleming signed into law an act passed by the Legislature incorporating the Order of St. Benedict of Florida with the objective of educating youths, establishing churches and conducting services.

As Saint Leo Abbey and Saint Leo College grew, Holy Name Priory outgrew its location on the 10-acre plot at the plaza. But the sisters couldn’t afford to build a new convent on land Moore secured in a controversial deal in 1887.

The bishop bought 40 acres from John Flanagan, an aggressive real estate entrepreneur in San Antonio. Flanagan found out that land Benedict Wichers thought he had homestead rights to before Dunne’s arrival actually was owned by the railroad. Flanagan bought 120 acres of Wichers’ squatter land from the railroad in 1887 and sold the 40 acres to the bishop.

Moving Entire Buildings

In the summer of 1911, the convent-academy building was hauled from its original location a half-mile to the parcel where Holy Name Monastery still stands on State Road 52.

The move was said to be impossible. But Mother Superior, Rose Marie Easly, while small in stature, was big in determination, evident by the fact she was the first woman in Pasco to hold a driver’s license.

Easly hired W.H. Reed, a Baptist preacher from Tampa, to move the three-story building that measured 140 feet long and 75 feet wide.

San Antonio’s city fathers weren’t pleased about the move and the town council refused to approve the petition Reed sought. Councilman W.A. Semmes was authorized at a morning meeting on June 30, 1911, to go to Dade City and hire an attorney to get an injunction restricting cutting of trees on the streets and plaza necessary for the move, as well as prohibiting the move.

But at a special meeting that night, the council reconsidered and voted to allow Reed to cut two oak trees and move across the streets.

Before he started, Reed raised the building, putting planks on the ground and on the floor joist underneath and then rollers between them.

The move began July 5, 1911 and the community turned out to watch the daily efforts that involved two oxen and a half-dozen men.

The half-mile move took six weeks as a winch, anchored to a dead-man timber, was buried deep in the ground to pull the building along. A steel cable stretched around the whole girth of the convent and was anchored some 50 feet ahead of the building.

The ox had been trained to walk around and around the winch, stepping over the cable a foot off the ground each time. The building slowly inched forward on the planks and rollers. The workers would pull the planks and rollers from the rear of the building, setting them down again in front as it advanced.

When the building had traveled the 50 feet to the winch, the oxen were unhitched. The dead-man timber was moved another 50 feet and reburied to anchor it. The team was hitched up again and the whole procedure was repeated. Barely one setting a day could be completed.

The sisters’ windmill and water tower were moved the same way, both in upright positions.

Perpetual Gift

The religious community had nine sisters and 13 boarding students at Holy Name Academy during the summer. Most continued to sleep at the building during the move, but academy classes were held at St. Anthony’s School.

In fall 1911, Easly sent two sisters north to beg members of the religious order there for the $4,500 to pay for the move.

On Sept. 10, 1911, Charles Mohr, the first abbot of Saint Leo Abbey, provided the sisters with a perpetual gift of a priest to say daily Mass at the convent, which was a short walk from Saint Leo Abbey.

The current convent building was constructed in 1960. And the sisters continued to operate Holy Name Academy until it closed in 1964.

Briefly coeducational when it was launched in 1889, the school later proclaimed that its mission was to “impart to young ladies a thorough moral and mental training, so as to fit them for the position they may occupy in afterlife.”

The curriculum included English language, Christian doctrine, history, geography, mathematics, bookkeeping, penmanship, German, French, vocal and instrumental music, plain sewing and embroidery.

Holy Name Priory also operated St. Benedict’s Preparatory School for Boys from 1929-50.

In recent years, Holy Name Priory changed its named to Holy Name Monastery. There are 28 sisters, ages 36 to 92.

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