HISTORY OF PASCO COUNTY
This page was last revised on Nov. 22, 2017.
An operation producing salt for the Confederacy during the Civil War
existed near what is now Port Richey. The salt works was owned by Rev.
Capt. Leroy G. Lesley, David Hope, and a man named Ryals.
Frances Clark Mallett recalls that David, Henry, and William Hope
were each given land grants of 160 acres at Chocochattee. “After
establishing their homesteads, they started building cattle herds. There
were no fences to keep in the cattle, so the cattle were branded and
roamed free. The cattle wandered down to a salt spring near the coast
where they could get to the salt licks on the edge of the spring. After
several attempts to round up their cattle to take them back to their
homesteads the Hope brothers gave up and established a camp near the
springs. Soon they realized the high salt content of the spring water,
so they began boiling down the water to make salt.”
An advertisement which appeared in the Cotton States newspaper of Gainesville on March 19, 1864, reads:
Salt, Salt, Salt.
The undersigned have, and will try to keep on hand, at their Salt Works, 25 miles S W of Brooksville, Fla.,
a supply of the above article.
They will sell salt for $10 pr bushel and will give five dollars a bushel for corn. Or will give one bushel
of salt for 2 of corn. The corn to be delivered at the residence of D Hope, or L G Leslie, both of whom
live near the road leading from Brooksville to their Salt Works. Corn wagons will have the preference.
HOPE, LESLIE, & RYALS
An advertisement which appeared in the Cotton States newspaper of Gainesville on April 16, 1864, reads:
The undersigned will sell their Joint Stock of cattle all of one mark and brand, in the
best range in Hernando Co, 800 head more or less. We marked and branded 190 calves last Spring
and Summer, and have seen and heard of at least 20 more. Terms Cash, price $20,000.
Also our Salt Works in Hernando county where the purchaser can make from 10 to 15 bushels per day, wood
and water convenient. Price $8000, one half cash, time on the other half.
HOPE & LESLIE.
This area later became known as Hopeville and Port Richey.
An 1859 map shows a settlement named Pittitochoscolee at this location.
In the 1880s, plans were being made to develop Salt Springs.
The planners mapped out a town to be called Tremont, but the project
Julia Howell Dowling (1878-1970), who grew up in Blanton, recalled:
“I made the trip to the Coast each fall with my father. We camped
North of New Port Richey at a salt spring. There was a large kettle set
up and folks from all around came to cook-off salt. That’s how we
got our year’s supply of salt. Mullet (fish) was also acquired and
salted in a barrel to give us a winter supply of mullet.” (From
the booklet Stories Told by Julia.)
In 1927 a newspaper article reported that Salt Springs “is part
of the property of the Maner Company, who began dredging for an
extensive Venetian development about two years ago and while little has
been accomplished their plans have not been abandoned. Salt Springs is
well known to many who have traveled over sand trails before our good
roads were built, to camp and fish, and was a favorite place for an
The land surrounding the salt springs was acquired by
the State of Florida and Werner-Boyce Salt Springs State Park was
dedicated on March 16, 2001. The web site of the state park is
here. A 2008 St. Petersburg Times article is
A historical marker was scheduled to be dedicated in 2008.
Aerial view. Photo courtesy of the Tampa Tribune.
Aerial view showing Salt Springs Road behind Gulf View Square Mall. Photo courtesy of the Tampa Tribune.
Detail from a map appearing in a 1915 Port Richey Company brochure shows the location of Salt Springs.
Salt Was Florida’s Big Contribution
By WILFRED T. NEILL
to Confederate Cause in Civil War
This article appeared in the St. Petersburg Times on Aug. 7, 1977.
The production of salt was one of Florida's major contributions to the Confederate cause during the
Civil War. I've mentioned this subject in a previous article, but now I'd like to take it up in a bit more detail.
Florida was in an awkward position at the outbreak of the Civil War. In those days, just as at present, many residents
had recently come down from the North. Their basic loyalty was still to the Union. There were also quite a few settlers of
British, Spanish, Cuban, Greek or Minorcan descent; they just wanted to stay out of the war and keep on with their work.
Furthermore, some important Floridians—Thomas Brown, Columbus Drew, George T. Ward, even former territorial governor
Richard Keith Call—were Union sympathizers.
Of course, a majority of Florida pioneers would be loyal to the South. But their numbers re not great, for the
state was very thinly populated at that time.
As an example, there were only two to six inhabitants per square mile in an area extending from Tampa Bay northeastward
about to present-day Land O’ Lakes, Zephyrhills and Plant City. Most of Pasco County, along with Pinellas, Hernando
and Citrus counties, had fewer than two inhabitants per square mile. The area of thickest population extended from St. Marks
and Tallahassee northward to the Georgia boarder, and even there the settlers numbered no more than 45 per square mile.
Florida seceded from the Union on Jan. 11, 1861. It remained an “independent nation” until Jan. 28, when it
joined the Confederacy. At that time it was already obvious that the state's greatest contribution to the war effort
would be supplies rather than manpower. Florida would support the South by producing cotton, tobacco, turpentine, beef,
pork, tallow, hides, cane sugar and syrup, corn, dried fish. And salt—especially salt.
Salt was needed not only for ordinary table use, but also (and more importantly) to cure the beef and pork
that would be fed to southern troops. For during those days, in the absence of refrigeration, food somehow had to be
preserved for days or even weeks. Salt curing was the most effective way to do this. Salt was so important that the men
who made it were exempted from military service.
Accordingly, all along the gulf coast from Tampa Bay to the Choctawhatchee, Floridians began to build saltwork.
Because the salt was extracted from seawater, the works had to be set up at the seashore. And these works were usually
located near a river mouth because the salt would be transported by blockade-running ships.
Soon there were saltworks near the Wacasassa, Crystal River, the Homosassa, the Chassahowitzka; also near Tampa and at the tip
of the Pinellas peninsula.
One of the most interesting works was built at Salt Springs, just northwest of Port Richey in Pasco County.
There, at each high tide, large saltwater springs gushed from the ground. And this location was important, for coastal
saltworks often were bombarded by Union sailors and marines, who would go ashore, burn the storehouses
and shanties, break up the equipment and capture or kill the livestock.
But Salt Springs, being well inland, could not be seen from Union boats patrolling offshore. And so 200 men lived
and worked there, extracting salt from the sea-water that welled up to the surface. (This was 22 years before Aaron McLaughlin
Richey arrived to found Port Richey near the mouth of the Cotee River.)
At a saltworks, the men boiled sea water in large kettles and sheet-iron boilers or else merely allowed the water to evaporate
in the hot sun. Sometimes the men would erect small windmills, to pump the water through hollow logs into the iron boilers
or the wooden evaporating vats.
A hard rain could ruin a day's work by diluting the water or dissolving the salt in the vats. Consequently, rolling roof-like
structures were built and were hastily pulled into place when storm clouds threatened.
A large works might turn out 1,500 bushels of salt a day. For this the Confederate government paid $12.50 a bushel. But
first, of course, the salt-makers had to get their product to some major southern port. And this was not easy.
And so it was that the saltmakers did their
share—indeed, more than their share—toward supporting the