HISTORY OF PASCO COUNTY
of San Antonio
San Antonio schools
This page was last revised on June 5, 2018.
Nov. 27, 1882. A post office is established at Sumner.
Dec. 19, 1882. The Sumner post office is renamed San Antonio.
1883. A survey of San Antonio, dated Nov. 30, 1883, is
Nov. 14, 1885. A letter to The Sunny South has:
“San Antonio is only a small town so far, having three stores, one drug store,
post office and Catholic church. This is strictly a Catholic settlement,
the founder not allowing Protestants to settle inside the limits of the colony.”
Aug. 25, 1887. Apparently vol. 1, no. 1 of the San Antonio
News was published on this date, with William B. Lynch, editor. The
newspaper may have ceased publication in 1891.
Feb. 13, 1888. The first Orange Belt Railway passenger train
passes through San Antonio. Previously, the nearest railroad point was
June 14, 1888. The San Antonio News states
that it is published semi-monthly by Jno. J. O’Neill, editor, and
P. E. Lyons, assistant editor. It has:
Well this is the long looked for picnic day. ... This picnic
is given by the San Antonio Literary society, an enterprising body of
young men who about a year and a half ago, formed themselves into a
society for their mutual benefit. It was intended to be a literary and
dramatic club. Their first appearance before the public was their picnic
on the 16th of June last year, a grand success which made a name for the
society. It brought together the largest crowd that ever met in Pasco
County. Then they started this newspaper which they still own. ...
It is pretty well settled now that we are to have a foundation of the
Sisters of St. Joseph in San Antonio. They have bought the Sultenfuss
Hotel property and the interior of the building is being remodeled with
the expectation of having it ready for school by the first Monday in
The well which Mr. Wichers is boring is now about 350 feet deep. ...
M. J. Dooner bought the first load of watermelons raised on the Isham
Howell’s place. ... P. J. Lyons is contractor for the building of
the seminary formerly intended for the hotel. ... Mr. William Sultenfuss
has moved into his new home on Lake Cecelia. It is the prettiest
dwelling house in San Antonio.
The newspaper also reported 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. It reported
that the Farmers’ Alliance was organized at Clear Lake school
house on the second of May. Advertisements appeared by: Jos. G.
Kirchner, blacksmith; John S. Flanagan, justice of the peace and notary
public, with land for sale; J. W. Fisher, M. D., physician and surgeon,
with his office over the Dade City drug store and his residence at the
Dade City hotel; Dr. J. W. Gatton of San Antonio; Dr. J. G. Wallace of
Dade City; M. J. Dooner, merchant in San Antonio; Coleman, Ferguson
& Co. of Dade City; T. Lucas and Co. of St. Thomas, with dry goods,
groceries, boots, shoes, Queensware, harness and saddlery; J. C.
Tremmell, engraver and repairer; Charles M. Gailmard, breeder of land
and water fowls; William Sultenfuss, lumber yard proprietor; Brand and
Wichers, date grove and nursery.
1889. A Frenchman in Florida quotes Judge Edmund F.
Dunn (in translation):
We have a judge who fulfills the
duties of a notary public. His name is John S. Flanagan. Mr. Paul
Gailmard, your compatriot, is a photographer. You saw his gallery. In
the colony itself, medicine is practiced by Dr. Corrigan; in Ft. Dade,
not far from here, there lives a physician-surgeon who can cut off your
leg as easy as an alligator can. If you like, when passing through Ft.
Dade, ask for Dr. A. S. Alexander—35 years in practice. This year,
I have established a here a newspaper, The San Antonio Herald,
appearing from time to time, which doesn’t really make it less
interesting as you can judge for yourself by the collection you see
here. The subscription is five francs a year. The editor of the
newspaper is G. M. Jordan. He is also the writer. We have two editors
and two printers.
Dunne also identified the presence in
San Antonio of a civil engineer, a customs inspector, an architect, a
glass worker, a superintendent of streets and roads, a carriage maker,
an organist, countless carpenters, and a professor of Latin and Greek.
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.
Aug. 7, 1891. Residents of San Antonio vote 28-8 in favor of
incorporation, and chose these officials: Mayor, G. S. Bowen; Aldermen,
F. J. Christ, F. J. O’Neill, J. W. Jackson, Bernard Kissen,
Patrick McCabe; Clerk, Paul R. Gailward; Marshal, P. J. Lyons.
[Information from a 1991 address by Dr. James J. Horgan published in the
Pasco News and incorporation papers provided by Jeff Cannon.
However, according to a web page San Antonio was incorporated in 1889.
The Florida State Gazetteer and Business Directory for 1886-87
has in the San Antonio listing: “This is an incorporated
Nov. 4, 1897. The San Antonio Herald has these
- Trilby has now a full-fledged deputy sheriff in the person
of Mr. Spinks.
- The work of moving the large packing house of Mr. Dooner is
- Mr. E. Schneider of St. Paul, late of San Antonio, has paid
us a social visit and gave us a glowing account of the bright
future which is in store for this new settlement. St. Paul,
when incorporated, will be 2½ miles from Pasco and only a
short distance from St. Thomas, which latter place will in due
course of time be relegated to a suburb of that prospective
city. Intending settlers are already looking up the fertile
lands in and around St. Paul.
- The turpentine farms of Powell Bros. in the neighborhood of
St. Joseph and Pasco have changed hands, a Mr. Allison of
Georgia being the buyer. The price agreed upon for the two
plants is said to be $30,000.
- According to dispatches from Washington the appointment for
the Dade City post-office has been given to Miss H. Spencer,
leaving the other hustling candidate in the cold. This is an
instance where the early bird got left.
Nov. 18, 1897. The San Antonio Herald reports,
“Current rumors have it that Mr. J. S. Flanagan intends to embark
in the turpentine business and that he has secured all the available
timber from here to Carml for this purpose.”
Dec. 9, 1897. The San Antonio Herald reports,
“The projected turpentine camp on the northest [sic] corner of the
town limits will soon be a reality. Arrangements have been completed for
the erection of a number of houses for the working force and as soon as
they are built the hands will be brought here and active operations will
commence. Mr. T. J. O’Neill has charge of the preparations and
will most likely accept a position as overseer.”
Dec. 23, 1897. The San Antonio Herald reports, “A
name has been decided upon for the new turpentine camp and the
settlement will henceforth be known as ‘New Klondike’ or
Klondike for short. ’Possumtrot avenue is to be the principle
Jan. 27, 1898. The San Antonio Herald reports,
“In last Saturday’s municipal election the following
gentlemen were chosen: P. J. Lyons, Mayor; G. S. Bowen and Wm. Schirmer,
Councilmen; F. J. Christ, Clerk and Assessor; J. H. Bishoff, Collector;
J. F. Frese, Treasurer; and H. Wegmann, Marshall.”
Feb. 24, 1898. The San Antonio Herald reports,
“Our county commissioner, Mr. A. Barthle of St. Joseph, is being
complimented for the good judgment displayed in locating the new road to
Dade City. It is a vast improvement over the old trails and when
altogether finished, it will be one of the best roads in the county.
Mar. 3, 1898. The San Antonio Herald reports,
“Our popular Tax Assessor, Mr. J. S. Flanagan, has just completed
his annual assessment trip over the county, and he reports that the
number of people who promptly made their returns exceeds those of
Nov. 24, 1898. The San Antonio Herald reports,
“The turpentine still of Crawford & Co. was sold last week to
Messrs. Carmichael & Jones, who have already taken possession. The
price paid for the property is said to be between six and eight thousand
July 13, 1899. The San Antonio Herald reports,
“Mr. Sultenfuss’ saw mill is taken down and ready for shipment
to Keystone Park, its destination. Mr. Sultenfuss will go along
and superintend the setting of the mill.”
July 27, 1899. The San Antonio Herald reports,
“The saw mill of Brown & Wishart has been removed to the Big
Cypress, where it will remain for the present. Messrs. F. J.
Christ and E. Eisele went down to help in setting up the
machinery. But little progress was made on account of the rain
that flooded the whole place.”
Aug. 24, 1899. The San Antonio Herald reports,
“Some of our turpentine men are considering the introduction of
an automobile for the heavy hauling, now performed by double
teams of mules. The only drawbacks to the scheme are the rough
roads, but the operators are willing to go halves with the
county in fixing these to permit an easier mode of travel.”
Sept. 7, 1899. The San Antonio Herald reports,
“The unusual ringing of bells last Sunday morning at 3 a.m. was
due to a revival, which had been in progress in the colored
churches of the turpentine camp.”
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
July 30, 1902. The Ocala Evening Star reports:
The people on the passenger
train that arrived here at 2 o’clock this afternoon over the A. C. L. saw a negro
man hanging from a tree at San Antonio, in Pasco County, right by
the track. The negro was lynched last night by a mob of citizens. His body was bloody and his
clothes hung in tatters. The body had been riddled with bullets. A big crowd was gathered on the spot
this morning. The man committed a rape upon a white woman. We could not learn the name of either the
negro or his victim.
On July 31, 1902, a newspaper reported, “Ocala, Fla., July
30—An unknown negro was lynched at San Antonio, Pasco County,
last night, for criminal assault on a white woman.” A newspaper
story datelined Ocala, Fla., July 31, reports, “An unknown negro
was lynched at San Antonio, Pasco county for criminal assault on
a white woman. After being identified by his victim he was
strung up on a tree in sight of the railroad station and his
body riddled with bullets.” According to a web site, on Aug. 1,
1902, Alonzo Williams, a black man, was lynched at San Antonio.
Pioneer Days spells the name Alonso Williams, and gives
the date 1901. It quotes an unidentified newspaper article as
saying that Williams choked into unconsciousness the niece of
prominent resident Col. K. G. Liles and that “He was led forth
to be dealt with summarily, but justly, and in a few moments the
body of the beast was dangling from the Corrigan building and
riddled with bullets, a fitting punishment that will always be
dealt to such fiends so long as there is a spark of the fires of
manhood in our breasts.”
Nov. 2, 1903. The Waterloo Daily Courier Jacob
Schaefer wrote, “San Antonio is a small town, 29 residences, 4
general stores, 2 meat markets, having meat only on Saturdays,
which is made of native cattle here; one blacksmith shop, one
small saw mill, one turpentine distillery, a depot, public
school, also a parochial school, also a convent for Sisters, a
church, city hall, etc. St. Leo college is one-half mile east of
here, laying on a big hill near the lake of Jovita, a fine,
clear, sweet water lake one mile square. On this lake you can
get a good boat ride and fish. Negroes are not allowed here to
settle, the few which are here working in the turpentine stills,
and if the still is moved the negroes go with it.”
Mar. 16, 1904. The Tampa Morning Tribune
reports, “At the recent municipal election here, M. J. Dooner
was elected Mayor, receiving 17 votes, over L. Halsema, who
received 9. Other officials elected were: W. A. Semmes, Dr.
McMullen, E. G. Liles, councilmen; B. V. Lyons, clerk; Frank
Carroll, assessor; J. W. Higgins, collector; John F. Frese,
treasurer; E. J. Scott, marshal.”
Mar. 25, 1906. The cornerstone of the new Abbey is laid.
(The building was completed in 1913.)
Aug. 19, 1906. A turpentine man named John N. Burton
kills Robert E. Wishart of Ocala, who operated a tie camp at
Ehren. The shooting occurred at the office of a dentist named
Nichols, located at San Antonio. Wishart was a patron; Burton
intended to shoot the dentist but killed the wrong man.
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.
Apr. 20, 1914. The Tampa Morning Tribune
The new general store of Barthle & Lyons opened
Monday. It is fully equipped with modern fixtures, and the
proprietors are anxious to please. They have just installed a
handsome McCray refrigerator and will handle a full line of
meats. ... The young men are building a public bath house at the
town landing, on Lake Jovita. A bath house there has been needed
for a long time. The contract has been let for the new
Ellslander Building, on Curley Street. It will be two stories,
the lower floor being used for a millinery and dry goods store,
and the upper floor as a restaurant. Miss Ellslander and Mrs.
Hancock will manage it.
Dec. 3, 1915. The Dade City Banner reports that
George J. Frese (or Freese) was elected Mayor of San Antonio,
John S. Flanagan, H. M. Johnson, and James Rattigan were elected
councilmen, and Adam Schiselbauer was elected clerk and marshal.
1918-1919. The 1918-1919 Florida State Gazetteer and
Business Directory shows the population of San Antonio is
350. It lists: J. A. Barthle, general store; F. Benjamin,
general store; Adam Dick, black smith and grist mill; Lambert
Lemke & Carroll, general store; D. McLeod & Co.,
turpentine; Mary E. Nancock, postmaster; Wm. Pethe, shoemaker;
St. Charles Hotel;
Max Ulrich, blacksmith.
Aug. 13, 1921. Newspapers report, “Mayor George J. Frese
of [San Antonio] is out on bond pending trial on the charge of
violating the liquor law. He was arrested by Sheriff Sturkie of
Pasco county, who claims that Frese was operating a moonshine
still on the second floor of his residence, on the most
prominent corner in town.”
Jan. 20, 1922. The Dade City Banner reports,
“The final touches are being put to the electric line by H. E.
Pfaff and his crew of able assistants this week, and San Antonio
will in all probability have some street lights on Saturday
night. While only a few of the homes and business buildings are
wired at this time, the work is progressing right along, and
before another issue of the Banner is published, the
greater number of the people in this old and historical town
will enjoy the comforts of an electric system.”
Feb. 5, 1926. The Dade City Banner reports that
the Bel-Rich Hotel is now open, under the management of Walter
Friebvel and George Ullrich.
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.”
Oct. 19, 1926. The Dade City Banner reports:
“The last vestige of San Antonio, so far as Florida is concerned
at least, will disappear on November 1, when the name of the
postoffice of that thriving little village will be changed to
Lake Jovita, to correspond with the new name authorized by an
election held there last June.”
Nov. 1926. The Florida House is dismantled. According to
the Dade City Banner, it was a Florida landmark and one
of the most famous buildings in Pasco County.
Nov. 1, 1926. The San Antonio post office is renamed
Apr. 8, 1927. The Tampa Morning Tribune reports,
“Representative Auvil introduced a bill to change the name of
San Antonio in Pasco county to the city of Lake Jovita.”
May 23, 1931. Governor Doyle E. Carlton signs
legislation abolishing the town of Lake Jovita and creating the
municipality of San Antonio in its stead.
Aug. 1, 1931. The Lake Jovita post office is renamed San
June 15, 1935. The Tampa Morning Tribune reports, “The building
which for 20 years was used for the postoffice here and for the past several years as city hall,
located on the west side of the town plaza, is being torn down. Frank E. Carroll erected
the building in 1902 and was postmaster for 20 years. The city council has purchased a plot of ground
on Curley street, where they expect to erect a modern building.”
Dec. 1, 1938. The Tampa Times reports that Leo DeRosier, age 22,
was elected Mayor of San Antonio. He was believed to be currently
the youngest mayor in Florida.
Nov. 24, 1939. The Tampa Morning Tribune reports, “San
Antonio has a new city hall, made of natural rock.” (On Nov. 3, 1939, the
Dade City Banner referred to a new San Antonio city hall.)
Nov. 4, 1967. The Jaycees present the first Rattlesnake
Roundup, in City Park, in San Antonio. [The festival originally was
conceived by founders Eddie Herrmann, Gerald McLeod, and Willy Post to
replace the San Antonio Junior Chamber of Commerce Fun Day, which was
being discontinued. In 2017 the Rotary Club of San Antonio announced it
would discontinue the rattlesnake festival. The Thomas Promise
Foundation subsequently took over the management of the event.]
Historical Landmarks of My County
The Settling of San Antonio
This essay was written by Mrs. Mary Marguerite Osburn-Pritchard when she was in school. It was printed in the Dade City Banner much later, on Oct. 31, 1963.
Before the white people came to this section, Chief Black Beard of the Seminole Indians headed the tribe in Riggs hammock. About 1843, Jacob Wells moved from North Carolina to the part of Hernando county that is now Pasco county and settled on the east side of Riggs hammock, a mile and a half south of the present site of St. Leo College post office. He was the first white settler of the region for miles around. In 1853, Mr. and Mrs. David Hampton Osburn and children (Mary, William, David Jr., Martha J., Sara Ann, Jackson, Eliza Jane, and four others) came to this community from North Carolina spending the first night here with Mr. Osburn’s cousin, Jacob Wells. Early the next morning they set out southwest in their ox-wagon to find a suitable place to settle. They struck camp that night at the present site of the St. Leo College farm. Finding the camping-place to their liking, the Osburn family settled there.
In 1866, Jackson A. Osburn (a son) was married and settled one mile south of the present site of St. Leo College and west of the Riggs hammock. He built a log house and a high rail fence to keep the deer and wild animals out of his fields:
About the same time, in 1866, Mr. Benner and wife, Betsy, John R. Howell and son, John Jr., and two half-brothers, Aaron and Isham, and son-in-law, David Sellars, came from Georgia. Herbert Williams, Wright Williamson, and William Jones all settled in a radius Of ten miles of what is now San Antonio.
Judge E. F. Dunne, an agent for Henry Diston, came from Chicago in 1881 and homesteaded at the present site of St. Leo College because it was suitable land for citrus growing. Judge Dunne came to the thriving farm community that had been started by Jacob Wells, David Osburn, and Johnny Howell; and started a Roman Catholic colony. Some of his Catholic friends came with him and others came later. From all sections of the United States, Catholics were attracted to this section through ads in Catholic papers.
In 1882, Captain Hugh Dunne and Abe Harnmed gathered 11 yoke of oxen from the settlers of San Antonio to go to Wildwood after the first sawmill engine and boiler. This was set up on the south side of Clear Lake. It was later sold to William Sultenfuss and later moved to Sultenfuss pond, which is below J. A. Barthle’s present residence.
The first church of San Antonio was a Roman Catholic church and was built in 1883 and dedicated by Bishop John Moore. The first post office was in the block where George Collins now lives and was served by R. A. Brown as postmaster. In 1883, Prof. Paul Gailmard built the printing office. His paper was called “The San Antonio Herald.” Some of the early settlers were Pat McCabe, an orange grower; Hr. Merriweather, who built the Colony Drug Store; and J. A. Frese, who located the first tobacco factory in the southeast corner of his store; Mrs. C. C. Morse, from Washington, D. C., taught school near the present site of the St. Leo Abbey; Jesse H. Dunne built the “home in town” on Clear Lake on the east side of the post office; W. M. Sultenfuss built the “Florida House,” the first hotel west of the present residence of P. Hohen.
In 1884, Joe Kirchner built the first blacksmith shop. In 1889, Dr. J. F. Corrigan built a large home near the east end of Clear Lake. The basement was of cement and brick and the upper part of lumber, all hauled from Tampa. In the attic were large water tanks. It took ten years to construct this large home.
Other settlers at this time were Patrick Carrol, L. Halsema, Mike Dooner, A. Bowen, and a Mr. Floss—all owning stores. Ben Wichers settled where the Grotto now stands. Ben Cason settled where the Lake Jovita filling station is, and John S. Flanagan was one of the county’s first public office holders (tax assessor and legislature). John Hand put up a
blacksmith shop, Dr. T. R. Alexander was the local physician, and Pat Lyons was a carpenter. Other prominent early settlers of San Antonio were Alexander Cour, Mr. Fountain, Col. L. G. Lyles, Dr. Moody, Dr. Myers, and Dr. J. C. McMullen.
Supplies came from Tampa. It took four days to make the round trip. The camping grounds for the foray were at Trout Creek. In 1887, the “Orange Belt,” a railroad, was built through San Antonio. The depot was located
where the packing house now stands. From that time to the present, the town has prospered but has never grown very large, but has always been noted as a law abiding, self-sustaining charitable community, a source of pride to its own citizens and a factor for good in the history of Pasco county.
Sources of Information:
C. W. Osburn-St. Leo
San Antonio Memories (1976)
This article is taken from East Pasco’s Heritage.
By THERESA SCHRADER
In 1917 my mother and father, Theresa and John Greif, decided
to sell our farm in Winchester, Tennessee and move to San
Antonio, Florida. In our weekly paper, The Sunday Visitor,
San Antonio was described as a small town with a Catholic church
and plans for building a parochial school. Holy Name Academy and
St. Leo High School were nearby. Since my parents were both
deeply religious, these opportunities for Catholic education
seemed reason enough to search for a farm in this small
Papa and my oldest brother Charley came on the train to Dade
City. They were met there by Joe Egyptian, a Dade City realtor.
He had a car, quite scarce in those days, which made it easy for
Papa and Charley to cover many miles in a few days. After
looking over many farms, they decided to buy the old Bernie
Lyons place. The Kuhn farm adjoining was owned by the
Benedictine monks of St. Leo Abbey.
After making all the necessary transactions in buying the
property, Papa and Charley hurried back to Winchester. No two
people were ever asked so many questions at one time. The
biggest thrill to us children was the grove included in the
farm, full of oranges which we could eat to our hearts’ content.
We could hardly believe that some trees in the grove had not
only oranges but grapefruit, tangerines, and satsumas all on the
same tree. As children we did not realize how much preparation
had to be made for departure. Papa had two freight cars
sidetracked at the depot so he could load our possessions. One
car was loaded with all our household belongings. The other held
farm implements, two very large horses, three of Papa’s prized
Holstein cows, and enough hay and feed to last through the trip
and many months afterward. Little did Papa realize that those
cattle would never survive in the hot, sandy, tick-infested area
to which they were coming.
The day finally came when we said good-bye to our many friends
and our two married sisters remaining in Winchester. What seemed
almost like an endless journey came to a close as the train
rolled to a stop in San Antonio. There was no electricity there
then, and darkness surrounded the small depot. I remember
looking out the window, waiting to get off, and seeing white
sand glistening in the moonlight like snow.
Mr. Charles Barthle was there to meet us holding a kerosene
lantern, and led the way to the St. Charles Hotel. This hotel
was operated by its owners, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Barthle, and
four of their daughters. I’m sure it wasn’t often that a family
of ten like ours was seen at the hotel, but I do know that they
never seemed to lack for customers, especially during the
tourist season. St. Charles Hotel was noted not only for its low
price of ten dollars a week for room and board, but also for its
meticulous cleanliness and the sumptuous meals served three
times a day. Much of the food on the table came from a large
garden behind the hotel. They also grew strawberries, and had
many kinds of fruit. I’ll never forget my first trip to the
bathroom that evening. Coming from a farm with an old-fashioned
outhouse, we children were continually going to the bathroom
just to pull that chain and watch the water flow away.
The next morning after breakfast Papa took all of us out to see
our new home. How excited we were! We children were most
interested in running wild through the grove, eating oranges and
tangerines, and gathering fruit to take back to the hotel. To us
the house was secondary. Since it was a new home and not quite
completed, we had to remain at the hotel for a longer time than
When we finally moved into our new home, we enjoyed our new
neighbors living on the Kuhn farm in a modest country house with
a chapel upstairs. This farm was operated by three Benedictine
monks, Brothers Leo, Paul, and Aloysious. As I recall, Brother
Leo was manager at the farm. It was from him that Papa got most
of his advice, since raising livestock and farming in Florida
were quite different from what he had been accustomed to. Mama
loved the outdoors, and twice a year planted a wonderful garden
of vegetables, with a spot reserved for flowers.
Since we lived over three miles from town, transportation was
quite a problem, especially on Sunday mornings when everyone
dressed in his best to attend mass at St. Anthony Church. The
one buggy we had brought with us was inadequate for our large
family. One of the first purchases made was a large surrey from
St. Leo Abbey. I believe this surrey had been donated to them by
a wealthy benefactor; they had little use for it, so welcomed
the sale. As a child I thought it the most elegant surrey I had
ever seen, with its black leather padded seats and black and red
fringe around the top. We children all wanted to ride in the new
surrey, but had to accept Papa’s decisions. I remember that we
used to try to get to church early every Sunday morning to see
the Flanagan sisters, Mary and Loretta, arrive. To us girls they
were models of the latest finery, with beautiful dresses, large
picture hats, and fancy parasols. Their father, John S.
Flanagan, played an important part in the early history of San
We children walked every step of the three miles to school and
back. Can you imagine a child of this generation walking six
miles a day just to school? We didn’t mind too much, except when
it was very hot; then we hoped for rain so someone would drive
in to get us. There were very few paved roads then in Pasco
County. We had to walk through sandy ruts covered with weeds,
sandspurs, and black stickers which clung to our socks,
especially on foggy mornings with everything wet with dew. It
didn’t seem so far since the Pike and Govreau children also
lived in that area, and we used to meet them at a given spot.
From there on it was fun walking and talking together.
In 1914, I have been told, San Antonio had five grocery stores,
a hotel, millinery and dressmaking shop, grist mill, laundry,
two meat markets, a citrus packing house, wheelwright, and two
blacksmith shops, auto repair shop, and a sugar cane mill. When
we first came here in 1917, there were three grocery stores in
San Antonio. Dooner’s store on Curley St. near the railroad was
operated by John Tucker. Another, in a large two-story frame
building where our postoffice now stands, was owned and operated
by Joe Barthle. I remember the good times the young people had
on the second floor of that building, dancing to the music of
Jack Frost at the piano and Charley Logan strumming out tunes on
his old guitar. On Pennsylvania Ave. northwest of Barthle’s
store was the third grocery, owned and operated by the Halsemas.
Many years later it was remodeled and made into a cafe and night
club, the “Belrich Cafe,” operated by Walter Friebel and George
Ullrich. Another store on the west side of the park was operated
first by Lamke and Carroll, then bought by one of the owners,
Eugene Lamke, and moved to the west corner of Curley St. and
Massachusetts Ave. Later it was owned and operated by Claude
Pike. Other groceries opened and either closed in several years
or changed ownership. Among these was DeGuenther’s store on
Pennsylvania Ave., which later had various owners, lastly John
and Mary Jones.
Kiefer’s Bakery and Gerald Allen’s barber shop were in the same
block. Years later we had an ice cream and soda fountain at the
corner of Pennsylvania Ave. and Curley St. The San Ann Garage
operated by my brother Charley and John Elslander on Curley St.
served the public for many years, until Mr. Elslander moved to
St. Petersburg. Then Joe Barthle built a garage and service
station at the corner of Highway 52 and Curley St., where my
brother Charley did business for many years.
In 1917 the San Antonio postoffice was on Main St. west of the
park with Frank Carroll as postmaster. Later it was moved to the
old Govreau house on the site of the present fire station, with
Mrs. Mary Govreau Hancock as postmistress. Mrs. Beguine,
grandmother of Leo DeRosier, owned and operated a little
drygoods store on the corner of Main St. and Massachusetts Ave.
She sold everything from laces to pocketbooks, including some of
the prettiest hats in Pasco County. When the nuns from Holy Name
Academy came into her store, Mrs. Beguine never let them pay for
their purchases. One of the best blacksmith shops for miles
around was owned and operated by Max Ullrich on Highway 52 near
Holy Name Priory. One doctor residing in town was Dr. John
Bradshaw. His home still stands west of the park, oldest house
In the twenties Lucius Herrmann came to San Antonio and built a
large stucco two-story structure with living quarters upstairs.
He and his wife operated a bakery and service station. Later his
son Joe built a large brick appliance store adjoining, and
several smaller buildings including the present Eddie Herrmann
Culligan Conditioning Plant. Due to Joe Herrmann’s untiring
efforts, a bank was finally established there. It was also in
this group of buildings that our first Credit Union stood; this
was later moved to its present site at the corner of Main St.
and Pennsylvania Ave. The San Ann Service Station, built in the
early thirties, was managed by my youngest brother, Johnny.
Recently it was replaced by a Majik Market.
The San Antonio Lumber Company, I believe, is the only business
started in the mid-twenties which is still in operation today.
This business was founded by my father-in-law, Herman Schrader,
and J. P. Lynch. After a few years “Pop” Schrader bought out Mr.
Lynch, and continued to operate the company until he became ill.
In 1938 he turned the business over to my husband, Arthur, who
operated it as his father had in a very conservative way. In
September of 1957 Art suffered a fatal heart attack, and our
oldest son, Art Jr., succeeded him. Over the past eighteen years
he has proved his capability as a good business manager,
expanding the store and operating it with the same honesty and
integrity as his father. I’m sure if Art Sr. could see the San
Antonio Lumber Company today, he would be proud of his son’s
A Short History of the San Antonio Area
The following article was written by William G. Dayton, and
is reproduced on this web site with his permission.
On February 15, 1882, two men walked up a pine covered hill in
what was then the southern part of Hernando County. From the
hilltop they looked down upon a large and exceptionally clear
lake. Government surveyors in 1845 had missed the lake
altogether and the area was virtually uninhabited so the men
probably felt that they had discovered the lake. One of them
drew a Latin prayer book from his pack and read that the day was
the feast of St. Jovita. He accordingly named the lake in honor
of that early Christian martyr. The two men proceeded around the
lake to the hilltop where St. Leo Abbey now stands and one of
them decided that he would reserve that land for himself.
The travelers were Edmund F.
Dunne, former chief justice of the Arizona territory, and
his cousin, Captain Hugh Dunne. Judge Dunne was one of the
attorneys involved in negotiating the Disston purchase of 1881,
when Hamilton Disston of Philadelphia purchased four million
acres of state owned land at twenty five cents an acre, thereby
providing Florida with enough money to avoid default on the
interest due on state bonds. Dunne took his attorney’s fee in
the form of an option to develop a tract of one hundred thousand
acres. Remembering the discrimination which Roman Catholics had
experienced in Ireland and many parts of the United States in
the nineteenth century and still smarting from the
anti-Catholicism he had experienced in Arizona, Dunne envisioned
the land as a "Catholic Colony", a settlement dominated by Roman
Catholics, a center of Catholic civilization in Florida.
Judge Dunne placed the center of his colony a short distance to
the southwest of Lake Jovita. There he carefully planned a town,
named "San Antonio" to honor St. Anthony of Padua in
acknowledgment of an answered prayer. For the City of San
Antonio he reserved a full section of land, plotted streets and
residential lots and set aside property for schools, a
monastery, a convent and an orphan’s asylum. In the middle of
town he laid out a public square in the European style.
Surrounding San Antonio, he planned a series of villages and set
aside portions of land to be kept in forest. Due north of San
Antonio would be the village of St. Joseph. [Note: The community of St. Joseph,
however, was named several years later by
settlers from St. Joseph, Minnesota. -jm] To the northeast would
be San Felipe, and to the northwest, St. Thomas. South of San
Antonio would be Villa Maria and, farther south, the village of
Carmel at the end of a roadway lined with lime trees and castor
bean trees, called Palma Christi, grown from seeds which had been
shipped to Dunne from Egypt. Villa Maria and San Felipe
disappeared in a couple of years but the villages of St. Thomas
and Carmel lasted until the turn of the century, each with a post
office and small church. St. Thomas also had a Negro mission,
connected with a nearby all black settlement called "Possum Trot".
By 1883, the town of San Antonio was well established with
several stores, a barn-like church with a resident priest
(Father O’Boyle) and a school taught by Mrs. Cecelia Moore. In
1884, Dunne started publication of a newspaper, The
San Antonio Herald. The early settlers of the colony
included the McCabe, Gailmard, Hand, Carroll, Bischoff, Freese,
O’Neal, Weaver, Liles, Quigley, Flannigan and Corrigan families.
Most of the early settlers were of Irish decent, as was Judge
Dunne himself, a papal knight and heir to ancient Irish titles
The colony’s medical doctor was Dr. Joseph Corrigan, a wealthy
and well educated man, brother of Archbishop Michael Corrigan of
New York. The doctor acquired a large tract along the east side
of Lake Jovita and built a palatial three story home. The house,
with its private chapel, burned in 1913 but some of the palm
trees which lined roads on the Corrigan estate and on the Jovita
golf course which occupied the property in the 1920’s and 30’s
can still be seen. The colony’s Justice of the Peace, Judge John
Flannigan, lived in town in an elegant Victorian structure (now
the Arnade home) . Judge Dunne himself resided in a book-filled
cabin on the hilltop where St. Leo Abbey now stands. His wife,
Josephine, who played an important role in organization of the
colony, died in 1883.
Before the arrival of the Catholic Colony, the San Antonio area
was largely uninhabited, save by the Osburn, Tucker, Wells,
Kersey, Ryals and Wischers families. Before 1882, the Wischers
were the only Catholics in Southern Hernando County. The small
groups of protestant "crackers" in the area generally accepted
the arrival of Catholic neighbors and even attended church with
them on occasion. A French visitor to San Antonio in 1885
counted some sixty non-Catholics at the Easter Mass.
Until the late 1880’s San Antonio, like the rest of Hernando
County, was quite isolated. Long journeys by wagon or ox cart
were required to reach the nearest port (Tampa) or railroad
station (Wildwood) . After 1887, when the South Florida Railroad
passed through Dade City, things changed rapidly. Pasco County
was formed out of the southern end of Hernando. The Orange Belt
Railroad was constructed, passing through San Antonio on its way
to St. Petersburg. Crops could now be shipped quickly and
efficiently to northern markets. Many new settlers arrived and,
to accommodate the prosperity which followed the railroads, the
Bank of Pasco County was established in Dade City in 1889.
During this period the Order of St. Benedict began to make its
mark on the developing community. Father Gerald Pilz, O. S. B.,
succeeded Father O’Boyle as parish priest and a group of
Benedictine sisters arrived to manage St. Anthony’s School and
found a private girl’s school at their convent, Holy Name, then
located in the former Sultenfuss Hotel at the north end of the
square. The building was moved in 1911, by an elaborate system
of ox-powered pulleys and winches, to the hilltop where Holy
Name Monastery now stands.
In 1889, Judge Dunne conveyed his own lands to the order of St.
Benedict and a small party of monks led by Father Charles Mohr,
O. S. B., arrived to establish a monastery and Catholic school
and to found the town of St. Leo. The monks added to the groves
planted by Judge Dunne and built a large frame structure to
contain monastery, school and church. In the early days, St. Leo
provided instruction which would now be considered at both high
school and junior college level and granted a degree called
"Master of Accounts." It was a military school at first but the
military aspects were slowly abandoned during the early part of
the twentieth century. The monastery was elevated to an Abbey in
1902 and Father Charles became its first Abbot.
In addition to providing priests for the churches of the
Catholic Colony, the monks established Catholic parishes in Dade
City, Zephyrhills, New Port Richey, Brooksville and Crystal
River. St. Leo continued to supply priests for Catholic
congregations throughout Pasco, Hernando and Citrus counties
until the last decade of the 20th Century.
Beginning in 1883, the Barthle family led a number of Catholic
immigrants from the German Empire into the area (by way of
Minnesota) and founded St. Joseph, the last and only survivor of
Dunne’s planned villages. A little board-and-batten church was
built there in 1888 and dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
The whole area was permanently affected by the steadily
increasing number of German settlers. By 1896 San Antonio’s
Newspaper was no longer The
Herald but the Florida
Staats Zeitung. Undaunted by the great freeze of 1895,
which severely damaged the citrus industry and caused the demise
of many Florida towns, German families experimented with a wide
variety of crops and, for a time, made the Catholic Colony a
center of the strawberry industry.
San Antonio and the surrounding area maintained a distinctly
Germanic character until the era of the First World War when
Florida was convulsed with an unprecedented wave of Anti-German
feeling combined with a strong Anti-Catholic movement led by the
state’s governor, Sidney J. Catts. Governor Catts was widely
quoted (and widely believed) to the effect that the "German"
monks at St. Leo had an arsenal and were planning to arm Florida
Negroes for an insurrection in favor of Kaiser Wilhelm II, after
which the Pope would take over Florida and move the Vatican to
San Antonio (and, of course, close all protestant churches) . A
number of German settlers moved away to friendlier parts of the
country. Others stayed and took the pressure. Abbot Charles of
St. Leo published several dignified responses to the extravagant
claims about Catholic "plots" and many local protestants made a
point of appearing in public with their Catholic neighbors. When
Catts visited the Pasco County area, he generally omitted the
anti-Catholic portions of his speeches.
During the first two decades of the century, the Benedictines
constructed the first concrete block building in Pasco County.
St. Leo Hall at St. Leo was begun in 1906 and completed at the
end of World War I. St. Scholastica Hall at Holy Name was
completed in 1912. The architect for these structures was
Brother Anthony Poiger, O. S. B. He designed the buildings and,
using a mailorder kit, worked out the process for making the
"Palmer" blocks used in their construction. St. Scholastic Hall
was pulled down in 1978, but St. Leo Hall still stands, a
monument to the industry of Florida’s Benedictine pioneers.
In 1926, during the Florida land boom, San Antonio was
reorganized as the "City of Lake Jovita" and its boundaries
extended a considerable distance. In an effort to "modernize,"
Judge Dunne’s street names were changed: Sacred Heart Street
becoming Rhode Island Avenue, Pius IX Avenue becoming Curley
Street, etc. The land boom ended abruptly in the same year,
causing bank failures throughout the state. The Bank of Pasco
County was the only local bank and one of the few in Florida to
survive the "bust" of 1926 and the stock market crash which
followed in 1929. When the Great Depression made it clear that
the "boom" would not revive, the town changed its name back to
San Antonio and withdrew the city limits to the section lines
where Judge Dunne had put them in 1882 and where they largely
remain. The secularized street names are about the only remnants
of San Antonio’s "boom-time" modernism.
In the 1920’s, the Jovita golf course, built on the former
Corrigan property, attracted internationally known golfers,
including Gene Sarazen. The golf course did not survive the
Great Depression but has been rebuilt and expanded in the 1990’s
with the development of the Lake Jovita Golf and Country Club.
St. Leo functioned as a college preparatory school for boys
into the 1960’s. Holy Name Academy functioned as a private
girl’s school during the same period. 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
A community with deep roots in the past and strong agricultural
ties, Judge Dunne’s Catholic Colony is now comprised of the
Cities of San Antonio and St. Leo, the unincorporated village of
St. Joseph and miles of orange trees and pasture lands. The
central role played by the Catholic church in the life of the
community and the deep commitment to agriculture by generations
of residents are, like San Antonio’s town square, reminders of
what Judge Dunne envisioned in 1882.
Centennial of the Incorporation of San Antonio
The following is an address given by Dr. James J. Horgan on
the occasion of the centennial of the incorporation of San
Antonio. The address appeared in the Pasco News on
Sept. 6, 1991. The text was copied, with permission, from this
What we are commemorating today is the centennial of the
incorporation of the town of San Antonio. But the founding
occurred ten years earlier. What happened 100 years ago August 7
was that the voters of this community went to the city hall and
voted to incorporate formally as a town, and also had an
election to choose a mayor and a board of aldermen for the first
There were 36 people who voted in that election. The
incorporation was not unanimous. They voted 28-8 in favor of it,
and they chose G. S. Bowen as mayor and five aldermen, including
Pat McCabe, the patriarch of the family that still continues
with many members in San Antonio today.
This, evidently, was the first election that was ever held
here—because for its first ten years San Antonio was something
of a monarchy.
This was a very unusual community. It was settled in systematic
fashion under the direction of Judge Edmund Dunne, who was a
former federal judge from Arizona, who had a vision to found a
colony for his fellow Catholics, as something of a cultural
In the summer of 1881 he got an opportunity to do so through an
unusual set of circumstances.
The State of Florida was going bankrupt and, in order to raise
funds, the State decided to sell much of its only asset, its
public domain, its land. So the State of Florida sold 4,000,000
acres to an entrepreneur from Philadelphia named Hamilton
Disston for $1,000,000—25 cents an acre.
Judge Edmund Dunne handled the legal arrangements for that sale
in the summer of 1881, the sale of what’s called the "Disston
Purchase." As a result, Dunne was given by the Disston Company
the control of eventually 100,000 acres of land. He didn’t own
it. But Judge Dunne had a right to control the disposition of
this 100,000 acres of land that he selected from the Disston
Purchase , and he used it to found what was formally called the
"Catholic Colony of San Antonio."
Let me read you a description of Dunne’s account that he gave
to a newspaper reporter in 1885 of how he came to found the
Catholic Colony of San Antonio and the circumstances of his
arrival here. The colony was established in 1881; Dunne himself
arrived on February 15, 1882. Here is Judge Edmund Dunne
speaking to a newspaper reporter from the Baltimore
Catholic Mirror in August of 1885:
The great Disston purchase of 4,000,000 acres in
Florida was made about June 1, 1881. I was selected by Mr.
Disston as his attorney to go to Florida and to assist in the
selection and to supervise the taking out of the title deeds. I
obtained, as part of this arrangement, the right to have the
first selection, out of the purchase, 50,000 acres of land for a
Catholic colony, with the privilege that when I had sold a
certain amount I should have the further privilege of taking
another 50,000 acres for the same purpose.
This contract was made August 10, 1881. On August 19 I was in
Florida and began the work of this selection. On February 15,
1882. I made my selection of the first 50,000 acres and had
established the initial point of the settlement at a place now
know as San Antonio, on the southwest shore of Lake Jovita.
Dunne went on to describe how he came to choose this particular
which was selected after many weeks of searching, and chosen for
particular reasons. He contacted his cousin Captain Hugh Dunne,
who had served in
the Union army during the Civil War and was a resident of
Atlanta, and who was familiar with Florida from a previous trip:
I telegraphed him to come and help me select the site
for our first settlement. He met me at Jacksonville and we
examined the country together. After examining everything from
Sumterville to Tuckertown, a distance of thirty miles from north
to south and crossing the reservation repeatedly from ten to
fifteen miles from east to west, we chose this place on Clear
Lake as by all odds the place to start the settlement, with a
view to health, and orange and grape culture.
and he continues:
The colony reservation is on a plateau of high land,
considerable higher than the Fort Dade region. The selection was
made after many weeks tramping on foot through the country, with
the particular object of trying to find a high, dry country,
free from malaria. The town
of San Antonio is on the very apex of all the high land of that
So he laid out his plan in the summer of 1881, and arrived here
February 15, 1882. That happened to be St. Jovita’s Day, and
since Judge Dunne was a serious Catholic, that’s the reason why
he changed the name of the lake from its traditional name Clear
Lake to Lake Jovita—because he arrived here on St. Jovita’s
February 15, 1882.
He chose the name San Antonio for this community because St.
Anthony of Padua is a saint Catholics often pray to when they
have lost something. Judge Dunne himself, as he later said, had
been lost in the desert some years earlier when he was
prospecting for silver, and he prayed to Saint Anthony in the
hope that he would find his way. And suddenly he noticed a camp
fire off in the distance and thus was rescued. And so with his
long-term plan to found a Catholic colony, this name "San
Antonio" had been continuously in his mind.
He began the actual settlement in the summer of 1882. As he was
promoting the colony in Catholic newspapers, especially
throughout the Northeast, he would send descriptions of life in
San Antonio in the hope of attracting settlers. Here’s a
description Dunne wrote of what life in San Antonio was like at
its very beginning in the summer of 1882. It appeared in a
letter he wrote to the Catholic
Review of Brooklyn, New York in August of 1882:
...our colonists all came in the most trying season of
the year, the beginning of summer, with no accommodations
prepared, no conveniences attainable, no wells dug, nothing in
general but lake and pond water to drink: sleeping on the ground
with or without bedding: all very trying to health.
Then there was a planting season coming in July, and a
feverish haste to get some orange trees in the ground
immediately, in consequence of which our colonists worked long
and hard, late and early, in sun and rain, felling trees and
grubbing ground, heavy work even for the cool of winter.
The women had to cook outdoors without shelter from the sun
or rain, and with but little to cook and small variety to eat.
We have had 40 persons here of ages ranging from 1 to 70
So San Antonio in its first few months had 40 settlers. The
peak of its
population in this period of the 1880s was 400 people in 1885.
Judge Dunne remarked at this time how, from his perspective,
life had advanced in that three years from the very first
settlement to the summer of 1885 when, by his standards, things
were flourishing. He told this to a newspaper reporter:
...there are about three hundred people in the colony,
with a Catholic church built, free of debt, a resident Catholic
priest, a parochial school, a post-office, three stores and a
number of residences. Also another town is established three and
a half miles northwest of San
Antonio, named St. Thomas with a post-office.
Four miles south of San Antonio the town of Carmel is
established, a colony store being erected and application for
a post-office made.
Dunne envisioned that San Antonio proper would be the hub
a ring of satellite communities.
Carmel was laid out about five miles to the south. Villa Maria
was planned for one mile to the south. Saint Thomas would be
some five miles to the northwest, and St. Philip five miles to
And as part of his regulations in those years, all the settlers
had to be Catholic, and not only that, they had to have a letter
from a priest certifying that they were in good standing. In his
sales of land through the Disston Company, Dunne could control
who the settlers would be. Land was very cheap: $1.25 an acre to
as much as $5 or $10 an acre, depending on its location.
In his effort to attract people he wrote these accounts of
colony life throughout that time. In fact, this town is noted
for still having descendants from some of those early settlers,
who called themselves "colonists." Madaline Beaumont’s parents,
for example—Mary Hand and Louis Govreau—read Judge Dunne’s
letters while living in Missouri in the mid 1880s and moved down
here to this Catholic Colony of San Antonio because they found
appealing the descriptions that he gave.
The Catholics-only regulation was something of a controversy
and only lasted about six years. Here’s a commentary from a
visitor from Pittsburgh, who came through here in the summer of
1884 and was very impressed with Judge Dunne, but who disagreed
with Dunne’s idea that the settlement should be for Catholics
only. This was an interview he gave to the newspaper the Pittsburgh Leader in June
of 1884. His name was W. B. McCaffrey:
San Antonio is the town of Judge Dunne’s colony,
situated on a beautiful lake in Hernando county. You will not
find the name on the maps, as yet, but it is located near Fort
Dade. The colony is in a flourishing condition and numbers at
present 256 souls.
The judge controls 100,000 acres of the best land in the
state, and is a most noble gentleman. To know him is to like
him, but I think he is too hard on the sinners. He will only
sell land to the catholics who show a certificate from a
priest that they are practical Catholics.
I asked the judge if he wouldn’t take a few of the lax
Catholics and show then a good example with the idea of making
them practical. He answered, no; that the colony was not a
missionary society: that his idea was a community leading a
life of virtue as Christians should.
I would not live in his colony for two reasons: First, I
would not purchase a home where a Protestant friend could not
purchase beside me; secondly, I don’t wish to rest with the
saints before my time.
The last reason and the name of Saint’s Rest, which I gave to
the colony, amused the judge highly. I do not wish to convey
the impression that the judge is a narrow bigot or hates
Protestants, but he has an idea, and he is determined to carry
it out. He is the only man in Florida who sells good lands at
So, one major issue of colony life at that time was the
Catholicism, which was the vision that Dunne had and the reason
San Antonio was founded.
Another major issue of the 1880s was the conflict between the
Irish Catholics and the German Catholics. There were about 400
people here at its peak of settlement in the mid-1880s, and
about half of them were German, a little less than half were
Irish, and then there were some French Catholics as well.
The Germans were unhappy with the Irish priest, John O’Boyle.
They wanted a German-speaking priest to present religious
services in their own language. So Judge Dunne, of Irish
background himself, in order to appeal to the interest of his
people, arranged to have a German-speaking priest sent here to
provide bilingual services.
Such a priest arrived—a man named Gerard Pilz—in May of 1886.
This is how the Benedictines happened to come to Florida, how
Holy Name Priory come to be established, and how Saint Leo Abbey
and Saint Leo college come to be founded; because of the
conflict between the German and the Irish Catholics in the
Catholic Colony in the summer of 1886.
Gerard Pilz was a Benedictine priest from St. Vincent Archabbey
in Latrobe, Pa., and his arrival settled this conflict between
the English-speakers and the German-speakers because he was able
to present services in both languages.
Dunne himself is to me a very interesting man. He was imperious
in many ways, but he was a visionary. He had a lot of
conflicts., toward the end, with his colonists, but he was well
respected throughout the early years of San Antonio.
Madaline Beaumont told me that when she was growing up in San
Antonio, Judge Dunne’s name was regarded heroically. Dunne
himself left here in 1890 in the midst of a number of troubles,
largely because he had overextended himself financially. So
Judge Dunne was not here when the municipality incorporated, the
centennial of which we are commemorating today.
Finally, let me read you a description of San Antonio on the
eve of the incorporation whose centennial we are now
commemorating. This is an account from the Tampa
Journal, a newspaper which ran a series of profiles
about the towns along the Orange Belt Railway. The article is
from November of 1889, and it describes the very place where we
are standing now:
The streets are all broad at least 80 feet, and there
are plazas and plazas. The convent
—which used to be located just to the north of the park—
which is a handsome building, is in a large lot, while
before it is a four acre baseball ground, said to be the largest
in the country.
That’s where we’re standing now: a four-acre baseball ground in
It is perfectly flat and almost as smooth as a floor.
The church and parsonage stand in another four acre lot, planted
with orange trees. Indeed the center of the town is one immense
There can never be sickness on this account. By no
possibility can the houses crowd each other. The building lots
themselves are twice as large as in other towns. Judge Dunne
in laying out the town worked on the principle that where land
is so plenty, plenty can be spared. Another innovation is that
the town is so platted that the houses all face either east or
west, thus allowing the trade winds in sweep through them,
insuring always fresh air.
There are five stores in the town and a most excellent hotel,
the Pasco House. The house itself is plain and neat, the table
fine, everything being cleanly and as far as possible home
A most excellent sign is that ones sees no loafers anywhere
And finally the report concludes:
Although a Catholic community there are many
Protestant settlers, and everything moves on harmoniously.
I suppose that might be a theme we could pick up on for our
commemoration today—that life is San Antonio, from its
beginnings, has been reasonable harmonious. And I might say
also, has been reasonable harmonious. And I might say also, it
seems to me that this community in the past century has changed
little. At its peak in population in the "colonial" period,
there were 400 people who lived here. There are only a few
hundred more today. What we are really remembering is this
distinctive feature of our community: the close knit sense of
harmony that many people feel.
And in our centennial commemoration, that is a persistent value
we can keep in mind.
This was the centennial address Dr. Horgan presented in the
San Antonio city park on August 11. He has done extensive
research on the history of San Antonio and Saint Leo and is
the author of "Pioneer College: The Centennial History of
Saint Leo College, Saint Leo Abbey, and Holy Name Priory." The
book is available for $24.95 from the Saint Leo College Press,
Box 2247, Saint Leo. Fl. 33574 also at the Saint Leo College
Community Has Roots In City Park (2001)
This article appeared in the Tampa Tribune on Oct. 16, 2001.
By CAROL JEFFARES HEDMAN
SAN ANTONIO – Thousands are expected to once again invade this
otherwise tranquil town this weekend, just as they have for the
past 35 years when San Antonio plays host to the annual
Most festival activities will take place Saturday and Sunday in
the heart of San Antonio. But most enjoying the festival’s
folksy atmosphere don’t realize they are standing on an
important link in the history of the town known for years as the
Catholic Colony of San Antonio.
Through the years the four-acre plot now just called City Park
has had the names of Plaza Almeda, St. Louis Plaza, Pio Nono
Park, and simply The Plaza.
The Choicest Land
Judge Edmund F. Dunne founded San Antonio on the land he deemed
the choicest in Florida. Dunne, a former chief justice of
Arizona who was forced to resign after his vocal defense of the
Catholic school system, was retained by Philadelphia
entrepreneur Hamilton Disston to negotiate his purchase of 4
million acres of land in Florida.
The state of Florida was offering the sale of land to save it
from bankruptcy. Disston pledged to buy the 4 million acres for
$1 million or 25 cents an acre. For his efforts, Dunne was paid
with his choice of 100,000 acres of land where he planned to
establish his Catholic colony of San Antonio.
Traveling on horseback with his cousin, the twosome sought out
the best land in the state. They found it Feb. 15, 1882. on a
hilltop overlooking a bountiful lake. Arriving on St. Jovita
Day, Dunne gave the saint’s name to the lake that had been
traditionally called Clear Lake.
Dunne platted his town of San Antonio on the apex of all the
high land in the rolling hills.
He had chosen the name San Antonio years earlier after praying
to St. Anthony while lost in an Arizona desert while prospecting
for silver. After praying to the saint whom Catholics believe
helps recover lost things, Dunne saw a bright light in the
distance that directed his course. Dunne named his Catholic
colony in gratitude to St. Anthony of Padua.
Dunne’s 100,000 acres once sprawled from the Fort Dade region,
near today’s Dade City, to Hammock Creek Land on the Gulf of
Mexico in Hernando County. His vision for the colony included
the surrounding satellite communities of Carmel, Villa Maria,
St. Thomas, and St. Philip, also called San Felipe, with San
Antonio as the central hub.
San Felipe was five miles north of San Antonio and named for
St. Phil Neri on whose feast day the settlement was located.
Carmel, five miles south of the principle city, was named from
the Hebrew word for “a finely cultivated field or orchard.”
Villa Maria, named for the Blessed Virgin, was located a mile
south of San Antonio on the road to Carmel. These were the first
three, established by 1883. By 1885 St. Thomas was established
some three miles northwest and even had its own post office.
San Antonio proper was to include a hospital, an orphanage, an
asylum, a convent, and a European-style plaza.
The grandest design for the center of the town was Pio Nono
Park, named for Pope Pius IX who had reviewed and given his
blessing to Dunne’s colonial plan in 1872. In a rendition dated
June 13, 1893, Dunne plan showed a central plaza that was to be
surrounded by paths and gardens, with strategically placed
statues that would extend eastward from the town square to the
The Grand Plan
The grand plan was never implemented and through the years the
site went through a number of developments.
On Dec. 13, 1888, Thomas and Lucy Quigley executed a warranty
deed to the Rev. Gerard Pilz, Order of St. Benedict, on behalf
of the colony. Pilz was the first Benedictine pastor of St.
Anthony Church that had been constructed adjacent to the plaza
land in 1911.
The deed had a number of stipulations mandating that certain
expenditures be made for improvements to the park. The title was
passed along to monks at Saint Leo Abbey who, in 1925,
unanimously decided to give the San Antonio Corp. a trust deed
only for the Plaza in San Antonio.
Again there were stipulations, with the monks saying nothing
detrimental to the Catholic church nor any “nuisances” be
allowed on the grounds. The pastor of St. Anthony’s Church would
be the sole arbiter as to these points.
The stipulations were removed in 1967 when the late Abbot
Marion Bowman, abbot of St. Leo Abbey, signed a quitclaim deed
in favor of the city of San Antonio, relinquishing any claims to
the park and making no reference to conditions.
City Park remains today as a center for family activities by
members of the town. With a playground, baseball field, and
basketball courts, the park also served the adjacent St. Anthony
School. The school originated in 1883, shortly after San Antonio
was founded. With 14 students, classes were taught at the home
of its teacher, Marie Morse. The school was moved to the church
in 1884 and in the fall a separate frame schoolhouse was erected
next to the church. The current St. Anthony School was built in
Ramblin’ ’Round Town
Here are several columns believed to have been written by
Joe Herrmann which appeared in the Dade City Banner.
RAMBLIN’ ’ROUND TOWN
San Antonio, November 7, 1935. -- On Wednesday night of last
week the ghosts were out at the Flannigan home. Everybody who is
anybody was there and talk about a good time ye old rambler had
it. It is always a pleasure to attend a party at the congenial
Flannigan home and this one was no exception. The great list
included Mr. and Mrs. W. W. Antink of Chicago . . . Speaking of
parties reminds us that there were two of them at the Alexander
home in honor of Mr. and Mrs. Chester Alexander of Miami. Which
also reminds us that early last Thursday morning Mr. and Mrs.
Alexander returned to Miami. Our hope is that they enjoyed their
stay as much as we enjoyed having them with us . . . Mr. and
Mrs. W. W. Antink who hail from Chicago came in about a week ago
bringing with them Mr. Antink’s mother and a friend of Mrs.
Antinks from Chicago. While here they stayed with Mr. and Mrs.
Jess Jones. With the party but in another car were Mr. and Mrs.
James Mair. While in San Antonio the Antinks and Mair’s were
entertained at the Flannigans Halloween party. The K of C dance
in Saint Anthony hall, an ice cream party at the J. A. Barthles,
a card party at the J. T. Bradshaws and a Weiner roast sponsored
by the entire younger set of San Antonio. All in all it is the
Ramblers belief that their vacation was a pleasant one and in
the future instead of an annual visit we hope they come every
six months . . . Mrs. Mary Haggerty is back for the winter after
a pleasant vacation in Steubenville, Ohio . . . The Herman Veits
and a friend from New York are with us again for the winter . .
. The hotel annex is being occupied by the G. A. Feichts who
have just returned from Canton, Ohio . . . Mr. William Kress who
spent part of the summer in Ohio has returned to San Antonio . .
. Mr. W. E. Currie of Detroit, Michigan, is back again for the
winter. With him is Mr. Clarence Shannon a popular member of San
Antonios younger set . . . Mr. Carl Ullrich who has spent the
better part of five months in Altoona, Penna., is back in San
Antonio bringing with him Mr. Frank Cossetta of Virginia . . .
Mrs. Ida Ullrich has just returned to San Antonio after a
pleasant vacation in the mountains of Pennsylvania . . . Mr. and
Mrs. Adam Yahn of West Virginia are gracing our fair city with
their presence after an absence of several months . . . "Welcome
back to San Antonio" so say we to all of our visitors in the
name of all San Antonians . . . Once upon a time there was a
little girl who lived in San Antonio and her name was Margaret
Herrmann. She went off to the city but she didn’t forget. About
two weeks ago she came blowing into San Antonio with a host of
her friends and they all made friends with everyone they met in
San Antonio. After a day of merriment they adjourned to the
Jovita to partake of chicken and all the trimmins. Ye old
rambler doesn’t usually get in on these private parties but we
usually get a smell and this time was no exception. The friends
Miss Herrmann brought with her were Mr. William Shivel and Mr.
Thomas Whalen of Jacksonville, Mr. and Mrs. Guy B. Goodrich, Mr.
Alvarado Fernandez, Miss Helen Dunne and a couple of other
charming young ladies of Tampa. It is the ramblers hope that
they all return and bring with them other friends . . . Mr. N.
K. Therres, Mr. Mike Govreau, Mr. Joe Midili and Mr. Joe
DeRosier have returned from Ocala after several weeks Work on
the cross state canal . . . Mr. Allen Blount was a visitor in
Jacksonville during the past week . . . Fruit season has started
in earnest with two crews of San Antonians out in the groves
picking the golden pellets that bring in the gold. Pardon me We
are on the Silver standard now. With that we will have to
RAMBLIN’ ’ROUND TOWN
San Antonio, Florida
July 25th, 1935 --
Summer vacations are still the go. Dannie Cannon is spending a
couple of weeks at the Indian Rocks beach home of the J. A.
Barthles . . . Then there are vacationists at the St. Charles .
. . Mrs. Rose C. Jones and Mrs. Bess McIlhenny are using up
spare time in Tampa . . . Agnes and Leo Herrmann are swimming
daily in Lake Jovita. Nights are being spent at brother Joe’s.
San Antonio, July 18, 1935 --
On Monday of this week Old Sol, with the help of Mother Earth
played a trick on Luna. The clouds being very profuse here in
San Antonio many of us did not see the total eclipse but out
north of town a clear picture was presented. It is only once in
many years that this spectacle is presented and it was surely
worth staying up late to see it. A few facts about the eclipse
Monday evening are. The moon does not give off light but
reflects the light of the sun. The earth passed directly in the
line of the sun and the moon on Monday evening producing the
total eclipse the moon was not entirely dark because of the
atmosphere of the earth. The sunlight filtered through this
layer of atmosphere and created an amber color on the moons
surface. So much for the eclipse and now for the news we have
been able to pick up . . . Paint brushes have been busy at the
C. H. Pike store during the week . . . Mrs. A. H. Kahler has
been ill at her Curly St. residence during the past week. That
she will be up and around soon his the Ramblers wish . . . Mr.
A. H. Schrader who has been ill during the past two weeks is now
up and able to attend his duties . . . The Moorheads (Henry and
Gladys) are sporting a new car . . . A new coat of paint for the
Ed Storch auto . . . A new high powered sedan for the Grahams
(Russell and Leola) . . . The C. J. Govreaus are now chicken
farming at the John Wicher farm near San Antonio . . . Mrs. Nina
Kovarik is recovering from an illness at the Dade City hospital
. . . The Lynches (Sylvester and Eleanor) of Gainesville were
San Antonio visitors over the week-end . . . We’ve been hearing
that within the next few Weeks a young San Antonio Service
Station operator will march up the church isle to the tune of
Lohengrin. Saint Anthony church grounds now present a neat
appearance with a new lawn started and quite a number of new
flowers and shrubs . . . Repairs to the roofs of the M. J. Burke
home, the A. J. R. Hill home and the A. Wischer home . . .
Tampatowners this week--Mr. S. Milidi, Father Felix, Mr. J. A.
Barthle, Mr. A. H. Schrader, Mr. R. M. Graham, and Mr. John
Grief . . . We see by the paper that Labor Day, September 2nd,
will be celebrated in San Antonio in a fitting way. A big picnic
and a ball game. We know that everyone is invited and if you
attend we know that you will enjoy yourself . . . Visitors at
the home of J. P. Lynches during the past week. Mr. and Mrs.
Jones of Sarasota and Francis Rolfes. They returned to their
home on Thursday of this week . . . A party of San Antonio and
Dade City young folks on a weiner roast on Wednesday evening . .
. Guess thats about all for this week so I’ll be
RAMBLIN’ ’ROUND TOWN
San Antonio, November 14th, 1935.
--ye old rambler is jest a wonderin hows many of you folks have
joined the Red Cross for the coming year. The cost is small and
the need is great. Think of all the good the Red Cross does in
our own sovereign state. In September the disastrous hurricane
that swept over Florida. Just lately the big blow on the
southern tip of Florida. A few years ago the Okeechobee flood. A
few days after each of these happenings The Red Cross had
cleared things up and suffering humanity was fed, clothed, and
housed. These are just a few examples of the good work being
carried on. So when you are asked to join, do so by all means
and ask your friends to join . . . Armistice Day 1935 has come
and gone. Seventeen years ago when the Armistice was signed and
all the world, was again at peace after four years of bloody
conflict, we were happy; and glad. But today it seems that the
years of peace are soon to end. With every passing day war seems
nearer. All nations piling up arms and devising new ways to kill
people. Let us pray for peace, real peace among all nations and
tribes of the world . . . The week-end just passed was replete
with visitors. There was Luella Lynch, who goes to Florida State
college for Women, visiting parents and friends . . . George
Govreau and family up from Tampa visiting with Mrs. Mary Govreau
. . . Mrs. Charles Govreau to Lakeland for the holiday . . . Mr.
and Mrs. Charles Blount and two charming daughters in San
Antonio over the week-end . . . The Herman Veits entertained
friends from New York over the week end . . . Miss Frances
Kovarik an employee at Jackson Memorial hospital is spending a
well earned vacation at the home of her parents . . . The new
and larger Cannon Dairy is now open for inspection. It is indeed
gratifying to know that here in San Antonio we have one of the
finest, up-to-date and complete dairy farms in Florida. Everyone
should take off a few minutes time and look over this new dairy
plant . . . Mrs. Frances Brown of Tampa was a week-end visitor
at the Wicher ranch . . . So with our ramble ended
We Ramble Along
Colony Satellites Never Took Hold
By CAROL JEFFARES HEDMAN
This article appeared in the Tampa Tribune.
The rural countryside isn’t so rural anymore, with city folks
lured to places that still have open spaces and towering trees. But even
with development in recent years, the land surrounding San Antonio is
much like it was when the city founder envisioned his Catholic colony.
Judge Edmund Dunne chose the land for his Catholic Colony of San
Antonio in 1882 while traveling on horseback through the virgin
countryside. Dunne, a former chief justice of Arizona, was retained by
Philadelphia entrepreneur Hamilton Disston to negotiate his purchase of
4 million acres of land in Florida.
The state of Florida was offering the sale of land to save it from
bankruptcy, Disston pledged to buy the 4 million acres for $1 million or
25 cents an acre. For his efforts, Dunne was paid with his choice of
100,000 acres of land where he planned to establish his Catholic colony
of San Antonio.
Dunne’s 100,000 acres sprawled from the Fort Dade region, near
today’s Dade City, west to Hammock Creek on the Gulf of Mexico in
Hernando County. On the first 50,000 acres Dunne Platted his town of San
Antonio on the apex of all the high land in the rolling hills.
He had chosen the name San Antonio years earlier after praying to St.
Anthony while last in an Arizona desert while prospecting for silver.
Catholics believe praying to St. Anthony helps recover lost things and
after Dunne found his way, he vowed to establish a Catholic colony in
gratitude to St. Anthony of Padua.
Dunne’s plans called for San Antonio as the central hub, with
satellite communities spoked out from that hub.
In an 1883 pamphlet, Dunne described three of the satellite
communities: San Felipe, five miles to the north, named for St. Philip
Neri on whose feast day the sub-settlement was located: Carmel, five
miles to the south, from the Hebrew word for "a finely cultivated field
or orchard:" and Villa Maria, named for the Blessed Virgin, one mile
south of San Antonio on the road to Carmel.
But while San Antonio flourished, its satellites weren’t as
successful. In fact, only two ever became more than a name.
The village of Carmel was actually located four miles south of San
Antonio in the area of where the Kerkland and Epperson ranches are
located on Curley Road.
In the 1883 promotional brochure, Dunne explained that he named
Carmel such "not because of its inherent meaning but because the
settlement is placed under the special patronage of our Lady of Mount
"The lands in this settlement are high but less rolling than
elsewhere in the colony. They are suited to oranges and lemons, but also
and more so than the rest of the colony to guavas, citrons and other
tender plants. The beautiful Lapa Lake is on the western edge of this
settlement and Lake Winifred on the east. Lakefronts on both of these
lakes will be for sale there this winter, but only to actual settlers or
immediate improvers," the brochure stated. By 1892 Lapa Lake was called
by its current name, King Lake.
The land for sale in the Carmel settlement started at $5 an acre.
There was a colony story and even a post office, established Nov. 4,
1885. But the post office closed less than a year later, on July 25,
1886, suggesting that only a few people settled in the area. The village
of St. Thomas was established near what is today Interstate 75 and St.
Joe Road, northwest of San Antonio. St. Thomas also had a post office,
opened Jan. 2, 1885. It remained open until Dec. 31, 1907, and St.
Thomas was more of a thriving community.
The post office and a church were the centers of activity and,
according to an 1887 news account, the postmaster, Maj. Thomas Lucas of
Ohio, was "practically the father of this settlement."
St. Mary’s Church of Saint Thomas was blessed by Abbot Leo Haid
of Maryhelp Abbey, N.C., on Sept 14, 1890, the same day he dedicated
Saint Leo College. The college was founded in 1899 by Benedictine monks
and priests who had come to San Antonio at the request of Dunne for
religious service. The abbey and college were named after Haid who was
also the first college president. The Jacksonville Times-Union covered
the event and described the area that was being settled by newcomers
from Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan and Ohio.
"Many more people are coming good, industrious people who are already
Americans with all that is dear to America at heart," the news account
noted. "This section of Florida in not in the rear of the army of
improvement. A few years more, and the groves of Pasco County will
furnish oranges and lemons for thousands in the North. May our brightest
anticipations be verified.
The monks of St. Leo Abbey provided religious needs for the 30 people
who called St. Thomas home in 1903. They also operated a mission off and
on from 1894 through 1909 for a nearby black community
St. Thomas was also noteworthy as the home of Oliver Arzacq, the
first student to receive a diploma from St. Leo College. The master of
accounts degree was confirmed upon the young student at the first
graduation ceremony on June 20, 1893.
Both villages vanished by the early years of the 20th century,
probably as a result of the Great Freeze that devastated the citrus
industry in late 1894 and early 1895. Many also left San Antonio
following the freeze. But Dunne’s dream of a Catholic colony
survived and still remains today as a prospering City.
Although founded as a result of San Antonio, the adjoining town of
St. Leo was not part of Dunne’s original colony plans. Rather the
town developed around the religious order that came to provide services
to the Catholics here.
The community of St. Joseph, located 3 miles north of San Antonio,
also wasn’t part of Dunne’s plan. It was founded in 1883 by
three sons of Andrew Barthle Sr. who moved to the area from Minnesota
and named it for their hometown there. However, the community was also
predominantly German Catholics.
Both St. Leo and St. Joseph remain today as prospering communities.
St. Leo was incorporated in 1891.
The St. Charles Inn
By CAROL JEFFARES HEDMAN
This article appeared in the Tampa Tribune on March 20, 2001.
San Antonio has long been known for its hospitality that wraps even
strangers in the warmth of this cozy community.
The tradition dates back to when settlers first came to the rolling
countryside of what is today east Pasco County.
Founded in 1881 as a Catholic colony, San Antonio drew residents from
throughout the North and the community grew, warranting a railroad stop
by 1888 where goods would be shipped and visitors would arrive.
Often in the dead of night, the passengers would be greeted by
Charles Barthle, who guided them with a lantern to his nearby St.
Barthle’s brothers had come years earlier to settle the
community of St. Joseph, about three miles from San Antonio.
Andrew Barthle first arrived in that area in March 1883. For three
months he explored the area before returning to his hometown of St.
Joseph, Minn., to tell of the warm climate and fertile farmland.
That June, Barthle’s older brother, Bernard, brought his wife
and eight children there to establish the first permanent home in the
community they named for their Minnesota hometown. Andrew and his family
followed in July 1885 and a short time later the youngest of the Barthle
brothers. Charles, followed.
Charles moved his family to nearby San Antonio where he operated the
Florida House Hotel, at the corner of Curley Street and what is now
Jesse Jones Avenue, from 1900 to 1913. That year he built the St.
Charles Hotel, a grand two-story structure that would continue to
welcome visitors to San Antonio for years.
Located at 12502 Curley St., the whitewashed building features 1500
square feet of porches that embrace both stories and are supported by
Known for its hospitality to railroad commuters, word soon spread
about the family atmosphere at the St. Charles Hotel and the delicious
meals prepared from the Barthles’ garden. The hotel was filled
with visitors, many of whom stayed the winter. The hotel also was the
scene of many wedding receptions.
In later years the hotel was run by Charles Barthle’s
daughters: Barbara, Benadette and Dora.
Failing health forced the Barthles to retire from the hotel business
in the years after World War II, and they sold the St. Charles to the
Wilbur Strehle family. But when they fell on hard times, the Barthles
repurchased it and finally sold it in 1970 to Henry and Irene Pike.
The Pikes converted the old hotel into Share-A-Home St. Charles, a
retirement center with a capacity for 20 residents. The Pikes sold it in
1979 to the Steve Miller family, who continued to operate the St.
Charles as a retirement home.
For a time the Millers also transformed the place into a restaurant
and ice cream parlor. It then stood vacant for a number of years before
a Tampa couple bought it in August 1995 with grand dreams of returning
the hotel to his grand status in the community.
Ted and Anne Stephens initially bought the building with the
intentions of converting it into their home. But the more they worked,
the more they thought about returning the hotel to its original role of
housing guests - this time as a bed and breakfast.
Plans were to finish the work within a year, but 12 months turned
into two years and then three. The Stephenses, assisted by Ted’s
father, 74-year-old Jim Stephens, and their sons. Tacy and Hunter,
worked an estimated 100 hours each week to authentically restore the
It wasn’t just time consuming. Materials alone cost more than
$100,000. But the Stephenses were determined to do it right.
That meant things like authentically repairing the 62 windows instead
of just replacing them. In 1913 the windows were opened and closed by
encased ropes and weights, and the couple had to replace the weathered
ropes so the windows could be maneuvered the old-fashioned way.
Now called the St. Charles Inn the old building officially opened as
a bed and breakfast Oct. 16, 1999. Guests do the same things those first
visitors did in 1913 - sit on the porches or walk the few blocks into
town to enjoy the quaint atmosphere.
Jack and Diane Jones, who celebrated their wedding reception at the
St. Charles in 1950, returned last June for their 50th wedding
anniversary. The San Antonio couple stayed in the same room they did a
quarter of a century ago.
Now Diane Jones wants others to see the authentic touches abounding
at the St. Charles Inn. She and other members of the Founders Garden
Club of San Antonio will offer tours on April 7. Tickets for the tour
and a luncheon are $12.
The tours are set at 10:30 and 11:30 p.m. Tickets are available from
club members or by calling (352) 588-2356.
Proceeds will be used to enhance San Antonio City Park, which has
been a club project since its inception in 1961.