HISTORY OF PASCO COUNTY
This page was last revised on July 1, 2014.
The historic marker at Wesley Chapel reads as follows:
1877-78. A list of Hernando County schools in 1877-78 shows school No. 10 at Wesley Chapel with G. Godwin the teacher. However, opening and closing dates are left blank, perhaps indicating that no session was held that year. Another list shows D. Godwin as the trustee. The school may be older; school board records before that time were lost in a fire.
June 2, 1878. The Double Branch Baptist Church is constituted, with 24 adult female and 10 adult male charter members. The church is said to have been named by founder Thomas Ashley Boyette for two landmark branches of water converging on the property line along nearby Boyette Road. The branches are now said to be channeled into culverts that run under Boyette Road. (Inasmuch as there are other churches with this same name, it seems possible that the church was named instead using a term in Christian doctrine.) Ordained ministers T. H. Jaudon and R. T. Caddin were at the founding of the church to witness the Constitution. The church met at Matchett (Magic) Lake, off Elam Road near Holton Cemetery. The first pastor of Double Branch Baptist Church was Benjamin L. Ray 1878-1879. Henry D. Ryals was pastor in 1880, 1888-89, 1898-99, 1905-07, 1914-16, and in 1920. J. Irvin Spivey was pastor in 1882, 1891-94, and 1900-01. J. T. Pittman was pastor in 1884. J. W. Giddeons was pastor in 1902-1904. An early Baptist Ministerial Directory shows that Benjamin L. Ray was pastor of Double Branch Church from 1877-1882.
1883. Minutes from 1883 indicate that Thomas Boyette was appointed Superintendent of the Sunday School at the church.
1883-84. A list of Hernando County schools shows teacher B. L. Blackburn and trustees J. A. Boyett, W. R. Smith, and J. J. Gillett. Information on the Wesley Chapel school is here.
1885. Double Branch Baptist Church becomes a member of the Hernando Baptist Association and the Florida Baptist Convention. R. T. Caddin was the pastor at that time.
Sept. 1887. Voting precincts are established for the newly-formed Pasco County. Wesley Chapel was designated Precinct 4.
Mar. 15, 1888. A post office named Godwin is established, with Jacob Godwin the first postmaster.
Jan. 27, 1890. Jane Godwin deeds two acres on State Road 54 to the church, according to the historic marker at Double Branch Baptist Church and Cemetery.
[According to information supplied by the church in 1940 for a WPA study, the church was organized in 1890, property was deeded to the church in 1890 and a building was erected and used until 1920 when it became unusable. It was torn down and there was no organization from 1920 to 1935. A new building was erected in 1935 in the same location.]
Apr. 1, 1893. Church minutes have: “April 1, 1893, Double Branch Baptist Church met at the church on Saturday. Preaching by Brother Jerry Hayman and preached the dedication sermon dedicating the house to the service of God. Motion to adjourn was in good order by Brother J. W. Tucker. Jacob Godwin, Church Clerk.” Information about Jeremiah Madison Hayman is here.
1895. G. A. Bryant is pastor.
Sept. 15, 1897. A post office named Wesley is established with Elisabeth F. Smith the first postmaster. Perhaps the U. S. Post Office Department rejected the name “Wesley Chapel,” but accepted “Wesley.” During the period that the post office was in operation, maps show the shortened name “Wesley,” as do some school board minutes.
Jan. 13, 1898. Matilda M. Godwin becomes postmaster of the Godwin post office.
May 1898. The Precinct 4 inspectors for the upcoming election are D. H. Smith, L. M. Strickland, and J. J. Gillet.
May 12, 1899. Jacob Godwin becomes postmaster of the Godwin post office.
Oct. 17, 1900. Abraham L. Godwin becomes the postmaster of the Wesley post office.
March 25, 1902. Ephraim B. Cooper becomes the postmaster of the Wesley post office.
Sept. 30, 1902. The Wesley post office is discontinued.
July 31, 1906. Abraham L. Godwin becomes postmaster of the Godwin post office.
Jan. 30, 1908. James Strickland dies. His is the oldest marked grave at Double Branch Cemetery.
Oct. 24, 1913. William P. Smith becomes postmaster of the Godwin post office.
May 31, 1915. The Godwin post office is discontinued.
March 11, 1921. The Dade City Banner reports, “Mr. W. H. Mayo happened to the bad luck to get his saw mill burned up last Friday night. He thinks someone put coal oil on it and set it afire.”
June 17, 1921. The Dade City Banner reports that Mr. J. D. Spivey of Spring Lake has moved into the Wesley Chapel neighborhood and is staying at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Dea Wells on Tin Can street.
Aug. 26, 1921. An article in the Dade City Banner refers to “the Double Branch Baptist Church in the Wesley Chapel community, an old church with a history of fifty years.”
Sept. 9, 1921. The Zephyrhills Colonist reports that Fritz Boyett of the Wesley Chapel neighborhood was appointed to the county commission by the Governor, replacing W. H. Mayo, who resigned to move to Tampa.
Nov. 24, 1922. The Dade City Banner reports, “The people of Wesley Chapel are in better hopes of getting road No. 9 now that Commissioner Boyett has told them that Engineer Turner has assured him that the work will begin in a few days.”
Jan. 18, 1925. The Tampa Morning Tribune reports, “Four men were arrested by federal officers in Pasco County yesterday and taken to the county jail at Dade City on charges of operating moonshine stills. Glenn Harper and his brother, Gilbert Harper, and Clarence Strickland, were arrested in connection with the seizure of a sixty-gallon copper still and fourteen barrels of mash in a bayhead at Wesley Chapel, a small settlement in Pasco County. The officers said the men were at the still, which was in operation.”
June 5, 1925. The Dade City Banner reports, “Wolford Young, 16 years of age, was shot and fatally wounded by Deputy Sheriff Elzey Hudson when he attempted to fire on officers who were attempting to arrest his father, Jim Young, for selling liquor, Tuesday. The killing occurred at the Young home in the Wesley Chapel neighborhood, close to the Hillsborough county line. Immediately after the shooting he was brought in the officers’ car to Dade City, but died while on the road. His father was also brought to Dade City and locked in the county jail.”
Sept. 22, 1925. The Dade City Banner reports, “Down in the Wesley Chapel district a 100 gallon still, alleged to be the property of Initio Martinez, was found by the officers and brought Dade City, together with gallons of liquor. Twenty barrels of mash were destroyed. Martinez was arrested and charged with possessing the still. Apparently no attempt at concealment had been made by Martinez as to the location of his liquor manufacturing plant, as it was located on a peninsula jutting into a lake and was in sight of a number houses.”
Oct. 20, 1925. A newspaper reports that Edward C. Lyons of Tampa recently bought the 50-acre Godwin farm at Wesley Chapel.
May 4, 1926. The Dade City Banner reports: “Deputy Sheriffs Bernard and Leon Hudson, O. H. Samuels and W. P. Burkett brought in a 250 gallon still found in the swamps in the Wesley Chapel section Monday evening. They also found 80 gallons of liquor, a 1926 model Ford coupe, a 38 calibre six-inch Smith & Wesson special model revolvers and 43 barrels of mash. The last named booty was destroyed, but the other articles were brought in and are stored in the county jail. The officers watched the moonshiners operating the still but when they made their appearance on the scene the operators dived into the swamp and escaped.”
July 2, 1926. The Dade City Banner reports, “W. J. Whitehurst, Jake, Quincy and Andrew Wells were arrested Wednesday by Deputy Sheriffs Carl C. Walker, O. H. Samuels, W. H. Gaddis and Leon Hudson during a raid on a moonshine still in the Wesley Chapel neighborhood. Liquor to the amount of 14 gallons and 22 barrels of mash was destroyed. According to information given out by the sheriff’s officers, Jake Wells acknowledged ownership of the still, saying that he and Whitehurst were operating it and that Quincy and Andrew Wells had nothing to do with it, but had simply stopped by while hunting hogs in the woods. Both were armed when found, one having a shotgun and the other a pistol. Jake Wells said the still had been in operation about 15 days.”
Nov. 12, 1926. The Dade City Banner reports, “Ruben Wells, an old resident of Pasco county, about 60 years of age, passed away at his home in Wesley Chapel last Sunday morning at seven o’clock.”
Dec. 18, 1926. The Tampa Morning Tribune reports:
Federal prohibition agents yesterday raided two moonshine stills. ... Pistol shots were exchanged in one of the still raids, staged 28 miles north of the city in the Wesley Chapel district just before dawn yesterday morning. Angelo Sangiorgi, 29, a Sicilian, was arrested, charged with possession and operation of a 200-gallon copper still, which was seized together with 3,500 gallons of mash and 50 gallons of liquor. Two other men escaped amid a hail of bullets, fired by the raiding agents. There were shots fired also in a raid on a 75-gallon still near the home of J. H. Gillett, near Sangiorgi’s residence. According to W. C. Crumbley, chief of Tampa agents, Gillett ran from the still when the officers approached. Mr. Crumbley fired several shots, missing his target and then ran down the fugitive after a chase of a half mile through dense undergrowth. In addition to the still at Gillett’s farm, the raiders also destroyed 10 gallons of moonshine and 2,000 gallons of mash. Gillett and Sangiorgi were taken to Dade City yesterday to await trial in the Pasco county circuit court.
Dec. 21, 1926. The Dade City Banner reports, “Funeral services for Robert W. Cason, who died at his home in the Wesley Chapel section Wednesday night, were held at his late residence Thursday afternoon, and his remains were laid to rest in the Holton cemetery near Matchett Lake. The Rev. William Bryant of Riverland conducted the services. Mr. Cason’s death was caused by pneumonia. He was a pioneer settler of this section and was 68 (?) years, 10 months old.
Feb. 22, 1927. The Dade City Banner reports that Sheriff Hudson had declared war on moonshiners, with numerous recent arrests. It reported, “Approximately 90 per cent of the stills and liquor found by the officers was in the Wesley Chapel section, near the Hillsborough county line, and it is presumed the nearby market for ‘imported’ whiskies in Tampa is responsible largely for the temptation to violate the law.”
Aug. 5, 1927. The Dade City Banner reports, “A three hundred gallon moonshine still, six gallons of liquor, 500 gallons of mash, and considerable other paraphernalia was captured by deputy sheriffs Bernard Hudson, W. M. Gaddis and Leon Hudson, in a raid staged in the Wesley Chapel section Tuesday. No arrests were made.”
Aug. 20, 1927. Old time resident Louis N. Stanley dies.
Aug. 31, 1934. The Dade City Banner reports that E. L. Godwin died last Monday.
Jan. 25, 1935. The Dade City Banner reports, “January 22.—We are all going to start Wednesday morning on a new church house at the Old Double Branch where the old church stood. Everyone is welcome to come and help build it.”
June 14, 1935. The Dade City Banner reports, “There will be preaching in the new church house all day Sunday and baptism in the afternoon. Everyone is invited to come.”
Sept. 5, 1935. A replacement frame building for Double Branch Baptist Church is dedicated.
June 17, 1938. The Dade City Banner reports, “Thomas Samuel Boyett, a life-long resident of Pasco county, died Monday morning at his home in Wesley Chapel, at the age of sixty-three.” He was a son of Thomas A. Boyett and Elizabeth Osborn Boyett.
May 1, 1942. The Dade City Banner reports that Mrs. Martha Alonza Wells (b. May 17, 1872) died on Friday. She was the wife of Q. M. Wells.
1971. A new sanctuary for Double Branch Baptist Church is built and the old worship building was removed.
1982. The Saddlebrook golf course, part of a golf and tennis resort, opens.
1998. Sand Pine Elementary School opens in the Meadow Pointe subdivision. Other elementary schools followed, including Seven Oaks, Double Branch, Quail Hollow, Wesley Chapel, New River, Veterans, and Watergrass. John Long Middle School was also built.
1999. Double Branch Baptist Church is renamed First Baptist Church of Wesley Chapel.
1999. Wesley Chapel High School opens.
2003. A Committee to Study the Incorporation of Wesley Chapel is chaired by Russ Miller.
2006. Wiregrass Ranch High School opens.
2008. The Shops at Wiregrass, an open-air retail and entertainment destination located on the corner of State Road 56 and Bruce B. Downs Boulevard, opens.
Oct. 1, 2012. Florida Hospital Wesley Chapel opens.
Wesley Chapel News (1919)
This article appeared in the Dade City Banner on Dec. 19, 1919.
Mr. W. H. Mayo made a business trip to Jacksonville last Saturday and returned on Monday.
The Mayo family attended the fair in Dade City last Saturday. Mr. McRae and Mr. Rhodes being old friends of the Mayos’, ate dinner with them. The dinner was enjoyed very much.
Mr. and Mrs. A. P. Moseley’s baby has been very sick with pneumonia, but we hope that he will keep getting better until he gets well enough to get out again.
Mr. Quince Haynes is spending a while with his sister, Mrs. A. V. Moseley.
Mr. D. H. Smith made a business trip to Tampa last Tuesday.
Messrs Lorenzo, Willie and Francis May made a business trip to Zephyrhills Wednesday night.
Mr. B. O. Powell of Tampa was out at Wesley Chapel Wednesday morning on business.
Miss Edith Stanley is in Tampa visiting her brother and wife, Mr. and Mrs. Jesse Stanley.
Most everybody of Wesley Chapel are grinding cane now. They intend to have something sweet, since we can’t get sugar.
Everybody seemed to enjoy the sing all day Sunday. Everyone spread dinner on the ground. There was plenty of dinner and plenty of nice singing by the young folks.
Wesley Chapel News (1920)
This article appeared in the Dade City Banner on June 18, 1920.
June 16—The weather for the past few days has been very warm.
Mr. Joe Cooper has been having his land fenced this past week.
Mr. and Mrs. Rollon Cason and little daughter, Clemmie, and Mr. and Mrs. Dea Wells and little son, Birley, motored up to San Antonio Sunday afternoon for refreshments.
Mr. Luther Smith and Miss Neta Stanley were the guests of Mr. and Mrs. Jessie Stanley last Sunday afternoon.
Mr. and Mrs . R. W. Cason have been very busy this past week harvesting their pea crop.
Mr. Drawdy and Mr. Joe Strickland and Miss Mae and Miss Edith Stanley took a pleasure trip Zephyrhills and Crystal Springs Sunday afternoon.
We are sorry to know Mr. Albert Godwin is having trouble with the raccoons destroying his corn.
Mr. Rollin Cason has put him up a new yard fence, which makes his place look much better.
Mr. and Mrs. Albert Godwin and Mrs. Alice Stanley and little son Roy motored down to Plant City a few days past and Mr. Albert Godwin purchased him a canning outfit.
Mr. Earl Green accidently cut his foot a few days past. We are glad to know that it is healing nicely.
What Wesley Chapel Offers Home Seekers (1921)
By W. H. MAYO, County Commissioner
This article appeared in the Dade City Banner on May 20, 1921.
Answering the inquiry as to what Wesley Chapel had to offer as an inducement to the homeseeker:
I might first for the benefit of our readers geographically outline our position relative to our sister localities of importance and special interest. Wesley Chapel district is located in the interior of the much favored county of Pasco, twelve miles southwest of Dade City, our county seat, and six miles south of San Antonio, twenty-three miles north of the city of Tampa, and on the shortest and most direct public highway connecting the above towns and cities. It is eight miles from Zephyrhills, from which we have daily free delivery mail service, and which we consider our home town, the same being situated on the main line of the Seaboard railway, from Tampa to Jacksonville.
Our lands are beautifully level, yet well drained and very fertile. Much of our lands compare favorably with the noted Plant City section which is known far and wide as one of the greatest trucking localities in our country, while considerable of our lands are of the Norfolk type which is claimed as the best grade of citrus lands.
Our territory is especially healthy, no mosquitoes nor other health destroying proclivities, good water, good neighbors, good all round law abiding citizenship, good schools, churches real chances for social and intellectual development.
Last but not least as an inducement to the homeseeker, the writer is glad to say that at last the large tract of lands known as the Powell Brothers tract, and which has for so long been held from settlement by timber and turpentine interest, has been put on the market and is now ready for sale and in the reach of any one who may want a home or a real investment.
The well known medicine man of St. Louis, E. W. Grove, has purchased this tract which consists of more than seventeen thousand acres and embraces much of the very best citrus fruit, vegetable, and general farming lands in our entire country, and now will sell in large or small tracts to suit the purchaser, very cheap with a small cash payment and on terms of ten years, with other privileges and concessions when and where reason necessitates.
Any one interested in Florida investments or a real tropical home among a good people with good natural surroundings can not make any mistake by investigating Wesley Chapel and surrounding country.
For the one who wants to work and prosper the opportunity is open. We have the lands, the climate, and the health. The one who wants to enjoy life in the open air and the comfortable all around atmosphere of not lower than forty nor higher than ninety six, or an average of about seventy the year round, will be delighted.
The one who wishes to fish or hunt during such seasons will find it only a little ways to the Hillsborough river on the south, or a stream about equal in size on the west, Big Cypress, and on the north the great and beautiful King lake, and other points of pleasure to the one who enjoys the rod and reel service as pastime.
The more than seventy-five thousand acres of beautiful pine forest surrounding us give space for the quail, rabbit, and squirrel hunter, and all combined go to make oar locality attractive and enjoyable to all who can and will enjoy life.
The Rich Trucking Land of Wesley Chapel (1922)
This article appeared in the Dade City Banner on June 30, 1922.
By C. B. TAYLOR
About eight miles west of Zephyrhills and the same distance south of San Antonio is the somewhat scattered but thriving community known by the various names of Double Branch, Gatorville, Godwin, and Wesley Chapel. The last is the official name. The settlement is located on some of the finest farming land in the county, most of it being low and flat, holding moisture well and adapted to almost any kind of general farm crop as well as truck growing. On account of the remoteness of the place and the bum roads over which it is now necessary to transport crops to market, very little trucking has been done but those who have ventured to overcome these handicaps have not only been well repaid for their efforts but have demonstrated that this region is as well adapted to trucking as any other in South Florida and it only needs the building of one or two decent roads so that crops can be carried to market or to a shipping station for Wesley Chapel to come to the front.
While farming is the principal industry, two saw mills are busy cutting up the timber blown down by the storm as well as some of that which is still standing. A general store attends to the physical needs of the community and communication with the outside world is maintained by means of a daily R. F.D. service from Zephyrhills.T. C. Wells. T. C. Wells is an old resident of this section, having been born in Pasco county some seventy years ago. He has a good farm on the northern edge of the community that is well cared for. This year he will make a good crop of corn. During the drought he plowed it once a week and when the rains came in May not stalk in his field was “fired.” He is now busy pulling his fodder and estimates he will gather at least two thirds of a crop, which is doing well considering the bad season. His velvet beans and cane are all doing well. A seedling orange grove has a fair crop of fruit and a very good June bloom. Unfortunately the grove has been over ammoniated and is suffering from foot rot.
Mr. Wells raises a large acreage of sweet potatoes every year and is now busy setting out plants. He put up a new idea to the writer in sweet potato growing, telling of a former resident of the community who cut his potatoes and planted them the same way Irish potatoes are usually done. Mr. Wells says that he has never tried this method himself but the man he mentioned was very successful.
J. R. Wells. A brother of Uncle “Coop” Wells is J. R. or as he is better known “Rube” Wells. For the past two years his health has been poor and as a result the farm has run down. However he will make about two-thirds of a crop of corn and his cane and velvet beans are looking well. Mr. Wells is very successful growing spring onions and says that they do as well as when planted in the fall, the only difficulty being to prevent the tops from burning off. A new variety of sweet potato that is locally known as “The Rube Wells yam” is being specialized on. It matures about three weeks earlier than ordinary Porto Rican yam. The skin is of a purple hue, making it look very much like a “nigger killer,” but the meat is red like the Porto Rico and the flavor fully as good. Mr. Wells has always been a potato grower and says that in twenty-five years farming there has not been but three months when he did not have sweet potatoes on hand.
J. M. Boyett. A yield of two-thirds of a normal crop is the estimate of J. M. Boyett on his corn. It certainly looks very good and may turn out better than expected. He also has some fine looking sugar cane. Mr. Boyett is one of the few residents of the neighborhood who has taken up truck farming. He had some fine beans this spring and his tomatoes did unusually well. They were raised under contract and the surplus he is disposing of at good prices at the Dowling Lumber Company’s log camp. Okra is doing fine and he is raising lots of peas. Earlier in the season he found Irish potatoes a profitable crop and now he is busy disposing of some extra good looking melons.
That the home is not neglected is seen by a glimpse caught of a lot of jars of pickles and canned vegetables in the store room of the house.
For a fall crop, okra, string beans, and tomatoes will be planted.
Fritz Boyett. Fritz Boyett, the county commissioner from this district, has a mighty good place that is not yet fully developed. His corn is very good and he has a fine crop of beggarweed growing between the rows which will furnish him with plenty of good hay and also build up his land. Tomatoes did well for Fritz this year, he has more than made his expenses on them and still has several pickings which will be disposed of locally. A few watermelons for home use were planted among the corn. They are doing nicely but he does not count them a part of his crop. Guavas are plentiful and a seedling grove on the place would do well if properly cared for.
Frank Tucker. A well known and lovable character in Pasco county, who makes his headquarters in this neighborhood is “Uncle” Frank Tucker. Uncle Frank is known to all the old settlers and is a welcome guest at their homes at any time. He was born on the north shore of Lake Jessamine in 1849 and has lived all his life in this county. At the outbreak of the Second Seminole war, he was taken with his parents to Fort Brooke for safety, and remained there until the Indian troubles were over, when he returned to this section. He remembers the assembling of eleven hundred Indians at the fort where they were boarded on a vessel, starting on their long journey to the reservation given them in the Indian Territory.
Whether it was this early move or simply a natural wanderlust, Uncle Frank has never settled down, but like the “Beloved Vagabond,” wanders from place to place at pleasure, sure of a kind greeting, a meal and a bed, from the country people wherever he may be. All of the train crews on the various railroads know him and greet him with a wave of the hand and a word of chaff as he walks along the tracks and he is always welcome to a ride at any time he desires. This last privilege he seldom uses for he says he doesn’t want to make other people feel hurt when they see him traveling without a ticket while they have to pay. Uncle Frank is a great beau and is quite popular with the ladies everywhere. For sixteen years he was quite blind but never gave up his wanderings, tramping all over the greater part of Pasco, Hillsborough, Hernando and Sumter counties, using a long stick for a guide and enjoying his life to the full. A couple of years ago two of his nephews kidnapped and carried him to Tampa, where an operation restored his sight. For half a century he has traveled over this section of the country and may his journeying continue for many years to come.
J. R. Cooper. J. R. Cooper is comfortably established in his old age on a farm belonging to his son-in-law, W. D. Stanley, a member of the Tampa Fire Department. Mr. Cooper has always been a farmer and though crippled by a broken thigh, has the cleanest crop of anyone in the neighborhood. His corn is among the best in the neighborhood and his peas are doing splendidly. A good crop of peanuts is coming on. A year old grove is blooming some and a small peach orchard is looking fine but not bearing very heavily this year. Mr. Cooper is a straight old fashioned farmer and does not bother with truck except for a small home garden.
E. L. Godwin. As pretty a year old grove as can be found anywhere in Florida is on E. L. Godwin’s place. The trees are thrifty, of beautiful color and uniform growth. Mr. Godwin is proud of it and will extend it this coming winter. A small seedling grove on the place is doing fine and has a good June bloom.
While Mr. Godwin devotes a good deal of his time to his grove which shows the result of his care, he does not neglect his farm crops and his corn, sugar cane, velvet beans and watermelons are all way above the average in growth and yield. Considerable improvement has been made to the comfortable farm house, a neat convenient kitchen and dining room having been added, replacing a detached log one formerly used.
G. S. Smith. G. S. Smith left his farm and moved to Tampa some years ago. He returned this year but the place had run down so much in his absence that he has not been able to do much yet. Corn and peas were the only crops planted and the drill worms damaged them badly. Added to this practically the entire family has been ill for some time so that the place is still in poor shape.
C. J. Green. C. J. Green is building up a place that will be a good one when developed. At present ... only a small patch of land ... for cultivation on which he ... garden sass of various kinds ... is putting in most of his time at present at Barthle and Jones saw mill but hopes to be able to stick to his farm before long.
Barthle & Jones. Barthle & Jones of San Antonio are operating a saw mill that is busily cutting up the timber blown down by the storm last fall. Most of the lumber is being hauled to San Antonio, but some is being sold in the neighborhood.
Jacob Wells. Jacob Wells was not home when called upon. He has some good looking corn and velvet beans.
J. M. Wells. J. M. Wells has been suffering from pellagra for several months and naturally is not able to do any work.
J. A. Stewart. Like many other people J. A. Stewart decided that
Albert Godwin. Albert Godwin evidently was taught to farm when a boy and, now that he is on a place of his own, he is making use of his knowledge. For one thing he composts his stable manure, something which many farmers in Florida do not do, and as a result he has plenty of good fertilizer for his crops, and they show it. His corn, velvet beans and sweet potatoes are good, while no better sugar cane than his can be found. From an acre and three-quarters last year six hundred fifty gallons were made, and he smiled when he told of single cane which was eleven and a half feet long after it was stripped, measured four and a half inches diameter at the bottom end and weighed six and a half pounds. This cane was kept for a month and then ground and made two quarts of juice in an ordinary horse drawn mill. If it had been run through a heavy power mill and had been ground when it was first cut how much juice would it have made?
A very pretty two-year old grove is coming on nicely and Mr. Godwin called my attention to several trees, larges than the rest, which were well filled with fruit. He stated they were on rough lemon stock, while the others were on sour orange.
Henry Wells. Henry Wells has a small field where he is setting out sweet potatoes. A few orange trees have lately been put in and are looking nicely. Most of Henry’s time is spent burning charcoal and working at various outside jobs. Mrs. Wells has made a very pretty yard with her honey suckles, roses and other flowers.
Andrew Thomas. Andrew Thomas has some very good looking corn and cane and is busy putting out his sweet potatoes. His earlier plantings are doing fine. A good crop of peas is being raised.
L. M. Stanley. Poor health is interfering with L. M. Stanley's farming considerably, but he has very good corn, peas, cane, velvet beans and a small patch of cassava. A plum orchard is infested badly with worms and Mr. Stanley would like to know how to get rid of them. A seedling grove is well loaded with bloom, chiefly on the south side of the trees. Some kind of foot rot has gotten into these trees and seems to be different from any kind I ever heard of in that it does not respond to the usual Carbolineum treatment. A “tree doctor” is treating some of the trees and if he is successful will doubtless take them all in hand. He has taken quite a lot of worms out of the trees he is working on.
Mrs. Sallie Godwin. Successfully managing a farm is a difficult task for a widow with several young children, but Mrs. Sallie Godwin is doing pretty well at it. Her corn is not very good but she has fine patch of Japanese cane and a good crop of peas. A number of bearing orange trees have a fair crop and a grove that was set out last winter is coming on nicely.
J. Cooper. Drought and drill worms hurt J. Cooper’s corn some but he will gather a fairly good crop nevertheless. His cowpeas are misbehaving in an odd manner. They are making plenty of vines but few peas. Velvet beans are doing well. A nice peach orchard is bearing a small crop, the later varieties doing much better than the earlier ones. A grove, set out last winter, is doing fine.
L. E. Green. L. E. Green is a young man just starting out in his own home. He has some good corn and his cowpeas and velvet beans are fine. A small grove has been set out and looks quite promising.
L. R. Wells. Public work and successful farming seldom go hand in hand but L. R. Wells comes very near doing both successfully. He is busy getting out material for a saw mill just starting up but manages to direct his farm operations so that his boys have made a pretty good corn crop, as well as plant a lot of peas and velvet beans that are doing well. He will have good sized patch of okra this fall.
R. R. Cason. R. R. Cason has recently opened up a good general store that is a decided convenience to the neighborhood, and is doing a very satisfactory business. His farming operations are confined at present to raising chufas and other kinds of hog feed. Mrs. Cason is the Banner’s correspondent for the neighborhood and her notes are eagerly looked for by not only the many readers of this section but throughout the county.
R. W. Cason. Apiaries are not very plentiful in Pasco county but there is no reason they should not be. Bees do well here and make a nice profit on a small outlay of capital and time, which is but introductory to saying that R. W. Cason is quite successful with his bees although he has only home-made “gums” without frames or any modern conveniences to handle the honey. More than that, he pays very little attention to his bees. He admits this himself and says that if he gave them the care they should have, he would have a very successful business. As it is he has sold over fifty pounds of honey at good prices this year and has half of his hives to rob yet. Mr. Cason’s corn did fairly well this year and his melons were good. Sweet potatoes, peas and peanuts are all coming on in fine shape.
Mrs. E. V. Strickland. Mrs. E. V. Strickland has a nice grove that has a good crop and light June bloom. Her corn is about the average for this year, between half and two-thirds of a normal crop. Melons did well this year, peas are blooming, and sweet potatoes and cane are looking good.
J. H. Harper. J. H. Harper has charge of the Grove Lumber and Timber Company properties which consist of a turpentine still, not running now, the quarters and various other buildings and several thousand acres of timber lands in the vicinity. He lives in one of the company houses but owns and operates a fine farm about a quarter of a mile distant. His corn is about the average for the year and he has some good cane, both sugar and Jap. Mr. Harper prefers the sugar cane as being easier to handle and producing more syrup. He showed me fourteen rows of Jap cane from which he made ninety gallons of syrup last year, and then ten rows of sugar cane alongside of it from which he got one hundred forty gallons. Bud worms have cut down the corn considerably but at least a half crop will be made. His melon patch has been producing ripe fruit since the early part of May. Velvet beans and cowpeas are doing well and he has a fine chance for sweet potatoes. Mr. Harper has a habit of planting cowpeas in the fall after the corn crop is gathered. He cuts the vines for hay. This is the first time I have heard of planting this legume so late but it is a quick grower and should make good hay if cut before the frosts come.
D. H. Smith. D. H. Smith is setting out a large acreage of sweet potatoes. His earlier settings are doing fine. Corn is doing fairly well and cane is good. Crops of cowpeas and velvet beans are coming on and some seedling trees are blooming nicely.
F. R. Barnes. F. R. Barnes has a nice home where he and his pretty wife and baby are quite comfortable. A very pretty orange grove was well loaded but dropped a good deal of the fruit. A good June bloom is promising to make this up however and he probably will have a good crop. A good crop of corn has been made and peas and velvet beans are flourishing. Mr. Barnes is an extensive stock owner and says that the time necessary to look after his cattle prevents his giving as much care to the farm as he would like.
J. T. Allen. If they ever get some good roads through this section of the country, J. T. Allen will have his place blooming like the rose and will doubtless make a pile of money. He is a professional truck farmer and when he bought his place selected one that is well adapted to that kind of crops.
At the present time he is working at Shirley’s saw mill while Mrs. Allen and her boys run the place. They have fine corn and cane, peas and peanuts and are putting out sweet potatoes and will set out a good sized strawberry patch this fall.
Mrs. Allen is quite successful raising turkeys and in the five years they have lived on the place has sold three hundred seventy-five dollars worth of the holiday birds. She sells most of them in Tampa but has a number of customers who pay her not less than fifty cents a pound for hem at her own door.
A young seedling grove set out this last winter is doing nicely and there is a small grove of bearing trees on the place. That the land is well adapted to citrus trees is shown by a three year old seeding that is fully eight feet in height.
P. W. Tucker. P. W. Tucker is an old settler in this section and has built up a good place. He has lately turned it over to his son Frank, who with his bride lives with him. The early corn was badly damaged by the drought but the late corn is fine and will make a good crop.
A fine old seedling grove is doing nicely and has a fair bloom. A feature of this place is a large sink hole which never goes dry and which seems to be fed by springs as the water maintains about the same level all the time. It is so situated that a pump could be easily installed and the fields irrigated at small expense. If this were done the place would make an ideal truck farm.
Fine sugar cane is growing and a large acreage of chufas and sweet potatoes is being put out. Guavas are plentiful and bear all the year round. Sicilian and Ponderosa lemon trees are bearing nicely. A five year old seedling orange tree twenty feet in height is a sight not often seen.
In the line of ornamental trees are several camphors, and two treed, whose name is not known. They are evergreen, smooth barked with narrow pointed leaves and bear flowers long white clusters. A fine specimen of sea grape is in the yard and some cedars but the king of them all is one of the largest date palms I have seen in this section. It is ten feet to the crown where the leaves start and about ten feet more to the bud. The trunk is about two feet in diameter, five feet from the ground, and the spread of the leaves is twenty-four feet. This tree has bloomed several times and, in fact, is now in bloom but does not set any fruit, being, I believe, a sex tree, necessitating another of the variety before it bears.
Pioneer Church Gave Area Its Name (2003)
The following article appeared in the Tampa Tribune on Sept. 19, 2003.
By CAROL JEFFARES HEDMAN
WESLEY CHAPEL — It was nicknamed “Gatorville,” and it wasn’t because residents were University of Florida fans.
Gatorville was one of several early names of the area that today is one of the fastest-growing communities in the state.
Some historians believe the area was called Godwin, then Gatorville, Double Branch and Westley before being named Wesley for the founder of Methodism, John Wesley.
In the 1840s, pioneer families including the Boyettes (or Boyetts), Gilletts (or Gillettes), the Godwins and Kerseys received land grants. More settlers followed about the time of the Civil War when the Stanleys and Coopers arrived.
Edward Boyette Sr. and his four sons settled on land granted to them in the Armed Occupation Act in the mid-1800s. In the years that followed, Thomas Boyette, Edward’s grandson, named the area Double Branch after the twin creeks that flowed across their land.
As more pioneers came to settle in Double Branch, a Methodist chapel was built on the northwest corner of what is today’s State Road 54 and Boyette Road. And the area came to be called Wesley and then Wesley Chapel.
According to records gathered by Margie Partain, a member of the Pasco County Historical Preservation Committee, the name already was Wesley Chapel in 1888. It was listed as such in county commission records when mapping out election districts the year after the county was formed in 1887.
No To Prohibition, Post Office
Noteworthy was a poll in October 1888 to decide whether liquor could be sold in the county. The majority was against it, but voters in Wesley Chapel and St. Thomas favored sales. Despite public opinion, the county wasn’t dry until Prohibition in the 1920s.
The area also applied for a post office, originally under the name “Lemon.” That was denied, but a post office was established at Wesley Chapel on Sept. 15, 1897. It closed Sept. 30, 1902, with service continued from Abbott, which became Zephyrhills in 1910. A post office was again opened in Wesley Chapel in recent years.
Across the road from the first Methodist chapel, a Baptist congregation constructed Double Branch church.
It was built on property settled by Mary Jane Godwin, who had applied for homestead by 1884 on 160 acres along S.R. 54. She didn’t receive the certificate until Aug. 26, 1891, but a year earlier she donated an acre for Double Branch Missionary Baptist Church and another acre for a cemetery.
Now called First Baptist Church of Wesley Chapel, the congregation - led by the Rev. Frank Scott - will observe its 125th anniversary at 11 a.m. Sept. 28. The celebration correlates to the dedication by the county commission and Pasco County Historical Preservation Committee of a historical marker at the site of Double Branch Baptist Church and Cemetery at 11 a.m. Sept. 27.
A Tale Of 3 Buildings
The congregation of Double Branch Baptist organized in 1878 and the church has had three buildings since then.
The first church was built in 1880, with Henry Ryals as pastor. Deacons were Robert Cason and Daniel Smith. Other early pastors included John Spivey in 1890.
As the membership dwindled, the church fell into disuse, and the building deteriorated until 1914, when the congregation regrouped under pastor O.N. Williams. In 1919, he built Williams Department Store in Dade City. His grandson, Phil Williams, still owns the business, which he transformed into an upscale clothing store and French-style cafe called Lunch on Limoges.
After dwindling again, the congregation of Double Branch Baptist was revived in the early 1930s by Willie Neil McCloskey. He began holding Sunday school at his house because the church building was in disrepair. He recruited others to help build benches for Sunday school beneath the trees on the Double Branch grounds. During bad weather, McCloskey moved the classes into the nearby one-room schoolhouse.
McCloskey’s Sunday school evolved into services every other Sunday. As attendance increased, a new frame church was built and dedicated Sept. 5, 1935, with Ed Bryant as pastor. Deacons were McCloskey, James Hill, Luther Smith and Albert Godwin. Dick and King lakes were used for baptisms.
The third Double Branch Baptist church, which stands today as First Baptist of Wesley Chapel, was constructed between 1970 and 1972 during the pastorate of Lynn Foster.
Offshoots from the historic Double Branch Baptist Church are Westside, Calvary and Charity Baptist churches in Zephyrhills.
Pioneers’ Resting Place
The Double Branch Cemetery is used by church members and immediate family. The oldest marked grave is that of James Strickland, who died Jan. 30, 1903. The cemetery also is the final resting place of Abe Godwin, son of the woman who donated the land for the cemetery, as well as other pioneer families.
By the late 1800s, the practice of burying family members on their homestead gave way to cemeteries, many established in the church yards of pioneer houses of worship.
Holton Cemetery, four miles north of S.R. 54 on McKendree Road, is also the burial grounds for many of the pioneers of Wesley Chapel. Julia Elizabeth Holton donated about 2 acres for the cemetery in the 1880s.
The Wesley Chapel public school stood east of the Double Branch church. The one- room, two-teacher school was on 3 donated acres and was first mentioned in the 1888 minutes of the Pasco County Commission, according to Partain’s information. Enrollment was 32, with average attendance of 25.
Minutes from the Pasco Board of Public Instruction on July 6, 1948, referred to the Wesley Chapel school when Isabel S. Barnes was appointed a teacher there. But by the April 4, 1949, minutes, when principals of public schools were appointed, the school no longer existed.
In the 1951 minutes, B.V. Lyons, a San Antonio real estate broker, offered $450 for the schoolhouse and 1 acre of land. But the bid was rejected in favor of one by Ed Madill of Dade City, who bid $805 for the building and $200 for the land.
Industries in the early days of Wesley Chapel included turpentine stills, with numerous trails running between stills at the communities of Ehren, Nowatney and Stemper. The carts hauling resin to the stills wore paths and wagons often followed those routes, carrying lumber and turpentine products from the sawmills and stills to the railroad line.
And thus the first roads were created. Denham-Dade City Road, now S.R. 54, remained dirt until gravel was put down in the 1920s. When it was paved, old-timers called it a “2-2-20” road, meaning it took two years to build, two years to wear out and 20 years to pay for it, Partain’s information stated.
A 1935 map shows the road as County Road 209. It then became County Road 9 until it was renamed S.R. 54.
Other early industries included cattle ranching, hog farming and growing citrus and other crops. When times were hard, people made charcoal and moonshine.
The area also was known for a 10- to 15-acre cactus field planted by Anthony Tuzzolino of Ybor City in 1940 and 1941 between state roads 54 and 52. The field became a garden of bright yellow flowers when the cacti bloomed. The 1962 freeze killed the cactus field.
Although the cacti stopped growing, the Wesley Chapel area was ready to blossom into the thriving community it is today with the construction of the Interstate 75 system in the late 1960s. The opening of Saddlebrook Resort in 1979 greatly attributed to the growth that hasn’t stopped since.
Wesley Chapel Becoming Pasco’s Hub (2011)
This article appeared in the Tampa Tribune on March 17, 2011.
By KEVIN WIATROWSKI
WESLEY CHAPEL - Over the next few weeks, road crews will put the finishing touches on the intersection of Bruce B. Downs Boulevard and State Road 56 in southeastern Pasco County.
Ten lanes on a side, the intersection is the widest in the Tampa Bay region – and a testament to how the last decade has changed the area. In 2000, neither the intersection nor most of the development around it even existed.
The opening of State Road 56 in 2003, with its link to Interstate 75, set in motion a wave of development that continues to transform Wesley Chapel. Since 2000, the population center for Wesley Chapel has shifted south from its historic center three miles north at I-75 and State Road 54.
S.R. 56's quick interstate access lured thousands of commuters to Seven Oaks, Meadow Pointe and other subdivisions. Between 2000 and 2010, more than 32,000 people moved to Wesley Chapel – a 267 percent increase.
The road also opened the way for major retail projects, including the Shops at Wiregrass mall.
The mall, which opened in 2009, sponsors a monthly farmers' market, a Christmas tree lighting and other community events throughout the year. It has given an identity to a community that lacked one, said Meadow Pointe resident Tim Koralewski.
On the horizon for Wesley Chapel are a hospital and a branch of Pasco-Hernando Community College. Both promise to expand the realm of local employment, giving some commuters a reason to stay closer to home.
Long-term, Pasco County leaders envision a transit link tying Wesley Chapel with Tampa and Hillsborough County to the south.
The Porter family, Wesley Chapel's largest landowner, has plans for a large athletic complex that could attract hockey, softball and other tournaments.
"I think it's coming together," Koralewski said.
Don Porter, Owner of Wiregrass Ranch, Dies at 73
This article appeared at tbo.com on July 1, 2014.
By LAURA KINSLER
WESLEY CHAPEL — Don Porter, who helped transform thousands of acres of ranch land into the economic engine of Pasco County, died today. He was 73.
The oldest of three brothers, Porter became the patriarch of the family that owned the sprawling 5,000-acre Wiregrass Ranch. The property is now home to one of the Tampa Bay region’s most popular shopping malls, a state-of-the-art hospital, a high school and the namesake Porter Campus of Pasco-Hernando State College.
Keith Appenzeller, president of King Engineering, worked closely with the Porter family to bring their vision to reality.
“The first time I talked to Don about what he wanted to do, I remember we discussed over lunch a couple of ideas and development concepts,” Appenzeller said. “As we walked out to the parking lot, he went to his car and he opened the trunk, and there was a whole box full of plans and sketches. So he takes one out and unrolls it, and it was very similar to what we had discussed.”
Pasco County Commissioner Ted Schrader said the Porters resisted the temptation to sell out to developers to make a quick dollar. “He wanted Wiregrass Ranch to be a place we can all be proud of,” he said. “It’s quite a success story.”
County Administrator Michele Baker said above all, Porter was a gentleman. “It’s a true loss to the community.”
House Speaker Will Weatherford called Porter “a giant of a man” who left a permanent imprint on the region. “Wherever Pasco is going to go in the next decade, Wiregrass Ranch is in large part going to take it there,” Weatherford said. “I lived in Wesley Chapel before we had the mall. The mall has created a sense of community for this part of the county and for Wesley Chapel. He wanted it to be a place where families could go – where you’d run into neighbors and friends. It’s been a game changer.”
In 2011 financial services giant Raymond James announced it would locate a million-square-foot corporate campus at Wiregrass. Raymond James spokesman Steve Hollister said the company is still committed to the project, which is still in the permitting stages.
Commissioner Pat Mulieri called Porter a “great steward of the land.” His death came a shock to friends who didn’t realize he was ill.
“He used to talk about the land he loved and the ghosts who live there now,” she said. “I feel terrible. I didn’t know he was in hospice. I wish I had the time to tell him what a difference he made.”
Florida Hospital Wesley Chapel opened its $150 million facility at Wiregrass in 2012. A wellness center opened a few months later.
“Don understood that a great community needs excellent health care and has been supportive of our hospital every step of the way,” spokeswoman Tracy Clouser said. “Don believed in our mission and has been a strong advocate of our approach to providing high quality, compassionate care.”
The family’s generosity has a lasting legacy on the Tampa Bay area. In 2004, the family donated nearly $3 million to fund collaborative research at USF’s College of Medicine and the Johnnie B. Byrd Sr. Alzheimer’s Center and Research Institute at USF.
Porter’s mother, Martha, battled Alzheimer’s for the last 20 years of her life. Family friends said Don Porter began showing signs of dementia recently. The family checked him into a hospital for tests, and his health quickly deteriorated.
The family transferred him to a hospice center last week.
“It’s sad, and it’s too soon,” Schrader said.
The USF donation was just one example of Porter’s philanthropy. In 2013, the family donated 120 acres of prime real estate at Wiregrass Ranch to Pasco County for a future sports complex or park. The land, valued at $8.7 million, is slated to be home to a 19-field youth baseball/softball complex and possible Major League Baseball spring training site.
Porter’s true passion for higher education was realized earlier this year, when Pasco Hernando State College dedicated its new Porter Campus at Wiregrass Ranch. The Porters donated 60 acres to the college.
“Don was the very first person I met on my first day on the job,” PHSC President Katherine Johnson said. “We clicked immediately. I found him to be engaging, warm and passionate about education. He had so many stories about the one-room schoolhouse on the property. His father and grandfather were educated there, so were he and his brothers. He remembered the impact of education. When we dedicated the campus, it was like they were coming full circle.”
A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. on July 12 at the PHSC Porter Campus in the college’s conference center.