Pasco County Florida History
Pasco County Florida History

Published May 1994
“Pasco County Line”
Pasco County Genealogical Society
Vol. 1, No. 1
All rights reserved

The first residents of Pasco County were Indians. Authorities agree that the peaceful Timucuans may have lived here in the 1200's. Indian mounds and traces of artifacts near fresh water springs seem to bear out this theory.

Around the year 1750, fragments of tribes from the Southwest migrated to Florida and became known as the Seminoles. The French settlers at Fort Caroline on the east coast of Florida generally enjoyed good relations with the Indians, but the Spanish were not so lucky. By the time the Spanish sold Florida to the U.S. in 1819, adventurers, run-away slaves, and renegade Indians sparsely populated the territory.

The Indians were aggressive during this period, and Andrew Jackson led soldiers into Florida to subdue them. As a result, a series of forts were established to protect and settle the area in Tampa, the north Pasco-Sumter area, and Ocala.

In 1835 the Seminoles massacred General Dade and his troops and the Seminole war began in earnest. It lasted seven years and hundreds of settlers and Seminoles were killed. In 1837 General Jessup may have had as many as 2,000 soldiers and dependents living in the vicinity of Fort Dade, north of the present site of Dade City.

Florida became a state in 1845, and activities at the fort began winding down. In about 1849 a dozen families were living on plantations in the area that later became Dade City. Florida had been admitted as a slave state to the Union. But in Pasco, ownership of two or three slaves qualified a farm as a "plantation".

Pioneer life in Pasco was a struggle. The climate, mosquitoes, and yellow fever were enemies. But the farmers persevered, cleared land, and managed to provide for themselves and their families. In 1855 a stagecoach line operated between Tampa and Palatka along the old Army trails.

The Civil War began in 1861. Although Florida as a Confederate state, Pasco County was too far away to be much affected. Men from Pasco served on both sides. Bayport, in Hernando County, was shelled during the war and a skirmish with the militia was fought. After the war the population began to increase in all directions.

In 1887 Pasco County became a county carved from the larger Hernando Territory. It was named in honor of Samuel Pasco, a U.S. Senator. About 1890 several things happened to change the economic future of Pasco County.

The Spaniards had brought citrus to Florida in the 1500's. Indians were fond of the sour orange and cultivated them in a limited way. Because of the casual manner of cultivation, the fruit grew in groves. Citrus was enjoyed locally but limited transportation facilities and the lack of refrigeration made the citrus industry unprofitable. When the railroad came to Pasco County all that changed.

While Dade City was a thriving community at the turn of the century, life on the west coast had not come so far. The earliest settlers we know of lived in the Seven Springs area from around 1830. These brave people struggled through many hard times including the Seminole War years.

In 1878 the first families settled in the Hudson vicinity and a community in Sampling Woods (Elfers) began to thrive. In 1883 Captain Richey and his family resided at the south of the Pithlachascotee River. He ran a mail boat to Tarpon Springs and freight service from Anclote to Cedar Key, an important port on the west coast. In the first census of 1890, 3,872 whites, 376 blacks and one Indian resided in Pasco County.

There are six municipalities in Pasco County

DADE CITY, County seat, Incorporated in 1889 In 1887 when Pasco County was formed from Hernando County, Dade City was named temporary county seat. There followed a hotly contested battle between other towns for the honor. According to courthouse records, the bitter battle ended when 765 voters turned out and Dade City became the permanent county seat by a vote of 432.

SAN ANTONIO, Incorporated 1889 Founded as a Catholic Colony by Irish and German immigrants. Four Benedictine sisters from Pittsburgh, five Benedictine priests and four brothers from North Carolina established St. Leo Abbey that is now St. Leo College.

ST. LEO, Incorporated in 1891 St. Leo was also founded as a Catholic Colony by a small order of monks who arrived to establish a monastery and Catholic elementary school.

ZEPHYRHILLS, Incorporated 1914 First established as a colony for Civil War Veterans, it was considered an ideal site because the land was fertile, there was an abundance of water and the rolling hills were cooled by 'zephyr-like' breezes.

NEW PORT RICHEY, Incorporated 1924 In 1882 a Captain Aaron McLaughlin Richey came to Florida from Missouri. He built a house on the west coast of Pasco Co at the south of the Pithlachascotee River and named the site Port Richey. Other settlers soon followed. They planned and developed a city they named New Port Richey.

PORT RICHEY, Incorporated 1925 No one seems to know why the two towns bearing Captain Richey's name were incorporated separately. One story goes that despite their proximity, an impenetrable thicket separated the two towns.

Source: Focus on Pasco County. The league of Women Voters of Florida Ed. Fund - 1991

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