Keysville grew as its sawmill fed the building boom at the turn of the century. But by 1918, timber was depleted.
By MICHELLE JONES
Published October 3, 2003
Daniel McQueen Blue was a prominent early settler in Keysville, a community located south of the Alafia River off County Road 39. Keysville began as a farming community in the 1870s.
In 1878, Blue named the community after Gen. David Key who was the U.S. postmaster general at the time.
Blue established a lumber mill and general store and his sawmill supplied lumber for many of the east Hillsborough pioneer homes. His sawmill was located on the south bank of the Alafia; Blue used the river to transport lumber to the bay to be shipped to Tampa and other ports.
Small cedar slats were exported to the Peninsula Pencil Factory in New York City. Citrus crates were produced in large numbers at the mill.
Blue also worked with A.E. Rhodes selling real estate. Tracts went for $5 to $25 an acre.
Plant City farmers prospered by sending their strawberries, oranges, sugar cane, cane syrup, corn, tomatoes and potatoes to the town's new railroad for transportation north.
In 1880, Keysville's population numbered 500, the largest of any community in the county, excluding Tampa. By 1882, there were approximately 20 homesteads containing more than 100 acres each and 64 smaller ones.
The community was prosperous enough that two passenger trains provided service to Keysville along with freight trains.
The timber resources were depleted by 1918, leaving Keysville a depressed community.
During the 1930s, phosphate mining operations came to dominate the region, and though somewhat rejuvenated, Keysville would never regain its former prosperity.