Through the years

By Times Staff
Published October 13, 2006


Sept. 12: the Seminoles attack the McDaniel party near the community of Chocachatti, killing Charlotte (Mrs. Richard) Crum.


March 6: the county's name is changed from Hernando County to Benton, in honor of Thomas Hart Benton of Missouri, a proponent of Indian removal and the Armed Occupation Act.


There are four post offices in the county - Chocachatti, Homosassa, Augusta and Fort Dade.

March 3: Florida is admitted to the Union with a population of 57,921 and a state budget of $140,000.


March: the County Commission is urged to select a permanent site for the county courthouse.


U.S. Census records in Benton County show 926 whites and 314 slaves

Dec. 24: Name of the county changed back to Hernando.


Bayport becomes a prosperous center of commerce with a U.S. Customs house and steamship terminal.


June: The coastal community of Bayport is chosen as county seat.


January: The bid sought to build the courthouse at Bayport, stirs emotions that lead to the change of location to Pierceville until a suitable location is chosen.

May 14: Seminoles attack the Bradley home in southern Hernando County. Two of the Bradley children are killed. This is the last Indian attack on a settler's homestead east of the Mississippi. The Indian scare lasted through July.

July: A severe storm washes away roads and leaves cultivated lands under 12 to 15 inches of sand. Mail from Tampa and Ocala is suspended indefinitely.


Spring: The new town of Brooksville is surveyed by Joseph M. Taylor (a local attorney) and divided into lots and blocks. The first Monday of July, city lots are offered for sale by the County Commission.


June: Bids for construction of the courthouse are let for a two-story structure, 50 by 35 feet, that is expected be completed by September 1858.


The school known as the Brooksville Academy, in Union Baptist Church, finds a permanent home in a two-room structure built by James M. Breaker


Population estimated at 1,200 because the census records for county are lost.

Dr. Benjamin W. Saxon is selected to represent Hernando County in the Secession Convention


Jan. 22: Dr. Saxon dies of diphtheria after voting for secession in Tallahassee and is replaced by Joseph M. Taylor, a Brooksville attorney.


Gen. Joseph M. Taylor of the Florida State Troops takes command of Fort Brook (Tampa).


March: The 20th Regiment of the Florida State Militia meets in Brooksville, and members are warned to be ready for imminent attack by Union troops in the Civil War.

May: Walter Terry Saxon organizes a volunteer company that will become Company C of the Third Florida Infantry.


April: U.S. blockade ships visit Bayport.



April 9: Lee surrenders the Army of Northern Virginia at Appo Courthouse in Virginia

May 10: War ends in Florida with the surrender in Tallahassee of Confederate forces in the state. Martial law declared in the state, and William Marvin of Key West is appointed provisional governor.

June: Residents of Brooksville learn of the surrender, and Confederate soldiers north of Tampa surrender at Bayport.


The Reconstruction period begins throughout the South. Hernando County, at the southern tip of the plantation belt, will suffer great difficulty. Confusion over laws, old feuds and new relationships between the races breed contempt. Former Probate Judge Perry G. Wall is an agent for the Freedman's Bureau in Hernando County.


The new Florida constitution gives broad powers to the governor. He will appoint all county-level officials except legislators and constables.

July 4: Florida is readmitted to the Union. The first Republican governor is elected to office, Harrison Reed (1868-1871)


The population of Hernando County is 2,938. The commander of the Florida State Militia appoints Arthur St.Claire as captain and Joe Mills as 1st lieutenant in the Third Brigade.


Brooksville Colored School is the only public school operating in the central part of the county.

Jan 1: The post office at Pierceville is officially renamed Brooksville with Henry Roundtree as postmaster.

During this period, numerous whippings, murders, lynching and burnings occur. In two separate incidents, federal tax agent Marcus Brant is murdered, and "persons unknown" seriously wound County Judge Henry Roundtree. The Ku Klux Klan is active in Hernando.


A sawmill constructed at the mouth of Withlacoochee River is to cut cedar timber for pencil mills in the North.


The 11 Reconstruction era ends in Florida with a compromise in the 1876 election of President Rutherford B. Hayes. With the election of Gov. George F. Drew (1877-1881), the period of "Redemption" - the taking back of control from the Republicans - begins. A new time of lawlessness is ushered in.

The October term of the Circuit Court is suspended. The perpetrators of the murder of St.Clair are not brought to trial.


June: The County Commission receives three bids to construct a new courthouse. R.E. Quinn of Brooksville will build the two-story facility at a cost of $3,000.


Hernando County's first newspaper, The Crescent, is begun by Fred L. Robertson.

A second attempt is made to destroy county records. This one is foiled by the townspeople when a fire is discovered in the rented offices of the sheriff.



July: A shootout occurs in the courthouse at the Brooksville mayor's court.

The city limits of Brooksville expanded to one mile square.


Fred L. Robertson is appointed aide-de-camp to Gov. Bloxham (1881-1885) and Hernando County organizes as a detached company of volunteers in the state militia. The armory is on the north side of the square near present day SunTrust Bank.



The Brooksville Telegraph Co. is chartered by the state.

The city of Brooksville receives its insurance underwriting map from the Sanborn Map Co. The report also indicates no fire equipment in the city and a poor water supply.

For the 1885-86 school term, there are 74 public schools operating in Hernando County, serving 2,381 pupils.

The Bailey Syndicate offers "A Rare Chance ... For a profitable investment in Hernando Land," and the local land boom begins.

The railroad finally comes to Brooksville through the untiring efforts of John J. Hale and others. While a rail connection through Brooksville had been hoped for as early as 1857, the county had been unsuccessful in its efforts. The development of the county was hampered by the lack of a rail connection. The new connection, while only a spur line, is welcomed with enthusiasm. In 1907, the Florida Southern line, a component of the Plant system, begins daily passenger connections.




February: Hernando High School begins operating for a four-month term for grades 1 through 12.

The big blow was particularly obnoxious at Brooksville. It wrecked the Methodist church entirely, badly damaged the Baptist church, and lifted the unfinished Presbyterian Church from its blocks, dropped it on the ground and downed trees in every direction .


Free school books are furnished for all pupils of the county beginning with Dr. J. R Temple as superintendent. The driving force behind the new policy is board Chairman M.R. Burnes. Hernando County for many years is the only county in the state to have such a policy


Dec. 29: A great freeze at night decimates the citrus crop of Hernando County. The local citrus industry began in 1852 with the first planting of orange trees by Joshua Stafford. A second freeze six weeks later, Feb 9, 1895 kills the remaining trees to their roots. The citrus growers would come back with improved root stock and farming methods. Other problems hurt the industry, but in the 1944-45 seasons, Hernando produces 300,000 boxes of fruit, the best season. Growing oranges, tangerines and mandarins and grapefruit, the growers do well until the freeze of 19-- when many of the groves were not replanted.


Dr. H.T. Lykes of old Spring Hill relocates his operation to Tampa. His impact on the cattle industry will prove far-reaching. Cattle had been a part of the Hernando landscape from the Seminole days. During the Civil War period, some of the large herds were shipped to support the Confederate cause. Local herds of cattle grew larger during the 1880s and roamed free in southern Hernando. The Lykes family introduced the Brahman cattle into Florida and pioneered many innovations in animal husbandry.



A concern for the lack of fire protection and unsafe conditions is brought before the City Commission. Many homes have no brick or stone chimneys and pose a severe hazard. New requirements are put into place.


Large fire destroys nine city blocks on both sides of N Main Street. A 1910 fire destroys Hernando High School. In 1914, another fire destroys the block south of the courthouse. The fire of 1917 destroys the Varnada Hotel, and, with the fear of a great catastrophe, assistance is requested from Tampa. The Tampa mayor sends two fire engines by rail to Brooksville. These fires, accidental or not, leave Brooksville with a reputation as a "hot" place. One older attorney is said to have remarked to an acquaintance after being told that his store was about to be repossessed by the bank, "You have fire insurance, don't you?"

Aug. 28: William Hope, the last of the original settlers, dies and is buried in the Hope family cemetery



Hernando business, hampered without a bank for several years, is bolstered when the Hernando State Bank is chartered.

Hernando County is assigned a voluntary company of state troops designated as Company M of the 2nd Regiment, with W.C. Croom as captain and F.L. Stringer as first lieutenant. The county population is 4,010.

The Varn Turpentine and Lumber Co. begins operation in Hernando. The turpentine industry will continue well into the 1940s. The lumber industry finds Hernando County very welcome. A number of mills and lumber-related communities develop. The largest, Centralia, begins operation in 1911. The mill itself has a capacity of producing 100,000 board feet per day. The operation is large and includes a mill town with 1,500 inhabitants. When the mills close at Centralia and Enville and move to other parts of the state around 1920, the county population drops significantly.


Company M of the Brooksville National Guard reorganizes into a platoon of Company B of Orlando. The platoon is called to service to assist the sheriff of Citrus County with civil unrest in June and serves two days. They arrive too late to prevent the lynching of a prisoner.


The population of Hernando County is 4,997


The County Commission selects the firm of Chambers & Co of Birmingham, Ala., and Fort Worth, Texas, as the architect to develop plans for a new courthouse. The plans submitted in June are rejected as "unsuitable," and the firm of William A. Edwards is selected in September. By Dec. 23, J.F. Jenkins & Co. is selected to build the new courthouse for a cost of $42,150



The new courthouse is dedicated, and the Armory of the local National Guard unit is located on the block across from the current Brooksville library on Howell Avenue.


July 7: The County Commission rescinds its earlier plan to pave 10 miles of roadway with bricks. Commissioners choose instead to continue the practice of using a combination of sand and oil to pave 100 mile of road. The roads of Hernando County, little more than graded sand with some clay mixed in, had served the county well over the years. The automobile brought on the need for better roads. By 1925, a $1-million bond issue passed to provide needed improvements. One such improvement was the construction of a causeway from the Bayport road to Pine Island.


The county population is 6,291.



Florida land boom begins, only to collapse in 1925


Hernando population is 4,548, reflecting the closing of the lumber mill at Centralia.

Women get the right to vote at age 30 with passage of the 19th amendment to Constitution.

Prohibition begins, and many in Hernando go into the moonshine business.


late December: shareholders of the Hernando Plantation Co. finalize their plans to develop large citrus groves in southern Hernando. Naming the community Masarytown, the new immigrants set to work. A freeze in the winter of 1927 brings ruin to the community. However, A.G. Mazourek organizes Hernando Egg Producers Inc., and the community reshapes itself, soon becoming the largest egg producer in the state.


The city charter is changed to a mayor-council form of government.

The Depression begins in Florida with the collapse of land values.



The voting age for women is changed from 30 to age 21.


The nationwide Depression begins with the collapse of the stock market.


Hernando's population is 4,948.


Hernando remains a "dry" county with the end of Prohibition nationally.

July 4: Five convicts escape from a road construction camp at Tooke Lake. The sheriff of Hernando County asks for assistance from the National Guard in Tampa to help restore order at the road camp.


Hernando's population reaches 5,641.


Brooks Field, the Army Air Corps training base for B-17s and alternate field for McDill Field, is in operation. Located south of Brooksville, it is a hub of activity during the World War II years. The first impression of Brooksville by many young fliers is one of Police Chief W.D. Cobb, with his large pistol at his side, standing next to his patrol car at the corner of Broad and Main streets.


July: City commissioners complete negotiations with War Assets Administration for the lease of the old air base as a flight school and general airport for the county. The surplus property and electrical, mechanical, and structures are sold locally.


Post-war veterans run for office and elect Monroe Treiman as county judge and Joseph E. Johnston Jr. (Hernando County's first full-time lawyer) to the Florida State Senate.


Open range for cattle is prohibited in Florida. County commissioners are elected based on a countywide vote, but must still reside in individual districts.


Hurricane "Easy" rolls through Brooksville and deposits 32 inches of rain in a day and a half.

The population of the county is 6,693


County votes to remain "dry" by a vote of 1,437 to 1,334. The total population is 11,205


The Deltona Corp. begins sale of homes in Spring Hill for $250 down and $2 per day for principal, interest, taxes and insurance. Claude Kirk is elected the first Republican governor since Reconstruction.


March: A statewide teachers strike attempts to paralyze the schools of the state. Eighteen teachers in Hernando leave the classroom. The local School Board refuses to rehire the teachers after the strike. The board refuses to hire any teacher who had participated in the strike until 1976.

The last graduating class leaves R.E. Moton School, the school for black students.

August: Hernando High School is integrated.


The population of Hernando County is 17,004

The county begins a period of phenomenal growth. Retirement communities boost the need for service-oriented businesses. Along with the growth in retirement communities, young families enter the county, and schools become crowded.

October: Black students at Hernando High School stage a "walk out" in protest over racial insensitivity.


Hernando County adds a new high school in Spring Hill, named Frank W. Springstead High School.


Margaret Willard, longtime city clerk, becomes Brooksville's first city manager.

Population of county grows to 44,469


Jim Cummings becomes Brooksville city manager. Financial stability is a major issue during this time. Several of the city utilities are operating with a deficit.


Central High School, the third high school in the county, opens west of Brooksville.


Population of county reaches 101,116.


In June, the city employs Jim Malcolm as interim manager. Three months later, his position becomes permanent, and the council embarks on a new visioning strategy. During the next 12 months, several development projects begin - a sewer upgrade in south Brooksville, refurbishing the old brick streets and redevelopment of downtown Brooksville. But Malcolm is forced to choose between his city manager's job and a post on the Hernando School Board and resigns from the city. Also, two of three City Council members are recalled.


The population of the county is in excess of 130,000


Nature Coast Technical High School, the county's fourth high school, opens.


The city limits expand to 10 square miles. One year later, the city limits add another section to bring the total to 11 square miles.