HISTORY OF PASCO COUNTY
Early County Commission Meetings
Early Commission Meetings Place To Socialize, Catch Up
This article appeared in the Tampa Tribune on July 18, 2001. The image at left shows the original hand-written minutes of the July 18, 1887, county commission meeting. These minutes are housed at the Pioneer Florida Museum.
By CAROL JEFFARES HEDMAN
The discussions today center around topics such as tax increases, water and development. And most likely, those in the audience won’t find today’s Pasco County Commission meetings all that entertaining, unlike those conducted when the county was first formed in 1887.
When the governor signed the bill on June 2, 1887 that formed Pasco from the southern portion of Hernando County, he designated Dade City as the temporary county seat and appointed county commissioners and other officials.
The first Board of County Commissioners met July 18, 1887, electing E. G. Liles as chairman. The other commissioners were W. R. Lilburn, Daniel McLeod, J. B. “Bird” Hudson, and J. J. “Jack” Gillet.
The first county officers also were approved at the meeting that day. H. H. Henley was clerk of the circuit court; G. M. Roberts, county treasurer; Nick P. Bishoff, tax assessor; Robert J. Bradley, tax collector; J. A. Grady, sheriff; D. O. Thrasher, judge; and W. A. Jones, surveyor.
Their salaries were established later and ranged from $500 for the justice of the peace to $2,000 for the clerk of the court.
The first meeting was brief. The only other action taken was voting to have the clerk order supplies for the officers from a firm called Walker, Evans and Gogswell Co. of Charleston, S.C., handwritten records show.
But the brevity wouldn’t carry over. It wasn’t unusual for later meetings to go on for hours.
One of the reasons was that most residents attended, said local historian Bill Dayton. It was entertainment, especially for rural folks who could socialize while finding out what was happening in the new county.
It was also common for the officials to give long-winded speeches trying to impress the audience, which often responded with applause, Dayton said.
Fight Over First Courthouse
The meetings also could be heated, beginning with the second one on Aug. 1, 1887 when the board accepted proposals for a temporary courthouse.
Doctor E. B. Hall offered to rent to the county the upper story and lower room of his building in the area then called Fort Dade for $20 a month for two years.
But his offer was upstaged by prominent businessmen H. W. Coleman and W. A. Ferguson. The twosome submitted a written proposal along with a pencil rendering of a two-story building they promised would be completed the next month. Coleman and Ferguson offered the use of the building rent-free and even posted a $1,000 bond to guarantee it would be finished on time.
The Coleman and Ferguson building called for a “very stout and durable” courtroom on the ground floor. The building was to have “the most comfortable rooms in town.”
Hall countered that he also would offer his building rent-free and would provide a clerk’s office on the lower floor. Coleman and Ferguson came back saying they, too, would provide a clerk’s office.
In a 3-2 vote, Hall’s proposal was turned down in lieu of the Coleman and Ferguson offer.
But that didn’t end Hall’s efforts.
At the Sept. 5 meeting, the board had to call witnesses to testify that the location of the recently accepted courthouse offer by Coleman and Ferguson was in Dade City at the time the county was created. Some said it was. Others said the building was not in the city.
The board finally decided the building was in Dade City and went ahead with plans to relocate commission meetings from Hall’s building. It was probably on what is now Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in Dade City.
It was in that area that Fort Dade sprang up. But when Seaboard Railroad came to town, building a depot south of Fort Dade, the old town was abandoned and merchants moved to what is now Dade City.
Businessmen fought to have the courthouse located in their respective towns, knowing its location would bring in business.
Hall’s final attempt to keep the courthouse in Fort Dade came when he filed a lawsuit to prevent county records from being moved from his building. It was the first civil lawsuit filed in Pasco County. The court decided in favor of the defendant, the Pasco County Commission, according to information from J. A. Hendley, the first county attorney.
Other action taken by the commission that first year included mapping out election districts. Precinct 1 was at Macon, now Trilby; Precinct 2, Dade City; Precinct 3, Richland; Precinct 4, Wesley Chapel; Precinct 5, San Antonio; Precinct 6, Chipco, near Blanton; Precinct 7, St. Thomas, west of St. Joseph; Precinct 8, Loyce, in north-central Pasco; Precinct 9, Hudson; and Precinct 10, Bailey, near today’s Holiday. In August 1888, Precinct 11 was established at Earnestville, south of Lake Pasadena.
Liquor Sales Debate
Another controversy arising at commission meetings that first year was a vote in October to decide whether liquor could be sold in the county.
Only voters in Wesley Chapel and St. Thomas favored alcoholic sales. The majority of voters in Macon, Dade City, Chipco, Loyce, Hudson and Bailey were against it.
Richland and San Antonio were thrown out after the commission decided the votes there were illegal. Richland residents testified the poll list included names of railroad workers who were not Pasco residents. Others testified that the San Antonio votes included two brothers who were thought to be “insane, crazy, weak- minded.”
Liles, the board chairman, filed a protest against throwing out those precincts, saying the voter lists had been inspected and approved. The county was never dry until the 1920s under federal prohibition.
The first commissioners were also concerned about the yellow fever epidemic in Tampa and held a special meeting on Oct. 17, 1887 to establish a quarantine.
Even in the early days the commission had to deal with welfare. Paupers usually received 30 cents a day or $5 a month from the county. The paupers' list was continually growing, the records stated. Neighbors of those in need would approach the commission, telling tales of woe. The commission usually offered assistance until the needy could become self-sufficient.
The commission even offered one way of making money. The board paid $3 for each wildcat scalp turned in. Bear scalps fetched $5 apiece.
County Commission Minutes, Aug. 1, 1887
Thanks to Jeff Cannon for transcribing this document.
Pursuant to an act to divide the different Counties of the State into County Commissioners Districts each County to be divided into five districts. The County Commissioners proceeded as follows to divide said County of Pasco.
District No. 1 D.T. McLeod Commissioner
Commencing at the North East Corner of Pasco County thence West on Northern boundary of said County to Range line dividing Ranges 20 + 21 thence South on said Range line to Tp. line dividing Tps 24 and 25, thence East on said Tp line to Eastern boundary of County thence North on Eastern boundary of said Co. to the point of beginning.
District No. 2 W.R. Lilburn Commissioner
Commencing on Eastern boundary of said County on Township line dividing Townships 24 and 25 thence West on said Tp to Range line dividing Ranges 20 + 21 thence South, thence South to Southern boundary of Co. thence East on Southern boundary of said Co. to the SE corner of said Co. to Tp line dividing Tps 24 + 25 being the point of beginning.
District No. 3 J.J. Gillet Commissioner
Commencing on Section line dividing Sections 13 + 24 Tp. 25, Range 20 thence West on said Section to Range line dividing Range 17 + 18 thence South on said Range line to the Southern boundary of said County thence East on Section boundary of said County to Range line dividing Ranges 20 + 21, thence North on said Range line to the section line dividing Sections 13 + 24 Tp 25 R20.
District No. 4 E.G. Liles Commissioner
Commencing in the North East Corner of Tp. 24 Range 20 thence West on said Tp line dividing Tps 23 and 24 to Range line dividing Ranges 18 + 19 thence South on said Range line to dividing Ranges 20 + 21 thence North on said Range line to the N.E. Corner of Tp 24 Range 20 E.
District No. 5 J.B. Hudson Commissioner
Commencing at the North East Corner of Tp 24 Range 18, thence West on Northern boundary of said County to the Western boundary of said County thence South on Western boundary of said Co. to the S.W. Corner of said Co, thence East on Southern boundary of said County to Range line dividing Ranges 17 + 18 thence North on said Range line to Section line dividing Sections 18 + 19 Tp 25 R18, thence East on said Section line to Range line dividing Ranges 18 + 19 thence North on Range to the NE Corner of Sp 24 R18.
On motion we adjourned until 2 O'Clock P.M.
At 2 O'Clock Meeting called to order
Moved and seconded that we proceed to receive propositions as to the temporary location of Court House.
Hon J.S. Thrasher in behalf of Dr. E. A. Hall as follows, We will furnish the County of Pasco the upper story and the lower Right hand Room now occupied by Dr. F.P. McElroy for $20.00 per month for two years.
Mess. Coleman Ferguson and Co. submitted the following proposition in writing.
To the Honorable Board of County Commissioners of Pasco County,
Enclosed please find pencil drawing of the buildings we intend offering the County of Pasco for the period of two years free of charge. We will have building complete by Sept. 5 1887. For which we propose to secure you with a Thousand Dollar bond for the guarantee of having the said buildings completed by the time mentioned, when that is done + then we turned over to you then the bond to be null and void. This property is unencumbered and your right to it for two years cannot be disturbed in any respect. The Court Room will be on ground floor + will be very stout + durable the room up stairs are very stout + well built + by far the most comfortable rooms in town + better located. Hope you may see proper to accept our proposition. I so do it in writing and oblige.
Coleman Ferguson and Co.
Dr. E.A. Hall submitted the following in writing
Town of Dade City
To the Hon Board of Aldermen of Pasco County
Signed this 1st day of Aug 1887
Personally appeared before me the above named parties who acknowledge that they executed the foregoing lease for the purpose and uses therein contained and expressed. In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and seal this 1st day of August AD 1885
D.O. Thrasher, County Judge
Mess Coleman Ferguson and Co submitted the following in addition to first proposition
Dr. E.A. Hall added the following.
Moved and seconded that we accept proposition of Dr. E.A. Hall as submitted in writing lost by a vote of two for and 3 against accepted. On motion the proposition of Coleman Ferguson and Co. was accepted and Clerk ordered to make acceptance in writing.
A communication from the School Board of Instruction of Pasco County was read and ordered layed over for future action. Moved and Seconded that the application of Jacob H. Delcher as student to the East Florida Seminary be layed over for action until the Sept term of meeting.
Motioned + Seconded that we tender Dr. E.A. Hall a vote of thanks for the use of hall.
County Commission Minutes, Sept. 5, 1887
Thanks to Jeff Cannon for transcribing this document.
Dade City Fla. Sept 5" 1887
Meeting of the Board called to order Members present E.G. Liles, W.R. Lilburn, D.T. McLeod, J.B. Hudson, J.J. Gillet. Minutes of the last meeting were read and approved
Petition from citizens asking for an Election on Article XIX was received and layed over for future action.
Moved and seconded that we proceed in a body to inspect the building offered by Coleman Ferguson and Co as Court House and offices for the use of Co and to meet at 1 O'clock.
At 1 O'clock the meeting called to order
Moved and seconded that we call in three citizens of Dade City to prove whether the place being the SE4 of Sec. 27 Tp 24 R 21 E where the new Court House now stands was in Dade City at the time the act was created making the County of Pasco.
Dr. F.P. McElroy testified as follows, the land where the Depot of the F.R and N.R.R. was a part of Dade City on the second day of June 1887 and I considered part of Dade City being the SE4 of SE4 Sec 27 Tp 24 R 21.
Dr. G.M. Roberts testified as follows according to my best recollection an election was held here over two years ago, electing Mayor, Aldermen and other officers and the incorporation extended 1/2 a mile each way from the SE corner of SE4 of NE4 of Sec 27 Tp 24 R 21 was included in Dade City.
R.B. Jones testified as follows the land included in SE4 of SE4 of Sec 24 Tp 24 R 21 was not considered Dade City at the time the act passed creating the Co of Pasco. M.G. Rowe testified I was P.M. [Post Master] at Dade City and considered the SE4 of SE4 of Sec 27 Tp 24 R 21 a part of Dade City.
Moved and seconded that we proceed to vote on receiving the buildings offered by Coleman Ferguson and Co as temporary location of Court House and offices for two years. The vote being called resulting unanimously accepting buildings as offered by Coleman Ferguson + Co
Moved and seconded that we adjourn to the new Court House
Meeting called to order
Moved and Seconded that pension certificates be granted to M.W. Page, Thos. J. Holton, Robert. J. Bradley
Applications were presented from Albert Tucker Mr Platt as Students to East Florida Seminary
Moved and seconded the cost bills in the case of the State Vs.
Horace Anderson as presented be endorsed and ordered paid as follows,
Moved and Seconded that we adjourn to meet at 9 oclock A.M.