HISTORY OF PASCO COUNTY
1860. John W. Darby, for whom Darby is named, is shown on the Hernando County tax roll. (He was b. July 4, 1832, d. Apr. 11, 1894.)
1877. An 1877-78 list of Hernando County schools shows a Willow Oak school.
May 6, 1893. A post office is established with the name Amelia. (The post office was applied for under the name Willowoak.) The postmasters of Amelia were Robert J. Bradley, Laura V. Pixton, John D. Bradley Jr., Robert A. Bradley, Lillian G. Jones, Susan L. Bradley, and Redmond J. Parker.
Dec. 3, 1915. The Dade City Banner has:
Nov. 25, 1921. The Dade City Banner has:
The turpentine business in the Darby section, known as the Amelia Still, suffered severely in the tropical storm of October 25, when the building was damaged and possibly a third of the timber blown down.
Clay Sink and Darby
Soil Adapted to Citrus, Strawberries, Truck and General Farming.
This article appeared in the Dade City Banner on April 28, 1922. Note that there were two Clay Sinks in Pasco County.
By C. B. TAYLOR
Extending from the northern boundary of Pasco county to the Hillsborough line, with an average width of about six miles, is a stretch of as fine farming, citrus and vegetable land as can be found in the state of Florida. In the early days, before the great freeze of 1895, this country was dotted with beautiful groves; many of these were abandoned at that time but their location can be easily recognized by the observant passerby. Others, after more or less years of neglect, have been re-established and are now among the best in the county.
This scope of territory is mostly low land with just enough roll to cause it to drain easily. The soil Is not only adapted to general farm crops but produces as fine strawberries and other truck crops as were ever grown in the Plant City district. Several settlements of prosperous farmers dot the landscape and whenever this region is made more accessible by building of good roods doubtless hundreds of other farms will be scattered about producing the necessities and luxuries of life and adding to the wealth of the county.
Of the neighborhoods now dispersed about the garden spot of our county, Clay Sink and Darby are the most northern. While known by two names they are in reality one community, though divided into two school districts. This is one of the oldest settlements in the county, was the scene of a massacre during the Seminole war of 1856 and a fort was located there for the protection of the people.
Two neatly painted school houses, one at Clay Sink and one at Darby, show that the present dwellers in this pretty section are interested in the mental training of their young people. The one at Darby is in especially well-kept grounds. A church that would be a credit to many a large community is the center of spiritual life end is well maintained.
To one travelling across the flat plains from the St. Thomas neighborhood the farm of George J. Hancock looms up as an oasis must to a wanderer in a desert. It is a fine place, where the growing of staple farm crops is the main occupation, though good sized patches of beans, cukes and squash are carefully cultivated. A nice grove of budded citrus trees will soon be producing a heavy yield of fruit.
Mr. Hancock is also interested in the cattle business but a couple of years ago some mysterious disease killed the greater part of his stock so that is now a minor part of his operations. He has never been able to find out just what it was that caused this mortality among the cattle but as the flu was epidemic at that time has often wondered if it attacked live stock as well as human beings.
An old settler in this neighborhood, D. H. McCarthy is well known throughout the county. He was at one time a member of the board of county commissioners and still takes an active interest in all public affairs, especially along the line of road building. Mr. McCarthy has the entire history of road making in the county on the tip of his tongue and talks most interestingly on the subject. One story he tells is so good that it deserves to go down in history. Some twelve or fifteen years ago a member of the county board had an idea that plank roads could be built cheaper than any other form and would give the most satisfactory service, so he bought a lot of pecky cypress planks, two inches by six inches, had them cut into two foot lengths and laid them end to end in the wheel ruts of the roads. The sun soon warped them so that the roads were worse than before and a great many farmers threatened to sue the county for damages to their vehicles. The plank roads were soon taken up and so far not much more progress has ever been made in road building. This was the first attempt ever made in that line.
Mr. McCarthy has a fine orange grove which he has carefully tended since the big freeze and is now being repaid for his labors.
Mr. A. B. Arp sticks to corn and general farm crops and has a good grove that is in fine condition. On account of his age Mr. Arp is not fanning as extensively now as in former years.
Henry Hancock has a small grapefruit grove that certainly is a thing of beauty.
Charles H. Johnson believes in living on his farm, so raises plenty of corn, peanuts, and other forage and feed crops. He also has fine bean and Irish potato patches, that look well, though needing rain. Last year Mr. Johnson made so many navy beans that he will not raise any this season. Besides using all he could fresh he gathered three barrels of dry beans. They are well cleaned and look nicer than the northern ones on sale in the stores.
Small tangerine and orange groves are being started on this place and Mrs. Johnson is right proud of the handsome rose bushes that fill her yard. Mr. Johnson has a fine tract of round pine timber on his place that is a distinct asset. The storm blew down some trees but was not as destructive as where they were turpentined.
Mr. V. C. McKendree, after a considerable sojourn on the East coast, has returned and is cultivating his place west of the mail road. Corn, peanuts and chufas are his standbys.
T. M. and J. W. Moody, brothers, are mostly interested in corn and other hog feed crops but have small bean and watermelon patches. Their crops are looking good but would be helped by a good rain.
Corn, cane, cow peas, peanuts and other general crops are all extra good on P. J. McKendree’s farm. He is picking beans and has a fine Irish potato crop coming on.
A nice grove on Henry White’s place is one of the first things to catch the eye of the visitor. He has fine corn and forage crops, as well as both navy and snap beans. His garden has been suffering some from the dry weather but he has rigged a force pump on a barrel, attached a hose to it and so overcome the difficulty.
Mrs. A. R. Baucknight is largely dependent on the efforts of her youngest son to cultivate her farm. It is some task for the youngster but he is tackling it manfully and has good crops of corn, navy beans and cowpeas coming on. Later on fields of rice and chufas will be planted.
In her garden Mrs. Bauknight has a number of tomato plants of a variety grown for pickling purposes. They are smaller than the usual market varieties and of a light yellow color when ripe. From the way the vines are blooming and setting fruit the yield will be heavy. Fine Hampshire hogs and goat constitute the bulk of the live stock on this place.
Settling on a place that has been abandoned since the big freeze, R. Strada is rapidly restoring it to its pristine glory. Cabbage, onions, musk melons, rice and sweet potatoes are growing nicely. Mr. Strads sprays his cabbage with a solution of whale oil soap as a protection from rabbits, with great success.
He is re-setting the old grove with citrus trees of various kinds interspersed with pecans.
Ed. Gusstafson has a fine piece of hammock land that will make a good farm when cleared up. He is specializing on chickens but also raises a good deal of rice and lots of sweet potatoes.
Miles McKendree has a small patch of ground prepared where he is growing beans, pepper, okra, and other truck crops. Mr. McKendree stubbled some pepper plants that went through the winter and the other day his mother-in-law, Mrs. R. J. Parker, who lives with him, found a pod in the exact shape of a man’s pipe, stem and all. She sent it to the office of a Chicago weekly paper which specializes on curious things of this sort.
W. R. McKendree works away from home most of the time but raises a good garden as well as a fine bean patch. He will plant a considerable acreage in chufas and other forage crops after the rains set in.
Calvin Jackson, colored, an employee of the turpentine firm at Amelia Still, also has a fine little patch of corn, beans, sweet potatoes and cane.
Z. W. McKendree is shipping beans and if the market holds up will doubtless net a very comfortable sum as he has a good sized patch that seems to be bearing heavily. His corn is especially good not to have been fertilized and his cane is growing nicely. Sweet potatoes, chufas and forage crops will be grown during the summer.
John Washington, colored, is not only a good turpentine distiller, but also a good farmer as his corn, cane, sweet potatoes and vegetables show.
W. E. Douglas had the misfortune to be crippled in his right hand just when he should have been busiest with his plowing and planting. His hand is not yet entirely well. As a result he is behind with his crops and has a smaller acreage in cultivation than usual. However, he has some good looking corn growing and a fine strawberry patch that has been bearing well. Mr. Douglas’ home is in a beautiful location setting a little back from the Pasco station road, the approach being covered with the prettiest natural lawn of carpet grass I have ever seen.
Owen Connell has set up a small saw mill and is busy cutting up the timber blown down by the hurricane last October.
Mr. J. F. Bates is quite an old settler and as such is well acquainted with the advantages and disadvantages of the section. He claims that the Darby neighborhood is as good a truck and farming country as Plant City ever thought of being but to develop it, some roads must be built so the farmers can get their produce to market.
Mr. Bates has a fine place and is shipping both beans and cucumbers. He has not yet had time for returns from the cukes but the beans are bringing a good price. Strawberries are nearly gone now but he has some fine plants set out to make runners for next year’s crop. A patch of very good tomato plants that have not been fertilized show that the soil here is naturally fertile.
Two groves, built up from the ruins of the big freeze, are heavily loaded with fruit for next year’s crop. These groves have not been fertilized in years but one would not thing so to look at the big trees with their glossy green leaves. Mr. Bates mulches his trees with pine straw as a protection from foot rot.
One of the oddities of Mr. Bates place is a small sulphur spring. It is probably too small to be developed into a resort, as many of our springs are, but the water is certainly fine for drinking. What is believed to be the only red oak in this county is growing on this place. Mr. Bates had several of them but goats destroyed all but this one, which he is protecting till it gets bigger.
A couple of years ago Mr. J. D. Douglas built a neat little home and settled in the middle of a hammock where he is developing one of the nicest farms in the neighborhood. He has a small tomato patch which he has staked up. The plants are from four to five feet in height and are well loaded with fruit. Some of it almost ready for shipment.
A small grove of late oranges bloomed last November and set considerable fruit. A patch of beans only three weeks old compare favorably with many others twice that age. He has quite an extensive patch of strawberry plants from which he will raise more to set out in the fall. Mr. Douglas burned a lot of palmetto roots on this ground before setting out his plants and the potash in the ashes killed some of them. He will scatter okra seed in the patch to shade the new plants from the hot sun.
W. R. McNatt has a fine old seedling grove that is well loaded with young fruit. This is only a side issue though, as corn, peanuts, cane and various forage crops take up the greater part of the farm. Quite an acreage is devoted to beans, tomatoes, sweet corn and strawberries.
A wise father as well as a good farmer, Mr. McNatt tries to interest his children in the farm and each of them have their own especial interests. The boys are members of the pig and chicken clubs and have good reason to be proud of their fine Hampshire pigs and Wyandotte chickens.
Oats, millet and similar crops are growing nicely on this farm while okra and watermelons will soon be ready to market.
Just how long Mr. J. W. Douglas has lived on his farm I do not know but he showed me a field that has been in constant cultivation for forty-five years, and the land is in better shape now than when it was first cleared. This is due to the fact that Mr. Douglas makes it a rule never to take off anything from the land that can be put back. He has so thoroughly inculcated his son with this principle that Bill Douglas, who now has the active management of the place, will not ever cut any more hay off it than is necessary for home use. In fact, when possible, he cuts his neighbor’s hay for them on shares so that he can turn his own grass under and build up the land.
Of course turning under grass, weeds and trash is considerable work but Mr. Douglas has tools for the work and his fields are always in fine condition. When he is ready to break his land he starts in with a stalk cutter which chops all the stems, stalks and so on into convenient lengths. Then the land is broken with a big turning plow with chain attachment, after which it is disked and harrowed into shape. Most of Mr. Douglas’ equipment is suitable for riding, the only exception being his turning plow. All cultivating is done with a disc cultivator.
Mr. Douglas says his crops so far are as good as anybody could possibly want, and after looking over his corn and peanuts one can well believe it.
A nice seedling grove that has been built up since the freeze has been well cared for and is a pretty sight though the trees are a bit scattering. Beans and strawberries are the trucking features of the farm, the berries are about gone but the beans have only been bearing a short time.
A find grove of banana trees have furnished an abundance of fruit for home use but the storm last October damaged them so badly that no crop is expected this year.
Mr. Douglas has a very comfortable home with his own electric light plant as well as other modern conveniences.
Mrs. W. H. Cowart and children of Plant City drove to Darby to visit her parents, Mr. and Mrs. J. W. Douglas, last Tuesday. Mr. Cowart is a conductor on the Seaboard Air Line and was out on his run.
Working away from home is sometimes necessary but it sure plays hob with a man’s farm. This was well illustrated by a visit to Mr. W. J. Zeigler’s place where corn, cukes, squashes, egg plant, tomatoes and beans are growing. Everything is looking well but was planted late so is small and will be late on the market. None of Mr. Zeigler’s crop has been fertilized but when he told me how young it was and I looked at it, I could hardly believe it.
Mr. Ziegler has one of the finest seedling groves in the neighborhood. It has not bee fertilized since 1894 but one wouldn’t think so to look at it. His bloom was unusually heavy.
Besides managing an extensive naval stores business, J. B. Sessoms is clearing up a nice farm. He has a five acre pecan grove that is bearing and gets good prices for this product.
A strawberry patch which contains seven thousand plants netted a profit of two hundred fifty dollars. From a small eight-row bean patch, planted for home use only, he gathered seven hampers of beans the other day at one picking, while his cucumbers are bearing heavily. He is also marketing a good many fine peppers from a stand-over patch that the storm put out of business last fall. Mr. Sessoms has a fine pond in the center of his place and is fencing it in such a way that it will be available for his stock whenever the no-fence law comes in and he has to have pasturage.
Mr. J. C. Douglas had the misfortune to lose his horse this past fall and is breaking in a new one, consequently his farming operations are small this year. Corn, peanuts, chufas, and forage together with strawberry plants for fall setting are the main items.
Found F. J. Bellamy planting peas. He has a goodly acreage of corn and peanuts that are coming on nicely, the peanuts being especially fine. Mr. Bellamy has been shipping cukes and beans for some time and, of course, strawberries. His cucumbers have been grown without any fertilizer whatsoever, though to look at them no one would think so. Onions and Irish potatoes are coming on nicely and from the appearance of his cane patch there will be plenty of good long sweetening in the Bellamy home next winter. Mr. Bellamy says he has never tried to truck much before this year as he did not know where to market the crops. He is doing so well this season that he expects to go into it more heavily another year and believes his neighbors will do likewise.
E. A. Boyd is getting along in years and has turned the active management of the farm over to his son, R. O., who has the place in fine condition. He has a small orange grove that is coming on nicely and another one set out last year is growing lustily. Mr. Boyd has a number of fine peach trees that are thriving. Corn, cane and forage crops are promising and his strawberry plants are extra good. Mr. Boyd has a smoke house full of meat that makes one hungry to look at.
The October hurricane destroyed nearly all of J. H. More’s fences and as a result the cattle and hogs gathered most of his fall crop. However he fattened enough hogs to furnish meat for himself this year. By the time he got his fences rebuilt the dry spell came on, so he has very little planted, small patches of corn, peas and cane. The balance of his land is ready to plant, however, and will be put in peanuts, chufas, and other forage and feed crops as soon as it rains.
On my round through Darby and on the road back everyone told me to be sure and ask W. R. Standley about his crop of cucumbers last fall. When I did so I learned that from three-fourths of an acre he had netted a nice little profit of three hundred dollars, and that in spite of the storm which cut the season short fully one half. For some reason, in the cucumber growing belt north and east of Pasco county, around Bushnell, Webster, Center Hill, and other places, cukes will not do well in the fall, though they have been repeatedly tried. Apparently they will do well in various part of this county. In the Slaughter neighborhood several cars were shipped last fall. Now Mr. Standley has demonstrated that they will do well in the region west of St. Joseph and San Antonio. This opens up an opportunity for the farmers of this section that they should not fail to take advantage of, for the fall cucumber crop is one of the best paying ones that an be raised. Mr. Standley’s farm is on higher land than most in this vicinity and he has fine crops of strawberries, cukes and beans. Straight old-fashioned general farming, however, is Mr. Standley’s long suite, as anyone looking over his thirty-acre corn field, to say nothing of the fields of peas, peanuts, and chufas, can tell.
Two fine orange groves have a good crop set but the peach crop is a failure.
A. L. Rabb has a good crop of corn, peanuts, and other forage. He is gathering cucumbers and has a fine pepper patch coming on. a good grove that is well cared for is one of the features of this place.
The comfortable home of T. R. Alexander is located on the top of a hill and commands a fine view of the surrounding country. However much one may enjoy this outlook, Mr. Alexander does not allow it to interfere with his farming and has good patches of cucumbers and beans, in bearing, as well as sweet corn coming on. His five-acre watermelon patch had fruit set two weeks ago.
Mr. Alexander ordered his field seed corn sent to him at San Antonio. It went to San Antonio, Texas, and as a result has only just arrived so this crop will be late.
A scattering grove of seedling trees had a good bloom this year. Mr. Alexander says he does not pay any attention to the trees except as he cultivates the ground for other crops.
April 15, 1922.