HISTORY OF PASCO COUNTY
The O’Berry Family
Joseph William O’Berry, A Very Fine Man
By JANICE STOKES THOMAS
This is a story about my great-grandfather, Joseph William O’Berry, a Pasco County pioneer. He was born in Blackshear, Georgia, April 18, 1848. Because he was only about 13 or 14 years old, too young to go to war with his older brothers, he stayed home with parents and other siblings.
Following the war, his older brothers, Henry Bassett, James Ransom and John Marion migrated to Florida settling in Blanton area, then Hernando County, now Pasco County.
Around 1870, following his brothers Joseph William arrived in Florida. He was about 22 years old at this time. There was another Pasco County pioneer living in the Trilby area, Capt. Francis Marion Durrance, my great-great grandfather. He had been a Captain in the Seminole Wars. Francis Marion and his wife Primmeon Robertson Durrance had one daughter, Amelia Frances (Artie). They lived on their ranch farming and raising cattle.
When Joe arrived to Hernando County, now Pasco County, he went to Francis Marion and asked for a job. He was hired and continued to assist Capt. Durrance on the ranch. In 1873 Joe and Artie married and lived on the ranch with Capt. Durrance and Primmie. As Capt. Durrance’s health declined Joe took over management of the ranch. After the death of Capt. Durrance, Primmie relied heavily on Joe and Artie to operate the ranch, leaving it to them at her death. Joe also had a meat market in Trilby in the early 1900’s.
Joe and Artie had ten children, nine survived to adulthood. Their first child, Lucy, died in infancy. Next was Lizzie who married Philip Mickler and they lived and raised their family in Lacoochee. Third was Lulu who married William Mickler and they also raised their family in Lacoochee. The fourth child was John Francis. He lived in Trilby and was shot and killed on November 6, 1915 by an unknown assailant.
The fifth child, Bessie Melissa, was my grandmother. She married James Barney Stokes from Floral City. They lived in the area of Slaughter where they farmed and raised cattle. The other children were Joseph Lesley, Primea, Jessie, Pearl and Dallas. I believe they all lived in Trilby or Lacoochee except Pearl. She moved with her husband to Frostproof, Florida.
Lizzie, Bessie and many others of the O’Berry family became teachers in the Pasco County schools in and around Trilby and Lacoochee.
The story that I am about to share was told to me by a granddaughter of Lulu. We had always been told by our grandmothers that Joe O’Berry was a kind and wonderful man.
About a year ago I received a phone call from Roberta McCall. She said she was the granddaughter of William and Lulu O’Berry Mickler. On my next trip to Florida, I went to meet her. I am sure that we had played together as small children, but I did not grow up Pasco County so have no memory of ever meeting her. She shared this story with me.
Roberta graduated from Pasco High School in 1942. Lulu O’Berry Mickler and my grandmother were sisters.
My Great-Grandfather, Joseph William O’Berry
By ROBERTA JOHNS MCCALL
My grandmother, Lulu O’Berry Mickler, use to tell me that her father, Joe O’Berry was a very fine man, but I always wanted to talk to someone who was not a family member who knew him.
One day she told me a story about a lady who was walking down the street of Trilby with her small daughter holding her hand and a baby in her arms. The daughter jerked free of her hand and ran across the railroad track right in front of a train. The train severed her leg. Joe O’Berry was standing in front of his meat market. He ran over to her, put a tourniquet on her leg, jumped on his horse with her in his arms and took off to find a doctor. The nearest doctor was out on a house call. My grandmother said he nearly killed his horse trying to find a doctor for this little girl.
In the 1950’s my husband and I moved to St. Petersburg, Florida. There was an elderly lady who lived across the alley with her daughter. She would come out to talk to me while I was hanging my laundry. I had noticed that the daughter walked with a limp. One day I mentioned that I was going to the first O’Berry reunion at my grandmother’s house in Lacoochee. This lady said "I know the O’Berrys. Joe O’Berry was a very fine man". I told her that Joe O’Berry was my great-grandfather.
This lady’s name was Mrs. Wilkinson. She proceeded to tell me about how her daughter had run in front of a train in Trilby and her leg was severed. She repeated the story as my grandmother had told me. I was so glad that someone had confirmed to me that my great-grandfather, Joe O’Berry was indeed, a very fine man.
Joe O’Berry was in his meat market late on the evening of January 9, 1910 and was shot through the window and killed. It remains unknown who the shooter was.
Mr. O’Berry was born in Pierce county, Georgia, Feb. 11, 1860. When six years of age his parents moved to Florida and settled three miles west of Dade City, just east of what is known as O’Berry Lake. He was married to Miss Mary Nix in 1882. Eight children were born of this union, of whom seven are living. One son, Henry, was murdered early in January while performing his duty as a deputy sheriff. Besides his widow Mr. O’Berry is survived by five daughters, Mesdames Annie Fogg, T. C. Beagles, Roy Lee, and Misses Minnie and Celia O’Berry all of Dixie, two sons, D. B. O’Berry of Dixie and E. R. O’Berry of Sanford, three sisters, Mrs. J. B. Miller of Dixie, Mrs. J. S. Gray of Tampa, Mrs. J. L. McClellan of Miami, two brothers, R. W. O’Berry of Sebring and E. B. O’Berry of Trilby, besides several grandchildren.
Daniel married Mary Ann Nicks (1860-1934), daughter of William Richard Nicks and Sophronia Mitchell. Daniel died on Mar. 25, 1926, at his home in Twin Lakes, just north of the Hernando County line. He was buried in the Townsend House Cemetery. Their children were:
A picture of the O’Berry family is here. [Information from Charles Blankenship]
JOHN MARION O’BERRY (1843-1927) was a Civil War veteran and pioneer resident of Pasco County. He was born in Pierce County, Ga., on Apr. 17, 1843. According to his obituary, after the war he war he moved to Florida, settling in Blanton, where he has resided ever since. On Jan. 9, 1868, or according to his obituary in 1867, he married Miss Mary F. Jones (1845-1927), the daughter of Rev. Matthew F. and Emily E. Jones. Mr. O’Berry died on Aug. 14, 1927, and is buried in Mt. Zion Cemetery in Dade City. Mrs. O’Berry died eight days before her husband. Her obituary said she was “reputed to be the oldest woman resident of Pasco county.” It said she was born in the Fort Dade section in October 1845. A 1924 article said that she was born in what is now Pasco County on Oct. 21, 1849. They had nine children, of whom eight survived them. They were four daughters, Mrs. M. C. Gainey, Bradenton, Mrs. A. S. Thompson, Tampa, Mrs. Robert Ansley and Mrs. Fannie Haycock, Blanton, four sons, W. J. O’Berry, Jacksonville, F. B. O’Berry, Columbus, Ga., J. L. O’Berry, Tampa and S. H. O’Berry, Dade City. Mr. O’Berry was survived by one brother, Tom O’Berry of Blackshear, Ga.
SOLOMON H. O’BERRY (1869-1930) married Sarah Elizabeth Howell (1870-1942), daughter of Mr. and Mrs. John J. Howell, who were pioneer residents of Pasco County. Their children were: Muriel E., b. October 21, 1894, m. H. B. Hope; Winford Howell, b. Apr. 6, 1897; David Elmer, b. June 10, 1899; Mary Ellen, b. Nov. 21, 1901, m. Hugh L. Hargraves; Claude Jackson, b. Sept. 13, 1904; Sara Jane, b. Mar. 16, 1907, m. Mr. Gilbert; Nellie Fern, b. Aug. 7, 1910, m. Yulee Thompson; John Marvin, b. Apr. 7, 1913; and Lillian Ruth, b. May 10, 1916. More information and pictures are here.
EDMUND BRITTON O’BERRY (1872-1943) was elected Superintendent of Schools of Pasco County three times. Before then, he had been a teacher in Pasco County for more than 30 years. He was born in Blanton, Dec. 18, 1872, and died at his home near Trilby. His parents were J. R. O’Berry and Susan Albritton O’Berry, both from Pierce County, Ga., who were pioneer settlers in Pasco County. E. B. O’Berry was married to Mrs. Maud Alma O’Berry. Their sons were Gregg O’Berry of Trilby, Marion O’Berry of Tallahassee, and Sgt. Wynn O’Berry, Army Air Force, and their daughters were Mrs. Ila Dowling of Blanton and Mrs. Lois Morgan of Trilby.