HISTORY OF PASCO COUNTY

St. Joseph

See also the history of the St. Joe school.

Detail from a 1957 Florida highway map, showing St. Joseph


St. Joseph (1914)

The following article appeared in The Catholic Church in the United States of America (1914).

SACRED HEART, St. Joseph, Fla. — Andrew Barthle, the founder of St. Joseph, Pasco Co., Fla., arrived in March, 1883, and, after three months, returned to Minnesota to tell his friends the wonderful things of “The Land of Flowers.” His brother, Bernard A. Barthle, settled in St. Joseph with his family in June, 1883, and Andrew and his family in January, 1885. Others soon followed, and the place became known as “Barthle Settlement” and later as “St. Joseph.” At that period San Antonio, Fla., was the nearest post office and place of worship. In 1888 the settlers were numerous enough to have a church, and on July 1, they requested the Rev.. Gerard M. Pilz, O. S. B., who came to San Antonio on May 12, 1886, to sanction their project. He did so, and the parishioners then acquired five acres of land on which to erect a German Catholic school or a church.The school was completed on September 30, 1888, and dedicated on Oct 1 by Father Pilz. It is a frame structure, one story high, with a bell tower n the rear, and served as a church until 1892. In it the first Mass in this settlement was celebrated by Father Pilz.

On Sunday, November 13, 1892, the church was dedicated by Bishop Moore of St. Augustine, assisted by the Benedictine Fathers Charles, Roman, Benedict, and James of St. Leo College, Saint Leo, Fla. The school and church were built and paid for by the parishioners, and never carried a debt; neither did the small rectory which the faithful erected themselves. All the buildings are of wood.

The parish societies were organized as follows: Sacred Heart Church Male Choir (1888); St. Joseph Acolythical Society (1888); Confraternity of the Scapular (1892); Trustees of the Sacred Heart Church (1892); San Pepi Arborists (1892); Chrislicher Muetterverein (1893); Holy Childhood (1893); Sodality of the Blessed Virgin Mary (1893); Altar Sodality (1893); League of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (1893); Sacred Heart Church Library (1894).

Since its foundation the parish has been in charge of the Benedictines from St. Leo Abbey, the pastors succeeding Father Pilz being: Revs. Roman Kirchner (1889-90); Benedict Roth (1890; 1892-1901; and again in 1910); Basil Siger (1891); Leo Panoch (1891-92); Albert Schaller (1901); Alexander Fink (1902-05); Augustine Feller (1905-09); James Schabaker (1910); and Benedict Roth.

The church has all the advantages of a city parish. Not only are there services on Sundays and holydays, but the devotions proper to the different months and feast days are celebrated with becoming ceremonies. Catechism classes are conducted by the pastor after the Sunday Mass. This is the only German congregation in the Diocese of St. Augustine; but twice a month there is an English sermon preached for the benefit of the several English-speaking members. All the members of the parish receive Communion frequently, and to this fact is attributed the piety and wholesomeness of their lives and the special blessings vouchsafed them.

In 1889 Father Pilz brought the Benedictine Sisters from Allegheny, Pa., to take charge of the San Antonio missions, and though the distance from San Antonio to St. Joseph is four miles, over bad roads, two Sisters conduct the school, which has 35 pupils. The Faribault-Stillwater plan is followed in the school.

Although some parishioners died as early as 1883, the deceased members of the parish are buried in the cemetery which was donated in 1891 by August Gerner. Of those who entered religious orders, Wenzeslaus Kindel (now brother Killian, O. S. B., St. John’s Abbey, Collegeville, Minn.) and Antoinette Buttweiler (now Sister Aria, O. S. F., Milwaukee, Wis.) were the first.

The population (100) has shown no increase since 1890, owing to emigration to Tampa or Jacksonville. The parish has never received benefactions from the outside world, the church furniture being made or bought by the parishioners, who also made the school benches. Recently the church and school had to be re-shingled. On such occasions the pastor has but to announce what is needed. Nor is his presence required to see that he work is properly done. Thus the church and school lot was fenced into a ark with beautiful trees after the announcement was made that “A new fence is needed around the church property.” The parish celebrated its silver jubilee in October, 1913.


The Town Built by Barthles

This article appeared in the Tampa Tribune, date unknown.

By CAROL JEFFARES HEDMAN

County Road 578 stretches west from Dade City, carrying the traveler from the bustling city into a quiet community plush with rolling hills and grazing cattle.

It’s a tranquil place where generations of families have lived on land homesteaded by their forefathers. And it’s a place that has remained basically unchanged in the 100-plus years since Andrew Barthle arrived from Minnesota to explore the countryside.

Barthle stayed in the area for three months, then returned to his family and friends in St. Joseph, Minn., according to Sister Dorothy Neuhofer, O.S.B., who has researched the history of the small east Pasco community.

Barthle’s reports of the sunny southland were apparently encouraging to his family. Shortly after his return to Minnesota, his older brother, Bernard A. Barthle, moved to the area with his wife and eight children. In June 1883, they established the first permanent home, located on what is now County Road 578, just west of Scharber Road, in what became known as St. Joseph.

When Bernard Barthle died in 1900, his youngest son, John B. Barthle, inherited the land and maintained the original family homestead until his death, said Neuhofer, the granddaughter of John B. Barthle.

In 1885, Andrew Barthle returned with his family and settled on 40 acres opposite his brother’s home. Another brother, Charles, the youngest of the clan, came to the community a short time later and acquired a 40-acre section just east of Andrew Barthle’s property. The northeast corner of this land later became the site of the first general store in the community.

In later years, Andrew Barthle relocated to the corner tract of land west of Sacred Heart Catholic Church, and Charles Barthle eventually moved to San Antonio, where he founded the St. Charles Hotel.

According to family tradition, Andrew Barthle Sr., father of the three Barthle brothers, also settled in the area, which was first known as “Barthle Settlement” or “Barthle crossing.”

By 1888, the community became known as St. Joseph, presumably after the town in Minnesota where the original settlers had migrated from.

The Barthles were German Catholic immigrants who came to the United States in the mid-19th century to settle in Ohio. They later moved to Minnesota and finally to Florida.

Other families, many from Minnesota, also came to the community, and by 1888 the area had grown considerably, necessitating a church and school closer than those located about four mikes south in San Antonio.

A group of pioneer settlers obtained approval from the pastor in San Antonio to build their own German Catholic school and church on five acres of land acquired from the Plant Investment Co. A small frame building served as the church and school. A single-story structure known as Jubilee Chapel was designed with a bell tower in the rear and a platform inside in front of the school hall on which the altar for worship was placed.

The chapel was completed in September 1888. But by 1892, the community had outgrown the structure and construction was begun on a church to accommodate about 100 people. This structure, dedicated as Sacred Heart Catholic Church, was also a frame building with a steep gable roof and was placed to the west of the Jubilee Chapel.

The school also opened in 1888 with Bernard Barthle as the first teacher. But in September 1889, the Benedictine Sisters were put in charge of the school, enrolling 35 pupils.

The school originally was organized as a parish school. But around the turn of the century, a devastating freeze left the people poor and without money to continue supporting the school. The county then assumed financial responsibility for the school.

The Benedictine Sisters continued as teachers until 1918, when the county school superintendent issued an order prohibiting the sisters from teaching in public schools in their religious habits.

In 1921, when a new county superintendent took office, the board of trustees of the St. Joseph School submitted the name of Sister Annunciata Newman, O.S.B., to be approved by the School Board as a teacher. Since then sisters have remained as teachers. In the 1960s they were joined by lay teachers.

Until 1918, the county rented the old chapel schoolhouse from the parish. But that year, the county bought an acre of land next to the church property and built a one-room frame building as the school. A second room was added in 1924.

The school remained open until 1981, when the nearby San Antonio Elementary School was opened.

Since its founding, many families have come to live in St. Joseph. Some have left, seeking a more metropolitan lifestyle. But many remained to spend the rest of their lives and leave behind their descendants.

Among the names of pioneer families still remaining in the area are Barthle, Blommel, Petters, Gude, and Nathe. Since the community is unincorporated, the population today can only be estimated at about 400.

Many things have changed in the past 103 years, but many have remained the same.

From a St. Joseph column published between 1896 and 1900 in the San Antonio newspaper, Neuhofer determined that the main industry of the settlement in those days was agriculture—growing strawberries, citrus and vegetables, and raising hogs and chickens. It remains so today.

The concerns of the pioneer farmers were also much as they are today—whether there would be enough or too much rain and whether winter would bring freezes.

The farmers also were concerned with building roads to get their crops to town and with the constant threat of decreasing farm prices. In 1898, according to one of the St. Joseph columns, the price of strawberries that had been selling for 35 to 40 cents a quart was dropping to 20 and 25 cents. The farmers had to make 18 cents a quart to break even.

Gertrude Gude, granddaughter of founding father Bernard Barthle, said in a 1983 interview when she was 91 that she had seen many changes in her lifetime.

“We didn't have all the conveniences, and people did a lot of visiting,” said Gude, who had lived most of her life on the same 40 acres that had belonged to her father, Joe Nathe.

“Visiting” was the primary source of entertainment, she said. “I really miss that. It seems people today are working all the time. And we had a lot more fun playing with broken dishes and sticks and strings than kids do today with all those expensive toys,” she said.

Gude said her family raised all its food and sold the excess to obtain other needed items.

“Every time you'd go to the store, you'd take syrup, chickens or eggs to buy flour or things like that,” she said. “We'd drive a horse to Dade City and always take something you grew in there to trade for whatever you needed. It'd take several hours—most of the day—to go to town because we had to go on sand roads through the woods.”

And, Gude said, “I raised eight kids, and none of them ever rode a school bus. We walked barefooted to the St. Joe School.”

Gude sewed all the clothing for her family and did laundry with a washboard until her eighth child was born.

When asked what makes people stay in St. Joseph, Gude said she didn't really know.

“But I've never been anywhere else—never spent any time on vacations. I thought it was a waste of money,” she said.


San Antonio Herald News Items

Nov. 4, 1897. Mr. John Mueller has the best looking strawberry patch in St. Joseph and, as I believe, in the whole colony. It is on newly cleared hammock soil and on rich and fertile land. Mr. Andrew Barthle has several strawberry blossoms in his patch.

Nov. 11, 1897. Our tobacco growers are very hopeful and they have good reasons for it. At the Nashville exposition the Florida tobacco has been declared equal to the best Cuban, and at Sanford the Pasco county tobacco to be the best of all Florida.

Nov. 18, 1897. Rev. F. Louis came out to St. Joseph last Sunday, mounted on his new Columbia Bicycle. Although the roads are too sandy for a quick trip, the Rev. Father made the distance in as short a time as a good team could do it.

Dec. 2, 1897. Syrup boiling with all its attractions is now in its best season and the ever sweet work pays well too. Mr. Wm. L. Osburn received from 1½ acres 13 barrels of fine, first-class syrup. ... The new road between St. Joseph and San Antonio will be opened next week.


Barthles Spread Word About St. Joe

This article appeared in the Tampa Tribune on Jan. 23, 2002.

It may be the tiny Kumquat that puts this little community on the map these days. But officially, St. Joseph has been on the map for more than 100 years.

And even with the attention brought by Saturday’s Dade City Kumquat Festival, St. Joe most likely well return to its low-key profile in the days that follow.

That’s the way it’s been, and that’s the way folks in this rural “kumquat capital of the world” want it to stay.

Indeed, the northeast Pasco community has been know for its kumquats since 1926. But St. Joe’s history dates to the 1880’s, when Andrew Barthle came from Minnesota seeking the sun-drenched Florida countryside.

Barthle stayed three months before returning to tell family and friends in St. Joseph, Minn., about Florida’s virtues. Soon, his older brother, Bernard, moved down with his wife and eight children.

In June 1883 they set up the first permanent home, on what is now County road 578, west of Scharber Road.

Andrew Barthle returned with his family in 1885 and settled 40 acres opposite his brother’s home. The youngest Barthle brother, Charles, came a short time later and acquired 40 acres east of Andrew’s land.

Andrew Barthle Sr., father of the three brothers, also settled in the area. First known as Barthle Settlement and Barthle Crossing, by 1888 it was called St. Joseph after the Barthles' Minnesota hometown.

Making Themselves At Home

The Barthles were German Catholic immigrants who settled in Ohio in the mid-19th century. They later moved to Minnesota, but found their permanent home in Florida.

Other families, many from Minnesota, also came to Florida’s St. Joseph. By 1888, the area had enough families to warrant a church and school closer than those located about four miles south in the Catholic Colony of San Antonio.

That July, Father Gerard Pilz, the Benedictine pastor of St. Anthony of Padua parish in San Antonio, approved a new venture at St. Joseph. The pioneers built their own German Catholic school and church on five acres acquired from the Plant Investment Co.

On Oct. 1, Pilz dedicated the small frame Jubilee Chapel and celebrated the first Mass, naming the parish for the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Almost from that day, Jubilee Chapel was used as a schoolhouse, with Bernard Barthle as the first teacher.

Nuns Were In, Out, In Again

By September 1889, the Benedictine Sisters of Holy Name Convent, who had come to provide educational services for San Antonio earlier that year, had taken over teaching St. Joseph school’s 35 students.

The school originally was organized as part of the parish. But around the turn of the century, a freeze left people without money to support the school, so the county assumed financial responsibility.

Nuns continued teaching there until anti-Catholic governor Sidney Catts was elected in 1917 and made good his threat to remove them from the public school payroll. At the time, sisters from Holy Name Priory were teaching at St. Joseph and St. Anthony.

St. Anthony School had been opened to serve the San Antonio Catholic colony in 1883. In 1891, at the request of St. Anthony church’s pastor, it became public.

Nuns returned to teach at St. Joseph public school in 1921 when Catts was ineligible to run again for governor.

In the 1960s, the sisters were joined be lay teachers. And in 1981, the school closed when the public San Antonio Elementary opened nearby.

They Built it, They Came

Almost from its start in 1888, Jubilee Chapel overflowed with worshipers as well as students. Within four years, work had begun on a new church for about 100 people.

The frame building with its steep gable roof was built west of Jubilee Chapel and dedicated as Sacred Heart Church.

Construction was directed by Father Benedict Roth of Saint Leo Abbey, who was the missionary pastor to the Catholics of St. Joseph.

In 1933, while Abbot Francis Sadlier of the abbot was pastor, a 12-foot addition to the front of the building included an impressive bell tower.

The church was replaced by the current Sacred Heart church in 1976.

Comings and Goings

A post office opened in St. Joseph in May 1893 and closed in November 1918, in favor of service from Dade City.

Two of the original Barthle brothers stayed in St. Joseph, with Andrew relocating to land west of Sacred Heart church. His brother, Bernard, died in 1900 and his youngest son, John B., inherited his land and maintained the original family homestead until his death.

Charles Barthle moved to San Antonio and opened the St. Charles Hotel in 1913. Ted and Anne Stephens bought the place in 1995 and restored it as a bed and breakfast, the St. Charles Inn.

Other descendants of pioneer families are still in the area, and many still work their forefathers' land.

According to a San Antonio newspaper column published between 1896 and 1900, St. Joseph’s main industry was growing strawberries, citrus and vegetables, along with raising hogs and chickens.

Not surprisingly, then, the concerns of early growers were much the same as today: whether it would rain enough or too much, and whether it would freeze in the winter.

Farmers also were concerned with building roads to get their crops to town. And in 1898, they fretted about decreasing prices. Strawberries selling for 35 to 40 cents a quart dropped to 20 and 25 cents. Farmers had to make 18 cents a quart to break even.

Life Was Simpler Back Then

Gertrude Gude, granddaughter of Bernard Barthle, then 91, said in a 1983 interview that “visiting” was the primary entertainment in St. Joseph when when was young.

“I really miss that. It seems people today are working all the time. And we had a lot of fun playing with broken dishes and sticks and strings than kids do today with all those expensive toys,” said Gude, who lived most of her life on 40 acres belonging to her father, Joe Nathe.

The Nathe family raised all its food and sold the excess to obtain other needed items.

“We'd drive a horse to Dade City and always take something you grew in there to trade for whatever you needed,” Gude said.

“It'd take several hours—most of the day—to go to town because we hod to go on sand roads through the woods.”

Gude’s other grandfather came from Minnesota to settle in St. Joseph in 1887. Casper Joseph “J. C.” Nathe worked several jobs, including at a nursery near Jessamine. There, he became acquainted with the kumquat, considered an ornamental plant back then.

Nathe set out an acre of kumquat trees in 1912, a year after buying 340 acres of mostly uncleared land. Nathe also planted 50 acres of citrus, plus tried growing bananas, avocados, guavas, pineapples and vegetables for his family and neighbors to share.

Within a few years Nathe’s kumquat trees bore enough fruit for preserves. Before long, orders started coming in and he set out more acres of tress. By 1926, Florida Grower magazine crowned Nathe “the world’s kumquat king.”

Other growers followed, and soon Pasco County became the world’s leader in producing and shipping the fruit.

So it remains today. Annual production of kumquats in St. Joseph is 250 acres of 10,000 bushels or 500,000 pounds.

The Greater Dade City Chamber of Commerce took that fact to build its successful Kumquat Festival five year ago. Although the kumquat remains the focus, many other activities are scheduled for the one-day event downtown.


Kumquats A Strong Influence On St. Joseph’s Agriculture

This article appeared in the Tampa Tribune on Jan. 22, 2003.

By CAROL JEFFARES HEDMAN

It’s been 120 years since the Barthle brothers came from their native Minnesota to settle the community now known as St. Joseph.

Others followed, including fellow Minnesotan Casper Joseph “C. J.” Nathe, who arrived in Florida at age 20 in the summer of 1887.

Most residents of St. Joseph grew strawberries, citrus and vegetables, plus raised hogs and chickens, according to a column published between 1896 and 1900 in a San Antonio newspaper.

With agriculture the main industry, the concerns of the early residents were much the same as today: the weather, as in whether it would rain enough or too much and whether the winter would bring freezes.

The farmers also were worried about decreasing farm prices. In 1898, strawberries that were selling for 35 to 40 cents a quart dropped to 20 to 25 cents. The farmers had to make 18 cents a quart to break even.

The first years in Florida were hard for Nathe. He worked various jobs, saving what he could with hopes of someday buying land to farm.

One job was at nearby Jessamine Gardens, a plant nursery owned by J. W. Ellsworth.

Nathe, who worked there for 10 years, shared Ellsworth’s love of flowers and plants. Nathe particularly was fond of the ornamental fruit-bearing kumquat tree.

A Gift Of Prosperity

The kumquat is native to China and was given as a traditional gift on New Year’s. Translating to “golden coins,” the kumquat represents prosperity, according to information from TV horticulturist Roger Swain.

The kumquat was introduced to Europe in 1846 when the Royal Horticulture Society sent Robert Fortune to China to find the plant that rice paper was made from. He brought back that plant, plus the kumquat.

It wasn't long before a specimen was brought to America, and a short time later it was introduced into Florida.

In 1885, two Florida nurseries imported both the oval or negami variety and the small, round or meiwa kumquat directly from Japan. Most of Florida’s kumquats were derived from those introductions.

The kumquats Nathe had seen at Jessamine Gardens probably were negami variety.

By 1911, when Nathe had saved enough to buy 340 acres, he planted an acre of kumquats.

Most of his land was uncleared. But on 50 acres he planted citrus and also tried to grow bananas, avocados, guavas, pineapples and vegetables for his family to use and share with neighbors.

It was the 1 acre of kumquat trees that put Nathe in the history books. It is thought Nathe planted the first kumquat trees in 1912, and within a few years the trees were bearing fruit.

The Kumquat King

Nathe and his wife, who had 14 children, made the kumquats into preserves and shared with friends, which brought requests for more. Before long, Nathe began to see kumquats as more than just an ornamental fruit.

Nathe planted more acres of kumquats, and by 1926 The Florida Grower magazine had crowned him “the world’s kumquat king.”

Although Nathe’s grove of kumquats totaled only 4 acres, considerably less than other growers, his trees were so prolific that his shipments gave him the first-place ranking among producers.

During the 1926 spring season, Nathe picked and shipped some 1,699 crates of kumquats. The average price was $2.50 a crate, but Nathe also received as much as $6 a crate.

Because Nathe and his family grew more than enough other fruits and crops to feed them and produce income for their living expenses, the $4,000 a year Nathe netted from the kumquats was “above expenses income for a farm,” the Florida Grower stated.

In the years that followed, kumquats became Nathe’s principal income. Seeing his success, others planted kumquats in the St. Joseph area.

Soon Pasco County became the world’s leader in production and shipment of the fruit.

Other early kumquat growers included L. Lipsey of Jessamine, who was said to have produced as many as six crates from one tree. In the Blanton area there were 20 to 25 acres of kumquats. And at Lake Iola, W. W. Taylor planted 10 acres, said to have been the world’s largest single kumquat grove.

Christmas, Candy And Marmalade

In earlier days, kumquats weren't generally known throughout the country. The demand was only in a few eastern cities where they were used for decorating during the winter holidays.

Candy makers made the fruit into a crystallized confection, either plain or stuffing them with dates or nuts. Canning factories and preserving plants also began to realize the possibilities, and much of Pasco’s harvests were made into marmalades.

In February 1930, the first solid carload of kumquats ever shipped was sent from Dade City to Chicago on Atlantic Coast Line Railroad. It was Nathe’s fruit, shipped in brine in large barrels to a marmalade factory in Chicago, according to a 1930s article in the Dade City Banner.

More carloads of kumquats followed, most shipped by rail from the San Antonio Railroad Depot. And in the 1950s, many residents of that town sported front license plants reading “San Antonio—Heart of the Kumquat Country.”

But as production increased and prices decreased, the returns of the kumquats often failed to cover ever-increasing freight charges.

As a result, some larger growers marketed their kumquats at the Tampa and Plant City farmers markets. Those without markets replaced their kumquat groves with orange trees, which require less care.

At the time, there were also a couple of local brokers. One was Eddie Flicker, the largest kumquat dealer in Florida. He eventually sold his business to James and Agnes Durden, and the market was back in the hands of the growers.

Prices rose again, and some new kumquat groves were planted. But a hard freeze in 1962 destroyed the fruit on the trees and some of the younger plants.

More Industry Roots

About this time, the Durdens and another local grower, Florian Gude, started the St. Joseph Fruit Processors. Locally grown kumquats not used for fresh fruit were processed in a preservative for shipment to canneries and candy makers throughout the country.

In 1971, there were three large growers—the Durdens, Fred Heidgerken and C.J. Petters and Sons—who marketed their own kumquats and purchased others from neighbors.

Kumquat Growers Inc. was born when Heidgerken offered to sell his business and packinghouse to several small growers from whom he purchased kumquats. The original owners/growers were Charles Barthle, Frank Gude, Joseph and Paul Neuhofer and Heidgerken. Heidgerken eventually sold his interest to Louis Barthle. Neuhofer replanted his grove in oranges and sold his interest in the company.

The current owners of Kumquat Growers Inc. are Frank and Rosemary Gude, and Joseph and Margie Neuhofer. Kumquat Growers Inc. is a one-of-a-kind business that grows, harvests and markets kumquats throughout the United States and Canada and parts of Europe.

Most of the 45 acres of kumquats grown in St. Joseph are packed for shipping at Kumquat Growers Inc. The Gudes own some 15 acres; the Neuhofers, 7 acres; and Kumquat Growers Inc. another 7 acres. Kumquat Growers even leases a couple of other groves because the fruit is needed.

With an annual production of 10,000 bushels or 500,000 pounds on 250 acres of kumquats in St. Joseph, it is known as “the kumquat capital of the world.”

The Greater Dade City Chamber of Commerce took that information six years ago and introduced the inaugural Kumquat Festival. The “golden coins” promise to again lure thousands to downtown Dade City for the sixth annual Kumquat Festival on Saturday.

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