HISTORY OF PASCO COUNTY
San Antonio / St. Leo
Nov. 27, 1882. A post office is established at Sumner.
Dec. 19, 1882. The Sumner post office is renamed San Antonio.
1883. A survey of San Antonio, dated Nov. 30, 1883, is here.
Aug. 25, 1887. Apparently vol. 1, no. 1 of the San Antonio News was published on this date, with William B. Lynch, editor. The newspaper may have ceased publication in 1891.
Feb. 13, 1888. The first Orange Belt Railway passenger train passes through San Antonio. Previously, the nearest railroad point was Wildwood.
June 14, 1888. The San Antonio News states that it is published semi-monthly by Jno. J. O’Neill, editor, and P. E. Lyons, assistant editor. It has:
Well this is the long looked for picnic day. ... This picnic is given by the San Antonio Literary society, an enterprising body of young men who about a year and a half ago, formed themselves into a society for their mutual benefit. It was intended to be a literary and dramatic club. Their first appearance before the public was their picnic on the 16th of June last year, a grand success which made a name for the society. It brought together the largest crowd that ever met in Pasco County. Then they started this newspaper which they still own. ...
The newspaper also reported that the general business manager of the Benedictine Order in this country has been examining the San Antonio colony to determine whether to establish a college here. It reported that the Farmers’ Alliance was organized at Clear Lake school house on the second of May. Advertisements appeared by: Jos. G. Kirchner, blacksmith; John S. Flanagan, justice of the peace and notary public, with land for sale; J. W. Fisher, M. D., physician and surgeon, with his office over the Dade City drug store and his residence at the Dade City hotel; Dr. J. W. Gatton of San Antonio; Dr. J. G. Wallace of Dade City; M. J. Dooner, merchant in San Antonio; Coleman, Ferguson & Co. of Dade City; T. Lucas and Co. of St. Thomas, with dry goods, groceries, boots, shoes, Queensware, harness and saddlery; J. C. Tremmell, engraver and repairer; Charles M. Gailmard, breeder of land and water fowls; William Sultenfuss, lumber yard proprietor; Brand and Wichers, date grove and nursery.
1889. A Frenchman in Florida quotes Judge Edmund F. Dunn (in translation):
We have a judge who fulfills the duties of a notary public. His name is John S. Flanagan. Mr. Paul Gailmard, your compatriot, is a photographer. You saw his gallery. In the colony itself, medicine is practiced by Dr. Corrigan; in Ft. Dade, not far from here, there lives a physician-surgeon who can cut off your leg as easy as an alligator can. If you like, when passing through Ft. Dade, ask for Dr. A. S. Alexander—35 years in practice. This year, I have established a here a newspaper, The San Antonio Herald, appearing from time to time, which doesn’t really make it less interesting as you can judge for yourself by the collection you see here. The subscription is five francs a year. The editor of the newspaper is G. M. Jordan. He is also the writer. We have two editors and two printers.
Dunne also identified the presence in San Antonio of a civil engineer, a customs inspector, an architect, a glass worker, a superintendent of streets and roads, a carriage maker, an organist, countless carpenters, and a professor of Latin and Greek.
June 4, 1889. Gov. Francis P. Fleming signs into law an act passed by the legislature incorporating “the Order of Saint Benedict of Florida.” The act authorized the corporation to establish a college.
Oct. 18, 1890. A post office is established at Saint Leo.
Feb. 24, 1891. Residents vote to incorporate Saint Leo. [Dr. Joseph Felix Corrigan (1846-1918), the attending physician of Saint Leo College, was elected the first mayor and his home served as the town hall. Others elected were: city clerk, E. G. Gailmard; marshal, Michael Forster; councilmen, J. S. Slevin, B. M. Wichers, N. P. Bishoff, Wm. Grus, and W. L. Mobley. Saint Leo was incorporated by an act of the legislature on June 2, 1891. The town’s web site says St. Leo became a town on July 4, 1891.]
Aug. 7, 1891. Residents of San Antonio vote 28-8 in favor of incorporation, and chose these officials: Mayor, G. S. Bowen; Aldermen, F. J. Christ, F. J. O’Neill, J. W. Jackson, Bernard Kissen, Patrick McCabe; Clerk, Paul R. Gailward; Marshal, P. J. Lyons. [Information from a 1991 address by Dr. James J. Horgan published in the Pasco News and incorporation papers provided by Jeff Cannon. However, according to a web page San Antonio was incorporated in 1889. The Florida State Gazetteer and Business Directory for 1886-87 has in the San Antonio listing: “This is an incorporated village.”]
Feb. 7, 1895. A temperature of 16.8 degrees is recorded at Saint Leo.
Nov. 4, 1897. The San Antonio Herald has these news items:
Nov. 18, 1897. The San Antonio Herald reports, “Current rumors have it that Mr. J. S. Flanagan intends to embark in the turpentine business and that he has secured all the available timber from here to Carml for this purpose.”
Dec. 9, 1897. The San Antonio Herald reports, “The projected turpentine camp on the northest [sic] corner of the town limits will soon be a reality. Arrangements have been completed for the erection of a number of houses for the working force and as soon as they are built the hands will be brought here and active operations will commence. Mr. T. J. O’Neill has charge of the preparations and will most likely accept a position as overseer.”
Dec. 23, 1897. The San Antonio Herald reports, “A name has been decided upon for the new turpentine camp and the settlement will henceforth be known as ‘New Klondike’ or Klondike for short. ’Possumtrot avenue is to be the principle thoroughfare.”
Jan. 27, 1898. The San Antonio Herald reports, “In last Saturday’s municipal election the following gentlemen were chosen: P. J. Lyons, Mayor; G. S. Bowen and Wm. Schirmer, Councilmen; F. J. Christ, Clerk and Assessor; J. H. Bishoff, Collector; J. F. Frese, Treasurer; and H. Wegmann, Marshall.”
Feb. 24, 1898. The San Antonio Herald reports, “Our county commissioner, Mr. A. Barthle of St. Joseph, is being complimented for the good judgment displayed in locating the new road to Dade City. It is a vast improvement over the old trails and when altogether finished, it will be one of the best roads in the county.
Mar. 3, 1898. The San Antonio Herald reports, “Our popular Tax Assessor, Mr. J. S. Flanagan, has just completed his annual assessment trip over the county, and he reports that the number of people who promptly made their returns exceeds those of previous years.“
June 16, 1898. The San Antonio Herald reports, “An ordinance of the town council of St. Leo prohibits bathing in Clear Lake without a bathing suit. This ordinance will be strictly enforced in the future and bathers are warned to provide themselves with the necessary garments. Violators, when seen, will be fined to the full extent of the law.”
Nov. 24, 1898. The San Antonio Herald reports, “The turpentine still of Crawford & Co. was sold last week to Messrs. Carmichael & Jones, who have already taken possession. The price paid for the property is said to be between six and eight thousand dollars.”
Feb. 2, 1899. The San Antonio Herald reports, “At the municipal election lately held at St. Leo, the following gentlemen carried the day by a goodly majority: E. G. Gailmard, Mayor; R. F. Martin Bunning, F. Ed. Delabar, and J. E. Scott, Aldermen; F. A. Delabar, Clerk; and R. Stuntenbeck, Marshall.”
July 13, 1899. The San Antonio Herald reports, “Mr. Sultenfuss’ saw mill is taken down and ready for shipment to Keystone Park, its destination. Mr. Sultenfuss will go along and superintend the setting of the mill.”
July 27, 1899. The San Antonio Herald reports, “The saw mill of Brown & Wishart has been removed to the Big Cypress, where it will remain for the present. Messrs. F. J. Christ and E. Eisele went down to help in setting up the machinery. But little progress was made on account of the rain that flooded the whole place.”
Aug. 24, 1899. The San Antonio Herald reports, “Some of our turpentine men are considering the introduction of an automobile for the heavy hauling, now performed by double teams of mules. The only drawbacks to the scheme are the rough roads, but the operators are willing to go halves with the county in fixing these to permit an easier mode of travel.”
Sept. 7, 1899. The San Antonio Herald reports, “The unusual ringing of bells last Sunday morning at 3 a.m. was due to a revival, which had been in progress in the colored churches of the turpentine camp.”
Feb. 8, 1900. The San Antonio Herald reports, “At the town election held recently in Saint Leo, Mr. R. Batchelor was elected mayor by a majority of six votes. Mr. R. Stuntebeck as marshall was re-elected, as was the Board of Aldermen with one or two exceptions.”
July 30, 1900. W. R. Clark and R. D. Golding are drowned in Lake Pearce, near San Antonio. They were out fishing and their boat capsized.
July 24, 1901. The New York Times reports:
JACKSONVILLE, Fla., July 23.—News reaches here from San Antonio, Fla., of a terrific electric storm at that town. Services were in progress at the time in the Catholic Church. This church was struck by lightning and partly wrecked. Father Benedict, who was in the confessional at the time, was knocked unconscious. It was first believed that he was dead. Miss Gerner, who was kneeling near the entrance, and several others, were shocked severely. The building was set on fire, and the entire interior seemed to be in flames at once. There was a panic and a wild rush to get out of the church. Many were bruised during this scramble for safety. Father Benedict was unconscious for several minutes. He recovered and is reported to-day to be well almost. The interior of the church was damaged badly.
July 30, 1902. The Ocala Evening Star reports:
The people on the passenger train that arrived here at 2 o’clock this afternoon over the A. C. L. saw a negro man hanging from a tree at San Antonio, in Pasco County, right by the track. The negro was lynched last night by a mob of citizens. His body was bloody and his clothes hung in tatters. The body had been riddled with bullets. A big crowd was gathered on the spot this morning. The man committed a rape upon a white woman. We could not learn the name of either the negro or his victim.
On July 31, 1902, a newspaper reported, “Ocala, Fla., July 30—An unknown negro was lynched at San Antonio, Pasco County, last night, for criminal assault on a white woman.” A newspaper story datelined Ocala, Fla., July 31, reports, “An unknown negro was lynched at San Antonio, Pasco county for criminal assault on a white woman. After being identified by his victim he was strung up on a tree in sight of the railroad station and his body riddled with bullets.” According to a web site, on Aug. 1, 1902, Alonzo Williams, a black man, was lynched at San Antonio. Pioneer Days spells the name Alonso Williams, and gives the date 1901. It quotes an unidentified newspaper article as saying that Williams choked into unconsciousness the niece of prominent resident Col. K. G. Liles and that “He was led forth to be dealt with summarily, but justly, and in a few moments the body of the beast was dangling from the Corrigan building and riddled with bullets, a fitting punishment that will always be dealt to such fiends so long as there is a spark of the fires of manhood in our breasts.”
Nov. 2, 1903. The Waterloo Daily Courier Jacob Schaefer wrote, “San Antonio is a small town, 29 residences, 4 general stores, 2 meat markets, having meat only on Saturdays, which is made of native cattle here; one blacksmith shop, one small saw mill, one turpentine distillery, a depot, public school, also a parochial school, also a convent for Sisters, a church, city hall, etc. St. Leo college is one-half mile east of here, laying on a big hill near the lake of Jovita, a fine, clear, sweet water lake one mile square. On this lake you can get a good boat ride and fish. Negroes are not allowed here to settle, the few which are here working in the turpentine stills, and if the still is moved the negroes go with it.”
Mar. 16, 1904. The Tampa Morning Tribune reports, “At the recent municipal election here, M. J. Dooner was elected Mayor, receiving 17 votes, over L. Halsema, who received 9. Other officials elected were: W. A. Semmes, Dr. McMullen, E. G. Liles, councilmen; B. V. Lyons, clerk; Frank Carroll, assessor; J. W. Higgins, collector; John F. Frese, treasurer; E. J. Scott, marshal.”
Mar. 25, 1906. The cornerstone of the new Abbey is laid. (The building was completed in 1913.)
Aug. 19, 1906. A turpentine man named John N. Burton kills Robert E. Wishart of Ocala, who operated a tie camp at Ehren. The shooting occurred at the office of a dentist named Nichols, located at San Antonio. Wishart was a patron; Burton intended to shoot the dentist but killed the wrong man.
1911. The three-story Holy Name Convent and Academy is moved by two oxen half a mile from the north end of the San Antonio Plaza to St. Leo.
Apr. 20, 1914. The Tampa Morning Tribune reports:
The new general store of Barthle & Lyons opened Monday. It is fully equipped with modern fixtures, and the proprietors are anxious to please. They have just installed a handsome McCray refrigerator and will handle a full line of meats. ... The young men are building a public bath house at the town landing, on Lake Jovita. A bath house there has been needed for a long time. The contract has been let for the new Ellslander Building, on Curley Street. It will be two stories, the lower floor being used for a millinery and dry goods store, and the upper floor as a restaurant. Miss Ellslander and Mrs. Hancock will manage it.
Dec. 3, 1915. The Dade City Banner reports that George J. Frese (or Freese) was elected Mayor of San Antonio, John S. Flanagan, H. M. Johnson, and James Rattigan were elected councilmen, and Adam Schiselbauer was elected clerk and marshal.
1918-1919. The 1918-1919 Florida State Gazetteer and Business Directory shows the population of San Antonio is 350. It lists: J. A. Barthle, general store; F. Benjamin, general store; Adam Dick, black smith and grist mill; Lambert Halsema, grocer; Lemke & Carroll, general store; D. McLeod & Co., turpentine; Mary E. Nancock, postmaster; Wm. Pethe, shoemaker; St. Charles Hotel; Max Ulrich, blacksmith.
The entry for St. Leo gives a population of 100 and lists: Charles H. Moore, pres. St. Leo College and postmaster; Abbey Printing Co.; J. F. Corrigan, physician; A. Delabar, express agent; Jesse Dunne, mayor; Hill Crest Grove Co., citrus fruit growers; P. Jerome, railroad agent; Charles H. More, pres. St. Leo College; Jack Osborn, truck grower; Benedict Roth, notary public; St. Leo College, Charles H. More, president; St. Leo College Orchestra and Band, M. Hartinger, director.
Aug. 13, 1921. Newspapers report, “Mayor George J. Frese of [San Antonio] is out on bond pending trial on the charge of violating the liquor law. He was arrested by Sheriff Sturkie of Pasco county, who claims that Frese was operating a moonshine still on the second floor of his residence, on the most prominent corner in town.”
Jan. 20, 1922. The Dade City Banner reports, “The final touches are being put to the electric line by H. E. Pfaff and his crew of able assistants this week, and San Antonio will in all probability have some street lights on Saturday night. While only a few of the homes and business buildings are wired at this time, the work is progressing right along, and before another issue of the Banner is published, the greater number of the people in this old and historical town will enjoy the comforts of an electric system.”
July 18, 1924. Tommie Thompson is elected Mayor of St. Leo, replacing St. Leo Frater Thomas, who had resigned earlier.
Feb. 5, 1926. The Dade City Banner reports that the Bel-Rich Hotel is now open, under the management of Walter Friebvel and George Ullrich.
May 21, 1926. The Dade City Banner reports:
An election to decide on changing the name of San Antonio, St. Leo and Currie’s golf course to Lake Jovita, has been called by the city commissioners. Superintendent Page, of the Atlantic Coast Line railroad, made visit here and declared if the three towns could be united and one municipality formed, the Coast Line would build a modern stone or tile depot north of Lake Jovita at the borders of St. Leo and San Antonio. The old depot is inadequate and unsightly. St. Leo is an important stop because of the college and will be of greater importance, when the golf course is completed. Abbott Charles Mohr has agreed to the change and will give up the postoffice, express office and the name of the town of St. Leo to have one larger and more important postoffice and depot. While there is considerable sentiment among the older residents against the change, the election will carry by a large majority, according to best information. Much annoyance is caused by the name San Antonio because of the larger city in Texas of the same name and considerable confusion results in freight, wire, mail and other business. Those advocating the change also call attention to the fact that “Lake” is a great asset in the name of any Florida city.
May 25, 1926. The Dade City Banner reports:
In the last issue of the Banner a dispatch from San Antonio told of the calling of an election to consolidate that city with St. Leo and the Jovita Golf course, under the name Lake Jovita. The account said that Abbot Charles of St. Leo Abbey had agreed to give up the railroad station, express office, postoffice and the name of the town, St. Leo. This dispatch was clipped from a Tampa paper and was received by them from their regular accredited correspondent and was supposed to be authentic. Since the publication of this report the Banner has been handed a copy of a letter written by Abbott Charles to the San Antonio city council and W. E. Currie, president of the Hill Crest Grove Company, in which he favors the change of the name of San Antonio, and the consolidation of the railroad stations and express offices of the two communities, but is not willing to surrender the St. Leo postoffice or the charter incorporating St. Leo as separate town. This letter from Abbott Charles was written before Easter. He is at present in the north on business, and so far as can be learned has not changed his position in this matter. The date of the election, which will be confined to San Antonio, simply decides whether the name of that city shall be changed to Lake Jovita or not, and has been set for June 2.
June 4, 1926. The Dade City Banner reports, “After an existence of many years the town of San Antonio passed peacefully away on Wednesday, to be succeeded by the municipality of Lake Jovita, the citizens of the place approving the change in a special election by a vote of 65 to 26.”
July 23, 1926. The Dade City Banner reports:
San Antonio, with its change of name to Lake Jovita, is passing out from the frame structure era to more permanent building. L. Herman is building a two-story tile and stucco business block to his addition to the city, containing three store rooms on the first floor and 11 rooms above. Oliver Hoehn is tearing down the old Florida House preparatory to building an apartment house, at a cost of $20,000. Mr. Hoehn is building a brick bungalow nearby for his own residence. Carl Harig is building a brick bungalow on his 12-acre tract on North Curley street. J. H. Barthle is arranging to build a brick business block on the present site of his store and Mr. des Rosiers is planning for a similar improvement for his store. Rumor has it that two parties are planning on building a hotel and it is hoped that at least one will materialize this year, as it would be well patronized the coming tourist season. It is rumored that plans are prepared for the building o f the new Atlantic Coast Line station on Pompance street, a half mile from College boulevard.
On Nov. 23, 1926. The Dade City Banner reports, “Lake Jovita, Nov. 22—One of the landmarks of Florida, and one of the most famous buildings in Pasco county gave way to progress this month when the old Florida House of this city was dismantled. A new modern brick bungalow is being built on the property which is owned by Oliver Hoehns. The hotel was a famous meeting place in the early days and politicians from all over the county and state met here and decided important matters. The county was much larger in those days and it played an important part in the affairs of the state. The old building was well preserved and Mr. Hoehns used many of the timbers for framing the new bungalow.”
Oct. 19, 1926. The Dade City Banner reports: “The last vestige of San Antonio, so far as Florida is concerned at least, will disappear on November 1, when the name of the postoffice of that thriving little village will be changed to Lake Jovita, to correspond with the new name authorized by an election held there last June.”
Nov. 1926. The Florida House is dismantled. According to the Dade City Banner, it was a Florida landmark and one of the most famous buildings in Pasco County.
Nov. 1, 1926. The San Antonio post office is renamed Lake Jovita.
Apr. 8, 1927. The Tampa Morning Tribune reports, “Representative Auvil introduced a bill to change the name of San Antonio in Pasco county to the city of Lake Jovita.”
June 1, 1928. The three-story science building of Saint Leo College is destroyed by fire.
May 23, 1931. Governor Doyle E. Carlton signs legislation abolishing the town of Lake Jovita and creating the municipality of San Antonio in its stead.
Aug. 1, 1931. The Lake Jovita post office is renamed San Antonio.
Jan. 7, 1945. The St. Leo gymnasium is destroyed by fire.
Nov. 4, 1967. The Jaycees present the first Rattlesnake Roundup, in City Park, in San Antonio. [The festival originally was conceived by founders Eddie Herrmann, Gerald McLeod, and Willy Post to replace the San Antonio Junior Chamber of Commerce Fun Day, which was being discontinued. In 2017 the Rotary Club of San Antonio announced it would discontinue the rattlesnake festival. The Thomas Promise Foundation subsequently took over the management of the event.]
2006. About 80 Lake Jovita residents present the town commission with a petition asking to secede from St. Leo. The town commission voted against it.
May 12, 2014. Gov. Rick Scott signs a bill that de-annexes from the town of Saint Leo 85 homes and two dozen empty lots in Lake Jovita Golf and Country Club.
Historical Landmarks of My County. . .The Settling of San Antonio
This essay was written by Mrs. Mary Marguerite Osburn-Pritchard when she was in school. It was printed in the Dade City Banner much later, on Oct. 31, 1963.
Before the white people came to this section, Chief Black Beard of the Seminole Indians headed the tribe in Riggs hammock. About 1843, Jacob Wells moved from North Carolina to the part of Hernando county that is now Pasco county and settled on the east side of Riggs hammock, a mile and a half south of the present site of St. Leo College post office. He was the first white settler of the region for miles around. In 1853, Mr. and Mrs. David Hampton Osburn and children (Mary, William, David Jr., Martha J., Sara Ann, Jackson, Eliza Jane, and four others) came to this community from North Carolina spending the first night here with Mr. Osburn’s cousin, Jacob Wells. Early the next morning they set out southwest in their ox-wagon to find a suitable place to settle. They struck camp that night at the present site of the St. Leo College farm. Finding the camping-place to their liking, the Osburn family settled there.
In 1866, Jackson A. Osburn (a son) was married and settled one mile south of the present site of St. Leo College and west of the Riggs hammock. He built a log house and a high rail fence to keep the deer and wild animals out of his fields:
About the same time, in 1866, Mr. Benner and wife, Betsy, John R. Howell and son, John Jr., and two half-brothers, Aaron and Isham, and son-in-law, David Sellars, came from Georgia. Herbert Williams, Wright Williamson, and William Jones all settled in a radius Of ten miles of what is now San Antonio.
Judge E. F. Dunne, an agent for Henry Diston, came from Chicago in 1881 and homesteaded at the present site of St. Leo College because it was suitable land for citrus growing. Judge Dunne came to the thriving farm community that had been started by Jacob Wells, David Osburn, and Johnny Howell; and started a Roman Catholic colony. Some of his Catholic friends came with him and others came later. From all sections of the United States, Catholics were attracted to this section through ads in Catholic papers.
In 1882, Captain Hugh Dunne and Abe Harnmed gathered 11 yoke of oxen from the settlers of San Antonio to go to Wildwood after the first sawmill engine and boiler. This was set up on the south side of Clear Lake. It was later sold to William Sultenfuss and later moved to Sultenfuss pond, which is below J. A. Barthle’s present residence.
The first church of San Antonio was a Roman Catholic church and was built in 1883 and dedicated by Bishop John Moore. The first post office was in the block where George Collins now lives and was served by R. A. Brown as postmaster. In 1883, Prof. Paul Gailmard built the printing office. His paper was called “The San Antonio Herald.” Some of the early settlers were Pat McCabe, an orange grower; Hr. Merriweather, who built the Colony Drug Store; and J. A. Frese, who located the first tobacco factory in the southeast corner of his store; Mrs. C. C. Morse, from Washington, D. C., taught school near the present site of the St. Leo Abbey; Jesse H. Dunne built the “home in town” on Clear Lake on the east side of the post office; W. M. Sultenfuss built the “Florida House,” the first hotel west of the present residence of P. Hohen.
In 1884, Joe Kirchner built the first blacksmith shop. In 1889, Dr. J. F. Corrigan built a large home near the east end of Clear Lake. The basement was of cement and brick and the upper part of lumber, all hauled from Tampa. In the attic were large water tanks. It took ten years to construct this large home.
Other settlers at this time were Patrick Carrol, L. Halsema, Mike Dooner, A. Bowen, and a Mr. Floss—all owning stores. Ben Wichers settled where the Grotto now stands. Ben Cason settled where the Lake Jovita filling station is, and John S. Flanagan was one of the county’s first public office holders (tax assessor and legislature). John Hand put up a blacksmith shop, Dr. T. R. Alexander was the local physician, and Pat Lyons was a carpenter. Other prominent early settlers of San Antonio were Alexander Cour, Mr. Fountain, Col. L. G. Lyles, Dr. Moody, Dr. Myers, and Dr. J. C. McMullen.
Supplies came from Tampa. It took four days to make the round trip. The camping grounds for the foray were at Trout Creek. In 1887, the “Orange Belt,” a railroad, was built through San Antonio. The depot was located where the packing house now stands. From that time to the present, the town has prospered but has never grown very large, but has always been noted as a law abiding, self-sustaining charitable community, a source of pride to its own citizens and a factor for good in the history of Pasco county.
Sources of Information:
Historical Sketch of Saint Leo (1938)
This article appeared in the Dade City Banner on Oct. 21, 1938.
The incorporated town of St. Leo, near here, so well known for its fine schools, is outstanding for another reason, that is no city taxes have ever been levied. This fact, to other towns where city taxes have been of prime consideration, makes a very unique incorporation among the cities and towns of the country.
Another unusual attribute of this town is that none of the officers draw any salary.
Mrs. M. Dunne Wichers interestingly sketches the story of the incorporation of St. Leo and some of its history as follows: “It was decided in 1891, by the residents of rounding Lake Jovita, to incorporate as a town. Accordingly the said residents were notified to meet at the home of Dr. J. F. Corrigan on February 24, 1891. The notice was signed by J. F. Corrigan, B. M. Wichers and N. P. Bishoff. The citizens of this community were each warmly urged to be present to celebrate the birthday of this new town and they were reminded that unless there was a unity of spirit and a willing co-operation, the desired benefits would not be realized, also that there must be a very friendly feeling to insure success and true contentment.
Accordingly the residents did assemble at the appointed time at the home of Dr. J. F. Corrigan on February 24, 1891, the date announced, and voted unanimously to incorporate. St. Leo was incorporated by act of the legislature on June 2, 1891, and comprised all Section 1. Township 25 South, Range 20 East, and all Section 6, Township 25 South, Range 21 East.
Officers elected at that time were mayor, Dr. J. F. Corrigan; city clerk, E. G. Gailmard; marshal, Michael Forster; councilmen, J. S. Slevin, B. M. Wichers, N. P. Bishoff, Wm. Grus, and W. L. Mobley. This election of officers was attested and notarized by John S. Flanagan of San Antonio, the sister town o f St. Leo, but not at that time incorporated.
This new town of St. Leo was the first town in Pasco county to pass a no fence law to abolish the awful nuisance of stray cows and hogs, destroying crops.
This group of public-minded citizens formed the nucleus of a community of attractive homes and thriving citrus groves. There is also in this incorporated town, St. Leo College and Prep school with many fine buildings and splendidly kept grounds, and a short distance from this school for boys and young men, is the Convent of Holy Names for girls, and also a school for small boys under twelve years of age. These schools are among the best in the state, with practically all teachers, holding college or university degrees.
All records of the town of St. Leo, with minutes of all meetings since the incorporation, are kept in the archives of St. Leo College.
Present officers of the town of St. Leo are mayor, J. H. Dunne; city clerk, Fr. Edward Martineau; councilmen, William Green and Peter Dunne.”
San Antonio Memories (1976)
This article is taken from East Pasco’s Heritage.
By THERESA SCHRADER
In 1917 my mother and father, Theresa and John Greif, decided to sell our farm in Winchester, Tennessee and move to San Antonio, Florida. In our weekly paper, The Sunday Visitor, San Antonio was described as a small town with a Catholic church and plans for building a parochial school. Holy Name Academy and St. Leo High School were nearby. Since my parents were both deeply religious, these opportunities for Catholic education seemed reason enough to search for a farm in this small community.
Papa and my oldest brother Charley came on the train to Dade City. They were met there by Joe Egyptian, a Dade City realtor. He had a car, quite scarce in those days, which made it easy for Papa and Charley to cover many miles in a few days. After looking over many farms, they decided to buy the old Bernie Lyons place. The Kuhn farm adjoining was owned by the Benedictine monks of St. Leo Abbey.
After making all the necessary transactions in buying the property, Papa and Charley hurried back to Winchester. No two people were ever asked so many questions at one time. The biggest thrill to us children was the grove included in the farm, full of oranges which we could eat to our hearts’ content. We could hardly believe that some trees in the grove had not only oranges but grapefruit, tangerines, and satsumas all on the same tree. As children we did not realize how much preparation had to be made for departure. Papa had two freight cars sidetracked at the depot so he could load our possessions. One car was loaded with all our household belongings. The other held farm implements, two very large horses, three of Papa’s prized Holstein cows, and enough hay and feed to last through the trip and many months afterward. Little did Papa realize that those cattle would never survive in the hot, sandy, tick-infested area to which they were coming.
The day finally came when we said good-bye to our many friends and our two married sisters remaining in Winchester. What seemed almost like an endless journey came to a close as the train rolled to a stop in San Antonio. There was no electricity there then, and darkness surrounded the small depot. I remember looking out the window, waiting to get off, and seeing white sand glistening in the moonlight like snow.
Mr. Charles Barthle was there to meet us holding a kerosene lantern, and led the way to the St. Charles Hotel. This hotel was operated by its owners, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Barthle, and four of their daughters. I’m sure it wasn’t often that a family of ten like ours was seen at the hotel, but I do know that they never seemed to lack for customers, especially during the tourist season. St. Charles Hotel was noted not only for its low price of ten dollars a week for room and board, but also for its meticulous cleanliness and the sumptuous meals served three times a day. Much of the food on the table came from a large garden behind the hotel. They also grew strawberries, and had many kinds of fruit. I’ll never forget my first trip to the bathroom that evening. Coming from a farm with an old-fashioned outhouse, we children were continually going to the bathroom just to pull that chain and watch the water flow away.
The next morning after breakfast Papa took all of us out to see our new home. How excited we were! We children were most interested in running wild through the grove, eating oranges and tangerines, and gathering fruit to take back to the hotel. To us the house was secondary. Since it was a new home and not quite completed, we had to remain at the hotel for a longer time than was planned.
When we finally moved into our new home, we enjoyed our new neighbors living on the Kuhn farm in a modest country house with a chapel upstairs. This farm was operated by three Benedictine monks, Brothers Leo, Paul, and Aloysious. As I recall, Brother Leo was manager at the farm. It was from him that Papa got most of his advice, since raising livestock and farming in Florida were quite different from what he had been accustomed to. Mama loved the outdoors, and twice a year planted a wonderful garden of vegetables, with a spot reserved for flowers.
Since we lived over three miles from town, transportation was quite a problem, especially on Sunday mornings when everyone dressed in his best to attend mass at St. Anthony Church. The one buggy we had brought with us was inadequate for our large family. One of the first purchases made was a large surrey from St. Leo Abbey. I believe this surrey had been donated to them by a wealthy benefactor; they had little use for it, so welcomed the sale. As a child I thought it the most elegant surrey I had ever seen, with its black leather padded seats and black and red fringe around the top. We children all wanted to ride in the new surrey, but had to accept Papa’s decisions. I remember that we used to try to get to church early every Sunday morning to see the Flanagan sisters, Mary and Loretta, arrive. To us girls they were models of the latest finery, with beautiful dresses, large picture hats, and fancy parasols. Their father, John S. Flanagan, played an important part in the early history of San Antonio.
We children walked every step of the three miles to school and back. Can you imagine a child of this generation walking six miles a day just to school? We didn’t mind too much, except when it was very hot; then we hoped for rain so someone would drive in to get us. There were very few paved roads then in Pasco County. We had to walk through sandy ruts covered with weeds, sandspurs, and black stickers which clung to our socks, especially on foggy mornings with everything wet with dew. It didn’t seem so far since the Pike and Govreau children also lived in that area, and we used to meet them at a given spot. From there on it was fun walking and talking together.
In 1914, I have been told, San Antonio had five grocery stores, a hotel, millinery and dressmaking shop, grist mill, laundry, two meat markets, a citrus packing house, wheelwright, and two blacksmith shops, auto repair shop, and a sugar cane mill. When we first came here in 1917, there were three grocery stores in San Antonio. Dooner’s store on Curley St. near the railroad was operated by John Tucker. Another, in a large two-story frame building where our postoffice now stands, was owned and operated by Joe Barthle. I remember the good times the young people had on the second floor of that building, dancing to the music of Jack Frost at the piano and Charley Logan strumming out tunes on his old guitar. On Pennsylvania Ave. northwest of Barthle’s store was the third grocery, owned and operated by the Halsemas. Many years later it was remodeled and made into a cafe and night club, the “Belrich Cafe,” operated by Walter Friebel and George Ullrich. Another store on the west side of the park was operated first by Lamke and Carroll, then bought by one of the owners, Eugene Lamke, and moved to the west corner of Curley St. and Massachusetts Ave. Later it was owned and operated by Claude Pike. Other groceries opened and either closed in several years or changed ownership. Among these was DeGuenther’s store on Pennsylvania Ave., which later had various owners, lastly John and Mary Jones.
Kiefer’s Bakery and Gerald Allen’s barber shop were in the same block. Years later we had an ice cream and soda fountain at the corner of Pennsylvania Ave. and Curley St. The San Ann Garage operated by my brother Charley and John Elslander on Curley St. served the public for many years, until Mr. Elslander moved to St. Petersburg. Then Joe Barthle built a garage and service station at the corner of Highway 52 and Curley St., where my brother Charley did business for many years.
In 1917 the San Antonio postoffice was on Main St. west of the park with Frank Carroll as postmaster. Later it was moved to the old Govreau house on the site of the present fire station, with Mrs. Mary Govreau Hancock as postmistress. Mrs. Beguine, grandmother of Leo DeRosier, owned and operated a little drygoods store on the corner of Main St. and Massachusetts Ave. She sold everything from laces to pocketbooks, including some of the prettiest hats in Pasco County. When the nuns from Holy Name Academy came into her store, Mrs. Beguine never let them pay for their purchases. One of the best blacksmith shops for miles around was owned and operated by Max Ullrich on Highway 52 near Holy Name Priory. One doctor residing in town was Dr. John Bradshaw. His home still stands west of the park, oldest house in town.
In the twenties Lucius Herrmann came to San Antonio and built a large stucco two-story structure with living quarters upstairs. He and his wife operated a bakery and service station. Later his son Joe built a large brick appliance store adjoining, and several smaller buildings including the present Eddie Herrmann Culligan Conditioning Plant. Due to Joe Herrmann’s untiring efforts, a bank was finally established there. It was also in this group of buildings that our first Credit Union stood; this was later moved to its present site at the corner of Main St. and Pennsylvania Ave. The San Ann Service Station, built in the early thirties, was managed by my youngest brother, Johnny. Recently it was replaced by a Majik Market.
The San Antonio Lumber Company, I believe, is the only business started in the mid-twenties which is still in operation today. This business was founded by my father-in-law, Herman Schrader, and J. P. Lynch. After a few years “Pop” Schrader bought out Mr. Lynch, and continued to operate the company until he became ill. In 1938 he turned the business over to my husband, Arthur, who operated it as his father had in a very conservative way. In September of 1957 Art suffered a fatal heart attack, and our oldest son, Art Jr., succeeded him. Over the past eighteen years he has proved his capability as a good business manager, expanding the store and operating it with the same honesty and integrity as his father. I’m sure if Art Sr. could see the San Antonio Lumber Company today, he would be proud of his son’s accomplishments.
A Short History of the San Antonio Area
The following article was written by William G. Dayton, and is reproduced on this web site with his permission.
On February 15, 1882, two men walked up a pine covered hill in what was then the southern part of Hernando County. From the hilltop they looked down upon a large and exceptionally clear lake. Government surveyors in 1845 had missed the lake altogether and the area was virtually uninhabited so the men probably felt that they had discovered the lake. One of them drew a Latin prayer book from his pack and read that the day was the feast of St. Jovita. He accordingly named the lake in honor of that early Christian martyr. The two men proceeded around the lake to the hilltop where St. Leo Abbey now stands and one of them decided that he would reserve that land for himself.
The travelers were Edmund F. Dunne, former chief justice of the Arizona territory, and his cousin, Captain Hugh Dunne. Judge Dunne was one of the attorneys involved in negotiating the Disston purchase of 1881, when Hamilton Disston of Philadelphia purchased four million acres of state owned land at twenty five cents an acre, thereby providing Florida with enough money to avoid default on the interest due on state bonds. Dunne took his attorney’s fee in the form of an option to develop a tract of one hundred thousand acres. Remembering the discrimination which Roman Catholics had experienced in Ireland and many parts of the United States in the nineteenth century and still smarting from the anti-Catholicism he had experienced in Arizona, Dunne envisioned the land as a "Catholic Colony", a settlement dominated by Roman Catholics, a center of Catholic civilization in Florida.
Judge Dunne placed the center of his colony a short distance to the southwest of Lake Jovita. There he carefully planned a town, named "San Antonio" to honor St. Anthony of Padua in acknowledgment of an answered prayer. For the City of San Antonio he reserved a full section of land, plotted streets and residential lots and set aside property for schools, a monastery, a convent and an orphan’s asylum. In the middle of town he laid out a public square in the European style.Surrounding San Antonio, he planned a series of villages and set aside portions of land to be kept in forest. Due north of San Antonio would be the village of St. Joseph. To the northeast would be San Felipe, and to the northwest, St. Thomas. South of San Antonio would be Villa Maria and, farther south, the village of Carmel at the end of a roadway lined with lime trees and castor bean trees, called Palma Christi, grown from seeds which had been shipped to Dunne from Egypt. Villa Maria and San Felipe disappeared in a couple of years but the villages of St. Thomas and Carmel lasted until the turn of the century, each with a post office and small church. St. Thomas also had a Negro mission, connected with a nearby all black settlement called "Possum Trot".
By 1883, the town of San Antonio was well established with several stores, a barn-like church with a resident priest (Father O’Boyle) and a school taught by Mrs. Cecelia Moore. In 1884, Dunne started publication of a newspaper, The San Antonio Herald. The early settlers of the colony included the McCabe, Gailmard, Hand, Carroll, Bischoff, Freese, O’Neal, Weaver, Liles, Quigley, Flannigan and Corrigan families. Most of the early settlers were of Irish decent, as was Judge Dunne himself, a papal knight and heir to ancient Irish titles of nobility.
The colony’s medical doctor was Dr. Joseph Corrigan, a wealthy and well educated man, brother of Archbishop Michael Corrigan of New York. The doctor acquired a large tract along the east side of Lake Jovita and built a palatial three story home. The house, with its private chapel, burned in 1913 but some of the palm trees which lined roads on the Corrigan estate and on the Jovita golf course which occupied the property in the 1920’s and 30’s can still be seen. The colony’s Justice of the Peace, Judge John Flannigan, lived in town in an elegant Victorian structure (now the Arnade home) . Judge Dunne himself resided in a book-filled cabin on the hilltop where St. Leo Abbey now stands. His wife, Josephine, who played an important role in organization of the colony, died in 1883.
Before the arrival of the Catholic Colony, the San Antonio area was largely uninhabited, save by the Osburn, Tucker, Wells, Kersey, Ryals and Wischers families. Before 1882, the Wischers were the only Catholics in Southern Hernando County. The small groups of protestant "crackers" in the area generally accepted the arrival of Catholic neighbors and even attended church with them on occasion. A French visitor to San Antonio in 1885 counted some sixty non-Catholics at the Easter Mass.
Until the late 1880’s San Antonio, like the rest of Hernando County, was quite isolated. Long journeys by wagon or ox cart were required to reach the nearest port (Tampa) or railroad station (Wildwood) . After 1887, when the South Florida Railroad passed through Dade City, things changed rapidly. Pasco County was formed out of the southern end of Hernando. The Orange Belt Railroad was constructed, passing through San Antonio on its way to St. Petersburg. Crops could now be shipped quickly and efficiently to northern markets. Many new settlers arrived and, to accommodate the prosperity which followed the railroads, the Bank of Pasco County was established in Dade City in 1889.
During this period the Order of St. Benedict began to make its mark on the developing community. Father Gerald Pilz, O. S. B., succeeded Father O’Boyle as parish priest and a group of Benedictine sisters arrived to manage St. Anthony’s School and found a private girl’s school at their convent, Holy Name, then located in the former Sultenfuss Hotel at the north end of the square. The building was moved in 1911, by an elaborate system of ox-powered pulleys and winches, to the hilltop where Holy Name Monastery now stands.
In 1889, Judge Dunne conveyed his own lands to the order of St. Benedict and a small party of monks led by Father Charles Mohr, O. S. B., arrived to establish a monastery and Catholic school and to found the town of St. Leo. The monks added to the groves planted by Judge Dunne and built a large frame structure to contain monastery, school and church. In the early days, St. Leo provided instruction which would now be considered at both high school and junior college level and granted a degree called "Master of Accounts." It was a military school at first but the military aspects were slowly abandoned during the early part of the twentieth century. The monastery was elevated to an Abbey in 1902 and Father Charles became its first Abbot.
In addition to providing priests for the churches of the Catholic Colony, the monks established Catholic parishes in Dade City, Zephyrhills, New Port Richey, Brooksville and Crystal River. St. Leo continued to supply priests for Catholic congregations throughout Pasco, Hernando and Citrus counties until the last decade of the 20th Century.
Beginning in 1883, the Barthle family led a number of Catholic immigrants from the German Empire into the area (by way of Minnesota) and founded St. Joseph, the last and only survivor of Dunne’s planned villages. A little board-and-batten church was built there in 1888 and dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
The whole area was permanently affected by the steadily increasing number of German settlers. By 1896 San Antonio’s Newspaper was no longer The Herald but the Florida Staats Zeitung. Undaunted by the great freeze of 1895, which severely damaged the citrus industry and caused the demise of many Florida towns, German families experimented with a wide variety of crops and, for a time, made the Catholic Colony a center of the strawberry industry.
San Antonio and the surrounding area maintained a distinctly Germanic character until the era of the First World War when Florida was convulsed with an unprecedented wave of Anti-German feeling combined with a strong Anti-Catholic movement led by the state’s governor, Sidney J. Catts. Governor Catts was widely quoted (and widely believed) to the effect that the "German" monks at St. Leo had an arsenal and were planning to arm Florida Negroes for an insurrection in favor of Kaiser Wilhelm II, after which the Pope would take over Florida and move the Vatican to San Antonio (and, of course, close all protestant churches) . A number of German settlers moved away to friendlier parts of the country. Others stayed and took the pressure. Abbot Charles of St. Leo published several dignified responses to the extravagant claims about Catholic "plots" and many local protestants made a point of appearing in public with their Catholic neighbors. When Catts visited the Pasco County area, he generally omitted the anti-Catholic portions of his speeches.
During the first two decades of the century, the Benedictines constructed the first concrete block building in Pasco County. St. Leo Hall at St. Leo was begun in 1906 and completed at the end of World War I. St. Scholastica Hall at Holy Name was completed in 1912. The architect for these structures was Brother Anthony Poiger, O. S. B. He designed the buildings and, using a mailorder kit, worked out the process for making the "Palmer" blocks used in their construction. St. Scholastic Hall was pulled down in 1978, but St. Leo Hall still stands, a monument to the industry of Florida’s Benedictine pioneers.
In 1926, during the Florida land boom, San Antonio was reorganized as the "City of Lake Jovita" and its boundaries extended a considerable distance. In an effort to "modernize," Judge Dunne’s street names were changed: Sacred Heart Street becoming Rhode Island Avenue, Pius IX Avenue becoming Curley Street, etc. The land boom ended abruptly in the same year, causing bank failures throughout the state. The Bank of Pasco County was the only local bank and one of the few in Florida to survive the "bust" of 1926 and the stock market crash which followed in 1929. When the Great Depression made it clear that the "boom" would not revive, the town changed its name back to San Antonio and withdrew the city limits to the section lines where Judge Dunne had put them in 1882 and where they largely remain. The secularized street names are about the only remnants of San Antonio’s "boom-time" modernism.
In the 1920’s, the Jovita golf course, built on the former Corrigan property, attracted internationally known golfers, including Gene Sarazen. The golf course did not survive the Great Depression but has been rebuilt and expanded in the 1990’s with the development of the Lake Jovita Golf and Country Club.
St. Leo functioned as a college preparatory school for boys into the 1960’s. Holy Name Academy functioned as a private girl’s school during the same period. By 1965 St. Leo and Holy Name had closed the secondary schools in order to make their facilities available for St. Leo Junior College, later a four year college and now a university with a graduate degree program.
A community with deep roots in the past and strong agricultural ties, Judge Dunne’s Catholic Colony is now comprised of the Cities of San Antonio and St. Leo, the unincorporated village of St. Joseph and miles of orange trees and pasture lands. The central role played by the Catholic church in the life of the community and the deep commitment to agriculture by generations of residents are, like San Antonio’s town square, reminders of what Judge Dunne envisioned in 1882.
A Convent on the Move (1989)
In the Summer of 1911 the three-story-frame Holy Name Convent building was moved from the center of San Antonio into the town of Saint Leo. The six-week move is documented in James J. Horgan’s Pioneer College, ©1989. Thanks to Eddie Herrmann for transcribing this section of the book.
As Saint Leo was taking to motorized wheels, Holy Name Priory experienced an unusual movement itself in the summer of 1911: the entire convent-academy building, a three-story behemoth 140 feet long and 75 feet wide, was physically hauled from its original 1889 site on the north end of the San Antonio Plaza, a distance of a half-mile, to the current location of the priory. It took six weeks. “The most amazing thing about that move,” remembers Walter Friebel, who witnessed it at the age of nine, “is that it was done with only two oxen.” And what was more remarkable still, the sisters continued to live in the building the whole time.
“The Benedictine Sisters of San Antonio began to move their Convent building over to St Leo town,” wrote Benedict Roth on July 5, 1911. “The job was done by a Mr. Reed, Baptist preacher of Tampa. — This was the building Mr Wm Sueltenfuss erected in the eighties for a hotel, and which he sold to Bishop Moore for a Convent building.” The sisters felt restricted in their 10-acre plot on the piazza, and the St. Augustine Bishop had purchased 40 acres for them a half-mile to the east. With more land, they could develop their academy; and it was cheaper to move than build anew.
W. H. Reed was “a man who really knew what he was doing,” remembers Walter Friebel. With a crew of a half-dozen black workers, he used a pair of oxen and a winch, anchored to a “dead man” timber buried deep in the ground, to pull the building along. “But before he started, he raised the building up, put planks on the ground, put planks on the floor joists underneath, and then put rollers between them so they would roll.”Then a steel cable was stretched around the whole girth of the convent, which had been braced throughout, and connected to the winch, anchored some 50 feet ahead of the building. The oxen simply walked around and around the winch, stepping over the cable a foot off the ground each time, as they had been trained to do. The building slowly inched forward on the planks and rollers, which the workmen pulled from the rear of the building and set down in front again as it advanced. When the convent had traveled the 50 feet to the winch, they unhitched the oxen, dug up the “dead man” timber, moved it another 50 feet, re-buried the anchor, hitched up the team again, and the building crawled forward once more. They could do barely one setting a day, recalls Friebel. They also moved the sisters’ windmill and water tank tower standing up. In that laborious fashion, a repeated process of anchoring, ox-winching, digging, and re-anchoring, the crewmen shepherded the convent for a month and a half, as they also cut a path through the woods to its new location.
Sr. Annunciata Newman, who had joined Holy Name Priory as a 17-year-old in 1910, recounted the adventure in 1975 at the age of 82. “Many people said this moving was impossible. Some did not want the Sisters to leave town, others could not see a three story move on logs by a big horse or two oxen for such a distance. Mr. Reed of Tampa and Mother Rose Marie could not be discouraged.” In fact, the city fathers of San Antonio were not enthusiastic about the project. As arrangements were getting underway, the Town Council refused to approve the “partation” Reed sought, and authorized Councilman W. A. Semmes at its morning meeting on June 30, 1911, to go to Dade City “and employ a lawyer to get an injunction restraining the cutting of trees on streets & plaza and moving convent across same.” There must have been a flurry of protests, for the council called a special meeting; that very evening, reconsidered, and voted “that the partation be granted Mr. Reed to move across the streets and cut 2 oak trees, 1 on the street and one in the plaza.”
The nuns of Holy Name went about their business as best they could throughout the disruption. The community had nine sisters, and there were 13 boarding students on hand throughout the summer. “Most of us slept in the Convent during the moving, either on the first or second floor. One can imagine our difficulty with laundry etc. It was a long time before we had light or water in the house,” wrote Newman. During the day Sr. Marie Dolores had classes in St. Anthony’s School for the academy girls. “The kitchen stayed in San-A. Sister Frances cooked the dinner there. Sister Annunciata often took the pans & pots home in the evening.” At one point, the rattle of the cook ware caused their carriage horse “Maudas” to bolt, with her companion Sister Angela screaming, “My God let me out!” But no damage was done. “Sister Mary, with Mr. Reed’s big horse, buggy and big umbrella brought the dinner to where ever it might be served.”
“When the rain fell in torrents and the ‘dead man’ came up,” she continued, a workman named Sneed used to “send Mother word for us to sing. We often sang ‘The Star of the Ocean is risen.’ Next to the Sisters’ bath room was an organ. Here Mother and Sister Annunciata sang.”
One particular thunderstorm was particularly memorable. “When the Convent left the road, it leaned and we feared it was falling. One night to add to the terror a storm came up. Dan Lane, a God sent, who worked for us during the moving, walked around the Convent watching to see if the wedges moved and listening for squeaks. Sister Mary and Mother moved the mattresses from ‘phone room to opposite side and back as the storm progressed. Sister A. slept on a sofa — thinking — dear Lord let it rain and the house fall I am too dead for sleep to walk with Mother.”
Wrote Newman in conclusion: “During the last of June until August 14th we really lived in a ‘fish bowl’”.
Bernard V. Lyons had been a pioneer 9-year-old student during Holy Name Academy’s brief coeducational era at its inauguration in 1889. He recalled the outcome of the 1911 project in a 1958 interview: “The foundations were so solid that the moving was considered highly successful; the 10 x 12’s were banded around, which facilitated the move and kept the foundation intact.”
However, Benedict Roth, who recorded the arrival of the convent on August 17, 1911, noted that the structure barely survived: “When it reached its present site the building was just about to collapse and fall down, and it would have ‘spread out’ on the ground were it not for timely proping [sic] up it received. So it was left facing East. It had been proposed to let it face South and only about thirty feet from the public highway, where foundations for it had already been made, namely brick pillars of large dimensions!!!”
Before the monumental moving was completed, 9-year-old Walter Friebel had an adventure of his own with W. H. Reed’s team of oxen:
Jimmy McCabe and I used to take care of his ox when he went to Tampa. And one time we decided we were going to take an ox ride. We got the oxen out and we hitched them to an old cart and we came uptown. And north of the post office was what we called at that time Spectacle Pond. Where it went down a little dry, there was always a stretch of land between the two ponds, which looked like spectacles, and we called it that. And we went a-riding with the oxen. We got up there and they got away, and we jumped out of the cart, and they ran into the water and the yoke started to float. The yoke on top of an ox is wood, and the bottom that went around their necks was iron pipe, and they had pins through it. Well, when they got into the water, the yokes started to float and the pins came out, and the bottom of those yokes fell off, and we had an awful time. Finally, we got the oxen together and put them back in their pen, but we never saw the man any more. We were scared of him.
In the fall of 1911, Mother Rose Marie Easly dispatched two sisters to the North “to beg,” as Sr. Annunciata put it. They collected $4,500 to pay the expenses of moving the convent.
On September 10, 1911, Roth noted that Abbot Charles had agreed to provide the now neighboring sisters with a perpetual gift: “Sunday, Feast of the Holy Name of Mary, Prior Aloysius, by order of Father Abbot, sent P Jerome to the Holy Name Convent building now safely moored in the State-incorporated Town of Saint Leo at about 12-leisure minutes’ walk from the Saint Leo Abbey, to say Mass therein, which commission (!) is henceforth to be carried out daily ‘semper in terram’ (always) by a priest from the Abbey, as promised the Sisters by Fr Abbot.”
The 45 acres of new land on which the transported building now rested had been acquired in the midst of controversy. There was nothing like a land dispute to produce an electrifying exchange, as was the case in Charles Mohr’s battles with Judge Dunne in 1893-1899 and with the “French Huguenot” in 1915 - 1917. This time, Mohr’s involvement was only peripheral, but he found himself under attack nonetheless.
In the 1880s and 1890s, Benedict Wichers, one of the Catholic settlers who antedated Judge Dunne’s colony, was operating a grove and nursery on 120 acres of land embracing the current sites of Holy Name Priory, the Grotto, and the Saint Leo golf course. “He was growing and shipping nutmeg, cinchona (quinine), and snake root (for mental disturbances) to the Brandt Drug Company in New Orleans,” noted Madaline Govreau Beaumont in the San Antonio centennial history. His brother Dr. Edmund Wichers, who resided in Germany, had loaned him money. The doctor’s pastor, prompted by the Wichers’ concern about his investment, wrote to Charles Mohr in the summer of 1895 and asked him to look after Dr. Wichers’ interest. “After a second letter,” Mohr wrote in 1897 then in the midst of the blow-up, “I finally consented to take a hand’ in this to me very disagreeable affair.”
Benedict Wichers did not welcome Charles Mohr’s inquiries. Dr. Wichers wrote to the Saint Leo president on September 17, 1895, from Gronau, Germany, that he was concerned about his brother: “I wish you would please convince my brother of the groundlessness of his suspicions. He imagines that somebody has written me calumniating him. But my distrust in him is founded upon his own letters to me, in which I find countless contradictions.”
Evidently a suspicious man by nature, B. M. Wichers imagined a deep conspiracy in the works when he lost his land in 1897 and blamed the bishop, the sisters, and Charles Mohr in particular for betraying him. The problem for Benedict Wichers was that he did not have full title to the land on which he was operating his business. In reality, the property was owned by the Florida Central and Peninsular Railroad. The government had designated it as “railroad land” 40 years earlier. Benedict was aware of this, but assumed incorrectly that his “homestead rights” would take precedence. In fact, his brother Dr. Edmund told Mohr that he had written the nurseryman “more than twenty times” inquiring about the title of the land, but had not gotten a satisfactory answer. Finally, through Benedict Wichers’ inattentiveness, it was lost.
John Flanagan, San Antonio’s most aggressive real estate entrepreneur in that era, was not only an exuberant booster of opportunities in the Catholic Colony, but a merciless acquirer of whatever land was available. Flanagan bought the 120 acres of Wichers’ “squatter land” from the railroad in 1897, sold 40 acres of it to Bishop John Moore for use by the San Antonio sisters, and donated a four- acre strip to Saint Leo at the lake inlet along the border of the college’s “Judge Dunne Forty” and the sisters’ land.
Benedict Wichers was outraged and shouted “clerical conspiracy,” completely without evidence, in a stormy letter to John Moore: “After you left here on your last-visit to San Antonio, the report was spread that you had bought the land from under me on which I live and which to your own knowledge I improved and lived on for six-teen years.” He added that he “could not think that a Bishop could be guilty of such an act,” and declared that he would fight for his rights “in court to the bitter end,” even “if the fight should last twenty years.”
The legal fight was brief. Benedict Wichers did file suit in the U.S. Land Office, but lost his claim. In the meantime, he vocalized wide complaints about all those he felt had wronged him. But he was pressed to temper his broadsides and agreed to write an “apology.” It turned out to be somewhat left-handed:
I herewith take everything back the people say, I had said against the sisters and the priest, except that I said Father Charles where [sic] in my estimation nothing than a liar and a thief.
Standing on the border of this business and ruing the day he had ever agreed to look into Wichers’ affairs at the behest of his brother, Mohr was not happy with this “retraction.” Wichers wrote another on December 15, 1897: “I hierwith [sic] take everything back I have said against Rt. Rev. Father Charles and Bishop Moore. In the hope of putting the matter to rest, Mohr himself wrote out an elaborate statement the next day, and sent Bro. Leo Fuchsbuechler to get Wichers to sign it:
Know all by these presents that I Benedict M. Wichers having by a decision of the U. S. Land office been refused a title to the 120 acres of land upon which I had labored for more than sixteen years under the impression that my claims to said 120 acres were good and would be sustained, did feel much aggrieved at such a decision of the U. S. Land office setting aside my claims. That upon J. S. Flanagan’s purchasing these 120 acres of land from the Florida Central and Peninsular Railroad Company — selling part of same to Rt. Rev. Bishop Moore and donating part of same to St. Leo College — alias “The Order of St. Benedict of Florida” — suspected that the aforementioned Bishop Moore and St. Leo College were the agitators in this matter, that they had supplied J. S. Flanagan with money and that though he purchased aforesaid 120 acres in his own name, that in reality he was only acting as the agent for the said Bishop Moore and St. Leo College. In the heat and excitement of the moment I said a great many uncomplimentary things against Rt. Rev. Bishop Moore and particularly against Father Charles — the President of St. Leo College. Upon investigation I find that my assertions were untrue and by this written apology do hereby withdraw any and all statements that I have made against the Rt. Rev. Bishop Moore and Father Charles.
The hapless and intemperate Benedict Wichers had a right to complain at seeing the land disappear from under him, even though he neglected to take the proper steps to confirm his title. But his neighbor Jack Osburn came to his assistance and let Wichers re-open his nursery operation on part of the Osburn farm on what is now the east end of the Saint Leo golf course. His brother Dr. Edmund Wichers wrote Mohr that he himself considered the Saint Leo superior blameless in the affair: “I cannot understand why my brother should be so embittered against you. . . .I do not find that you have done him the least injustice. On the contrary you have always endeavored to avoid even the semblance of any injustice.”
Added the far seeing Mohr as he shared his troubles in an 1897 letter to his friend, college physician Dr. Joseph Corrigan: “Please return all papers. They will constitute an interesting chapter in the history St. Leo some day.”
Centennial of the Incorporation of San Antonio
The following is an address given by Dr. James J. Horgan on the occasion of the centennial of the incorporation of San Antonio. The address appeared in the Pasco News on Sept. 6, 1991. The text was copied, with permission, from this web site.
What we are commemorating today is the centennial of the incorporation of the town of San Antonio. But the founding occurred ten years earlier. What happened 100 years ago August 7 was that the voters of this community went to the city hall and voted to incorporate formally as a town, and also had an election to choose a mayor and a board of aldermen for the first time.
There were 36 people who voted in that election. The incorporation was not unanimous. They voted 28-8 in favor of it, and they chose G. S. Bowen as mayor and five aldermen, including Pat McCabe, the patriarch of the family that still continues with many members in San Antonio today.
This, evidently, was the first election that was ever held here—because for its first ten years San Antonio was something of a monarchy.
This was a very unusual community. It was settled in systematic fashion under the direction of Judge Edmund Dunne, who was a former federal judge from Arizona, who had a vision to found a colony for his fellow Catholics, as something of a cultural refuge.
In the summer of 1881 he got an opportunity to do so through an unusual set of circumstances.
The State of Florida was going bankrupt and, in order to raise funds, the State decided to sell much of its only asset, its public domain, its land. So the State of Florida sold 4,000,000 acres to an entrepreneur from Philadelphia named Hamilton Disston for $1,000,000—25 cents an acre.
Judge Edmund Dunne handled the legal arrangements for that sale in the summer of 1881, the sale of what’s called the "Disston Purchase." As a result, Dunne was given by the Disston Company the control of eventually 100,000 acres of land. He didn’t own it. But Judge Dunne had a right to control the disposition of this 100,000 acres of land that he selected from the Disston Purchase , and he used it to found what was formally called the "Catholic Colony of San Antonio."
Let me read you a description of Dunne’s account that he gave to a newspaper reporter in 1885 of how he came to found the Catholic Colony of San Antonio and the circumstances of his arrival here. The colony was established in 1881; Dunne himself arrived on February 15, 1882. Here is Judge Edmund Dunne speaking to a newspaper reporter from the Baltimore Catholic Mirror in August of 1885:
The great Disston purchase of 4,000,000 acres in Florida was made about June 1, 1881. I was selected by Mr. Disston as his attorney to go to Florida and to assist in the selection and to supervise the taking out of the title deeds. I obtained, as part of this arrangement, the right to have the first selection, out of the purchase, 50,000 acres of land for a Catholic colony, with the privilege that when I had sold a certain amount I should have the further privilege of taking another 50,000 acres for the same purpose.
Dunne went on to describe how he came to choose this particular area, which was selected after many weeks of searching, and chosen for particular reasons. He contacted his cousin Captain Hugh Dunne, who had served in the Union army during the Civil War and was a resident of Atlanta, and who was familiar with Florida from a previous trip:
I telegraphed him to come and help me select the site for our first settlement. He met me at Jacksonville and we examined the country together. After examining everything from Sumterville to Tuckertown, a distance of thirty miles from north to south and crossing the reservation repeatedly from ten to fifteen miles from east to west, we chose this place on Clear Lake as by all odds the place to start the settlement, with a view to health, and orange and grape culture.
and he continues:
The colony reservation is on a plateau of high land, considerable higher than the Fort Dade region. The selection was made after many weeks tramping on foot through the country, with the particular object of trying to find a high, dry country, free from malaria. The town of San Antonio is on the very apex of all the high land of that region.
So he laid out his plan in the summer of 1881, and arrived here on February 15, 1882. That happened to be St. Jovita’s Day, and since Judge Dunne was a serious Catholic, that’s the reason why he changed the name of the lake from its traditional name Clear Lake to Lake Jovita—because he arrived here on St. Jovita’s February 15, 1882.
He chose the name San Antonio for this community because St. Anthony of Padua is a saint Catholics often pray to when they have lost something. Judge Dunne himself, as he later said, had been lost in the desert some years earlier when he was prospecting for silver, and he prayed to Saint Anthony in the hope that he would find his way. And suddenly he noticed a camp fire off in the distance and thus was rescued. And so with his long-term plan to found a Catholic colony, this name "San Antonio" had been continuously in his mind.
He began the actual settlement in the summer of 1882. As he was promoting the colony in Catholic newspapers, especially throughout the Northeast, he would send descriptions of life in San Antonio in the hope of attracting settlers. Here’s a description Dunne wrote of what life in San Antonio was like at its very beginning in the summer of 1882. It appeared in a letter he wrote to the Catholic Review of Brooklyn, New York in August of 1882:
...our colonists all came in the most trying season of the year, the beginning of summer, with no accommodations prepared, no conveniences attainable, no wells dug, nothing in general but lake and pond water to drink: sleeping on the ground with or without bedding: all very trying to health.
So San Antonio in its first few months had 40 settlers. The peak of its population in this period of the 1880s was 400 people in 1885.
Judge Dunne remarked at this time how, from his perspective, life had advanced in that three years from the very first settlement to the summer of 1885 when, by his standards, things were flourishing. He told this to a newspaper reporter:
...there are about three hundred people in the colony, with a Catholic church built, free of debt, a resident Catholic priest, a parochial school, a post-office, three stores and a number of residences. Also another town is established three and a half miles northwest of San Antonio, named St. Thomas with a post-office.
Dunne envisioned that San Antonio proper would be the hub surrounded by a ring of satellite communities.
Carmel was laid out about five miles to the south. Villa Maria was planned for one mile to the south. Saint Thomas would be some five miles to the northwest, and St. Philip five miles to the northeast.
And as part of his regulations in those years, all the settlers had to be Catholic, and not only that, they had to have a letter from a priest certifying that they were in good standing. In his sales of land through the Disston Company, Dunne could control who the settlers would be. Land was very cheap: $1.25 an acre to as much as $5 or $10 an acre, depending on its location.
In his effort to attract people he wrote these accounts of colony life throughout that time. In fact, this town is noted for still having descendants from some of those early settlers, who called themselves "colonists." Madaline Beaumont’s parents, for example—Mary Hand and Louis Govreau—read Judge Dunne’s letters while living in Missouri in the mid 1880s and moved down here to this Catholic Colony of San Antonio because they found appealing the descriptions that he gave.
The Catholics-only regulation was something of a controversy and only lasted about six years. Here’s a commentary from a visitor from Pittsburgh, who came through here in the summer of 1884 and was very impressed with Judge Dunne, but who disagreed with Dunne’s idea that the settlement should be for Catholics only. This was an interview he gave to the newspaper the Pittsburgh Leader in June of 1884. His name was W. B. McCaffrey:
San Antonio is the town of Judge Dunne’s colony, situated on a beautiful lake in Hernando county. You will not find the name on the maps, as yet, but it is located near Fort Dade. The colony is in a flourishing condition and numbers at present 256 souls.
So, one major issue of colony life at that time was the homogeneity of Catholicism, which was the vision that Dunne had and the reason San Antonio was founded.
Another major issue of the 1880s was the conflict between the Irish Catholics and the German Catholics. There were about 400 people here at its peak of settlement in the mid-1880s, and about half of them were German, a little less than half were Irish, and then there were some French Catholics as well.
The Germans were unhappy with the Irish priest, John O’Boyle. They wanted a German-speaking priest to present religious services in their own language. So Judge Dunne, of Irish background himself, in order to appeal to the interest of his people, arranged to have a German-speaking priest sent here to provide bilingual services.
Such a priest arrived—a man named Gerard Pilz—in May of 1886. This is how the Benedictines happened to come to Florida, how Holy Name Priory come to be established, and how Saint Leo Abbey and Saint Leo college come to be founded; because of the conflict between the German and the Irish Catholics in the Catholic Colony in the summer of 1886.
Gerard Pilz was a Benedictine priest from St. Vincent Archabbey in Latrobe, Pa., and his arrival settled this conflict between the English-speakers and the German-speakers because he was able to present services in both languages.
Dunne himself is to me a very interesting man. He was imperious in many ways, but he was a visionary. He had a lot of conflicts., toward the end, with his colonists, but he was well respected throughout the early years of San Antonio.
Madaline Beaumont told me that when she was growing up in San Antonio, Judge Dunne’s name was regarded heroically. Dunne himself left here in 1890 in the midst of a number of troubles, largely because he had overextended himself financially. So Judge Dunne was not here when the municipality incorporated, the centennial of which we are commemorating today.
Finally, let me read you a description of San Antonio on the eve of the incorporation whose centennial we are now commemorating. This is an account from the Tampa Journal, a newspaper which ran a series of profiles about the towns along the Orange Belt Railway. The article is from November of 1889, and it describes the very place where we are standing now:
The streets are all broad at least 80 feet, and there are plazas and plazas. The convent
—which used to be located just to the north of the park—
which is a handsome building, is in a large lot, while before it is a four acre baseball ground, said to be the largest in the country.
That’s where we’re standing now: a four-acre baseball ground in 1889.
It is perfectly flat and almost as smooth as a floor. The church and parsonage stand in another four acre lot, planted with orange trees. Indeed the center of the town is one immense court.
And finally the report concludes:
Although a Catholic community there are many Protestant settlers, and everything moves on harmoniously.
I suppose that might be a theme we could pick up on for our commemoration today—that life is San Antonio, from its beginnings, has been reasonable harmonious. And I might say also, has been reasonable harmonious. And I might say also, it seems to me that this community in the past century has changed little. At its peak in population in the "colonial" period, there were 400 people who lived here. There are only a few hundred more today. What we are really remembering is this distinctive feature of our community: the close knit sense of harmony that many people feel.
And in our centennial commemoration, that is a persistent value we can keep in mind.
This was the centennial address Dr. Horgan presented in the San Antonio city park on August 11. He has done extensive research on the history of San Antonio and Saint Leo and is the author of "Pioneer College: The Centennial History of Saint Leo College, Saint Leo Abbey, and Holy Name Priory." The book is available for $24.95 from the Saint Leo College Press, P.O. Box 2247, Saint Leo. Fl. 33574 also at the Saint Leo College Bookstore.
Golf Courses Part Of History (2001)
This article appeared in the Tampa Tribune on Oct. 2, 2001.
By CAROL JEFFARES HEDMAN
ST. LEO - Since opening two years ago this month, Lake Jovita Golf & Country Club has garnered praise from golfers, as well as from sightseers motoring past the lush manicured greens and flourishing flora along State Road 52.
The course was designed by architect Kurt Sandness and PGA Tour player Tom Lehamn, past winner of the British Open. But the two can’t take all the credit for the natural rolling terrain that first drew golfers to east Pasco County in the early days.
The original course, also named Lake Jovita, was built in the 1920s during the real estate boom years in Pasco County and was considered one of the best in Florida by golfing great Gene Sarazen, who lived part time in New Port Richey.
Lake Jovita Club was developed by W. E. Currie, who bought the 600 acres wrapped around Lake Jovita in the mid- 1920s from the heirs of doctor Joseph Corrigan, who arrived in the area in 1884.
Currie also was influential in getting the name of nearby San Antonio changed to the City of Lake Jovita after it was confused with the Texas town.
Because St. Leo had only a mail depot, Currie had goods for the project shipped to the train depot at San Antonio. But a lot of the materials mistakenly were sent to Texas.
Longtime San Antonio resident Joe Herrmann, who worked at the golf course as a young teen, recalled the time Currie needed concrete blocks for a building at the course. None were available locally, but Herrmann’s father, Lucius, found some in Tampa.
Currie ordered and paid for two carloads of concrete blocks to be shipped by rail the 25 miles to the San Antonio Depot. Three months later, the blocks were found in San Antonio, Texas.
Currie pleaded his name-change case, along with a real estate broker who thought City of Lake Jovita was a more appealing name for recruiting newcomers. A referendum resulted in the name being changed in 1926.
Currie also planned a housing development along with his golf course. But like many in those days, his plans never developed when the Florida boom collapsed, resulting in bank failures in 1926.
The permanent clubhouse never got built but the temporary one sufficed, providing a dining facility, showers and a “lying room” or lounge.
The 18-hole course had fences and cattle caps to keep free-range cows and hogs off the fairways and greens.
Lake Jovita Club’s prosperity helped local teens Leo DeRosier, A. O. Kiefer and Herrmann earn money as caddies. Herrmann carried bags from morning to night 365 days a year to make enough money to support 10 people during those tough years, he recalled.
Herrmann’s father had lost all his money when the Bank of Dade City folded in 1926. For the next four years, Joe, eldest of the eight children, worked at the golf course, plus delivered three newspaper routes and attended school.
Course Folds, San Antonio Returns
But with the Great Depression, only the wealthy could play golf, and Currie’s course eventually closed in the early 1930s. And the city of Lake Jovita returned to its original name in 1931.
The golf course property eventually was purchased by William Lee, who turned it into citrus groves. Prominent grower John S. Burks later purchased the property. His heirs eventually sold it to developers Lake Jovita Associates to be returned to a golf course once again called Lake Jovita.
The course opened for play on Oct. 19, 1999.
While the course was being developed, the old water tower that once was used for irrigation at the original course and an old hand pump were refurbished and remain near the 11th tee.
Other reminders of those days tower over golfers. A colonnade of palms marks the location of the three-story mansion Corrigan had built on 40 acres of lakefront property he bought for $4,000. The home, which had a private chapel, burned in 1913.
The land was part of the Disston purchase of 1881 when that $1 million purchase of 4 million acres saved the State of Florida from bankruptcy. Judge Edmund Dunn, former chief justice of Arizona, had negotiated the deal for Hamilton Disston. In return, Dunne obtained development rights on 50,000 acres as part of his fee.
Dunne’s Catholic Colony Land Co. sold the land in the 1880s. Corrigan bought his first parcel and settled there.
Corrigan, whose brother was archbishop of New York, was the attending physician at Saint Leo College from 1890 to 1920, served as the first mayor of the Town of St. Leo when it was incorporated in 1891, and was the closest friend to Abbot Charles Mohr, the first abbot of Saint Leo Abbey.
Corrigan sold Mohr 40 acres in 1892 for $2,500 to be used as a pasture for Rosie, a cow that had been traded in lieu of college tuition for one student. Four years later, Corrigan provided an abutting 20-acre muck tract for $500 and donated a third of an acre triangular piece of land between the college and the lake that became the site of the monastery cemetery in 1901.
Corrigan also contributed a 30-foot-wide strip of pine trees for firewood in 1896, the parcel running east through the 40 acres behind his homestead, according to information researched by James Horgan for his book Pioneer College.
The plantation came into question when Corrigan died in 1919. His heirs sold the property adjoining the college to the north and east to Currie. In 1987, nearly a century after Corrigan joined the founding staff of Saint Leo College, the school - now a university - initiated the purchase of his 100-acre homestead from the Burks estate.
The Pasco County Historical Preservation Committee plans to erect a marker at Lake Jovita Golf Club, designating it as a historic site.
This Course Went Bust For Good
Another area golf course was also lost to the collapse of the Florida real estate boom.
Only the clubhouse was completed for the Dade City Highlands Golf and Country Club. Located on a hill off St. Joe Road, west of Dade City, the developers spared no expense in furnishing the clubhouse, but the wicker furnishings were repossessed a short time later.
A subdivision just east of the golf course was also proposed. The plat for Golf Course Estates was filed May 6, 1925 with the Pasco County Clerk’s Office and included 3 1/2 acres.
But that project collapsed with the Florida land boom. The city acquired the land for back taxes and for years it was left vacant, with only the red brick streets remaining.
In the 1950s the subdivision was developed as Golf Course Estates. But most folks call it “Tank Hill” because of the city water tank that overlooked it.
A second subdivision was also platted around Highlands Golf and Country Club. Called Golf Terrace, the development was platted Aug. 8, 1925 and fronted St. Joe Road.
Golf Terrace never got as far as having its roads constructed. For years the only course in the area was adjacent to the current Lake Jovita course. Built in 1963 by Saint Leo Abbey, the course is still a picturesque asset to the countryside.
It has had a number of owners throughout the years but has been owned by Saint Leo University for two years and is called the Abbey Course at Saint Leo University.
Community Has Roots In City Park (2001)
This article appeared in the Tampa Tribune on Oct. 16, 2001.
By CAROL JEFFARES HEDMAN
SAN ANTONIO – Thousands are expected to once again invade this otherwise tranquil town this weekend, just as they have for the past 35 years when San Antonio plays host to the annual Rattlesnake Festival.
Most festival activities will take place Saturday and Sunday in the heart of San Antonio. But most enjoying the festival’s folksy atmosphere don’t realize they are standing on an important link in the history of the town known for years as the Catholic Colony of San Antonio.
Through the years the four-acre plot now just called City Park has had the names of Plaza Almeda, St. Louis Plaza, Pio Nono Park, and simply The Plaza.
The Choicest Land
Judge Edmund F. Dunne founded San Antonio on the land he deemed the choicest in Florida. Dunne, a former chief justice of Arizona who was forced to resign after his vocal defense of the Catholic school system, was retained by Philadelphia entrepreneur Hamilton Disston to negotiate his purchase of 4 million acres of land in Florida.
The state of Florida was offering the sale of land to save it from bankruptcy. Disston pledged to buy the 4 million acres for $1 million or 25 cents an acre. For his efforts, Dunne was paid with his choice of 100,000 acres of land where he planned to establish his Catholic colony of San Antonio.
Traveling on horseback with his cousin, the twosome sought out the best land in the state. They found it Feb. 15, 1882. on a hilltop overlooking a bountiful lake. Arriving on St. Jovita Day, Dunne gave the saint’s name to the lake that had been traditionally called Clear Lake.
Dunne platted his town of San Antonio on the apex of all the high land in the rolling hills.
He had chosen the name San Antonio years earlier after praying to St. Anthony while lost in an Arizona desert while prospecting for silver. After praying to the saint whom Catholics believe helps recover lost things, Dunne saw a bright light in the distance that directed his course. Dunne named his Catholic colony in gratitude to St. Anthony of Padua.
Dunne’s 100,000 acres once sprawled from the Fort Dade region, near today’s Dade City, to Hammock Creek Land on the Gulf of Mexico in Hernando County. His vision for the colony included the surrounding satellite communities of Carmel, Villa Maria, St. Thomas, and St. Philip, also called San Felipe, with San Antonio as the central hub.
San Felipe was five miles north of San Antonio and named for St. Phil Neri on whose feast day the settlement was located. Carmel, five miles south of the principle city, was named from the Hebrew word for “a finely cultivated field or orchard.” Villa Maria, named for the Blessed Virgin, was located a mile south of San Antonio on the road to Carmel. These were the first three, established by 1883. By 1885 St. Thomas was established some three miles northwest and even had its own post office.
San Antonio proper was to include a hospital, an orphanage, an asylum, a convent, and a European-style plaza.
The grandest design for the center of the town was Pio Nono Park, named for Pope Pius IX who had reviewed and given his blessing to Dunne’s colonial plan in 1872. In a rendition dated June 13, 1893, Dunne plan showed a central plaza that was to be surrounded by paths and gardens, with strategically placed statues that would extend eastward from the town square to the city limits.
The Grand Plan
The grand plan was never implemented and through the years the site went through a number of developments.
On Dec. 13, 1888, Thomas and Lucy Quigley executed a warranty deed to the Rev. Gerard Pilz, Order of St. Benedict, on behalf of the colony. Pilz was the first Benedictine pastor of St. Anthony Church that had been constructed adjacent to the plaza land in 1911.
The deed had a number of stipulations mandating that certain expenditures be made for improvements to the park. The title was passed along to monks at Saint Leo Abbey who, in 1925, unanimously decided to give the San Antonio Corp. a trust deed only for the Plaza in San Antonio.
Again there were stipulations, with the monks saying nothing detrimental to the Catholic church nor any “nuisances” be allowed on the grounds. The pastor of St. Anthony’s Church would be the sole arbiter as to these points.
The stipulations were removed in 1967 when the late Abbot Marion Bowman, abbot of St. Leo Abbey, signed a quitclaim deed in favor of the city of San Antonio, relinquishing any claims to the park and making no reference to conditions.
City Park remains today as a center for family activities by members of the town. With a playground, baseball field, and basketball courts, the park also served the adjacent St. Anthony School. The school originated in 1883, shortly after San Antonio was founded. With 14 students, classes were taught at the home of its teacher, Marie Morse. The school was moved to the church in 1884 and in the fall a separate frame schoolhouse was erected next to the church. The current St. Anthony School was built in 1922.
Sisters Serve Up Tradition (2002)
This article appeared in the Tampa Tribune on Nov. 22, 2002.
By CAROL JEFFARES HEDMAN
SAN ANTONIO - The Benedictine Sisters at Holy Name Monastery again will feed Thanksgiving dinner Thursday to those in need and alone.
The sisters’ commitment “to respond with the compassion of Christ to physical, emotional and spiritual hungers” prompted their first Thanksgiving dinner seven years ago.
That same commitment first brought five sisters from Pennsylvania here 113 years ago to found what initially was called Holy Name Priory.
The Benedictine sisters came at the request of townsfolk in the Catholic colony of San Antonio, established in 1882 as the realization of Judge Edmund F. Dunne’s dream.
Soon after Dunne founded San Antonio, he asked priests, monks and nuns to come provide religious services and education for the colonists.
But it took four years before Bishop John Moore of St. Augustine recruited a bilingual priest, Gerard Pilz, to come provide Catholic services to the 400 colonists, more than half of whom spoke German.
Pilz, the first Benedictine in Florida, was responsible for elementary schools in San Antonio and nearby St. Joseph that had been staffed by lay teachers.
In December 1888, the priest wrote to the head of St. Joseph’s Convent in Allegheny, Pa., near his home territory, asking her to take charge of his schools.
At Pilz’s invitation, five Benedictine nuns set out from Allegheny on Feb. 24, 1889. Sister Agnes Behe was delayed en route. Mother Dolorosa Scanlan and Sisters Boniface Feldmann, Josephine Feldung and Agatha Giesler arrived four days later, probably on the Orange Belt Railway. Behe joined them June 24.
On March 1, 1889, the sisters founded Holy Name Priory.
The Hotel That Never Was A Hotel
Dunne already had set aside land for a convent. Instead, the sisters got a nearly ready building in San Antonio that was constructed as a three-story hotel by William Sultenfuss.
The large hotel, built in 1887, was north of what was called San Antonio Plaza, now known simply as City Park. The structure was never used for a hotel because colonists were afraid it would draw undesirable types to town.
Instead, Sultenfuss sold the building in 1888 to the bishop, even before the nuns arrived, to be used as a convent.
In September 1889, the sisters at Holy Name Priory started teaching at St. Anthony and St. Joseph elementary schools.
At the convent, the sisters began conducting classes for Holy Name Academy’s 40 students, both boys and girls at first, some as old as 20. Among the early students was Mary Ansley, future grandmother of U.S. Sen. Bob Graham, who noted the fact in his 1985 commencement address at Saint Leo College.
Saint Leo College officially was founded, with Saint Leo Abbey, on June 4, 1889 when Gov. Francis P. Fleming signed into law an act passed by the Legislature incorporating the Order of St. Benedict of Florida with the objective of educating youths, establishing churches and conducting services.
As Saint Leo Abbey and Saint Leo College grew, Holy Name Priory outgrew its location on the 10-acre plot at the plaza. But the sisters couldn’t afford to build a new convent on land Moore secured in a controversial deal in 1887.
The bishop bought 40 acres from John Flanagan, an aggressive real estate entrepreneur in San Antonio. Flanagan found out that land Benedict Wichers thought he had homestead rights to before Dunne’s arrival actually was owned by the railroad. Flanagan bought 120 acres of Wichers’ squatter land from the railroad in 1887 and sold the 40 acres to the bishop.
Moving Entire Buildings
In the summer of 1911, the convent-academy building was hauled from its original location a half-mile to the parcel where Holy Name Monastery still stands on State Road 52.
The move was said to be impossible. But Mother Superior, Rose Marie Easly, while small in stature, was big in determination, evident by the fact she was the first woman in Pasco to hold a driver’s license.
Easly hired W.H. Reed, a Baptist preacher from Tampa, to move the three-story building that measured 140 feet long and 75 feet wide.
San Antonio’s city fathers weren’t pleased about the move and the town council refused to approve the petition Reed sought. Councilman W.A. Semmes was authorized at a morning meeting on June 30, 1911, to go to Dade City and hire an attorney to get an injunction restricting cutting of trees on the streets and plaza necessary for the move, as well as prohibiting the move.
But at a special meeting that night, the council reconsidered and voted to allow Reed to cut two oak trees and move across the streets.
Before he started, Reed raised the building, putting planks on the ground and on the floor joist underneath and then rollers between them.
The move began July 5, 1911 and the community turned out to watch the daily efforts that involved two oxen and a half-dozen men.
The half-mile move took six weeks as a winch, anchored to a dead-man timber, was buried deep in the ground to pull the building along. A steel cable stretched around the whole girth of the convent and was anchored some 50 feet ahead of the building.
The ox had been trained to walk around and around the winch, stepping over the cable a foot off the ground each time. The building slowly inched forward on the planks and rollers. The workers would pull the planks and rollers from the rear of the building, setting them down again in front as it advanced.
When the building had traveled the 50 feet to the winch, the oxen were unhitched. The dead-man timber was moved another 50 feet and reburied to anchor it. The team was hitched up again and the whole procedure was repeated. Barely one setting a day could be completed.
The sisters’ windmill and water tower were moved the same way, both in upright positions.
The religious community had nine sisters and 13 boarding students at Holy Name Academy during the summer. Most continued to sleep at the building during the move, but academy classes were held at St. Anthony’s School.
In fall 1911, Easly sent two sisters north to beg members of the religious order there for the $4,500 to pay for the move.
On Sept. 10, 1911, Charles Mohr, the first abbot of Saint Leo Abbey, provided the sisters with a perpetual gift of a priest to say daily Mass at the convent, which was a short walk from Saint Leo Abbey.
The current convent building was constructed in 1960. And the sisters continued to operate Holy Name Academy until it closed in 1964.
Briefly coeducational when it was launched in 1889, the school later proclaimed that its mission was to “impart to young ladies a thorough moral and mental training, so as to fit them for the position they may occupy in afterlife.”
The curriculum included English language, Christian doctrine, history, geography, mathematics, bookkeeping, penmanship, German, French, vocal and instrumental music, plain sewing and embroidery.
Holy Name Priory also operated St. Benedict’s Preparatory School for Boys from 1929-50.
In recent years, Holy Name Priory changed its named to Holy Name Monastery. There are 28 sisters, ages 36 to 92.
Ramblin’ ’Round Town
Here are several columns believed to have been written by Joe Herrmann which appeared in the Dade City Banner.
RAMBLIN’ ’ROUND TOWN
San Antonio, November 7, 1935. -- On Wednesday night of last week the ghosts were out at the Flannigan home. Everybody who is anybody was there and talk about a good time ye old rambler had it. It is always a pleasure to attend a party at the congenial Flannigan home and this one was no exception. The great list included Mr. and Mrs. W. W. Antink of Chicago . . . Speaking of parties reminds us that there were two of them at the Alexander home in honor of Mr. and Mrs. Chester Alexander of Miami. Which also reminds us that early last Thursday morning Mr. and Mrs. Alexander returned to Miami. Our hope is that they enjoyed their stay as much as we enjoyed having them with us . . . Mr. and Mrs. W. W. Antink who hail from Chicago came in about a week ago bringing with them Mr. Antink’s mother and a friend of Mrs. Antinks from Chicago. While here they stayed with Mr. and Mrs. Jess Jones. With the party but in another car were Mr. and Mrs. James Mair. While in San Antonio the Antinks and Mair’s were entertained at the Flannigans Halloween party. The K of C dance in Saint Anthony hall, an ice cream party at the J. A. Barthles, a card party at the J. T. Bradshaws and a Weiner roast sponsored by the entire younger set of San Antonio. All in all it is the Ramblers belief that their vacation was a pleasant one and in the future instead of an annual visit we hope they come every six months . . . Mrs. Mary Haggerty is back for the winter after a pleasant vacation in Steubenville, Ohio . . . The Herman Veits and a friend from New York are with us again for the winter . . . The hotel annex is being occupied by the G. A. Feichts who have just returned from Canton, Ohio . . . Mr. William Kress who spent part of the summer in Ohio has returned to San Antonio . . . Mr. W. E. Currie of Detroit, Michigan, is back again for the winter. With him is Mr. Clarence Shannon a popular member of San Antonios younger set . . . Mr. Carl Ullrich who has spent the better part of five months in Altoona, Penna., is back in San Antonio bringing with him Mr. Frank Cossetta of Virginia . . . Mrs. Ida Ullrich has just returned to San Antonio after a pleasant vacation in the mountains of Pennsylvania . . . Mr. and Mrs. Adam Yahn of West Virginia are gracing our fair city with their presence after an absence of several months . . . "Welcome back to San Antonio" so say we to all of our visitors in the name of all San Antonians . . . Once upon a time there was a little girl who lived in San Antonio and her name was Margaret Herrmann. She went off to the city but she didn’t forget. About two weeks ago she came blowing into San Antonio with a host of her friends and they all made friends with everyone they met in San Antonio. After a day of merriment they adjourned to the Jovita to partake of chicken and all the trimmins. Ye old rambler doesn’t usually get in on these private parties but we usually get a smell and this time was no exception. The friends Miss Herrmann brought with her were Mr. William Shivel and Mr. Thomas Whalen of Jacksonville, Mr. and Mrs. Guy B. Goodrich, Mr. Alvarado Fernandez, Miss Helen Dunne and a couple of other charming young ladies of Tampa. It is the ramblers hope that they all return and bring with them other friends . . . Mr. N. K. Therres, Mr. Mike Govreau, Mr. Joe Midili and Mr. Joe DeRosier have returned from Ocala after several weeks Work on the cross state canal . . . Mr. Allen Blount was a visitor in Jacksonville during the past week . . . Fruit season has started in earnest with two crews of San Antonians out in the groves picking the golden pellets that bring in the gold. Pardon me We are on the Silver standard now. With that we will have to
RAMBLIN’ ’ROUND TOWN
San Antonio, Florida
July 25th, 1935 --
Summer vacations are still the go. Dannie Cannon is spending a couple of weeks at the Indian Rocks beach home of the J. A. Barthles . . . Then there are vacationists at the St. Charles . . . Mrs. Rose C. Jones and Mrs. Bess McIlhenny are using up spare time in Tampa . . . Agnes and Leo Herrmann are swimming daily in Lake Jovita. Nights are being spent at brother Joe’s.
San Antonio, July 18, 1935 --
On Monday of this week Old Sol, with the help of Mother Earth played a trick on Luna. The clouds being very profuse here in San Antonio many of us did not see the total eclipse but out north of town a clear picture was presented. It is only once in many years that this spectacle is presented and it was surely worth staying up late to see it. A few facts about the eclipse Monday evening are. The moon does not give off light but reflects the light of the sun. The earth passed directly in the line of the sun and the moon on Monday evening producing the total eclipse the moon was not entirely dark because of the atmosphere of the earth. The sunlight filtered through this layer of atmosphere and created an amber color on the moons surface. So much for the eclipse and now for the news we have been able to pick up . . . Paint brushes have been busy at the C. H. Pike store during the week . . . Mrs. A. H. Kahler has been ill at her Curly St. residence during the past week. That she will be up and around soon his the Ramblers wish . . . Mr. A. H. Schrader who has been ill during the past two weeks is now up and able to attend his duties . . . The Moorheads (Henry and Gladys) are sporting a new car . . . A new coat of paint for the Ed Storch auto . . . A new high powered sedan for the Grahams (Russell and Leola) . . . The C. J. Govreaus are now chicken farming at the John Wicher farm near San Antonio . . . Mrs. Nina Kovarik is recovering from an illness at the Dade City hospital . . . The Lynches (Sylvester and Eleanor) of Gainesville were San Antonio visitors over the week-end . . . We’ve been hearing that within the next few Weeks a young San Antonio Service Station operator will march up the church isle to the tune of Lohengrin. Saint Anthony church grounds now present a neat appearance with a new lawn started and quite a number of new flowers and shrubs . . . Repairs to the roofs of the M. J. Burke home, the A. J. R. Hill home and the A. Wischer home . . . Tampatowners this week--Mr. S. Milidi, Father Felix, Mr. J. A. Barthle, Mr. A. H. Schrader, Mr. R. M. Graham, and Mr. John Grief . . . We see by the paper that Labor Day, September 2nd, will be celebrated in San Antonio in a fitting way. A big picnic and a ball game. We know that everyone is invited and if you attend we know that you will enjoy yourself . . . Visitors at the home of J. P. Lynches during the past week. Mr. and Mrs. Jones of Sarasota and Francis Rolfes. They returned to their home on Thursday of this week . . . A party of San Antonio and Dade City young folks on a weiner roast on Wednesday evening . . . Guess thats about all for this week so I’ll be
RAMBLIN’ ’ROUND TOWN
San Antonio, November 14th, 1935.
--ye old rambler is jest a wonderin hows many of you folks have joined the Red Cross for the coming year. The cost is small and the need is great. Think of all the good the Red Cross does in our own sovereign state. In September the disastrous hurricane that swept over Florida. Just lately the big blow on the southern tip of Florida. A few years ago the Okeechobee flood. A few days after each of these happenings The Red Cross had cleared things up and suffering humanity was fed, clothed, and housed. These are just a few examples of the good work being carried on. So when you are asked to join, do so by all means and ask your friends to join . . . Armistice Day 1935 has come and gone. Seventeen years ago when the Armistice was signed and all the world, was again at peace after four years of bloody conflict, we were happy; and glad. But today it seems that the years of peace are soon to end. With every passing day war seems nearer. All nations piling up arms and devising new ways to kill people. Let us pray for peace, real peace among all nations and tribes of the world . . . The week-end just passed was replete with visitors. There was Luella Lynch, who goes to Florida State college for Women, visiting parents and friends . . . George Govreau and family up from Tampa visiting with Mrs. Mary Govreau . . . Mrs. Charles Govreau to Lakeland for the holiday . . . Mr. and Mrs. Charles Blount and two charming daughters in San Antonio over the week-end . . . The Herman Veits entertained friends from New York over the week end . . . Miss Frances Kovarik an employee at Jackson Memorial hospital is spending a well earned vacation at the home of her parents . . . The new and larger Cannon Dairy is now open for inspection. It is indeed gratifying to know that here in San Antonio we have one of the finest, up-to-date and complete dairy farms in Florida. Everyone should take off a few minutes time and look over this new dairy plant . . . Mrs. Frances Brown of Tampa was a week-end visitor at the Wicher ranch . . . So with our ramble ended
We Ramble Along
Colony Satellites Never Took Hold
By CAROL JEFFARES HEDMAN
This article appeared in the Tampa Tribune.
The rural countryside isn’t so rural anymore, with city folks lured to places that still have open spaces and towering trees. But even with development in recent years, the land surrounding San Antonio is much like it was when the city founder envisioned his Catholic colony.
Judge Edmund Dunne chose the land for his Catholic Colony of San Antonio in 1882 while traveling on horseback through the virgin countryside. Dunne, a former chief justice of Arizona, was retained by Philadelphia entrepreneur Hamilton Disston to negotiate his purchase of 4 million acres of land in Florida.
The state of Florida was offering the sale of land to save it from bankruptcy, Disston pledged to buy the 4 million acres for $1 million or 25 cents an acre. For his efforts, Dunne was paid with his choice of 100,000 acres of land where he planned to establish his Catholic colony of San Antonio.
Dunne’s 100,000 acres sprawled from the Fort Dade region, near today’s Dade City, west to Hammock Creek on the Gulf of Mexico in Hernando County. On the first 50,000 acres Dunne Platted his town of San Antonio on the apex of all the high land in the rolling hills.
He had chosen the name San Antonio years earlier after praying to St. Anthony while last in an Arizona desert while prospecting for silver. Catholics believe praying to St. Anthony helps recover lost things and after Dunne found his way, he vowed to establish a Catholic colony in gratitude to St. Anthony of Padua.
Dunne’s plans called for San Antonio as the central hub, with satellite communities spoked out from that hub.
In an 1883 pamphlet, Dunne described three of the satellite communities: San Felipe, five miles to the north, named for St. Philip Neri on whose feast day the sub-settlement was located: Carmel, five miles to the south, from the Hebrew word for "a finely cultivated field or orchard:" and Villa Maria, named for the Blessed Virgin, one mile south of San Antonio on the road to Carmel.
But while San Antonio flourished, its satellites weren’t as successful. In fact, only two ever became more than a name.
The village of Carmel was actually located four miles south of San Antonio in the area of where the Kerkland and Epperson ranches are located on Curley Road.
In the 1883 promotional brochure, Dunne explained that he named Carmel such "not because of its inherent meaning but because the settlement is placed under the special patronage of our Lady of Mount Carmel."
"The lands in this settlement are high but less rolling than elsewhere in the colony. They are suited to oranges and lemons, but also and more so than the rest of the colony to guavas, citrons and other tender plants. The beautiful Lapa Lake is on the western edge of this settlement and Lake Winifred on the east. Lakefronts on both of these lakes will be for sale there this winter, but only to actual settlers or immediate improvers," the brochure stated. By 1892 Lapa Lake was called by its current name, King Lake.
The land for sale in the Carmel settlement started at $5 an acre.
There was a colony story and even a post office, established Nov. 4, 1885. But the post office closed less than a year later, on July 25, 1886, suggesting that only a few people settled in the area. The village of St. Thomas was established near what is today Interstate 75 and St. Joe Road, northwest of San Antonio. St. Thomas also had a post office, opened Jan. 2, 1885. It remained open until Dec. 31, 1907, and St. Thomas was more of a thriving community.
The post office and a church were the centers of activity and, according to an 1887 news account, the postmaster, Maj. Thomas Lucas of Ohio, was "practically the father of this settlement."
St. Mary’s Church of Saint Thomas was blessed by Abbot Leo Haid of Maryhelp Abbey, N.C., on Sept 14, 1890, the same day he dedicated Saint Leo College. The college was founded in 1899 by Benedictine monks and priests who had come to San Antonio at the request of Dunne for religious service. The abbey and college were named after Haid who was also the first college president. The Jacksonville Times-Union covered the event and described the area that was being settled by newcomers from Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan and Ohio.
"Many more people are coming good, industrious people who are already Americans with all that is dear to America at heart," the news account noted. "This section of Florida in not in the rear of the army of improvement. A few years more, and the groves of Pasco County will furnish oranges and lemons for thousands in the North. May our brightest anticipations be verified.
The monks of St. Leo Abbey provided religious needs for the 30 people who called St. Thomas home in 1903. They also operated a mission off and on from 1894 through 1909 for a nearby black community
St. Thomas was also noteworthy as the home of Oliver Arzacq, the first student to receive a diploma from St. Leo College. The master of accounts degree was confirmed upon the young student at the first graduation ceremony on June 20, 1893.
Both villages vanished by the early years of the 20th century, probably as a result of the Great Freeze that devastated the citrus industry in late 1894 and early 1895. Many also left San Antonio following the freeze. But Dunne’s dream of a Catholic colony survived and still remains today as a prospering City.
Although founded as a result of San Antonio, the adjoining town of St. Leo was not part of Dunne’s original colony plans. Rather the town developed around the religious order that came to provide services to the Catholics here.
The community of St. Joseph, located 3 miles north of San Antonio, also wasn’t part of Dunne’s plan. It was founded in 1883 by three sons of Andrew Barthle Sr. who moved to the area from Minnesota and named it for their hometown there. However, the community was also predominantly German Catholics.
Both St. Leo and St. Joseph remain today as prospering communities. St. Leo was incorporated in 1891.
The St. Charles Inn
By CAROL JEFFARES HEDMAN
This article appeared in the Tampa Tribune on March 20, 2001.
San Antonio has long been known for its hospitality that wraps even strangers in the warmth of this cozy community.
The tradition dates back to when settlers first came to the rolling countryside of what is today east Pasco County.
Founded in 1881 as a Catholic colony, San Antonio drew residents from throughout the North and the community grew, warranting a railroad stop by 1888 where goods would be shipped and visitors would arrive.
Often in the dead of night, the passengers would be greeted by Charles Barthle, who guided them with a lantern to his nearby St. Charles Hotel.
Barthle’s brothers had come years earlier to settle the community of St. Joseph, about three miles from San Antonio.
Andrew Barthle first arrived in that area in March 1883. For three months he explored the area before returning to his hometown of St. Joseph, Minn., to tell of the warm climate and fertile farmland.
That June, Barthle’s older brother, Bernard, brought his wife and eight children there to establish the first permanent home in the community they named for their Minnesota hometown. Andrew and his family followed in July 1885 and a short time later the youngest of the Barthle brothers. Charles, followed.
Charles moved his family to nearby San Antonio where he operated the Florida House Hotel, at the corner of Curley Street and what is now Jesse Jones Avenue, from 1900 to 1913. That year he built the St. Charles Hotel, a grand two-story structure that would continue to welcome visitors to San Antonio for years.
Located at 12502 Curley St., the whitewashed building features 1500 square feet of porches that embrace both stories and are supported by columns.
Known for its hospitality to railroad commuters, word soon spread about the family atmosphere at the St. Charles Hotel and the delicious meals prepared from the Barthles’ garden. The hotel was filled with visitors, many of whom stayed the winter. The hotel also was the scene of many wedding receptions.
In later years the hotel was run by Charles Barthle’s daughters: Barbara, Benadette and Dora.
Failing health forced the Barthles to retire from the hotel business in the years after World War II, and they sold the St. Charles to the Wilbur Strehle family. But when they fell on hard times, the Barthles repurchased it and finally sold it in 1970 to Henry and Irene Pike.
The Pikes converted the old hotel into Share-A-Home St. Charles, a retirement center with a capacity for 20 residents. The Pikes sold it in 1979 to the Steve Miller family, who continued to operate the St. Charles as a retirement home.
For a time the Millers also transformed the place into a restaurant and ice cream parlor. It then stood vacant for a number of years before a Tampa couple bought it in August 1995 with grand dreams of returning the hotel to his grand status in the community.
Ted and Anne Stephens initially bought the building with the intentions of converting it into their home. But the more they worked, the more they thought about returning the hotel to its original role of housing guests - this time as a bed and breakfast.
Plans were to finish the work within a year, but 12 months turned into two years and then three. The Stephenses, assisted by Ted’s father, 74-year-old Jim Stephens, and their sons. Tacy and Hunter, worked an estimated 100 hours each week to authentically restore the structure.
It wasn’t just time consuming. Materials alone cost more than $100,000. But the Stephenses were determined to do it right.
That meant things like authentically repairing the 62 windows instead of just replacing them. In 1913 the windows were opened and closed by encased ropes and weights, and the couple had to replace the weathered ropes so the windows could be maneuvered the old-fashioned way.
Now called the St. Charles Inn the old building officially opened as a bed and breakfast Oct. 16, 1999. Guests do the same things those first visitors did in 1913 - sit on the porches or walk the few blocks into town to enjoy the quaint atmosphere.
Jack and Diane Jones, who celebrated their wedding reception at the St. Charles in 1950, returned last June for their 50th wedding anniversary. The San Antonio couple stayed in the same room they did a quarter of a century ago.
Now Diane Jones wants others to see the authentic touches abounding at the St. Charles Inn. She and other members of the Founders Garden Club of San Antonio will offer tours on April 7. Tickets for the tour and a luncheon are $12.
The tours are set at 10:30 and 11:30 p.m. Tickets are available from club members or by calling (352) 588-2356.
Proceeds will be used to enhance San Antonio City Park, which has been a club project since its inception in 1961.