Men who made Towns

The origin of many of the towns in our area can be traced back to a single family or man. Sometimes it was the first man to make the river crossing easier. The settlers from miles around would use that river crossing and merchants would come to the river crossing and sell their wares. A town would start to grow where all the people gathered. Another origin of the these towns was protection. Newly arrived settlers would want to live near a well established family, so they could gather at that house in case of attack. Sometimes the established settler family would build a church and a school to help the community. Other times they provided to space for a voting precinct and helped to organize events.

A good example of a town created by ferry across the Withlacoochee River was Pemberton Ferry. The ferry was established by the James T. Pemberton in the late 1800s. The post office at Pemberton Ferry was established on May 29, 1878. The stage coach went through the town. In 1884 Pemberton Ferry was added as a stop on the Florida Southern Railroad, which was formerly the Gainesville Ocala Charlotte Harbor Railway. Brooksville was not chosen as a stop for the railroad, but local residents managed to raise $20,000 via bonds for a branch track. The name of the town was later changed to Croom. The town lost many of its residents do to the devaluation of phosphate caused by World War I. The end of Croom was the US Land Resettlement Administration (RA) of the New Deal, whose goal was to resettle "struggling urban and rural families to communities planned by the federal government.” The RA decided to turn the area into a national forest, so they resettled the people who were still living in Croom.
Another town created by a ferry across the Withlacoochee River was Istachatta. Istachatta was a little more than six miles upstream from Pemberton Ferry. The ferry there was established by Francis M. Townsend. On the 1883-84 census, Mr. Townsend was the only name mentioned in Istachatta. In 1886-87 the Florida State Gazetteer says the population had grown to 76. The stagecoach came through Istachatta which at the time was one of a few connections to the outside world. Francis M. Townsend was appointed postmaster on August 8, 1881. The population of Istachatta was listed as 116 people on the 2010 census.

The town of Spring Hill grew up around the Lykes Family Homestead. The town of Spring Hill preceded and is different than the development by the same name which was established in the 1960s. Dr. Howell Tyson Lykes was patriarch of the family and he had seven sons who would join the family business. Dr. Lykes moved into the area and established his family in cattle and citrus. The Lykes built a school in the 1850’s to educate the seven Lykes brothers and neighboring children as far away as Hope Hill.The cattle business grew and with the help of his wife Almeria Belle McKay Lykes who was from the McKay shipping family of Tampa, the Lykes became prominent in supplying cattle to Cuba. The Lykes Brothers now run a 337,000 acre cattle ranch near Lake Okeechobee. The book, A Land Remembered is said to be based in part on the Lykes Brothers story.

Masaryktown's origins can be traced to the New York City editor of a daily Czechoslovakian newspaper Joseph Josca. He wrote a column that advocated moving to warm Florida. Many of his readers were working in mines and factories in the north and read his column which extolled the virtues of moving to the warm climate and the farming. He had a number of interested Czechoslovakians and started to look for a spot to start a farming community. They formed a corporation to invest in land. The corporation found information about land available near Orlando and Brooksville. The corporation elected a committee of five men to check out the land. The Orlando land was found to be swampy, but the Hernando land they deemed acceptable, in part because there were existing orange groves in the area. The Hernando Plantation Co. as they named the corporation purchased around 10,000 acres about 10 miles south of Brooksville. This area became Masaryktown.

Some of these towns that were built around a man did not survive the death of the founder. Augusta was such a town. It is said to have been located near where old Crystal River Road terminates to the north. January 30, 1845 a post office was established in the town of Augusta with the first and only postmaster being Albert Clark. In 1845, there were four post offices in the county (Chocachatti, Homosassa, Augusta, and Fort Dade). The county Benton (Hernando County was briefly renamed Benton County from 1844 to 1850) at the time comprised an area that included most of the current Pasco, Hernando, and Citrus counties. It was split into three counties in 1887. The post office at Augusta lasted 15 years and closed on Oct. 17, 1860, shortly after the murder of Albert Clark. During those 15 years Augusta served as a precinct for elections and is listed on the census. After the murder of Albert Clark, Augusta stopped appearing on maps.

These original settlers went into the wilderness and established a place where others could follow. The families usually had some money which enabled them to build more than what they just needed to subsist. They built churches and schools, which drew more settlers nearby. As these town grew they were safer from attacks and provided more amenities. Without these founding families it would have taken longer for the county to develop.

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