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Pine Level, Florida In 1878

Edited by Spessard Stone

This article, signed Fulano, was originally published in the Tampa Sunland Tribune of August 24, 1878 and reprinted in The Herald-Advocate of December 16, 1993.

Preface: Pine Level was designated on April 29, 1866 as the county seat of Manatee County, which then included the present day counties of Manatee, Sarasota, DeSoto, Hardee, Highlands, Glades, and Charlotte. The Florida Southern Railway's bypassing of it in 1886 and Arcadia's selection in 1888 as county seat of the 1887 established DeSoto County led to its decline.

Pine Level, Fla., Aug. 10, 1878.

Editor Tribune:

Our village is in a region of country unexcelled by any of the State, as to its adaptability to the growth of fruits, sugar cane, &c.

We have some hammock lands, of the best quality, which, without ditching are too wet for cultivation, with a good system of drainage, could be made to yield all sorts of crops wonderfully. There are hammock lands which, when cleared, produce finely, without attention to drainage.

Our pine lands, in this vicinity, are high and dry, and almost free from palmetto, and require little or no grubbing to bring into a good state of cultivation. These lands produce fine crops of corn, potatoes, sugar-cane, &c, as also the tropical fruits, to great perfection.

The community is exceptionally moral and peaceful; though they are not enough enterprising men here to make known the many natural advantages with which this section is so bountifully endowed.

The older people are utterly wrapped up in the cattle business, and can conceive of no greater happiness to a dying mortal than to take the last expiring breath, holding a cow-whip in one hand and a cow's tail in the other.

The name given to our village has certainly been somewhat misapplied. Instead of Pine Level, the name Oak Level would have been much more appropriate, on account of the predominance of the tree here.

We are anxious to see our population increased by enterprising emigrants who will come here and develop our superior natural advantages of soil and climate.

Our mail facilities have been increased from once to twice a week which tends greatly to soothe the monotony of interior South Florida life, as well as benefits and facilitates all branches of business.

Now, as the election time is approaching, there are certain grave errors committed by the County Commissioners, which are to be censured, and, if left uncorrected, will work serious damage to the interest of the Democratic party, in this county. Some of them are of such a nature that they have already, in a degree, weakened the prospect of success in the coming campaign.

We have heard several men of influence in the county, who have heretofore been among our zealous Democrats declare their attention to abandon the ranks of the party, and some already have enlisted their aid and influence in support of the opposite party.

One of these errors to which we would refer is in regard to the disposition of the insolvent tax list. Instead of disposing of it as the law directs, they first handed it over to the Sheriff [William C. Hayman] for collection, which he failed to do, since he was known to be acting out of the sphere of his duty, even by these poor, ignorant people.

Then what step do you suppose the profound wisdom of the chairman next led him to take? Why, it was to make a present of it to a lawyer for his individual benefit!

When this fact was made known, a citizen, not a member of the County Commissioners, proposed to one of the Commissioners to pay one half of the amount to the beneficiary lawyer, if he, the Commissioner, would pay the other. This was agreed to and the fact was made known in their meeting the next day; whereupon, they rescinded their wise disposition of the insolvent tax list.

Now, these poor people, many of whom could not provide the actual necessities for their helpless families, were to have whatever of worldly goods they might possess, sold for the benefit of the of a private individual.

Another which we would mention is in regard to the Grand Jury list. There are men in our county who have always been upright and intelligent citizens, and who have rendered valuable aid to the Democratic cause, whose names have been stricken from the list of the Grand Jury. Such a proceeding has naturally caused these parties to become indignant, and is in fact filling up the ranks of the Radical party with men on whom we ought to depend for success.

If this state of things has been brought about a system of narrow-mindedness on the part of the County Commissioners, or, if they have been actuated by selfish prejudice, we are truly to be pitied.

February 28, 2001 & October 17, 2001 & May 6, 2002, midi = "Woodman, Spare That Tree," arranged by Lesley Nelson-Burns.