Edited by Spessard Stone from The Tampa Morning Tribune of January 10, 1909
This article was published in The Herald-Advocate (Wauchula, Fla.) of September 17, 1998
D. M. Cason
From Mr. D. M. Cason, now a resident of Wauchula, we were able to gather some very interesting points relating to that community in its early stages of formation. D. M. Cason, a venerable old gentleman, is a Floridian. He was born in Madison County, enlisted in the Florida militia and fought in the Indian war of 1856-7. In 1874 he moved to South Florida and lived one year at Fort Green, twelve miles northwest of Wauchula. He then purchased property one mile north of Wauchula and has resided there ever since.
The United States government opened up a road in 1836, extending from Fort Hamer, a point eight miles above Manatee town on the Manatee River. This road ran in a northeast direction, crossing Peace River four miles above Wauchula at what was known as the Chokinicla ford and thence to Fort Capron on the Indian River on the east coast of Florida. This road was largely used by the early settlers in their trips to the trading centers and is in a pretty fair state of preservation to this day.
What is now known as the Wauchula section was formerly known as Fort Hartsuff section. This was way back in 1874, the county at that time being a part of Manatee county, the county seat was at Pine Level. hen there were only six families living in this neighborhood. They were Eli English, Albert Carlton, W. P. McEwen, Lewis Carlton, W. A. McEwen and D. M. Cason. The entire population of the county was not over three hundred, and they were so badly scattered that one could travel for days without coming to a habitation, unless he kept on the plain road, along which few of the sturdy pioneers had pitched camp.
There was no store, or other business south of Fort Meade, except that of Eli English, who conducted a small store one mile south of Wauchula. His goods were hauled by ox cart from Tampa, seventy-five miles away, about one week being required to make the round trip.
The agricultural products of the community at that time consisted of sweet potatoes, sugar cane and Indian corn, along with a few scattering orange trees which were planted by that other set of early pioneers who migrated to the sunny hills and plains of Florida many years before the Indian war of 1856-7. These products were sold at Tampa and Manatee town, and together with the cattle that were raised on the plains, constituted the entire source of income of the community.
The woods were full of game at that time, [and] the old scouts could take their long barreled rifles and trek to the woods, which came right up to their very doors, and secure sufficient fresh meat in a few hours to last as long as they could keep it.
In 1874 there was but one forty acres of land preempted and properly registered in the land office, then located at Fort Green, it having been taken up by Albert Hendry. It was the custom in those days for a settler to stride his horse around over the country until he found a location suitable to his needs; he then built a log cabin on it and called all the land he cared to claim his own. The great influx of immigrants occurred along about 1883-7, there was a great scramble made to get to the land office and have claims and surveys recorded.
Etymology and Topography
Wauchula is a Seminole Indian word meaning Bird-in-the-Nest. The town is situated in the Peace River country, about 235 miles south of Jacksonville and 75 miles southeast of Tampa on the Charlotte Harbor division of the Atlantic Coast Line railway, formerly the Plant system.(1) The town is located about one mile from the swift running Peace River, with its tributary branches forming excellent drainage for the town and surrounding country. The town is fully 76 feet higher than sea level and is dry, healthy and a delightful place to live.
Wauchula was incorporated in 1903. At the time it was difficult to find 25 qualified voters living within the proposed city limits, the number necessary by law before a town could be incorporated. Now the town has 200 registered voters. When the government census was taken in 1900, the whole election district, of which Wauchula is a part, had a population of 400. The state census taken in 1905 showed the town to have a population of 800, and when a local census was taken in 1907, there were 1,001 inhabitants living in the place, the one being a negro, and the only negro living in the town. Its population today is at least 1,200.
Wauchula is located on the Atlantic Coast Line railway. Four passenger trains leave the town each day. The shipping of fruits and vegetables has made a place of the first importance of Wauchula.
There are three churches in Wauchula--Methodist, Baptist and Primitive Baptist. These congregations are active and much interested in the moral and religious welfare of the community and are welding much good in the citizenry.
Wauchula high school is the pride of the town and surrounding community. The school maintains a senior high school, composed of twelve grades. The first eight are known as the graded school department, while the remaining four grades are known as the high school. The school has grown within the last five years from about 100 pupils with three or four teachers to over 400 pupils with twelve teachers. he girls and boys are attracted to the work. Most of the pupils stay in school the whole year. They are obedient and mannerly. The school turned out its first graduates in 1906 and has graduated ten pupils in all. The following are graduates: Miss Maude Wilkinson, teacher in high school; Miss Cora Southerland, music teacher; Mr. Leland Carlton, pupil at Stetson university; Mr. Thomas Rust, pharmacist; Miss Myrtle McEwen, married and housekeeping; Miss Clara Futch, pupil State college; Miss Caddie Farr, pupil State college; Miss Lizzie Turner, teacher; Miss Mae Gillett, teacher; Miss Pearl McEwen, teacher. The school is controlled by a local board of education; the members being Dr. Y. E. Wright, chairman, E. J. Wilkins and J. D. Southerland, together with the county board of education. The present quarters being inadequate, the citizens voted to bond the town for $15,000 to build a new school house. The building will be completed by the beginning of the next school year.
A movement is now afoot for the establishment of a very comprehensive waterworks system and electric light plant. These are much needed utilities in the city.
Wauchula is in the very heart of one of the best farming, trucking and orange producing section of the state. It matters little in which direction one may go, there will be found well tilled farms, good roads, fine orange groves, nice live stock, good residence, and all that tend to make a thrifty community, a community that has found it necessary to have two strong banks. rom 1901 to 1908 there were shipped from Wauchula 714,000 boxes of oranges, 332,575 crates of vegetables and 545 carloads of watermelons. There are 1,500 acres of bearing orange groves in the vicinity and 3,000 acres of non-bearing young trees. Many of the seedling groves are 40 years old and have trees in them that measure eight feet in circumstance. There are 2,000 acres in truck within a radius of three miles of Wauchula. These farms are well stocked with cattle, horses and sheep, and the farmer makes it a point to raise all that is necessary to sustain the family and have a substantial surplus to sell.
Endnote: (1) All other sources state that Wauchula is derived from the Seminole name of Wauchula, meaning "call of the sandhill crane."
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