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Wauchula, Florida Early History, 1909

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.


        Early Road

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.


        Fort Hartsuff

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.


        Eli English

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.


        Farm Products

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.


        Game

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.


        Land Claims

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.


        Census

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.


        Transportation Facilities

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.


        Churches

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.

        School

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.


        Utilities

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.


        General Economy

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."



Wauchula, Florida Early History, 1909, Part 2
Edited by Spessard Stone from The Tampa Morning Tribune of January 10, 1909
This was published in The Herald-Advocate of October 1, 1998.



        Business Directory

There are now in business in Wauchula eight orange packing houses, eight general stores, two dry goods stores, two drug stores, two hardware stores, two millinery stores, two good hotels and several boarding houses, two livery stables, two blacksmith shops, one furniture store, one jewelry store, one ice factory, one of the largest crate factories in the state. [Also] one newspaper, one job printing office, several newsdealers, one barber shop, two dentists, three doctors, two attorneys, several fruit buyers, several contractors, one piano dealer, local and long distance telephone service, express, telegraph, concrete works, dealers in buggies and wagons, saddlery and farm implements, two real estate dealers, lumber dealers, dealers in building materials of all kinds.


        Beeson Bros., Druggists

The firm began business in March, 1905, with a stock of drugs amounting to no more than $50. Now it carries a stock worth $5,000, and the fixtures in the store are worth $3,000. The stock as carried consists of a full line of fresh medicines, proprietary compounds, druggists' sundries, a splendid department of cold drinks, chemicals, patent medicines, paints, oils and varnishes, books, stationery, toilet articles, cigars and tobaccos. Dr. J. Mooring Beeson, the senior member of the firm, is a practicing physician, a graduate of the Medical college of Alabama, class of 1897, and has been practicing constantly since that time. Mr. W. B. Beeson, the junior member of the firm, came to Wauchula when this drug business opened.


        Carlton & Carlton Bankers

This is the third oldest banking house in DeSoto County. It is a private bank. The members of the firm are Albert Carlton and his son, Charles J. Carlton. The capital, surplus and undivided profits of this bank on the 11th of December were $19,507.93, deposits $88,700, and undivided responsibility $180,000. This bank now has in process of construction one of the handsomest banking buildings in any part of this state. It is of concrete structure, two stories high. The first floor will be divided into stores, space being reserved for accomodation of the bank, and the second floor will be taken up with offices of various kinds.


        The Florida Advocate

The Florida Advocate, published at Wauchula by Geo. M. Goolsby, is Wauchula's first newspaper and has never changed ownership. Eight years ago when Editor Goolsby moved an old outfit from Starke to Wauchula and launched the Advocate, some of the state editors extended their sympathy, and one of the Miami papers facetiously remarked that it was a "wonderful paper to come out of the woods." They did not know the wonderful country back of the little hamlet in the woods, nor did they know that what few dollars Editor Goolsby had brought to Florida had been left in the old orange belt, and that when he shipped the old Acorn pattern Washington hand press, the patched up Gordon and apron full of small pica to Wauchula that he owed every cent of the bargained price and a $50 freight bill besides and landed in Wauchula without one dollar to pay it with. At that time Wauchula had less than 300 inhabitants, and it was evident to make a success of a newspaper it was necessary for the town to grow, and from its first issue the Advocate has been a town builder and developer and has had the satisfaction of seeing the town grow from a piny hamlet to one of the thriving little cities in Florida. The old Washington has been paid for and discarded and a two-revolution cylinder has taken its place; the old Gordon is gone and the latest improved Colts' Armory press is in its place, while a little Pearl clicks merrily alongside of it. The Advocate office of today is known as the neatest, cleanest, lightest and best equipped country printing office in the state. It occupies its own building and is within 150 feet of the neat cottage owned by its editor, all surrounded by bearing orange and grapefruit trees, flowers, shrubbery and a neatly kept lawn.


        McCrae & Co., General Merchandise

T. K. McCrae came to Wauchula from Georgia where he had been engaged in merchandise. He established his business in a frame building 16X40, one story high. The premises he now occupies are 55X70, two stories high.


        Mitchell Hardware Co.

Mr. W. E. Mitchell came to Wauchula in 1901 from Savannah where he had been engaged in the transportation business. Mr. Mitchell handles hardware, stoves, tinware, farm implements, pumps, pipe and pipe fittings, doors and sash, builders' supplies, paints and oils and all other items usual to such concerns. He is a member of the City Council and vice president of the Bank of Wauchula. He owns considerable real estate around the city.


        Peace River Hotel

It was opened to the public on the 29th of November. The hotel is centrally located, right in the business center of Wauchula, near the postoffice and depot. It is a three-story building, built of concrete. The hotel is conducted by Mr. and Mrs. D. M. Edwards. [It also is the] home of grocery and millinery stores of W. A. Southerland and drug store of Beeson Bros.


        H. P. Read, Contractor

His main office is at 602 Forest Avenue, Tampa, but his operations are confined to no single portion of the state. He now has in process of construction the handsome $25,000 Carlton and Carlton bank building. Recently he constructed the handsome three-story DeSoto bank building at Arcadia, the upper floors of which are arranged for a thirty-room hotel. He also built in Arcadia the handsome high school building, Daniels block, Gore and Scott block, F. Marquis block, Jones and Carlton block and the C. C. Choller residence.


        W. A. Southerland, General Merchandise

This gentleman was in the general merchandise business in Wauchula for many years, his store being burned out in June 1906. He took up rest for one year and opened up his present place of business in October, 1907. Mr. Southerland came to Wauchula in 1886 from North Carolina.


        Wauchula Hardware Company

This is one of the prime commercial concerns of Wauchula. It was established in 1903. The officers are B. F. Allman, president; I. C. Smith, vice president; J. W. Daughtry, secretary, treasurer and manager. When the new bank building is completed, the firm will occupy one of its storerooms.


        Wauchula Manufacturing Company

This business was established in 1904 and has a capital of $50,000, the greater portion of which was furnished by home people. It ships 600 carloads of knocked down crates per annum, using in their construction 250,000 feet of logs and 100,000 feet of boards per month. The product amounts to 1,250,000 finished packages per year, which is distributed locally, shipped to Cuba and Porto Rico, to Georgia during the peach season and to Maryland during the vegetable season. The company owns a tram road three miles in length, which is used in bringing the raw material from the forests. In addition the company conducts one of the best ice factories in the state. In addition to supplying the local market, large quantities are shipped to Punta Gorda and Boca Grande to be used in iceing the fishing schooners and packing fish for shipment. The officers of the company are E. F. Bostick, president; Eugene Holtsinger, vice president; A. G. Smith, treasurer; J. L. Chase, manager; I. C. Smith, secretary.


        Ye Old Curiosity Shop

This is one of Wauchula's foremost department stores. Mr. A. C. Clavel came to this city in 1900 direct from New York and entered the hotel business, his place being known as Bel Air. Mr. Clavel discontinued the hotel business and entered the realm of merchandise, which he did six years ago. Last February his store and stock were consumed by fire and he erected his present fine commercial building.


January 28, 2001 & March 18, 2004