Main Street Zephyrhills has big plans for the centennial celebration
By Kyle LoJacono
ZEPHYRHILLS — A city can only turn 100 years old once, and Zephyrhills is making the most of its chance.
“I think its something you need to celebrate,” Zephyrhills Mayor Cliff McDuffie said of the anniversary. “One hundred years is special. That goes back to even before I was born.”
McDuffie was born in 1934 and has been the mayor for eight years.
While events will be happening all year to celebrate the centennial, Main Street Zephyrhills Inc. has planned several major events for the occasion.
“The city was founded on March 10, 1910,” said Brenda Welcher, executive director for MSZI. “We will be unveiling a logo to the public on Jan. 11, which will be hung on lampposts in downtown Zephyrhills after that. We’ll also be having an even bigger Founder’s Day Celebration then ever before.”
The celebration will be March 13 and 14 in downtown Zephyrhills. There will be music, a memory wall with newspaper articles and pictures from the past, an archeological dig at one of the first houses built in Zephyrhills, and a flyover by airplanes from the Zephyrhills Airport. The highlight of the event is the parade on March 13.
“The theme this year is ‘Celebration of Generations,’” Welcher said. “Each float will feature a decade from 1910 to now. Floats are still available and people can sign up for them at www.mainstreetzephyrhills.org. All the rules about float sizes are there too.”
Welcher said the public can nominate people as the parade’s grand marshal by e-mailing her at . Nominations should include the nominees name, phone number, e-mail address and why they should be the grand marshal.
There will also be a tour of Stewart Middle, the original high school in Zephyrhills, on March 13. Those interested in the tour can take a hayride from the celebration and back.
After the celebration on March 13, which runs from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., people can to walk to Zephyr Park, where there will be fireworks and skydivers from Skydive City.
Zephyrhills’ first name was Abbott, named after Dr. J.M. Abbott who owned a drugstore in town. The name was changed to Abbott Station after two railroad depots were built in town.
The founder of Zephyrhills was Howard Barth Jeffries, a retired Union Army soldier. Margie Partain of the Zephyrhills Historical Association said many Union soldiers moved to the area because Army pensions were small and many wanted to supplement them as farmers.
“Jeffries bought about 35,000 acres of land and first planted it in 1910,” said Partain, who has lived in Zephyrhills for more than seven years.
Partain, who has been with the association for more than six years, said the name of the city likely came from one of two stories. The first comes from when Jeffries bought the land from James Lee Greer, who owned Greer Sawmill. The two signed the contract for the purchase on Letteup Hill in Zephyrhills on a very windy day. Zephyr actually means breezes, so the name Zephyrhills was born.
The other scenario is the first person to survey the city had either a first or last name of Hill.
“I think the first story seems more likely and it’s just a better story,” Partain said.
The Greer Sawmill produced most of the lumber that built the first houses of Zephyrhills. Partain said as many as 400 homes from the 1910s are still standing in or around town.
While Zephyrhills will take time to look back this year, the city is keeping its eyes on the future.
“It’s important to look at what the city is trying to do to stay relevant,” McDuffie said. “We aren’t just trying to maintain our place in Pasco County and Florida, but we want to grow as well. I believe the city is doing a great job with city planners and the City Council. We will keep Zephyrhills a viable place to live for another 100 years.”