WHAT’S IN A NAME*
By Kyle LoJacono
When Samuel Pasco first set foot in Florida in 1859, he probably did not think there would someday be a county named after him with nearly half a million residents.
Pasco was born in 1834 in London and lived until age 83 before his death in 1917. He immigrated to Charlestown, Mass. in 1846, where he graduated from Harvard College.
Pasco moved to Monticello in Florida’s panhandle in 1859, where he was the principal of Waukeenah Academy, now Aucilla Christian Academy, until 1861.
He left the high school to join the Confederate Army after the Civil War started as a private in the Third Florida Volunteers. He was wounded and taken prisoner at Mississippi Ridge in 1863 and remained imprisoned until March 1865, when he was paroled as a sergeant.
Pasco returned as the principal of Waukeenah in 1865 for one year before leaving to becoming the clerk of the circuit court of Jefferson County from 1866-68.
Pasco worked as a lawyer and eventually became a judge in Monticello until 1880, when he became a member of the Democratic National Committee. He also was president of the Florida constitutional convention in 1885 and a member of the state house from 1886-87, serving as speaker his final year. He was elected as a U.S. senator in 1887.
At that time, Hernando County was split into three separate counties because of growing population. The center portion remained Hernando, the northern section became Citrus County and the southern third was shortly called Banner County, which was unpopular with others in the state Legislature.
The name Pasco County was first proposed by Richard Bankston, a member of the legislature at the time. Bankston recorded some of the discussion about the fledgling county in a letter:
—From 1881 to 1887, Hernando county, especially the southern end, rapidly filled with a high type of settlers, many of whom I knew and remember pleasantly. We all were weary of traveling the sand trails of Brooksville, the county seat, to attend court, or transact other business of varied nature, and when we would meet, as neighbors will, at our community post office and stores, comment was loud and complaint vigorous and prolonged against the hardships of the trip. Such conditions aroused sentiment in favor of county division as a means of relief.
Enthusiasm was spontaneous and hope ran high. The result was a mass meeting which was attended by nearly all our male citizens, and was very representative, there being present people from every precinct in the southern end of the county. Unanimous sentiment was for division —the proper steps to take to attain that result was the issue for discussion. After deliberation, it was resolved that a committee of two be named to go to Tallahassee in the interest of the desired end, the Hon. J. A. Hendley and myself being the committee selected. Mr. James Grady moved that we be instructed to call our county “Banner” county.
While working on it we interviewed right and left, trying to work up sentiment in our favor, but when we would tell them we wanted our county to be called “Banner County,” from the immediate change of countenance we could see that we had thrown a damper upon their favorable interest.
As we learned that nearly every member thought he came from the Banner County, we began to seek for an unobjectionable name. At that time the body was in joint session, voting for United States senator, and very enthusiastically elected Judge Samuel Pasco of Monticello to the position. It struck me as an inspiration to call our county “Pasco.” I immediately went to the committee room, where I had a desk and changed our bill making the name Pasco instead of Banner.
We gave the finished bill to Senator A. S. Mann, who at once introduced it in the Senate, and it passed unanimously. It was expedited to the House and sponsored by F. Saxon, where it passed unanimously. The governor was favorable and signed it. Having accomplished all we purposed, we returned home, able to report the complete success of our mission.—
Edward Perry, Florida’s governor at the time, signed the bill to create Pasco and Citrus out of portions of Hernando, making sure Samuel Pasco’s name would live on in state history. Interestingly enough, there is no documentation of Pasco spending any time in the county.
Today, Pasco County is 745 square miles and has 471,709 people, according to U.S. Censure statistics. For additional information on Samuel Pasco and the county, visit www.fivay.org.
*This summer, we will take you on a tour of how historic places earned their names. Information is provided by interviews with Pasco County historian Jeff Miller of Fivay.org and the West Pasco Historical Society. If you know the history of an interesting place, call us at (813) 909-2800. See how Blanton, Dade City, Darby, Denham, Drexel and Ehren got their names next week.