There’s a sign outside the Historic Pasco County Courthouse in Dade City, which shares facts about the county’s creation.
The historic marker, erected this spring, says Pasco County was formed on June 2, 1887.
It replaces a sign — that stood for 60-odd years — that was inaccurate.
That one said that Pasco was created by splitting off a portion of Hernando County, on May 12, 1887.
The incorrect sign was erected in 1961 by the Florida Board of Parks and Memorials, on the west lawn of the county’s red brick courthouse.
No one knows where the inaccurate date came from.
This column is a follow-up from my previous column published in The Laker/Lutz News on Dec. 1, 2021.
The previous column, which traced the origins of the county’s creation, was suggested by Jeff Miller, a longtime Pasco historian, who passed away this summer.
Jeff and I were trying to figure out how an incorrect date ended up on a historic marker in such a prominent place.
In my Dec. 1 column, I reported that J.A. Hendley, a prominent attorney from Blanton, had written about Pasco County’s early history in a 1943 account.
Hendley was the last surviving member of the Florida Constitutional Convention of 1885.
In recounting the history of Pasco‘s formation, he described residents of southern Hernando County meeting together for the purposes of forming a new county in May of 1887.
“We agreed in convention assembled to make an effort to get away from Brooksville,” Hendley writes.
There was “unanimous sentiment” that was later recalled by Dr. Richard C. Bankston in a letter dated Nov. 25, 1927: “We all were weary of traveling the sand trails of Brooksville, the county seat, to attend court, or transact other business of varied nature.”
Bankston and Hendley were appointed to lobby for the new county in Tallahassee.
They were successful only after seeking the support of Florida’s newest senator, Judge Samuel Pasco.
At the height of his popularity, Pasco agreed to have the new county named after him.
What followed next took only four hours on June 2, 1887, when Gov. Edward A. Perry signed into law “A Bill to Divide the County of Hernando and make therefrom the Counties of Citrus and Pasco.”
My column wasn’t the first to notice the discrepancy between the posted sign at the courthouse and the actual date of the county’s formation.
The erroneous information also came to light during the Pasco County centennial celebration held in 1987.
Eddie Herrmann, a member of the Pasco County Historical Preservation Committee, traveled to Tallahassee to specifically learn more about why the historic marker cited May 12, 1887 as the date of the county’s formation.
At the time, Herrmann told Carol Jeffares, a reporter for The Tampa Tribune, “I researched the dates and there’s nothing there as why that date ties in.”
At least two sources also reported the May 12, 1887 founding date.
One is a book that listed all of the historical markers provided by the Secretary of State at the time, and another is a 1920s brochure promoting Pasco County.
Another incorrect founding date — July 18, 1887 — was published in 1962 by Ralph Bellwood’s “Tales of West Pasco.”
Bellwood wrote a newspaper column on local history and was the executive secretary of the New Port Richey Chamber of Commerce.
It turns out the July 18, 1887 he cited is actually the date of the county board’s first meeting, when county officers were appointed. That’s according to minutes on file at the Pioneer Florida Museum & Village.
The incorrect date of the county’s creation also appears in The Florida Almanac. It turns out that mistake was due to a typographical error, an almanac editor said.
More confusion arose in 1973, as proponents of a Split Pasco movement wanted the eastern portion of the county to be called Burnside County, in honor of Stanley C. Burnside and his father, Archie J. Burnside.
Between them, the Burnside men served 68 years as the clerk of the circuit court in Pasco.
Burnside County never came to be.
And now, when people visit courthouse square in Dade City, they can check out the new historic marker.
After learning about the error on the old sign, Pasco County Commissioner Ron Oakley suggested pursuing the acquisition of a new sign and his colleagues agreed.
Oakley, who represents East Pasco, brought the issue to the attention of Florida Senate President Wilton Simpson, who lives in Trilby.
Then Simpson got involved.
Others who played a role in getting the new sign erected were Michael Hart, with Florida’s Division of Historical Resources, and Ryan Hughes, with Pasco County’s media relations office.
Now, when visitors read the historic sign, posted outside what’s arguably Pasco County’s most iconic building — they’ll read about the actual day when Pasco took on an identity of its own.
Plus, now, everyone involved in the effort to accurately preserve history can keep a clipping of this column, as a keepsake.
Published September 28, 2022
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