In one of downtown Dade City’s most visible places, there’s a historic plaque commemorating the establishment of Pasco County.
The problem is — that celebrated memorial, located in courthouse square — contains an inaccurate date.
“Pasco County was created from Hernando County on May 12, 1887,” the sign reads.
On the face of it, that seems like an important thing to remember.
However, the historic sign perpetuates the wrong date.
It turns out that the separation of the counties was signed into law by then Gov. Edward A. Perry on June 2, 1887.
The document he signed was titled, “A Bill to Divide the County of Hernando and make therefrom the Counties of Citrus and Pasco.”
In a way though, it’s almost fitting that the marker is wrong because it serves as a reminder of the many challenges that arose, during the naming of Pasco County.
It took much compromise to arrive at that name, according to Jefferson Alexis “J.A.” Hendley.
Hendley wrote about the efforts in a work published in 1943 that chronicles a gathering of residents of southern Hernando County, who met in May 1887, with the purpose of forming a new county.
“We agreed in convention assembled to make an effort to get away from Brooksville,” Hendley writes, in an account he dedicated to the schoolteachers of Pasco County.
Forming counties in Florida during the 1800s was nothing new.
Hernando County, itself, was part of Hillsborough County before it was separated, and became its own entity, on Feb. 27, 1843.
Writing in a letter on Nov. 25, 1927, Dr. Richard C. Bankston, recalled that at the time of Pasco County’s creation, there was “unanimous sentiment” to support it.
“We all were weary of traveling the sand trails of Brooksville, the county seat, to attend court, or transact other business of varied nature,” he wrote.
Bankston and Hendley were selected to lobby for the change, in Tallahassee.
Bankston was a member of the Florida Legislature, from Tampa; Hendley was a Blanton lawyer and a member of the Florida Constitutional Convention of 1885.
Hendley knew it was not going to be easy based on his own experience in west Texas, where he helped to organize Mitchell County.
Plus, both men had already read “a very discouraging letter,” from James Latham, a Florida House of Representatives member, from Hernando County.
Latham’s letter said it was too late in the session to accomplish anything.
The subsequent reply from south Hernando County was a political threat to “split the county right in the middle of Brooksville,” if the suggested new county was not formed.
The group also suggested three names for legislators to consider for the new county. They recommended: “Tropic,” “Banner” and “Emanuel.”
Bankston and Hendley preferred the name, “Banner,” for the new county.
That was a problem.
“As we learned that nearly every member thought he came from a banner county,” Bankston wrote.
They knew they’d have to come up with a less-objectionable name.
It so happened that the state’s lawmakers were in joint session that week voting for Florida’s next U.S. Senator.
In those days, senators were elected by state legislatures and the decision was rarely made in a single vote.
It took 89 ballots for Florida’s state Democratic party to choose Judge Samuel Pasco, of Monticello, as their compromise candidate.
It took another 25 ballots for the full legislature to elect Pasco, with a vote of 87-17 on May 19, 1887.
Pasco was at the height of his popularity — and, Bankston and Hendley were inspired by these events.
They figured if they wanted their new county, the best way to get it done was to garner the support of the English-born Pasco.
He was a Harvard graduate, a Civil War Hero, a lawyer, a Baptist, and, above all — a Democrat.
“It struck me as an inspiration to call our county ‘Pasco,’” Bankston wrote.
Finding a committee room with a desk, he immediately changed the name on the legislative documents from Banner to Pasco.
Bankston recounts: “We gave the finished bill to Sen. A.S. Man, who at once introduced it in the Senate, and it passed unanimously. It was expedited to the House and sponsored by Frank Saxon, where it passed unanimously. The governor was favorable and signed it. Having accomplished all we proposed, we returned home, able to report the complete success of our mission.”
The governor approved the formation of Pasco County within four hours, according to Bankston’s account.
Nearly 20 years after Hendley’s history of Pasco County was published, the state posted the marker on the west lawn of the county’s red-brick courthouse, with its neoclassical dome and clock tower.
Flash forward to the present.
Even though the historic marker was erected in 1963, the Pasco Historical Society in Dade City and the West Pasco Historical Society in New Port Richey are interested in making a joint request to the Pasco County Commission to put the correct date — June 2, 1887 — on the marker.
Stay tuned, to this column, to see what happens next.
Doug Sanders has a penchant for unearthing interesting stories about local history. His sleuthing skills have been developed through his experiences in newspaper and government work. If you have an idea for a future history column, contact Doug at .
Published December 01, 2021