Citrus County is located between the Gulf of Mexico on the west and Lake Tsala Apopka and the Withlacoochee river on the east and is near the center of the peninsula of Florida. In area the county is almost or quite as large as the State of Rhode Island, while its population is not more than 2 percent of the population of that state.
The western side of the county bordered by the Gulf is largely covered by prairie lands and hammocks. The prairies afford fine pasturage for the cattle in winter while the hammocks are the favorite hiding places of wild game such as deer, turkey and bear. The entire eastern and northern part is bordered by the Withlacoochee river. Lying parallel to this river in the eastern part of the county is the famous Lake Tsala Apopka, which is about twenty miles in length and varying in width from 100 yards to one mile. Lying between this lake and the river is a territory known as the “cove” which is from one-half to two miles in width and is composed largely of scrub hammocks and the prairie lakes. While a large part of this territory is fit only for pasturage an occasional hammock of very fine land is found. Bordering on the river are some of as fine hammock lands as found in Florida. These lands are for the most part in their wild state for lack of transportation. An effort is being made to get the national government to open the Withlacoochee river and to cut a canal through Tsala Apopka lake connecting the towns of Hernando, Inverness and Floral City with water transportation to the river. Such a canal was onetime opened by the Florida Orange Canal and Transit Co. and at one time small boats piled between these places, but the canal was abandoned for lack of means for keeping it open. The attention of the national government has been recently secured as a survey of this canal has been ordered.
Bordering Tsala Apoka Lake is the choice citrus fruit growing section. The citrus fruit grows wild here and probably from this tract is derived the name Citrus County. Some very fine groves of oranges and grapefruit are found here. The waters from the lake protect the fruit from the cold in winter. Citruc fruit grown here is much better than that grown farther south. There are many hundreds of acres of wild hammock lands here yet suitable for the growing of these fruits.
The great central part of Citrus County is high and dry. The surface for the most part is sufficiently undulating to afford good drainage.
There are occasional sections of hills and rolling lands. The entire part of the county was originally covered with the yellow pine with the exception of here and there a small scrub hammock. Fully 95 percent of these lands have never been under cultivation. The pine is being rapidly removed for sawmill purposes in some sections. The lands can very easily be put into cultivation and good crops can be grown the first year and especially if cultivation follow in a few years after the pine is removed and before the land is covered with the scrub oak which rapidly covers the land after the pine is removed. It is not claimed that these lands are the finest in the world nor that this vast territory is in the center of the “Garden of Eden,” where it is not needful for man to toil, but it is a fact that these lands will produce profitable crops and that they will respond wonderfully to intelligent cultivation. The soil varies here from a poor sandy scrub hammock to a rich waxy clay. The sandy soils are very fine grained and contain a quantity of phosphate. These sandy soils are much more productive than the coarse grained soils farther North. The great variety of soils afford opportunity for a great variety of crops:
This is a glorious climate! There are no extremes of heat and cold. The average temperature for January the coldest month is 60 degrees as shown by the government reports. The average for the warmest months, July and August, is about 80 degrees. Such a thing as a prostration of heat is unknown here. There is always a good breeze in summer from the gulf and most of the rain falls in the summer thus cooling and purifying the atmosphere. The average rainfall per year is about 51 inches.
Citrus County has an excellent system of schools ranked second to none in point of excellence and high average attendance. There is a very strong public school sentiment. No other county in the South is doing more for its children in the way of education. Good school houses have been erected in every community. Free books are furnished and the county maintains a good school in every section from six to nine months every year.
Nearly all denominations are represented and a suitable house of worship is found in every community.
The following fraternal orders are found in the county; Blue Lodge, Chapter, Commandery and Eastern Stars of the Masonic order, Columbin Woodman, Woodmen of the World, Knights of Pythias, Odd Fellows and Fraternal Union.
Easy transportation is afforded by the Atlantic Coast Line railroad, Seaboard Airline, Standard and Hernando railroad and by means of small boats which ply on the gulf and small streams flowing into it. There are about sixty miles of good hard surfaced roads connecting all the important places of the county.
General Farming recommended
The great need in this county is more farmers who know how to raise general farm products. While any of the specialties may be pursued by the intelligent and industrious farmer yet there is felt the need of those who can raise the staple products as hay, corn, potatoes, cane, peanuts, beans, melons, cotton, etc. At one time cotton was an important product of the county, but with the coming of the phosphate mine, turpentine still and sawmill industry, this industry was neglected and now there are children in the county who have never seen the crop growing. The melon industry is something new in the county. Only three or four years ago it was said that a car of watermelon had never been shipped from the county. Last year there were nearly a hundred cars shipped from the county and there is much interest manifested in the industry by those who have engaged in it. Since the industry is now here, diseases that generally attack the melon have not as yet been so troublesome. There are thousands of acres of pine land in this county that would produce as fine melons as can be grown anywhere. The natural grasses found here can be made to produce profitable crops of hay and a ready market is found in the county for a large amount of it. Those desiring to truck can do so in winter and early spring and follow the lands with general farm crops. After a crop of melons can be grown a crop of velvet beans or a crop of hay. After early truck can be raised corn and sweet potatoes. Something can be made to grow every month of the year if proper care is taken.
There are a few herds of blooded cattle and thousands of natives roam the woods. Some of our farmers own from a hundred to a thousand head of native cattle. These seldom need attention in winter and occasionally numbers of them are lost through the neglect of a little feeding. It has been said by those familiar with the industry that a pound of beef can be raised in this part of Florida cheaper than in the great cattle raising section of the west. Velvet beans only need to be planted to grow a crop. A little cultivation will of course increase the yield. These with pastures of Bermuda grass would easily afford winter food for cattle.
Hogs go wild in the hammocks and swamps. Pine mass and nuts in the fall and winter months afford abundance of food for them. They are often found in the woods at the winter season too fat for good pork. Most of the pork sold here has never been fed, but it is as fat as is desired when killed in the woods. Little attention has been given to blooded hogs, relying on the famous piney woods rooter almost altogether. Goats do well, and all kinds of poultry do extra well when given all kinds of attention.
Inverness, the county seat of Citrus County, has a population of about 2,000 people. The location of the town is very favorable for the building of quite a city. On the east it has a beautiful lake frontage on Lake Tsala Apopka, where may be seen numbers of private launches and pleasure boats. Around the borders of the lake are the finest orange groves of the County. On the west the town borders the high piney woods. Inverness is connected with every section of the County by means of hard-surfaced roads. A hard road leads from the town of Crystal River, a distance of twenty miles, another to Holder, Hernando and Dunnellon, a total distance of twenty miles and still another leads to Floral City and to the Stage Pond settlement, a total distance of twelve miles. The Atlantic Coast Line and the Seaboard Airline Railroads with six or eight trains daily afford transportation to the outside world. Within the last three years have been built a $70,000 court house, a $25,000 jail, a $20,000 Masonic Temple, two blocks of brick stores, a magnificent eleven room brick school building and near a score of pretty homes. There are two banks, an ice plant, a concrete factory, electric lights, one of the largest sawmills of the State, a garage and repair shop, a large blacksmith shop and two phosphate mines. There are five churches and a number of secret orders. Probably fifteen hundred carloads of yellow pine lumber, forty thousand tons of phosphate, twenty thousands of oranges and grapefruit and a hundred carloads of melons are shipped from the town annually. Three years ago not a car of melons had ever been shipped from this place and now it is estimated that two hundred cars may be shipped another year, and there are possibilities of increasing to a thousand cars each year. There are also possibilities of greatly increasing the production of oranges and grapefruit in this section and no doubt this will be done as new groves are being put out this year.
There has not been a murder in the town to the writer’s knowledge within the last ten years, except one or two negroes, and no town has been more free from robbers and petty thieves. Our people are peacefully disposed and very socially inclined. Some enterprising citizens have for a number of years contracted with the Alkaheat Lyceum Bureau of Atlanta, Ga., for a regular Lyceum course and nothing but high class entertainments has ever been had.
Inverness invites the home-seeker, the investor and tourist and will show them every possible courtesy. While this has not been very generally regarded as a tourist town yet more tourists are coming here each year and now there is a need of a large tourist hotel.
The Inverness graded and high school is the pride of the town. No town has a better public school sentiment. No compusory (sic) educational law is needed here. Inverness children go to school because it is unpopular to do otherwise and because the people in general take pride in offering their children an opportunity for a liberal education. The comfortable school building and large pretty school grounds are very inviting to those desiring an opportunity to educate their children. A full high school course is provided including music. There are about two hundred and fifty children enrolled in the school at present.
Hernando, situated on Tsala Apopka Lake about five miles north of Inverness, has, when the mines are in operation, about one thousand people. The town is incorporated and has a good town government. The streets are paved with Florida lime rock. There is a good school and a church at which all denominations worship. The town has been the center of the phosphate industry for a number of years and the business men have relied almost entirely on this industry consequently when the mines close down there is little to fall back on. Good lands surround Hernando and extend for miles. The soil is suitable for the growing of staple crops. Trucking also pays as there has been scarcely sufficient vegetables raised to supply the home market and sometimes vegetables, butter, chickens and eggs cannot be bought although the price is always high. There are some fine groves of citrus fruit near the town and there are possibilities of greatly increasing the output in oranges, grapefruit, etc. Transportation is readily had to the Northern markets. Hernando is on the route of the proposed canal through Lake Tsala Apopka to the Withlacoochee River and is not far from the proposed Across-State Canal.Should the proposed Across-State Canal be built and the two canals connected, there would be open to cultivation thousands of acres of fine hammock now not convenient to transportation. When the Across-State Canal is built by the National Government as it is sure to be, all the towns along the shores of Lake Tsala Apopka will become centers of great activity.
Holder, five miles north of Hernando, has also been a great center of the mining industry and has also relied too much on the mining business. Holder needs many good, substantial farmers to clear up great tracks of lands and to engage in general farming and stock raising. Some of the county’s best citizens live at Holder and always take pride in showing the newcomer all due courtesies. The citizens of Holder especially invite the home-seeker to investigate the possibilities of their town and more especially their farming lands before investing elsewhere. Lands for general farming can be bought in large tracts and in small for as low as $5 and $10 per acre. These lands are easily cleared, too. To illustrate, one enterprising citizen who believes that there are great possibilities in farming in this territory selected a body of what is known as cut over land between Hernando and Holder meaning by cut-over land, land from which the timber has been removed and had it plowed under last fall. Last winter sixty-two acres of it was bedded out and planted in velvet beans in early spring before it was fenced. The beans were coming up before the fence was put around it. After the fence was completed not a day’s work was done in this field and yet the owner refused $600 for the crop of beans and believes the field worth $1,000. The real object of the bean crop was not remuneration but the preparation of the soil for future crops.
Crystal River is located on the river of the same name and is only about nine miles from the Gulf. It claims and probably justly so, the largest cedar mill in the South, the largest crate factory in the State and also the largest rock quarry. Its fish and oyster business amounts to $100,000 annually. It is surrounded by some fine trucking lands. The lands are especially adapted to gardening.
Crystal River has a bank, a number of prosperous mercantile establishments, four white churches, a graded and high school, hard surfaced streets, two hotels, a newspaper and many nice homes. The population is one thousand or more. The citizenship of Crystal River is of the highest type. Its people are cultured and social and endeavor to make the home-seeker and tourist feel at home. Fishing and hunting near the town is especially good. The river abounds in fish of all kinds peculiar to this climate and the Gulf is easily reached by means of launches, where many oysters may be had and where there are many opportunities for the sportsman to enjoy life. The town has a local Board of Trade and a town improvement society, both of which work for the improvement and advancement of the town.
Homosassa as the name implies means “a river of many fish.” This river on which is located the town of the same name abounds In fish of all kinds both salt water and fresh. The river heads nine miles from the Gulf of Mexico, being formed by many beautiful streams, which are as clear as crystal and are the world’s greatest natural aquariums. Sight-seers looking into the springs for the first time, watching the many different kinds of fish basking in the crystal waters, feast their eyes for hours on this beautiful picture of God’s own gift. Tourists from all over the world have visited the Homosassa River and the springs forming it and almost without an exception pronounce them one of the beauty spots of earth and the angler’s paradise.
During the winter months duck shooting on the river is excellent. There is a vast area of creeks and marshes surrounding Homosassa in which ducks In great numbers feed. There is an area of swamps running parallel with the Gulf and surround the town of Homosassa. These swamps are about twenty miles in length with an average width of three miles. In them deer and turkey may yet be found in sufficient numbers to afford good hunting. In these swamps are hammocks near the town and on the river was once the famous sugar plantation of General Eulee (sic). Here it is said he made the money for building or at least for interesting eastern capitalists in building one of the first railroads in the State, the old Eulee (sic) road from Cedar Keyes to Fernandina. The old sugar factory still remains a monument to ante-bellum days when such plantations were worked by negro slaves. The old sugar kettles and the old furnace are still in place. Large cedar trees entwine their roots around the old iron kettles and on top the furnace twelve feet high stand cedar trees eight to twelve inches in diameter. The old plantation would not be recognized but for this old factory as it is now a swamp of low hammock. Farming has been neglected despite of the rich soil and fishing is almost the only occupation of the settler near the Homosassa River. Homosassa only needs a tourist hotel to make it a desired winter resort for the tourist in search of fishing and hunting during the winter months.
Author: I. O. Fender
Source: Tampa Tribune: 12-14-1913
Transcribed, Formatted and Submitted by Linda Flowers