We took a trip Thursday to Crystal River in Jake Brown’s car driven by Mr. L. A. Gable, the successful salesman for Brown’s wholesale grocery. We took the Martel and Juliette route. Automobile riding is all right on good roads, but its pleasures decrease as you strike the unimproved highways with ruts and many places with deep sand. Then the driver, too, has his hands full and Mr. Gable’s position is not the picnic many imagine.
We reached Dunnellon without any mishap, except a dead sparker and a wait for a freight train to unblock the highway. We reached Dunnellon in the quietude of its noonday hour. Everybody seemed to be fortifying the body with edibles and we did the same.
We called on Charlie Brabham, who is conducting the fortunes of the Dunnellon Advocate and found him busy setting a big advertisement for the enterprising mercantile house of Christian and Gamble. We shook hands with M. Rubin, a former Ocala merchant and now doing well in the phosphate city. We had a word with Mr. George Neville, cashier of the Dunnellon Bank, who said deposits were good and discounts lively. Business was reported fair in all branches of trade.
We then lit out for Holder and in passing over that distance enjoyed the best hard road in the state of Florida. Automobile tourists, who have driven their cars from Maine to St. Petersburg, say it is as good as the best and only cost $1,000 a mile. It is made of the pebble washed from the phosphate deposits and these mines line the country east of the road all the way down to Floral City, and distant from the highway from a half-mile to a mile, so the hauling is no very great distance.
At Holder we met Frank Long, postmaster and merchant, who is an advocate of hard roads, in fact, is one of the prime movers in the good work and makes up the pay roll and supplies the money to make it good. He said the Dunnellon Phosphate Company and the Buttgenbach Phosphate Company supplied the material free, although the road material was worth thirty cents a ton. It is the purpose of the county commissioners of Citrus county, to use the material to Inverness, a distance of thirteen miles. It only illustrates the fact that to make good roads you must have good material.
At Floral City we had the pleasure to meet R. L. Turner, superintendent of schools of Citrus county and a good one; also engaged with Mr. Edwards in the general merchandise business and in the best appointed store room in that town of a dozen stores. They own their building. We also chanced upon E. C. May, the racket merchant of that section. Mr. May tried California some seven years and is perfectly satisfied with Florida. Mr. May is a believer in printer’s ink, uses it, and has made a success in his business by his campaign in publicity.
The good road sentiment around Floral City is commendable but divided on bonding. Just south of Floral City we saw the handsomest patch of sweet potato vines we have most ever seen. It looked so pleasing to the eyes, the green richness of the vines denoted sweet potatoes in plenty in the ground. The man who grew them is Mr. Van Ness, son of the Hon. M. V. B. Van Ness, who is somewhat of a successful tiller of the soil himself and his advice to his sons has always been stick to mother earth, court her lovingly and she will smile bounteously upon you, and in this case it is so.
We struck the Crystal River road a few miles this side of Inverness. The distance is some 18 miles. This road was built of clay, by contract and cost $1,000 a mile; a good road as clay roads go, but there are taxpayers in Citrus county who say the builder failed to make the road according to specifications. Since the road was constructed some five years ago it doesn’t look as if a lick of work has been put on it since, and for its use and neglect it is not a bad road today if young black jacks are lining its sides.
We reached Crystal River about sunset and found there Congressman S. M. Sparkman, his son, Curtis, Captain Spalding, of the U. S. engineer corps, and the town committee, consisting of Messrs. Herrick, Barco and Hyde. They quartered us at the Crystal River Inn, conducted by Messrs. Willis & Fox, both gentlemen well known in Ocala, where they formerly resided, but who last spring bought the property of Dr. Bennett, who built it some years ago. The house is spacious, comfortable, well furnished and they set a table to tempt an epicure. When supper was served all the guests said the edibles were great and touched a spot in the anatomy that made good.
The evening was spent on the wide veranda, smoking and chatting and listening to interesting experiences of Captain Knight, an Alabama veteran of standing and who went through the reconstruction period with a record. They read like a romance, but war was in its breath.
It was arranged by the committee that Captain Spalding and Congressman Sparkman had to see the mouth of the river and the need of more dredging in the channel and an early start was fixed, so we could all return to attend the good roads meeting and participate in it. The glorius sunset of the night before only returned for a few minutes in the morning and then clouds gathered in the west and it began to rain.
The trip down the river, eight miles, and four miles to the bar, was made in Mr. Herrick’s magnificent steam launch “Eleanor IV,” and its beauty and finish and comfortable luxury can best be described when we say it cost $35,000. It is truly a palace on water, Capt. A. L. Lind commanding and Engineer W. W. Cribb, manipulating the engines. The crew to operate the boat cost $500 a month. The chef is an artist and the meals he spread for the guests were equal to Martain’s or Sherry’s.
The weather did not permit us to take in the beautiful and attractive scenery along the romantic river banks, but it is there is ever extending sections. Among it some cozy homes and lovely orange groves, notably that of Mr. Strathner, said to grow fruit equal to which in thin skin, delicate flavor and genuine orange bouquet does not exist in the state. The sand bars and rock formations noted on the map and interesting information given Capt. Spalding by Mr. Fred Van Roy of the Oxford Crate Co., which revealed the fact that the output of that company represented a car load of crate material for every working day in the year, most of which could be shipped by water if only the channel were deeper, at a reduction of freight rates of 100 percent. Col. Nic Barco, who was along, , said if water transportation could be had, wood by the thousands of cords would find an outlet by water to Tampa.
On our return the rain continuing, the fish fry and barbecue was called off until Saturday. Mr. Hyde kept the phones busy and told the country people to come next day.
The rain ceased and we inspected the new mill being built by the Dixon Crucible Co. of New Jersey, to replace the one consumed by fire last December. It will be better, larger and more up-to-date in every particular. It is being erected under the eye of General Manager C. E. Herrick and his assistant, Mr. Hyde, and when completed will be the most substantial structure of its kind in the state.
When put into operation it will employ double the help. While $150,000 worth of cedar timber went up in smoke, the company has cedar enough in sight for 20 years and by that time a new crop will be ready in their cedar hammocks, of which they have many acres.
We inspected the crate factory, where 100 persons are employed and next year they will double their force as they have just secured through Col. Nic Barco of Mr. R. J. Knight 10.000 acres of pine land east of the town.
The oyster and fish business is a large asset in the commercial world of the town. We were informed 10,000 gallons of oysters go out every season, while fish move by the car load and the river is white with the sails of the oysters and fish boats.
The weather changed and the thermometer fell in the afternoon, making overcoats a comfort. Congressman Sparkman, as his political friends and foes alike know, is a fisherman of men and his sixteen years in Congress demonstrates this, but the genial gentleman in his modest way remarked that he was more of a fisherman among the finny tribe. Mr. Herrick overheard the remark and said: “Mr. Sparkman, I can take you to the finest fishing ground on earth and tackle and bait are at your command.” Mr. Sparkman chuckled, and said: “I’m with you,” so the yacht was again put in commission and with Col. Barco and the other scribe we again set out for the open Gulf, but by that time the winds swept around at 30 miles an hour and the temperature, to use the expression of a negro deck hand, would freeze the nails off your toes, which so terrified Mr. Sparkman that he declined to take his position on the upper deck, bait his hook and pull out all kinds of fish as fast as he could hook them. The matter was compromised and Col. Barco asserting the fish bit faster than you could unhook them (he had done it many a time) and Congressman Sparkman assuring Col. Barco that in the Sir Isaac Walton art he, the congressman, was a past master and so the question was dropped, the social hall invaded and the evening most pleasantly spent by Congressman Sparkman telling of the incidents, experiences and what he had seen and heard on his European trip last year as one of the congressional committee to inspect the waterways of the old country so that the United States could profit by it. The congressman not only entertained but instructed.
The morning air was as penetrating and chilly as during the night. We returned to the port. Mr. Hyde mustered the crowd at the band stand and under the wide spreading boughs of the trees, but as good fires had been built, the crowd and the speakers refused to take to the seats and the rostrum and in true democratic style, with hats and overcoats on. The editor of the Star discoursed with enthusiasm on good roads. He talked and gesticulated for over an hour and the unwavering attention he received showed the interest in his talk. Crystal River is solid for bonds, $150,000 of them. The farmers way out are not so certain of it, but think good roads are all right, while a few who pay 30 cents taxes a year get up on their toes and shriek about the burdens of taxation and the hard road pass their door. The speaker was complimented with the remark that if he would canvass Citrus county the bond issue would carry.
Col. Sparkman followed and made a most interesting speech on waterways. How they were intimately associated with good roads and as the population increased and the products of the land, the necessity of both became more imperative every day. He said in Germany and France every creek of any size was banked and rocked and made to float barges and it was wonderful what produce and merchandise they transported and at rates that left the producer a profit. He reminded the good people of Crystal River that under the ruling of President Taft no appropriations for waterways can be secured unless the U. S. engineer recommends the same and that in their case he would try and impress Capt. Spalding of the real needs of Crystal River.
Congressman Sparkman also said a good word for good roads and that the seven million farmers of the United States were entitled to the best that could be had for them.
Then followed dinner, and such a dinner, for which the good women of the town have acquired a state-wide reputation. From fish to turkey and then back to all the side dishes that are so fascinating to the palate, winding up with cake and pie and coffee with cream. Oh My! How our appetites grew under the inspiration of the array of edibles and how we did homage to the gastronomic art. It was great all along the line. A few hearty good-byes and we were off for home, with an experience worth living for but with a cold that can be bought with a double discount.
Dunnellon was represented at the feast by Dr. Baskin, Dr. Griffith, Mrs. Baskin, Mr. Harry Peter and wife, Mrs. Barganier, Mrs. Cocowitch and another lady we did not meet.
The money paid out for fish and oysters last week in Crystal River was over $4,000. The dealers are Messrs. James Rawls and J. E. Stevens, both enthusiastic hard road men. George Hyde is going to blossom out as a grower of Dutch cabbage. Look out for bouquets.
Crystal River has the most preserving and successful women’s improvement club in the state for a town of its size. They have done wonders already. They propose to add to the beauty and charm of the town by a ten acre park, all covered by beautiful trees and known as Miller’s Point. Flowers ever bloom around this point.
Dr. Miller, who removed from Belleview to crystal River, is meeting with success. He is a pleasant gentleman and a good doctor, coming from a family of physicians and all good ones.
The Crystal River bank is doing a fine business and Cashier King does the work.
We shook John Juhan, the pleasing druggist, by the hand. He has a fine business. Also Newton Sparkman and Mr. W. A. Sparkman, merchants and former residents of Ocala and Oxford. We also greeted Postmaster Miller and others we cannot now recall.
Source: Ocala Evening Star: 10-31-1910
Transcribed, Formatted and Submitted by Linda Flowers