This remarkable river, midway down the Gulf coast, is as yet, on account of its remoteness from the ordinary lines of travel, but little known even to the people of Florida. In fact, it is better known to a few adventuress Northerners who, seeking nature in her untouched and untarnished loveliness, have from year to year found by this river peace and health and joy in the large quiet and bountiful blessings reserved, as it were, for those who needed and would appreciate them.
It is true that Senator Yulee made there his famous plantation, as well as in consequence his princely fortune. But the ravages of war and conflagration nearly destroyed the marks of culture, and exuberant nature with marvelous rapidity covered the once smiling fields with a glory all her own. Among the things not wholly destroyed, however, is the famous orange grove on one of the coral islands, known to romance as Iathloe, where the prized and prize-taking Homosassa or Magnum Bonum orange still resists the assaults of ravage and even of neglect. The fine mansion of Colonel Jenkins, a home of comfort and culture, midway on the river’s course, stands forth in startling contrast to nature’s wildness, but even adding to her charm.
This river gushes almost full grown from two springs---one of them remarkable for the coolness and purity of its water, and the other for a curious and singular form, as well as for a lovely surrounding. The upper edges are of the usual basin-like shape, but the lower or outer wall is perfectly straight-lined, perpendicular rock, rising sheer from a depth of from fifty to seventy feet, and with a well or cave much deeper. The waters, though reflecting a blueish green tint, are yet so transparent, that the innumerable fish of wonderful variety which find a protected home in the cavernous depths, are clearly seen resting on rocky ledges or moving in squadrons slowly around their accustomed course. This transparency of the water is a characteristic of the river to its very mouth. Such a volume issues from these sources that a strong swift currant from one hundred to three hundred yards wide give the river full size and shape almost from its head; and in fact it has but trifling accessories throughout its course for eight miles to the Gulf. Near the mouth the salt bayous of the Gulf back up to it, and doubtless take away at ebb tide a portion of its waters. Still, the river channel is on the whole of a depth quite remarkable—in some places fifty and sixty feet –and no where less than four feet, and even on the bars and almost up to the springs. The river is fringed with a growth of the greatest imaginable luxuriance—the exceedingly richness of the soil declaring itself in the gigantic and picturesque flora of the tropics, in which the oaks, bays, magnolias, palms and cedars are prominent. Many islands embraced in the broad and winding currents, are clad in the same bright garb. The soil rests on a peculiar coral table-rock, at the water’s edge coming to the surface and forming natural bridges and docks, but covered deeper and deeper with rich dark vegetable mould as the slopes recede from the river bed, forming the support of dense hammock growth, and capable of all variety of fruit and vegetable product.
Wild deer abound, and bears, panthers, tigers and wild cats are yet only two common. The wild turkey is a prize. But these must doubtless soon retire before what we call civilization. The products of the waters, however—the turtles, oysters, and fish of all kinds, fresh water and salt---form no inconsiderable part of the resources to be relied upon by the settler here, and must greatly reduce the cost of living.
The remarkable thing about that region, however, appears to be the climate. Such is the combination of elements; the coral foundation, the pure fresh waters, the ceaseless flow of ocean tides, the near presence of the Gulf, and constant recurrence of the trade winds from seaward, together with the peculiar atmospheric conditions indicated by the absence of moss from the trees; that the climate is delicious and healthful to a surprising degree. This is the testimony of not only regular winter residents, but of those whose homes are here the year round. Indeed, it is claimed that the climate conditions are more delightful in all respects in summer than in winter. Such natural advantages have induced a company of gentlemen representing every part of the country to associate themselves for the purpose of developing these capabilities and making them available for the comfort and well-being of all who would appreciate them. With this view they have purchased about five thousand acres of land on each side of the river, and along its whole course, and they propose to expend a large sum of money in improving the channels of communication both on land and water, laying out avenues and parks, beautifying the river front, and giving effect to every natural point of interest or advantage. They will invite gentlemen to establish villas along the banks, and on the picturesque coves and points of the river. They will provide steam launches, yachts and row-boats, both for pleasure and transportation. They will make a beautiful tropical garden of the beautiful island Iathloe, and as the enterprise warrants it, as they believe it will, a hotel appropriate to the surroundings will be built among the overshadowing oaks in the wonderful shell mounds of the island opposite. Shady walks, beneath luxuriant foliage, and paved with clean white shells, will lead out to all the choice nooks and bold points of the shore.
Nor is this by any means the whole, or the main end in view. The vast tracts of most fertile land will be opened to settlers who desire to make a home in a place even so far from the old beaten ways, where they can be assured of success in the raising of choice fruits and early vegetables peculiar to so tropical a situation, and at the same time of good opportunities for the education of their children, and the prevalence of good moral and social influences, for it is the intentions of the projectors of this enterprise to bring their own families here and to make at least their winter homes amidst these Mediterranean airs. No where would such comers be made more welcome than by the whole souled people of Hernando county. Ways of communication will be made ample. Should the railroad not come near enough to secure this end to every desirable degree, it is easy for the company to put a steamer on the river and Gulf to communicate with all the lines of transportation necessary to bring them into close relations with every part of the country. Negotiations of this later arrangement are already in progress. A postoffice is now established, the telegraph will shortly be brought in, and all the rest will follow in due and rapid course.
Source: Daily Item: 5-1885
Transcribed, Formatted and Submitted by Linda Flowers
Transcribed, Formatted and Submitted by Linda Flowers