Saturday, September 11, 2021

1875-1885 - Mascotte - J. W. Payne

1875 - Early Settlers

   The settlement, that eventually became known as Mascotte, was known to have residents as early as 1875, though perhaps even earlier as there were known settlers already in the surrounding areas of Slone Ridge, Tuscanooga, and Brown's Ford.
   These early settlers went by horseback and wagon to Leesburg in order to obtain supplies and food that they were unable to grow or make themselves. The trip to Leesburg being a two or three day trip, they were known to camp overnight at Bugg Spring, near today's Okahumpka. (Read more about Bugg Spring and Okahumpka at the bottom of this page.)

1885 - How Mascotte Got Its Name

   In 1885, the steamship SS Mascotte was built by Henry Plant. It was named for the operetta La Mascotte by French composer Achille Edmond Audran. The name comes from the French spelling of the word 'mascot' and means, an animal or thing supposed to bring good luck.
   It is thought that J. W. Payne had a financial interest in the ship which made winter runs, among other trips, bringing tobacco from Cuba to Tampa.
   The ship also had a role in bringing refugees to the U. S. during the Spanish-American War in 1898.
   Many Cuban immigrants arrived in Tampa from Havanna aboard the SS Mascotte.
   The S.S. Mascotte also made regular trips from Boston to St. Petersburg.

   In 1885, J. W. Payne, who was originally from Baltimore and then St. Petersburg, moved to the area and named the already forming settlement Mascotte.
   A picture of the SS Mascotte also became part of the official seals of the cities of Tampa and Mascotte.

   Unfortunately, the ship was not as lucky as its name would imply. It was mined and sunk off the coast of Southwold, England, in 1916, during WW I.

1885 - More Settlers

   Also arriving in 1885 were:
      Dr. John Rosenburg;
      Theodore Ruff;
      Charles, Frank, and William Tidd;
      R. H. Whitnall.
   All were unmarried men arriving from Ohio.
   R. H. Whitnall became the first railroad station agent and Theodore Ruff became the first postmaster on March 30, 1886, and also had the first store in Mascotte.

   Prior to 1887 and the completion of the Orang Belt Railway, mail had been carried by horseback to and from Leesburg by Mr. William Woods.    On one such trip, Mr. Woods mailed a letter to Washington D.C. petitioning that a Post Office be established in Mascotte.

   Around 1889, the Taylor Brothers and their workers arrived in Mascotte, with hopes of establishing a turpentine business. However, they did not receive a warm welcome from Mr. Ruff. Thus, they moved further down the tracks, toward the East, and started what would become known as Taylorville.

   Other early settlers to Mascotte were:
      A man known as Judge Albert
      Mr. and Mrs. Tom Bradenbaker
      Henry Cram, a blacksmith, who became postmaster in 1897
            Martin Grimes and his brother (first name unknown)
      Frank Horton and his brother
      The Langley family (first name unknown)
      Ebenezer McDonald who took over the postmaster position March 1898
         Mr. and Mrs. Rabb - arrived around 1898
   Several other names were discovered, however, it could not be determined if they arrived in the 1800s or early 1900s and if they lived in Mascotte or one of the nearby areas.

   The oldest church in Mascotte was built in 1904 and is the same building now occupied by the Mascotte Methodist Church (corner of West Myers Boulevard and North Bay Lake Ave). King David Jones was the original pastor of the church.

   A one room schoolhouse was built, opposite the cemetery. A Professor Osterhout taught in the school until the late 1890s when a new two-story schoolhouse was built.
   One of the first teachers in this schoolhouse was William Tidd (listed earlier).

   Gabriel Watkins had a store, which housed the post office.

   Mascotte's first physician was Dr. John Rosenberg (listed earlier).

   Dr. Herman Watson was born on a farm in Georgia and graduated from the University of Georgia School of Medicine in 1912. He continued with various postgraduate studies throughout the United States, including Johns Hopkins University, and, after serving in World War I, stayed on in France for a year to further his studies. In 1919, Dr. Herman Watson came to Mascotte to begin his first medical practice.

   He was in practice with Dr. DeVane until he moved to Lakeland in 1920.
   He would later become the founder of the Watson Clinic in Lakeland, Florida, which developed into one of the largest and most respected clinics in the Southeast.

1925 - City of Mascotte Officially Chartered

   The City of Mascotte was officially chartered by the State Legislature on November 23, 1925.

   In 1925, there were three prosperous fruit and vegetable packing houses in Mascotte.

   The first Mayor of Mascotte was George M. Myers.
   The first Council consisted of:
      Council President O. F. May,
      Councilmen: H. H. Mallard,
      A. J. Drawdy,
      C. S. Bragg,
         and K. Hankins.
      The first Town Clerk was E. C. John
      and the first Town Marshall was C. C. Drawdy.

   List of Mascotte's Mayors:
      1925-1926 - George M. Myers
      1927-1928 - Unknown
      1929 - G.L. O'Brian
      1929-1934 - Unknown
      1935 - Dirk Hankins
      1936-1940 - Dee Udell
      1941-1945 - Elmer L. Puryear (He later purchased the Groveland Auditorium and had it demolished in order to build the current Puryear Building, so that he would have a building with his name on it.)
      1946-1949 - C.W. Porterfield
      1950-1951 - Robert L. Whilhite
      1952 - Sam Tulk and Edwin Mattson Jr.
      1953-1957 - Edwin Mattson Jr.
      1958-1963 - Fred Thomas
      1964 - Fred Thomas and R.E.Beekman
      1965 - Fred Thomas and Kenneth Waters
      1966-1970 - Fred Thomas
      1971 - Wayland Divine
      1972-1979 - Fred Thomas
      1980-1987 - William Harb
      1988-1995 - Josh Thomas
      1996-2005 - Stanley Sloan
      2005-2007 - Jeff Krull
      2007-2009 - Feliciano Felix Ramirez
      2009-2011 - Jeff Krull
      2011-2014 - Tony Rosado

A History of Nearby Okahumpka and Bugg Spring

   Okahumpka was an important place to the local Native American tribes. The name is believed to be a combination of the Hitchiti "oki," meaning water, and the Creek "hamken," meaning one, or, freely translated, "single lake." It was also the name of a tribal town of some importance in the Sumter County area, which was home to Chief Mico-an-opa (Micanopy).

   Today a lake in Sumter County and the town north of Mascotte bear the name of Okahumpka. Alternate spellings were: Okahumky and Okahumkee.

   A magnificent spring on the edge of Okahumpka holds a unique place in Florida history. The spring is quite remarkable and the grounds surrounding it hold great historical significance. According to the St. Johns River Water Management District, Bugg Spring is a second magnitude spring that is 170-175 feet deep. Clear and cold, the water has been a focal point of life in the area for many years. The waters from the spring flow north into both Lake Denham and Lake Harris.

   The archaeologist Clarence B. Moore "investigated" (a.k.a. destroyed) the Native American mounds at Bugg Spring, which showed evidence that Native Americans had used the spring for thousands of years.
   Although the exact site is debated, the spring is one of the sites in the vicinity believed to be a possible location of the Seminole Indian town of Okahumpka. This important town was the scene of much planning during the days leading up to the Second Seminole War and warriors from here, along with thos living in Tuscanooga, took part in Dade's Battle in nearby Bushnell, Florida.

   After The War Between the States, Bugg Spring became the home of the noted Confederate officer, John Jackson Dickison.

   He was called the "Swamp Fox of the Confederacy" because of the similarity of his tactics to the famed Southern officer of the American Revolution, Francis Marion. Dickison was a captain for most of the war, although he often commanded battalion size units. He was a terror to Union forces in East and Central Florida.
   The "Swamp Fox" struck when and where attacks were least expected and achieved solid results for the Confederate war effort. One of his most dramatic hauls was the Union steamboat Columbine that Dickison ambushed with artillery on the St. Johns River. Among his prisoners was Maj. Gen. J.G. Foster.
   Although he was promoted to colonel at the end of the war, Dickison did not receive the news until after he gave his parole. He later served as a general in the state service.

   During their years living at Bugg Spring, his wife, Mary Dickison wrote a sentimental biography of her husband that she titled Dickison and His Men. It is one of the best known books on the role of Florida in the war and includes many first hand observations of Dickison and the men who served with him.

   Bugg Spring is currently privately owned and is not open to the public, because it is leased by the U.S. Navy which conducts acoustic research on the site.

[Contributors: Ila Mae Jones, Mary Helen Myers, Jason Brown]

Next Article: 1884 - The King of Villa City