Then & Now
On November 11, 1886, Simon J. Temple purchased 280.74 acres of land for $1,026.69 from Florida Railway and Navigation Corp. Temple named the area Abbott after Dr. J. M. Abbott who ran a drug store and practiced medicine at the crossroads of what is now the intersection of U.S. 301 and 5th Ave.
The town of Abbott was laid out and the plot recorded on April 18, 1888 at the Pasco County seat, established at nearby Dade City a year earlier. The future Zephyrhills became a voting district in 1893, and “Station” was added to “Abbott” in 1896 when the Seaboard Coast Line depot was built to facilitate the shipping of naval stores and lumber.
In the early 1900s, Zephyrhills was covered with virgin pine, which were tapped for turpentine production and then cut for lumber. The stumps were uprooted and pushed out, and the land was seeded to pasture or set in citrus groves.
The community continued to thrive in 1902 with the establishment of the First Baptist Church and Hennington’s Department Store, and, in December 1909, Captain Howard B. Jeffries chose Abbott Station for a veteran colony.
The choice was easy for the Civil War veteran from Pennsylvania. The land was high and fertile, had an abundance of water and was free of swamps, malaria and mosquitoes.
While showing the countryside to prospective residents from the top of LeHeup Hill on historic Fort King Road, Jeffries overheard a chance remark about the rolling hills and zephyr-like breezes. Impressed by the melodic combination, a new name was coined for this colony company.
On March 10, 1910, Abbott Station changed its name to Zephyrhills, and was incorporated as a town in 1914. It became known for its citrus groves, poultry farms, cattle ranches, and — of course — its world-famous pure water. In time, it became the home base of one of the largest parachuting centers in the world; by 1980, the population had grown to 21,460 area residents.
Citrus trees have given way to private homes and mobile home communities, and the area population is projected to grow to well over 55,000 area residents before 2005. Attracted by the warm weather and verdant scenery, the area’s population swells from around 50,000 year-round area residents (with over 12,000 residents, Zephyrhills is the second largest city in Pasco County) to about 90,000 during the winter months when the snowbirds arrive.