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North Pinellas History | A look back

In 1938: Land deals, including one involving a slave, gave birth to city of Clearwater

CLEARWATER — A large section of Clearwater's business and residential section was once traded to a citrus grower in the late 1840s for a female slave.

The land was traded to the late John S. Taylor, pioneer settler and founder of the prominent Pinellas family, by James Stevens, one of the county's earliest settlers.

Stevens deeded Taylor 160 acres of land, bounded on the west by what is now Fort Harrison Avenue, for a slave cook who had tried to poison the Taylor family by mixing a poison potion with coffee.

Later, Taylor sold the property, worth millions, to two northern visitors in Clearwater Harbor — as the city was then called — for the magnificent sum of $800.

The visitors' new property consisted of pine and brush with a few scattered orange trees. Little did they know then that the golden fruit they thought was worthless would become worth almost their weight in gold.

New settlers came and made their living by raising produce and sea island cotton, the latter an agricultural product now extinct here. The community thrived and began to grow. In 1858, the first store building was built by William Campbell. Communication with the outside world was by boat between Tampa and Cedar Key.

The city's growth during the ensuing 30-year period was steady and sure, and in 1891, the municipality was incorporated by the Florida Legislature. It was given a special charter by the state in 1897.

The first mayor was James E. Crane and the first city clerk T.J. Sheridan. The town's administration included a city board and a few special officers.

As soon as the city's organization was perfected, roads and buildings sprang up almost overnight, and Clearwater rose from the depths of a village to the full-fledged heights of a city.

Few towns in Florida have the rich and colorful background of the gulf city.

A history of the city, from the time of Panfilo de Narvaez landing to the present day when the city stands as the capitol of "Peerless Pinellas," has been compiled by the Clearwater Chamber of Commerce and Woman's Club.

April 2, 1938

Woman looks back to village era

CLEARWATER — Mrs. Senie Johnson Boyd, of this city since 1891, has witnessed the transformation of Clearwater from a tiny village with small frame buildings, dirt streets and a few wooden sidewalks to a city of 10,000, with fine residential, business and municipal buildings and many miles of paved streets.

"Oh, it was just a little place then (1891)," said Mrs. Boyd, 80, in recalling Clearwater during pre-Spanish-American War days. "The streets were not paved, and there were just a few wooden sidewalks."

In those days, she continued, there was only one church, the Methodist, and no bridge connecting Clearwater with Clearwater Beach, which served as a picnicking ground for the young people of the time.

Mrs. Boyd was born in Wetumpka, Ala., in 1858, two years before the outbreak of the war between the states. She worked in a general store in her Alabama home town before coming here at age 43. In Clearwater, she owned and operated a millinery shop, the only one of its kind here then. Her brother, Andrews Johnson, operated a general store here for many years.

Mrs. Boyd moved in 1904 with her husband, who died here a few years ago, to the residence where she now makes her home — an old frame building on South Fort Harrison Avenue. The road has changed before her eyes from a dirt track to a wide highway.

The Clearwater pioneer recently recalled that glowing descriptions of Clearwater given by John Wesley Drew, minister in Wetumpka, brought her and her brother to Clearwater.

>>Looking back

Headlines through the years

A look back at the events, people and places that made North Pinellas the unique place that it is. The information is compiled from past editions of the St. Petersburg Times.

In 1938: Land deals, including one involving a slave, gave birth to city of Clearwater 03/31/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 31, 2010 8:25pm]
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