Wednesday, April 25, 2018
News Roundup

In the Withlacoochee near Istachatta, stories of a bridge

Sad as it is to see the remains of the old piers — barely jutting above the surface of the slow-flowing Withlacoochee River near Istachatta — they do have the benefit of revealing secrets about old-time bridge construction.

Workers apparently drove steel tubes into the riverbed, along with — right down the middle of these tubes — sturdy, reinforcing timbers. The tubes were then filled with a mixture of concrete and fist-sized rocks, forming pillars about 2 feet in diameter and nearly 20 feet high.

The piers were still standing as recently as three weeks ago, said Charles Lee, Florida Audubon's director of advocacy, who lives near the river.

But when he paddled by them on Jan. 27, he said, they had collapsed into the river.

"A part of history now gone," Lee wrote in an email to me last week.

True enough, though it's probably a little different than the history Lee heard from neighbors and passed on to me in his email and when he met me on the river Saturday — that the bridge was built by slaves during the Civil War, originally for rail, and was later converted for use by cars.

Melba Ward, 66, is an Istachatta resident who grew up in the Peters family, one of the first to settle in the tiny community in the northeast corner of Hernando County. In 2007, she wrote an extensive report about it, Istachatta: History of the First 100 Years, 1850-1950, published by the Hernando Historical Museum Association.

Ward was not able to find a record of when the bridge was completed. She did discover when the County Commission approved a $2,200 contract to build the bridge — in 1908.

She agrees with Lee on another point. It was the only bridge in the area available for car traffic until the steel and concrete bridge for what is now County Road 476 was finished in the early 1940s.

There was no record of a rail bridge before that — only of several ferries, including one that began operating near present-day Nobleton in 1859.

Those ferries were basically small barges with decks attached to ropes strung across the river. Horns made of conch shells were hung at the landings on either side so customers could summon the ferry.

As to another part of Lee's email — "The bridge had an infamous history involving lynchings" — there could definitely be something to that.

In 1926, Brooksville's Southern Argus newspaper reported that a black man named Charles Davis, accused of killing a white Pasco County deputy in eastern Hernando County, had been seized by an armed mob near the river as he was being led back to Brooksville from Ocala.

"I believe Davis was taken and thrown into the Withlacoochee River," Sheriff W.D. Cobb told the paper. "Maybe in a day or two the body will come to the surface."

The apparent lack of concern in Cobb's comment isn't surprising once you know, as some historians believe, that he was complicit in this killing and several other acts of racial violence in the 1920s.

That's not in Ward's book. But here are some things that are.

Istachatta appears on early maps as Magnolia or Magnolia Bluff. The current name didn't show up until 1884, when F.M. Townsend filed a plat map with the county.

Nearby Townsen Lake and Lake Townsen Regional Park were named after him, Ward said, which means both have been misspelled on maps and in county documents for years; she thinks somebody in the county mistakenly dropped the final "d" and the result took on a life of its own.

But even Townsend didn't really found the town, which didn't take its current shape until a developer mapped a grid of streets during the 1920s land boom.

Of course, you don't need to know about this history of the bridge or the town — if, with a population of 116, it can even be called a town.

But maybe hearing about the bridge will encourage you to get in a canoe or kayak and take a trip along the river to see what's left of the piers.

It's a good trip, even when you don't know the history. Just a little more so when you do.

Comments
He spent 17 years in prison. Now he’s a free man.

He spent 17 years in prison. Now he’s a free man.

TAMPA — Dwight DuBose walked out of the Orient Road Jail on Tuesday night after trading an orange jumpsuit for a brand new polo shirt and slacks.It was about 9 p.m. He flashed a broad smile and hug staff members of the Innocence Project of Florida wh...
Updated: 6 hours ago
The Daystarter: Another day in the 80s; Clearwater looks to relocated City Hall; The Most Interesting Man in the World visits Tampa

The Daystarter: Another day in the 80s; Clearwater looks to relocated City Hall; The Most Interesting Man in the World visits Tampa

Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what to know today.• Today’s high temperature tops out about 80 degrees, according to 10Weather WTSP. Our next rain chance is Friday when a weak front moves through. And next week brings the heat. Expect ...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Pennsylvania women guilty of golfing while black; 13 trucks line up in Detroit to stop suicide; Puerto Rican anger grows over lack of basic services; more in U.S. news

Pennsylvania women guilty of golfing while black; 13 trucks line up in Detroit to stop suicide; Puerto Rican anger grows over lack of basic services; more in U.S. news

PennsyvlaniaGuilty of golfing while blackBlack people have long complained about getting pulled over by police for "driving while black," or being eyed suspiciously by security guards for "shopping while black." Now, five women say they got into trou...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Toronto attacker likely hated women; 3 murdered film students had stumbled into Mexican gang battle; more in world news

Toronto attacker likely hated women; 3 murdered film students had stumbled into Mexican gang battle; more in world news

CanadaToronto attacker hated womenThe suspect in the deadly van attack in Toronto posted a chilling Facebook message just before plowing into a crowded sidewalk, authorities said Tuesday. The post indicated the computer studies graduate and ex-milita...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Shrinking supply of Tampa Bay condos and townhomes drives up prices

Shrinking supply of Tampa Bay condos and townhomes drives up prices

Sales of condos and townhomes in the Tampa Bay area jumped 9.5 percent in March, hitting a median of $156,000. The price gain was prompted in part by a supply shortage, with sales down 7.5 percent amid a dwindling inventory. Statewide, sales also lag...
Published: 04/25/18
We tried the new restaurants at Tampa International Airport, and we're full

We tried the new restaurants at Tampa International Airport, and we're full

TAMPA When Tampa International Airport debuted in 1971, each terminal had a newsstand and a snack bar, called something kicky like Snack Bar. This was an era when people still dressed up to travel, when flight attendants were glamorous creatures in ...
Published: 04/25/18
The best airports around the country for food and drink

The best airports around the country for food and drink

It was a revolutionary idea: Have travelers’ experience of a city begin when they land at the airport. Instead of McDonald’s and Panda Express, why not have restaurants that reflect the culture and breadth of a city’s offerings? San Francisco Interna...
Published: 04/25/18
Carlos Gomez says he was guilty of only one thing in Sunday’s epic walkoff homer celebration

Carlos Gomez says he was guilty of only one thing in Sunday’s epic walkoff homer celebration

BALTIMORE – Carlos Gomez is perfectly willing to explain the specific elements that went into his epic celebration tour around the bases following Sunday's walkoff home run.The bat flip and raised arms were his initial reaction to how well he h...
Updated: 4 hours ago

High school scoreboard for April 24

Tuesday’s scoreboardBaseballCalvary Chr. 8, Jesuit 1Boys TennisClass 3A, District 9-10 Regional Semifinal: Osceola 4, King 1Girls TennisClass 3A, District 9-10 Regional Semifinal: Osceola 4, Freedom 1...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Three artists picked to create art for St. Pete’s new pier

Three artists picked to create art for St. Pete’s new pier

ST. PETERSBURG — Pelicans will return to the pier in fanciful form.A California artist has been selected to create an enormous, red origami sculpture of a pelican that will serve as a metal perch for three more lifelike, but no less fanciful, imitati...
Updated: 6 hours ago