Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Pinellas Historical Society will help residents learn about county's roots

LARGO — When Jim Schnur, a past president of the Pinellas County Historical Society, presents a program today at Heritage Village on the early days of Pinellas County, he'll likely bring up a story about a farmer and his mules.

The story goes that in the summer of 1911, residents of the Pinellas peninsula, then officially the western portion of Hillsborough County, had just begun using a new bridge over Long Bayou, near Bay Pines.

The bridge, the main connector between St. Petersburg and what is now Largo and Seminole, was constructed under the supervision of the Hillsborough County Board of Commissioners.

As the farmer led his team of mules across the mostly wooden structure, the bridge collapsed.

"Residents of the area had already been frustrated with indifference from the government on the other side of Tampa Bay,'' said Schnur, who is the special collections librarian for USF St. Petersburg's Nelson Poynter Memorial Library. "The shoddy construction of the bridge was just enough to get residents to turn out at the polls in November of that year, voting to secede from Hillsborough.''

Two months later, on Jan. 1, 1912, with about 20,000 residents scattered among fishing villages near the coastline and farming communities inland, Pinellas County officially was established.

To mark the county's centennial, the Pinellas County Historical Society is presenting a series of lectures, Pinellas By the Decades. One Sunday each month, through July of next year, the community is invited to drop by the Pinellas Room at Heritage Village for a history lesson.

Today, as he presents "1912-1921: Independence, New Challenges, and New Opportunities," Schnur said he plans to begin the discussion "on a high note of how the residents attained independence.''

"And then we'll walk through the challenges caused by the independence, looking at the first major hurricane at that time they had to handle, the area during World War I and two major fires that occurred — one in the courthouse, as well as a terrible fire at Sutherland College (which moved to Lakeland and became Florida Southern College in the early 1920s),'' he said.

Schnur stresses that the series looks at all parts of the county.

"When we share history, it is important to cross municipal lines, and there are 24 different municipalities in the county," he said. "My hope is by understanding the back yards, then people will begin to think more regionally. That's really the correct way to view Pinellas County — regionally.''

The Historical Society also has tapped the expertise of Gary Mormino, co-director of the Florida Studies program at the University of South Florida and author of Land of Sunshine, State of Dreams: A Social History of Modern Florida.

Mormino, who is helping Schnur coordinate the program, believes those who have not looked at the area's history before will be surprised to learn about the county's roots in the agriculture industry.

"When people think of Pinellas now, they think of how it is the most urbanized county in the state," Mormino said, "but at one time, it was the center for the citrus industry. Is there even one working citrus grove left in Pinellas County? I get mixed answers when I ask that question.''

Mormino said programs like Pinellas By the Decades help encourage Floridians to "feel that they have more of an investment in the state.''

"If we educate citizens about history, we will make them care not only about the state's past, but it also encourages them to think of both the future and their individual role in the state,'' he said.

Mormino also points out there's another perk to attending the program.

"Another benefit is Jim Schnur," he said. "He might be the most passionate Pinellas resident that cares about the history of Pinellas and the future of the county that there is.''

Piper Castillo can be reached at (727) 445-4163 or


'Pinellas by the Decades' to start today

In conjunction with Pinellas County's centennial celebration, the Pinellas County Historical Society is presenting a series of lectures and panel discussions, "Pinellas by the Decades."

At 2 p.m. today inside the Pinellas Room at Heritage Village, 11909 125th St. N in Largo, Jim Schnur, past president of the Historical Society, will present "1912-1921: Independence, New Challenges, and New Opportunities.''

The program is free and open to the public, although donations to the Pinellas County Historical Society are always welcome.

For more information, call (727) 582-2123.

Pinellas Historical Society will help residents learn about county's roots 10/08/11 [Last modified: Friday, October 7, 2011 5:30pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Marijuana extract sharply cuts seizures in severe form of epilepsy


    An oil derived from the marijuana plant sharply reduces violent seizures in young people suffering from a rare, severe form of epilepsy, according to a study published last week that gives more hope to parents who have been clamoring for access to the medication.

  2. 'I ain't fit to live': Police say Mississippi gunman kills 8


    BROOKHAVEN, Miss. — A man who got into an argument with his estranged wife and her family over his children was arrested Sunday in a house-to-house shooting rampage in rural Mississippi that left eight people dead, including his mother-in-law and a sheriff's deputy.

    People embrace Sunday outside the Bogue Chitto, Miss., house where eight people were killed during a shooting rampage Saturday in Lincoln County, Miss.
  3. Kushner's Russia ties questioned as Trump cites media 'lies'


    WASHINGTON — Congressional Democrats on Sunday demanded to hear directly from top White House adviser Jared Kushner over allegations of proposed secret back-channel communications with Russia, saying the security clearance of President Donald Trump's son-in-law may need to be revoked.

  4. Muslims thankful for support after rant, deadly attack


    PORTLAND, Ore. — Muslims in Portland, Ore., thanked the community for its support and said they were raising money for the families of two men who were killed when they came to the defense of two young women — one wearing a hijab — who were targeted by an anti-Muslim rant.

    Jeremy Christian is accused of killing 2 men who stepped in as he berated two women.
  5. Following Trump's trip, Merkel says Europe can't rely on U.S. anymore


    LONDON — German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday declared a new chapter in U.S.-European relations after contentious meetings with President Donald Trump last week, saying that Europe "really must take our fate into our own hands."

    German Chancellor Angela Merkel, shown speaking with President Trump last week, says Europe “must take our fate into our own hands.”