Colorful Characters

J.C. Burwell: Innovator, Publisher & Businessman

First car in Brooksville - Florida. 1909. Black & white photonegative, 4 x 5 in. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory. J.C. and Sally Burwell are in the car; Lucy and Grace Burwell are on the porch of the Burwell home.

In the early days of Hernando county and Brooksville an important figure was John Cabell (J.C.) Burwell. J.C. Burwell was the editor and publisher of The Brooksville Star which he started in 1888. The Brooksville Star was a weekly paper which came out on Friday and was associated with the Democratic Party. It had a circulation of around 500 people.

Remembering Rosenquist and his Aripeka Love

James Rosenquist at his studio in Aripeka in 1988. Photo by Russ Blaise.

An artist by the name of James Rosenquist fell in love with the still waters and wild landscape of Aripeka, a rustic fishing village on the border of Hernando and Pasco Counties. While his sleek, sophisticated boldly vibrant brush stroke left an indelible mark on the international art world, Aripeka made an indelible mark on him.

Discovering Colonel Raymond Robins

Colonel Raymond Robins had fond memories of his first years in Hernando County. Raymond was sent to live with relatives here after his father lost his inheritance and his mother was committed to an insane asylum. Raymond Robins spent seven years in Brooksville with his first cousin, Mrs. McKay. McKay acted as a foster mother to Robins. The family lived in Bodine Grove, a 100 acre orange grove started by McKay's father Dr. Bodine. As a child he visited the Snow family several times at their home on the top of what is now called Chinsegut Hill.

Will History Repeat Itself: Stolen Primary of 1916

Sidney J. Catts

One hundred years ago, the 1916 Democratic primary for Governor of Florida featured several strong candidates including former state legislator Frank A. Wood, former Speaker of the House Ian Ferris, and state Treasurer William B. Knott. It also featured an outsider candidate: a one-eyed, red-haired baptist preacher Sidney J Catts known as the "Cracker Messiah."

Colonel George C. Martin avoids being caught in court "totin' weepins"

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Photo: Colonel George C. Martin- Brooksville, Florida. 19--? State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory

BROOKSVILLE - Colonel George C. Martin was law partner of William Sherman Jennings. Martin served as the campaign manager for his Jennings' campaign for governor. The campaign was successful and Jennings was Florida's 18th Governor from 1901-1905.

Martin was a well known Brooksville attorney and his legal arguments were legendary. In a memoir entitled Twenty Four Year In the Woods, On the Waters and in the Cities of Florida by Judge Harry A. Peeples from 1906, there are several stories about Martin. One of these stories that is particularly fantastic is included.

Frank Roderus, of Spring Hill, was one of America’s most prolific Western novel writers

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Jess Moore

Editor’s note: The author of this obituary was a close friend of Frank Roderus for nearly 50 years. Because Mr. Roderus shunned the camera, the only photographs we have of him are of poor quality.

Frank Roderus, of Spring Hill, one of America’s most prolific Western novel writers, passed away December 17 after a short illness.

Mike Bray, a writer in Las Vegas, NV wrote online last week, “I lost a friend yesterday and the world lost one of the greatest western writers of our time.”

The Headless Dinosaur by August Herwede

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As you drive state road 476 between Lake Lindsey and Nobleton you come across a headless dinosaur, brontosaurus to be exact, next to the road. It is very realistic and on some foggy mornings it would not be difficult to imagine it coming alive. You can’t help but wonder how did it get there and who built it.

Weeki Wachee’s Own Tarzan: Al Zaebst

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Photography from Florida Memory State Library & Archives of Florida

Al Zaebst could have had a great reality television show if they had existing in the first half of the twentieth century. Zaebst was a well known photographer, hunter, and animal collector. He had made numerous trips to the African continent, his first was in 1924.

William Sherman Jennings, Brooksvillian who became Governor of Florida

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William Sherman Jennings was born near Walnut Hill, Illinois. After graduating from Union College of Law (now Northwestern University School of Law) in Chicago he moved to Brooksville, Florida. He served as lawyer and judge in Hernando County. William met his future wife May Mann at her father's house near Brooksville. Austin Mann, May's father had just won election to the state house of representatives. Austin was a former Florida Senator.

An Oddity from the Past: Governor Sidney Johnston Catts

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Sidney Johnston Catts was a pastor turned insurance salesman.  He seemed an unlikely choice for governor with bright red hair and one eye. He struck a cord with his slogan that "Florida Crackers have only three friends in this world: God Almighty, Sears Roebuck and Sidney Johnston Catts." In 1916, he entered the Democratic primary for governor of Florida. He led after the vote, but lost the nomination in a recount. Many felt that backroom dealings had robbed him of the nomination. Harnessing these sympathies he then changed parties and ran as the Prohibition Party candidate for Governor.

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