Turning on the lights in Hernando County

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Mon, 06/05/2017 - 5:09pm

Turning on the lights in Hernando County

June 05, 2017 - 17:09
Electric pole in front of Varnada Hotel in Brooksville circa 1910 (State Archives of Florida) The pole seeems to carry at least 50 lines.

Something that is very important to those old enough to recall is when electric power service first became available. Historian Frasier Mountain illuminated the importance of this by speaking for a significant amount of time on when electrical service came to different areas of the county. This was literally a life altering experience for the the residents of the area and they remember when electricity first became available where they lived. For people too young to remember when power became available (which is most of us), think of what life is like when the power is out and imagine that is what everyday is like.

One of the first areas to get service was downtown Brooksville. The power would only be available for a few hours a day. The electricity was used to light houses and power a few street lights. Frasier Mountain stated that the remains of one of the earlier power plants is visible from Fort Dade Avenue in the winter when the trees lose their leaves.

William Camp was a member of the Camp family who owned several mines in Hernando County in the early 1900s. William was interested in electricity. In the 1880s, William had created a hydroelectric dam that provided electricity to Roanoke, Virginia. In 1909, William developed a second hydroelectric power plant on the Withlacoochee River in the Inglis area. Inglis is about 20 miles north of Hernando County. The electricity from this plant was used to power the Camp mines in Hernando County. The 3,400-acre Lake Rousseau was formed by the construction of the Inglis Dam which was used to power the hydroelectric plant. When William died in 1911 his children sold the Inglis plant for $1.5 million dollars to Florida Power Corporation. The hydroelectric dam ceased operation in 1965 due to environmental concerns.

Historian Roger Landers wrote, "In 1908, J.C. Burwell of Brooksville Ice and Storage Company furnishes the city with twenty electric lights." J. C. Burwell's plant used direct current, which caused a noticeable flicker in the lights. According to Alfred McKethan, "Lights were made available until 10:00 P.M. each night, but for special occasions and by special request, service could be extended to 11:00 P.M.”

William Nelson Camp, (State Archives of Florida)

J.C. Burwell operated his plant for several years before selling it to H. D. Evans. Evans succeeded in connecting the Brooksville plant with the power provided by the hydroelectric dam in Ingles. This required modernizing the Brooksville power plant and switching to alternating current. In 1925, Mr. Evans sold his plant and lighting system to Florida Power Corporation as they started to buy up the small independent operators.

Many of the older residents of Aripeka remember when power was brought to that area. The New Port Richey Press on Oct. 3, 1947 reported that electricity was brought to Aripeka as a Rural Electric Administration (REA) project. The REA provided federal loans for the development of electrical distribution systems to serve isolated rural areas of the United States. Aripeka was one of the last towns in the area to receive electrical service. Electric service in Aripeka is credited with helping the area grow.

Electricity is taken for granted. We only notice how much we rely on electricity when a storm passes and we lose power for several days. Suddenly sleeping is difficult, since we are not accustom to the heat at night. We cannot prepare food, since our stoves and ovens are electric. The food in the refrigerator won't keep as long since it is hard to regulate the temperature even if you add ice at regular intervals. Many of us are so dependent on electricity that we have generators for when the power fails.