Fertile land, cattle, timber, citrus and warm winters, they are all reasons folks came to these parts in the early days. Seminole Indians were the first inhabitants coming to make the flat woods of Central Florida their home around 1745. It wasn't until about 80 years later that the government decided to keep watch over these American Indians and establish military forts. Fort Brooke was built in 1824 where the Hillsborough River meets Hillsborough Bay. The next year, soldiers from Fort Brooke started carving military roads through the wilderness to Fort King, near today's Ocala. The military trail, called Fort King Road, stretched north from Fort Foster, which is at the Hillsborough River Crossing and continued north to Fort Dade and Fort King ending in St. Augustine. As a military protection was established small settlements sprang up around the forts and along Fort King Road. But the area around present day Zephyrhills remained isolated. In 1835, it is reported that only a single settler's cabin existed. When the government forced Seminoles to move to territories west of the Mississippi River land around the military forts became farmland, including Fort Foster south of today's Zephyrhills. The fort remains part of the Hillsborough River State Park off U.S.301. Still, the population in the area was sparse until after the Civil War ended in 1865. Seeking to start and new life, adventurous pioneers came to capture the wild cattle that roamed the thick forests and homestead the fertile land. Confederate soldiers John and Irvin Spivey were among the first to homestead in the area, coming to what is now Zephyrhills after finding their Georgia homes destroyed during the Civil War.
In 1882, John W. Gastin bought 160 acres south of the present-day Zephyrhills Airport. More pioneers followed finding prosperity from the pine forests where they produced timber and turpentine. Small towns dotted the countryside around the sawmills. But with growth came problems. In 1887, settlers in the south east section of Hernando County decided they were tired of making the long trip to the county seat. A delegation was formed to draft a bill to create a new county. Pasco County was formed June 2, 1887. It was named for Judge Samuel Pasco, a popular politician from Monticello.
Dade City was named the county seat and East Pasco County began to boom. Simon J. Temple saw opportunity in the new county. He bought 280 acres, which included most of Oakdale, and plotted a new town in 1888. Temple named his new town Abbott, after the town's Physician, J.B. Abbott. With the timber industry came a need for transportation to send products to northern markets. When Seaboard Coastline Railroad built its depot there, the town's name was altered to Abbott Station. The town of Greer also was a thriving community at the turn of the century. James Lee Greer had come to the area in 1890 and began buying land around Abbott Station. But Greer's prosperity from the land was short-lived. Within five years after establishing the mill, his holdings were becoming exhausted of timber. He planned to dispose of the thousands of acres of cutover lands by selling them to be developed as citrus groves and home sites. In 1908, Greer advertised his land for sale in national newspapers. One of those reading the ad was Capt. H.B. Jeffries, a Pennsylvania journalist who had served as a Union officer during the Civil War.
Jeffries had been seeking land where he could establish a retirement community for veterans of the Grand Army of the Republic so they could live comfortably on their small pensions. Abbott Station was almost abandoned when Jeffries arrived in December 1909. By January, Jeffries had organized the Zephyrhills Colony Co. and formally changes the name from Abbott Station to Zephyrhills on March 10, 1910. Most say the name was derived from the warm breezes or zephyrs that blow across the rolling hills. Another version states that the town was actually named after Jeffries and his surveyor, Jim Hill - resulting in Jeffries Hill, which involved into Zephyrhills.
Zephyrhills Colony Co. offered land for $75 to $100 for 5 acres. With a purchase came a free city lot. Within the first year, several grand homes were built, including Jeffries' two-story mansion, which still stands a 38537 Fifth Ave. Zephyrhills was incorporated November 17, 1914. On February 15, 1916 the charter was granted by the states and ratified by a citizen's vote of 65 to 12.
(Source: An Advertising Section of the Tampa Tribune, March 3, 2006. Zephyrhills Founderís Day.)