From Boomtown to Ashes
The History of Trilby, Florida
Compiled by Scott Black, Dade City (date unknown -- circa
Photocopy obtained from Pioneer Museum
Seldom does one find a community with a name as romantic as Trilby. Or even one that equals its fascinating...as well as turbulent history.
Trilby once held an extremely promising future. It was the largest city in Pasco County (although never incorporated) and boasted the third largest railroad yard in Florida… until tragedy struck.
It all began as a farm owned by Elijah McLeod. McLeod obtained his 160-acre farm m in 1882 from the U.S. Government, under the standards of the Homestead Act of 1862. The area became known as McLeod Settlement and a post office was established there in 1885. Soon afterward the name was changed to Macon.
Henry B. Plant, the Florida railroad magnate, renamed Malcon while laying tracks here. Mrs. Plant supposedly encouraged her husband to rename the village after one of her favorite novels, "Trilby," a bestseller by George DuMaurier. When Mr. Plant platted Trilby, he named the streets after characters in the DuMaurier novel.
In. 1902, Atlantic Coast line took over the Plant Railroad Systems. A freight depot, as well as a passenger station (complete with a twenty-four hour restaurant), was built. Later, a water tower and coal chute were constructed.
Trilby grew into a literally booming town with shootouts and "moonshining" an order of the day. Once a group of troublemakers started a ruckus and shot out all of the street lights. This "cane raising," according to one resident, "looked like the Fourth of July in the wild West.
Once two officers were ordered to search a two-story house in which area residents thought moonshine whiskey was being sold. Its back porch stood over a pond near the business district. The policemen searched the house and found nothing. After stepping out on the back porch they noticed ropes going down into the water. They pulled the first rope to find a jug of moonshine whiskey. They began pulling more ropes and found several more jugs of whiskey.
An asset to the growing community was the Trilby State Bank. Lester Crum was appointed bank president and his wife, Lena, was teller. Once while Mr. Crum, (as well as the whole town), was waiting at the depot for the mail train, a couple of robbers held up the bank. They forced Mrs. Crum to open the vault and then locked her inside it, to insure their getaway. Earlier, Mrs. Crum had been shown by her husband how to open the vault from the inside, which saved her life.
Some of the businesses that made up the town were:
Edward's Redfront General Merchandise (groceries, hardware, meats, and coffins were sold here),
G. H. Mills' Store,
Pitts’ Meat Market,
Wade's Drug Store,
Bradham's Dry Goods Store,
Hilliard's Barber Shop,
the Trilby Post Office,
the Trilby Drug Company, and several others.
In May of 1925, at about 1:00 in the afternoon, a fire started upstairs in Brad ham's Dry Goods Store, and the whole town, on the west side of the tracks, went up in smoke. Bucket brigades were formed, but the stores were already gutted. The Dade City Fire Department raced to Trilby in a Model T fire truck to put our the fire. When they arrived, they found all the water hose had unreeled and had been left alongside the road. The fire was finally extinguished around 5:00 in the evening.
G. H. Mills tried to start another store in the Masonic Temple and the post office was moved into the bank building, but it was useless. Trilby would never again be the same.
Trilby, now only a community, had no use for such a large depot and so it was torn down considerably and remodeled. Work was carried out by a Thomas Perkins of New Jersey. By the fall of 1927 the job was completed and Perkins' finished product is now exhibited at the Pioneer Florida Museum. In about 1927, the Trilby State Bank closed because of bankruptcy and never opened again. It burned a few years later.
The Trilby Depot was discontinued in January of 1976. At that time it was announced that it would be moved to the Florida State Fairgrounds as part of their "cracker village." Thanks to the Pasco County Commission it was finally conveyed to the Pioneer Florida Museum Association.
Trilby is now a quiet little community. There is still a post office and a modern convenience store was built a few years ago. Old homes and ruins give hints of Trilby's glorious past. A stroll through the Trilby Cemetery will take you back in time to a village known as Macon. The beautiful town of Trilby with its tree-lined streets and storehouses of memories (and will hopefully be forever,) a wonderful place to live.