Stop 52: The 1966 Miss Polly Touchton Park

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Copyright © 2023
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Disclaimer: “Dade City is so proud of the 2023 transformation of “Miss Polly Touchton Park” into the “Touchton Park” which is occurring with the guidance and sizable benevolent funding of J.Thomas Touchton, grandson of Ruth Embry “Miss Polly Touchton, and expertise of landscape architect, Ted Kempton of Pennoni Associates, Inc.” The park has been referred to as city park since its 1960s inception, and often mistakenly referred to as Hibiscus Park as the adjoining apex park to the south is technically “Hibiscus Park.”

 

A welcoming location for beautiful Dade City is the luscious green park on Highway 301 which appears as one enters the town from the south side, transcending a rolling hill and traversing north on 301. Frequently, welcoming signs posted at the park, beckon the resident returning home or the guest to savor the entrance into the historic town with warmth and hospitality. 

 

          The city park in front of the Dade City Garden Club established in 1966 was named by unanimous vote of the City Commission on May 8, 1988 as the “Miss Polly Touchton Park.”  Placement of plaque and addresses by members of the community, family, and representatives from numerous organizations christened the park. The triangular apex in front of the park to the south is known as Hibiscus Park, a term that has often been used to identify both park areas.

 

    The purpose of the dedication of Miss Polly Touchton Park was to honor an extraordinary woman whose heart was the epitome of volunteerism and devotion for the community. The park was named for the late Ruth Marie Embry Touchton (1887-1986) who was lovingly known by all including her family members as “Miss Polly.”

 

   The local newspaper, The Pasco News in 1976, celebrated the enormity of kindness when it recognized a special lady known to all as Miss Polly. This benevolent gal actually grew up in Dade City, with schooling in Dade City and eventually attending Agnes Scott College in Georgia in 1903. Her wedding to Charles Floyd Touchton, Sr. in 1908, was a festive affair with wedding wreaths and Victorian tradition as the Tampa Morning Tribune declared the event to be the “prettiest ceremony ever solemnized.” Mr.Touchton was a founder and early president of the Dade City Board of Trade.

 

    Miss Polly was instrumental in nearly all developing institutions that involved service in Dade City from the Red Cross, public schools, and library to the Dade City Woman’s Club of which her mother, Minerva Caroline “Sallie” Embry was a founding member and “Miss Polly” was a member for 70 years. A leader in the Dade City Garden Club, she coordinated projects. She was also active in the Presbyterian Church where she sang in the choir for 55 years, and the Dade City Orchestra where she played cornet and sold war bonds. She was one of the first to attend to the needs of the community. When one of the organizations decided not to fund the annual girls’ softball team, she contributed personal funds herself. For years, she also served as the “Grey Lady” in the local elementary school for the health clinic. 

 

      In 2023, Dade City will celebrate the 125th anniversary of the arrival of “Miss Polly” Embry’s family to Dade City from Kentucky in 1898. In collaboration with J. Thomas “Tom” Touchton, a remarkable ‘son of Dade City’ who became the Founding Chair (Emeritus) of the Tampa Bay History Center and the founder of the Touchton Map Library and also the grateful grandson of “Miss Polly,” the “Miss Polly Touchton Park” will be known as Touchton Park to honor not only “Miss Polly” but also the contributions of fellow family members, such as:  Charles Floyd Touchton, Sr. (1883-1957); Thelma Gray Hannon Touchton (1911-1988); and Charles Floyd Touchton Jr. (1911-1988) and others. The intention of Dade City in partnership with Tom Touchton will recognize the contributions of the Touchton family to Dade City.

 

    Plans for new landscaping and signage will come to fruition with the 125th celebration of this extraordinary family. 

  • 1887

    (March 28): Ruth Embry Touchton born in Bennettstown, Kentucky.

  • 1898

    (January 5) Mr. and Mrs. Wallace E. Embry and their eight children arrived in Dade City from Kentucky; Wallace and son, Boone entered into the shade-grown tobacco business.

  • 1904

    Charles Floyd Touchton arrived in Dade City from Georgia (worked for a year as a pharmacist in a drug store on the east side of 8th Street owned by Dr. Thomas Seay and R.T Thrasher); he returned in 1906 to a permanent position in the same store, then under Dr. Seay and Alec A. Boone. (Soon after Touchton bought out the interest of Dr. Seay and moved the business around the corner and subsequently purchased Boone’s interest to create the first Touchton Drug Company).

  • 1898-1900

    The Embry family resided at the Lakeview Highlands Hotel at Lake Pasadena for first two years of residence.

  • 1907

    Miss Polly attended Agnes Scott College in Atlanta.

  • 1908

    Miss Polly married Charles Floyd Touchton, a prominent local developer and owner of the first Touchton Drug Store.

  • 1909

    Miss Polly’s mother, Mrs. Salie Embry assisted with organization of the Dade City Woman’s Club as first president after being on Dade City Board of Trade Auxiliary.

  • 1911

    Son, Charles F. Touchton, Jr was born. Miss Polly was an active member in the Dade City Orchestra where she played cornet.

  • 1921

    Hurricane finished off the tobacco growing in area after infestation of Black-Shank disease.

  • 1950s

    Miss Polly served as First-Aid Nurse at elementary schools after active work in Red Cross during World War I and II.

  • 1967

    A Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) member, Miss Polly assisted with placement of plaque to honor the encampment site of Major Francis Dade in 1835.

  • 1984

    Mrs. Joan Dalokins, District VIII Director of Florida Federation of Garden Club presented honorary membership to Ruth Touchton; President of the Dade City Garden Club, Joan Pryor presented Charter membership in honor of 36 years of service to club.

  • 1985

    Received honorary director award from Dade City Woman’s Club as a 77-year member of the Woman’s Club and last remaining charter member.

  • 1985

    Perpetual endowment at Pasco Hernando State College for the Dade City Woman’s Club Ruth Embry Touchton Scholarship.

  • 1986

    Dade City Park, north of Hibiscus Park on south entrance of Dade City was named “Ruth Embry “Miss Polly’ Touchton Park. Commissioner Agnes Lamb made the motion which was unanimously approved by the city commission for this designation based upon Miss Polly’s work as a civic leader, having lived 88 of her 99 years in Dade City.

  • 1997-2021

    Memorial tree/shrub plantings at Touchton Park: Randy Bell, Joey Bennett, Titus and Mary Brinson, Annie Mae Brown, Patricia Carver, Ricky Childers, Raymond Cournoyer, James Crook, Nettie Berry Draughton, Alice Earle, Glacomo Esposito, J. Emmett Evans, Sr., Albert E. Fisher, Phyllis H. Fisher, Lucy Gordon, Anne H.W. Johnson, Mary Johnson, Alan Later, Charlie Legg, William G. Lener, Jr. Dan McBath, Sayde Martin, Sallie Embry Massey, Florence D. Moor, William Moriaty, Bob Pryor, James Calhoun Redmond, John Schnittker, Hellen and Sonny Strickland, John Sunka, Alonna Rhoden Telese Tedesco, Anne Touchton, James Calhoun Redmond, Jim and Kate Ward, William C. Webb, Mary Moor Winnett, 911 victims, Henry Clinton and Varion Rosalie Clinton.

  • 2023

    Touchton Park reconfiguration and rejuvenation by grandson, J. Thomas Touchton.

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