Stop 9: The 1961 Pioneer Florida Museum & Village
The essence of preserving one’s history may have been inherent to early homesteaders. Most migrated to Florida to start new lives and their stories were bursting with adventure, arduous work, and multi-faceted endeavors. The Pioneer Museum & Village holds an enormous hands-on collection of the history of Dade City, Pasco County, and frontier Florida. It is located at 15602 Pioneer Museum Road, Dade City, Florida. This is not a walking stop as it is not in Dade City proper; please consult the website for hours and accessibility, and for now, enjoy the QR.
The museum was chartered in 1961, and includes 21 acres of authentic exhibits which tell the story of pioneer Florida life through 1945. The vintage exhibits encompass relocated structures and homes that were moved to the museum and revitalized to illustrate daily life and history.
Casper Rhode, a farmer from Iowa was drawn to the San Antonio, Florida area and moved with his family in the 1890s. He paid $2 per acre for 40 acres, and some 70 years later, his story continues to unfold. Just before his son Rudolph’s death in April of 1960, Rudolph and sister, Annie Rhode donated 37 of their father’s antique vehicles and tools to the Pasco County Fair Association (a spring surrey, two wagons, cane mill, farm tools, and hand tools are samples). This generous gift set into motion a spark for the creation of a museum and village.
The Rhode’s donation intrigued rancher, Daniel A. Cannon and Extension Agent James Higgins and furthered a passion for artifacts that illustrated pioneer life. From there, some 87 community members eventually organized as members, and on April 28, 1961, the museum was chartered by the State of Florida as The Pioneer Florida Museum Association, Inc. The collections were housed at the Pasco County Fairgrounds for many years.
As you will discover on Stop 56 which celebrates the Friedman-Larkin building in Dade City proper, William Larkin was named a “Great Floridian” and served as county attorney and as a lawyer in the area from 1938 to 2000. His beloved wife, Emily Rerick Larkin who was the daughter of an editor of the Dade City Banner and an accomplished Tampa Tribune journalist herself and later law clerk for her husband, donated six-and-one half acres in her husband’s memory to the charter group which enabled them to move from the fairgrounds to their very own site, north of Dade City.
Several years later, Emily donated an additional ten acres. The land was adjacent to Little Everglades Ranch, one of the extraordinary ranches which the Larkin family put together, perfecting breeding techniques from the Florida scrub cattle that were part of Open Range and utilizing Brahma and Santa Gertrudis cattle.
Governed by a Board of Trustees, the Museum is dedicated to educating, promoting, fostering, and encouraging public interest in Florida life and history from pioneer times until 1945. To accomplish its mission, the Association acquires, collects, preserves, restores, exhibits, interprets, researches, and publicizes items of historical significance, aimed at depicting pioneer life in Florida through an organized community effort. The Association has established a museum that recalls the basic, simple values of our forebears, asserts the dignity of labor, and emphasizes the value of craftsmanship.
The longstanding trustees and board have managed a facility and community treasure. Donations over time such as those from Emily Larkin, Albert Smith, Paul Rhinesmith, and Richard & Carol Lee Madill Lockey, and so many more have built a collaborative and synergistic non-profit institution that preserves and teaches history. The museum works with the Florida Humanities through a grant from the National Endowment for Humanities that has provided additional resources and knowledge. As a recipient of multiple National Smithsonian Institute Grants they have offered topics of cultural and specialized history that have enlightened and enhanced understanding of history.
Link to site of Museum: https://www.pioneerfloridamuseum.org