Citrus County – “Florida’s Little Giant”
Located between the Withlacoochee River and the Gulf of Mexico
As part of his journey through Florida, Hernando DeSoto came through Citrus County around 1539 and crossed the Withlacoochee River near the end of present Turner Camp Road. Hernando County was named in honor of DeSoto and was established in 1843.
Citrus County was originally part of Hernando County; but through the efforts of Senator Austin S. Mann, the Florida legislature established Citrus County on June 2, 1887. Citrus County was named in honor of the fruit as a robust citrus growing industry developed in the eastern part of the area and it became a focus of intense economic expansion soon after the War Between the States.
The village of Mannfield (geographically located in the center of the newly created county) was selected to be the acting Citrus County seat for two years, after which a vote of the county electors was to decide the permanent site. Two factions soon developed: the supporters of Mannfield and those wishing to transfer the county seat to Inverness. Various inconclusive elections were held, until on May 4, 1891 Inverness won by a close vote. The controversy continued, however, and at times erupted into physical violence, since the Mannfield faction refused to accept the election results. Finally, this faction obtained a court injunction to block the transfer of the courthouse to Inverness.
To affect the transfer before the injunction could be served the Inverness faction moved the county government in the middle of the night in May 1891, transferring all county records, court furniture and fixtures in wagons brought for that purpose. The County Clerk, Captain W. C. Zimmerman, refused to move, and so was lifted up in his chair and placed in a wagon. Upon his arrival in Inverness, Zimmerman was unloaded and told to declare Inverness the new county seat.
The county government was at first housed in a rented wooden structure across from the Atlantic Coastline Railroad station. In the early 1890’s a Victorian style wooden courthouse was built on land donated by Henry Martin in 1891. This new structure required frequent maintenance however, and soon led the residents of Citrus County to feel the need for a more substantial county courthouse.
The Citrus County Courthouse was ordered constructed by resolution of the Citrus County Commission of May 1911.
During the Civil War, the Yulee Sugar Mill was operated on the Homosassa River, supplying sugar to the Confederacy. The Yulee mansion was burned by Union troops in 1864 and the mill left in ruins.
In 1884 farmer and growers were given a boost when the Florida Orange Canal and Transit Company built a canal from the groves to the Lake Panasoffkee railhead in what is now Sumter County.
The Big Freeze of 1894-1895 ended the vibrant citrus industry, however phosphate had been discovered and a highly prosperous phosphate boom was underway. The population soared to over ten thousand. World War I terminated the flow of phosphate to European markets and the mines closed which made the population plummet. The county then became an agricultural community.
Now that retirees have discovered the smallest county in Florida, the population is in excess of 100,000. There are two incorporated cites in Citrus County: Inverness, the county seat and Crystal River. Several other significant unincorporated areas are: Beverly Hills, Homosassa, Homosassa Springs, Citrus Hills, Lecanto, Sugar Mill Woods, Floral City, Citrus Springs, Hernando, Holder, Citronelle and Ozello.