Odessa Historical Photo Galleries
Russian railroad tycoon Peter Demens ran his Orange Belt Railway past a small farming town he named Odessa in 1888. The whistle-stop led to the building of a sawmill and turpentine still run by prisoners from 1899 to 1904. Other lumber mills followed, including the Gulf Pine Lumber Company, the Dowling Lumber Company, and the Lyon Pine Company. The first post office was started in 1900.
After much of the timber was exhausted, the lumber companies began bringing lumber in by rail. In perhaps an attempt to collect insurance money, the Dowling Lumber Mill was burned down in 1922 and the Lyon Pine Mill in 1925. The Dowling Mill was rebuilt and continued business for a few more years, then moved in 1927 to Gulf Hammock. By the 1930s the town dwindled back down to about 300 people, some of whom planted citrus groves in the cleared pineland.
Cattle ranching in this area grew substantially around the close of the Great Depression when two Pinellas County ranchers moved their herds into Pasco County. Jay B. Starkey purchased 16,000 acres near Odessa and with his partners, the Cunningham brothers started the CS Ranch. Further to the west, William H. Mitchell purchased 13,000 acres near Seven Springs and south of the Anclote River.
Dowling MillLumber mill owned by W. H. and J. H. Dowling. It burned in 1922; this is a scene after it was rebuilt. Photo courtesy of Joyce Gatlin.
Odessa SchoolThis photo was provided by Willie Grant, whose mother, Mattie Lou Mayo, is the teacher. She taught at the Odessa school in 1922-23 and 1923-24. Willie writes, "The boy standing on right end of bottom step holding his cap is C. D. Page. CD joined the Army around 40-41, was captured by the Japanese, survived the Bataan Death March and spent the rest of the war in a prison camp."
Waiting for the School BusMyrtice Jackson on Gunn Highway with Jackson Lake in the background, awaiting the school bus to Gulf High School, in the 1920s. Photo courtesy of Joyce Gatlin.