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The Citrus County Chronicle was founded by Albert M. Williamson, a Floral City resident in July 1890. The intent of the original newspaper was to get announcements of merchandise and goods sales to people living in the Hernando,Inverness, and Floral City areas. Most of these first advertisements ran on one page.
Editor J.F. Sherwood set the small type and layouts by hand. Money was so scarce he credited subscribers by name and when they came in to pay their bills. "O.M. Johnson stopped by the Chronicle office today to pay his subscription," he wrote. "Mr. Johnson says he can't get along without it."
The ads that appeared were a sign of the times. A pound of sugar went for 5 cents, fresh eggs sold for 8 to 11 cents a pound, and coffee was 21 and 22 cents a pound. Chickens and turkeys were offered at 10 cents a pound and so were sugar-cured hams.
Sherwood, it is recorded, sold the newspaper to a Rev. Geiger at the time when Jim Priest was sheriff, George Carter was his deputy, and Walter Warnock was the county clerk. Warnock, born in President Jimmy Carter's hometown of Plains, Georgia, took over ownership of the Chronicle in the late 1890's and began to formulate the character of the paper with news items and features.
Circulation began increasing and so did poor paying, delinquent advertisers. Warnock was appointed deputy clerk of Circuit Court in 1897 and was elected Clerk of Circuit Court in 1900. After his election, Warnock listed himself as Editor and proprietor of the Chronicle and George Butler as "local editor". Later Warnock sold the weekly paper and took his family to Mexico to grow citrus fruit.
George Butler, then 70 years old, became owner and editor of the Chronicle in 1914. He predicted "The time will come when a cigarette smoker cannot get a situation anywhere in the State". As we see in today's headlines, Butler wasn't far off the mark with his prediction.
In the summer of 1914, while the war with Germany was raging in Europe, Albert W. Butler became editor and owner. Butler reported the close-down of many of the phosphate mines in the area, "pending operations of the European war." Most of the mines were never reopened.
In 1926, when Minor L. Smith was managing editor, the Chronicle caused a flurry of talk in the community when it announced it would run comic pages featuring Jiggs and Maggie, Polly and Her Pals, the Katzenjammer Kids, Harold Teen and others.
The year 1928 was the beginning of the calamitous depression era in Citrus County. The Chronicle reported the Citizens Bank of Inverness, established in 1912, was placed in the hands of the State Comptroller. In that same October-November period, Citizens Bank officially closed, and shortly after the New year of 1929 the board of directors of the Citrus Bank voted to suspend the business.
In June 1929 the Bank of Crystal River failed to open for business. Only one bank was left in Citrus County, the Chronicle reported, and that was the Bank of Homosassa Springs, which was moved to Inverness. It became a receiver for two defunct banks and changed its name to Homosassa-Inverness Bank and eventually became the Bank of Inverness.
Two other events took place in Citrus County later that year. In October the town of Crystal River was flooded with a tidal wave, and row boats had to be used on Main Street, "the second one since 1896", the Chronicle reported. In Inverness, the $800 clock in the courthouse tower lost 15 minutes and all activities in town went on late schedule including businesses, the schools, lunches and suppers. The Chronicle editorialized complaining the clock should be set at least twice a year "to keep it within a day or two of the right time."
Joseph J. Wilson of Clearwater took over the editorial reins of the paper in April 1929. During the boom, the Chronicle was running 10 to 12 pages a week - after the crash it was hard pressed to turn out four pages. Wilson managed to pull the paper out of a financial hole, and kept after local businesses with a two-column headline, "DOES INVERNESS WANT THE CHRONICLE?". It was a plea for support and for a time businessmen managed to scrape up enough money for advertising to keep it in print.
Wilson, a go-getting creative editor, kept subscribers' interest through his lively and timely editorials. In those editorials he established goals for the community to help return to prosperity.
He advocated general farming, tobacco growing, tung oil trees, organization of a Chamber of Commerce, the advertising of fishing to lure tourists, unity of thought and action to get businesses located here, and more work and less sitting around.
Famed baseball star Dazzy Vance bought the Homosassa Hotel in the early 30's; cattle tick fever resulted in the dipping of all cattle every 14 days for a year and a half in vats to eradicate the pests. Movies were 10 cents for kids and 25 cents for adults. Editor J.J. Wilson proposed printing the minutes of the Citrus County Commission for $15 a month to apply on taxes - they settled for $10.
In 1934, the Chronicle was edited by B.C. Ellsworth, who reported that boxing champ Max Baer "stopped by Laniers Drug Store for a cold drink while on his way from Tampa to Jacksonville for a four-round exhibition fight."
Taylor Dawson became the Chronicle editor in 1935, and he tore into the editor of the Tampa Tribune for disparaging both the idea and that first work on the Cross Florida Barge Canal which had just started. The canal idea actually started over 400 years ago when spanish explorers saw it as a short cut from the Atlantic to the Gulf of Mexico. Funds of $5 million were appropriated by President Franklin Roosevelt with the promise of more to come as they were needed. Anti-canal forces in those days used to excuse the canal would dry up the state's water supply. Citrus County voters voted to issue right-of-way bonds for the canal, with 483 in favor and only 37 against.
In 1935 Scofield Publishing Company, owners of the Chronicle, acquired the Dunnellon Sun, and Taylor Dawson added the new paper his duties.
Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of the President, stopped at the Seminole lunch Room in Hernando on her way from Jacksonville to Sarasota to visit her aunt. The visit was reported by the Chronicle correspondent, Mrs. R.M. Spires, who wrote that "the first lady radiated personality".
By the year 1940, Citrus County had a population of 5,844, an increase of 328 people in 10 years. The country was growing. Florida's population, according to the Chronicle, was 1.8 million.
In 1942, casualty lists were being carried by the Chronicle: Pvt. Eugene Quinn, Seaman Bently Halbert, Jack Carter and P. Blanton. Citrus County had 49 men in the service at the time and sent more than 150 more. Mrs. M.C. Scofield, editor of the Chronicle in 1944, wrote in a front page story, the "Yuletide spirit in Citrus County was conspicuous by its absence".
On May 10, 1945 Chronicle headlines in 120-point type shouted "MAY 8th V-E DAY". County Commissioners erected an honor roll of veterans listing 600 names - including 22 who paid the supreme sacrifice for their county. It was noted 11 percent of Citrus County's people were in the service.
In November of 1945, Mrs. Scofield stepped down as editor and J.R. Harkreader took over the editorial reins. He was succeeded in July 1946 by Alton B. Claytor, who died in Jacksonville in 1947.
Scofield sold his rights to the Chronicle in May 1946 to N.A. Perry of Bradenton, who sold it shortly afterward to J.R. Hough. One year later, Col. George H. Johnson bought both the Chronicle and the Dunnellon Sun from Hough. One of the big stories of the year was the dedication of the Inverness Airport in August 1947. Citrus County population at that time was recorded to be 6,000.
Before the end of 1948, the Chronicle was sold again to Paul W. Ramsey, former city editor of the Chicago Sun. In January 1949, veteran public official, author, and entrepreneur, Judge E.C. May stepped down from office. he took an ad in the Chronicle - the paper that had served him well when he opened a store in Hernando in 1894 - to bid farewell to his friends and constituents. Judge May had served 24 years as a judge and 50 years as a legislator, state attorney and as a practicing attorney.
In April of 1949 the Chronicle reported the Florida State Legislature had passed a bill to levy a 3 mill tax for the use in acquiring land and building a hospital. Editor Paul Ramsey sharply criticized the passage of a state sales tax bill. It was also the year the governor outlawed cattle and livestock on the highway with fence laws to be effective on July 1, 1950.
July 11, 1957 was the date the Chronicle editorialized as "a day to be remembered - the day we dedicated our new hospital." The $400,000 Citrus Memorial Hospital was dedicated to better health and welfare of the people.
In the beginning of 1958, editor Ramsey ran stories on the opening of a new golf course at Paradise Country Club near Crystal River, a new shopping center in Inverness and St. Ann's Episcopal Church. Gasoline prices were 21.9 cents a gallon.
After 11 years of publication by Mr. and Mrs. Paul Ramsey, the Chronicle was bought by Mr. and Mrs. Phil Bennett of the Bennett-Hahn Company in June 1959. In the last editorial Ramsey wrote: "Giving up the publishing of the newspaper is something like saying goodbye to a friend who is gay and rewarding and entertaining at times - and at others as cantankerous and ornery as a hungry mule..."
Woodward Field was designated the official name of the Crystal River-Homosassa Air Terminal. It was named for the late Major C.D. Woodward for his efforts in making the airfield a reality. Bob Tannehill was news editor of the Chronicle at the time.
The Bennett-Hahn Company announced they were selling the Chronicle to Frances and Carl Turner of Waupaca, Wisconsin. The Turners also published three newspapers in their home state.
Elvis Presley made a movie in Citrus County in 1961 titled "Follow that Dream". He made his appearance in Inverness on July 19th for a courthouse scene, with coverage of the "historic" event captured on the pages of the Chronicle. Turner died suddenly on June 19, 1962 at his Wisconsin home, and his wife sold the Chronicle to a group in St. Petersburg headed by Robert L. Chamberlain and former St. Petersburg mayor Herman Goldner.
Early in 1964, 33-year-old David S. Arthurs purchased the Chronicle from the St. Petersburg group. A native of Atchison, Kansas, Arthurs had come to Florida to work as a publishing supervisor of the John H. Perry newspapers in Delray and Palatka.
THE 80's and BEYOND
When the young publisher and editor took over the paper, the population of the county had grown to about 19,000. And when he merged with Landmark Community Newspapers, Inc. in September 1980, the county had zoomed to nearly 70,000.
Arthurs had selected Gerry Mulligan, former editor of the Brooksville Sun-Journal, to head up the editorial department of the newspaper. Gary Manning joined the company in 1980 in the position of General Manager.
In 1981, the Chronicle converted to a tri-weekly publication, serving the entire Citrus County market. In the same year the Florida Press Association named the newspaper Florida's best weekly newspaper. Two years later the newspaper won the state's most prestigious journalism award presented by the press association.
In 1982, the newspaper had finally outgrown it's historic courthouse square location and had moved into a modern new publishing facility on SR 44 in Inverness, the current location of our existing Inverness satellite office. At the same time, the paper remodeled it's historic Crystal River office on Crystal Street.
By 1986, the Chronicle had grown into a daily publication and employed over 160 employees, correspondents, and contractors.
In July 1990, the newspaper had once again outgrown it's publishing facility, under the leadership of Publisher Gerry Mulligan. Leaving the Inverness location, the newspaper relocated it's main offices and production plant to our existing operation in Meadowcrest, Crystal River.
The product line of Citrus Publishing, Inc. has grown significantly since it's humble beginnings. In addition to our core publication of the daily Chronicle, Citrus Publishing, Inc. circulated the weekly editions of the Sumter County Times, Riverland News, South Marion Citizen, The Visitor, Chiefland Citizen and Williston Sun News Pioneer.
Specialty and niche advertising publications of the company include the Florida Real Estate News covering a multi-county distribution area stretching from Pasco County to Perry Florida; Nature Coastlines - a tourism targeted bimonthly guide circulated at selected distribution points in multi-county area along Florida's nature coast; and Advertiser Express a weekly distribution to non-subscribing households in Citrus County.
The company has also stayed in step with changing times, and in many cases, been the leader in utilizing the latest technology. From moving away from old school paste-up boards by implementing state-of-the-art pagination systems in the pre-press process of the Chronicle and weekly editions, to putting the newspaper online for viewing on the World Wide Web, Citrus Publishing, Inc. has been bold in changing the way we work.