The newest historic marker in Hernando County was revealed on September 23, 2017. Located south of the intersection of Centralia Road on US 19, the marker commemorates the historic sawmill town of Centralia.
Marker Side 1 reads:
This site was once the location of one of Florida’s largest lumber mills. As demand for insect and rot resistant cypress increased, the J.C. Turner Lumber Company began the logging of over 15,000 acres of Red Tidewater Cypress, cedar and pine in coastal Hernando County.
The Turner Company financed the construction of the mill in 1910. It was known locally as the Tidewater Cypress Mill. Eighteen miles of narrow-gauge tram lines were laid through the swamp to connect the mill and logging areas to the Tampa Northern Railroad.
Laborers used steam-powered skidders to transport cut logs onto railroad cars. The logs were then dumped in a pond near the sawmills. The large double-banded saws, powered by electricity generated from four steam boilers, could cut 100,000 board feet each day. The finished wood was stacked in a 160-acre drying yard for up to four years. The dried wood was sent to the planing mill to become roof shingles, lath, and construction lumber.
The finished lumber was sold locally, or transported sixteen miles by rail to Brooksville, where it continued to the port in Tampa and was loaded onto ships headed to the company’s wholesale distribution yard on the Hudson River in New York.
Marker Side 2 reads:
Located a few miles north of Weeki Wachee, the “boom town” of Centralia sprang up to support the 1,200 mill workers and their families. The wealth of timber seemed inexhaustible, luring men and industry from all corners of the earth.
A post office opened in 1910 followed by other businesses, including a general store, drugstore, Mrs. Varn’s Centralia Hotel, the Hungry None Restaurant, and a Greek bakery.
The general store, run by George Gamble, boasted more stock than any store in larger towns like Jacksonville or Tampa.
Centralia offered other amenities such as a resident doctor and dentist, schoolhouse, and community church offering Catholic and Protestant services.
There were no saloons, however, as the mill’s general manager, Edgar A. Roberts, forbade drinking. Soda pop was the drink of choice.
The trees were exhausted by 1917, and the mill shut down soon after. The town struggled along for a few more years, but was mostly abandoned by the 1920s. Only the foundations of this once mighty mill remain.
The Turner company reseeded the land with slash pines in the 1960s. Purchased in 1985 by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the land became part of the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge.