It all started when Albertus Vogt found fossilized teeth on his property. The discovery led to what would become a thriving industry . . . hard rock phosphate mining which began in 1889 with the Marion Phosphate Company near Dunnellon.
Phosphate was found to be useful in agriculture to add nutrients to depleted soils.
The Dunnellon Phosphate Company, owned by Vogt, followed soon after in 1890. The ensuing years saw rapid expansion of the industry to the north and south of Dunnellon. The news created a land rush complete with speculators, gamblers, saloons, conflicting claims
The towns of Inverness, Floral City and Brooksville also shared in the boom which was short lived and played out by the beginning of World War I.
The vast deposits of phosphate that cover large areas of Florida are from the bones and remains of sea creatures that lived in this part of the earth during the late Miocene or Pliocene ages 10 to 15 million years past.
Some of the mines are now recreational areas and campgrounds while others are just ghost names with hard to find evidence recaptured by nature or development. Hard rock mining along the rock phosphate ridge is now a memory accessible by historical museums in each of the towns of the phosphate ridge.
Still today, 80% of all phosphate used in the U.S. and 25% used in the world’s supply is mined from deposits found in other locations in Florida
The towns have since become vibrant communities adjacent to the natural beauty of the Withlacoochee State Forest, Withlacoochee River and Withlacoochee State Trail. The State Trail runs 46 miles from Dunnellon through Inverness and Floral City to Dade City in Pasco County, and connects with Brooksville via the Good Friends trail. The Trail is enjoyed by cyclists, hikers and horseback riders. Water sport enthusiasts will find the Withlacoochee river a quiet wilderness teeming with wildlife as it meanders north to Dunnellon and Lake Rousseau and on to the Gulf of Mexico.
Take the time to enjoy these Old Towns and the many events and historical and natural resources they offer.
Phosphate Rock Ridge Events
- The Brooksville Raid
Recreation of a Civil War Battle that happened in Hernando County Third weekend in January.
- Heritage Day Festival at the 1885 Train Depot
Historic Home Tours and Museum Tours. Vendors along the trail, demonstrations and reenactments.
- The Florida Bluegrass Classic
Festival with five days of music, live shows, dancing and vendors. Camping available.
- Inverness St. Patrick’s Festival
Held the Saturday preceding the holiday, unless the holiday falls on a Saturday. Features large parade through downtown, street concert with Celtic rock band, pub crawl, leprechaun and fairy contest.
- Inverness Big Bass Classic
Held the third weekend in March, this tournament has over $9,000 payouts at stake with hourly payouts at $1,000.
- Fort Cooper Days
State park event that provides a look at what life was like during the early 1800's. Come and enjoy modern and period artisans. Living history demonstrations.
- Weeki Wachee Swamp Fest
Features country and folk bands with arts and craft vendors with swamp monster contest.
- Will McLean Music Festival
The festival celebrates Will McLean, the Father of Florida Folk. Enjoy the best in Florida acoustical music with entertainment by Florida's singers and songwriters, including a songwriting contest, workshops, arts, crafts, poetry reading, storytelling, and children's activities.
- Floral City Strawberry Festival
Long running festival with local strawberries, children’s pageant, pie eating contest and lots of vendors.
- Boomtown Festival
Celebration of discovery of phosphate in the 1800's that caused boomtown of Dunnellon to grow. Event features arts & crafts, local entertainment, and street food vendors on Sat all day, spaced along our tree-lined main street.
- Blue Grass Festival
Full day of bluegrass music in Fort Cooter State Park.
- The Taste
Brings together colossal craft beer tasting and regional delights from food trucks and restaurants. Held lakeside at Liberty Park with live music, art show and food competitions.
- The Florida Blueberry Festival
Live music, street entertainment, fresh blueberries, retail store, Blueberry Kids Zone, Beer Garden and food vendors.
- Brooksville Cycling Classic
Bicycle racing at its finest with festival atmosphere with 150 amateur and professional racers.
- Pine Street Jam
This street festival turns historic downtown Inverness into a Margarita-ville with live concert, festival vendors, kids zone and more.
- Dunnellon Musicfest
Festival brings 10 bands on multiple stages, classic car show, antique tractors, street performers.
Visit Website 352-489-2320
- Cooter Festival 3-day Music Festival
The area’s only three-day music festival with a flair for Woodstock era music. The festival brings the best food trucks, merchants and major carnival rides.
- Hernando Untapped
Craft beer and wine festival with food vendors with live music and food trucks.
- Dunnellon Victorian Holiday Festival
Christmas festival with snow slide, horse and carriage rides, light displays, arts & crafts vendors in the Christmas Village.
Visit Website 352-465-0603
- Inverness Festival of the Arts
This 2-day juried art show features over 100 artists and crafters. Event is free and open to the public.
- Inverness Grand Prix & Motorsports Festival
The Inverness Grand Prix and Motorsports Festival is a unique event that allows street karts to race at high speeds through downtown Inverness. This event brings a large crowd down to visit the various shops and restaurants in the area. It is a family-friendly event with activities, car shows, vendors, and races throughout Saturday.
- Floral City Heritage Days
For over 20 years, the Heritage Council has presented his event the first weekend in December. Floral City Heritage Council volunteers dress in period costume of the 1890s and act as guides to the historic home tours and the museum/country store.
- Light Up Inverness!
Held the second Friday of December includes snow fall, Christmas vendors, live Christmas music and a light-up.
- Brooksville Ghost Tour
Legend has it that the 151-year old former residence of pioneer Frank Saxon is still inhabited by some of its residents, including three-year old Jessie May Saxon. Hand-held cameras and recording devices allowed. Tour is by reservation only, $20.00 per person (cash only).
Visit Website 352-556-9571
- Dunnellon’s 2nd Friday Farmer’s Market
Hosted by the Dunnellon Chamber of Commerce and brings together fresh good, baked items and food trucks.
- Market on Main Street
On the third Saturday of the month in downtown Brooksville shoppers will find locally grown produce, handmade crafts and more.
- Friday Night Thunder
Live street concert and MOPAR car cruise-in held the 3rd Friday of every month starts 5 pm to 8 pm.
Dunnellon was founded in 1887. In 1889, phosphate was discovered in the area, leading to an expansion of the area until the early 1910s. The original mining took place in and around the Rainbow River, using the river's natural flow to transport phosphates.
The city of Inverness was originally named "Tompkinsville". Settlement of the area dates back to 1868. A. D. Tompkins, later known as "Uncle Alf", started the community. To attract newcomers to the town, he established mail service and helped erect the first sawmill in the county. He gave his brother-in-law, Frank M. Dampier, Sr., a lot to build a store, with Dampier becoming the first merchant in town. Dampier is credited with laying out the town and naming it Tompkinsville. Not many years later, the town of Tompkinsville was sold to a firm in Jacksonville, and the name was changed to "Inverness".
Floral City was laid out and surveyed in 1883 by the surveyor W.H. Havron and then-Senator Austin S. Mann. The land was owned by James Baker, son-in-law of ex-Confederate soldier John Paul Formy-Duval, an early area settler and landowner. The village was at one time larger than Miami, due to the phosphate mining industry located in Citrus County. Around the time of World War I, the mining industry shut down in Floral City. After the war, mining was moved south to the Bartow area east of Tampa. The community is said to be a slice of "Old Florida" that remains relatively intact. The town was named Floral City for its abundance of wild flowers, which are still plentiful today.
In 1856 the county seat of Hernando County became the newly named town of Brooksville. The name was chosen to honor Preston Brooks. Brooks, a congressman who nearly caned abolitionist Senator Charles Sumner to death in 1856 on the floor of the Senate after Sumner gave an anti-slavery speech and disparaged Brooks' uncle, Senator Andrew Butler. The Pierceville post office was not renamed for Brooksville until 1871. The city was incorporated on October 13, 1880.
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