The Tampa Tribune from Tampa, Florida on September 23, 1995 · 61
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The Tampa Tribune from Tampa, Florida · 61

Tampa, Florida
Issue Date:
Saturday, September 23, 1995
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IT Harctea . Highlands DeSoto jl Ml A growth frontier THE TAMPA TRIBUNE Saturday, September 23, 1995 ..J Heartland Heritage Teresa Stein Big land deal had an effect on Heartland Second of two parts LAKE PLACID It was 1881 when Hamilton Disston, the Northern saw and tool maker, sat down to dinner in a Philadelphia restaurant with the governor of Florida, William Bloxham. Their conversation turned to their favorite sports, hunting and fishing, especially in the Florida Heartland. . By dinner's end, Bloxham had convinced Disston there was a fortune to be made by the person who would take south and central Florida land and develop it. The result of that conversation was a real estate deal that became one of the three largest in Florida's history. The contract between Disston and Florida was for 4 mil lion acres of state-owned land, purchased at 25 cents an acre. Disston agreed "to drain and reclaim ... all the overflowed lands ..." ' According to Webb Garrison in "Treasury of Florida Tales," Disston began his Florida venture with enthusiasm. He made plans to drain, clear and develop 2 million acres and actually dug about 10 miles of drainage canals. He began residential developments and pumped money into production of sugar cane, rice, fruit, vegetables and cattle. He promoted steamboat travel on the Kissimmee River, planted orange groves, started sawmills and changed Kissimmee from a small cow town into what land agents called "a magic city." ' But development plans quickly soured. Residents were slow to come and stay. The costs of his commercial ventures were more than the income, and drainage of the Everglades was far more complex and costly than Disston had imagined. Bloxham A loss of life of - Then came the financial panic 1893-94. Disston was a big loser. ' ' Al Parsons, author of the Florida Power Corp. history "Lightning in the Sun," remembered Disston this way: "Hamilton Disston probably did as much for Florida following the Civil War as any man who lived, but one day ... he drew a bath, got in it and blew his brains out with a revolver." - Disston's lands went into his estate. ' Shortly after the Big Freeze of 1894-95, another event occurred that had a great Influence on the state's history. On Oct. 1, 1902, in Jacksonville, seven naval stores companies came together to "'prevent a waste of timber; to protect and preserve the forests; to improve labor conditions; to lower the cost of production; to establish convenient supply centers and to offer low prices for consumers'." The cooperative, Consolidated Naval Stores Co., purchased much of the Disston property and other lands. Turpentine camps were set up throughout the pine forests of the Heartland including Avon Park, Auburndale, Bassin-ger, Childs, Goodno, Hilolo, Holopaw, Illa-haw, Kenansville, Lumber-ton, Sebring, To-hopkee and Venus. New jobs were created and conservation techniques initiated, and from the more than 350 units in Florida naval stores products totaled almost $7 billion. Problems here, too , But there were problems for Consolidated. Fluctuating prices, low pYoduction, high costs and labor shortages began to affect the turpentine industry. The big crisis came in 1914 with World War -I when the market for naval stores practically disappeared. " Looking for other sources of income, Consolidated turned to cattle raising. In late 1916, the company formed the Kissimmee Island Cattle Co., called KICCO. And by late 1917, 24,000 head of cattle roamed a 200,000 acre ranch. The ranch' was a financial drain on the company and when the Florida land boom of 1925 came, Consolidated sold KICCO. When the bust of 1927 followed, Consolidated got it back. C The company then turned KICCO into the Heartland's first and largest hunting and fishing club, Horseshoe Ranch. It also was in the 1920s that Consolidated sold some of their land and developed citrus groves. From 1961-68, Florida land values increased greatly. Consolidated sold off much of the land formerly used for naval stores timberlsnd and moved more into land development, a major emphasis ever since. Retiree, industry honored A Tribune Staff Report SEBRING More than 200 people packed a Holiday Inn banquet room Thursday night to say goodbye to Betty Neale. The occasion was the industry appreciation dinner coupled with annual meeting of the Highlands County Industrial Development Authority and Economic Development Commission. Neale has been executive director of both since March 1985, and she plans to retire Friday. Before that she was executive director of the Sebring Chamber of Commerce for 10 years. James Crawford, outgoing chairman of the authority and commission, said it was a "sad . moment in my life" to realize this was the last ' official meeting involving Neale. "She has devoted her entire life and enthusiasm to this county," he said. "She absolutely thrives on challenges. She likes to maintain a low profile so she can get the work done on time." He gave her a large plaque. And a hug. One of her daughters also presented her with a plaque. "You're the greatest people in the world," Neale told the crowd. "This has been my family's home for more than 20 years. I hope it will be for many more years." Neale said she was looking forward to more family life. Her remarks came late in the evening. "If you're becoming a little impatient, please bear with me," Neale said. "I've never retired before." Earlier, the commission announced Sun-Pure Ltd. of Avon Park as its industry of the year and after a short message from Charles Dusseau, secretary of the state Department of Commerce. SunPure's main office and processing plant are located off U.S. 27, on the north side of Avon Park. It is a partnership established in 1988 between Hadi Lashkajani and the A.M. Todd Co. of Kalamazoo, Mich. Its plant has the ability to See SUNPURE, Page 3 1? . A V--rRA 1 '4 1 ; ! i 'j r . ... j r 1 ' f. ! J r r. v - SCOTT AUDETTEfor the Tribune SunPure lab technician Gwen White company was awarded Highlands analyzes orange juice for acid levels County's Industry of the Year desig-Friday at the Avon Park plant. The nation Thursday. Industrial boards decide on successor ' " i , if . V, " , . " , SunPure executives, from left, Kim James, chief financial officer; Sylvia Colbert, vice president of administration; and Donald Dawson, vice president of operations, display their industry award Friday in front of the plant. A Tribune Staff Report SEBRING A Louisiana man has been asked to serve as executive director of the Highlands County Industrial Development Authority and Economic Development Commission. The organizations' search committee Friday morning recommended James Stanfill, 59, of Belle Chasse to replace Betty Neale, who plans to retire Sept. 30. Stanfill is former executive director of the Plaquemines Parish Economic Development District James Crawford, outgoing chairman of the authority and commission, said Stanfill wants to revisit the county with his wife and give officials an answer by Oct. 5. Crawford said he was pleased with the committee's choice. "I think he is very qualified," Crawford said. "He has tremen dous credentials." He said Stanfill comes from an area about the size of Sebring and has worked with a budget similar in size to Neale's. Crawford said earlier he wanted someone who was familiar with the rural community and the special problems it faces attracting new business and industry. He said Stanfill has 26 years' experience in economic development and has attended various economic development training schools. Stanfill was selected from an initial field of 77 candidates, including 10. Highlands County residents. Neale, 63, became executive director of the authority and commission in March 1985. Before that she was executive director of the Sebring Chamber of Commerce for 10 years. State clears pair of deput les By JUNE SHIH Tribune Staff Writer SEBRING State Attorney Jerry Hill has cleared two Highlands County sheriff's deputies who fired at and wounded a fleeing suspect earlier this month. In a letter dated Sept. 19, Hill of the 10th Judicial Circuit told County Sheriff Howard Godwin he had decided investigators Pat Frederick and Juan Delgado were justified in shooting at 18-year-old Shannima "Shalamar" Session. "We have considered the fact that Session was a fleeing felon and had struck Investigators Frederick and Rotesak Nampon with an automobile prior to Frederick and Delgado firing at and wounding Session," Hill wrote. Public Defender John Roman, who is Session's lawyer, could not be reached for comment on the decision late Friday. Frederick and Delgado shot at Session Feb. 7 as he tried to escape arrest and run over Frederick on U.S. 27, three miles south of Lake Josephine Creek, authorities said. Undersheriff Bill Jones said Session, who was wanted on five violation of probation charges, pushed the driver out of the car he was riding in and took off during the arrest attempt. The car first struck Investigator Rotesak Nampon. Frederick tried to stop Session, who continued driving, carrying the deputy on the hood for a short distance. Frederick fired at Session through the windshield and continued firing after falling off the car, Jones said. Delgado shot at the rear of the car. Neither Frederick nor Nampon was seriously injured. Session, who was not armed, surrendered at a Lake Placid gas station. He was taken to Highlands Regional Medical Center in Sebring for treatment of gunshot wounds to the chest and shoulder. Frederick and Delgado since have returned to active duty. Two bullet holes were found in the driver's side of Session's car windshield. The rear window and side windows were shattered. Session was charged with attempted first-degree murder, aggravated assault with a motor vehicle, felony fleeing and attempting to elude a law enforcement officer and grand theft auto, reports state. He also was charged with trespass and violating probation on several drug convictions. Suspect sought in 1992 case arrested By JUNE SHIH Tribune Staff Writer SEBRING A man who eluded police for three years on three criminal charges was arrested Thursday morning. Highlands County Sheriff's deputies found Antonio "Criss Cross" Spenz, 26, hiding in an attic at 422 Lucas Lake Drive. An informant told authorities Spenz was in the area. Warrants for Spenz's arrest on charges of kidnapping, burglary and aggravated assault were issued in 1993. A new warrant for attempted first-degree murder was issued in August. "Nobody could find him," Avon Park Police Chief Tony Velong said. "Somebody had to turn him in." Avon Park police believe Spenz is the man who chased and shot Michael Robinson, 28, at Ridgedale Apartments on Aug. 18. Robinson was approached by a man about 1 p.m. while getting out of a car in the apartment's parking lot, witnesses told police. The man pulled a gun from his waistband and chased Robinson. Two shots were fired during the chase and one hit Robinson in the right arm, an arrest affidavit states. The suspect then ran to a getaway car and disappeared. Robinson survived the shooting. He and several witnesses identified "Criss Cross" as his attacker, Velong said. Police have sought Spenz since August 1992, when he broke into an ex-girlfriend's home on Cornell ; Street in Avon Park and kidnapped her at gunpoint, Velong said. Angelique Turner eventually escaped and reported the crime to police. "He was upset because they broke up," Velong said of Spenz. Velong said Spenz had been difficult to catch because he "moves around a lot." In addition to "Criss Cross," Spenz used such aliases as "Errol Spence" and "Chris Spence." Construction worker slices leg with chain saw Charles Guice was cutting a tree when it fell, pinning him and pushing the saw against his leg. A Tribune Staff Report SEBRING A Sebring man was in stable condition Friday at Tampa General Hospital after nearly severing his left leg with a chain 'saw in a job-related acci dent. Charles Gulce, 41, was flown to Tampa General from the construction site of the new Florida Power Corp. warehouseoffice building at 5020 Kenilworth Blvd., a Sebring police report said. Doctors were able to save Guice's leg, a hospital spokeswoman saidFriday. Guice works for Excavation Point Inc. of Sebring, which was hired to clear the land for construction, said Officer Steve Williams the Sebring police. Williams gave the following account of the accident, which occurred about 7:30 a.m. Thursday. Guice was clearing away some trees with a chain saw. He had just cut through a small tree, about 6 to 8 inches in diameter, when the tree unexpectedly fell toward Guice and pinned him on the ground. The tree apparently pushed the chain saw against his left leg. The saw cut through the bone above the, left ankle but did not cut all theiway through the leg. V V;' ;1 (i 'A y? ' Lr- .- 4 1 .--. j 1 "V; SCOTT AUDETTEtor the Tribune Lessons in life As their father Michael Collins watches, 6-year-old David, left, and brother Stephen, 10, collect aquatic life for a science project recently at Crescent Beach in Sebring. 1 S 3L

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