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San Antonio

San Antonio was founded (in name only) in 1881 by Edmund F. Dunne who previously had been chief justice of the Arizona territory. Dunne was a legal counsel involved in the Disston Land Purchase, and as his commission, received 100,000 choice acres of land out of the 4,000,000 acre purchase. The following year on February 15, while surveying the Disston Purchase with his cousin, Captain Hugh Dunne, Judge Dunne selected the city's location and began settling it. He established the city as the center of a Catholic colony in Florida. Dunne planned several other villages for the surrounding area including Saint Joseph, Saint Thomas, Villa Maria, Carmel and San Felipe, but only the rural community of Saint Joseph survives today. In 1889 the Benedictines established the monastery of St. Leo and St. Leo College on Dunne's former homestead and farm land, later incorporating the area as part of a separate town, St. Leo, Florida.

The area remained isolated until the late 1880s when the South Florida Railroad passed through Dade City, bringing rapid change along with it. Soon after, the Orange Belt Railroad was constructed and passed directly through San Antonio on its way to St. Petersburg. The railroads allowed local crops to be shipped quickly and efficiently to northern markets, spurring growth and new opportunities for commerce.

The role played by the Catholic church in the life of the community and the deep commitment to agriculture by generations of residents are reminders of what Judge Dunne envisioned for this picturesque town.



San Antonio

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