to tradition, this is how Wildwood obtained its name before it was a
community. In 1877, a crew of workmen and a surveyor were putting in
a telegraph line south of Ocala. The surveyor was required to report
in from time to time. So when the surveyor called in and the office
asked "Where are you?" He paused, and the answer he gave
was, "I don't know, except in the wild woods."
Barwick is considered to be Wildwood's founding father. Wanton S.
Webb's History of Florida, published during the latter part of the
nineteenth century, described Wildwood as being settled in 1877 by I.E.
Barwick. Isaac W. Barwick was a 25-year-old entrepreneur who
traveled to the area from Georgia and set up a lumbering operation.
Along with a small number of pioneers, Barwick built a few stores, homes
and a town square. The early
settlers of Wildwood participated in agricultural pursuits, most of the
products produced were usually for home consumption, like cotton.
Some cotton was carried by ox carts to Silver Springs for shipment.
Later the Lee family of Leesburg opened canals and waterways which made it
possible to transport their products all the way to Bug Springs. Bug
Springs is a large spring located near the community of Okahumpka.
In 1882, the
Tropical Florida Railroad Company had extended a line south from Ocala to
Wildwood. On June 1, 1882, the first train, pulled by a wood burning
engine named "The Cabbage Head" arrived in Wildwood. By
January 1, 1883, another eight miles was added and a new railroad was
serving Panasoffkee. In January, 1885, the Florida Railway and
Navigation company started construction of an additional 14 miles between
Panasoffkee and Terrell. This project was completed that same July.
the first two decades of this century, Wildwood continued its slow
growth. The city hall during these years was an eight-sided building
called the Wigwam. The Wigwam not only served as the city hall but
was also used as a place for public gathering, skating rink and recreation
hall for the young people. The
depression hit Wildwood hard in the late '20s and early '30s.
Defaults and forfeitures were common and the city also had its
problems. A generous reduction of tax bills due "50 cents on
the dollar" brought a small amount of new revenues and the town grew
steadily through the '30s, '40s and '50s. When the railroad industry
declined in the '60s, the town was successfully redirected by a few
farsighted leaders. A shopping center was built and Florida's
turnpike was completed in 1964.
once again started its slow growth and is well positioned to both control
and take advantage of the anticipated interest in the area as a great
place to live and raise a family.