So, you’ve probably heard of Crystal Springs or even Salt Springs here in Pasco County, but have you ever heard of Bob Hill Springs?
Located in a hammock about 600 feet north of the Pasco-Hernando County line, the little Bob Hill Springs is privately owned by the Holiday Springs RV Resort, which converted the surrounding property into a modern recreational and camping facility.
During development of the RV resort in the 1970s, the natural setting of Bob Hill Springs was transformed into a 100-by-200 foot oval pool with concrete walls and perimeter walkways.
According to the Bureau of Geology, today, depths of the spring reach 15 feet with its discharge flowing west to the Gulf via Bayou Creek and Bayou Lake.
A prominent boil was reported to be continuous; however in 1972 the discharge was significantly reduced following the nearby excavation for development of a lake.
Who was Bob Hill?
Born October 15, 1831, in Fernandina, Florida, Robert “Bob” Madison Hill was the first child born to Florida pioneers Elizabeth Munden and Chesley D. Hill.
According to Hill family records, in 1835, the Hills' Fernandina home was attacked by raiding American Indians, forcing the family to flee to Fort Micanopy in Alachua County, where they remained for nearly 10 years.
From Fort Micanopy, by January 1843, the Hill family migrated south to Marion County, where they settled 160 acres along Fort King Road.
It was here where the young Robert “Bob” Madison Hill spent his early childhood and likely received his formal education.
But, after living in Marion County for seven years, in 1850, the family moved to Polk County for a brief period before finding their way to Hernando County—this was the family’s last move.
Shortly after arriving in Hernando, Indian hostilities prompted Florida’s Third Seminole Indian War.
Following in his father's footsteps, 25-year-old Robert “Bob” Madison Hill answered the call for arms and enlisted for a six-month stint with Lt. Richard B. Turner's Detachment of Florida Foot Volunteers.
Following his brief service he returned to Brooksville, where he engaged in farming and working in the local elections as an inspector for the Nov. 4, 1856, election.
With the onset of the Civil War in 1861, Bob Hill, his father, and three brothers enlisted with the Confederacy, all three serving with Company C., 9th Florida Infantry.
This military service led the Hill men to such battles as that of Olustee, Florida, where Robert’s brother was killed on February 20, 1864. Later service took them to major battles with Gen. Robert E. Lee in Virginia.
Life After the War.
From the Civil War battlefields, the Hill men returned to life in Hernando County, where the young Robert Hill struck out on his own.
According to Hill family research, leaving the family home, Robert made his way to the west coast where he settled at today’s Pasco-Hernando County line.
Here, on the coast, Hill not only began preparations to homestead 160-acres through the federal government, but he also purchased, from the state, the 40 acres surrounding what we now know as Bob Hill Springs.
By 1885, agriculture schedules show Hill had five acres of Indian corn, 4-acres of sweet potatoes, 40 pigs and at least 45 chickens and other poultry.
However, on December 14, 1886, before completing the full homestead requirements, Robert “Bob” Madison Hill died.
In the burial traditions of the time, Bob Hill was laid to rest on the land that he had so fervently toiled over, although it was not yet owned by the family.
Bob Hill’s Burial Controversy
Since Hill was unable to complete his homestead application due to his untimely death, according to state land records, in December 1926, the land containing his burial plot was purchased by Ralph W. Cook—the first owner since Hill’s death.
From there, the property began to change hands until it was eventually sub-divided for development.
According to Pasco County land records, in 1953, the tract containing the Bob Hill burial became part of a Gulf Coast Highway Estates subdivision created by M.L. Baynard.
However, Baynard sought to preserve the pioneer’s grave through deed restrictions on the property, which read:
"Lot 15, Block B is forever to its present occupant, Pioneer Bob Hill.”
Fast forward to 1983, and controversy arose when 51-year-old Walter Hill, Bob Hill’s great-grandson, discovered then-owner Garry Yaist had bulldozed Bob Hill's gravesite.
According to The West Pasco Tribune, Walter Hill remembered visiting the gravesite when he was just a boy and was horrified when he discovered Yaist’s activities on the property.
"I was shocked to see the small tombstone leaning against a fence and a concrete slab that had covered the grave laying in a pile of what appeared to be trash,” Hill said.
Yaist, who had lived on the property for 13 years, said he didn’t think anyone cared about the grave site. “No one showed any interest and all I did was cut the stumps out ‘cuz I wanted to park my trucks there.”
Yaist reportedly agreed to pay to move the pioneer’s remains but revoked the offer when he learned the Hill family contacted the Pasco Sheriff’s Department to halt work on the property.
Sheriff’s deputies ordered Yaist to cease activities until the rightful owners and deed restrictions could be determined, and a detective was assigned to the case.
Meanwhile, according to The West Pasco Tribune, Yaist said he would continue to park vehicles on the property, except for the 6-by-3-foot gravesite. He added, after a thorough search of the property he believed there were no other graves.
However, the Hill family said that according to oral history handed down from past generations, possibly six or eight other family members were buried on the property.
In March 1984, the St. Petersburg Times reported Walter Hill and 30 other members of the Hill family filed suit against Yaist to force him to stop “desecrating” the grave and allow them to restore it.
Nine months later, in December 1984, the Sixth Judicial Circuit Court of Florida finally issued a final judgment in the matter.
After 98 years, the remains of pioneer Bob Hill were disinterred from the property and moved to the Geiger Cemetery near Zephyrhills, where Hill’s wife and other family are buried.
Today, Garry Yaist still lives on the property where pioneer Bob Hill was buried.
Bob Hill’s former 200-acre homestead is now divided by the soon to be eight-lane U.S Highway 19, while Bob Hill Springs has been renamed Holiday Springs, the name of the RV park surrounding the bubbling little body of water.