While not the first settler to arrive in northern Pinellas County, James C. Craver is generally considered the “father” of the area that would eventually become Palm Harbor.
Jim Craver was born in Illinois and attended Illinois State University, working on a teaching degree and scheduled to graduate in 1873. He taught in several different schools as part of his studies before being diagnosed with tuberculosis in 1877. His doctor suggested that a move to Florida, with its warm climate, could possibly extend his life.
Mr. Craver arrived in Florida later in 1877 and eventually found his way to a place known as “Yellow Bluff” on Bay St. Joseph in Hillsborough County. He built his first “cottage” on land belonging to Walton Whitehurst and called it "Limetta Farms". He began farming, fishing, ranching and harvesting timber in the dense pine forests between Yellow Bluff (now Ozona) and Lake Butler (now Lake Tarpon). In 1878 he applied for and got a Post Office Commission for the Bay St. Joseph Post Office and ran it out of his “cottage”. In 1882, the name of the post office was changed to “Yellow Bluff”.
In 1883, Mr. Craver received a homestead grant for 160 acres of land near Mr. Whitehurst’s property. He built a General Store/Post Office/Residence on the land near the present day intersection of Tampa Road and County Road 1. In 1888 the name was again changed to “Sutherland” during a yellow fever outbreak in Tampa.
When the building eventually outgrew its intended purposes, Mr. Craver built a home at the corner of 12th Street and Michigan Avenue in Sutherland and moved the General Store/Post Office to 12th Street and Florida Avenue. The store still stands today as the Sutherland Masonic Lodge #174.
Mr. Craver’s journal/ledger books (four of which are in the possession of the Palm Harbor Historical Society) tell the story of a man who was always ready to help his neighbors and community. From his early days as a postmaster when he paddled his skiff to St. Petersburg or Tampa to get the mail and then deliver it personally, to the large amount of credit he would extend his neighbors at his general store, he became a central and well-liked pillar of his community.
While he never married, Mr. Craver taught grade school, started the College Library at Southern College, was the founding Worshipful Master of the Sutherland Masonic Hall and donated the land on which Ozona Elementary was built.