As the City of Seminole celebrates its 50th Anniversary (1970-2020), it’s only natural to reflect on the pioneers who helped shape the community, including those who lived or worked where both DeLoach, Hofstra & Cavonis, P.A. and Seminole Title Company are now breaking ground to construct their new building.
With dreams of owning an orange grove, Claude Wilson Whittle moved to Hillsborough County (now Pinellas) from Leesville/Batesburg, South Carolina in 1902. He married Perry Detta Cobb, whose father, William Marshall Cobb, was among the first homesteaders in the area. Claude began working in citrus groves and saved enough money to purchase land on what is now 86th Avenue and Seminole Boulevard west to where 113th Street is today. After clearing pine trees and palmettos with a rig pulled by a horse, he planted his citrus grove and made his living selling its fruit. Whittle sold the grove in 1960, retaining the family home (known as the Whittle House) until he and his wife died in the late 1970s.
According to a family website “When he (Claude) wasn't fishing, he ran his roadside fruit stand and sold some of his oranges to the tourists that came to town. It is said that his wife made him close it down because he would occasionally take credit instead of cash.”
Claude and Detta Cobb operated the fruit stand beside the house on a narrow, two-lane road destined to become the six-lane thoroughfare now known as Seminole Boulevard.
In 1959, Claude reflected in a local newspaper, “It looked strange then, sand roads winding through the woods...St. Petersburg had board sidewalks. You used buggies or a wagon to go places; a team of mules couldn't pull more than 25 crates of oranges on those roads. You’d go to St. Petersburg, spend the night and come back the same day. There were maybe a dozen families in this area then...O’Quinn, McMullen, Campbell, Cobb…”
In 1970 our own pioneer entered the story: Dennis R. DeLoach Jr. His passion for the community led him to help form the City of Seminole on November 15, 1970, and serve as its first co-city attorney. Six years later, Dennis opened his law firm at 8486 Seminole Boulevard. After 17 years of growing, he relocated the firm one block north to our current location at 8640 Seminole Boulevard. The vacant building once housed D’Andrea Electric, a drug store, travel agency and medical center. That same year, in 1993, Dennis and partner Peter Hofstra founded Seminole Title Company.
The law firm will be celebrating 45 years by the time we move into our new building, having provided many employees a reliable livelihood and steady work environment for decades.
A sign hanging from his fruit stand named Claude Whittle the “Old Reliable Fruit Man.” In that tradition, Dennis R. DeLoach Jr. must certainly be Seminole’s “Old Reliable Legal Man.” We are honored to continue the tradition of a family-owned business on this land, and to continue to serve Seminole and the surrounding communities.
Special thanks to the Seminole Historical Society and to Claude Whittle’s grandson, long-time friend of the firm and community leader, Dr. Claude McMullen, for historical information.