John F. Cocowitch

Author: The History of Florida: Past & Present, The Lewis Publishing Co., 1923, Vol. III pg.235

COCOWITCH, JOHN FRANKLIN. Banking, farming, lumbering and naval stores production, civic up building and all the prominent interests connected with welfare and growth of Dunnellon and vicinity have recognized Mr. COCOWITCH as a source of energy and influence. He is a successful man who has achieved a solid position in the world through sheer force of determination and energy.

He was born at Summerville, South Carolina, April 22, 1871. His father, Capt. JOHN F. COCOWITCH, was born in Sweden, took up the life of the sea, became captain of a sailing vessel and was a master mariner for twenty-one years. At Summerville, South Carolina, he married Miss NELLIE WHITE, who was born and reared there, of an old family of that state. Captain COCOWITCH died at Summerville in 1871 and his wife in 1879.

JOHN FRANKLIN COCOWITCH was only six months old when his father died and was eight years old when he was left an orphan. He grew up practically among strangers. He had only a few weeks of schooling, and at the age of thirteen went to work in a saw-mill at 50 cents a day. In line with his determination to make something of himself he repaired some of the deficiencies of education by studying at night. He became fireman of a locomotive engine at the age of eighteen and at twenty-one was promoted to locomotive engineer, this gratifying his first serious ambition. He was engineer on the lumber logging railroad from St. Johns to Summerville.

Mr. COCOWITCH came to Florida in 1893, and spent a few weeks in the mining camp at Dunnellon. From there he removed to LeCanto, where he worked in the saw mill, and after six months became a half owner of the plant under the firm name of Cocowitch & Ridden and six months later bought out his partner. He continued the operation of the saw mill at LeCanto for seven years, and then built and operated a larger mill at Gulf Junction, and two years later put up a still larger plant, the first big mill at Dunnellon. Soon afterward there came reverses and he had to start all over again, becoming a salaried man as superintendent of the mills of the Dunnellon Company. After a year he was again operating his own mill. About that time he took the contract to supply all the wood and timbers used by two of the largest mining companies of the Dunnellon district, one of them being the Dunnellon Company, an English corporation, and the other being J. Buttgenbach & Company. A Belgian corporation, both operating phosphate mines. To fulfill this contract Mr. COCOWITCH operated two saw mills for one year and one for five years.

Since 1916 he has been a prominent factor in naval stores industry, has been a member of several co-partnerships, and is interested in seventy-two hundred acres of land in Marion County and has a large turpentine still and commissary in Citrus County. His naval stores operations in Citrus County are carried on under the firm name of Cocowitch & Rowls, and his saw-mill business is conducted by the firm of Cocowitch & Smith. He is associated with GEORGE W. NEVILLE of Dunnellon in the ownership of a large farm devoted to the production of melons and general farming and he is now planting a grove of Parson Brown oranges. He also owns extensive real estate properties in Dunnellon and is a director of the Bank of Dunnellon, the Dunnellon Ice Company and the Florida Central & Gulf Railroad.

Mr. COCOWITCH served sixteen years on the city council of Dunnellon and has been a trustee of school boards. He is a democrat, is affiliated with the Masonic Order, Knights of Pythias and Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, and the Independent Order of Odd Fellows.

At LeCanto, Florida, he married WILLIE N. JOHNS, who was born there and died at Dunnellon in 1910. Her father, JAMES W. JOHNS, was a Confederate soldier and a farmer in Florida. By his first marriage Mr. COCOWITCH has five children: NELLIE, wife of LUTHER POWELL; J. FRANK, of Huston, Texas; MAMIE, EDNA and CLIFFORD. After the death of his first wife Mr. COCOWITCH married SUSIE MAY NIBLACK. Her father, MINOR NIBLACK, was one of the most successful farmers in the vicinity of Dunnellon. Mr. and Mrs. COCOWITCH have two children, IDA MAY and HARRY.