Grave of early settler
Prehistoric settlement in this part of Florida was
strongly tied to river and coastal resources. Archaeological sites
have been found near the Withlacoochee River and well-drained
margins of lakes and spring heads. However, Native American sites
were not prevalent on this side of the Withlacoochee River,
probably due to its swampy banks.
After the Seminole Wars, white settlers from the
Carolinas received federal land grants as compensation for
voluntary service in the Seminole Wars. Colonists began using these
grants to settle the area in the 1840s. Five recorded homestead
sites remain, some associated with the former community of Alto,
which existed from about 1888 through the early 1900s.
McKinney Homestead site
One of these, the McKinney Place, was inhabited
from 1916 to 1945. The McKinneys raised cattle until the combined
effects of screw worms and World War II forced them to sell the
land for watermelon and sod production.
The Carltons acquired the land in 1969 for cattle
ranching; they used existing fields and converted sections of
palmetto scrub to improved pasture. A hunting club also leased the
area from the early 1980s until the state purchased the Carlton
Half Moon Ranch in 1989 in an effort to help preserve the water
quality of Withlacoochee and its tributaries. In May 1992, the
then-Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission entered a lease
agreement with the Southwest
Florida Water Management District, and an additional 4,021
acres were added to the management area.