The Naming of Inverness
By Kathy Turner-Thompson
The area we know today as Inverness was first formed along the lake to the north, and was known as La Bell. Some of the first settlers to the area in the 1880s included the Baker, Cato, Dampier, DeMuro, Priest, Savary, Tompkins and Zimmerman. In 1887, the next area to the south that was platted was known as Tompkinsville. This is the area north of Tompkins Street were blocks that are offset and do not exactly lineup. Then in 1891, when a permanent county seat was voted on, and it was decided that this area would become known as Inverness. On May 4, 1891, the Florida Orange and Transit Company deeded to the Citrus County Board of County Commissioner the one-acre square that the county courthouse sits on today. On August 6, 1891, the plat map that contains the courthouse square was recorded showing Inverness as the town in which the plat was located.
The exact date and reason for the naming of our area as Inverness is not well documented, and in fact there are a couple local legends of how it may have happened, leaving the reader to pick their favorite one.
One story, written by Mary MacRae for the Citrus County Chamber of Commerce has it that it was a lonely Scotsman far from his native land who gazed upon the blue waters of Lake Tsala Apopka and thought, “But it looks like Inverness between the headlands and the lake in Scotland, and this beautiful place deserves the name Inverness.” Keep in mind that MacRae of English ancestry and her husband James MacRae of Scotland did not even come to Florida until almost 20 years later, shortly after the 1910s.
The other story has it that the father of Tompkinsville, Alfred D. Tompkins, a large land owner, whose brother-in-law was Francis Dampier, a third owner of the Florida Orange Canal and Transit Company sold land in Tompkinsville to the Jacksonville firm of the FOCT who decided that a more marketable name would be Inverness.
Before the name of Inverness, the City was originally named Tompkinsville for its namesake, A.D. Tompkins. Tompkins was born in 1833 in Nassau County and served as a young man in the Third Seminole War. He served as a Confederate in the U.S. Civil War. In 1868 he moved to what is now known as Citrus County. In the early days of Inverness, Tompkins recalled, "residents had to travel to Brooksville and Crystal River for their mail and to Ocala for supplies.
Tompkins was known as “Uncle Alf” and worked to draw other residents by establishing the first sawmill and mail service. His brother-in-law, Frank M. Dampier, Sr. became the first merchant in town. Dampier is credited with naming it Tompkinsville and platting out the town.
The photo from Back Home by Hampton Dunn shows an early 1900s gathering of confederate veterans. Alfred Tompkins is bottom right with cane.
Pen and ink drawing by Joseph C. Newton from Back Home by Hampton Dunn. Drawing of the Atlantic Coast Line, the Inverness depot built early 1900s.
Citrus County Map 1908 shows many towns that are no more such as Arlington, Cordeal, Orleans and Mannfield, from Back Home by Hampton Dunn.
Photo of Francis Marion Dampier, Sr. home. a pioneer developer of Inverness from Back Home by Hampton Dunn.
This building was called a "fancy hotel" and a "two-home" rig in front of a hostelry called the Central Hotel from Back Home by Hampton Dunn.
A view of Inverness at the turn of the century show the Atlantic Coast Line (ACL) station to the left and old wooden courthouse at right from Hampton Dunn's Back Home.