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‘Founder’s Day’ Dinner will serve bite of history

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By Jeff Bryan

You’ve heard the tales of the city’s beginnings, but have you lived it?

If not, then the Founder’s Day Dinner will be the place to be as Albertus Vogt (Dwight Porter), John Dunn (Andy Murray) and James Renfro (Sam Scott) make a special, and perhaps rare, visit to the Historic Train Depot at 6 p.m. Tuesday, April 10, for the prelude to Boomtown Day.

The three key figures in Dunnellon history will share tales of yesteryear, the town’s founding and the discovery of the area’s claim to fame in the 1880s: phosphate.

“We are very excited about the Founder’s Day dinner,” said Joanne Black, Chamber board member, noting it is the kickoff to the Boomtown Day event scheduled for Saturday, April 14. “The dinner begins the journey through time when Dunnellon was a booming town with the mining of phosphate. Workers from all over traveled to Dunnellon for work, which made Dunnellon one of the destination places.”

Porter, who has a deep appreciation for the city’s history, is excited about the chance to bring Vogt to life.

“I do like letting people know about Vogt,” Porter said. “He was quite a character.”

Scott, who served as the historian at the Historic Depot for a number of years, is also excited about the event,

“It’s really a great idea,” Scott said about the Founder’s Day Dinner, noting his knowledge of Renfro is limited.

But, Scott said, he has a plan.

“I’m going to be concentrating on what it was like to live in Dunnellon before it was Dunnellon,” he explained noting the lone way to get to town was on a horse. “I’ll come up with enough possible things.”

Renfro owned enough land, Scott said, and most of it was river front property.

“He had one ferry,” Scott added. “And he opened a second ferry, according to what history I’ve found.”

Murray, who has taken the reigns of the Depot’s Tuesday history sessions, loves the idea of the dinner.

“It’s one thing to read it in a paper or something like that,” said Murray, a 1978 graduate of Dunnellon High. “We’re hoping that seeing founders interact, that it gives the people a understanding they were real people and give folks a bit of history. So many folks have moved and don’t know how Dunnellon came to be. I’m looking forward to it.”

A native of Dunnellon, his family has been here since the 1850s, Murray said, noting he’s still learning the history of the area.

“I’m learning all of the time,” he said, noting he had moved away for a number of years before settling here again. “I just really got into (the history). It’s been a blast. We’re trying to make history more than boring things, but a story.”

Remember, you can applaud, but don’t stomp your feet at the Founder’s Day Dinner. (See related story, Page 4.)

Tickets for the dinner are $15 each and available in the mornings at the Riverland News (20441 E. Pennsylvania Ave.), from 9 to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday at the Chamber office, or from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesdays at the Historic Depot.

For information, call 489-2731.