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Ex-judge becomes one-man party of 'no'

THE WAY IT WAS

Ocala, FL - October 7, 2012
Published in Ocala Star-Banner on Sunday, October 7, 2012 at 6:30 a.m.
  Two Ocala girls pose at the grotto off Sanchez Avenue in a drainage area that would become part of Tuscawilla Park. The city used the grotto to dispose of sewage and storm water.

Richard McConathy was no longer serving as a county judge when he was elected to the Ocala City Council in the late 1890s, but his judicial background quickly brought him to the forefront of the many arguments that took place among the city fathers during that period.

He would have made a significant member of today's tea party, if there had been a tea party at the time. He had a lot to say, mostly negative, about city government spending, perhaps overlooking the fact that "government" was minimal at the time.

The fact was, Judge McConathy was an "aginer," someone who was seldom, if ever, for something. He was always against ­— or so it seemed to other members of the city council at that time.

When Marcus Frank came along in the 1940s and 50s, and also earned the reputation as an "aginer," fellow councilmen might have looked back to McConathy as an earlier example.

Back in the 1890s, and earlier, Ocalans often were shaken by outbreaks of yellow fever, thought to emanate from cesspools and the like, and by numerous other diseases the medical world had difficulty controlling. As a result, Ocala became one of the earliest towns to adopt a sanitary ordinance to improve the health of the community.

Judge McConathy found the ordinance intolerable, possibly because it told citizens they had to keep their premises relatively clean. Even worse, to him, was the cost of hiring an inspector to enforce the law. It was all an unnecessary expense to citizens any way you looked at it.

In January 1899, McConathy attempted again to repeal the law requiring sanitary inspections within the city. He again introduced a proposed ordinance repealing the sanitary law and eliminating the position of inspector. A majority of the councilman voted down the proposal. They felt it was important to the health of the community to have a sanitary ordinance and an inspector. Firing the inspector was not wise economy, they attempted to tell McConathy.

The former judge also objected to frequent bills for repairing shoes for horses that pulled the wagons used by the fire department. He couldn't see why fire department horses needed so much shoeing.

The council president, Simon Benjamin, said that after each race to a fire, reshoeing was needed. The other councilmen agreed.

McConathy didn't like it a bit when the council approved money to print instructions to the voters for upcoming elections. Print instructions one time, he said, and require voters to save the instructions from year to year. Other councilmen disagreed with him, as a practical matter.

When the council was presented a bill for $2.50 for use of a man's house as a voting location for the city election, McConathy was against paying it. Plenty of houses could be rented for $5 a month, he claimed. The city was being gouged.

None of the other councilmen saw it that way. They approved the bill. McConathy was not a happy man. In Ocala, he became a one man political party of "no."

New location for Ocala Surgical Hospital

Meanwhile, in Ocala, people were stepping forward to assist in improving the new Ocala Surgical Hospital that had occupied the third floor of the Baptist Witness building at the corner of Osceola and Fort King, where both the Baptist Witness church newspaper and the Ocala Daily Star were being published.

By 1899, it was obvious to just about everyone that a better site was needed for the growing hospital, which was the forerunner of today's Munroe Regional Medical Center.

Patients had to be carried up a flight of outside stairs to reach the third floor, which was being donated free of charge for use by the hospital. Also making a move necessary was the fact that the Baptist Witness building had been sold, and the hospital and the Daily Star would be moving.

Throughout the community in late 1898 and early 1899, efforts were being made to provide furnishings and equipment for the hospital. Some money was raised, but that was a more difficult task than getting donations of such things as towels, eating utensils and the like.

The hospital soon would be moving into the old Elks lodge on Northwest First Street (old Orange Street), a site that years later would become part of the county's judicial center. The Star would be moving to a building on Southeast First Street (old Washington Street).

Donations for hospital

The First Presbyterian Church was among those churches that sought donations for the hospital. Children in the Sunday school classes were asked by the Rev. J.G. Law to bring donations to the church, and they did.

One of the goals was to raise money to buy a child's bed for the hospital. Only $17 was donated, but the Ladies Aid Society said it would make up the difference in cost. The celebration at the church was only one more indication of the community's support for developing a real hospital.

Directors of the hospital met in January 1899 to re-elect Dr. Samuel Potts Eagleton as president of the hospital. Dr. A.L. Izlar was renamed secretary, and one of the hospital founders, Ben Rheinauer, was re-elected treasurer.

Rheinauer reported that George McKean, manager of the Ocala Steam Laundry, had donated $30 worth of cleaning to the hospital and also would reduce rates for cleaning supplies and such things as patients' night shirts and nurses' aprons.

The Ocala Telephone Co. said it would place a telephone in the hospital free of charge. Another company offered free floor covering "that will not leak." Hospital directors noted that every church except one had made donations by early 1899.

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