Tom the Turkey of Pabor Lake

Every town needs a mascot. In the Pabor Lake it was a friendly fowl, who narrowly evaded becoming Thanksgiving dinner.

Jason Byrne
Nov 28 · 3 min read
Boy holding turkey around 1900 (not Tom). Source: Library of Congress

Every town needs a mascot and the Pabor Lake Colony had a right friendly one by the name of Tom. Arguably the fowl became more popular around the settlement than town founder William Pabor himself.

The plumed pet would play with the kids and follow the Pabor family around the seven lakes as they went about their daily business. He would welcome any new visitors to the area with a resounding “gobble” and would disappear from time-to-time as he ventured out to visit with neighbors on Lake Damon or Trout Lake.

It all started in Thanksgiving of 1893. William’s wife Emma, who was plucked from her comfortable life in Colorado less than a year earlier, was missing the simple luxuries of city life. Dirt floors and unpainted walls of their wood-frame cottage she had gotten used to, but she had about all she could take of canned meat on which they had been largely sustained for weeks.

So the family ordered a live turkey from Fort Meade to be delivered in time for Thanksgiving Sunday dinner. They would slaughter and serve up the plump bird to give the small community north of Avon Park a grand feast.

However, travel was extremely difficult in those days and the turkey arrived late. The hardworking family reserved Sundays for large group meals, so they conceded to wait another week until next Sunday to carry out the execution.

The Cosy Cottage homestead of the Pabor family on the south shore of Pansy Lake.

A funny thing happened. Perhaps knowing his prescribed fate, that turkey put on all the charms. By the time the next Sunday rolled around, Emma “Florabelle” Pabor decided she had become too friendly with the bird, having given him the name “Tom” days ago.

Tom was there to stay. He became a fixture around the region. The bird traveled for miles around, but always found his way back home. Each night he returned home to roost in the rafters of the stable on Pansy Lake, near the Cosy Cottage.

For the next two years, Tom was present at all town events until he passed in July 1894. The family weeped legitimate tears and conducted a sincere funeral, complete with flowers and a casket. They laid him to rest along the southern banks of his Pansy Lake home, now under the fairway at River Greens Golf Course.

When you have about 30 minutes, read the full story of the Lost Colony of Pabor Lake.

Florida History

Tales about Florida’s past and how it relates to our present.

Jason Byrne

Written by

Entrepreneur, developer, historian, journalist, Christian, family man, and track & field fan. VP of Software Development @ FloSports. Founder of MileSplit.

Florida History

Tales about Florida’s past and how it relates to our present.