The city of Wesley Chapel, also formerly known as Gatorville or Double Branch, is located in the heart of Pasco County, Fl.
Surrounded by the cities of Dade City, San Antonio, Zephyrhills, New Tampa, Land O Lakes, Lutz, and Plant City, the 6.1 square miles of Wesley Chapel has developed into a robust metropolitan area that is not even close to the peak of its growth. The population of Wesley Chapel is around 46,000 people and is considered the 64th largest community in Florida.
The area was first settled in the 1840s after several pioneers received land grants for the area. Some of the pioneer families who received the land grants in the area have descendants who are still influential members of the Wesley Chapel community today. The pioneer families who received the land grants were the Boyett(e), Gillett(e), Godwin, and Kersey families. A few decades later, during the Civil War, the Stanley and Cooper families brought in a large influx of settlers into the area.
Early Wesley Chapel industry was heavily agricultural based, with many level plains of land available in the area. Some of the more prominent industries during Wesley Chapel’s beginnings were the turpentine still, sawmills, cattle ranching, hog farming, crop farming, and citrus growing. When the nation’s economy took a turn for the worst in the 1920s, Wesley Chapel turned to charcoal making, moonshine, and trucking. Due to the level plains of Wesley Chapel, oases of swamps were found throughout the land, making great locations for moonshine stills, and Wesley Chapel residents took advantage of the opportunity during the prohibition. There are numerous newspaper articles from The Dade City Banner and The Tampa Morning Tribune describing raids of moonshine stills in the Wesley Chapel area, often resulting in the exchange of gunshots.
One of the signatures focuses on the community in early “Gatorville” life was the Double Branch Baptist Church that was started in 1878. The church was named after the founder Thomas Ashley Boyette for two branches of water that can still be seen to this day when driving on Boyette Road (the creeks run right under the road). Although the church has congregated in three different buildings during its life, it is still open for worship but is now called First Baptist of Wesley Chapel.
Wesley Chapel followed a trend of slow but steady growth after the 1920s and continued as a typical small southern Florida town until the 1970s, when Interstate 75 was built. Due to its location along Interstate 75, Wesley Chapel saw an influx of new residents, visitors, and travelers.
But it wasn’t until 1981 when the city of Wesley Chapel experienced a boom of growth that has been non-stop since the opening of the Saddlebrook Resort, located off of State Road 54. The 480-acre property is full of nature preserves and luxurious amenities. The development was like no other in the area, offering a car-free Walking Village to allow guests to explore the resort without a need for a transportation system meanwhile protecting its nature sanctuaries. The resort/neighborhood is home to nationally acclaimed meeting centers, a luxurious hotel, restaurants, and bars, award-winning golf courses and tennis courts with nationally acclaimed golf and tennis training centers, pools, fitness centers, and Saddlebrook Prep.
The Saddlebrook resort began an explosive growth trend in these new “luxury communities” for the Wesley Chapel area. New residents flocked to the Wesley Chapel area in the early 2000’s, and builders couldn’t build the subdivisions fast enough. In the next decade, Wesley Chapel became the home to numerous large subdivisions, including Quail Hollow, Citrus Trace, Saddlewood, Bridgeview, Seven Oaks, Country Walk, and the largest of them all, Meadow Pointe. These subdivisions are a major factor in Wesley Chapel having some of the newest real estates in the nation.
Wesley Chapel residents are relatively young, with the largest percentage of residents between 35 and 54 years old at 29.9% and the second largest age group between 5 and 17 years old at 22.7%. Wesley Chapel is also one of the most affluent and wealthy cities in Florida. The median household income is around $75,000, almost $20,000 higher than the national average. Wesley Chapel’s high median household income is mainly due to the high percentage of residents with a bachelor’s degree, at a whopping 40%. Wesley Chapel is a white-collar town (not surprising), with almost 90% of its employees in white-collar jobs. More specifically, Wesley Chapel has more people who work in computers and math than 95% of places in the US. A downside to residing in such a busy suburb is the long commute to work, which is on average 33 minutes of commuting to work for Wesley Chapel residents. Thankfully, 9% of the Wesley Chapel workforce works from home.
Wesley Chapel is very ethnically diverse and continues to become more diverse as development continues. 59% of Wesley Chapel residents are white, 20% are Hispanic or Latino, 11% African-American, and 7% Asian. Almost 15% of Wesley Chapel residents are foreign-born.
Wesley Chapel is safer than 63% of cities in the US, making it a very safe place to live. Another reassuring crime stat is that Wesley Chapel has only 12 crimes per square mile, whereas the Florida average is 62 crimes per square mile.
Wesley Chapel is home to eight elementary schools: Double Branch Elementary, New River Elementary, Quail Hollow Elementary, Sand Pine Elementary, Seven Oaks Elementary, Veterans Elementary, Watergrass Elementary, and Wesley Chapel Elementary. The two charter schools in Wesley Chapel are Academy at the Farm and Garden Montessori Charter School. There are two middle schools in Wesley Chapel, Thomas E. Weightman Middle, and Dr. John Long Middle School. There are two high schools in Wesley Chapel: Wesley Chapel High and Wiregrass Ranch High School. There is also a new high that will open in Fall of 2018 in Wesley Chapel.
Thanks to Wesley Chapel, Pasco County is the 38th fastest growing county in the nation. Wesley Chapel is also the 64th largest community in Florida. The city is home to three shopping malls, an ice-hockey rink, and hundreds of restaurants and stores.