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.

Boy holding a turkey around 1900 (not Tom). Source: Library of Congress

Every town needs a mascot, and the Pabor Lake Colony had a right-friendly one named 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 did 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 on 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. She had gotten used to the dirt floors and unpainted walls of their wood-frame cottage, but she had about all she could take of canned meat on which they had mainly been 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 the plump bird to give the small community north of Avon Park a grand feast.

However, travel was arduous 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 the 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. When the next Sunday rolled around, Emma “Florabelle” Pabor decided she had become too friendly with the bird; she named him “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 stable’s rafters on Pansy Lake, near the Cosy Cottage.

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

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

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