Bushnell [†] was first settled in 1870, but was not named until 1884. A syndicate of foreign capitalists, represented by Sir Edward J. Reed of England, consolidated several early Florida railroads which were incorporated as the Florida Railway and Navigation Company in 1884. The previous year a rail line had been established between Jacksonville to Panasoffkee. In 1884, the Florida Railway and Navigation Company extended the line from Panasoffkee to Bushnell. The chief engineer of the Company was John W. Bushnell, and the town of Bushnell was named in his honor. The Florida Railway and Navigation Company experienced financial difficulties and by 1900, after a period of receivership, was taken over by the Seaboard Airline Railway.
The growth of Bushnell was made possible by its railroad connection. In 1886, the population of Bushnell reached thirty. The village had a hotel, a store, post office, and a syrup mill. By 1911, with a population of 100, the town was incorporated and became the county seat. The community had become a shipping point for winter vegetables, citrus fruit, and dairy and poultry products. Although the population was still at 100 in 1918, the town did have four hotels, catering primarily to traveling produce merchants. The prosperity brought on by the Florida land boom of the early 1920s made it possible for Bushnell to acquire electricity and a water system by 1927. The population had grown to almost 600 by 1939.
† Sherry Filand, Historic Sites Specialist, Thomas R. Pierce House, 1995, nomination document, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.