Sunday, July 15, 2018


Builders of America’s 19th century Florida Paradise arrived from nearly every corner of the world. Amazing dreamers and doers, these pioneers selected land locations in a wide swath of a Citrus Belt that stretched from the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico. A courageous bunch of guys and gals, they came to Florida from parts of every modern day State as well.

All 50 States played a role in founding central Florida, and CitrusLAND is paying tribute to the remarkable individuals from around the U. S. each Sunday throughout the summer, doing so in the order States were admitted to our Union of States. This week our spotlight shines on Texas, State #28, admitted December 29, 1845; Iowa, State # 29, admitted December 28, 1846; and Wisconsin, State #30 admitted on May 29, 1848.


Florida and Texas were each admitted to the United States in 1845. Both selected a Mockingbird as their State bird. And commonalities didn’t end there!

At the corner of Main & Central Avenue in the Village of Orlando, in the year 1857, a legendary central Florida pioneer got into deep trouble, and went into hiding in faraway Texas. Around the very same time, a malaria scare in West Orange County caused a family to pack their bags and head to Texas as well.

Aaron Jernigan was indicted for murdering militiaman William H. WRIGHT at the corner of Main & Central, and soon after abandoned the big plans he had for Orange County. One of the first homesteaders of remote Fort Gatlin, by 1857 Jernigan had become the most influential person in all of South Orange County. He had opened a post office in 1850, stores along the First Road to Orlando in 1851, and within a few years built a real estate empire extending from Mellonville to Kissimmee City. He gave it all up to go into hiding, for two decades, along the Red River in Fannin County, Texas.

Edward Murray HUDSON, fearing malaria was lurking amidst his hammock lands on Lake Apopka, sold the family’s 2,300 Orange County acres in 1859. Having lost his wife Nancy over the summer of 1858, and fearing for his three children, he departed an area that is today WINTER GARDEN, and fled to Texas. But in October, 1861, at age 39, after enlisting in the Civil War, Edward Hudson died of pneumonia.

Another legendary central Floridian and Orange County mystery man is “Benjamin F. CALDWELL.” Historians have long told of Caldwell donating land for courthouse, yet little else was ever known of the stranger who made Orlando the seat of government of Orange County. My book, CitrusLAND: Curse of Florida’s Paradise, first brought closure to an age-old mystery. Having lived in West Orange for less than a year, Caldwell took his family to Cass County, Texas. He too enlisted in the Civil War, and he too died in the war, at age 30, of a gunshot wound inflicted during a friendly-fire incident.

The road to Texas traveled both ways. Ouachita Pushmataha Preston, a resident of Texas and member of the State’s 1st Calvary during the Civil War, came with his brother John Preston to Fort Gatlin in the closing days of the 1860s. Ouachita homesteaded alongside Lake Jenny Jewel, a quaint little lake he named for his wife, Jennie, who he said was Jewel. Jennie (Pitts) Preston was the sister of the wife of William Mayer Randolph.


“I came here on crutches, feeble with rheumatism,” Cornelius CLAFLIN was quoted in Burlington Hawk Eye & Telegraph newspaper of January, 1883. He was explaining why he left IOWA, the 29th State to join our Union, to relocate to central Florida. “I had not slept over 20 minutes at a time for 2 years. I can now sleep with comfort and natural rest.” Formerly of the town of Morning Sun, Iowa, Claflin opened the Palmetto Hotel at Orlando, on land just east of where the old railroad depot stands today.

EUREKA,’ was the headline of the Burlington full page newspaper article, proclaiming: “Orange County in Southern Florida, ‘Tis summer always; there’s fruits, health and wealth.” The Hawkeye & Telegraph also mentioned Louis HEEB of Dubuque, saying he too relocated to Central Florida for health reasons. After only one visit, he was quoted as saying, his health improved. HEEB too stayed and opened a business at Orlando.

CHULUOTA town founder Robert A. MILLS had also been interviewed by the Hawk Eye newspaper: “For years an agent for the American Express Company in Sioux City,” said the article, Mills, by 1883, had become a partner in a central Florida real estate firm. Mills treated the Iowa journalist, “to a long ride in the country around Orlando,” telling the reporter that he “thinks his northern friends should come and share in his prosperity and enjoy the salubrious climate”. (A later write-up about Mill’s town of Chuluota, on Mills Lake, said the name was Indian, meaning ‘Beautiful View’.

Wachusett Hotel, Tangerine, Florida

Dudley W. ADAMS, a founder of TANGERINE, northwest of Apopka, came from Iowa in 1882. Among the earliest merchants in Allamakee, Iowa, and President in 1877 of a newly organized Iowa railroad, Dudley Adams changed professions, becoming a horticulturalist by planting 3,000 citrus trees at his new town of Tangerine. One year later, in October 1883, Adams opened WACHUSETT Hotel. Dudley Avenue was one of the first streets in Tangerine.


James INGRAHAM, Mr. Railroad to central Floridians, was born November 18, 1850 near where, two years later, his birthplace would be known as Racine, Wisconsin, part of the 30th State to join our Union of States.

The Ingraham’s relocated to St. Louis, Missouri, and there James met Maria, his bride-to-be. The couple married in 1872. Maria Ingraham partnered in 1875 with Rosalie Draper, the wife of a Missouri railroad executive, to acquire 80 Orange County acres.  The parcel these two Missouri ladies purchased was south of the new town of Sanford, and it was that land deal which brought James Ingraham to central Florida.

For a brief stint James Ingraham worked for Henry Sanford as land agent, but realized he had come to the right place at the right time. He attended a February 1880 meeting that was to become historic, for one party transferred their State Franchise to construct a railroad from Lake Monroe to Orlando. By January 1881, James E. Ingraham was President of South Florida Railroad Company, the start of a life-long career as a railroad executive.

James Ingraham worked alongside such railroad legends as Henry Plant and Henry Flagler. From St. Augustine, where he served a term as Mayor, to Miami and all points between, the Ingraham influence in a developing Florida is visible to this day.

Henry NEHRLING, born 1853 at Howards Grove in Sheboygan County WI, was a son of German immigrants. He was also a nature lover from birth. Nehrling purchased land in 1883 at the town of GOTHA, where the celebrated horticulturist established a world renowned gardens visited by tourists to this day.

Caladiums under roof at Henry Nehrling's Gotha Gardens

John M. CHENEY was born at Milwaukee, WI in 1859, and relocated to Orlando in 1885, where he established a law practice. Attorney Cheney partnered in infrastructure improvements such as Orlando Water Works, Orlando Electric Light, and was a staunch promoter for new improved roads. State Highway 50 east from Orlando is also known as Cheney Highway as a memorial to the man from Wisconsin.

Next week: California, Minnesota & Oregon:

Sunday, July 8, 2018


Builders of America’s 19th century Florida Paradise arrived from nearly every corner of the world. Amazing dreamers and doers, these pioneers selected land locations in a wide swath of a Citrus Belt that stretched from the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico. A courageous bunch of guys and gals, they came to Florida from parts of every modern day State as well.
All 50 States played a role in founding central Florida, and CitrusLAND is paying tribute to the remarkable individuals from around the U. S. each Sunday throughout the summer, doing so in the order States were admitted to our Union of States. This week our spotlight shines on Michigan, State #26, admitted June 26, 1837; and Florida, State #27 admitted on March 3, 1845.


The Michigan people,” said the Orange Land magazine of 1883, a publication sanctioned by Orange County Commissioners, “are clustering around Hoosier Springs and Lake Brantley.” Known today as ‘The Springs,” a Seminole County community, the Florida Midland Railway was at the time laying track at Hoosier Springs in the direction of Lake Brantley. The railroad was opening up a narrow strip of land west of present day I-4 for 1880s settlers, a stretch that is today SR 434.

Other residents from the 26th State were also locating in the 1880s along the old forts trail, or the trail I’ve dubbed the, ‘First Road to Orlando.’ Samuel A. ROBINSON followed his brother Norman to Florida, and the two partnered in platting additions to both Kissimmee City and the County Seat of Orlando.

Sam Robinson served as County Surveyor, sketching in 1881 the first known original plat of the 1857, 417’ X 417,’ Village of Orlando. The original village of 12 lots and a small courthouse square had not previously been recorded. Robinson also surveyed an 80 acre addition to that four acre Orlando village, completing that task for the Palatka merchant and Orange County landowner, Robert R. Reid.

Born at Michigan’s Calhoun County, Samuel A. Robinson (1849-1926) arrived at central Florida in 1876, just in time to begin surveying a planned Lake Jesup & Orlando Railroad route for George C. BRANTLEY. The survey was done by 1878, but the railroad was never completed. Brantley died in New York city while trying to purchase track for his railroad.

Arriving in fall of 1875 with his mother, Edward Hall, son of Ishpeming, MI banker Charles H. Hall, told historian William Blackman of his half day journey down the old trail, beginning at Michael Doyle’s pier at Mellonville on Lake Monroe, to their winter cottage at C. C. Beasley’s up and coming town of Maitland.

From Portage, Michigan in 1885 came jewelers David & Lydia Washburn, buying up property in several Orange County locations. They soon focused their attention at a soon-to-be town along the Orange Belt Railway. Their story as to how the railroad crossed a tiny corner of the Washburn’s land, an infringement very likely leading to the naming of Winter Garden, is detailed in my book, CitrusLAND: Ghost Towns & Phantom Trains.

At the grand opening of the new Winter Garden Heritage Foundation building in 2014, local high school students entertained guests with a play depicting three versions as to how the town got its name. I was honored to watch as one version was taken from the pages of my Ghost Towns book, which is available for purchase at that fine museum.

Winter Garden High School students performing at WGHF museum opening in 2014. An honor that their skit on how Winter Garden got its name was taken from the pages of CitrusLAND: Ghost Towns & Phantom Trains.

Michigan native Mahlon GORE walked 22 miles to Orlando in May of 1880, arriving at the county seat within months of the first train arriving. Born at Climax, MI, Gore went west first, staking a claim to a homestead in the rugged wilderness of the Dakota Territory. He told of how he slept under the stars out west while building a log home, and of health reasons for changing plans and making tracks toward Orange County. A journalist, Mahlon Gore bought Orlando’s Orange Reporter newspaper, and within a few years, also partnered in developing a new town of Chuluota, presently in Seminole County. Gore is remembered as being one of central Florida’s staunchest promoters.


James PARRAMORE personifies native Floridians of the 19th century. Five years old at the time Florida became the 27th State, James was raised at Madison County, in the State’s Panhandle. He is immortalized today by an Orlando neighborhood and road he had personally platted nearly 140 years ago.

Technically born at Georgia, when considering the circumstances, we believe the man to be a homegrown Floridian, The third son, two older brothers were born in the Florida Territory prior to Indian uprisings of 1836. Due to the unrest, most settlers escaped Madison County, going north into Georgia until conditions were right for returning. The Parramore’s returned after War’s end, so James was technically a Florida native.

Six months prior to the Civil War, James Parramore acquired 1,200 Orange County acres from Joseph Finegan of Nassau County. He then married Finegan’s daughter, and during the War, served alongside General Joseph Finegan. After the War, and after first having to bury his wife, Agnes (Finegan) Parramore, at Madison, James and his widowed mother relocated to Fort REID, a town inland two miles from Mellonville on the First Road to Orlando.

In 1882, with the War of Rebellion still fresh on the minds of every American, James Parramore acquired 40 acres west of the new railroad track in Orlando, and platted ‘Parramore’s Addition to Orlando.’ James employed a Yankee surveyor to lay out nine crossroads, naming one of the streets Parramore, and another for assassinated President Lincoln, who had fought to end slavery. On September 28, 1882, James then gifted a corner parcel at LINCOLN Street to Trustees of the African M. E. Church, stating that land was to be used expressly for religious purposes. (Lincoln Street was later abandoned).

Still another Madison County native was Robert W. BROOME, a mysterious out-of-town lawyer who came to Orlando, got himself elected Chairman of the 1875 village meeting to incorporate the county seat, and then vanished, never to be heard of again. Robert was the nephew of James E. Broome, Florida’s 3rd Governor, who had served his final day in office on October 5, 1857. On that exact same day, October 5, 1857, an Alabama landowner donated four acres for Orlando’s courthouse. Coincidence?

Homesites around Lake Eola were first developed in 1874 by Florida's Cattle-King, Jacob Summerlin. Attorney Robert L. Summerlin, Jacob's son, had a residence on the lake.  

Florida native Robert L. SUMMERLIN was born near Tampa. A lawyer as well, the son of Florida’s cattle-King, Jacob Summerlin, was said to have been the person who gave Orlando’s Iconic LAKE EOLA its name. Robert Summerlin attended the 1875 incorporation meeting along with his father, served a term as Orlando Mayor, and yes, his childhood crush appears to have been the inspiration for the naming of Lake Eola.
Florida boys made central Florida proud!

Next Sunday: Texas, Iowa & Wisconsin

Sunday, July 1, 2018


Builders of America’s 19th century Florida Paradise arrived from nearly every corner of the world. Amazing dreamers and doers, these pioneers selected land locations in a wide swath of a Citrus Belt that stretched from the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico. A courageous bunch of guys and gals, they came to Florida from parts of every modern day State as well.

All 50 States played a role in founding central Florida, and CitrusLAND is paying tribute to the remarkable individuals from around the U. S. each Sunday throughout the summer, doing so in the order States were admitted to our Union of States. This week our spotlight shines on Maine, State #23, admitted March 15, 1820; #24, Missouri admitted August 10, 1821, and Arkansas, admitted as State #25 on June 15, 1836.


A dozen years after Province of MAINEseceded’ from MASSACHUSETTS, becoming the 23rd State in our Union of States, Alonzo W. Rollins was born, March 20, 1832, at York. He eventually settled in the windy city of Chicago, where Rollins built a successful business selling dye to woolen mills. Rollins became a snowbird, living during the colder winter months in a WINTER PARK lakeside cottage. He became one of the major contributors in the founding of ROLLINS COLLEGE.

Rollins College Engraving circa 1889 courtesy Florida Memory Project

John Parker ILSLEY was born at Portland, Maine in 1825, but followed his family west, where he became active in the ever-expanding railroad industry. At age 70, John P. Ilsley, then working in Pennsylvania, accepted the challenge of his life, purchasing at auction, on ORLANDO’S courthouse steps December 7, 1893, the financially troubled ORANGE BELT RAILWAY. Timing however was not the best, for one year later, Florida’s Great Freeze of 1894-95 wiped out the citrus crop along John Ilsley’s train route. Ilsley, as President of the OBRR, is one of the main character’s in CitrusLAND: Ghost Towns & Phantom Trains, now in second edition and available at

New England investors constructed a luxury hotel, The ALTAMONTE, in 1882, on land now part of ALTAMONTE SPRINGS. The investors hired Frank STAPLES, son of the founder of MAINE”S first-ever Oceanside hotel, Ye OLDE Staples Inn of Old Orchard, Maine, as manager during the winter months of The Altamonte.


He was the bravest boy in the Army, as ready to handle a musket as the drum.” The entire regiment described the 16 years old musician who had enlisted in 1861 in the Civil War. A native of MISSOURI, the young man was honored at War’s end by his fellow soldiers, who gave the lad an engraved drum reading: “Presented to HIRAM S. MING, by the members of Company E 2d, Wisconsin Volunteers.” Hiram’s family was living at Appleton, WI when War broke out, but the young man was a Missouri native none the less. After the war, Hiram MING began working on the railroad, and by 1893, was living at OAKLAND, FL in West Orange County. Ming was employed by the OBRR as their Assistant Superintendent.

Hiram S. Ming, Drummer Boy, Left

South Florida Citizen was established in April, 1879,” reported the 1883 Orange Land publication. “A new press and outfit have recently been purchased and the paper will hereafter be called APOPKA CITIZEN.” Reverend Frank A. TAYLOR, the Editor, was a native of Missouri. Subscriptions to the Apopka Citizen newspaper were “$1.50 per annum in advance.

The notorious “Boat Burner” of St. Louis, MO had been a mild mannered Attorney prior to the Civil War. After the war, the retired boat-burner became a mild mannered Attorney, Judge and resident of Fort Reid, southeast of present day Sanford. Across the Missouri River from St. Louis another attorney, William M. RANDOLPH, lived at historic St. Charles, MO. Daughter Fanny Randolph was born at St. Charles, MO in 1854. The Randolph family then made their way to Orange County after the War, and each family member became instrumental in central Florida’s development. Fanny Randolph became the first wife of Orlando’s legendary, Benjamin M. Robinson.


Warriors, COACOOCHEE speaks to you,” quoted historian George R. Fairbanks in 1871, while writing of the final address of the son of King PHILIP, before a small gathering of tribe members who had assembled at Tampa Bay in 1841. “I wish now to have my band around me and go to ARKANSAS. I am done!” Chief Coacoochee and 210 tribe members departed the Florida Territory October 11, 1841, relocating to the 25th State to join our Union. Arkansas was admitted to the United States June 15, 1836.

Orange County Florida plat of ALTOONA

ALTOONA town founder Francis J. HINSON of GA sold his largest lot in 1884, an orange grove consisting of 100 trees. “There is but one bearing grove in sight,” said the Webb’s 1885 publication; “This was planted by Mr. F. J. Hinson, and was sold by him about July 10, 1884 to Mr. Rumph, of ARKANSAS, for $10,000.00 dollars. It covers ten (10) acres, is first-class high pine land, and can boast of one hundred trees under four years old now loaded with fruit.” Part of Orange County when Hinson founded his town, Altoona quickly benefited as a stop on the St. Johns & Lake Eustis Railroad. George B. RUMPH was a merchant and orange grower, an Alabama native who had been raised and then married in Ouachita County, ARKANSAS prior to moving to a central Florida region that is today located in Lake County.

Major Nathaniel WOFFORD (1766-1846), father to one of Central Florida’s earliest pioneers, John T. WOFFORD, father-in-law of William Allen LOVELL, and relative of J. Wofford Tucker featured above, died while serving in the military at ARKANSAS. Nathan was buried in the 25th State.

Our series has now been to 25 States. Next Sunday: Michigan and FLORIDA.

This Summer of 2108 series is compliments of


Richard Lee Cronin, Author  

Sunday, June 24, 2018


Builders of America’s 19th century Florida Paradise arrived from nearly every corner of the world. Amazing dreamers and doers, these pioneers selected land locations in a wide swath of a Citrus Belt stretching from the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico. A brave bunch of guys and gals, they came to Florida from parts of every modern day State as well.

All 50 States played a role in founding central Florida, and CitrusLAND is paying tribute all summer to the remarkable individuals from all around the U. S., and doing so in the order States were admitted to our Union of States. This week our spotlight shines on Mississippi, State #20, admitted December 10, 1817; #21, Illinois, admitted December 3, 1818, and Alabama, admitted as State #22 on December 14, 1819.


Mrs. Dr. Phillips of Orlando was otherwise known as Della Wolfe, daughter of Ben & Anna Wolfe of Forest, Scott County, Mississippi. Della married Dr. Philip Phillips at Forest, where he first established a cattle business prior to driving a herd of 200 Hereford from Texas to central Florida.

Dr. P. Phillips, Forest, Mississippi

William Washington WOODRUFF arrived at Mellonville in 1848. Then age 17, Woodruff had made the 700 mile journey on horseback, leaving his birthplace of Pike County, MISSISSIPPI to live with his father, Elias. The father son team planted an orange grove on 43 acres and built WOODRUFF PLACE at Fort REID, said to be only the third frame house in 1848 Orange County. In January of 1861, William once again made a long journey, only this time via mule. Woodruff traveled to Gainesville, where he boarded Florida’s first railroad to complete his journey to Tallahassee. A delegate at the Secession Convention, Woodruff voted against secession.

The father of James H. SADLER of OAKLAND was killed while fighting at Jackson, MS during the Civil War in May of 1863. Only 4 years old when his father was killed, James H. Sadler departed SC with his mother while the War was still being fought so as to live with his grandparents, James G. & Isaphoenia SPEER, in Orange County.

Legal descriptions today for many APOPKA deeds reference “CHAMPNEY’S Addition,” an Apopka plat filed in 1885 by John Tunno CHAMPNEY, an Engineer and Civil War Ordinance Officer for the Confederate Army. Champney married Ozella K. TOPP of Lowndes County, MS, while still at Mississippi in April, 1864. During the War John had been overseen the making of gunpowder, handguns and cannons.

Canadian born Joseph N. BISHOP was educated at Columbus, MS. By 1875, he had become Superintendent of Education at Columbus before relocating to CitrusLAND. In 1888, Bishop platted the town of PAOLA, on the Sanford & Lake Eustis Railroad. An 1885 description of Paola mentioned that, “its residents were so healthy that Dr. Bishop had to travel to outlying areas to earn a living”.


Our nation’s 21st State, Illinois was also the location of a 400th Anniversary celebration of the arrival in North America of Christopher Columbus. Held at Chicago, a FLORIDA Pavilion joined the 1893 exposition with a one-fifth replica of St. Augustine’s FORT MARION, the “oldest structure erected by Spaniards in the United States.” Orange Reporter, Orlando’s newspaper, prepared a special edition for the fair, bragging Orange County was “the most productive and healthful section of Florida.”

KEUKA, Florida in western Putnam County was originally “laid out” in 1883 by Edward Rumley. A native of England, Rumley had long served as Editor of an Iroquois County, Illinois newspaper before relocating to a remote, “unbroken pine forest in Florida.” Like many other newcomers of that time, Ed Rumley tried his luck at growing oranges as well as town development, working as well in Palatka. An Illinois Sheriff, Nathan R. Gruelle hung up his badge to follow Rumley to Florida, where he joined the Florida Southern Railroad team.

Keuka Ad by Ed Rumley

Twenty years before the 1893 World’s Fair, Edgar J. SNOW had departed his Cook County home to homestead at Orange County. Edgar founded SNOWVILLE, the predecessor to ALTAMONTE SPRINGS of today. He named Lake ADELAIDE, where a bubbly spring once existed, naming the pretty little lake for his wife, Adelaide (FAVOUR) Snow.
John W. COOK, President of the ILLINOIS State Normal School, contributed to the founding of ROLLINS College in 1885, donating land at WINTER PARK for the school’s location.

ACRON,” described in 1883 Orange Land as a town north of SORRENTO: “dates from the autumn of 1876, when J. H. CAMPBELL, one of our present efficient Board of County Commissioners, and a few friends from Rock Island County, Illinois, settled there,” The Illinois friends included wife Sarah and father-in-law, Alexander HAZLETT.
Published in 1882, Florida for Tourists, Invalids & Settlers, authored by Chicagoan George M. BARBOUR, conveyed the benefits of living in CitrusLAND, encouraging many a pioneer to relocate to Orange County. PIRIE, one of Chicago’s more prominent families, of the Carson-Pirie Department Store fame, established a winter family farm called ERROL ESTATES. The family later developed MOUNT PLYMOUTH.


Benjamin F. Caldwell, of Talladega, Alabama,” is arguably the most consistent name associated with the founding of ORLANDO. The man’s identity appears in an 1857 deed gifting four (4) acres to Orange County. Described in that deed as, “Town Plat of Village of Orlando,” the land was donated in appreciation for relocating the county seat on Caldwell’s land, acreage what was in the middle of absolutely nowhere!

Benjamin M. Robinson

Even prior to Benjamin’s gift of land, two years before Village of Orlando was founded, Benjamin’s father, William H. Caldwell, had recorded an intriguing document with Orange County. That document was dated June of 1855, and notarized at ALABAMA: “Between Bedy H and William H Caldwell of Talladega, and Isaphoenia C. SPEER of Orange County.” The historical significance of this document is this: William & Bedy Caldwell identify Isaphoenia as their daughter.

Isaphoenia was also the first wife of James G. SPEER, the ‘other’ name most often associated with the founding of ORLANDO in 1857.

Soon after America’s Civil War, about 1874, a Veteran of Alabama’s Infantry relocated to Orange County. He settled first at Fort REID, south of MELLONVILLE, where in 1883 he married a girl named Fanny, the daughter of William & Mary (PITTS) RANDOLPH, the couple associated with the first-ever hotel to be opened south of Lake Monroe. The Alabama veteran’s name was Benjamin M. ROBINSON, and “so that history would never forget Florida’s Great Freeze of 1894-95, Benjamin subjected himself, in 1896, to a sworn deposition describing the tragic event. An Orlando Mayor and long-time Clerk of Court, Benjamin Robinson’s name is associated, at one time or another during the 19th century, with three of the earliest historic sites on the original Fort Mellon to Fort Gatlin Road, a/k/a, The First Road to Orlando. Those three sites: Fort Reid, Orlando and Fort Gatlin.

Next Sunday: Maine, Missouri and Arkansas.

The book that started it all, released 2016 in Second Edition
Link to below

Saturday, June 16, 2018


Builders of America’s 19th century Florida Paradise arrived from nearly every corner of the world. Amazing dreamers and doers, these pioneers selected land locations in a wide swath of a Citrus Belt that stretched from the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico. A courageous bunch of guys and gals, they came to Florida from parts of every modern day State as well.

All 50 States played a role in founding central Florida, and CitrusLAND is paying tribute to summer to the remarkable individuals from around the U. S., doing so in the order States were admitted to our Union of States. This week our spotlight shines on Ohio, State #17, admitted March 1, 1803; #18, Louisiana, admitted April 30, 1812, and Indiana, admitted as State #19.


The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History says Forest City has long been a nickname of Cleveland, and that the nickname has “murky origins.” Forest City in Florida has even murkier origins! Prior to acquiring thousands of acres throughout Florida, John G. HOWER of Cleveland had been a 35 year partner in a successful department store chain, ‘Hower & Higbee.’ The Ohio merchant filed, in 1883, a town plat in Orange County, naming his new town, ‘Forest City – Orange Park.’ A Target Department store is located today where once a “pretty train depot” welcomed passengers of the Orange Belt Railway line.

Hower’s dream of Forest City died with Florida’s Great Freeze of 1895. Two years later, John G. Hower died too. Partner Edwin C. HIGBEE soon after abbreviated the name of the Cleveland store to ‘Higbees.’ Fast-forward a hundred years, and Higbees’s was acquired by Dillard Department Stores chain.

Sorrento, Florida

Albert S. MATLACK of Preble County, OHIO, was appointed first Postmaster for the Orange County SORRENTO Post Office, September 10, 1878. Sorrento is today part of Lake County. Back in 1883, Matlack’s up and coming city was expecting two railroads to pass through town, and overnight guests could stay at The SORRENTO Hotel and shop at the A. S. Matlack & Co store.

At the end of the Civil War, Ohio’s 75th Infantry, under command of Colonel A. L. HARRIS, a key character in my Historic Novel, “The Rutland MULE Matter, traversed much of central Florida. It was May, 1864, and near NEW SMYRNA the 75th captured “a few” furloughed Confederate soldiers, their horses, mules, cattle, and “a $1,000,000 of cotton”. The Navy later said the dollar value of the cotton was “an exaggeration.”

Colonel Andrew Lintner Harris, Ohio 75th Infantry

After the Civil War, in 1872, Union Surgeon Dr. Washington KILMER left his wife, daughters and home at Ironton, OHIO, and began walking. Told he had less than a year to live, Dr. Kilmer decided to find out if rumors of Orange County’s healthfulness were true. He brought his family to Florida and founded the town of ALTAMONT in 1874. Later he moved into ORLANDO. He was the first doctor to assist TAMPA during the yellow fever epidemic of 1887. Dr. Kilmer practiced medicine in downtown Orlando until his death in 1919.  Maybe there was some truth to that healthfulness rumor!


TAVARES,” reported an 1883 Orange County publication, “as a center of transportation has no equal in South Florida.” In direct competition with Orange County’s ‘Gateway-City’ at Sanford, Tavares was founded by Alexander St. CLAIR-ABRAMS, both an Attorney and developer having grandiose dreams. Abrams moved to CitrusLAND from LOUISIANA, the 18th State to join our Union of 50 States.

Attorney Abrams envisioned Tavares as Florida’s transportation hub, but also wanted the State Capitol relocated to Tavares as well. By 1883, Abrams was State Attorney, a town builder, a railroad planner and editor of his own newspaper, the Tavares Herald. Abrams founded the Peninsular Land, Transportation & Mfg. Co as the main holding firm for his ventures, to include a network of railroads operating throughout Central and South Florida.

Louisiana native Rufus E. ROSE settled at Kissimmee City in April, 1882, while still part of Orange County. An engineer, Rose teamed up with Hamilton DISSTON, the Philadelphian who at that time owned much of South Florida.

Christmas day of 1858, at a New Orleans Steam Boat House in Louisiana, Alabama native Benjamin F. CALDWELL, one year after donating four (4) acres to Orange County for a new courthouse, took time to write a letter to his father-in-law, Mr. Morris, explaining that his family was awaiting a connecting Steamer so as to continue their journey to Shreveport. Caldwell told Morris that at Shreveport, they would then be “within 75 miles of their new home in Texas”. His second letter in just over a year, the two letters combine to resolve a 150 year old mystery about the founding of central Florida’s county seat, ORLANDO, Florida.


ALTAMONT (no ‘E’) of central Florida was never much more than a post office and a railway station on Orange Belt Railway. A “mail-wagon” brought goods and occasional visitors as early as 1880, when Phineas G. C. HUNT, from Indianapolis, INDIANA, homesteaded near Altamont, and established a dental office at LONGWOOD, 5 miles east of his orange grove.

Dr. HUNT wasn’t just any dentist. In 1858, he was active in organizing Indiana State Dental Association. He was conferred with a Doctor of Dental Surgery degree in 1870, and served on Indiana’s Board of Examiners prior to moving to Florida. In 1894, Dr. Phineas Hunt returned to Indianapolis, where he died two years later. While a resident of Orange County though, Dr. Hunt granted rights to Florida Midway Railway to travel from Longwood and cross his land in route to Altamont and HOOSIER SPRINGS. That same route today is State Highway 434. Walter W. HUNT followed his uncle Phineas to Florida, where by 1893, he was the ticket agent for Orange Belt Railway.

Town Plat of Glen Ethel, Orange Belt Railway (Orange Line) 

Lumber dealer Sylvester ROOT came from Newton County, Indiana with son-in-law James R. POOLE, a hardware dealer. The two partnered in an 1885 Orange County business providing building materials. The Indiana ROOT family first settled at GLEN ETHEL, a railway depot on the Orange Belt Railway. Charles ROOT planted an orange grove, while his brother Edwin Root founded a short-lived town of Glen Ethel on a homestead north of present day SR 434.

Among the earliest of Hoosier’s to arrive in 1880s central Florida was banker Ingram FLETCHER. He built a winter residence at Hoosier Springs, later a popular swimming hole known as Sanlando Springs. Fletcher platted a town of Hoosier Springs, shown on our post above, a community later part of Palm Springs. Ingram Fletcher later relocated into Orlando.