Saturday, November 18, 2017

BUCKEYES and CitrusLAND's FIRST Avenue


I received an email several days back inquiring about the origin of an unusual First Avenue. The First Avenue in question was located in a rural part of Seminole County, off BUNNELL Road. It’s a very short street, ending after only two blocks at PINE Drive.

Since any ‘1st Avenue’ would typically be near the downtown area of a town,” the author of the email wrote; “was there a town located there?” I should add that there is NO Second nor Third Avenue anywhere nearby, only this one numbered street, a mysterious First Avenue, a street located far from the nearest metropolitan district.

FIRST Avenue off BUNNELL Road, beneath arrow in above map.

The gentleman inquiring about the mysterious 1st Avenue had recently finished reading my book; CitrusLAND: Altamonte Springs of Florida. He told me my book was; “excellent, and I love how well you did your research.” Well, such kind words were certainly deserving of a response, so now having learned of the lone numbered rural road, and with my curiosity peaked as well, I set out to learn of the origin of 1st Avenue. I knew where to begin my search, and the inquisitive email author had considered the same possibility as well.

A once-upon-a-time town of Forest City was nearby. But founded in 1883, Forest City, today a Ghost Town, was laid out using street names, not numbers. My email author also mentioned that he had purchased another of my books; CitrusLAND: Ghost Towns & Phantom Trains, but had not yet read it. Ghost Towns will be a helpful reference too, as Exhibit 16 on page 88 shows the actual 1885 Plat of Forest City.

The map included above shows a sliver of old Forest City, the southwest corner, outlined in green. Not shown on this map is the one-time location of the Forest City rail station.

For those knowledgeable of the present day area, Target Department Store occupies land where the Orange Belt Railway once stopped at a “handsome rail depot.” At this location was the intersection of Bay Street and Orange Avenue, (Bay Street is Forest City Road now, whereas Orange Avenue still goes by Orange Avenue today).

First Avenue of today, the subject of this blog, is outside the property platted in 1885 as Forest City. First Avenue is quite a distance, especially in the pre-automobile age, from Forest City’s main downtown intersection of Bay and Orange.     

In my very first book, I nicknamed central Florida CitrusLAND because this describes best how a wilderness evolved into the metropolitan area we know and love today. Many of the earliest settlers arrived at central Florida to farm Citrus, but quickly decided they could add to their personal wealth by developing a corner of their LAND as a new town. As a result, 160+ towns came on the scene during the 1880s.

Each new town founder tried to sell small town lots to snowbirds, northerners desiring an escape from harsh winters. Trying, as even First Avenue can attest, was the operative word here, for few who took on the challenge of developing central Florida then were successful.

Peter & Frederika Hoequist of Hamilton County, Ohio were one such example of the earliest families to attempt taming central Florida’s wilderness. The couple bought 160 acres in what was at the time Orange County. (A June 30, 1883 deed was issued to Peter Hogquist). At the time Hoequist bought his property, an established Cleveland Ohio department store owner had already acquired hundreds of adjacent acres, and was in the process of planning his town (Chapter 8 - Buckeye Territory; CitrusLAND: Ghost Towns & Phantom Trains). [Why the name Forest City? Forest City Racetrack opened in 1850, near Cleveland. For more, see CitrusLAND: Ghost Towns & Phantom Trains.]

Hoequist sold his land within the year. Harrison L. Donham and William J. Foster bought 120 of the 160 acres, and within a year, Donham bought out Foster.

So, by year-end 1883, Harrison L. & Elizabeth Donham of Hamilton County, Ohio, often misspelled Danham or Denham, owned 120 acres adjacent to, and southwest of, the 600+ acres owned by John G. Hower of Cleveland, Ohio. But this region in 1883 was not easily accessed. The nearest railroad station, said the 1885 Webb’s Historical publication, was “South Florida Railroad, 3 ½ miles east”. 3 ½ miles east via a sand rutted dirt trail!

Hower’s town of Forest City did not get rail service until 1886, but when the train did arrive, track of Orange Belt Railroad crossed diagonally through town. The southbound train departed Forest City, exiting Hower’s land near today’s intersection of Pearl Lake Causeway and Pine Drive. In 1886, this was the intersection of Pearl Lake and Pine Street, the southernmost east-west artery in Hower's town of Forest City. Present day Pine Drive, west of Pearl Lake Causeway, lines up perfectly with a once-upon-a-time Pine Street of Forest City.

Dr. Harrison & Elizabeth Donham, of Orange County, Florida, granted the Orange Belt Railway permission to cross their land. In 1887, Dr. Donham was listed in the Orange Gazetteer as a Physician at Forest City. He was also listed as a citrus grower. Peter Hoequist was listed as the Forest City Blacksmith.

Florida’s Great Freeze of 1895 devastated central Florida landowners. Many settlers up and left, returning to homes up north, or elsewhere to start anew. The Donham’s went back to Hamilton County, Ohio, where Dr. Harrison Lafayette Donham died in 1898. His wife Elizabeth (Watkins) Donham lived in Ohio until her death in 1907.

Would-be Orange County towns failed as the local population fled. Orange County of 1900 actually had fewer residents than in 1890. Property sat idle, property taxes went unpaid, and so during the mid-nineteens, Joseph E. McNeil, of Adams County, Ohio, began buying up thousands of Orange County acres, for mere pennies on the dollar, simply by paying off old unpaid tax bills.

If McNeil sounds familiar, refer back to our map. McNeil Road runs east to west, between Pearl Lake Causeway and Bear Lake Road. Seminole County was formed a few years before McNeil bought his land, and he platted a portion in the new county as McNeil’s Orange Villa, filed with Seminole County in 1917. Each square of the McNeil plat shown below is 640 acres in size. The square at far right, outlined in Orange, (Lot 60), includes pre-Freeze acreage once owned by the Donham’s of Hamilton County, Ohio. A red arrow points to the old route of Orange Belt Railway.

McNeil’s Orange Villa, recorded April, 1917

Land development didn’t get any easier for those who tried to start over in the twentieth century. Florida’s Great Land Bust of 1927-28, the financial market’s collapse of 1929, a Great Depression during the 1930s, and a World War in the 1940s, combined to leave much of central Florida undeveloped. Not until 1952 did the old Donham land show signs of renewed life – and then it was under a new name, Lavada Court.

Lavada Court, surveyed 1952, recorded 1955

Recorded in 1955, Lavada Court shows Pine Street rather than Pine Drive as it is today. Oak Street is now Shamrock Lane. 1st Avenue remains 1st Avenue today.

Ohio native Harrison L. Donham owned plenty of land adjacent to Forest City during the 1880s, ample acreage for expanding further westward, possibly planning to a Second Avenue, perhaps even a Third Avenue, had plans for the nearby Orange County town, a city founded by an Ohioan as well, worked out.

Little remains to remind us of these early pioneers, courageous men and women who attempted to tame central Florida. We can now, however, look at First Avenue, and to some extent Pine Drive, aka Pine Street, with an entirely new historical perspective.

First Avenues are typically near a downtown area, and yet in Seminole County, two such numbered streets are rural roads. Each are remnants of a ghost towns, Forest City and Sylvan Lake. Both stand as testament of a remarkable 19th century history, and both are featured in CitrusLAND: Ghost Towns & Phantom Trains.

Visit for details on my books and much more

CitrusLAND: the amazing story of central Florida

Bibliography available upon request

Monday, October 9, 2017

Town of EDGEWOOD, Florida

Two cities now encroach on the one-time homestead of the man most often credited with naming Pine Castle. The acreage upon which Will Wallace HARNEY built his historic pine residence is today part of Belle Isle. Still another sliver includes, to quote a Town Plat of Edgewood, “a portion of Lot 1, Harney’s Homestead.”

Each of today’s three ‘place names’ associated with Pine Castle are rich in South Orange County history, but as for this blog, I’ll be zeroing in on the origins of one specific locale, the origins of a Town of Edgewood!  

1860 Homestead of James J. & Lydia Patrick
Government Lot 4 & SW ¼ of SW ¼ Section 13; 23S; 29E

Edgewood Town Hall, on Larue Avenue, is south of the original town site. A product of Florida’s 1920s ‘Land Boom’, the original Edgewood was north of Lake Mary Jess Road, midway between 1880 towns Pine Castle and Gatlin, on land dating to the earliest South Orange County settlers.

John T. Jerkins lived at Hawkinsville, on St. Johns River, in 1856, when the 30 year old Orange County resident followed Fort Mellon to Fort Gatlin Trail south, all the way to the end. Here, Jerkins enlisted with Aaron Jernigan’s Volunteer Militia at Fort Gatlin. Likely using a Military Land Warrant, Jerkins acquired 74 remote acres beyond Gatlin, acreage along the west shore of the upper basin of Lake Conway.

Jerkins sold his 74.4 acres September 18, 1858, to a fellow Volunteer Militiaman by the name of James J. Patrick. Known to surveyors as “Lot 4 and the southwest ¼ of the southwest ¼ of Section 13,’ (above map), this very same parcel, by 1915, belonged to two land developers; H. Carl Dann and J. B. Long.

Dann & Long subdivided a portion of their land, naming the development CONWAY HEIGHTS. Newspapers of 1915 reported over the summer that improvements had been made to ‘Orlando to Pine Castle’ road, and that on August 24, 1915, a hundred or more cars would form a convoy, driving all the way from Sanford to Kissimmee. Dann & Long’s property sat east of South Florida Railroad’s track, and east too of the soon to be heavily traveled road rechristened, ‘Dixie Highway.’

Conway Heights offered six, long slender lakefront lots, each stretching from Dixie Highway east to the shore of Lake Conway. John & Eleanor Droege, of New Haven, Connecticut, bought three (3) adjoining lots, each being 650 feet deep, having a combined 135 foot frontage on the lake as well as Dixie Highway. OAK LYNN Drive, off Hansel Avenue, is currently in the vicinity of the three Droege lots, where the New England couple built their winter residence, complete with a, “boathouse and bathing pavilion,” on Lake Conway.

The 20s Boom

Orlando Attorney Edward S. Bridges acquired the Droege property, including the boathouse and bathing pavilion, July 12, 1920. Bridges however did not keep the parcel. He instead deeded the land that same month to his brother-in-law and sister, Robert M. & Lucy (Bridges) Shearer, both of whom were returning to the United States after a long overseas stint.

Native Kentuckians, the Shearer’s bought additional nearby acreage, and on January 26, 1926, as Mayor of the Town of Edgewood, Robert SHEARER approved OAK LYNN at EDGEWOOD, a subdivision of 100 plus lots platted by the Alleman Brothers. A 1929 Orlando City Directory includes the following listing: “Colonel Robert M. Shearer, President Orange County Mortgage and Investment Corporation, wife Lucy B., home address Oak Lynn Edgewood, Florida. Phone 7558.”

Robert M & Lucy B Shearer, Circa 1919

Forty (40) years after Clement R. Tiner platted his Town of Pine Castle, residents new to Orange County, and unfamiliar with the amazing history of the place, laid out a new Town of Edgewood. Their new city, over time, started encroaching southward, on land once owned by William A. Patrick, and later platted by the son of Will Harney, William Randolph Harney – but then, that’s a story in and of itself. You'll find it in Beyond Gatlin!

During the year 1900, Robert M. Shearer was serving in the Philippines, in the Army, but so too was the 1884 Postmaster of Conway, another startup town east of Fort Gatlin. Orange County Surveyor Augustus C. Hart was likewise in the Army, also stationed in the Philippines. Another fellow, an Ohioan, soon to be elected President of the United States, was in the Philippines too, and by remarkable coincidence, all four of these individuals were to influence the 20th century development of South Orange County.

Pine Castle of yesteryear is a borderless community today, a ‘place’ remembered by nearby residents of each location. Beyond Gatlin, a History of South Orange County, delves much further into the lives of remarkable central Florida pioneers, and the many challenges the bravest of the brave faced head-on, events that shaped the earliest settlements south of the county’s seat of government at Orlando.

A history of South Orange County

Between two beautiful lakes and projecting into a third,” central Florida’s Fort Gatlin, established in 1838, became a hub for the earliest settlements south of Orlando. BEYOND GATLIN is a history of true-life courageous pioneers, hardy men and women who endured an endless barrage of challenges to establish 19th century settlements of Kissimmee City, Shingle Creek, Pine Castle, Mackinnon, Troy, Gatlin, Conway, Campbell City, Runnymede, and 20th century communities of Taft, Prosper Colony, Edgewood, Belle Isle. Beyond Gatlin also goes in search of the real Fort Davenport, the ridge of Oaks, and more. 97 Exhibits and an extensive bibliography support this 236 page history of how South Orange County and early Osceola County came to be.


Tuesday, October 3, 2017


Was there a Ridge of Oaks in South Orange County? 

Central Floridians by the thousands drive or cross OAK RIDGE ROAD in South Orange County daily, yet none ever get to view the real Oak Ridge. A key east-west artery, Oak Ridge Road crosses four major roadways: Orange Avenue (Route 527); South Orange Blossom Trail US 441); John Young Parkway (Route 423; as well as world famous, International Drive.

Any one of the four major north-south crossroads would provide a perfect dividing line for separating East Oak Ridge from West, but instead, the division occurs at Jason Street. A lesser-known north-south artery, connecting Lancaster Road with Oak Ridge Road, why choose Jason Street as the east-west division point for Oak Ridge Road?

East of Jason Street, Oak Ridge ends at Pine Castle. West of Jason, Oak Ridge crosses busy South Orange Blossom Trail. If you were to head southbound on Orange Blossom Trail, after a mile or so, you would come to yet another busy intersection at Sand Lake Road. Florida Mall can be found there, as well as a fascinating mystery of central Florida history.

Barely noticeable on the northwest corner of busy Sand Lake Road and Orange Blossom Trail is Oak Ridge Cemetery, a historic graveyard that is located a mile and a half to the south of Oak Ridge Road. A fascinating mystery? Oak Ridge Cemetery appears on a 1953 Orange County Oak Ridge Manor Plat as fronting on Oak Ridge Road!

1953 “Existing” Oak Ridge Cemetery on Oak Ridge Road.
Beyond Gatlin; Exhibit 73 of 97

Two logical starting places in my search for a Ridge of Oaks became Jason Street and the 1953 Oak Ridge Cemetery.

Orange County Commissioners, I learned, had a field day in the 1950s changing street names. “Oakridge Road” was changed January 20, 1958, to “McCoy Road.” One section of McCoy, closer to McCoy Airport (now OIA), still exists. But closer to Orange Blossom Trail, that Oakridge was changed, twice, later becoming Sand Lake Road

At year end 1953 though, the road out front of Oak Ridge Cemetery was known as Oak Ridge Road, as evidenced by the above plat..

On April 13, 1930 a census taker noted that Ralph & Ada Macy lived on Oakridge Road over in Pinecastle (both place names written as one word). Another fascinating mystery of central Florida history, Orange County Commissioners changed, in 1955, nearly every existing street name in the old Town of Pine Castle. Macy Street officially became Oak Ridge Road! Odd, that a quarter century after the 1930 census taker’s notation, Orange County had finally made the name change official.

First laid out in 1884, the northernmost road in Pine Castle was Macy Street, named by town founder Clement R. Tiner for early resident and Macy Hotel founders, William & Martha Macy.

Attorney William R. Anno doubled in size Clement Tiner’s town the very same year, adding 80 acres toward the west. Three north-south streets were laid out by Anno in 1884: West Avenue; Maud Avenue; and Blanch Avenue.

Orange County Commissioners again went to work on August 16, 1955 changing names. They changed West Avenue to Anno Avenue; Maud, a street that had been named for Anno’s daughter, became Dumont. Blanch Avenue, also named for a daughter of W. R. Anno, became – Jason Street. Today, 100 East Oak Ridge, the first parcel on East Oak Ridge Road, is described in legal terms as: Lot 4; Block 4 of W. R. Anno’s Add to Pine Castle.

North portion of W. R. Anno’s Add to Pine Castle
Beyond Gatlin, Exhibit 72 of 97

In my book, Beyond Gatlin, A History of South Orange County, The Oak Ridge is one of 26 Chapters detailing the many challenges and misfortunes of early settlers in the remote wilderness south of Orlando. “Oak Ridge the name traces to June 15, 1903,” as I state on page 178; “although likely existed even before that date. F. A. Adden deeded 70 square yards, identifying the one acre parcel as the present corner of Oak Ridge Cemetery.” The property changed hands four times during one decade, so that between 1893 and 1903, the story of this historic place was nearly lost, for one land speculator after another sold the property, first acquired for unpaid taxes.

The fascinating story of the Oak Ridge was not entirely lost though. Chapter 26 traces the origin of Willis & Avey (Ava, Arey) Tiner's Homestead. A brother of Pine Castle founder Clement, Willis Tiner relocated west from Pine Castle, following the “present very old road,” shown above Lot 4; Block 4 of W. R. Anno’s Addition (see above), a road shown on a 1890 map as veering sharply south, toward a ridge of trees. The family settled on 80 acres in the early 1880s, but then Willis died, March 19, 1885, leaving behind a Widow and eight (8) small children.

Between two beautiful lakes and projecting into a third,” central Florida’s Fort Gatlin, established in 1838, became the hub for settlements south of Orlando. BEYOND GATLIN is the history of true-life courageous pioneers, hardy men and women who endured an endless barrage of challenges to establish the 19th century settlements of: Kissimmee City; Shingle Creek; Pine Castle; Mackinnon; Troy; Gatlin; Conway; Campbell City; Runnymede; and 20th century communities of Taft; Prosper Colony; Edgewood; and Belle Isle.

BEYOND GATLIN also goes in search of the real Fort Davenport, the ridge of Oaks, the naming of Lake Jessamine, and much more. 97 Exhibits, and a detailed bibliography, support this first-ever history of how South Orange County and Osceola County came to be.

BEYOND GATLIN, now available now at - visit my Amazon book page for a closer look: 

Further details at

Sunday, September 3, 2017

FORT GATLIN and an ORLANDO Deaconess

Miss Parkhill, Deaconess at Cathedral School for Girls, an Orlando preparatory school located at the southeast corner of Orange Avenue & Jefferson Street, mailed off a letter of introduction to Alexander T. Jones at Winchester, VA. In the letter dated May 9, 1916, the 75 year old schoolmistress opened with, “To my dear cousin,” and then proceeded to explain their family connection.

The Manor House, Residence of W. S. Jones, Vaucluse, VA.

The daughter of John Parkhill and Lucy Beverly Randolph, the deaconess was born Harriet Randolph Parkhill at Tallahassee, Florida on April 5, 1841. Harriet told Alexander Jones that they shared an amazing family lineage, a history documented in letters written by his very own grandmother, Ann Cary (Randolph) Jones.

On the 23rd of May, 1916, Alexander Jones replied to Harriet, and as a result of their exchange of letters, a prior generation’s correspondence between Virginia and Florida cousins became part of the Handley Regional Library System of Winchester, VA.

Ann Cary Randolph Jones”, explains the library’s introduction; “wrote long, loving letters, replete with family and local news. Many of those sent to her Florida cousins were saved. The “Harriet” addressed in some of the letters – Harriet Parkhill – eventually sent them back to Winchester, to her cousin, Mrs. Jones’s grandson, Alexander Tidball Jones.”

A complex Randolph family tree

Lucy Beverley Randolph Parkhill, mother of Harriet, was the sister of the first wife of Francis Wayles Eppes, grandson of President Thomas Jefferson. Eppes, in 1871, built a residence on a central Florida lake that he had personally named, Lake Pineloch. The family lineage of Ann Cary Randolph Jones is traced through central Florida pioneer, William Mayer Randolph. William was a prominent 1870s figure in a settlement surrounding the 1838 Fortress Gatlin. Francis Eppes began building his home while the land upon which it was built was still deeded to William M. Randolph.

Ann never relocated to Florida, and yet she is linked to Orange County history through her brother’s son, William M. Randolph. Married to William Strother Jones II, the couple lived in Frederick County, Virginia, at a place known as “Vaucluse”.

Vaucluse Spring, Virginia on the Homestead of W. S. Jones

An esteemed New Orleans Attorney, William M. Randolph and wife Mary E. Pitts were heavily invested in central Florida property. They built the first free standing hotel south of Lake Monroe. Family members including Randolph, Preston, Magruder, Pitts, Eppes and Harney populated a large area around Fort Gatlin.

Although his business interests were at New Orleans and Florida, William M. Randolph chose to live out his final days, as his death notice reveals, “At Vaucluse,” Frederick County, Virginia, after a long and painful illness.”

William M. Randolph’s obituary states the man died at the home of a relative, “W. S. Jones, and that after his death, Randolph’s body was transported to Florida, for burial at Fort Gatlin.

Harriet Parkhill did far more than preserve a family’s history by returning letters to her cousin in Virginia. Thanks to Harriet Randolph Parkhill, a long chapter in the story of Fort Gatlin was likewise preserved.

The Vaucluse Legacy is Part One of my four part Beyond Gatlin, a history of South Orange County. 200 plus pages, 70 plus Exhibits and a detailed bibliography picks up where my, First Road to Orlando left off – at Fort Gatlin.  

The official unveiling of this history is November 9, 2017, the 179th Anniversary of Fort Gatlin. You can reserve, at no cost now, your very own signed and numbered copy, simply by emailing; with a note to reserve a copy. You will be contacted when your copy is ready to be signed and mailed. Anticipated retail price $19 plus tax, and all advance orders are guaranteed that price.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017


The Pine Castle - residence of Will Wallace Harney

 A complimentary sneak peek of BEYOND GATLIN, due out November, 2017

Chapter 10: Perils of Pine Castle

One might assume development south of Fort Gatlin began in the town of Pine Castle, home to Will Wallace Harney, son-in-law of the Honorable, William M. Randolph. Although such an assumption seems logical, it wasn’t so.

Arriving in late 1869, Harney built a lakefront home on Lake Conway, personally naming his residence Pine Castle. Over time, a city did eventually grow around his homestead, and even adopted the homestead’s signature name, but personal perils got in the way of Harney himself reaping rewards as a town developer. The actual town of Pine Castle was platted in 1884, and not by Will Wallace Harney.

Arriving at Orange County in late 1869, Will Harney had been one of a family that had endured a long arduous journey south. His 25 year young wife, Mary St. Mayer (Randolph) Harney, eldest daughter of William & Mary E. (Pitts) Randolph, made the challenging move to Florida’s wilderness carrying an infant son, William Randolph Harney, born June 24, 1869, the same year of the family’s relocation to Florida.

After debarking at a ‘raggedy’ Mellonville pier, they still had a rugged trail to trek, 28 miles in all. They saw not the first house nor store for the first 22 miles of that trail. Orlando welcomed them at Mile 22, all four acres of this remote County Seat then still containing the charred ruins of the courthouse, burned to the ground a year earlier. Orange County records were destroyed by an arson’s torch, believed set by those involved in a cattle wrestling case awaiting trial, a trial that was awaiting the next circuit judge to arrive from the port at Mellonville.

Across on the east side of the old forts trail was one of only two stores in Orlando’s tiny village, the last place they could buy goods before journeying south the next six miles. And these next six miles would be even more remote than the 22 already traveled.

A newspaperman, Harney had departed Louisville, Kentucky, a town of 100,000 in 1870, and relocated to Fort Gatlin, deep in the wilderness of Orange County, Florida, at a time when the entire county Orange, all 3,000 square miles, had fewer than 2,200 residents.

Arriving during the final days of 1869, Will Harney’s wife Mary died January 8, 1870. Mary (Randolph) Harney was laid to rest beside the old ruins of Fort Gatlin, on part of the land where William M. Randolph made his homestead. Within months of arriving in a land intended to improve his wife’s health, Will Wallace Harney had become a Widower.

Six weeks after Harney’s wife died, Sheriff David W. Mizell, Jr., on February 21, 1870, was shot and killed in an ambush in south Orange County. The Sheriff’s parents lived across the lake from Will Harney, while one of the accused murderers, John J. Barber, lived south of Harney on Lake Conway. The lifeless body of yet another of the accused, Moses E. Barber, was found in Lake Conway, not far from Harney’s Pine Castle residence. Some said Moses Barber had drowned. Others said no, he had been murdered.

As Harney’s infant son was turning one in June of 1870, Will learned of his father-in-law’s failed attempt at constructing Orange County’s first railroad. The long tiring journey from Mellonville to Harney’s homestead on Lake Conway was to remain long and tiring, hardly a prime location for founding a new town.

One could even make the argument that 1870 Orange County didn’t have a town. Orlando was still a four (4) acre village, occupying land donated to the county in 1857. Would be towns of Apopka, Fort Reid, and Mellonville were places where one could buy goods. Not one of these places had yet filed a town plat. And so for Will Wallace Harney there was no incentive to consider establishing a city, not during his early years as a resident of Orange County.

The hurricane of 1871 brought an entirely new set of problems for the locals, Harney included. Repairing extensive property damage meant little or no time to deal with such frivolous matters as town building. The storm (Chapter 8: Harney’s Hurricane) left behind dead cattle, giant trees uprooted, and many of the crops destroyed.

Throughout the decade of the 1870s settlers had little reason to imagine being town developers. Putting food on the family table continued to be their full time job.

But agents of change were gathering at Orange County, and it’s easy to understand why locals may not have at first noticed. Settlers began to find their way south to Orange County. Veterans of the Civil War came for grants of land, given to retired warriors in lieu of wages. Confederate Veterans came first, followed soon after by a number of Union Veterans.


First Road to Orlando, Second Edition 2015 ended at Fort Gatlin


November, 2017

Tuesday, May 30, 2017



Pine Castle, Orange County, Florida

By Richard Lee Cronin, Author

(Not affiliated with Pine Castle Woman's Club, nor
Pine Castle Historical Society. Author is fully
responsible for the articles content.) 

Photo of Crawford House by Pine Castle Historical Society

Pine Castle Woman’s Club recently rescued a magnificent piece of south Florida history – a one-hundred year old residence now planned to be a History Center. To discover the origins of this structure was not easy, but to assist in researching its past were several helpful clues. A small town home relocated twice during its lifetime, the structure’s story, finally discovered, proves the Woman’s Club could not have selected a better facility to serve as a history center for this remarkable community.

The Crawford House story begins with the very homestead upon which the historic 1870 Pine Castle was built. And while it is a fact a Crawford family had possession of this home for five (5) decades, it’s also true the story of this home would not be complete with mentioning as well its role in the founding of an acclaimed engineering firm, a business that to this day is a vital member of the Pine Castle community.

As mentioned, clues about the house launched my research project: (1) it was the long-time home of a schoolteacher, Essie Crawford Johns; (2) the original address had been 909 Fairlane Avenue; and (3) the house dated to around 1919.

Once I began digging I located two Crawford schoolteachers. Ethel Crawford, born in 1888, lived in Conway and listed her occupation in 1920 as a ‘School Teacher’. A second young lady, S. E. Crawford, was born 1901 in Alabama, and by 1930 was a ‘teacher’ in the Pine Castle area. Having a 50% chance of selecting the correct ‘teacher’ to research, I started off with the wrong Crawford. I’ll return to her in a bit.

The correct Essie Crawford Johns was the 29 year old Miss S. E. Crawford in 1930, a teacher residing with her parents, William E. & Corosia Crawford. A sister, Virginia L., age 19, was also living with her parents. The son, James E. Crawford, had married and was living in Pine Castle as well.

I can assure you this is the Crawford House family for which the home gets its name, but arriving at that conclusion required a lot of convincing on my part. I assume the same will be of you, so allow me to begin.

Census pages seldom included street names, but many did for the year 1930, and this Crawford family was listed as living in Pine Castle on Tyner Road. Okay, so the street name doesn’t jive with clue #2, but a little history about this downtown area can make sense of the name discrepancy in short order.

The original town of Pine Castle, laid out in 1884 by Clement R. Tiner, had a dozen streets, half running north to south, the other half, east to west. The Crawford House did not exist in 1884, and the land upon which it would eventually be built was not part of Tiner’s Pine Castle. Twenty-five (25) years later, the Crawford House was built on land in James G. Tyner’s 1912 Pine Castle addition.  

Orange County Commissioners brought clarity to Pine Castle street names in August, 1955. Every original town street named by Clement in 1884 received a new name. An example is ‘Division Street,’ which was renamed ‘Fairlane Avenue’. Clement had originally laid out ‘Main Street’ to parallel the railroad tracks. You know that road today as Orange Avenue, but during the 1920s, it was going by ‘Dixie Highway’.

Clement Tiner’s Central Avenue ran north to south along his east property line. The same road is known today as Hansel Avenue. Clement Tiner’s Pine Castle was west of the centerline of Central (Hansel) Avenue. The homestead of Will Wallace Harney was east of Central (Hansel) Avenue.

During the summer of 1912, James G. TYNER, nephew of the 1884 town founder, recorded a subdivision described as part of the Will Wallace HARNEY homestead. That same year, August 21, 1912, James G. Tyner sold Lot 10 and 11, two adjoining lots fronting on an “unnamed street.

J. G. TYNER Sub-division, Lots 10 & 11 facing unnamed ‘street’.
(See note left of arrow: unnamed street becomes Fairlane Ave.)

The 1912 buyer of the two lots were Florida natives. Paul MACY, born c 1870, was the son of William H. & Martha J. MACY. Martha J. Macy was proprietor of a Pine Castle Hotel in 1887. Paul’s wife, Alice Caroline PATRICK, born 1872, was the daughter of William Wright PATRICK, one of the earliest of Orange County settlers dating to the 1840s. The Patrick pioneer was buried west of Pine Castle - near the ‘Oak Ridge’.

Harney himself had begun the breakup of his homestead. He sold off several parcels in 1879 and 1880 but without filing a plat. One parcel sold became known later as Lot 9, Harney’s Homestead, and that parcel become property of James G. Tyner in 1912.

It appears the Macy’s did not build on these lots, and in June of 1919, they sold the land to W. E. BISHOP. One year later, Widower Bishop sold the lots to Hugh G. REDDITT. A $2,500.00 selling price, inclusive of a $2,000.00 mortgage dated 1 December, 1919, suggests a home had been built by this time. Clue #3 suggested the home dated to the year 1919.

Even before a home was ever built the land was rich in history. Pioneers Harney, Macy, and Patrick had ties to land surveyed in 1912 by the celebrated county surveyor, John Otto Fries.
William E. & Corosia Crawford relocated from Dothan, Alabama, buying the home from Hugh & Evelyn Redditt, July 16, 1921. The street out front of their residence was not yet named Fairlane. Perhaps it was being referred to as ‘Tyner’s Road’.

The Crawford family bought the home in 1921, and would continue to have ties to this residence until the year 1980.

William E. Crawford together with son James Edward Crawford became involved in trucking, but the father dabbled some in land speculation too. Within a month of buying the family residence, William Crawford bought a rail-siding at the present day junction of Oak Ridge Road and the railroad track. He acquired two lots in Pine Castle, and five lots further south at Sphaler’s upcoming town of Prosper Colony at Taft.

2017 Orange County Property Appraiser of Fairlane Ave

Meanwhile, a schoolteacher in 1930, Miss Essie, more formerly, Siddie Emmaline Crawford, married Earl Johns December 26, 1937. Earl was of another Pine Castle area family with south Orange County roots dating to Post-Civil War days. The Johns family relatives included such names as Keene, Harris and Hansel.

The Crawford House remained in the family long after the 1953 death of William E. Crawford. In 1955, two months before an unnamed street became known as Fairlane, the next owners of Crawford House were married at Orlando, Florida. It was to be a few years though before the new owners signed on.

Born 1929 at Istanbul, Turkey, Mehmet Erdem Ardaman married Orlando native Mary Jo Fishback June 25, 1955. She was a graduate of Orlando High School and had gone on to become a lawyer, graduating from University of Florida in 1952.

As the sun was setting on the 50s, literally, Mehmet & Mary Jo Ardaman acquired, December 31, 1959, a Pine Castle parcel identified as 6015 Randolph St. The land was also identified as being part of Lot 10 of the Will Wallace Harney Homestead.

Much like that of 909 Fairlane, Ardaman’s street address on Randolph no longer exists says the Orange County Property Appraiser office, but for many years, 6015 Randolph was used as the business address of Ardaman & Associates.

The engineering firm now occupies a much large building south of town, but in 1959, Ardaman & Associates was located steps from the Crawford House. The number of steps between these two locations would become fewer over the years.

Earl Jones passed in 1961. Corosia Crawford died in 1968, and with her passing, three Crawford heirs took over the 50 year old family home at 909 Fairlane. As the Crawford family grew smaller over the years, Ardaman & Associates had grown in size and needed to expand. Ardaman bought the Crawford House in December, 1972, signing a mortgage with the Crawford heirs: Widow Essie Johns the schoolteacher; her sister, Virginia L. Caldwell, and their brother, James E. Crawford. The estate of Virginia L. Caldwell signed a satisfaction of mortgage with Ardaman in 1980.

Essie (Crawford) Johns passed in 1973, Virginia in 1979, and by this time Ardaman & Associates appeared ready to move on. Six (6) decades after the first occupant moved into the Crawford House, the home, together with lots 10, 11, 12 and 13, all of J. G. Tyner’s Subdivision, were conveyed to its neighbor, Pine Castle Methodist Church.

A long struggle to save a remarkable historic Pine Castle residence only then began. In fact, Crawford House the museum is not ready to accept visitors yet, although I am certain the Woman’s Club will gladly speak to anyone interested in assisting financially in their excellent cause.

History is best understood when you feel a part of it, a sense certain to welcome visitors to a museum that has been witness to the story of the Pine Castle area.

About that other school teacher.

The first Crawford schoolteacher I came across in the area was Ethel, a 33 year old unmarried gal residing with her parents, George W. & Sarah C. Crawford. George and his family had lived in the Fort Gatlin area since 1873. Sarah, a native of Florida, had been in the area even longer. The father had been a State Senator, the mother was a descendant of the Mizell family. And so this Crawford family has all the makings of a great history story too, but their story must wait, until FALL 2017.

Beyond Gatlin picks up where my 2015, First Road to Orlando book left off. The old forts trail started off as the first road to Gatlin, but then Orlando got in the way!
South Orange County, the land beyond Fort Gatlin, has a remarkable history, a story never really told – not until Beyond Gatlin. The history of South Orange County is coming this FALL!


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