Friday, August 14, 2020

Central Florida History Challenge - Part 5

 Central Florida History Challenge #5

Three notable central Florida investors were among an assemblage of dignitaries at William Cramp & Son’s Shipyard on Thursday, October 22, 1885. Arriving in Georgia from New York, a party of 25 had traveled to Savannah aboard a special Henry B. Plant train, transported there to witness the launching of a steamship that was soon to influence as well the naming of a present-day Lake County town.

Henry B. Plant

Among the group was Henry B. PLANT himself (above photo); Henry S. SANFORD; and Philadelphian Hamilton DISSTON. Each an important player in the formation of Florida’s 19th century Citrus Belt, they all three joined a chorus of cheers at noon in Savannah as Mrs. Margaret (Loughman) Plant smashed a bottle of wine on the bow of the new 200 foot vessel, sending the boat, “gracefully into the water.”.

Built as a fast mail and passenger vessel to run between Tampa and Havana, what was the name of that 1885 Plant steamboat that influenced the naming of a Lake County town?





The ANSWER to our History Challenge #5:

NOT “S. S. Ambassadress”! As explained in Chapter 25: Northern Gateway – Eustis (Tavares: Darling of Orange County, Birthplace of Lake County), the ‘Ambassadress’ belonged to William B. Astor, Jr.. Built in 1877, it was at that time considered to be the largest yacht in the world. Just prior to buying this yacht, Astor, Jr. had sailed the St. Johns River in his slightly smaller yacht, and upon reaching the southern shore of Lake George, invested in 80,000 acres of wilderness land he and fellow investors called ‘Manhattan’. Here they established a river port town of Astor – and built two hotels at the gateway to Orange County’s ‘Great Lake Region’. 

This is how history had recorded the William B. Astor, Jr. central Florida investment, although missing has been another key player, Samuel Benlisa of New York. Benlisa and the towns along the route of the St. Johns & Lake Eustis Railway are each featured in Chapter 25.


NOT “S. S. Astatula”! Truly an important name in the story of a developing Great Lake Region of Orange and Sumter County of the 1870s, a land known today as Lake County, Astatula pre-dates the central Florida arrival of Henry Plant, Henry Sanford, and Hamilton Disston. 

Chapter 27: A River Gateway – Ocklawaha, reveals how a river Captain opened up the Ocklawaha River in the 1860s to bring the first steamboat into Lake Griffin prior to the first train ever reaching this region. Astatula was one of a fleet of ships operated by Hubbard Hart, and for a brief time was the name of one of the region’s “Great Lakes”. Today, Astatula of Lake County is what remains of a much larger 1880s lakeside metropolis on Lake Harris.


The Roxie and Okahumkee Riverboats on the St. Johns River

NOT “S. S. ROXIE”! An 1884 ‘Great Lake’ Riverboat,, the Roxie was spotted at Lane Park on Lake Harris by a traveler aboard the St. Johns & Lake Eustis Railroad in 1884. The vessel, shown above thanks to the Florida Memory project, is not the answer however we are looking for.

The Roxie had begun cruising the waters of the Great Lake Region prior to the October 1885 launching of Plant’s vessel at Savannah. “Here we are at the Park (Lane Park); the train stops on one side of the depot, and on the opposite side the Roxie lightly floats on the water of Lake Harris.” Quoted from page 201, Tavares: Darling of Orange County, Birthplace of Lake County.


“THE MASCOTTE LAUNCHED” headlined an October 25, 1885 issue of Savannah Morning News, an article which told too of a special train from New York that had delivered Henry Plant and two dozen distinguished guests to witness the launching of his newest iron steamship, the S. S. Mascotte, at “200 feet long, 30 feet breadth of beam, and 21 feet depth at hold”.

Gathered at Cramp & Son’s Savannah Shipyard for the special occasion were Henry Plant, Henry Sanford, and Hamilton Disston, three individuals who contributed much to developing central Florida’s 19th century Citrus Belt. Memorials to the three today include Plant City and Winter Garden’s Plant Street; a town of Sanford; a ghost town of Diston on the one-time Orange Belt Railway line, and multiple Disston Avenues - such as those at Tarpon Springs, Clermont, Minneola, and Tavares.

An excerpt from Tavares Darling of Orange County, Birthplace of Lake County, Chapter 29: Gulf Coast Gateway – Clermont: “Three months after the launch of Plant’s new steamship, the Palatka Daily News of January 27, 1886 published yet another article about Mascotte, only this particular story referenced an application for a Sumter County post office of Mascotte.” Opened 30 March 1886, fourteen months later, on May 27, 1887, the post office was changed to Mascotte of Lake County.

A Town of Mascotte website says "J. W. Payne of Baltimore settled here around 1885, and that he named the town after a ship.” And now, you know the rest of the story!

A story of triumph over tragedy, of homesteaders becoming town builders, of steamboats and railroads forging a new homeland, and of remarkable men and women who made it happen, Tavares: Darling of Orange County, Birthplace of Lake County, even has a touch of mystery and intrigue. The lady of Lady Lake, it turns out, had a name. And so too did the mystery ladies of Mount Dora.

Click on Book cover to visit Book Page at Amazon

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Monday, August 10, 2020

Central Florida History Challenge - Part 4

 What was Central Florida’s “BIG Secret” of 1887-88?

James F. Hobart, a correspondent for Palatka Daily News, while traveling from Eustis south to Tavares aboard the afternoon St. Johns & Lake Eustis train of June 22, 1887, described having to present a “stificate” to the conductor after departing the Mount Homer depot. Only then said Hobart, could he enter the “magical city he had read so much about”. We will assume “stificate” was the Great Lake Region jargon for a “certificate”.

The ‘Big Secret’ was certainly not limited to Tavares or the northwest corner of Orange County. Pine Castle, 5 miles south of Orlando, where the first President of Tavares, Orlando & Atlantic Railroad first homesteaded, offered little about the passing of his father-in-law, Charles G. Nute.

The silence was indeed deafening throughout Florida’s Citrus Belt – leaving folks to assume the worst when, at 27 years old, the founder of Ellsworth Junction died in December of 1887.

So, what was Central Florida’s “BIG Secret”? What did the locals prefer not to discuss – despite the fact much of the world already knew? 


More than two hundred Florida Citrus Belt towns were founded during the early 1880s, many being place-names locals recognize today, but cannot precisely pinpoint on any map.

Palm Springs, Crown Point, Ellsworth Junction, MacKinnon, and Paolo were but a few of the up and coming central Florida 1880s towns that suddenly vanished prior to the dawn of the 20th century. A Great Freeze during the winter of 1894-95 had been the second coffin spike for many of these present day ghost towns, but that freeze had followed on the heels of an earlier, far more serious human tragedy. The freeze killed the citrus, but the yellow fever epidemic of 1887-88 threatened to kill Florida’s visitors and homesteaders.

Orange Belt Railway, orange highlight above, crossed Florida Midland Railway, yellow highlight above, in the town of Palm Springs, formerly Hoosier Springs, (purple square), and Altamont (no E), right of purple square. [Exhibit 12 of CitrusLAND: Ghost Towns & Phantom Trains]. Today this is the intersection of SR 434 and Markham Woods road.

Central Florida had been marketed as free of the fever, malaria, and other such diseases talked of existing in Florida’s swamplands. Land agents had used such enticing marketing terms as Eden, America’s Paradise, the Gardens of the Hesperides, to attract northerners – to convince them to escape the bitter cold and settle instead in a land of health, wealth, and happiness.

Homesteaders and speculators cordoned off a piece of their land in the early 1880s to cash in on an expected onslaught of newcomers - northerners desiring to own a piece of Paradise.

More than dozen railroads began crisscrossing central Florida almost overnight, and all along the newly laid track towns sprang up. A Cleveland Department Store owner founded Forest City on the Orange Belt Railway line (Citrusland: Ghost Towns & Phantom Trains), naming his new Florida city after his hometown’s nickname. An English family set aside a square mile for a town in South Orange County, naming their metropolis on the South Florida Railroad in honor of the family patriarch, Sir William MacKinnon, a shipping titan and British Baronet (Beyond Gatlin: A History of South Orange County).

Sir William MacKinnon (Exhibit 43 of Beyond Gatlin: A History of South Orange County)  

And two Orlando Attorneys partnered in founding Tavares, with plans for establishing it as a South Florida railroad hub. (Tavares: Darling of Orange County, Birthplace of Lake County).

Plat of 1882 Tavares recorded at Orlando, Orange County in 1886

A sand-rutted wilderness January 1, 1880, by that year’s end two railroads were operating in Orange County – two railroads that finally made it possible to move about the vast land known today as central Florida. Within only a few years the two railroads became a dozen – and by 1887, six railroads were running 20 trains daily into and out of downtown Tavares. America’s Paradise was flourishing!

Then came a Yellow Fever epidemic. National newspapers in the north began running stories of yellow fever in the Florida Keys, Tampa, and Jacksonville. And as Tampa trains passed through Orange County on their way to Jacksonville, potential land buyers in the north chose not to travel to the land of wealth, health, and sunshine.

As trains from the north stopped bringing snowbirds, town lots went unsold. Railroad revenues faltered, and soon thereafter railroads themselves began to fail.     

Not until 1929 did a letter surface explaining that Charles Goodspeed Nute, father-in-law of Attorney William R. Anno, first President of Tavares, Orlando & Atlantic Railroad, “died at Orlando on May 25, 1886 of Yellow Fever”.

Newspaper correspondent James F. Hobart of the Palatka Daily News was permitted to enter the city of Tavares on June 22, 1887 only after showing his Palatka Health Department “certificate” to the railroad conductor. Four days earlier, at Runnymede, near Kissimmee, Helen (Heig) Warner sat down to write a letter to her mother back home in England. She started her June 18, 1887 letter by writing: “There is a scare of yellow fever just now, we are in quarantine.”      

Later that year, in December, the 27 year-old founder of Ellsworth died. A railroad town five miles south of Tavares, “Junction” had only recently been added after a second railroad laid track into the city. The young town founder died of undisclosed causes, although the reason would not have mattered – not during panic-stricken central Florida of 1887.

Central Florida dreams began to crumble, and citizens likely wondered what could possibly be worse. But as for Tavares, the answer was a devastating fire – in less than four months.

19th century Central Floridians were amazing people. And they now live again, as do the remarkable times during which much of central Florida was founded, on the pages of books by Richard Lee Cronin.

More than a story about the origins of Tavares, this latest central Florida book tells the transformation from a popular 'Great Lake Region' to Lake County, Florida of may, 1887. Click on my book cover to read the book's critique or to buy it at Amazon.


Darling of Orange County, Birthplace of Lake County

Click on book cover above to visit Amazon page  

Or visit my website for details on each of my central Florida books

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Central Florida History Challenge - Part 3

Citrusland’s Central Florida History Challenge #3:

The Challenge:

You are no doubt aware of Hamilton Disston of Philadelphia receiving 4 million Florida acres in exchange for $1 million in cash, funds which then made it possible for the State to pay in full its pre-Civil War debt obligations. The first cash installment was made by Disston on 13 September 1881, and at the same time a Darling of a new settlement - Tavares – was in the design process for a spit of wilderness land separating two large lakes in West Orange County.

Hamilton Disston (1844-1896)

The Tavares original design had one lakeside “Boulevard”, 14 east-west “Streets” and 12 north-south “Avenues”. Of these roadways, the easternmost north-south artery, on the “Township” line, was named Disston Avenue. The roadway still exists today, and is still called Disston Avenue.

Our history challenge #3 is a True or False? “Disston Avenue of Tavares also encroached on a portion of those 4 million acres that were acquired by Hamilton Disston?”

Visit my FREE blog page to find out if your answer is correct by clicking this link:



CitrusLAND’s Central Florida History Challenge #3 was borrowed from Chapter 3 of my latest book, Tavares: Darling of Orange County, Birthplace of Lake County, now available at Amazon.

The correct answer? TRUE! The 4 million acres acquired by Hamilton Disston starting in 1881 are generally thought of as land in the vicinity of Kissimmee. His property however included land as well along the Gulf Coast - at Tarpon Springs, Tampa, and Charlotte Harbor – as well as some acreage north of Kissimmee, such as four (4) small parcels on each corner of Lake Eustis.

One of the four Hamilton Disston Lake Eustis parcels was a 56 acre site identified by the letter E on the below exhibit, borrowed from page 45 of my new book (The bold black line below and to the left of the E section aligns with Disston Avenue of Tavares).

Each lettered section above is detailed in Chapter 3 of the book.

The Hamilton Disston land deal was reason enough for the founders of Tavares to name a road for the man. The town’s concept was to create a South Florida railroad hub, a plan made possible because Governor Bloxham (Chapter 4: Bloxham Avenue) had made a cash deal with Disston that allowed Florida to begin building railroads. Tavares could not be a railroad hub unless and until Florida’s debt was resolved. But, having a piece of the Disston property adjoining the Town of Tavares – well, that was merely icing on the cake for the town founders.

Hamilton Disston decided to sell all four of the small Lake Eustis parcels, part of the fascinating story of Florida’s “Great Lake Region’ that I will reserve for Chapter 3 readers of Tavares, Darling of Orange County, Birthplace of Lake County.



40 plus want-to-be Orange & Sumter County settlements of May 26, 1887

40 plus want-to-be Lake County communities as of May 27, 1887

362 pages including detailed Index and Bibliography


Visit my website to view each of my Central Florida history books.

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Central Florida History Challenge - Part Two

Question #2:

It is common knowledge that Royal M. PULSIFER, Publisher in 1880 of the Boston Herald, provided the cash necessary to construct South Florida Railroad from Sanford into downtown Orlando. Pulsifer also invested in central Florida real estate after his train began operating, buying property at three newly established Orange County towns. What was the FIRST town where Royal M. Pulsifer bought land?






Royal Macintosh Pulsifer purchased land at three of the five towns listed in our central Florida history quiz. The first, I suspect, will surprised you, for it was NOT located anywhere near the railroad line his newspaper had financed in 1880. Best known to central Florida history fans as owner of lakefront property on Lake Osceola, this Winter Park parcel was NOT Pulsifer’s first Orange County land acquisition.

Royal M. Pulsifer (1843-1888)

As far as Maitland and Orlando, there is no record Royal M. Pulsifer ever owned land at either place, but the Bostonian did purchase one entire city block at Kissimmee on May 3, 1884. This investment property, his third central Florida land purchase, was acquired from South Florida Railroad in the name of “R. M. Pulsifer Company of Boston, Massachusetts”. His second land purchase was in Winter Park.

Fact is, eight months prior to Royal M. Pulsifer buying his Winter Park parcel from Chapman & Chase on October 21, 1882, the Boston Herald Publisher acquired, on February 18, 1882, a total of six city lots at a new Orange County startup town called Tavares. These town lots fronted on Pulsifer Avenue, across the street from a proposed ‘River Park”.

Portion of 1882 Tavares Plat from Tavares: Darling of Orange County,
Birthplace of Lake County. Pulsifer Avenue is second from right above.
Town lots owned by R. M. Pulsifer are indicated by the star.

Royal M. Pulsifer had been among the first individuals to purchase lots at the new West Orange County 19th century town of Tavares. And perhaps coincidental, three months after the Boston Herald partner invested at Tavares, the Weekly Floridian newspaper of Tallahassee, on May 16, 1882, published a “Prospectus” for a newly created Tavares Herald, in which it was stated the first edition of the newspaper would be printed May 18, 1882.

The Tavares Herald start up followed by only a few months the purchase of land by the Boston Herald Publisher! But Pulsifer was not named the Publisher of the new Florida paper.

Today, portions of Pulsifer Avenue still exist, although River Park is a distant memory. Both the avenue and park however remain as intriguing hints into the origins of one extra-special place dubbed by this author as, “Tavares: Darling of Orange County, Birthplace of Lake County.”

Both the Publisher and Editor of the Boston Herald, Royal M. Pulsifer and Edwin B. Haskell, made a huge impact on the development of central Florida as it is known today. The railroad these two individuals financed in 1880, after decades of planning by others, finally fortified a central corridor concept that remains a ‘Main Street’ of present day Orange County. Amtrak, Sunrail, and even Interstate 4, follow closely the path first known as Fort Mellon to Fort Gatlin Road, a sand rutted dirt military trail of the 1840s. This very same worn military path then became the First Road to Orlando in the 1850s.

Three short months after Royal M. Pulsifer bought at Tavares, a visiting newspaper reporter, in town for the “Grand Celebration” of the Dora Canal completion, commented: “Tavares seems actually to have sprung full-grown from the womb of the wilderness”. The town’s early success sprang from its unique concept, an idea which caught the eye of many an influential Orange County resident – and even a few highly influential New Englanders.

The “full-grown” city, a creation of two Attorneys from Orlando, without doubt benefited from its brief association with a Massachusetts newspaperman - and railroad financier – Royal M. Pulsifer. His association with Tavares however can only be described in terms of months. He bought town lots at Tavares within months of the town’s founding, and within months of the first publication of the Tavares Herald. And Pulsifer’s October 19, 1888 tragic death followed the declaration of Tavares as the official Lake County seat by a few months as well.

Formed from portions of Orange and Sumter counties May 27, 1887, the citizens of a new Lake County were assigned the task of selecting a location for their county seat. Four visits to the polls were required before a victory could be declared, but that bittersweet victory was then followed by a courtroom battle – a process that all together lasted 440 days – and finally ended in a victory for Tavares by a decision handed down on August 10, 1888.

Although visual proof of his contribution to the formation of Tavares is today merely a street name, Royal M. Pulsifer, in that respect is not alone. Not at all! Avenues Disston, Ingraham, Bloxham, New Hampshire, Rockingham, Texas, Sinclair, and St. Clair-Abrams - among others - each have a fascinating story longing to be told – histories that are now finally told.

Buy it today at Amazon by clicking on book cover  

TAVARES: Darling of Orange County, Birthplace of Lake County, tells of how Florida’s “Great Lake Region” transitioned from a remote 19th century wilderness into a vibrant Citrus Belt region. Amazing pioneers dared to dream big – dared to imagine creating such places as Leesburg, Lady Lake, Mount Dora, Montverde, Eldorado, Eustis, Umatilla, Astor, Clermont, Yalaha, Bloomfield and Tavares - to name but a few of 40 plus want-to-be communities.

A story of triumph over tragedy; of homesteaders daring to become town builders; of steamboats and railroads forging a new homeland, and of the remarkable men and women who made it happen, Tavares: Darling of Orange County, Birthplace of Lake County, even has a bit of mystery and intrigue. After all, the lady of Lady Lake had a name, and so too did the mysteries women of Mount Dora!

A NEW book by the author of the award winning

BEYOND GATLIN: A History of South Orange County

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Saturday, August 1, 2020

Central Florida History Challenge - Part One

Central Florida History Challenge: Part One

Women of central Florida’s frontier of the 19th century were every bit as tough - and creative - as their male counterparts when it came to both homesteading and town building. Between the years 1880 and 1890, more than 200 Orange County cities were established, and while most had been founded by men – some were the creation of amazing frontierswomen. Can you name which 1880s towns of the five listed below were founded by women?






Three of the 1880s towns listed were founded by women! And each frontierswoman is featured in my 5 Star rated (see below) 2015 Second Edition of, CitrusLAND: Ghost Towns & Phantom Trains.

Alice C. (Forbes) Hill started buying Orange County property in 1881, and by 1887, she was ready to file a town plat of TORONTO in Orange County at Mile 23 on the Orange Belt Railway line (orange line below in Exhibit 17 of Ghost Towns). Her city in fact was the junction to two railroads, as the Tavares, Orlando & Atlantic (green line below) line crossed the OBRR track here – and a Union Depot had been planned to serve both. Today, an industrial complex occupies much of the property where Alice Hill planned her 19th century city. Maitland Boulevard Extension, west of North Orange Blossom Trail, encroaches the southernmost tip of a Ghost Town called TORONTO.

Town Plat of Toronto (Exhibit 17 of Ghost Towns & Phantom Trains)

Dr. Joseph Bishop and ex-banker Ingram Fletcher, two frontiersmen, founded PAOLA and HOOSIER SPRINGS respectively, but back in the 1880s. Mary Lambert (at times identified as Mary Lambeth) founded the town of ISLAND LAKE. Her platted Orange County city occupied part of her homestead of 200 acres (Exhibit 6 of Ghost Towns). Mostly citrus trees, Mary did design her city to have a lakeside path encircling Island Lake, a body of water which can now be found in Seminole County’s Heathrow Subdivision.

A native of the Hoosier State, Ingram Fletcher’s town of Hoosier Springs had been platted prior to his sale to a Canadian Widow, who then re-platted and renamed the land west of I-4 at SR 434. Widow Elizabeth (McLean) Saunders brought her sickly son to Florida for health reasons. She purchased Ingram Fletcher’s flagging Hoosier Springs homestead (Sanlando of the 20th century), and renamed her developing new city, PALM SPRINGS.

Like that of Alice Hill’s TORONTO, the reconfigured town of PALM SPRINGS had two railroads. The Orange Belt Railway and Florida Midland Railway crossed where today SR 434 meets Markham Wood Road, the 1880s intersection of two towns – Altamont (no ‘E’) and the Widow Saunders town of PALM SPRINGS. Ghost Towns explains the development of both place names.

Widow Mary Elizabeth Saunders - Massey

An American Paradise is how many thought of central Florida during the latter half of the 19th century. A remarkable period in this region’s history, CitrusLAND: Ghost Towns & Phantom Trains takes you on a rail journey from Sanford to Oakland, racing along at a speed of nearly 6 MPH, and introducing you to such place names as Sylvan Lake, Paola, Island Lake, Glen Ethel, Palm Springs (Hoosier Springs and Altamont), Forest City, Toronto, Lakeville, Clarcona, Crown Point, Winter Garden, and Oakland.

A 5 Star Review

A retired Orange County schoolteacher of 50 years gave the following 5 Star review of the first edition of my book in May 2015. Citrusland: Ghost Towns & Phantom Trains is now available in Second Edition:

Excellent historical fiction involving a train trip from Sanford to Oakland, FL during the primitive development of central Florida. Because I am a 4th generation central Floridian living and working in the towns included in the train's itinerary, I was particularity captivated by both the content and the style with which the book is written. The details of the real people included in the descriptions of the towns' populations were of particular interest, because I knew some personally and had the pleasure of teaching many of their progeny who are citizens and leaders of those the towns, today”.



Darling of Orange County, Birthplace of Lake County

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Cowboys & Lawyers - Part 12

Cowboys & Lawyers: Part 12
Attorneys of 19th Century Central Florida

A series inspired by Pine Castle Historical Society’s

Will Wallace Harney: Orlando’s First Renaissance Man

By Richard Lee Cronin

A Kittery, Maine Attorney,
A Pine Castle, Florida Lawyer,
Two central Florida Law Partners,
And a second train for Orlando, Florida

This Blog is dedicated to the Kittery, Maine Cronin Clan

Upon arriving at Orlando in Spring of 1885, a visiting lawyer from Maine likely traveled around the city on a handsome surrey, complete with a fringe on top. Horse-drawn carriages by this time had become John G. Sinclair’s way of welcoming newcomers to central Florida. Sinclair Real Estate agents transported potential buyers in style to view potential parcels for acquiring.

Service had made the Sinclair agency at Orlando the county’s largest land sales agency, and the New Hampshire transplant and real estate office founder was already preparing to open a second office in the outer fringes of West Orange County.

John G. Sinclair Real Estate Office, 1884 Orlando, Florida

Attorney John M. Goodwin, life-long resident of Kittery, Maine, would have been no exception to the receiving carriage tour, especially since he came to Orlando in March of 1885 in search of land - not to settle on, but to develop. Attorney John Goodwin, a non-Florida resident, planned to enlarge Orange County’s Seat of Government. The property Goodwin acquired in 1885 is still known today as “Goodwin’s Addition to Orlando”.

Followers of this Cowboys & Lawyers series now know the fascination Attorneys and Judges had, since central Florida’s earliest days, in being developers as well of Florida’s Citrus Belt. Legal professionals accumulated thousands of wilderness acres in the 19th century, investment property in a sparsely inhabited area (fewer than one person per one-square mile in 1850), land that became the blueprint for how central Florida evolved. For example: Maitland, Orlando, Sanford, and even the outer fringes of West Orange County, Tavares of today’s Lake County, exist in the form they are today because of 19th century legal professionals.

John Munroe Goodwin, born 1822 in Maine, is memorialized in his native State as a ‘Goodwin of Kittery, Maine’ family. John and Harriett Proctor (Herrick) married in Maine in 1850, raised their family at Biddeford in York County, Maine. Attorney Goodwin founded his legal practice at his hometown, a practice that spanned more than 40 years. He died at Biddeford in 1905. Harriet Goodwin departed this life three years after the death of her husband of 55 years.

Goodwin family memoirs tell us much about the Biddeford, Maine family, but fails to mention the Attorney’s 1885 involvement in expanding the town of Orlando - in faraway central Florida.

John M. Goodwin’s Addition to Orlando, Florida

Officially recorded in 1887, the most historically significant find in reviewing John Goodwin’s “Add to Orlando” is not necessarily what one sees on his land. Sketched by surveyor Abbot, the Goodwin property is shown as bordering the south side of West Robinson Street, west of and adjacent to track belonging to South Florida Railroad (SFRR). Even more interesting though historically is another railroad track shown as bordering the north side of West Robinson, across the street from Goodwin’s property. That second track is identified as (T O & A R R). Having an east-west alignment, this was track laid down by “Tavares, Orlando & Atlantic Railroad”, the second train to service Orlando.

Departing from Tavares, 32 miles of track later delivered passengers and freight to track’s end – at the junction of the north-south track of South Florida Railroad. The first TO&A train arrived at Orlando on July 2, 1885, three months after Attorney John M. Goodwin bought his property.

Take another look at the plat above – specifically to where the two railroad tracks meet, and note an “L” shaded structure. Goodwin’s 1885 Plat provides historical evidence of the planned depot for the Tavares, Orlando & Atlantic Railroad at its junction with South Florida Railroad.

Directly south of the terminal (below above), Attorney John M. Goodwin sold lots 1 thru 5 of Block A to John G. Sinclair, formerly of New Hampshire – at that time of Orlando’s Sinclair Real Estate agency. Thirty-two miles northwest, at the Tavares end of this same track, a few blocks off Sinclair Avenue in that up and coming ‘Darling Settlement of Orange County’, was located John G. Sinclair’s second sales office.
Unlike John Goodwin, Isaac Browne decided to swap the frigid New Hampshire winters he had been accustomed to and instead enjoy year-around tropical temperatures in downtown Orlando, Florida. He came to Orange County in 1882, attracted to the area because, quoting fellow New Englander John G. Sinclair, “he wanted to live where the residents of Orange County are free from those sudden climatic changes which are so severe a tax upon the vital energies of residents of the Northern States”. An 1886 directory listed Isaac as an orange grower, living in downtown Orlando on Gertrude Street, north of the Tavares, Orlando & Atlantic Railroad”. (See directory below)   

1886 Webb’s Directory of Orlando, Florida
Orange Grower Isaac A Brown(e) and Attorney William R. Anno

A reporter for the Burlington, Iowa Hawk-Eye interviewed a few Orlando residents in late 1882, and upon returning home, his newspaper published a full page article promoting central Florida. One individual interviewed was identified as “Colonel W. R. Anno, President of the Tavares, Orlando, and Atlantic Railroad”. Four years later, an advertisement for “W. R. Anno, Attorney At Law” appeared on the very page (above) as a resident listing of Orlando orange grower Isaac A. Brown(e), a native of Exeter, New Hampshire.

William R. Anno came to central Florida from Kentucky in the 1870s. Little proof of his one-time existence here remains, although the most obvious landmark is Anno Avenue in historic Pine Castle. Originally West Avenue, Anno and the next two streets to the west were part of an 1884 Addition to Pine Castle by Attorney William R. Anno, President in 1882 of the Tavares, Orlando & Atlantic Railroad.

The other two Pine Castle streets, Maud and Blanche, were named in 1884 by Attorney Anno, but then renamed by the county in 1955. Maud and Blanche were daughters of Pine Castle homesteaders, William R. & Sarah (Nute) Anno.

Attorney W. R. Anno owned another city lot off Maude Street, but this parcel was not part of either Pine Castle or Orlando. Nor had the street been named for Attorney Anno’s daughter.

William R. Anno was deeded, in 1882, a town lot in the newly established city of Tavares. The third lot north of Maud Street on St. Clair-Abrams Avenue, this property was part of a new city which had captured the imagination of most every Orange County resident – and many a New Englander as well.

Maud Street was named for a daughter of Attorney Robert L. Summerlin, Orlando’s Mayor in 1880, whereas St. Clair-Abrams Avenue was named for Attorney Alexander St. Clair-Abrams. Partners in an 1878 Orlando Law firm, the two also became, for a brief 14 months, partners in the 1881 formation of the town of Tavares.

While one can drive St. Clair-Abrams Avenue and Maud Street today, it is no longer possible to drive Summerlin Avenue of 1882. After dissolving their partnership, Summerlin was renamed – twice – the second time to Rockingham Avenue, in “compliment to Hon. Frank Jones, of New Hampshire.” This Tavares artery is still known as Rockingham Avenue today.

A politician, astute businessman, and Capitalist, Frank Jones of Portland, Rockingham County, New Hampshire, not only invested in property at Tavares, he owned as well several town lots at John M. Goodwin’s Addition to Orlando. At one time, the Frank Jones Brewery of Portland was considered the largest brewery in the nation. The success of Frank Jones enabled him to invest in hotels, railroads and even – with regard to central Florida – a new town.

Frank Jones came to the rescue of Tavares in its time of need – which turned out to be more than once! One was his payment of $13,000 to construct the Lake County courthouse at Tavares.

Legal professionals changed the face of a central Florida wilderness into an American Paradise, and nowhere in Florida’s Citrus Belt was this fact more prevalent than in a tiny sliver of land in West Orange County separating Lakes Dora and Eustis. First known as “Hull Place”, and later, Tavares, the origins of more than 40 Lake County towns and place names evolves from here, a place where Cowboys & Lawyers of Orange County imagined a magical place named for “a descendant of The Hermit – Tavares!”
This September: The extraordinary story of 


Darling of Orange County

Birthplace of Lake County

By Richard Lee Cronin

Certainly not every pioneer who came to Florida was an Attorney. Nor was every Capitalist who helped turn a wilderness into America’s 19th century Paradise a lawyer. Still, as I hope this series has demonstrated, the legal professionals of the 1800s sure had a fondness for Florida’s amazing Citrus Belt.

TAVARES: Darling of Orange County, Birthplace of Lake County, will be available at Amazon this September.

For more on William R. Anno and the Pine Castle region, check out my 2017 Award Winning: Beyond Gatlin: A History of South Orange County 

I invite you to also visit my website, - the central Florida online history store, or you can contact me at

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Cowboys & Lawyers Part 11 - Summer 2020 Edition

Cowboys & Lawyers
The Summer Edition

A CitrusLAND Blog Series by Richard Lee Cronin

Old McDonald had a farm, and he had a 19th century law practice too!

A central Florida newspaper correspondent of long, long ago, inspired a prosperous Kentucky publisher to look into Florida’s up and coming Citrus Belt. The Louisville schoolbook publisher did just that, and he then began buying up land – lots and lots of land.

During the 1880s the Louisvillian publisher acquired: 21 acres on Lake Virginia alongside Rollins College; a city lot at Clement R. Tiner’s 1884 town of Pine Castle; another town lot a mile north of Pine Castle at Stanley J. Morrow’s 1885 town of Troy; and then partnered with a fellow Kentuckian in the founding of the entire city of Lakeland. Interested in more than land, he also became a partner in a consortium of Attorneys that were preparing to construct the Tavares, Orlando & Atlantic Railroad.

It was a time in central Florida’s history when everyone seemed to be into building railroads. The personal automobile invention was still decades distant. Most of those who lived in the area at that time journeyed either via horseback or horse drawn carriage, a tedious undertaking on the sand rutted trails of 19th century central Florida. 

So, in 1880, when two trains finally began operating in Orange County, it was clearly a time to rejoice. In no time at all plans emerged for a dozen additional railroads, but the TO&A was thought of by many as unique. The TO&A, you see, was planned as one spoke in a transportation wheel-like hub that promised to improve life - and fortunes - for every resident and land speculator in central Florida.

As for the Louisville publisher first mentioned above, he brought real railroad experience – for he had been one of the original founders of the Louisville & Nashville Railroad and the Texas Pacific Railroad, high-profile railroads up north. This fellow from Louisville added prestige as well as cash for the new railroad - a train having plans to serve the darling of all Orange County towns:



September, 2020

The Louisville book publisher also influenced others to find their way to Florida’s Citrus Belt, among whom was Andrew McDonald, a retired Louisville Attorney.

McDonald Depot, 18 miles northwest of Orlando, was established by Lawyer Andrew McDonald, wife Jane (Gay) McDonald, and neighbors John & Mary (Sessions) Wilkins. McDonald Depot on the Tavares, Orlando & Atlantic Railroad line was “200 yards from the community of Grasmere”, as the Orange County Gazetteer reported in 1887, midway between towns Plymouth and Zellwood. 

McDonald Depot is at the center of this 1890 map above

Today, Orlando-Apopka Airport on Highway 441 sits across from Wilkins Street, site of the 1880s McDonald Depot.  

Andrew & Jane McDonald arrived in Florida in the early 1880s. Sons Dr. M Gay McDonald and younger brother George N. McDonald, a real estate agent, settled at the Grasmere community as well. A Grasmere Post Office opened January 20, 1885, soon after surveyors had selected right-of-way land in that section for the laying down of track for Tavares, Orlando, and Atlantic Railway.  

1885 Plat of McDonald & Wilkins Subdivision showing "Depot" 

The family relocated from Louisville, Kentucky – home as well to John P. Morton, the prominent book publisher who assisted in founding two of our Nation’s most well-known railroads – and who, in 1885, became a stockholder as well in the Tavares, Orlando & Atlantic Railroad Company.

Lawyers and legal professionals were by no means the only central Florida homesteaders, but these professionals did seem to have a fascination with America’s 19th century Paradise. This Summer Edition of my 2020 Blog series will introduce many more fascinating pioneers - lawyers, judges, and legal professionals - and their remarkable plans for West Orange County - a land YOU know today as Lake County. 

My next episode of Cowboys & Attorneys will introduce a York, Maine Attorney and his connection with the Orlando Depot of the Tavares, Orlando & Atlantic Railroad.

This September: The extraordinary story of 


Darling of Orange County

Birthplace of Lake County

By Richard Lee Cronin

P. S. The road in front of John P. Morton's 21 acres at Winter Park is presently known as Holt Avenue, but this road was first known as Kentucky Avenue, as in Louisville, Kentucky.

J. P. Morton parcel on Lake Virginia at Rollins College, Kentucky Avenue is now Holt Avenue

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