Friday, December 18, 2020

PINE CASTLE - Home for the Holidays Part 8: The Finale!



Home for the Holidays

Celebrating America’s 19th Century Paradise


I’ll be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams…

Pine Castle today seems more a state of mind. Google the name and the internet will inform you it is a “census-designated place in Florida”. Schedule a meeting in downtown Pine Castle and the other party will likely ask that you be more specific. A local might feel compelled to clarify they now actually live in Edgewood or Belle Isle, whereas the newcomer might ask for directions to the Pine Castle itself.

As to Pine Castle’s borders there is much confusion. The original Pine Castle, the residence built on Lake Conway in 1874 by Will Wallace Harney (shown above), the very structure for which an 1884 town of Pine Castle was named, would today pay property taxes to the Town of Belle Isle. Airplanes now land 7 miles east of the Harney's lakeside residence at Orlando International Airport, on a World War II runway named Pine Castle Airbase. At least one Pine Castle old-timer recalls a welcome to “Pine Castle” sign on Orange Blossom Trail, 2 miles west of the Harney homestead.

The Pine Castle, Pine Castle, Florida

In February 2021, Pine Castle Pioneer Days will again be celebrated at Cypress Grove Park, two miles north of Harney’s historic Lake Conway residence. But travel to this park from Harney’s place at Pine Castle – or Belle Isle of today - requires driving through the J. J. Reeves 1913 Add to Pine Castle – or today the Town of Edgewood – and then passing through the Ghost Town of Gatlin, an 1880s city founded by Edward Hobbs and son Sidney, residents of Louisville, Kentucky - Will Wallace Harney’s old stomping ground prior to relocating to Pine Castle in 1869. A town of Gatlin encircled Gatlin Hill on three sides – where Harney himself lived in yet another lakeside cabin after moving out of the Pine Castle – a cabin located on land his in-laws had homesteaded when Harney first settled further south at Lake Conway.

Confused? Suffice it to say Pine Castle is more than a present-day census-designated place. Pine Castle is a historical central Florida location - having no defined town limits. It is, as I first stated, a state of mind!

Beyond Gatlin: a History of South Orange County
IF YOU HURRY, click on the book cover above to order from Amazon
for Christmas gifting.

By Richard Lee Cronin 

Pine Castle of 1869 was in many ways synonymous with Fort Gatlin of 1838. Each were part and parcel to the settling of South Orange County, including Kissimmee, which in 1887 became part of a new Osceola County. Edgewood and Belles Isle, both 20th century creations, are reimagined communities that had previously encompassed the first 19th century settlements at Fort Gatlin - and Beyond Gatlin – South Orange County’s Gateway, Pine Castle.

With his new castle-like residence on Lake Conway finished in time for Christmas, Will Wallace Harney invited friends and neighbors to celebrate the 1874 holiday at the, “Pinecastle on Lake Conway”, on the west shore of a lake the Indians had called “Beautiful Water.” Harney himself described his residence: “The house stands on the edge of a slope, a double-winged structure around a central octagon of two stories twenty-four feet in diameter, surmounted by castellated peaks and gothic pointed roof visible at every angle.

Many Kentuckians and Virginians were present”, wrote Harney, and guests from near and far enjoyed the Orange Glee Club and an accompanying band playing such favorites as “My Old Kentucky Home.” Life in central Florida’s 19th century wilderness was anything but easy, but for one extra special Pine Castle Christmas, “the turreted, castellated pine castle glowed and sparkled like a great jewel cut in brilliant facets.”

At 11 o’clock,” wrote Harney, “the folding doors again opened; the Cherokee rose table glittering with decorations and spread with the feasts of delicate tropical fruits, wine-like coffee and the inevitable eggnog under its lace of froth, and an hour of feasting followed.”

Despite hardships, Pine Castle’s earliest settlers paused to celebrate Christmas. Tis a tradition we enjoy to this very day. Merry Christmas to you and yours!


And speaking of tradition, mark your calendar for 


February 27 & 28, 2021

Cypress Grove Park

Reserve a seat today for my FREE Presentation



Pine Castle Pioneer Days

12 NOON, Saturday, February 27, 2020

Email and ask to reserve a seat(s). I will confirm your FREE reservation, and also set aside a FREE autographed booklet,

Namesakes of Pine Castle's Lakes booklet.




From CroninBooks and CitruslandFL


Thursday, December 10, 2020

PINE CASTLE: Home for the Holidays Part 7 - Mary E. Randolph



Home for the Holidays

 The Randolph Bedroom, Vaucluse, Virginia,

William M. Randolph died here in 1876


Mary E. (Pitts) Randolph, Part 7 of 8


Lake Gem Mary, the smallest of three Orange County lakes which helped fortify Fort Gatlin during the Second Seminole Indian War, became known by its present-day name around 1870, the year after William Mayer Randolph bought the land on the north side of the fort. Randolph then named the small lake on his land for his wife, Mary Ellen (Pitts) Randolph.

Neither William nor Mary appeared to be in a rush though to settle at Fort Gatlin, despite their family members setting up homes all around the old fortress. William continued living in New Orleans, where his successful law practice was located, traveling occasionally to Florida to visit his family. Mary did set up a home in Orange County, but not at Fort Gatlin. Mary lived at first nearly 20 miles north, at Fort Reid, where she and her husband also owned property.

Randolph’s Fort Reid property was already historic when they acquired it in 1869. A residence existed on the 40 years referred to then as Woodruff Place, a grove and home of pioneer Elias Woodruff. And so, at Fort Reid in 1869, Mary E. (Pitts) Randolph partnered with Sarah Jane (Couch) Whitner to manage the first-ever freestanding hotel south of Lake Monroe. In fact, the Randolph’s 1869 Christmas gathering likely took place here at the Woodruff residence.

Mary Randolph and Sarah Whitner opened their hotel in the spring of 1870 under the name Alaha Chaco, or Seminole Indian for Orange House Hotel. The historical significance of their venture, and the grove the hotel was built upon, is worth reiterating; Mary and Sarah partnered in 1869 to open the FIRST hotel in Orange County, Florida, on 40 acres that had already become a historic orange grove dating to 1854.


The family of William & Mary Randolph, scattered throughout the South at the end of the Civil War, reunited in central Florida, selected neighboring homesteads, and spent their first Christmas together as central Floridians in December of 1869.

“We kept Christmas here where it never snows or grows apples to the maturity of Apple Toddies. Instead, there is an orange punch about which Hebe and he Nectarine Gods had better inquire.” Will Wallace Harney, January 24, 1872


After the death of William M. Randolph in 1876, Mary continued to acquire property around her Fort Gatlin property, acreage that eventually became known as the “Randolph Peninsular”. In fact, for a time during the early 1880s, one traveling south from Orlando either on foot or by train crossed land belonging to Widow Mary Ellen (Pitts) Randolph.

 The Randolph Peninsular as per Orange County Clerk of Court

 Exhibit 55: Beyond Gatlin, A History of South Orange County

Mary Randolph’s Peninsular of the 1880s included area 7 shown, plus area 6 (this lot was referred to by Mary as the “McBaker” parcel – see Part 6). Mary also acquired the area identified as 7a, but gifted this parcel to her grandson, William Randolph Harney.


The Randolph’s three grown children had relocated to Orange County with their parents. Mary St. Mayer Randolph, the eldest, had married Will Wallace Harney in the summer of 1868, and arrived in Florida with her husband and six-month old child via a rugged journey of a thousand land miles. Mary (Randolph) Harney spent her first and only Florida Christmas with her clan in 1869, dying soon after the New Year. She was buried atop Gatlin Hill, a few steps from the old fortress, but moved relocated to Greenwood Cemetery later by her son.

William Beverly Randolph, son of William & Mary, homesteaded adjacent to the homestead of Will Wallace Harney (See Part 3 of this series). Fanny Lambeth Randolph, youngest of William & Mary Randolph’s children, resided with her mother at the Orange House Hotel in Fort Reid, where she died in 1892, leaving three children and her husband, Benjamin M. Robinson.

Randolph contributions to the development of South Orange County were many. William and Mary both earned mentions in my books First Road to Orlando and Beyond Gatlin: A History of South Orange County. Mary E. (Pitts) Randolph however was more than wife, a hotel operator, and land speculator. She was also a grandmother, “mamma” to those who lovingly knew her as the matriarch of the Fort Gatlin Randolph’s. In that role, likely one Mary enjoyed the most, she was immortalized by her son in law and poet, Will Wallace Harney.

It was a lazy afternoon in 1873, and the grandparents were visiting the Harney Homestead. The renowned New Orleans Attorney at this moment was simply grandpa, dozing by Lake Conway as his grandson played ball with Mustard, the family dog.

“A sweet little rustic scene it is

Of tropical splendor and homely bliss.

The sunburned baby, as brown as a nut,

Tosses the ball in the broad log-hut.

Till Mustard catches it, hand over hand,

And rolls outside, with a bump, on the sand.”


Baby and Mustard Playing Ball was written by Will Wallace Harney in 1873. His poem informs us that despite the daily trials and tribulations settlers had to endure in the wilds of 19th century central Florida, there was also those precious moments when they could pause and be parents – or grandparents, even when an unsuspecting snake burst on the scene.

“Courage little one, chubby and tough,

But surely now you have done enough?

Not, with your baby and naked hands,

To grapple the pretty thing in the sands.

Yet grandpa’s shout and mamma’s scream

Burst like life in a startled dream.

Too late, but Mustard has heard the call,

And goes for the snake instead of the ball.


Mary Ellen Pitts, born 1816 at Essex County, Virginia, met William Mayer Randolph (1815-1876) at Tallahassee. They married in Kentucky September 10, 1838. Her family brought about the Randolph’s move to New Orleans, but they also established a home at St. Charles, Missouri prior to the Civil War. She died at Orange County, Florida October 12, 1886, and was laid to rest at Gatlin Hill, beside her husband William and firstborn child Mary, at old Fort Gatlin.

That same month, in the same year, son in law Will Wallace Harney released his poem called The Reapers.

Next week, PINE CASTLE: Home for the Holidays, concludes as we feature yet another amazing Fort Gatlin area pioneer.

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Thursday, December 3, 2020

PINE CASTLE Home for the Holidays - Part 6: J. McRobert BAKER


Home for the Holidays

Celebrating America’s Paradise


Part 6: The Senator of Fort Gatlin

Joseph McRobert Baker 1825-1864

The name Joseph McRobert Baker never made it into Orange County history books, not until, that is, I introduced the man - and his involvement in settling 19th century central Florida - in my book, Beyond Gatlin: A History of South Orange County. Published in 2017, I am honored to say this book became the recipient that year of Pine Castle Historical Society’s 2017 Book Award.

Joseph Baker’s absence from central Florida history is not because he failed to accomplish things worthy of mention. As a Florida State Senator in 1856, for example, J. McRobert Baker served as Chairman of a Special Committee assigned to review an 1854 Act that significantly reduced Orange County’s landmass. The committee found nothing unconstitutional about the formation of Volusia County though, and so recommended the Bill be passed. That formation of Volusia County meant Orange County lost half of its 1850 population, not to mention the elimination of all of Orange County’s oceanfront property.

Baker’s involvement in central Florida however did not end with forming Volusia County. After serving one term as Jacksonville Mayor, Joseph McRobert Baker, while continuing to live at Jacksonville, became active as well in central Florida politics. Baker served three terms as State Senator of the 19th Senatorial District in 1856, 1858 and 1859. His district encompassed Orange and Sumter Counties, a territory that included Fort Gatlin.

While Baker represented the district in 1856, Aaron Jernigan organized the Orange County Militia at Fort Gatlin. Later that year at Fort Gatlin, Captain Isaac N. Rutland took over command of Jernigan’s Militia. Then, in 1861, Baker was deeded 30 acres at Fort Gatlin, a deed made out to “Joseph M. Baker of Sumpter County”. His land bordered the northwest shore of Lake Gatlin and included the west half of what remained at that time of the abandoned Army post.

Area #6 on the above map shows the location of the 30 acres owned by J. McRobert Baker.

Areas #1 thru #5 were featured in earlier Parts 1 thru 5 of this series. 

As Joseph McRobert Baker was being deeded land at Fort Gatlin, Captain Isaac N. Rutland was heading to Tallahassee, where he served as a delegate at Florida’s 1861 Secession Convention, representing Florida’s 19th Senatorial District – the district Joseph McRobert Baker had represented a year earlier as State Senator.

Isaac voted NO to Secession, vanished during the War, and then, like Joseph McRobert Baker, Isaac Newton Rutland was also left out of Orange County history books.

Orange County’s 5 Star Rated Civil-War Historical Mystery Novel

Meanwhile, back at the fortress:

“Half a mile or more from where I write is the site of old Fort Gatlin, with its camp drill grounds and marks of old quarters and chimneys standing till last year, a refuge of the pioneer from the Indians.”

Will Wallace Harney, October 22, 1871

Portions of the old fort were still standing when Joseph McRobert Baker acquired his land, a known fact as 7 years later, in 1868, Pine Castle's legendary Will Wallace Harney, a newcomer then to the area, crossed Baker’s property on his way south to Lake Conway. In 1871 Harney described the fort’s ruins as quoted above.

Senator Baker’s Fortress”, the title of Chapter 3 of Beyond Gatlin: A History of South Orange County, describes the importance of Baker’s parcel to the overall settlement of the South Orange County. Surveys completed 20 years before Baker bought here details how the Fort Mellon to Fort Gatlin trail meandered for nearly 28 miles, from lake’s edge at Lake Monroe, south through a vast uninhabited wilderness, through what would one day become the Village of Orlando, only to end abruptly at a fortress named Gatlin. The Fort Mellon to Fort Gatlin trail became the First Road to Orlando!


First Road to Orlando, Second Edition (2015)

The purpose of Fort Gatlin in 1838 had been to station troops in proximity to Lake Tohpekaliga, but General Jesup reached Tohopekaliga using an alternate route - further west, from Lake Eustis via the west side of Lake Apopka. But it seems unlikely the Gatlin bound trail dead ended at the Fort Gatlin grounds. We can establish that, by the mid-1840s, Aaron Jernigan had extended the 1838 trail south from the fortress to lake’s edge at Lake Tohopekaliga.

Until the forts trail was replaced by a trail further west of the fortress, where Orange Avenue now runs north and south, the main road south from Orlando required travelers to take a sharp turn at Fort Gatlin. Those desiring to visit David Mizell, Sr. on Lake Conway would turn left (east), but those continuing south via the easiest route would turn right (west) – to get around Lake Gatlin and larger Lake Conway. And turning westward at Fort Gatlin crossed the land Joseph McRobert Baker had selected as his very own parcel in 1861. What did the ex-Senator from Jacksonville have in mind for this parcel?

Baker’s 1861 ownership at Fort Gatlin is especially noteworthy when considering others who owned land in the immediate vicinity. Last week this series featured Isaphoenia C. Speer and her property north of Fort Gatlin at Lake Pineloch. The old forts trail also crossed her 160 acres in its approach to the north side of the fortress. Adjacent to Baker, on the south side of Lake Gatlin, was nearly 280 acres owned by the original surveyor of South Orange County, Benjamin F. Whitner. And off to the east was the sprawling Mizell estate.

The Civil War interrupted whatever plan was in store for old Fort Gatlin of 1861, and by the time guns finally fell silent, the only pre-war Fort Gatlin trail landowner to survive was Whitner. As for Joseph McRobert Baker, he had been killed on the battlefield in 1864 at Richmond, Virginia. 

Beyond Gatlin: A History of South Orange County

After War’s end, the Randolph family joined with Benjamin F. Whitner in an attempt to bring the Fort Gatlin area back to life. William M. Randolph purchased hundreds of acres, and following his death, his wife, Mary (Pitts) Randolph, continued to add to the family’s landholdings. One parcel acquired by Mary on June 1, 1882 included a notation that the land was being acquired from: “Amelia E. Baker, being the widow of J. McRobert Baker, deceased.”

Next week, PINE CASTLE: Home for the Holidays, Part 7, continues as we feature yet another amazing Fort Gatlin area pioneer, Mary E. (Pitts) Randolph

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BEYOND GATLIN: A History of South Orange County
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Based on true-life pioneers and a real-life mystery



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Thursday, November 26, 2020

PINE CASTLE: Home for the Holidays: Part 5 - Lady Isaphoenia



Home for the Holidays

Celebrating America’s Paradise

 Part 5: Lady Isaphoenia


Isaphoenia C. (Ellington) Speer 1824-1867

Any history discussion of Fort Gatlin and nearby Pine Castle without inclusion of Lady Isaphoenia, arguably the most remarkable central Florida frontierswoman of all-time, would be nothing less than an injustice to the remarkable history of this area. Lady Isaphoenia was first introduced by this author in the first sentence, of the first paragraph, of my first book. Here is that exact 2013 introduction:

“Prologue: The Lost Kingdom of Central Florida

Lady Isaphoenia arrived in central Florida a wife and mother to five, the youngest not yet then a year old. Within 3 years, and after giving birth to a sixth child, Isaphoenia began accumulating land, lots of land! This intriguing lady’s true story is fascinating, especially when considering the pivotal, albeit long overlooked, role she played in Central Florida’s earliest stages of settlement.”

CitrusLAND: Curse of Florida’s Paradise, (2013); Second Edition (2016)


Isaphoenia came to central Florida in 1854, arriving with husband James G. Speer the same year Orange County’s coastal beaches, and all land east of the St. Johns River, was removed from Orange and made apart of a new Volusia County. Half of the nearly 500 Orange County citizens residing here in 1850 became residents of Volusia County as of 1854, leaving 250 or so settlers to populate 3,000 square miles of Orange County’s smaller wilderness. 

Orange County of 1854 had NO city. There were no roads to speak of either – only sand-rutted trails accessible via horse, ox team, or walking. Coming ashore at Mellonville, on the south shore of Lake Monroe near where Sanford is today, the Speer family followed a trail inland 1.5 miles to an abandoned Army fort named Reid. There they found the first of two Orange County stores in existence at that time, the second being a bit further south - like 20 miles dirt miles south – where a remote settlement was still two years shy of becoming the Village of Orlando.

That was Orange County of 1854 – no town and only two stores in a land of 3,000 square miles of free-ranging cows, a few log cabins, lots of palmetto brush - and far too many sandspurs.

 Orange County of 1850 offered ocean-front property at New Smyrna

(New Smyrna of 1845 was Orange County's Second Post Office)

Seventeen years after Isaphoenia came ashore in central Florida, another pioneer told of his difficult journey from Lake Monroe to Orlando, and of seeing only one house and store between Fort Reid and Orlando - at Maitland. Neither the house nor store house however had existed when Isaphoenia made that same difficult trek in 1854.

Orange County of 1854 was a treacherous place for a man to live, but an even tougher place for a woman to survive. Many a frontierswoman perished their first year in Orange County's wilderness, often during or soon after childbirth.


Isaphoenia C, (Ellington) Speer and husband James Gamble Speer are most often associated historically with Orlando and West Orange County’s Oakland, history ignoring their intriguing and mysterious association with land further south at Lake Pineloch (#5 on map). At 160 acres square, this property served, literally, as a gateway to the origins of settlements at Fort Gatlin and Pine Castle. The old Fort Mellon to Fort Gatlin trail, the main road to Fort Gatlin up until the mid-1870s, crossed the acreage Lady Isaphoenia acquired in 1860.

Even today, travel south on Orange Avenue toward Pine Castle crosses over land once deeded solely in the name of Isaphoenia C. Speer.

 Number 5 on map is the 160 acres owned in 1860 by Isaphoenia C. Speer; See Parts 1 thru 4 of this series for details about the homesteaders of areas identified above as parcels 1 thru 4.


The mystery and intrigue of these 160 acres extends beyond her ownership to include the next owners, Francis W. Eppes (80 acres) and Nicholas P. Trist (80). Eppes is well-known to local history as the grandson of President Thomas Jefferson. Trist, not as well known in this area, was the husband of a Jefferson granddaughter, and the ex-President’s Private Secretary.

In 1868, William Mayer Randolph arrived in central Florida with his family, purchased 200 acres adjacent to the front door of old fortress Gatlin – directly south on the trail of the 160 acres Lady Isaphoenia had owned prior to her death a year earlier. Widower James Speer had tried to sell his deceased wife’s land in 1868 – even going as far to sign a contract – but Randolph arranged for that sale to be voided, acquired the property himself, and then conveyed half each to Eppes and Trist. Thousands of vacant acres surrounded Lady Isaphoenia’s land in 1868, so what was so special about the 160 acres along the west shore of Lake Pineloch?

The simple answer - family!

1876 Death notice of William M. Randolph

Was it a coincidence that Lady Isaphoenia had lineage ties to the Eppes family? Was it purely coincidental that Lady Isaphoenia descended as well from a Virginia Jones family, a family who had a proud heritage of men named Orlando? Was it a coincidence William M. Randolph, in 1876, returned to Virginia to live out his final days on earth at the residence of William Strother Jones?

 Vaucluse, Virginia, residence of William Strother Jones
The Jones residence has been restored as a B&B. One of the bedrooms is named "The Randolph".

Coincidences - No! Fort Gatlin had originated in 1838 as a military fortress, but the earliest of settlers to follow had big plans for this remote region. Lady Isaphoenia played a role in that grand plan, and for that reason, any history discussion of Fort Gatlin and nearby Pine Castle, in South Orange County, must include Lady Isaphoenia, the most remarkable frontierswoman of central Florida, first introduced by this author in the first sentence, of the first paragraph, of his first book.

Her legacy, as well as that of her family’s connection to the development of Orlando and South Orange County, unfold on the pages of three of my central Florida history books, a trio that is a perfect holiday gift set for every history lover in your family.

CitrusLAND: Curse of Florida’s Paradise

First Road to Orlando

Beyond Gatlin: A History of South Orange County


Is Holiday Shopping on your mind?

Give a lasting gift of central Florida history

BEYOND GATLIN: A History of South Orange County
Rated 4 Stars at  

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A Central Florida Civil-War Novel
Based on true-life pioneers and a real-life mystery



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Happy Holidays 

Thursday, November 19, 2020

PINE CASTLE - Home for the Holidays Part 4: NATHANIEL POYNTZ



Home for the Holidays

Celebrating America’s Paradise


Part 4: Nathaniel Baldwin Poyntz

Nathaniel Baldwin Poyntz (1847-1928

Too old” was the bureaucrat’s 1926 excuse as to why Nathaniel Baldwin Poyntz had been denied his soldier’s bonus application. Then nearly 80 years old, Nathaniel learned of the denial while at work in a Massachusetts Army field office. At that time, 60 years after the Civil War had ended, Nat Poyntz was the only Confederate Veteran still on active duty roles of the Regular Army. But not only had his special bonus been denied – Poyntz was also unable to retire from the service because, said the Army, there was no provision in the retirement laws for the “Poyntz case”. And so Nathaniel Poyntz continued working as a Boston Quartermaster field clerk until his death in 1928 – a week before Christmas.

A native of “neutral” Kentucky, Nathaniel B. Poyntz likely lied about his age when enlisting in the Civil War at Maysville, Mason County, Kentucky. It appears he was only about 14 years of age when he enlisted in Company C of Kentucky’s 9th Confederate Calvary. The Blue Grass State was likewise home during the Civil War of Pine Castle homesteader Will Wallace Harney. Harney was one of three co-publishers at the start of the War at a Louisville newspaper that was a staunch Union supporter – again, in a state that had pledged neutrality in the conflict.

After War’s end, Nathaniel Poyntz, in 1870, relocated to Orange County, where the Confederate Veteran homesteaded on 78 lakeside acres at Lake Conway (see #4 on map below), land adjoining Will Wallace Harney’s lakeside homestead. Ex-Union newspaperman Harney, by 1870, had become the Widow of a proud Louisiana Southern Belle.

Today, Nela Avenue heads east from Orange Avenue along the south property line of the 1870s homestead of Nathaniel B. Poyntz. Matchett Road now runs north from Nela Avenue, crossing the one-time Poyntz homestead in its approach to the Harney homestead.

Nathaniel B. Poyntz Homestead (#4 above); other numbered homesteads of this series: 

W. R. Anno #1; Florence Milton #2; William & Minnie (Iverson) Randolph #3

Enemies during the Civil War, the veterans who relocated to central Florida immediately after the war set aside their war-time differences to become neighbors, friends, and even civic leaders.

Nathaniel Poyntz married Levinia Strode in 1872, and soon thereafter, he returned to his Pine Castle homstead accompanied by his hometown Kentucky bride. But then, a few years later, he decided to settle instead in downtown Orlando. The Poyntz family move to Orlando coincided with the start of Nathaniel’s active involvement in Orlando development. After two years as Orange County Tax Collector, he teamed up with central Florida’s legendary pioneer James Parramore to form Poyntz & Parramore Real Estate Company.

Nathaniel and Levinia, (“Vina” to locals), built a handsome residence at the southwest corner of Magnolia Avenue and Amelia Street, adjoining property that, in 1885, became part of a “Poyntz & Parramore Subdivision”. (The Poyntz home, in 1900, sold to Alexander H. Darrow of Chicago, Illinois, who converted the structure into the Darrow Hotel. A third owner expanded the 15 room Darrow Hotel into the Wyoming Hotel).


Around the time Nat relocated from Pine Castle to Orlando, in 1875, he also teamed up with a small group of pioneers to establish Orlando’s Greenwood Cemetery. He then established the first bank in Orlando around 1883, although banking eventually proved to be Nathaniel’s central Florida downfall. Also in 1883, Nathaniel Poyntz teamed up with Pine Castle’s William R. Anno (Part 1 of this series), and others, to organize the Tavares, Orlando & Atlantic Railroad. (As told in my book, Tavares: Darling of Orange County, Birthplace of Lake County, Anno and Poyntz were two of three “Pine Castle Boys” (pages 264-270), with the third being John P. Morton - a long-established Louisville family and friend of the Will Wallace Harney family.

Nathaniel Poyntz was among the first of many Orange County pioneers to take interest in the new 1882 town of Tavares, personally acquiring in February of that year several downtown lots.

Lavinia (Strode) Poyntz died at her family home in 1894 at the age of 46. “She possessed many excellent qualities”, said her obituary, “and was an affectionate wife and mother and her home bore an enviable reputation for genuine hospitality that was shared by hundreds of people in every walk of life.”  

After the death of Lavinia in 1894, a personal tragedy coinciding with Florida’s horrific Freeze of 1894-95 which brought about the collapse of central Florida’s economy, Nathaniel Poyntz returned to active military service. He served in both the Philippines and World War I, and thereafter, continued serving as a Quartermaster clerk for the Army at Massachusetts. Poyntz died at his Massachusetts post on the 18th of December, 1928, and was laid to rest alongside Levinia at their hometown of Maysville, Mason County, Kentucky.

Is Holiday Shopping on your mind?

Give a lasting gift of central Florida history

BEYOND GATLIN: A History of South Orange County
Rated 4 Stars at  

Not quite at the Free shipping order amount?
A Central Florida Civil-War Novel
Based on true-life pioneers and a real-life mystery



Click on this link to purchase a book now: 

Happy Holidays 

Thursday, November 12, 2020

PINE CASTLE Home for the Holidays Part 3: MINNIE



Home for the Holidays

Celebrating America’s Paradise

Minnie (Iverson) Randolph - Part 3

Mrs. Minnie Iverson Randolph (1912 Atlanta, Georgia)

Dateline Atlanta, GA 1947: “Her husband was William Beverly Randolph, a wealthy Floridian, who was also a spoiled scion, she says, and when her son, William Beverly Randolph II, was 12, the elder Randolph died and left her with a frozen orange grove, no money, and a growing son.”

Pine Castle’s Hoffner Avenue of today, heading east from Hansel Avenue, crosses first land that in 1870 was the northernmost tip of Will Wallace Harney’s historic homestead. After that, nearer to Marinell Drive, Hoffner Avenue encroaches on a peninsular having Lake Conway on either side, acreage that is yet another historic homestead dating to the early 1870s. Better known for its third owner, Charles H. Hoffner, who bought the abandoned homestead after Florida’s Great Freeze of 1894-95, this property had originally been the homestead of William Beverly Randolph I.

Mary Caroline “Minnie” Iverson, daughter of pioneer Alfred Holt Iverson, became the second wife of William Beverly Randolph, son of William & Mary (Pitts) Randolph, landowners in 1870 of extensive land at Fort Gatlin as well as proprietors of the Orange House Hotel at Fort Reid. They were also in-laws of Pine Castle's very own, Will Wallace Harney.

Widow Minnie (Iverson) Randolph was interviewed a second time on August 3, 1947 when she was 89 years of age. At that time, Minnie was still a fulltime employee, President of Randolph Beauty Shop of Atlanta, Georgia. She had been interviewed thirty-two years earlier, in 1912, at which time the Georgia newspaper proclaimed Minnie Iverson Randolph as “one of the most successful of Atlanta’s women in business.”

#3 on above map: Homestead of William B & Minnie Iverson Randolph
#1 and #2 are explained in Parts 1 & 2 of this Blog Series 

As a young girl, Minnie came to Orange County in the late 1870s, living first near Maitland with her father and stepmother. The family later moved further south to Shingle Creek. By the mid-1880s, Miss Minnie was investing in land, buying for example a town parcel on the corner of Central Avenue and Gertrude Street in downtown Orlando. Minnie then married William B. Randolph on June 10, 1884, and their first and only child, William B. Randolph II, was born near Pine Castle in 1892.

Mrs. Minnie Randolph traveled to Atlanta in 1895 for a singing debut, where she was proclaimed to be “one of Florida’s most-delightful sopranos”. Later that year the freeze occurred, and Minnie relocated with her son to Atlanta, where she went to work in the advertising business. By the early 20th century, Minnie changed careers once again, entering the beauty business.

I simply had to do it,” said Minnie in 1947 of entering the Beauty trade, a career change that led to her training the first-ever class of beauty operators at Atlanta Opportunity School.

Doris Lockerman, Woman’s News Editor for the Atlanta Constitution in 1947, described the 89 year old Minnie as keeping a “doll-size little body straight as a ramrod, her blue eyes mischievous and clear, ‘though I read every night lying down, and her crown of white hair high on a lofty head.

I think children ought to be taught family backgrounds,” said Minnie Iverson Randolph, for it “would give all youngsters a feeling of confidence.” Although she spent only a brief time as a resident of Pine Castle, Minnie’s upbringing at Orange County’s 19th century wilderness had no doubt implanted – as Will Harney himself described his fellow Orange County pioneers – “as having the pluck and energy” necessary to face adversities head on, tackle every challenge life presented - and rise to success at a time in our history when few women ever entered the business world.


THE perfect holiday gift this season: Central Florida History by R. L. Cronin 

In May of 2018 this author received the following email: I am a direct descendant of Wm Beverly Randolph, Sr (my father is his grandson) and was completely awed by your tree. I spoke my great-great grandparent’s names for the first time today! My father’s Randolph lineage was always mysterious. My father was raised an only child by his mother and never spoke of Randolph relations other than Minnie.”

Mary Caroline ‘Minnie’ Iverson died at Dekalb, Georgia on July 2, 1953.

BEYOND GATLIN: A History of South Orange County
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Happy Holidays