Sunday, May 6, 2018


Sanford & St. Petersburg Railroad Engine #6 (left); Edward T. Stotesbury (right)

50 States of central Florida, Part 1:

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

All 50 States played a role in founding central Florida, and CitrusLAND will pay tribute to such remarkable individuals each Sunday throughout the summer of 2018, doing so in the order States were admitted to our Union of States. This week our spotlight shines on Delaware, our Nation’s first State, admitted December 7, 1787; and Pennsylvania, admitted as State #2 on December 12, 1787.


ORLANDO CITIZENS BANK was insolvent by 1894, but reopened only months before Florida’s great freeze of 1895, reorganized under the guidance of a DELAWARE native, ISAAC W. C. PARKER. He had first owned land at OVIEDO in East Orange County, then moved to ORLANDO, where after rescuing a bank, he served as Orange County Tax Collector.

Dr. Joseph F. TANTUM was listed as afflicted with a disease in Delaware’s 1880 census, and mentioned in WINTER PARK’S Loring CHASE scrapbook of 1883: “For medical testimony as to the healthfulness of this region, ask J. R. Tantum, M. D. Of Wilmington, Delaware.” Our Nation’s first State sent CitrusLAND a bank rescuer along with a medical doctor who vouched for Orange County as being a healthy place to live.

The contribution by Parker and Tantum may have helped alter a view locals had long held about our Nation’s first State. Three decades earlier, when Orlando barely qualified as a town, three local boys, two of whom were residents of the four acre Village of Orlando, experienced a very inhospitable DELAWARE.

William B. HULL and George TERRELL were Orlando businessmen when both were called to the Civil War battlefields up north. They were both captured at Gettysburg, and as neither were officers, they were imprisoned at Fort DELAWARE, on an island in Delaware Bay.

HULL lived to tell of his experience, TERRELL, the merchant from Orlando’s Lot 1, did not. He died a   prisoner in October, 1863. William B. WATSON lived at ENTERPRISE, on the north shore of Lake Monroe, and he too served in the War, as Captain of WATSON’S Home Guard Unit. Watson was captured at Cook’s Ferry (on Lake Jesup), and was also imprisoned at Fort DELAWARE.


A Russian immigrant opened up West Orange County for settlements with the founding of the Orange Belt Railway, but it was a Philadelphian who assisted the railway financially, including providing the cash to extend the line to the Gulf of Mexico. Banker Edward T. STOTESBURY of Philadelphia continued on in 1892 as President of OBRR after founder Peter Demens left the State. Stotesbury is shown at right in the above post.

CitrusLAND: Ghost Towns & Phantom Trains journeys aboard the OBRR with Edward T. Stotesbury days after Florida’s Great Freeze of 1894-95. This historic novel introduces true-life homesteaders and towns each founded such as: Sylvan Lake, Island Lake, Glen Ethel, Palm Springs, Forest City, Toronto, Lakeville, Clarcona, Crown Point, Winter Garden and Oakland. Along the way you learn of a half-dozen other railroads the OBRR encountered on its way to Oakland. Note the named President of Orange Belt Railway in the schedule above, dated April, 1893.

Mary LAMBETH was yet another remarkable frontierswoman! On 200 acres in what is today Seminole County, Miss Mary, a native of PENNSYLVANIA, founded Town of ISLAND LAKE, designing her city amidst an orange grove she herself farmed. The Orange Belt Railway crossed over her land, making regular stops at Miss Lambeth’s depot. After Florida’s freeze of 1894-95, she donated her land to the PITTSBURG Orphans Home, and departed Florida. Mary Lambeth and her town are featured in CitrusLAND: Ghost Towns & Phantom Trains book.

1887 Plat of Island Lake

Hamilton DISSTON of Philadelphia paid off Florida’s staggering pre-Civil War debt. In 1881, he received four-million acres of public lands, at $0.25 per acre, in exchange for $1,000,000. Disston’s saw manufacturing business, a firm founded by his father and is today DISSTON TOOL Company, had made the transaction possible.

Many Pennsylvania’s deserve mention, but as space is limited, I’ll mention two others. Jane MURRAY of NEW SMYRNA, one of only three females in the 1840 central Florida census, was one amazing frontierswoman, while Philadelphia Attorney James M. WILLCOX, first of MAITLAND and later of Orlando, are deserving of special recognition.

For more on CitrusLAND and 19th century central FLORIDA:
The Orange Belt Railway and Edward T. Stotesbury are featured in: CitrusLAND: Ghost Towns & Phantom Trains. Learn more at my OBRR page at or #MrEdwardT on social media.

Next Sunday: Participants from 
New Jersey, Georgia and Connecticut

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