Thursday, March 31, 2022

Women's History Month - Day 31


Frontierswomen of Central Florida

Cornelia (Wright) Whipple

A Women’s History Month Tribute

By Richard Lee Cronin,

31 March 2022

Day 31

Throughout March, CitrusLAND has observed Women’s History Month by honoring 100 extraordinary Central Florida frontierswomen. We have featured too a history museum and or society each day, providing contact information. We hope you have enjoyed this series, and we hope too that you will visit one or more of our Central Florida museums.

See our featured History Museum later in this Post


Winifred #Wood Estey of Tangerine

She was 18 months old when her parents brought her to Orange County from her birthplace of Massachusetts in 1884, and when Winifred (Wood) Estey died at the age of 90 in June of 1974, she was the longest known resident ever of the community of Tangerine, Florida. A historian, Winifred authored several local histories, including Tangerine Memoirs in 1957, an invaluable reference tool for those desiring to know more about the historic town of Tangerine.

A Find-A-Grave memorial of Winifred (Wood) Estey provides a clear and concise biography of this amazing Central Florida frontierswoman: “Winifred was the daughter of George H. and Calista Stebbins Wood. She and her family moved to Tangerine, Florida, in 1885, and she lived there the remaining days of her life. She married Clarence H. Estey.

Winifred Wood (1910)

“She served as treasurer of the Tangerine Water Company, was a trustee of Waterman Memorial Hospital Association, a graduate of Rollins College, a member of the Rollins Alumni, treasurer of the Tangerine Community Church, a treasurer of the church's Ladies Society, President of the Lake County Historical Society, and the Orange County Historical Society. Winifred was a regent of the Ocklawaha Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution. She was the author of History of the South Florida Chautauqua and History of the Tangerine Community Church (1886-1973).

“Winifred was an honorary member of the Florida State Historical Society. She was an organizer and member of Descendants of Plymouth Colony and past President of the Lake County Federation of Women's Clubs.

“Mrs. Estey was active in the Tangerine Improvement Society and was a member of the Tangerine Garden Club and Chapter Number 103, Order of the Eastern Star, Mt. Dora. She was past honorary state president of Daughters of 1812, past President of the Francis Dade Chapter of Daughters of 1812, past Regent (1945-1947) of the Ocklawaha chapter of Daughters of the American Revolution and past treasurer of the State Regents Club of the Daughters of the American Revolution”.

Winifred (Wood) Estey

Special thanks to Historian Colleen G of Tangerine, Florida, for reminding us of the amazing Winifred (Wood) Estey of Central Florida.

Henrietta #Worthington Speer of Orlando & Sanford

The pain and suffering endured by the tiny village of Orlando before, during, and after the Civil War was memorialized in the life of Henrietta (Worthington) Speer, first daughter of Orlando, and eldest child of John R. Worthington.

Her father served as Orlando’s first postmaster beginning September 18, 1857, moving from South Carolina to Orange County after a brief stay in Georgia. Henrietta was born January 28, 1842, at South Carolina, and she was only 17 years old when both her mother and a sister died, presumably at Orlando, in 1859.

Robert B. F. Roper, an eyewitness to 1861 Orlando, described the Worthington House: “There was a frame house north of the courthouse owned by J. R. Worthington and used as a boarding house; here the judge and lawyers boarded when holding court.”

When War was declared, Henrietta’s father and eldest brother, Milton, went off to serve with Florida’s Calvary. Neither returned home to the Worthington House. Her brother Milton died of disease at Florida’s Camp Finegan in 1863. Her father, John r. Worthington, was killed during a ‘skirmish’ at Gainesville, Florida. A younger brother died in 1868.

One of a family of six in 1858, Henrietta was the only Worthington alive in 1868. Henrietta lived at Mellonville (Sanford) after marrying, September 28, 1870, Arthur Algernon Speer, first son of Orange County’s first family, Dr. Algernon & Christiania Ginn Speer. (Christiania was featured earlier in this Women’s History Month series).

Arthur Algernon, named for his grandfather Arthur Ginn and his father, had made their home at Mellonville while Sanford was in its infancy. Each of their four children were named for family members: Christiania Speer for Arthur’s mother (born in 1871); Arthur Ginn Speer (Born 1872); Milton Alexander for Henrietta;s brother (born 1877); and Ella Louise Speer (born 1881).

Henrietta (Worthington) Speer 

Widow Henrietta (Worthington) Speer and her children departed Orange County after burying Arthur in 1889. They settled first at Live Oak, Florida, then Alabama. At age 80, October 11, 1922, Orlando’s first daughter, Henrietta Worthington Speer, an Orange County frontierswoman forgotten by local historians, died at Birmingham, Alabama.

[Further reading: First Road to Orlando, by Richard Lee Cronin]


Cornelia #Wright Whipple of Maitland

“Mrs. Whipple was, as the Bishop has always said, his right hand in all good work.” Bishop Henry B. Whipple and wife Cornelia (Wright) became Orange County snowbirds in 1876. Residents of Faribault, Minnesota, the two looked forward each year to spending winters at Maitland, where in addition to building a winter residence on the ‘Maitland Branch’, they also established the Church of the Good Shepherd. Their historic church still stands today.

Accounts of the Whipple’s in central Florida most often center around the Bishop, but one could argue the spotlight should in fact shine on Cornelia. The Bishop himself credited his wife for him joining the Episcopal Church in the first place, as Cornelia had been the driving force behind his every action.

A devout Christian, Cornelia was the first born of one of our State’s earliest influential Christian families. Her sister Sarah was the first wife of St. Augustine Attorney George R. Fairbanks, a Florida historian, and prominent member of the Episcopal Church. As early as 1850, Fairbanks owned 1,000 acres in northern Orange County. And Cornelia’s brother was the Reverend Benjamin Wright of Leon County, Florida.

Cornelia (Wright) Whipple was a staunch supporter of educating women and served for years as house mother of St. Mary’s Hall in her hometown. She also cared for American Indian families who lived near her Minnesota residence.

“After the death of two of her children,” said Cornelia’s obituary, “Mrs. Whipple determined to build a Church and Parsonage to their memory.” The Maitland Church, said that obituary, “is made up of those reared in different communions and is known as the church of the Good Shepherd.”

Cornelia (Wright) Whipple died in 1890 of injuries sustained in a railroad accident. The train derailed while Cornelia was on her way south to Maitland, Florida for the winter.

Cornelia (Wright) Whipple is also our 100th Central Florida frontierswoman, the last – but by no means the least - of our featured pioneers during this year’s Women’s History Month.


Follow Author & Historian Richard Lee Cronin

Central Florida Author & Historian, Richard Cronin 

Our History Museum of the Day

Performing a bit of research in Lake County, Florida 

Tavares Research Center

Coming soon to Tavares, Florida. Tavares Historical Society is nearly finished with restoring their building at Alfred Street and Joanna Avenue as a family history research facility. Watch for the grand opening celebration at the Research Center later this year.

I do hope you enjoyed this month-long series 

31 Days, 100 Amazing Central Florida Frontierswomen!


Questions or Comments, Email


Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Women's History Month - Day 30


Frontierswomen of Central Florida

Emily (Watson) Hull

A Women’s History Month Tribute

By Richard Lee Cronin,

30 March 2022

Day 30

CitrusLAND is observing Women’s History Month by honoring extraordinary Central Florida frontierswomen. And as we celebrate Women’s History Month throughout March, we are also featuring each day a History Museum, listing their days and hours of operation.

See also our featured History Museum in this Post


Emily #Watson Hull of Orlando

Emily is unquestionably the “Mother of Orlando.” Although she wasn’t the first pioneer to live in the 1856 village, she the kept doors to the abandoned city open during the Civil War. Had it not been for Emily Watson Hull, no telling what might have happened to four acres that had been planned by others as Orange County’s seat of government.

Born at Marietta, GA, Emily Watson married May 21, 1854, and departed soon after for Florida. She was 18 years old when she and her husband, William Hull, journeyed overland to Orange County, arriving at Fort Reid (Sanford) with thirty-two (32) other courageous souls in covered wagons. When the Hull’s arrived in 1855, there was no town of Orlando, and Orange County’s total population had yet to top 300 residents (Volusia, formed in 1854, accounted for more than 50% of the Orange County’s 1850 population).

Families had clustered around old fort sites, places having names such as Fort Mellon, Fort Reid, and Fort Gatlin. There was no railroad, nor would there be for another 25 years. Roads were dirt paths worn a decade earlier by the military in search of Indians.

William and Emily Harriet Hull settled first at Fort Reid, a settlement just over a mile south of Lake Monroe. The family then moved again about a year later, moving further south to become one of Orlando’s first families.

Established in 1856-57, Orlando was barely four years old when the Civil War began, and Emily watched as her husband went to war with most every male of the village. William was wounded twice, then captured at Gettysburg and imprisoned for 23 months at Fort Delaware. He could not return home to Orlando until after War’s end.

While William was away, Emily ran the boarding house she and her husband at Orlando, caring for the occasional guest. Emily also served as the Confederate Postmistress at Orlando. “Mrs. Hull furnished dinner to every man in the county,” says a 1915 biographical sketch, and when provisions ran low, Captain Mizell’s father, David, Sr., butchered a cow and took her a quarter.”


Emily and William Hull

While most residents abandoned the village during the War, Emily Harriet Watson Hull stayed, putting up folks in need of a room, feeding hungry guests, managing mail, and keeping up the family farm. In other words, Emily kept the doors to Orlando open, and thereby preventing the village from becoming a Ghost Town.

William and Emily Hull owned “Lots 2, 3, 4 and 11” of the twelve lot Village of Orlando. Lots 2 and 3 are presently the location of the old courthouse, the County’s History Museum. In Emily’s day, this was the location of Worthington House, the boarding house John R. Worthington built (See also Henrietta Worthington in tomorrow’s final Women’s History Month post).


Eulalie #Way of Orlando

Central Florida history is chock full of legends, some true, others not so true! One legend has to do with how Orlando’s iconic Lake Eola got its name. Early historian Kena Fries passed along a legend told her that goes as follows: “Sandy Beach was changed to Eola in the early 1870s by Bob Summerlin, in memory of the beautiful young girl, his bride to-be, who died from typhoid fever two weeks before the appointed wedding day.”

The Iconic Lake Eola, Orlando, Florida

Jacob Summerlin brought his family to Orlando in 1873, bought 200 acres east of the tiny village of Orlando, and then platted his land which encircled most all of Lake Eola. During the summer of 1875, Jacob and eldest son Robert attended Orlando’s meeting called to discuss incorporating the town after serving 18 years as the County Seat.

Robert L. Summerlin had graduated from the University of Georgia with a law degree in 1875 and was admitted to the Florida Bar the next year. Leaving Georgia and coming to Orlando, Robert Summerlin then married, but his bride’s name was Texas, not Eola. Nor did Texas die prior to their marriage.

Eola was the lake’s name appearing on the 1874 subdivision plat recorded with the Clerk of Court by Jake Summerlin. So, who was Eola?

Records of the Presbyterian Church of Orlando organized March 18, 1876, tell of its 11 members, including “Mrs. Jacob Summerlin, formerly of Flemington, GA”. Located in Liberty County, Georgia, Flemington had been home to the Summerlin family in 1870. All listed as Floridians, the family moved there after the Civil War.

The Summerlin’s were family #13 in Georgia’s 1870 Liberty County census. Family #6 in that very same census was Widow Sarah A. Way and her daughter, “Eula,” age 16. Robert Summerlin, age 12, and Eula, age 16, were both listed as attending school. 


Eulalie Way (1854-1896)

Eulalie Way was born July 22, 1854, at Liberty County, Georgia. Eulalie never married, nor did she die two weeks before Robert Summerlin’s marriage. Eulalie Way died October 13, 1896, at age 42, and was buried in the State and County of her birth. 

As legends pass from one generation to the next, facts often become blurred. Eulalie was a popular name in 1854 when Eulalie Way was born, popular because it was a poem by Edgar Allan Poe. The poem, “Eulalie,” was about a lover becoming a bride, as one verse states: “I dwelt alone, in a world of moan, till the fair and gentle Eulalie became my blushing bride”.

Robert Summerlin, 12 years old, likely did have a crush on an older classmate named Eulalie. And as his father, in 1874, subdivided land around a lake on the east side of Orlando, Robert may have convinced his father to name the lake for Eula, his Georgia crush. But then, as word passed to the surveyor charged with sketching the plat, the name printed was Eola – and it stuck.

Robert and his bride Texas lived in a home fronting Lake Eola, but history did not record if Texas Summerlin had ever been told how Lake Eola’s naming came to be.


Narcissus #Wofford Lovell of Apopka

Born 1832 in Georgia, Narcissus Wofford married William Allen Lovell at Habersham, Georgia in 1851. Narcissus and her husband arrived at Orange County in 1856, when the entire county at the time had fewer than 1,100 citizens, and the entire county was at odds over where to have to their country seat. William served as Mellonville’s “Rebel Postmaster”, a lakeside outpost near where Sanford is today, during the Civil War, then after the War, the Lovell’s moved inland, to the village of Orlando.

Narcissus became mother to 11 children, as well as each community she and husband William settled in. At Orlando following the Civil War they established Lovell Hotel at Orlando, and in later years, the family relocated again to Apopka. Although William Allen Lovell was the first Orange County Superintendent of Schools, it is apparent by the achievements of the ten Lovell children who survived to adulthood that education was equally important to the mother in the rearing of their children.

Narcissus (Wofford) Lovell died 12 August 1897. She is buried in Apopka’s old cemetery. Her husband of 46 years, William Allen Lovell, passed in 1903.        


Follow Author & Historian Richard Lee Cronin


Our History Museum of the Day

Umatilla History Museum

The Greater Umatilla Historical Society

299 N. Trowell Avenue

Umatilla, Florida, 32784


Open Saturday, 1 AM to 4 PM (Call ahead to verify)

(Housed in a circa 1910 schoolhouse)


Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Women's History Month - Day 29


Frontierswomen of Central Florida

Eliza (Turner) Stewart

A Women’s History Month Tribute

By Richard Lee Cronin,

29 March 2022

Day 29

CitrusLAND is observing Women’s History Month by honoring extraordinary Central Florida frontierswomen. And as we celebrate Women’s History Month throughout March, we are also featuring each day a History Museum, listing their days and hours of operation.

See also our featured History Museum in this Post


Martha Jefferson #Trist Burke of South Orlando

Union soldiers searched the Burke residence at Alexandria, Virginia during the Civil War. They were looking for assets belonging to John W. Burke’s bank, but while soldiers rummaged, John’s wife, Martha Jefferson (Trist) Burke, stood steadfast refusing to move away from of a closet in which she claimed contained only her personal undergarments. Her undergarments were indeed in that closet, but so too were gold bars from John Burke’s Bank. Martha had stashed the treasure Union soldiers were looking for in between each of her undergarments.

Burke’s bank survived the ravages of the Civil War, and largely because Martha prevented the soldiers from taking the bank’s gold. Burke & Herbert Bank, first established in 1852, is today still serving customers, and proudly proclaiming to be the oldest bank in the State of Virginia.

Martha Burke, a great-granddaughter of President Thomas Jefferson, was also an Orlando land speculator. Her property holdings stretched south from Orlando Regional Hospital to the north shore of Lake Jennis Jewel, with a portion of her land bordering the historic Frances W. Eppes homestead on Lake Pineloch. Eppes was a grandson of President Thomas Jefferson.

A portion of Martha’s land had been conveyed to her from the estate of her parents, Virginia (Randolph) and Nicholas Trist, while the rest Martha purchased in 1884.

One of three “Jno W. Burke” Orlando Subdivisions

Virginia Randolph and Frances Eppes were born within months of one another at Monticello, the Virgina estate of Thomas Jefferson. As young adults, they attended each other’s wedding while each was residing at Monticello, and decades later, the descendants of Virginia Randolph and Francis Eppes became heirs to adjacent land south of downtown Orlando, acreage that became the property of Virginia and Francis by Attorney William M. Randolph.

Three separate subdivisions south of Orlando were recorded in the mid-1880s as plats of “Jno W. Burke,” but John owned this land as the spouse of Martha Jefferson (Trist) Burke (1826-1915).

[Further reading: Beyond Gatlin: A History of South Orange County, by Richard Lee Cronin.]


Eliza #Turner Stewart of Clay Springs

A friend and fellow Central Florida history fan suggested I consider Eliza (Turner) Stewart as one of 100 remarkable frontierswomen featured in this Women’s History Month series. Eliza was truly an amazing frontierswoman, a perfect fit for this series about extraordinary women.

Born 1825 in Georgia, Eliza Turner’s family migrated to Florida before Statehood, and here she married her childhood sweetheart, Jonathan Clay Stewart. Family legend tells us the bride and groom settled at Clay Springs on Christmas Day of 1853, and there is no reason to doubt such a legend, although we should point out that Clay Springs is now called Wekiwa Springs. It is also worth mentioning that Shadrick Clay (Jonathan’s middle name) had also settled at Clay Springs in the early 1850s, prior to moving further south into Sumter County.


Eliza (Turner) & Jonathan Clay Stewart

Eliza and Jonathan had eight children ranging in ages from 2 to 15 when he went off to fight in the Civil War. Jonathan died on a Virginia battlefield, leaving Eliza (Tucker) Stewart with land to cultivate, an orange grove, and eight hungry mouths to feed.

Never remarrying, Eliza subdivided “Stewart’s Homestead” of 220 acres into parcels for each of her married children in 1879. She sold her own parcel to a grandson on 15 November 1894, five weeks before the first of two devastating freezes of the winter of 1894-95. After the freeze, Eliza returned to Marion County, where she died in 1901 at the age of 76.

Women of Central Florida’s 19th century wilderness became every bit as tough as their male counterparts. Perhaps a few even became tougher!     


Louise #Tucker Philips of Sanford

A word of caution when writing about any Phillips (aka Philips) family of Central Florida; there were at least three prominent but unrelated families. One family of course is the well-known Dr. Phillips of Orlando and South Orange County fame, an orange grower of the early 1900s who is memorialized today with the Dr. Phillips Performing Art Center is named for. The featured lady of this article is not about that family.

Thirteen years before orange grower Dr. Phillip Phillips arrived in Florida in 1903 guiding 200 Texas Herefords overland toward Ocala, a Miss Louise Tucker of Sanford married Doctor Albert E. Philips. Note that the Sanford doctor used only one L when spelling his last name. (This is not the Dr. Philips of 1880s Orange County who platted Philipsburg. I will leave that Dr. Philips out of this post before it gets too confusing).

Now then, back to Louise (Tucker) Philips of Sanford. She was a daughter of the infamous St. Louis “Boat Burner”. Born at Spartanburg, South Carolina in 1845, Louise was 16 when Civil War erupted between the North and South. During the War her father was said to have burned more than 100 boats on the Mississippi River. By age 22, Louise and her family were residents of Bermuda, hiding out there after the South had lost the War.

During the early 1870s, Louise returned to the States with her family and settled at the new town of Sanford, Florida, where her father became a prominent Attorney, and where, in 1890, Louise married Widower Dr. Edwin Philips (1845-1920). Louise (Tucker) Philips found her peace at Sanford, where she lived a long happy life. She died in 1934 at the age of 88.  


Caroline Florence #Vance Beeks of Orlando

Reverend Greenberry C. Beeks was a Methodist Minister travelling the preacher circuit in Indiana prior to moving to central Florida in the 1880s. The Reverend then settled at Orange County, where his son, John T. Beeks married Caroline Florence (Vance)., namesake of Lake Florence in East Orange County

Beeks homestead, southeast of Lake Howell, is where one will also find the erroneously named Lake Deeks. Lake Deeks began as Lake Beeks! Another named lake on the Beeks Homestead is Garden Lake, mentioned by that name in several 1880s land sales, and still known as Garden Lake today. Orange County’s 1890 map identifies Lake Beeks as Beck’s Lake, closer - to the correct, but still wrong!

John T. Beeks was Superintendent of Orange County Schools from 1879 until 1896. After Florida’s Great Freeze of 1894-95, he and wife Caroline moved to Georgia, where John died in 1904, and Caroline Florence (Vance) Beeks died in 1910.

John Beeks legacy at Orange County, Florida is his role as Superintendent of Schools. His wife’s legacy is Lake Florence.


Follow Author & Historian Richard Lee Cronin


Our History Museum of the Day

Oviedo Preservation Society

An organization of volunteers working to preserve the history of Oviedo




Monday, March 28, 2022

Women's History Month - Day 28


Frontierswomen of Central Florida

Remembering Miss Gertrude Thorne

A Women’s History Month Tribute

By Richard Lee Cronin,

28 March 2022


Day 28

CitrusLAND is observing Women’s History Month by honoring extraordinary Central Florida frontierswomen. And as we celebrate Women’s History Month throughout March, we are also featuring each day a History Museum, listing their days and hours of operation.

See also our featured History Museum in this Post


Lena #Tester Richardson of Mount Dora

Lena (Tester) Richardson, a Registered Nurse, founded Mount Dora Hospital with her husband, and continued managing the hospital long after his death in 1944.

“Mount Dora Hospital on Fourth Avenue,” said Mount Dora Topic of May 18, 1936, “which has now been established for nearly seven years, is now an incorporated institution. Dr. Gerald A. Richardson, who has successfully managed the hospital during this time is the President of the corporation; Lena T. Richardson, R. N., is Vice-President. Plans are now in the making for alterations which will make the institution a 40-room hospital.”

By 1937, Mount Dora Hospital had a total of 13 rooms in a “fire-proof building,” a later article by Mount Dora Topic reported, adding, “many of Mount Dora’s most prominent babies have been born in this institution.”

Contractor Lewis J. Drawdy was hired in 1938 to expand the hospital to 40 rooms, adding to the front as well as a second floor. By 1940, neighbor Emma J. (Little) Tallant (see prior Post) joined the hospital as a Nurse.

Mount Dora Hospital (1937) Dr. Gerald & Nurse Lena (Tester) Richardson

Dr. Gerald A. Richardson, born April 30, 1891, at Brookly, New York, died March 23, 1944. His 1929 arrival in Mount Dora had been proved a blessing in disguise for the community, for the much-loved Dr. Callahan had died suddenly in an auto accident. Arrival of the Richardson’s not only helped fill the physician vacancy, but a hospital also opened the same year, offering both a quality surgical center and maternity ward for Mount Dorans.

Dr. Richardson had married Lena (Tester), of Patterson, New Jersey, in 1917. A Registered Nurse, she and her husband lived at the hospital, and she kept the hospital open after her husband’s death. The 1960 Mount Dora directory listed Mount Dora Hospital, 142 E. 4th Fourth Avenue, Mrs. Lena T. Richardson, Nurse.


Nurse Lena (Tester) Richardson died at her Fourth Avenue residence on 14 September 1970. She was 84 years young at the time of her death. Nurse Emma Jane (Little) Tallant died four months later, 19 January 1971, at her home around the corner at Third Avenue and Donnelly Street. Emma (Little) Tallant was 81 years young.

The curious might wonder if Lena and Emma ever met for lunch at Garden Gate Restaurant, a popular dining establishment on Alexander Street, across from the railway depot. Popular during the 1960s and 1970s, the restaurant closed in the late 70s. Years later however, the Garden Gate Tea Room was re-opened at 142 E. 4th Avenue, the one-time location of Mount Dora Hospital.

[Further reading: Mount Dora. The Lure. The Founding, The Founders., by Richard Lee Cronin.]


Gertrude #Thorne of Mount Dora

A lone grave marker in Mount Dora’s Pine Forest Cemetery says the woman buried beneath it was Gertrude Thorne. But neither a year of birth nor death is given, only the lady’s name. And in far off Toronto, Canada, a detailed family tree lists seven of eight children born to Richard and Grace (Edgar) Thorne. The eldest child however, Grace C. Thorne, gives only a year of birth as 1865.

Founder of one of Mount Dora’s three most beloved hotels of old, it is time to fill in the blanks on the life of one amazing Central Florida frontierswoman – Miss Gertrude Thorne.

 “She was nursing in Brooksville, Ontario,” reported Mount Dora Topic in a June 19, 1947, article, “miles from her hometown of Thornhill, named after her grandfather, where she was born in 1865.” English merchant Benjamin Thorne (1794-1848), Gertrude’s grandfather, was in fact the founder of the village of Thornhill, Canada. “But she had a name to make for herself in the Mount Dora business world,” said that Topic article, and there is little doubt now that Gertrude’s grandfather would be very proud of the notable accomplishments his granddaughter made on her own, in the faraway village of Mount Dora, Florida.


View of Lake Dora from Miss Thorne’s Villa Dora Hotel

Gertrude Thorne first came to Mount Dora as the personal nurse of Zelle (Adams) Oviett in 1905. “Mrs. Oviatt stayed here,” reported Mount Dora Topic, “with her parents, which is directly back of the site of what is now Villa Dora.” Gertrude relocated permanently to Mount Dora in 1910, and she purchased an existing residence which she converted, in 1914, into the Hotel Villa Dora.

The home of Zelle (Adams) Oviett in 1905 was one and the same as the parcel acquired in March 1882 by Frank Adams of Akron, Ohio. Frank was Zelle’s father, and as explained in Chapter 4 of my book, Mount Dora: The Lure. The Founding. The Founders., he purchased Block 44, one of the earliest lot sales on “Mrs. Annie E. Donnelly’s homestead.


In 1968, long after Gertrude Thorne had sold Hotel Villa Dora, yet another article in the October 24th issue of Mount Dora Topic explained that Miss Nan Thorne increased the building size, making it into “a hotel with accommodations for about 45 guests. Particularly admired about the Villa Dora were the “beautiful proportions of the lounge, wide, with low-ceiling, and gracious. Miss Thorne insisted on a cottage supported with long steel beams, the first ever built in this area. Yet the workmen did such a fine job that the building settled only slightly. She also insisted on a large picture window at the end of the lounge overlooking the beautiful view of Lake Dora. In 1910, this also was an unusual innovation.”

Gertrude Thorne never married. Her success was entirely her own doing. She was an active member of the King’s Daughters, a Mount Dora group that did much for needy families during the Great Depression of the 1930s. She had been an active member as well of the Woman’s Club and Mount Dora Yacht Club.

“Gertrude Thorne, one of Mount Dora’s early residents”, reported the Topic of September 17, 1953, “celebrated her 90th birthday at her home on Fourth Avenue. Illness has prevented her from being out for some weeks.” Within a month after turning 90, Miss Thorne died at her residence.

[Further reading: Mount Dora. The Lure. The Founding, The Founders., by Richard Lee Cronin.]


Ozella #Topp Champney of Apopka

Ozella (Topp) and husband John Tunno Champneys arrived in Central Florida just as the farming of citrus was being introduced to inland Orange County in the 1870s. Prior to their arrival, citrus groves were located on homesteads lining the shoreline of the St. Johns River. But by the 1870s, smaller steamers were traversing the Wekiva River to Clay Springs (now Wekiwa State Park), and so the Champneys selected a homestead and planted citrus trees in the vicinity of Apopka.

John & Ozella Champneys expanded the 1850s village of Apopka considerably in 1885, so that today, many Apopkan landowners will find their land as part of “Champneys Add to Apopka.” Three corners of the busy intersection of US 441 and Park Avenue are part of the Champneys expansion of Apopka.

John Tunno Champneys, a Civil War Ordinance Officer for the Confederacy, was also a Civil Engineer. He married Ozella K. Topp of Lowndes County, Mississippi in April of 1864. John died in 1891, and Widow Ozella (Topp) Champney, along with John Tunno, Jr., continued the family’s civic and religious leadership in Apopka until her death April 3, 1917.  


Follow Author & Historian Richard Lee Cronin


Our History Museum of the Day

Tavares History Museum

Located in the Tavares Union Depot Replica

Ruby Street at St. Clair-Abrams Avenue

Open 10 AM to 2 PM Tuesday, Thursday & Friday

Sunday, March 27, 2022

Women's History Month - Day 27


Frontierswomen of Central Florida


Gertrude of Orlando’s Gertrude Walk

A Women’s History Month Tribute

By Richard Lee Cronin,

27 March 2022


Day 27

CitrusLAND is observing Women’s History Month by honoring extraordinary Central Florida frontierswomen. And as we celebrate Women’s History Month throughout March, we are also featuring each day a History Museum, listing their days and hours of operation.

See also our featured History Museum in this Post


Ruby #Summerlin of Orlando and Tavares

Two partners in the 1882 creation of the city of Tavares named four of nearly two-dozen streets in the new town for their children. Ruby Street in downtown Tavares was one such street, named for the daughter of Robert L. & Texas B. (Parker) Summerlin. Ruby Lee Summerlin had been born at Orlando on March 17, 1877.


Ruby Lee (Summerlin) Burrows

Ruby’s father, eldest son of Jacob Summerlin, was an Attorney and partner in the formation of the town of Tavares, but when she was 5 years old, the town partnership was dissolved. Ruby’s mother moved to Bartow with her two daughters. Robert Summerlin departed Florida, and the future of Tavares was left in the hands of ex-partner, Alexander St. Clair-Abrams.

St. Clair-Abrams changed only the name of one town artery in the aftermath of the partners split. Summerlin Avenue became Park Avenue, then changed again to Rockingham Avenue. The streets named for the wife and children of Robert Summerlin remained unchanged.

Ruby Street was mentioned in September 1884 newspapers when the Commissioners of Sumter and Orange Counties met to select the location of a railroad drawbridge across Dora Canal, then considered part of the Ocklawaha River. Ruby Street was selected as a possible crossing point.

“On Saturday last, W. N. Jackson, and J. P. Poe, Commissioners for Sumter County, and Alexander St. Clair Abrams, Commissioner for Orange County, met to consider the immediate construction of a drawbridge across the Ocklawaha River at Tavares, and for which the two counties have appropriated $500. The Commissioners, after an exchange of views, proceeded to the run and selected a point at the foot of West Ruby Street for the location of the bridge.”

Savannah Morning News, September 16, 1884


Ruby Lee Summerlin married John Tilden Burrows at Polk County, where she continued to reside until her death, December 18, 1944. Ruby Street still exists today on each side of Lake County’s Courthouse in downtown Tavares, but the $500 drawbridge crossing Dora Canal is long gone.


Gertrude #Sweet Newell of Orlando

Voted “the most beautiful woman in Orange County,” Gertrude (Sweet) Newell’s Find-A-Grave memorial describes Gertrude’s Walk namesake as a talented blue-eyed musician. Born at New Orleans, Louisiana on 17 July 1862, Gertrude followed older brother Charles to Orlando in the 1870s. Another brother, William, and sister Ida, likewise relocated to Orlando.

Gertrude (Sweet) and Husband Harry Newell


By 1885, Charles and William, employed as Real Estate agents, were living with their sister Ida. Gertrude had married in 1883 to music teacher Harry A. Newell, and the Newell’s settled at 215 East Robinson Street, Gertrude’s home for the next 44 years.

So, how then did Gertrude’s Walk come about? Gertrude Street was one of the first named north-south arteries of Robert R. Reid’s 1880 expanded town of Orlando. Charles D. Sweet served as Mayor of Orlando in 1881, and an east-west road named Sweet Avenue was changed later to Colonial Drive (Highway 50). Charles reportedly wanted Gertrude Street (named for his sister) as the main street of Orlando, but South Florida Railroad arrived in late 1880 and wiped out most of Gertrude Street.

Gertrude Street practically vanished – eventually becoming a short Gertrude’s Walk alongside Rosie O’Grady’s entertainment complex.

Identified by some history records as the daughter of Charles D. Sweet, Gertrude can be found in 1870 New Orleans with Sister Ida and brothers William and Charles D, all listed as children of Charles L. and Ann M. Sweat (sic). The father, Louisiana’s State Tax Collector, died in 1874.

According to historian E. H. Gore, Mr. Harry A. Newton, Gertrude’s husband, was both a music teacher in the 1880s and the organizer of an Orlando Orchestra. Gertrude was band’s pianist.

Gertrude (Sweet) Newell died at Orlando in 1946.


Mary Arabella #Taylor of Enterprise

Mary Arabella Taylor, “Polly” as her father lovingly referred to his little girl, had been a Florida native who traveled down the St. Johns River with her family when only 12 years old. The year was 1841 when this family arrived at the newly renamed Lake Monroe.

First known as Lake Valdez before being changed to Lake Monroe, U. S. Army troops were still stationed across the lake at Fort Mellon. On the north shore of the lake, Mary’s father, Cornelius Taylor, established a small settlement that he called Enterprise. (Note: for the younger reader I should clarify that this Lake Monroe settlement was not the Starship.) 

Mary Polly’s role in preserving central Florida history is a heartbreaking role, for Mary Arabella ‘Polly’ Taylor died of Typhoid Fever when only 14 years old. Her tombstone is now a memorial to the original site of old Enterprise, described by Historian Daniel Gold (1927) as located one (1) mile east of today’s town of Enterprise.  


Grave marker of Mary Polly Taylor, Enterprise, FL


The Taylor family is believed to be the first family to homestead on Lake Monroe. An Enterprise Post Office opened at this location June 2, 1842, three (3) years before Florida became the 27th State. Living in early Mosquito (Orange) County was a difficult challenge for males, and all too often, it was deadly for the frontierswomen. 

We should never forget Little Polly Taylor, the little girl’s tombstone marking the original site of central Florida’s first settlement.

[Further reading: Polly’s memory is preserved in Chapter 3 of CitrusLAND: Curse of Florida’s Paradise, by Richard Lee Cronin].


Follow Author & Historian Richard Lee Cronin




360 Main Street

Enterprise, FL 32725

Located in a relocated 1936 schoolhouse, Enterprise Museum preserves the history of this early Lake Monroe settlement

Open Thursday, Friday & Saturday 10 AM to 2 PM



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