History Happened Here

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Volusia County

Year Founded: 1882Founded by: Henry Addison DeLandPreviously known as: Persimmon Hollow


Volusia County has over 400 years of history. Early Native Americans, explorers from Spain, colonists from France, and settlers from England have left their mark on Florida.
The earliest occupants of what we know now as the City Deland left little record and for untold ages lived and died here prior to the coming of the Europeans. They left immense mounds full of oyster shells, pieces of pottery, and weapons of war, bones and articles of domestic use.

The pioneers were self-sufficient. They raised their own food, made their own clothes; they carved their homes out of the Florida hammock. They stayed close to their homes and made their own entertainment.

In March of 1876, Henry DeLand was overdue for a vacation. He traveled with his wife to Walterboro, South Carolina where he visited with his wife’s family.
His brother-in-law, O.P. Terry had what is called “Orange Fever.” Orange Fever is the excitement and furor of the early pioneers over investing in Orange Groves in Florida. Terry had just purchased land in Florida and had a terrible case of “Orange Fever”! In his excitement he convinced Henry DeLand to accompany him on a trip down south to see his land.

The two families traveled together, first by train to Jacksonville, then by steamboat to Enterprise. Although DeLand enjoyed the trip up river, he saw nothing that would interest him. In Enterprise Terry arranged for a one horse rig for their trip, following a primitive trail.
Henry DeLand was not impressed by what he saw on the first part of his journey and begged his sister’s husband to turn back, but Terry kept insisting, “Better country beyond.” He knew his brother-in-law well and felt sure, once they got beyond those first miserable miles through the dry sand and thick underbrush, DeLand would, “sit up and take notice.”

As they traveled into the area that would become DeLand they passed several young orange groves in bloom. The young healthy trees were full of deep green leaves and the fragrance of the waxy white blossoms filled the air. Henry DeLand was much impressed with the high and rolling land where you could “see for great distances, through the tall pine trees.”

Before the day was over Henry DeLand had bought 159.1 acres of land and had met several of the settlers in the area. DeLand described them as being a fine group of people to form the nucleus of a town, dedicated to the advancement of education and culture.

The next morning they returned to Enterprise and their respective homes.
All summer long DeLand thought of his visit to Florida, recalling its beauty and serenity. He, too, had contracted “orange fever” and began thinking what a lovely little community there could be, with houses scattered about, a school, church and buildings necessary to supply the needs of people, all of which could be neatly nestled between acres of Orange Groves.

Story of City's Founding

The area now known as DeLand was once called Persimmon Hollow. Wild persimmons used to grow in this area in abundance. After the end of the Civil War, each year brought increasing numbers of pioneers seeking to build a future for themselves. DeLand returned to Florida in October of 1876 and called a meeting of the settlers in the surrounding area, outlining his ideas to eventually make the town a cultural and educational center. Early in life, DeLand had adopted the conviction that if he became a financial success he would give any money, over and above a set sum, for benevolent purposes. Over the years he had prospered and he decided that now was the time to use his profits for the betterment of mankind. Thus, from the beginning, DeLand was unique for its time. It didn’t just spring up haphazard out of the wilderness- it was carefully planned by the man destined to be its founder. At the meeting in October, DeLand made a generous offer. “Build a school house and use that for a place of worship as well as a school. If you wish to locate on land I have bought, I will give you an acre of land.” He offered to pay half the cost of the building as well. DeLand also offered to donate a 60-foot wide strip of land running from New York Avenue, one mile north; clear it and plant alternating oak, magnolia and orange trees down the center. It was to be called Woodland Boulevard. Such generosity as this convinced the settlers that this man of vision was indeed earnest when he proposed the founding of a town. On December 6, 1876, at 2pm the settlers of Deland met in the Rich cabin, at this meeting the settlers voted to name their little community “DeLand” in honor of Henry Addison Deland and everything he had done for the community. During the subsequent years the little community of DeLand grew, 1882 was a significant year in the growth of DeLand. For some time the question of incorporating the town had been discussed. A meeting was called on March 11, 1882 and the following resolutions were adopted: That we adopt for our town the name of DeLand, That our seal be of the size of the silver dollar, with the words “DeLand, Volusia County, Florida” in a circle near the margin, the center to contain the emblems of ‘Faith, Hope and Charity,” over the figure 1882. The vote for incorporation was declared carried unanimously and with the constitutional number of electors. On the evening of March 13, 1882, the oath of office was adminstered in the Rich Cabin to the newly elected Mayor C.H. Wright. A charter was applied for and, according to records, was dated April 20, 1882. Thus the City of DeLand came to be. The area once called Persimmon Hollow, a favorite gathering spot for wildlife, would lure a gathering of people and one day become a prosperous little city.

Historical Sites

Name: Alexander Haynes House
Location: 128 West Howry
Historical Significance: 1896 Queen Anne Architecture

Name: Downtown DeLand Historic District
Location: Woodland & New York
Historical Significance: 1875-1925 Historic Commercial Downtown

Name: DeLand Memorial Hospital
Location: 230 North Stone Street
Historical Significance: 1920 Hospital

Name: DeLand Hall
Location: Stetson University Campus
Historical Significance: 1884 Oldest Private University

Name: Chief Master at Arms House
Location: 910 Biscayne Blvd
Historical Significance: 1925-1949 DeLand Naval Air Station

Name: Volusia County Courthouse
Location: 123 West New York
Historical Significance: 1928 Classical Revival Architecture

Name: Athens Theater
Location: 124 North Florida Avenue
Historical Significance: 1922, Early theater & architecture

Name: Kilkoft House
Location: 1145 West New York Avenue
Historical Significance: 1878 Classical Revival Architecture

Name: Stetson University Campus Historic District
Location: Stetson University
Historical Significance: 1884-1930 Historic Architecture

Name: John B. Stetson House
Location: 1031 Camphor Lane
Historical Significance: 1886 Historic Architecture

Name: 244 East Beresford
Location: Stockton-Lindquist House
Historical Significance: 1895 Historic Architecture

Name: Residential Neighborhood
Location: West DeLand Residential District
Historical Significance: 1884-1930 Architecture

Name: 137 West Michigan
Location: The DeLand House
Historical Significance: 1886 Historic Architecture

Key Historical Events

Event: Founding of DeLand
Event Description:

Henry A. DeLand made his first visit to Florida and bought 139 acres of land.

Event: Incorporation
Event Description:

The City of DeLand officially incorporates. Cyrenius H. Wright is named the first mayor.

Event: DeLand Academy
Event Description:

DeLand Academy founded by Henry A. DeLand

Event: DeLand Hall
Event Description:

DeLand Hall built. It is the oldest building still in continuous use for higher education in Florida.

Event: Orange Crops damaged
Event Description:

1st bad freeze in Central Florida. All of the fruit crop lost.

Event: John B. Stetson
Event Description:

John B. Stetson takes over the endowment for DeLand University (later to become Stetson University) because Henry A. DeLand no longer had the funds available to support it because of his policy of buying back land from settlers if they had to leave within the first two years.

Event: DeLand Academy- University
Event Description:

DeLand Academy becomes John B Stetson University. The name was changed at the request of Henry A DeLand.

Event: Train comes to DeLand
Event Description:

The Jacksonville train line extended to DeLand, along with the telegraph.

Event: Fire!
Event Description:

Fire destroyed 100 block of Woodland Boulevard on both sides. The fire started in Wilcox’s Saloon. The next day 2 ordinances were passed: no more saloons in the downtown; all buildings in the downtown needed to be constructed out of masonry material.

Event: Electricity comes to Florida
Event Description:

John B. Stetson built the first electrical plant in Florida and ice plant.

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