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Books on Central Florida:
Flashbacks : The Story of Central Florida
Exploring Wild Central Florida:
The New History of Florida
Florida: A Short History

Winter Springs, Tuskawilla came to be when a New York merchant made a fortune in lumbering and trade with the Spanish. The holdings from Spanish land grants included the land, later named Winter Springs. Henry Gee, a wealthy landowner and slave driver, and his son, John Henry Gee, persuaded the territorial governor part of the old land grant along Lake Jesup. The lake's wharves were as far down as steam boats could land frieght for wagons to haul to Maitland and Orlando. Many farmer brought their crops to the lake's wharves. W.W. White, whose warf near Clinton Springs had everything the settlers needed, was one of the most successful merchants at Lake Jesup. Soon, Lumbering crews, sawmills, and turpentine stills moved were being built in the south, as well as the movement of cattle along the spring-fed lakes. Fewer than 600 people were residents of the area when it was incoorperated as North Orlando in 1959. Now, Winter Springs is home to over 33,487 plus people, and has the largest area of the county's seven cities.

Resources: Flashbacks- The Story of Central Florida's Past
Jim Robison & Mark Andrews
Orange County Historical Society & Orlando Sentinel

Winter Springs Historical Trail
Copyright 1999 by Steve Rajtar

Here is some cool information about your home town of Winter Springs as we take a journey into it's past.

Starting on SR 434 past where it intersects with SR 419. As the road begins to turn to the south, turn north into Central Winds Park. Drive past the baseball diamond to the end of the main parking lot, and follow the "nature trail" signs to the west parking lot.

West portion of Central Winds Park

Gee Hammock
On many old deeds and other documents pertaining to this area, the name of Moses Levy appears. He was a New York merchant who amassed hundreds of thousands of acres prior to the U.S. acquisition of Florida from Spain in 1821. All of what is now Winter Springs was once owned by Levy.

This area (Gee Hammock, and the creek that runs south of SR 434) is named for Henry Gee, a wealthy landowner and slave owner. His son, John Henry Gee, was an army doctor during the Seminole Wars of the late 1830s and early 1840s.

The Gees persuaded territorial governor Richard Call to give them part of the Moses Levy Grant along Lake Jesup. The area was surveyed by Henry Washington in 1843. Plats revised in 1852 were used by courts to void the Gees' rights, and instead recognize the Spanish grants to Moses Levy, Philip K. Yonge, and others, as the federal government opened the area to settlers.

(Walk southeast on Orange Ave. (paved but unmarked) until you reach the soccer field on your right.)

North side of Orange Ave.

Site of Foster Grove
Dr. Henry Foster came to this area from Clifton Springs, New York, to hunt and fish, and became the chief promoter of the Lake Jesup community to the southeast. He bought 26 acres from Walter Gwynn along the north shore of Lake Charm in July of 1874, and built a winter home which stood until it was badly damaged by a 1940s hurricane.

Foster's Gee Hammock grove at this location, set out in the 1870s, was described by one popular guidebook as one of the most beautiful in Florida. He paid $3,500 to the Sanford and Indian River Railroad to have a line laid to the grove, and another $1,500 to bring the line to Lake Charm and Oviedo, completed in June of 1886. Three years later, Foster and other growers formed the Oviedo, Lake Charm and Lake Jessup Railroad to avoid high shipping prices on the South Florida Railroad (the parent company of the Sanford and Indian River). The railroad was never built, but the ploy resulted in the prices being lowered.

Foster also built the Lake Charm Memorial Chapel, still standing (now as a private home) on the shore of Lake Charm, to the southeast.

(Walk southeast 600 feet on Orange Ave. and look to the south.)

Between SR 434 and the railroad tracks

Site of Whitney Grove
In 1886, Calvin Whitney of Norwalk, Ohio, president of the A.B. Chase Piano Company, had a double winter home built on Lake Charm for his family and that of his sister. He also set out a grove to the south of the railroad, due south of here.

In 1889-90, Whitney and Dr. Foster helped form the Lake Charm Improvement Company to build a bulkhead, a drain from the lake, and remove muck from the bottom. They paid a Philadelphia mason $1,200 to construct a sidewalk around the lake. Portions of it may still be found there.

(Walk southeast on Orange Ave. to the intersection with Brantley (Tuskawilla) Ave., and walk north on Brantley Ave. to the lake.)

Foot of Brantley Ave., north of the intersection with Orange Ave.

Site of Tuskawilla Landing
This lake was named on May 22, 1837, by Lt. Richard Peyton for Gen. Thomas S. Jessup, a prominent figure in the Seminole Wars. The "discovery" of the lake required 52 hours of rowing a barge 90 miles to get to it. At least one old map from that time referes to it as "Lake Peyton". In 1981, the U.S. Board of Geographic Names settled on "Jesup" as the correct spelling of the lake.

The wharfs here and at nearby Clifton Springs were as far south as steamboats could land freight for wagons to haul to Maitland and Orlando. Vincent Lee was an early homesteader here, and partners George C. Brantley and Col. Daniel Randolph Mitchell made their wharf and store here the area's center of commerce.

The Brantley store at this site was in existence as early as 1865, and in 1874 Brantley bought a nearby site. He named it Tuskawilla after an Indian village of the same name in Alachua County (now known as Micanopy), and Liver Prince established a post office there.

(Walk southwest on Brantley Ave., southeast and east on SR 434, and north on Spring Ave. to the county historic marker.)

West side of Spring Ave., between Nancy Dr. and Lake St., just north of 1992 Spring Ave.

Site of White's Wharf
William White moved here from Macon, Georgia, built a home and a store here in 1879, and stocked everything settlers needed, so his wharf near the warm, sulphurous Clifton Springs made him one of the most successful merchants of the area. Clifton Springs was also the name of Dr. Henry Foster's hometown in New York.

The site was visited in 1765-66 by John Bartram and his son, William. They camped two nights here during their trip through Florida.

Oviedo residents used the springs for their annual May picnics beginning in 1880, with one Saturday for whites, another for blacks. They were planned and held by a joint committee from the Baptist and Methodist churches.

When the railroad was extended to Orlando in the 1880s, White moved with it.

(Walk south on Spring Ave., east on SR 434, north on Deleon St., west on Howard St., north and east on Black Hammock Rd., and north on Black Hammock Fish Camp Rd. until it ends at Lake Jesup.)

Foot of Black Hammock Fish Camp Rd.

Site of Solary's Wharf
A little to the east of here, John F.J. Mitchell, a Virginia doctor, established a wharf in about 1870. About two years later, Jacksonville merchant Antonio Solary esablished a wharf here, where the water was deeper. He manufactured soda water, sasparilla and ginger ale. Because his had the deepest water, it was the port for the "Volusia" of the Clyde Steamship Line.

The wharf included a post office which, until 1886, served the Lake Jesup community which was centered about a mile to the south. Mills Lord brought the mail here twice a week by rowboat from across the lake. The growth of Oviedo and the establishment of a post office there in 1879 led to the decreased importance of the wharf.

In April of 1882, the Lake Jesup Steamboat Company was formed by stockholders which included Antonio Solary, Henry Foster, Andrew Aulin and George Browne. They planned to use it to transport their fruit to market over Lake Jesup, which in the 1880s could not be entered by a boat drawing more than three feet.

Capt. Eugene Bigelow had the steamship "Isis" running between Jacksonville and Lake Jesup by December of 1881. The appearance of the 100-foot, flat-bottomed, iron-hulled steamship encouraged the local residents to incorporate. They bought an interest in the "Isis", modified it, and began shipping oranges. The venture came to an abrupt end on November 6, 1882, when she sank in a heavy storm on Lake George.

George H. Browne came to the area in about 1871, and worked in Solary's store, first as Solary's clerk and then as his partner. He also served as the last postmaster for the Lake Jesup community, from 1881 to 1886. Browne lived in Oviedo until 1911.

Some sources refer to the wharf as the "Sahara Wharf".

(Walk south on Black Hammock Fish Camp Rd., west and south on Black Hammock Rd., east on Howard St., south on Deleon St., and west and northwest on SR 434 to the intersection with Tuskawilla Rd.)

Intersection of Tuskawilla and Sanford-Oviedo Rds.

Tuskawilla Road
In the early days of the settlement, Tuskawilla Road was a rugged wagon trail blazed for the construction of a railroad line from Lake Jesup to Orlando. The 1873 effort of George Brantley and Daniel Mitchell failed when both died while the roadbed grading was half completed.

(Walk northwest on SR 434 to the intersection with Apache Tr.)

Northeast side of SR 434, across from Apache Tr. (1126 E. SR 434)

City Hall
This city was incorporated in 1959 as North Orlando with a population of less than 600. In 1972, it changed its name to Winter Springs and is now the largest city in Seminole County, on the basis of land area.

(Walk northwest and west on SR 434, and take the right fork at the intersection with SR 419. Walk west on SR 419 and north on Wade St. to its end. Then walk east 50 feet.)

Old Sanford-Oviedo Rd.

Brick Road
The cities of Sanford and Oviedo were connected by a dirt road, and it was paved in about 1920. The material used was brick, and approximately 300 feet of that original road still exists here. During the 1960s, the road was realigned, paved with concrete, and designated as SR 419.

(Walk south on Wade St., west on SR 419, south on Moss Rd., and west on SR 434 to the intersection with Fairfax Ave.)

Northeast corner of SR 434 and Fairfax Ave. (1 N. Fairfax Ave.)

Commercial Building
This is the oldest public building in Winter Springs, opening in 1960 as the office of the North Orlando Company. That was the company which developed the village, which was chartered in 1959. This building also served as the village hall.

In 1962, the 3400 acres belonging to the Winter Springs Development Company were annexed and the village was rechartered as the City of Winter Springs. This building then served briefly as the city hall. In 1995, the city sold the building to a private citizen, and is now used for commercial businesses.

(Walk east on SR 434 to the entrance to Central Winds Park, and north and west to the parking lot where you began.)

A History of the First United Methodist Church of Winter Park, by W. Breathitt Gray, Jr. (Ferris Printing Co. 1992)

A Sightseing Tour of Seminole County Historic Sites, (Seminole County Historical Commission 1991)

Early Days of Seminole County, Florida, by Arthur E. Franke, Jr. (Seminole County Historical Commission 1988)

Flashbacks: The Story of Central Florida's Past, by Jim Robison and Mark Andrews (The Orlando Sentinel 1995)

Historical and Architectural Survey, City of St. Cloud, Project Report, by Brenda J. Elliott and Associates (1993)

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