Archive for August, 2012

A Missing Building

There is a mystery I can’t seem to solve, even when searching through the myriad of Lake County deeds.  It involves the compound, the Zephyr Lake site of Stapylton and Company and my propensity to wanting to know the details.  Here’s the scenario:

1885 The Stapylton’s dined at the big house belonging to Staplyton and Company (Stapylton, Budd, Hereford who sold it to Stapylton 11/19/1885).

July 1886 Holy Trinity Episcopal Church’s organizational meeting at Stapylton’s Dining Hall.

December 1888 deed abstract for 1.35 acres on which is penciled “Hall and old GCS home.” This acreage was sold to Arthur Halford (1896)<Ida Prall (1905)<Ninian Lindsay (1906);<R.F.E. Cooke and inherited by his wife Margaret<Lola Gorman (1943)<Pringle and Turner (1943).

1889 picture of Stapylton  & Co., caption on which notes: L-R stables, boarding house, kitchen with dining room. Smaller buildings appear between. A trail runs along the fence line. Note the leaning pine tree evident between the stable and boarding house. Looks to have been taken from the southwest corner. The boarding house is close to the fence line perhaps indicating the western boundary of Stapylton’s property.

July 1889 Reception after the consecration of Holy Trinity church held at Stapylton and Budd’s Hall.

1890s Stapylton sold most of his remaining land in Section 4 to R. F. E. Cooke.  In the 1920s Cooke built his home, Franmar, on the 1.35 acres.

Pictures taken when plantings matured show the stable in foreground, the east side of boarding house with awnings over the windows and the leaning, spindly pine tree between the two structures as in picture taken in 1889.

~1915 Picture of “The Hall” (same as below) that looks exactly like the boarding house!  Were they replicas?

1924 Lillian Vickers-Smith, “History of Fruitland Park,” writes about the English Colony, “For them Zephyr Hall, familiarly known as ‘The Hall,’ was built as a boarding house.” The accompanying picture is labeled Zephyr Hall. Windows have awnings; no visible plantings around foundation.

The 1930 US census for Lake County and specifically for R. F. E. Cooke of Franmar shows that Harriet Deal, the mother of his first wife, Ada,  lived next door.  Is the boarding house aka The Hall?

December 1946 Pringle and Turner subdivided what was essentially Stapylton’s original land on Zephyr Lake into a subdivision, Zephyr Lake. The main buildings, stable, boarding house and dining hall, would now become  Lots 1 and 2.

1951 Pringle and Turner to Wilkens & Margaret Lenhart, Lot 1 (site of Staplyton’s old home, residences of R. F. E. Cooke (Franmar), and currently Michael Coons.

1952 Pringle and Turner to Albert and Dorothy Turley, Lot 2 site of “The Hall.” (Margaret Lenhart and Dorothy Turley were sisters.)

1971 (undated Leesburg Commercial article “When the English Roamed the Hall” by Norma Hendricks.) Claims Cooke lived at The Hall until Franmar completed. Now an apartment building with six units owned by Albert and Dorothy Turley.  Maybe Cooke had the boarding house demolished when building his new home.

1990s Betty Coons inherits both Lots 1 and 2.

1996 Betty Coons sells Lot 2 to John H. Connell who currently owns the Zephyr Lake Tree Farm located thereon.

2001 Fruitland Park publishes “The Beginning of a New Era” that includes a picture of “The Hall” and cites that “a large boarding house was built on the lakeshore and named “Zephyr Hall.” Picture taken about 1915 labeled “The Hall.” This is the same picture as in the Vickers-Smith book and above.

The 1889 picture and the 1971 picture look exactly the same. Mike Coons remembers well  The Hall next door that his great-aunt operated as a bed and breakfast.

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The Chetwynd Chronicles, the history of a British Colony of Lake County, Florida, 1882-1902, now in the pre-publication stage, tells the story of a group of young bachelors who left their home country to seek the golden pot at the end of the rainbow in Central Florida. In this instance the golden pot bore the shape of an orange that, over time, would translate into great wealth.

Before theme parks, ribbons of highways, Wal-mart, and even roads and railroads, there were only acres and acres of pine forests and grasses with orange trees sprinkled about here and there. The settlement area, tucked into the northwest portion of Lake County, was appropriately called by one colonist, a “nether land.” That it was.

Enter onto the scene the twenty-three-year-old son of an English vicar, Granville Brian Chetwynd-Stapylton who laid the groundwork for the establishment of not only a colony, but within it a learning complex. This complex, located on a small lake, Zephyr Lake, included a boarding house, a stable for their horses, and a dining hall with an attached kitchen. Tuition-paying men not only learned how to grow citrus but planted, grew and tended to all the groves on Stapylton’s land. While they learned, Stapylton, at various times, ventured into real estate endeavors that included a town, also called Chetwynd, into the establishment of Leesburg’s first bank, and into politics. In 1902 he was elected Leesburg’s major; he died the same year.

The Great Freezes of 1894-1895 capped off with another in 1899 proved to be the death knell of the colony as well as for profitable citrus growing in Lake County for many years.

Of the brief local historical accounts the number of British living in the colony ranged from 80 to 150. The latter number bears some truth in that nearly 150 men have been identified. But they didn’t all live in the colony at the same time. They arrived at various times and left at various times and for all sorts of reasons. With time and tenacity not only have the men been identified but biographical information was found as well. Those searching for family roots may not know that their ambitious ancestor tried to make a fortune growing citrus in Florida.

So do be patient; The Chetwynd Chronicles will soon be published. Those who enjoy history and those interested in family histories will love The Chetwynd Chronicles, the only history ever written about the Colony of Chetwynd.

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         At the core of my being is an “I want to know” characteristic that drives me to obsessively research, not only my family’s history, but obscure or forgotten pieces of local history like the British Colony of Chetwynd that led to the writing of the  Chetwynd Chronicles.  Perhaps my inspiration came from my seventh grade teacher in Colorado Springs, Barclay Watson, who made history fun and tantalizing.
     Although enrolled at Capital University, Columbus, Ohio, as a history major, my attention soon shifted to music and then to marriage before graduation.  Two decades later, however, I graduated from Lenoir-Rhyne College, Hickory, North Carolina, with a business degree.  On a mountaintop over-looking beautiful downtown Valdese, North Carolina, I worked alongside my soul-mate, Larry, as business and chemical consultants.  He died just before the 1997 publication of my book, Amazing Grace, the 150 year history of Grace Episcopal Church in Morganton, North Carolina.
     Prompted by an advertisement touting a retirement community where one can “play golf free for the rest of your life,” I and my four cats moved to The Villages, Florida, in 2000.  And I joined a church in Fruitland Park, Holy Trinity Episcopal Church—formerly in Chetwynd.  And the rest is history!
    Perhaps there’s wonderment with the author’s name.  I’ve noted that some authors of the latest best-selling books seem to prefer using three initials instead of their given name. Three initials, after all, seem more sophisticated that two. So I decided to apply that format too—for a reason.  Because three initials preceded most surnames of the Chetwynd settlers I’m honoring them by adopting the same tradition—if only for a time.  All other times I’m called Donna, Bottsky, or just plain Bott.

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