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Archive for the ‘Chetwynd’ Category

Lake Reflections

Orlando Sentinel, August 24, 1994

By Ormund Powers

Jim Warnke, an expert on vanished communities, says there are 350 ghost towns in Florida, of which he has located 20 in Lake County.

Checking old maps and old histories, I came up with 32, some of which were not on Warnke’s list. He had 16 I didn’t have. If you add those, you have 48 lost villages and towns in Lake County. Seems like a lot. Of course, our figures may be wrong.

Jim Warnke, who lives in Boynton Beach, has been trudging the back roads of Florida, backpack and all, for many years. He has written a small book on the subject that is available from him for $6. (P.O. Box 1408, Boynton Beach 33425)

”They came to the promised land of Florida in the early 1800s for many reasons,” Warnke writes, ”the consumptive for his health, the pioneer for a new home for his family, the merchant for a new start, the tycoon to enrich his holdings and the worker to lead a new life in the land of everlasting summer.”

Then Warnke asks: ”How could a whole town of homes, stores, hotels and post offices vanish so that today one is hard put to even find the spot where the settlement existed?

”The reasons are varied but are usually due to hard economics – a bad freeze, a railroad bypassing the town, or perhaps the local main industry closing its doors. Whatever the reason, Florida is dotted with over 350 of these historical and little-known ghost towns that contributed so much to the progress of the state.”

Some of the historical villages, Warnke says, may still have the proverbial hermit in residence.

”Some do have the remains of clapboard structures still standing after years of forest fires and hurricanes,” he writes. ”On other sites, one can still find the handmade bricks and the old bottles of another era to remind him that he is standing on the soil of history.”

Eleven of the ghost towns Warnke identifies are in the Ocala National Forest, and he reminds us that it is a federal offense to disturb the sites of those ghost towns: Kismet, St. Francis, Sellers Lake, Summit, Bryanville, Syracuse, Churchill, Kerr City, Barronswood, Messina and Acron.

Others in Lake County he identifies are: Conant, one mile north of Lady Lake on State Road 25; Grand Island, off State Road 44, north of Lake Eustis; Old Seneca, three miles west of Eustis on State Road 439; Lovejoys Mill, on the railroad, two miles east of Sorrento off State Road 46; Wayland, on the railroad, 3 1/2 miles east of Sorrento off S.R. 46; Cassia Station, on the railroad, seven miles east of Sorrento off S.R.46; Ethel City, east of State Road 433 on the south county line; Cason, three miles southwest of Okahumpka on the railroad off State Road 48; Winsted, near Florida’s Turnpike and State Road 25; Hawkinsville, one mile south of State Roads 42 and 44 on the St. Johns River.

My own list, based on some very early maps and information from the Lake County Historical Society, includes in addition to some of Warnke’s, Chetwynd, two miles north of Fruitland Park; Slighville, east of Lady Lake on the west side of Lake Griffin; Lake Woodward, both a lake and a town on the lake; Higley, eight miles west of Umatilla; Seneca, six miles east of Eustis; Albert, on the Palatlakaha River near Lake Susan, Ravenwood, a development alongside Pittman, north of Umatilla; Glendale, between Umatilla and Altoona; Waterin’ Pond, halfway between Leesburg and Slighville; Whitney, west of Leesburg; Emeralda, north Lake Griffin.

Villa City, south of Mascotte; Monterey, east of Lake Louisa; Exeter, south of Yalaha; Parkland, on Lake Harris; Lassiter, on Lake Griffin; Bloomfield, near Leesburg; Dundee, north of Fruitland Park; Lanier, near Lake Griffin; Mersia, near Cassia; Mason and Fort Mason, north of Eustis; Sligh, west of Lady Lake; Mount Home, between Eustis and Tavares; Eldorado, southwest of Lake Eustis; Gardenia, between Dundee and Fruitland Park; Stickler, west of Umatilla; and a few I haven’t been able to locate satisfactorily, including Ponceannah, Landis, Lower Blackwater, Helena and Bluff Pond.

Warnke notes that if he has offended any town fathers (by calling their towns ”ghosts” when they are not) he apologizes, as we all do. But on the other hand, there may be some vanished communities few of us know about, and if this is the case, we would appreciate hearing.

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Over a year ago Barbara Beaman contacted me quite out of the blue. Apparently she had visited my previous blog that listed the colonists I had discovered. Barbara knew about one of them, Villiers Chernocke Smith, because, like me, she’s a family historian. Her ancestror, Algernon Beaman, owned a home and groves on the southern shore of Crystal Lake in Fruitland Park; Smith was Beaman’s caretaker.

Barbara writes:I don’t know when Mr.Smith became the caretaker. My family took a trip to Florida in January 1886 with the intent of buying a winter hotel property. They owned prosperous summer hotels northwest of Boston that were open from May 1st until October 1st. I really don’t know why they bought this property instead. I also don’t know if they went down there every winter from the beginning, or if that was something that happened later. They definitely were winter only people – October to April, so they would have needed a caretaker from the beginning. After the big freezes of 1894/95, they needed someone knowledgeable to help restore the groves. Since their main livelihood and properties were up north, money to rebuild was not the kind of issue it was for the people who lived in Florida full time.

Barbara also sent pictures. Here’s one of the family home:

And here’s one of Villiers holding an unknown child alongside Algernon Beaman.

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George Elin

This 8×11 watercolor by George Elin is available for sale from Jon Berg Fine Arts, Santa Monica, CA, for $235.  Although signed George Elin, Berg believes the artist was Felix Elin.

I am convinced that the artist was George Herbert Augustus Elin, one of the colony’s premier horsemen who is pictured several times in The Chetwynd Chronicles. Elin established one of the colony’s social clubs, the Forest Club, in 1883.  By 1893 he had returned to London where he married and raised two children.  Sometime before 1911 he moved to Vancouver, British Columbia.

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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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