Lake Co. Communities and Settlements
Eustis was not the original name chosen for the city. The people of Eustis,
on the east shore of Lake Eustis, took their time deciding on a name. First,
it was Highlands, then Pendryville and finally Lake Eustis, named about
1825 for General Abraham Eustis.
The forces of General Eustis, prominent in the Seminole wars, had
skirmishes with the Indians on the south shore of the lake,
near present-day Tavares.
In 1876, A. S. Pendry homesteaded land and set out a citrus
grove. In the fall of 1877 he opened the Ocklawaha
Hotel. The post office in the hotel lobby carried
the sign "Pendryville."
Before the railroads came in the
middle of the 1880's, Eustis was a
busy port for steamers traveling
through Lakes Harris, Eustis, Dora, and Griffin.
In 1881 the "Lake" was dropped and the town just became Eustis.
A big year was 1878 when the town's first telegraph line connected Eustis, Leesburg and Sanford. The first railroad came in 1880 from Astor to Fort
Mason, where passengers and freight could make lake steamer connections
to Leesburg, Helena, Yalaha, Lane Park and Tavares.
The economy of Eustis was largely agricultural from its earliest
beginnings to the freezes of the 1980's. Melon and vegetable
farming added to the wealth created by citrus. The train
engineers blew long continuing blasts of the locomotive
whistle, when freezing weather was expected, thus notifying
farmers in the county of the expected frost peril of their crops.
Churches have played a vital role in Eustis'
history, beginning in the late 1870's with a
Sunday School in the Crooked Lake
schoolhouse. Once the
Clifford store was built in 1881,
services were held in the large second-floor
room. The first church organized in Eustis
was the Episcopal in 1881. It
was followd by the Methodist in 1882, Presbyterian
in 1883, and Christian in 1886. Some three to
four black churches were established during this period.
The Clifford Taylor House, located on Bay Street now houses
the Eustis Historical Museum. It is open Tuesday thru Friday 1-5 P.M.,
Sunday 2-5 P.M.
George Washington's Birthday Celebration, held in February,
is the longest continuously running celebration in the State
of Florida. It began with a Boat Parade on Lake Eustis
and a small parade covering about 4 blocks downtown.
It has grown to a 2½ hour parade covering about
2 miles. Other activities which accompany the
parade have included Fun Runs, 10k runs,
King Beard Contest, and beauty contests.
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