Articles of Interest

Exerpts  appeared in an article in  the Florida Times Union and Citizen Special Edition, Jacksonville, Fla.  on August 28, 1889.

Lake County

If one could rise to an altitude where the range of vision could take in the county of Lake, he would behold a vision that no one could describe or no brush  reproduce on canvas.  Lakes, whose crystal waters mirror back the scenery of the skies, linked together in endless succession by the windings of the Ocklawaha; lakes fringed with sloping hills that glint with the green and gold of a hundred orange groves; lakes flecked with the white winged pleasure craft and burdened with the floating freightage of a region famed for its fertility and fruitfulness.  Killarney and Como have their counterparts here in beauty and picturesqueness.


   Lying between two of these mirrored gems, Lakes Eustis and Dora,  is the beautiful town of Tavares, the county seat.  Here three lines of railway intersect, which gives superb transportation facilities.  The finest opera house in the State; an elegant brick hotel, the Osceola; a fine brick court house and  jail; a number of handsome brick stores, and many pretty residences, complete a model town.  This embryo city is comparatively new, and much of its progress is due to Mr. Alexander St. Clair-Abrams, who was a leading spirit in its development, and to ex-Lieutenant Governor Jones of New York, the famous scale manufacturer Colonel Alfred St. Clair-Abrams, owner and editor of the Tavares Herald, is one of the most prominent and progressive citizens.

   The town has a large and prosperous  section to support it, and its citizens are wide-awake workers, and have the bravest confidence in its future.

    In traveling from  Tavares to Clermont by the Tavares and Gulf Railway one sees a great variety of scenery and much productive land.  On the west and south sides of Lake Apopka are many hundreds of acres of as fertile land as can be found in Florida.  These are high and heavily timbered hammocks, low but dry bay land, and saw- grass and much land.  All of this land produces corn, cabbage, potatoes, sugar cane, and many other crops in great abundance.  The high hammocks of this section have on them some of the oldest and best orange groves in the State.

   About six miles farther west are the picturesque sections of Clermont and Minneola.  They are reached from the north by the Tavares and Gulf Railway, and from the east and west by the Sanford and St. Petersburg division of the Plant System.  Lakes Minneola, Minnehaha and Louisa are beautiful sheets of water in this vicinity.  They are from two and six miles across, and steamers ply between Clermont and Minneola.  The land around them is high and healthy.  This section is noted for its freedom from cold and its wonderful crops of winter vegetables.  Orange trees on the south side of Lake Minneola did not loose even their foliage in the famous winters of 1894 and 1895.  Oranges and grapefruit now hang in tempting lusciousness on the trees.  A magnificent clay road will soon connect Clermont and Minneola and another skirt the north and east shores of Minnehaha.

   On the east side of Lake Harris are the villages of Lane Park and Astatula.  Both of them are situated on high lands, and from each of them the " lake of the sunbeams",  presents a charming view.  Lane Park is the terminus of the St. Johns & Lake Eustis division of the Plant System, and has excellent shipping facilities.

   One of the largest well-drained bodies of muck land in the State is located on the north side of Lake Apopka, near Victoria.  It contains about 14,000 acres in all.


Eustis, beautiful, picturesque Eustis, stands upon the placid shores of the lovely lake whose name it bears.  Far off on the lake, the pretty homes can be seen embowered in tropic foliage and surrounded by beautiful groves, laden with a wealth of fruitage.  This is the home of a thrifty community, congregated in recent years from various  sections of the Union; men who have brought with them a sprit of enterprise and energy that have found expression in one of the most lovely little towns in the "Land of Flowers:.  Splendid schools, fine streets, pretty homes, handsome churches, lovely scenery, and excellent society combine to make this an ideal place of residence.  First class transportation facilities furnished at this point, by both rail and water, concentrates here an extensive traffic from a large surrounding country as fertile as it is picturesque.  The Eustis, Lake Region, a popular and ably edited newspaper is published by a company of which A. H. Hill is president and W. L. Osborn is secretary.  A well managed bank, numerous stores and lodges of the various secret orders, are features of interest.  The Eustis Seminary, under the management of Professor Bryon F. March, is a flourishing institution.

   While Eustis is the largest town in the "East Lake" section of the county there are others nearby.  Umatilla, Mt. Dora, Sorrento, Cassia , Crows Bluff, Paisley, and others have each their respective charms.  In this vicinity the cultivation of tobacco is eliciting special interest, and leaf of fine texture and flavor is raised.  The pineapple industry is one which has given admirable results also. Each of the villages mentioned has its schools and places of worship, and is well sustained by fruit raising , trucking and agriculture.  The lover of sport will find here ample diversion with rod and reel and gun.   Quail, ducks, deer, turkeys, and other game are found in abundance, and occasionally "bruin" may also  be encountered.  The vital statistics show this a remarkably healthy region, the death rate of Lake County being only 7 to 1,000 population.  The elevation above sea level is nearly 200 feet.

The Okahumpka Region

   Going south from Leesburg through a densely wooded hammock lying along the west shore of Lake Harris, the "Okahumpka Run" is reached, a narrow channel of water connecting Lakes Harris and Dunham.  The county road and the Plant System Railway cross the run at Helena.  Here, for may years, was the head of navigation for the Ocklawaha line of steamers, and the most inland point having steamer connection with the ocean through Lake s Harris, Eustis, and Griffin, with their river connection, thence north down the Ocklawaha  to the St. Johns, and down that to the Atlantic.  The scenery on the Okahumpka Run is weirdly beautiful and luxuriantly tropical, resembling, but unsurpassed by, any portion of the far-famed Ocklawaha.

   Westward, to the Sumter County line, and eastward to Lake Astatula, skirting the southerly lines of Lakes Harris and Dunham and their connection "run", are several thousand acres of rich hammock lands, that ot the westward being fringed with cypress swamp, containing some magnificent specimens of forest giants, several of the largest ranging from twenty to thirty-five feet in circumference, and being very tall.  Through those hammocks thousands of wild orange trees were found and have since been budded and form parts of orange groves that now occupy a large portion of these rich lands.  In this locality is situated Crystal Spring, a mirror like sheet of water several acres in extent and of enormous depth.

   Near this wonderful spring is Okahumpka, a station on the Plant System.  In the midst of a high, rolling timber belt, on soil whose excellence is proven by thrifty orange groves, Okahumpka is noted for its air of progress.  A handsome church, a nice school, two large well-stocked general stores, express, and post-office, and the justly noted Clarendon Hotel, are all within close proximity to the station.

   The sportsman and the pleasure-seeker find a wide range of amusement here.  This locality is noted for its healthfulness.

   About a mile east of Okahumpka is the picturesque Palatlakaha Creek, which through its tortuous courses of about fifty miles, furnishes an outlet to the ocean for numerous small lakes.  Within the past few years the Palatlakaha has attained an international reputation because of the wonderful kaolin deposits -- discovered along its course.  For purity and color this is said to be unequaled by any other deposit yet found in America.  It is stated that kaolin from the Richmond mine was sent to France, and that the china made from it equaled the finest class known to the art.  The Palatlakaha Kaolin Mill is located about a mile up the creek where it empties into Lake Harris.  Here the pretty village of Richmond is situated,  on the road between Okahumpka and Bloomfield.  About twelve miles south and on this same stream deposits of ocre await development and will prove profitable.

   Situated among the pines, at a considerable elevation, about a third of a mile south of Lake Harris, is the neat compact village of Bloomfield.  A large church, a nice schoolhouse, two stores, and a post-office are there.  A steamer furnishes transportation facilities.  Orange and truck growing are the leading industries.  About two miles east from here is Yalaha, situated on a bluff close to the water's edge, and commanding a magnificent view of the lake.  It has a number of good stores, a church, post-office, and admirable school facilities.  Its natural surroundings are surpassingly lovely.  Its orange groves are thrifty and vigorous.  To the south of this section, and east of the Palatlakaha, are the little settlements of Winsted and Exeter.  Around these is a beautiful rolling country dotted with pretty lakes.  Many neat homes and flourishing groves abound.  Villa City  a miniature city of villas, promises to become a favorite winter resort for the tourist and health seeker.  About three miles west from it on the Orange Belt division of the Plant System, is the thriving village of Mascotte.  Rolling lands and pretty lake characterize this vicinity; but southward to the Polk County line are extensive areas of flat lands with occasional hammocks.  Stock raising and farming find a happy and profitable combination here.  These interests, with truck farming, contribute to the support of two stores and other commercial enterprises.

   Leesburg, the metropolis of the lake region, is located between Lake Harris and Lake Griffin, and is the largest town in Lake County.

Orange Bend

   This village, on the St. Johns and Lake Eustis branch of the Plant System, is six miles east of Leesburg.  It has a post-office, express office, and a general store.  It is in the midst of over 700 acres of orange groves.  The oranges from this section took the premium at the New Orleans exposition in competition with the world.. and have won in similar contests at other exhibits.  The soil is black and fertile, with a clay subsoil from six inches to two feet beneath the surface.  Beneath this is a sub-stratum of marl.  This entire section was once a wild orange grove.  In this section are some of the largest orange groves in the State;  the Lovell grove, the famous General Tilson grove, and the widely known "Bonaventure", owned by Hon. E. H. Mote, who has recently planted over thirteen thousand young trees.  Over twenty thousand trees have been set out in the last two years and large areas are being cleared for more to be set.

   The Orange Bend section is so widely known as the home of the golden fruit that few visitors to Florida fail to see it.  The land is so rich and its yield of fruit and truck is so great that it is regarded as exceptionally valuable.  The great Tilson grove, containing 150 acres in oranges, and its neighbor, the Mote grove, with over  100 acres, known as "Bonaventure" is also one of the largest truck farms in Florida, having 125 acres in truck.  It is on the banks of beautiful Lake Griffin, commanding a charming view, and is one of the most valuable properties in the State.

   The famous grove of the Bishop-Hoyt Fruit Company is situated in Orange Bend.  The late Hon. P.P. Bishop, who was one of the earliest orange growers in this part of the State, was president of the company until his death, in December, 1896.  The fine fruit of this grove was widely known and sought after, not only in the North, but in England, where were shipped every Christmas time some thousands of boxes.

   Lady Lake, six miles from Leesburg; Fruitland Park; Montclair, two miles west of Leesburg; Whitney, Drakes Point, on Lake Harris; Viola, and Lake Griffin; Astor Park, Paisley, St. Francis, on the banks of the St. Johns River; Higley, Lisbon, Grand Island, located between Lake Eustis and Lake Yale; Altoona and Umatilla are all attractive small towns, or communities, located in Lake County.

   Lake County has a countless number of lakes, among the largest of which are Lakes Apopka, Eustis, Harris, Griffin and Dora.  IT has an area of 237 square miles of lakes, many of which are linked by connecting channels; and these are among the finest yachting and fishing waters in the world.

   Eldorado is another of those indescribable charms that have made Lake Harris- the "Galilee of America"- so famous.  Within ten minutes' ride of Leesburg by rail, it is visited by hundreds.  A great hillside is covered with a succession of orange groves that make it a marvel of beauty.

   Summed up in a word, Lake County stands out conspicuously as one of the greatest counties of this great State, not only in wealth- producing power, but in the character and thrift of its citizenship, and in the charm of its matchless scenery.

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Updated by Fran Smith on August 2, 2013

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