Florida Today 11
Florida Frontiers - Central Florida Pioneer Henry A. Deland
In 1876, businessman Henry A. DeLand left his home in Fairport, New York, to visit his sister and brother-in-law in east central Florida. DeLand’s relatives, Mr. and Mrs. O.P. Terry, had created a rural homestead in west Volusia County.
Henry DeLand left New York on a train to Jacksonville. From there he took a steamboat down the St. Johns River to Enterprise. A horse and buggy carried him the rest of the way to the Terry’s isolated home. DeLand was so impressed with the beauty and climate of the area that he decided to start a town there.
Using the fortune he had accumulated from manufacturing baking soda in New York, DeLand purchased large tracks of land near the Terry homestead. The area was called Persimmon Hollow, but when the scattered settlers heard about DeLand’s plans to establish a town, they voted to name it after him. To entice others to settle in his new town, DeLand made a generous offer.
Henry DeLand told people that if they moved to his town and decided that they were unhappy there, he would buy back the land that he sold to them.
Families started moving to the town of DeLand, most growing citrus or other crops. Henry DeLand nicknamed his town “The Athens of Florida,” and worked to foster cultural, religious, and educational opportunities for residents.
The town prospered quickly. DeLand built a public school that also served as the meeting hall for churches, until each denomination could build their own houses of worship. He brought in entertainers and sponsored special events. In 1883, a college called the DeLand Academy was established.