A Town is Born
On a clear day more than a century ago seventy DeLand pioneers came out of the piny woods from all directions-on horseback, by wagon, and on foot-over deep sand trails to a clearing east of the lot where Fountain’s Store would later be built on the northeast corner of Indiana Avenue and Woodland Boulevard. They had been summoned to the first town meeting by word of mouth from cabin to cabin in the forest. It was December 6, 1876, nine months after Alexander Graham Bell spoke the first intelligible sentence over a telephone in Boston and sixteen years before the first gasoline propelled automobile was made in America. The pioneers sat on rough-hewn planks, over a carpet of pine needles under a canopy of blue sky, and charted the course for their future.
The process of reconstruction had ended in most southern states, and Florida was in the last few months of radical control. People began coming to the state from the North as well as the South to start new lives. Among the states represented at the town meeting were New York, Indiana, Kentucky, and South Carolina. Although a few people lived along the St. Johns River, the first homesteaders came to the area that was to be DeLand in 1875 and 1876.
The first settler, Captain John C. Rich, was a native of Stamford, New York. During the Civil War he had enlisted as a private in the 144th New York Volunteers, was commissioned a lieutenant for bravery in 1868, and was promoted to captain in 1864. He married Clara Fidelia Wright of Beaufort, South Carolina, in 1869, and they came from Port Royal, South Carolina, to this area in 1875. He settled on ten acres of pine land one block west of the present Putnam Hotel, began farming, and planted an orange grove. Their daughter, Clara Belle, was the first child born in DeLand.
Henry Addison DeLand, the town’s founder and benefactor, was a successful baking powder manufacturer at Fairport, New York, who first came by riverboat on the St. Johns to Enterprise and thence tothe local died by one-horse 1g, m dale do. lest and sightseeing and had no idea of investing in Florida. He stayer Evernight at Captain Rich’s cabin where he slept on the floor and could put his hands between the widely spaced planks. While at the Rich’s, he met eight or ten couples who had settled among the pines in all directions men Captain Rich’s cabin. He found them “young, intelligent, cultured and enterprising, and thought they would make a first-class nucleus for a town.
Fascinated with the weather, the high pine land, and the orange trees, Mr. DeLand bought 159.91 acres of land the next day from Mr. and Mrs. Fred Hampson to whom he paid a thousand dollars. It was east of Captain Rich’s cabin, bordered on the southwest by the present Putnam Hotel and on the southeast by the Towers Apartments. He also bought other acreage before returning home.
Back in the area for a short visit in December, the baking powder magnate called the town meeting and presented suggestions for starting a town and donated funds and land toward it. Following the suggestion of Henry B. Austin, the town’s second settler, the town name of “DeLand” was unanimously agreed upon in honor of its founder.
The streets were named next. The section line about a block south of the spot where they were meeting was to be hereafter known as New York Avenue; the easterly line of Henry DeLand’s homestead was called Amelia, after the wife of the town’s first minister, the
St. Barnabas Timeline
1882 – The name St. Barnabas is chosen and church building fund established
1883 – Land donated for an Episcopal church by John and Clara RIch.
1877 – The schoolhouse was built.