The City of DeLand, located in Volusia County is situated in the East Central part of Florida along the eastern shore of the St. Johns River. DeLand is described as a high pine meadow, accentuated by rolling hills and fringed along the St. Johns River by a narrow strip of very fertile hammock.
Volusia County has over 400 years of history. Early Native Americans, explorers from Spain, colonists from France, and settlers from England have left their mark on Florida.
The earliest occupants of what we know now as the City DeLand left little record and for untold ages lived and died here prior to the coming of the Europeans. They left immense mounds full of oyster shells, pieces of pottery, and weapons of war, bones and articles of domestic use.
The first settler in the area was probably Ruben Marsh. He first came to Florida during the Seminole Indian War. He was in a scouting party in 1841 and claimed, “If I come out of this war alive, I’m coming back here to settle and raise cattle.” Ruben Marsh and the other scouts had stopped at a lake (in the DeLand area) to make camp for the night. They saw bears, wolves, panthers, deer, turkey and plenty of other wild game. “Everything was there for a man who wanted to build a future for himself.”
The war ended, and in 1846 Ruben Marsh got married and moved to what is now known as DeLand. He bought a settlers claim, where he built a cabin for his family and started raising stock.
The pioneers were self-sufficient. They raised their own food, made their own clothes; they carved their homes out of the Florida hammock. They stayed close to their homes and made their own entertainment.
The area now known as DeLand was once called Persimmon Hollow. Wild persimmons used to grow in this area in abundance. After the end of the Civil War, each year brought increasing numbers of pioneers seeking to build a future for themselves.
In March of 1876, Henry Addison DeLand was overdue for a vacation. He traveled with his wife to Walterboro, South Carolina where he visited with his wife’s family.
His brother-in-law, O.P. Terry had what is called “Orange Fever.” Orange Fever is the excitement and furor of the early pioneers over investing in Orange Groves in Florida. Terry had just purchased land in Florida and had a terrible case of “Orange Fever”! In his excitement he convinced Henry DeLand to accompany him on a trip down south to see his land.
The two families traveled together, first by train to Jacksonville, then by steamboat to Enterprise. Although DeLand enjoyed the trip up river, he saw nothing that would interest him. In Enterprise Terry arranged for a one horse rig for their trip, following a primitive trail from Enterprise to the Wisconsin Settlement (Orange City), then on to Alexander’s Landing at Beresford.
Henry A. DeLand was not impressed by what he saw on the first part of his journey and begged his sister’s husband to turn back, but Terry kept insisting, “Better country beyond.” He knew his brother-in-law well and felt sure, once they got beyond those first miserable miles through the dry sand and thick underbrush, Henry DeLand would, “sit up and take notice.”
Gradually the countryside began to change. They started traveling higher and the flat terrain slowly turned into rolling terrain with towering pine trees. The pine trees created a canopy that protected them from the sun’s direct rays.
As they approached the Wisconsin Settlement (Orange City) they could hear the steady sounds of saws cutting through timber, nails being hammered into wood. At this point DeLand remarked, “This looks like the West. Here is snap and push. I am willing to go on.”
As they traveled into the area that would become DeLand they passed several young orange groves in bloom. The young healthy trees were full of deep green leaves and the fragrance of the waxy white blossoms filled the air. Henry A. DeLand was much impressed with the high and rolling land where you could “see for great distances, through the tall pine trees.”
Before the day was over Henry A. DeLand had bought the Hampton homestead (159.1 acres of land) and had met several of the settlers in the area. Henry DeLand described them as being a fine group of people to form the nucleus of a town, dedicated to the advancement of education and culture.
The next morning DeLand and Terry returned to Enterprise and their respective homes.
All summer long DeLand thought of his visit to Florida, recalling its beauty and serenity. He, too, had contracted “orange fever” and began thinking what a lovely little community there could be, with houses scattered about, a school, church and buildings necessary to supply the needs of people, all of which could be neatly nestled between acres of orange groves.
Early in life, DeLand had adopted the conviction that if he became a financial success he would give any money, over and above a set sum, for benevolent purposes. Over the years he had prospered and he decided that now was the time to use his profits for the betterment of mankind. Thus, from the beginning, DeLand was unique for its time. It didn’t just spring up haphazard out of the wilderness- it was carefully planned by the man destined to be its founder.
Henry A. DeLand returned to DeLand with one goal in mind, the creation of a town based on culture and education.
On December 6, 1876, at 2pm the settlers of DeLand met in the Rich cabin, at this meeting the settlers voted to name their little community “DeLand” in honor of Henry Addison DeLand and everything he had done for the community.