Lake County, Florida Genealogy
|Lake County, Florida|
Location in the state of Florida
Location of Florida in the U.S.
|Founded||May 13, 1887|
- 1 County Courthouse
- 2 History
- 3 Resources
- 4 Societies and Libraries
- 5 References
Lake County Courthouse
315 W Main St; PO 7800
Tavares, FL 32778
Clerk Circuit Court has marriage, divorce, court and land records from 1887,
probate records from 1893 and adoption records.
County Health Department has death records. 
Our ancestors have lived in this area for many years.
In 1562 a French Huguenot colony was established in the present site of Astor on the St Johns River. The entire colony was wiped out by the Spanish, in 1566. In 1763 James Spalding established a trading post at Astor.
During the Revolutionary War all of Florida belonged to the British. A few white hunters and traders lived in Lake County, along with runaway slaves and freedmen.
In 1782, Spain re-occupied Florida and began rewarding large tracts of land. In 1819 Moses Levy received a land grant from the Spanish. He built a plantation along the St. Johns River in Lake Co. He was father of David Levy who later changed his name to “Yulee.” Mr. Yulee was Florida’s first senator after it acquired its statehood. During the first Seminole Indian War, the Seminole Indians burned the plantation to the ground.
The settlers built forts throughout the county to protect them from the Indians. At that time Lake County was known as Mosquito County. In 1823, at the Treaty of Moultrie Creek, the Seminoles were ordered to live on a reservation, most of which was in Lake County.
Towns grew and vanished and other towns took their place. When the Civil War began in 1861, there were several large plantations and many small farms in Lake County.
In 1862, most white males between 18 and 35 were forced into involuntary service to the Confederacy. The age was increased to 45 and also soon 17-year-old men were required into service. That left only women and their slaves to run the plantation and farms.
In 1887, Lake County became a county. It was named “Lake County” because it contains over 1400 lakes. It was carved from Orange and Sumter counties. In 1889, the courthouse was dedicated. It was known as the “Pioneer Building”.
During World War II, Lake County was the site of a Prison of War camp.
Early industries for Lake County were farming, citrus growing, lumber, turpentine, etc. Lake County was known for its record crops of oranges, tomatoes, watermelons, peaches and ferns. Fishing was plentiful because of our many beautiful lakes.
Freezes in 1894 and 1895 devastated the area. Fruit groves were wiped out by the freeze and it altered the economic condition of the county. People were forced to leave the county because of lack of food and employment. Towns and farms were abandoned. Only people who where financially stable before the freeze remained.
It was over 30 years before the citrus industry recovered. Citrus trees were easy to grow and cows, hogs, and mules provided some of the fertilizer.
Between 1920 and 1983 the county flourished. In 1983 Lake County was the nation’s second largest producer of citrus. You could see citrus groves for miles and the fragrant scent of orange blossoms was everywhere. A citrus tower was built in Clermont in 1956. You could go to the top of it and view the citrus groves for miles. There were fields of tomatoes and watermelons all over the county. You could go into the fields and pick your own vegetables.
Then the county was hit with freezes in 1983, 1985 and 1989 that almost wiped out the citrus industry in our area. Citrus is slowly coming back, but the old days are gone and now Lake County is becoming a place for retirees to come to enjoy their senior years.
Lake County is home to Sugarloaf Mountain, the highest point in peninsular Florida, at 312 feet (95 m) above sea level.
Places / Localities
Clermont: Herring Hooks of Americas, Georgia, discovered the lakes and hills of Clermont during a 1874 fishing trip. His sons, John, Charley, William and Robert settled in the area. Clermont was incorporated in 1891, but the charter was cancelled in 1895 following the Big Freeze and then reincorporated in 1916. The community was named after Clermont, France. Clermont Historic Village is located at 480 W Avenue, Clermont FL. It consists of several buildings which played a role in the town's establishment. It includes a Train Depot which was built on the site in 1925.
Eustis: It was first named Highlands, then Pendryville, and finally Lake Eustis in 1825 for General Abraham Eustis. General Eustis was prominent in the Seminole Wars. In the 1850's the U.S. opened up the area for homesteading. Among the earlier settlers was G.D.Clifford, who established a store and began the first mail service. The first homes were those of D.W. Herrick, A.D. Herrick, and Henry Key. Eustis was incorporated in 1883. In 1881, Guilford David Clifford and Smith built the first general store.
Fruitland Park: Fruitland Park predates the American Civil War. It was originally called Gardenia. The earliest settler was M. Calvin Lee, of the Evander Lee family of Leesburg. In 1874, Josiah Akon Lee (b. 1903) became registrar of the Land Office and encouraged people to settle in this area. By the 1800s, settlers had come from Ohio, Illinois, Maine and England. A. P. Bosanquet came from England and built a home on Zephyr Lake, called Zephyr Hall. In 1863, R.F.E. Cooke, born in London, immigrated to Florida with a group of colonists.. Cooke weathered the Big Freeze of 1894-1895, and became a banker and businessman and a prime mover in Lake County. Cooke married twice, first to Ada Gibb of London and in 1923 to Margaret Grace. He died March 1934. Major Orlando P. Rooks and his wife headed south in 1877 and built a home on Crystal Lake. The State of Florida granted a Charter to the City of Fruitland Park in 1927.
Groveland: In 1899, Elliott E. Edge, bought the pine lands and turpentine stills of brother T.M. and C.C. Taylor. The year Groveland was founded is in question, but it was thought to be 1911 that Taylorville was renamed Groveland.
Leesburg: Leesburg is the oldest and largest city in Lake County. The city claims 1857 as its birthday. This was the year that the city's namesake, Evander Lee and his family came to the area. Lee was the area's first permanent settler; however, in 1843 Thomas Robertson and his 21-year old son, John Marmaduke Robertson came to what would become Leesurg. They lived 11 years in what is now the heart of Leesburg. Then Thomas sold out and moved to Moss Bluff. John later sold his property and founded the nearby community of Whitney. In 1857, John Butler Dabney and his wife, Mackey were the first black settlers to settle in Leesburg. In 1868, Leeburg was made the county seat of Sumter County. The city was incorporated in 1875 and J.G. Wallace, was the first mayor.. The Works Project Corporation completed Venetian Gardens in 1930, which has circular canals, separated by flower gardens and crossed by rustic bridges. Leesburg held it first Watermelon Festival in 1930, and it became an annual tradition until watermelon production dwindled.
Leesburg High School Project - www.leesburgflorida.gov/history/student_leesburg.aspx
Mascotte: In 1885, the city was named after the sailing ship, USS Mascotte, which catered to Florida's early tourist trade. It was named by J.W. Payne, part owner if the ship. Early settlers were the Paynes, Martin Grimes and his brother (name unknown), and three brothers: William, Frank, and Charles Tidd and their sister and her husband, Tom Bradenbaker; Theodore Ruff, W.H. Whitnall, Dr. James Rosenberg, the Langley family, Judge Albert, the Frank Hortons, the Slones and the Sloanes. George M. Myers was the first mayor, elected in 1925.
Minneola: The first settler, Captain William A (Billy) Smith, came from Georgia (1870) after the Civil War and built a cabin on Plum Lake (Mohawk). Archibald A. Pitt came from Kentucky in 1882. The city was incorporated in 1925 with Archibald Pitt as mayor. Other settlers were: Cyrus Henry Wilson, Preston and Eugene Hunt from New York, Dr. W.N. Reeves from Texas, Sara Ann Abberger and family from Madison Indiana, Dr. R.R. Pachmann, Robert and Elizabeth Straker, M.P. Godfrey and Fernando A. Bishop from Alpena Michigan, Ben Patterson from Virginia, A.B. and William T. Cook from South Carolina, and Andrew W. Rowan.
Mount Dora: In 1874, the city was settled by David M. Simpson, his wife and two children. In 1880, the postmaster, Ross Tremain, named it Royellou after his three children, Roy, Ella, and Louis. In 1883 a 2-story hotel was opened and the city was renamed "Mount Dora." after Dora Ann Drawdy (1819-1885), who lived on the lake and befriended government surveyors. Mount Dora was incorporated in 1910. Ross C. Tremain was a pioneer of this city.
Tavares: Tavares was founded in 1887 and became Lake County seat in 1888. Tavares was founded by Major Alexander St. Clair Abrams, and named for a Spanish ancestor, Lopez Paco y Tavares. St. Clair Abrams built Lake County's first courthouse in 1886. It was a yellow brick churchlike building later it was replaced by a four-story brick courthouse. In front of the historic courthouse is a unique monument which holds the flagpole. The base is composed of stones from several states anf foreign countries, some of which are highly ornate in design. Early settlers were: H.H. Duncan, R.L. Nutt, J.B. Milam, George Butler, W.G. Long, and E.S. Burleigh.
Umatilla: The earliest days of Umatilla are lost to history, but it is known that Nathan Johnston Trowell and his wife, Rebecca Louisa Minors, left South Carolina in 1852 and built a log cabin near the present day Lake Umatilla. Rebecca died in 1861 and he later married Sevenah Hart. Raising cattle became the first industry in Umatilla and cattle was supplied to the troops of the Seminole, Civil, and Spanish-American wars. Trowell was granted permission to establish a post office as part of his general store and became Umatilla's first postmaster. W.A. Whitcomb came in 1877 and is responsible for the city's name. The city was incorporated in 1904 with G.V. DeVault being the first mayor. The first train came through Umatilla in 1880. The new rail line was called the St. Johns and Lake Eustis Railroad and covered 28 miles from Astor to Eustis. Umatilla is located in the north part of Lake County and is known as the gateway to the Ocala National Forest. According to folklore Umatilla was an Indian name meaning 'Land of Many Lakes."
Astatula: Founded in 1882 as Astabula, but in 1894 the post office spelling changed to Astatula. T.A. Hux was the first settler, coming in 1872. He raised sugar cane, cotton and oranges. He owned 1400 head of cattle.
Howey-in-the-Hills: William John Howey, originally from Illinois, came to Lake County in 1916. He married Mary Grace Hastings. In 1925, the town was incorporated as the Town of Howey. In 1927, the name was officially changed to Howey-in-the-Hills. This was done to reflect the location of the town in the area of rolling hills. In 1927, the first citrus juice plant in Florida was built in Howey-in-the Hills by William John Howey.Lady Lake: The town was originally named Cooperstown, after a railroad crew foreman. Later residents renamed the town. In 1885, Major A.J. Teague, from Newberry, South Carolina, brought his family to the area. The town was incorporated in 1925 and E.C. Huey, became the first mayor. Frederick Cummins Hester built a sawmill in 1910.
Montverde: Montverde was the site of an early Indian settlement. The first residents arrived in 1865 and called the place "West Lake Apopka." Later it was called "Monte Verde," (spanish for green mountain). Montverde was known for its grapes, winter vegtables and especially parsley. Montverde Academy was founded in 1912 by Dr. H.P. Carpenter. The original homesteaders were John W. Harden, W.H. Porter, John Griggs, Lt. James Franklin, and Andrew Shaw, John L. Calwell, George Kirk, Elias Meeks, P.I. Kendricks F.L. Merritt, and W.H. Harden. The town was incorporated in 1925 with W.D. Walker as mayor. One of its residents was Ruben Wyatt Harper, a pioneer citrus grower and community leader. The historic Harper House is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
CDP's (Census-designated Places)
Altoona: Incorporated in 1887, but abolished in 1899, after a fire wiped out most of the town's buildings. Luther Taylor was one of its' pioneers.
Astor: The Astor area and much of the land along the St Johns river was inhabited by Timucua natives prior to settlement by Europeans. In 1822, a plantation growing sugar cane and oranges was established by a Jewish immigrant, Moses Elias Levy. Early efforts of settlement all met with failure due to war or disease and until the 1870's the area was largely deserted. In 1874, William Backhouse Astor, Sr., from New York City's wealthy Astor family purchased over 12,000 acres of land and began to establish a town he called Manhattan. Over the next twenty years the town grew, but the name Manhattan never caught on. When Astor died in 1794, the town was officially renamed Astor in his honor. His son, John Jacob Astor IV inherited his father's estate and continued to promote the town. John died in the sinking of the Titanic in 1912, and the estate passed to his son, William Vincent Astor. William was not interested in his grandfather's Florida enterprises. The Astor family's interests in the area were sold. Gradually, Astor's prosperity and prominence declined and today the community is a popular spot for fishing, hunting, and boating enthusiasts.Bassville Park: is a community in Lake County on the west side of Lake Eustis.
Bay Lakes: The people were cattle folk. An early business was Granville Beville II gristmill. Among the cattle families were: Gibson Sloan, Dave Carlton, Issac Stephen Carlton, Preston Brown, John Story, E.E. Edge, and John Brady.Carter's Island: In 1869, former South Carolina, Allen T. Carter, bought the big rich hammock known as Carter's Island, and moved there with his wife Adeline and seven children, Eli, Henry, Mary Jane, Stephen, Thomas, Julann and a girl, Adeline, was born after the move. The Carters had large herds of range cattle, which were descendents of animals brought by the Spanish in the 1500s. In 1871, Jesse and Sally Lee of Georgia joined the Carters.
Citrus Ridge: is often called Four Corners because it is located in southeast corner at a quadripoint formed by Lake, Orange, Osecola and Polk counties.Ferndale: A small community in Lake County bordering on Lake Apopka.Lake Kathryn: A small community located in the northern part of Lake Count, northeast of Umatilla.Lake Mack-Forest Hills: Small community located the northeast part of Lake County.Lisbon: Was sometimes called "Alsobrook's Ferry."Mount Plymouth: The historic Mount Plymouth Hotel was built in 1926 and was the centerplace of a golf resort. Originally an 18-hole golf course was planned; however, the Florida real estate crash of 1926 prevented the completion of three of the four courses. In 1959, Florida Central Academy, occupied the building and grounds of the hotel. In 1986 and 1987, fire destroyed the building.
Okahumpka: Home of the Historic Campbell House, also known as the Valentine House. It was added to the US National Register in 1999.Paisley: A small communtiy located in the northeast part of Lake County.Pine Lakes: A small community located in the northeast part of Lake County.
Pittman: A small community located in north Lake County.Silver Lake: In 1913, Robert N. Tuller came with his father, Roy J Tuller (1879-1957) to this area. The older Tuller began buying and developing land around Silver Lake. The land was incorporated into Silver Lake Estates. Prominent Chicago families came and built homes, including the Vastines, Bradley, McClure and three Seng branches.
Sorrento: Settlers arrived in 1875 and couldn't agree on a name, so they put names in a hat and Sorrento won. Pioneer families were: G.G. Adams, H.B. Paxton, Ed Averill, Hugh Mines of Ohio, A.K. Reever of New York, J.P. Kerr of Indiana, and W.C. Butts of Missouri.The Villages: Harold Schwartz, a Michigan businessman, began selling land tracts via mail order in the The Villages' area in the 1960's. In 1968, a Federal law banned mail order sales of real estate. In the early 1970's Schwartz and his business partner, Al Tarrson began developing a mobile home park, Orange Blossom Gardens in the area. In 1983, Schwartz bought out Tarrson's interest and brought his son, H. Gary Morse, into the business. In mid-1980's, Morse began to buy large tracts of land in nearby Sumter and Marion counties. Morse officially changed the development name to The Villages in 1992.
Villa City: In 1889, George Thomas King decided to move to Central Florida. The town was originally named Millford, but because of confusion of the mail delivery, he renamed the town.
Yalaha: The town was founded in 1876 and the first spelling of the name was "Yallaha." Pioneers included Herbert Hunter, the James brothers (Roland, Stanley and Raymond), Robert and Andrew Crabb, Bill Hall, Lou Shallor, Ben Snyder, Frank Durand, George Webster, Hugh McElyea, and Dr. Whitt
Grand Island: Is an unicorporated community located northwest of Eustis.
Lanier: The town was platted in 1886 by Colonel Thomas C. Lanier. The 1895 census showed a population of 87 persons along with a post office, express office, and a railroad depot. However, the town was abandoned shortly thereafter when dual freezes wiped out the citrus crops.Orange Bend: An unincorporated community located on County Road 44 in Lake County.
- Taylor Memorial Cemetery, Howey-in-the-Hills BillionGraves
For tips on accessing Lake County, Florida Genealogy census records online, see: Florida Census.
Societies and Libraries
Lake Co FL Public Library
- Family History Library Catalog
- Lake County, Florida Genealogy and Family History (Linkpendium)
- Lake County, FLGenWeb Project, Inc.
Family History Centers
- Introduction to LDS Family History Centers
- Clermont Florida Family History Center
- Leesburg Florida Family History Center
- Handybook for Genealogists: United States of America, 10th ed. (Draper, Utah: Everton Pub., 2002), Lake County, Florida Page 135 At various libraries (WorldCat); FHL Book 973 D27e 2002.
- The Handybook for Genealogists: United States of America,10th ed. (Draper, UT:Everton Publishers, 2002).