Lake County

The region of Central Florida that is now known as Lake County has been inhabited for thousands of years. For the same reasons that still bring people to this area, namely mild weather, excellent growing conditions, and an abundance of fish and game, the Timucuan Indians called this region home.

Evidence of their presence is throughout Lake County. In fact, there are more than 1000 identified archeological sites in Lake County, as recognized by the state.

In 1562 a French Huguenot colony was established at the present site of Astor on the St. Johns River. The entire colony was wiped out by the Spanish is 1566.

Lake County Map flDuring the late 1560's the Spanish established a system of missions throughout the Lake County area with the goal of converting the Indians to Catholicism. What they accomplished, instead was to massacre uncooperative villages and spread European diseases to the rest. By 1763 when James Spalding established a trading post at Astor, there were few Indians left in the area.

British Royal botanist, William Bartram came to the area to study the "flora and fauna." He made the first sighting of a royal palm tree in North America in Lake County in 1774.

During the Revolutionary War all of Florida belonged to the British and residents were loyal to that country. A few white hunters and traders lived in Lake County, along with runaway slaves and Freedmen who found hiding in the scrub to be very effective means of evading the Slave Hunters.

In 1782, Spain re-occupied Florida and began awarding large tracts of land to reward favors. In 1819 Moses Levy received such a land grant from the Spanish. He established a plantation along the St. Johns River in Lake County, which was to be a settlement for oppressed European Jews. He was the 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.

Forts were built throughout the county, known then as Mosquito County, to defend the settlers against the Seminole Indians. In 1823, at the Treaty of Moultie Creek, the Seminoles were ordered to live in a reservation, most of which was in Lake County.

At the close of the Seminole War in 1842, Congress passed the Armed Occupation Act. It offered 160 acres to any man who would bear arms to protect the area against potential renewed hostilities, if he would build a habitable dwelling, live on the property for five years and cultivate at least five acres of his homestead. Many men accepted the challenge and joined the blacks already engaged in farming here.

Towns grew and vanished. Other towns took their places. When the Civil War started in 1861, there were several large plantations and many small farms in Lake County. Florida became one of the states to secede from the Union. The Statute of April 1862 forced most white males between the ages of 18 and 35 into involuntary service to the Confederacy. By September of that year the age limit was increased to 45 and soon 17-year-old young men were conscripted. This left only women and their slaves to run the plantations and farms. Even at that, Lake County has able to provide beef and other provisions to the army. The people left at home simply "went without."    

By the end of the Civil War in 1865, another homesteading act was in place, again offering 160 acres of land to settlers who would live on the land for five years and improve it. Soldiers, both Rebel and Yankee were eager to get on with their lives. The attractive Homesteading Act offered a fresh start and many men took advantage of the opportunity and came to Lake County to make their homes.

In July 1887, Lake County became a county. It was carved from Orange and Sumter counties.

The courthouse, known as the Pioneer Building was dedicated in 1889.

Contracts were let for the construction of the first hard surface roads in Lake County in 1915. Prior to that most transportation was on the waterways with special hybrid steam/paddlewheel boats. An elaborate system of railroads was also developed.

A militia group was established during the Spanish-American War. It was called the 'Leesburg Rifles" and were ready to bravely defend our country.

Many young Lake County men enlisted in the Armed Services of this and other countries during the First World War. Others stayed at home and served in the Home Guard.

World War II took many Lake County men to war. Again, a Home Guard was established which combed the evening skies for enemy planes. The civilian effort was strong in support of the war. Lake County was famous for the number of war bonds sold here and scrap metal collected. In fact, the first war bond sold in the United States was sold in Leesburg.

Lake County was the site of a Prisoner of War camp during the Second World War, as well.

Early industry consisted of reliance on the land: farming, citrus growing, lumber, turpentine, etc. All of this to some degree or another relied on the weather and time and time again big freezes killed not only crops and citrus, but also hopes and dreams. Back-to-back freezes in 1894 and 1895 devastated large and small farms alike. Some farmers replanted and others settled here, making their living at farming. Lake County was known worldwide for its record crops of peaches, tomatoes, watermelon, ferns, and, of course, citrus.

Other industries moved into Lake County and the economy grew.

Lake County's history is rich and diverse. It sparkles with the ingenuity of its' people. Colorful stories abound. Today, as in the past, Lake County is a pleasant place to live and work.


Museums & Theatres
Austin Horse Park Carriage Museum and Equine Resort
3000 Marion County Road
Weirsdale, FL 32195
Phone: (352) 750-5500
Web site:
Driving Directions

Bay Street Players
109 N. Bay St.
Eustis, FL 32727
Phone: (352) 357-7777
Web site: www.baystreetplayers.org/
Driving Directions

Eustis Historic Museum
536 N. Bay St.
Eustis, FL 32727
Phone: (352) 483-0046
Driving Directions

Florida Lakes Symphony Orchestra
P.O. Box 529
Groveland, FL 34736
Phone: (352) 429-4650
Driving Directions

IceHouse Theatre
1100 N. Unser St.
Mount Dora, FL 32757
Phone: (352) 383-4616
Fax: (352) 383-7897
Web site: www.icehousetheatre.com/
Driving Directions

Lady Lake Historical Society Museum
107 S. Old Dixie Highway
Lady Lake, FL 34748
Phone: (352) 753-4925
Driving Directions

Lake County Historical Museum
317 W. Main St.
Tavares, FL 32778
Phone: (352) 343-9600
Fax: (352) 343-9696
Hours: 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday
Web site: www.lakegovernment.com/historical_museum/
Driving Directions

Lake Eustis Museum of Art
113 N. Bay St.
Eustis, FL 32726
Phone: (352) 483-2900
Driving Directions

Leesburg Center for the Arts
429 W. Magnolia St.
Leesburg, FL 34749
Phone: (352) 365-0232
Fax: (352) 315-1152
Web site: www.leesburgcenter4arts.com/
Driving Directions

Melon Patch Theatre
311 N. 13th St.
Leesburg, FL 34748
Phone: (352) 787-3013
Web site: www.businessmasters.net/melonpatch/
Driving Directions

Moonlight Players Warehouse Theatre
732B W. Montrose St.
Clermont, FL 34711
Phone: (352) 319-1116
Web site:
Driving Directions

Mount Dora Center for the Arts
138 E. Fifth St.
Mount Dora, FL 32757
Phone: (352) 383-0880
Fax: (352) 383-7753
Hours: 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. Monday - Friday; 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. Saturday
Web site: www.mountdoracenterforthearts.com/
Driving Directions

Performance Art Series Lake-Sumter Community College Foundation
9501 U.S. Highway 441
Leesburg, FL 34788
Phone: (352) 365-3506
Fax: (352) 365-9033
Web site:
Driving Directions

Royellou Museum
450 Royellou Lane
Mount Dora, FL 37257
Phone: (352) 383-0006
Fax: (352) 735-6208
Driving Directions

Art & Historical Societies
Historical Society of Tavares
121 Alfred St.
Tavares, FL 32778
Phone: (352) 343-7252
Driving Directions

Lake County Cultural Affairs Council
20763 U.S. Highway 27
Groveland, FL 34736
Phone: (352) 429-4755
Fax: (352) 429-4870
Web site:
Driving Directions

Leesburg Heritage Society
111 S. Sixth St.
Leesburg, FL 34749
Phone: (352) 365-0053
Driving Directions

Mote-Morris House
1021 N. Main Street
Leesburg, FL 34748
Phone: (352) 435-9424
Web site:
Driving Directions

South Lake Art League
776 Montrose St.
Clermont, FL 34711
Phone: (352) 394-8878
Driving Directions

South Lake County Historical Society Townsend House
480 West Avenue
Clermont, FL 34711
Phone: (352) 394-6611
Web site:
Driving Directions


 Lake County has several State Parks;


Palatlakaha River Park & Boat Ramp


12325 Hull Road
Clermont, FL 32711

Open: Dawn to dusk, year round
Acres:  23


Palatlakaha River Park offers boater’s access to the Crooked River and the Clermont Chain of Lakes. The park has two fishing piers, playground, and a pavilion with a grill. The park has a 1-mile loop trail that passes through the 18 acres of habitat managed for the Florida Scrub-Jay, as well as a Live Oak-Bald Cypress Hammock. The area is good for birding especially in the spring and fall. Butterflies and other animals are also often visible along the trail. The trail has numerous educational signs that point out various plants along the way.


Palatlakaha River Park


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