Pine Castle Historical Trail
1....Print this file.
2....At its end, click on "rules" to see a copy of the trail rules, print it, and then click where indicated at the end of the 3-page rules and patch order form to get back to the list of Florida trails.
3....If you want a hand-drawn map showing the locations of all of the sites, send a self-addressed stamped envelope to Steve Rajtar, 1614 Bimini Dr., Orlando, FL 32806.
4....Hike the trail and order whatever patches you like (optional).
WARNING - This trail may pass through one or more neighborhoods which, although full of history, may now be unsafe for individuals on foot, or which may make you feel unsafe there. Hikers have been approached by individuals who have asked for handouts or who have inquired (not always in a friendly manner) why the hikers are in their neighborhood. Drugs and other inappropriate items have been found by hikers in some neighborhoods. It is suggested that you drive the hike routes first to see if you will feel comfortable walking them and, if you don't think it's a good place for you walk, you might want to consider (1) traveling with a large group, (2) doing the route on bicycles, or (3) choosing another hike route. The degree of comfort will vary with the individual and with the time and season of the hike, so you need to make the determination using your best judgment. If you hike the trail, you accept all risks involved.
This was and is a popular recreation spot. The dock was donated to the county by Charles and Pearl Crittenden. In about 2000, the facility was renamed as the Randolph Boat Ramp.
Edward N. Maull was the owner of several patents, including one for a citrus sizer. He moved to Pine Castle in 1935 and established a machine shop at this location.
The fort was established in October of 1838, and was named for Dr. John S. Gatlin, an army surgeon killed in Dade's Massacre in December of 1835. It was one of a string of forts approximately 20 miles apart, for the capture of Seminole Indians and their Negro-Indian and runaway slave companions for deportation to the Indian Territory (Oklahoma).
It was fortified for 11 years, and commanded from time to time by Capt. G.W. Freeman, Capt. Robert Bullock, and Capt. Hendrick. It was abandoned in November of 1849.
In 1867, New Orleans lawyer William Randolph bought property near here, planning that some day it would become a warm weather home for his daughter, Mary. She married Will Wallace Harney from Bloomington, Indiana, who was then the editor of the Louisville Democrat newspaper, in 1868.
In 1869, Mary became seriously ill, and Will brought her to Florida. They stayed briefly on Randolph's land before moving two miles to the south, where he built a temporary house on the west side of Lake Conway. Mary died on January 8, 1870.
Harney sold a portion of his homestead to Leonard Tyner and Charles Sweet, who arrived here in 1872.
This monument marks the location of a large oak tree, beneath which Indian bands met to discuss strategy during the Second Seminole War.
This 35-foot deep lake was originally named for a member of Will Wallace Harney's family, with the name later being changed to Deep Lake. In 1951, it was chosen for the site of the Navy Underwater Sound Lab. It was used for the research and development of underwater sound measurements on sonar equipment, surface navigation and detection of enemy craft.
Judge Randolph's house between the lake and the railroad tracks was left vacant for years before Jess Evans, the caretaker of the Randolph and Harney groves, was allowed to use it rent-free. He reported mysterious opening and slamming of doors every day. After a while, they noticed that the "haunting" was merely caused by the vibration of the tracks when the train went by.
Dr. O.P. Preston was Orlando's second doctor, having moved to Central Florida from Texas in 1866. He bought land on the south and west sides of this lake. His wife was named "Jennie" and he often said she was a jewel, hence the name. In a grove just north of here in 1929, the Mediterranean fruit fly was discovered, touching off a period of grave concern for the agriculture industry of the area.
Judge James G. Speer, one of the area's most prominent settlers, lived here briefly beginning in 1854, before moving to Mellonville and then Oakland.
On the northwest shore of Lake Holden, not far from Fort Gatlin, was located the small settlement of Jernigan. It was named for the trading post opened by Aaron and Isaac Jernigan in 1843. They bought 1,200 acres near here, built a log house, and during the following year Aaron brought his wife and children from Georgia. In the late 1840s, Robert Ivey and J.J. Worthington settled near here.
The Jernigan stockade was granted a post office on May 30, 1850, with Wright Patrick as the first postmaster. Although the Seminole Wars were technically over, a few hostile natives continued to steal cattle and threaten settlers. For that reason, settlers generally stayed in a fort for protection.
Tiny Jernigan contended with the more populous Apopka (The Lodge) and Sanford (Mellonville) to be the county seat of Orange County in 1855. Judge James G. Speer pushed for this village of less than 200 with no foreseeable growth prospects.
Speer took the position that a U.S. soldier had the privilege to vote whereever he might be on election day. He went to Sumter County and persuaded a number of soldiers to be in Jernigan on election day, and promised them a good picnic dinner. They arrived by noon, ate well, and their votes carried the election for Jernigan, which was named the county seat in 1856.
The train station located near here burned down in 1910.
This road was built in the 1960s, creating a large traffic island between it and Orange Ave. The Hansel family arrived in Orlando in 1865, and later moved to Pine Castle.
The South Florida Railroad has passed through here since 1881, connecting Orlando and Kissimmee. At the turn of the century, the train fare from Pine Castle to Orlando was 15 cents. Stops along the route were approximately here (Jessamine), Drennen Rd. (then called Powell), Eight Oaks (now called Kaley), and Sligh Blvd.
In 1924, Edgewood was incorporated as a town by 19 residents, but the city has no record of its city council having met from 1925 to 1955. The town was designated as a bird sanctuary in 1960, and by 1962 the population had grown to 436. The town hall was built in 1969, and four years later the town became a city. The population in 1995 was about 1200.
Pine Castle is not a separate municipality, but it used to be. It incorporated as a town on February 26, 1925, but ceased functioning in 1929 when it could not collect enough taxes to pay its bills. It declared bankruptcy and its charter was dissolved.
Pine Castle's first school was established here in 1877. The term was only three months long, and the first teacher, Mrs. O.P. Preston, was paid from $1.50 to $2.50 per pupil each month.
A building was constructed here in 1911 by J.A. Wilkes. Throughout the years, it served as a merchandise store, a feed and seed store, and other business uses. This was the location of the first telephone in Pine Castle. At the Pine Castle Filling Station, Ed Sphaler sold Texaco products. It was torn down in the late 1980s. The next business to the north sold Crown gasoline.
The Pine Castle Woman's Club was organized in 1940 by Florence Fishback and Mary Black. They first met in the elementary school, then in the parish house of the Methodist church. This club house was built in 1946.
Prior to that, in the 1930s, this was the site of a gazebo and park. The park was built by the county on land it repossessed after the town went bankrupt. A reproduction of the gazebo, built by Ed Maull, sits in front of the Folk Art Center.
The post office moved into the south end of the building here in about 1930 when Millard Sullivan became the Postmaster. In the 1920s, the post office had been located in the front of J.J. Willis' home on Fairlane Ave.
In 1952, the post office moved again, to a larger place at the east end of a building at the corner of Orange and Fairlane Aves. In the early 1960s, it moved a couple of blocks east.
In 1925, a drug store was opened there by "Doc" William C. McCall. It was a popular hangout for youngsters. On many Halloween nights, someone's outhouse would be found in front of, or on top of, the drug store.
In 1952, Doc McCall's Rexall Drug Store moved across the street to a new building. It was closed by McCall during the 1960s.
This restaurant opened at this location in 1968.
William Hansel built a store here in 1907, next to the one operated by J.G. Tyner. While Tyner's faced Orange, Hansel's faced Fairlane. After about a year, Hansel converted it to a house.
Epamindus D.M. Perkins opened a store here in the early 1900s. It served as the post office and grocery store, and because of its proximity to the railroad tracks, it also was the railway express and freight station.
American Legion Post 286 was chartered on November 23, 1964, and held its early meetings in the volunteer fire station. The Post moved into the Perkins store in 1966, and later replaced it with the present building.
Across the street from Hansel's was the first store in Pine Castle, built by Mr. Blitch, which included a seven-room residence upstairs. It was sold in 1892 to Isaac Aten, who operated it until it burned.
Aten then built a new store across the street and operated it until 1906, when he sold it to J.G. Tyner who kept it until 1912.
In about 1868, William Harris and his wife, Nancy Hansel Harris, bought a 40-acre tract for $55 and set out a grove. "Granny" Harris was interviewed by Margaret Mitchell or one of her investigators, and some believe that the part of "Gone With the Wind" where the yankee soldier came to steal food and valuables is based on an actual event in Harris' life. She died at the age of 96 in 1934 and is buried with her husband in Oak Ridge Cemetery.
This section of Orange Avenue was a part of the Dixie Highway, which was the dream of Carl Fisher of Indianapolis. He had made his fortune in the new auto industry, and wanted to build a highway from Chicago to Miami. When news got out, many communities formed associations to lobby for inclusion on the route.
The Dixie Highway Association met in Chattanooga and chose a route passing through Tallahassee and Jacksonville, and proceeding south along the east coast. Frenzied lobbying also produced an inland route passing through Gainesville, Ocala, Winter Park, Orlando, Kissimmee, Bartow and Arcadia, rejoining the coastal route at Palm Beach.
In 1915, Fisher led an auto cavalcade from the Midwest to Miami, popularizing auto trips to Florida. The Dixie Highway was officially open for traffic in October of 1925 from the Canadian border at the northern tip of Michigan to Miami.
The paving of the Dixie Highway from Sanford to Kissimmee in 1916 put Pine Castle on one of the country's primary north-south roads, until US 441 was built in the 1930s. While Dixie Highway follows US 441 through other portions of Central Florida, here it followed Orange Ave.
In the early days of Pine Castle, this was known as State Route 2, or Black Bear Trail.
When Pine Castle land was first being drained in the early 1900s, a network of drainage wells was constructed along the major roads. On top of each well was a cement cone and lead cover. Occasionally during a rainy season, pressure would build until the cover could no longer hold it and water would gush 20 to 25 feet into the air. Some of these wells might still be found along Sand Lake, Oak Ridge and Lancaster Rds., but locked shut with a chain.
In the 1930s, US 441 and 17 followed Orange Ave. through Orlando to Taft, before heading to Kissimmee. Because of prohibitive costs for acquiring additional right-of-way in the more heavily populated area, the federally-designated highways were shifted about two miles to the west to woods and cattle land, to run along Kentucky Ave. through Orlando. In 1937, that road's name was changed to the Orange Blossom Trail.
In the late 1800s, the small settlement here was known as Newellton, after Lester Newell and his family, who had moved here from Ashtabula, Ohio, in 1884. Michael McKenzy Smith moved here in 1900, operated a turpentine still, and renamed the settlement as Smithville.
Edward Sphaler arrived here in 1905 and bought and operated a sawmill. His brothers, William G. and David B. Sphaler, started a turpentine still. Edward bought out the stores of the Addon Brothers, and Edge and Howard. He sold them to brother David, and moved to Pine Castle. The three brothers paid their workers with tokens which would be honored at the Sphaler Store.
In 1909, Braxton Beacham of Orlando and W.L. Van Duzor of Kissimmee bought 6000 acres along this road, and had it surveyed and platted. Their intention was to have their Prosper Colony consist of five to ten acre farmsites, with each owner also getting title to a building site in the town center.
An advertising promotion in the Saturday Evening Post was successful, and over 1000 farmsites quickly sold. The name Taft was chosen after then-president William Howard Taft. Homes were built and farms were begun.
However, the project was an early failure. A drainage system promised by the developers was never built. A severe storm in October of 1910 flooded the flat terrain, and many discouraged settlers abandoned their property. Beacham was absent because of a lengthy illness, and the project was brought to a near standstill.
After Beacham and Van Duzor dissolved their partnership, their property was sold at a sheriff's sale. Those settlers who decided to remain built a post office in 1910 and incorporated as a town in 1912. For a time, it had its own chamber of commerce. Later, it ceased being a town and is now part of unincorporated Orange County.
The Methodist Episcopal Church was erected in 1911. The floods of the 1920s lifted the frame building off of its foundation. It is now the Iglesia Christiana Genesis, and another sanctuary was erected later.
The Sphaler family donated this land, where the first schoolhouse was built in 1910. It was later turned into a park.
This church was organized in 1910 by Rev. Murphy and the Howard Tyson family. A small building was moved from the Boggy Creek area and placed at the southwest corner of Pine St. and 2nd Ave. That first building was used as the sanctuary from 1910 to 1963, when the present building was erected by the congregation.
This was the main store of Taft, with the post office located next door from 1909 to 1985, when it was transferred to the larger facility at the airport.
In October of 1941, the Army bought 1280 acres of land on Bear Head Rd. and established a second Orlando air base. Built by the W.P.A., the Pine Castle Army Air Field served until it was mothballed in July of 1947 and was returned to Orlando.
The following year, the Air Force became a separate branch of the armed forces and reactivated the facility as the Pine Castle Air Force Base. In 1958, it was renamed McCoy Air Force Base in honor of Col. N.W. "Mike" McCoy, the commander of a bomber wing killed in a plane crash in 1957.
When the Air Force vacated in 1974, the name became McCoy Jetport. In 1981, it was renamed Orlando International Airport.
By the time of the Land Boom of the 1920s, many of the nearly 300 year-round residents supported incorporation as a town, but lack of cooperation between various groups resulted in three separate towns being formed. Belle Isle incorporated on October 21, 1924, and had periods of inactivity during the Depression and World War II. It became a city in 1954.
The town hall was built on land donted by John D. "Jack" Holloway in 1970. It was named "Dexter Hall" after mayor Ross T. Dexter who died in office.
Nela Isle was once called Porter's Island, homesteaded by the Partin family, who still own a significant portion of Osceola County.
The first mayor of Belle Isle was Charles H. Hoffner, who owned land on both sides of Hoffner Rd. Looking north from here, to the east of the downtown Orlando skyline visible in the distance, the land you see was known as "Hoffner's Peninsula". The Hoffner family moved to Florida in 1885 from Lychfield, Minnesota.
The congregation of this church met in the Woman's Club house from 1959 until their own building was erected.
After the death of his wife in 1870, the year after he moved here, Will Wallace Harney went to Kissimmee and acquired The Bitter Sweet newspaper which he kept for about a year after he returned to this area. The newspaper was then sold to S.R. Bassett who renamed it the Kissimmee Leader, which he published until 1894.
In 1873, Harney built an English style house with turrets at each corner, which he named "Pine Castle". It was constructed from the pine trees which grew on this land. The boards that formed the exterior walls were attached vertically, instead of the more common horizontal siding.
Harney planted grapes and orange trees, but he made his living writing for newspapers and magazines. By 1874, his byline read "My Castle of Pine" or "Pine Castle" and the community that sprang up around his estate took on that name.
Harney was granted homestead status on 159.89 acres in a deed signed by President Rutherford B. Hayes. The Pine Castle burned in 1894 and he moved to Jacksonville to live with his son. He died in March of 1912.
In 1970, Clarence Datson was having a home built here, when workers unearthed the foundation of the Pine Castle. The permanent plaque to mark the spot was placed here on January 26, 1973.
After Harney's home burned, one turret remained. It was used as a shelter for bathers who frequented this popular beach. Since it was the closest beach to the Union Church, it was used for baptisms and church parties. The pavilion here was also popular for its slot machines, attracting customers from as far north as Apopka.
The pavilion burned in the 1920s, but the dock and beach continued to be popular. Jerry and Monette Waller built a home and new dock in the early 1940s and closed the beach to the public.
This was organized before World War II, but disbanded when many of the firefighters left to join the armed services. It was reorganized when the men returned from the war.
Women organized themselves into the Christian Workers Society in 1900, with the goals of building a church and helping the needy. Beginning on June 30, 1900, the men sawed logs, had them milled into lumber in Smithville, and erected the church here. On alternating Sundays, ministers would come from Orlando to conduct services for Methodist, Baptist and Missionary Alliance congregations.
The parish house behind the church was built in 1910, and was used for Sunday school and community gatherings. The church property was deeded in 1930 to Methodist-Episcopal Church South. The Methodists used the church until the late 1950s, and in 1959 the Union Church was moved to SR 15A near Lake Whipporwill north of Narcoossee to be used as a Baptist mission.
After using the Union Church since 1915, the Methodist congregation bought this property and built a fellowship hall in 1957-58. The educational building was erected in 1962. The present sanctuary was completed in 1967, and the balcony was added in 1980. The Fellowship Hall was opened in March of 1986.
On these grounds, a pine school building was constructed in 1880 or 1881, while Mr. Matchett was the school superintendent. A new building was erected on the southwest corner of the grounds in 1900.
In 1924, a two-story stucco building was completed on the east side of these grounds to house grades 1-10. At the time, school lunches cost a dime. Later in the 1920s, elementary school classes were moved back into the wooden building.
In 1936, a new classroom building for grades 7-10 was built due west of the stucco building, which was used for grades 1-6. A new auditorium was built in between. The old wooden building was moved to Lake Conway and converted into a house, which later burned.
Graduates of the Pine Castle School would go to Orlando High School for their last two years. After the 1939-40 school year, the 10th grade class was also moved to Orlando.
This became an elementary school in 1952, and grades 7-9 were moved to Howard Junior High in Orlando. Oak Ridge Junior-Senior High School opened in 1960, and included grades 7-9 which were moved back from Howard. They were moved to Judson B. Walker Junior High near West Lancaster Rd., and some began attending Conway Junior High when it opened in 1969.
In February of 1965, Florence Fishback and her nephew, Dr. Thomas Butt, started the Southern Garden Art Center as a memorial to their mothers. Its first location was a small house owned by the county at the southwest corner of Orange and Fairlane Aves.
In 1972, it became the Pine Castle Center of the Arts and was moved to its present location. Later, it was renamed the Pine Castle Folk Art Center.
On the grounds are the Irene Ziegler Day House (Music Building), the Founders House (at the southeast corner of Randolph St. and Waltham Ave.), the 1909 Crawford House (5933 Randolph St., used by the Pinecastle Christian Academy), and a 200-year old cabin from Kentucky, which was reassembled on these grounds.
The Founders House was built in the late 1800s, probably by N.H. Grady. At about the turn of the century, it was occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Carol, then in 1903 Mr. and Mrs. Charles Tanner moved in. In 1906, Mr. and Mrs. Lancaster acquired it and it became known as the Lancaster House. It was sold in 1919 to Mr. and Mrs. Don Harris, and in the 1930s was occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Walter Beer. The Pine Castle Center of the Arts bought it in 1972.
The Wells family donated this home for the use of the Girl Scouts in 1957.
Pine Castle Lodge No. 368 F.& A.M. was chartered April 24, 1969. Its home here was dedicated on December 21, 1974.
Charles Hoffner homesteaded 160 acres here. In 1912, he gave the county permission to cut a dirt road through it, now known as Hoffner Ave.
Under the leadership of Rev. J.T. Bell, three or four families organized themselves into a Baptist church in 1887. They met in homes and the schoolhouse, with circuit riders taking care of the preaching. When the Union Church was built in 1900, they began using it for services.
The original sanctuary for this church was built in about 1917 about two blocks west of here, at the southeast corner of Orange and Hoffner Aves. During the 1940s, the building was remodeled and doubled in size. The first phase of the new complex was built here in 1965, and the second phase was completed in 1980. It was designed by Ed Thomas and built by Mack McCully.
This church is a sponsor of two others - the Lake Whipporwill Baptist Church and the Central Parkway Baptist Church in Williamsburg.
Walter C. Meloon Sr. and two partners started a boat manufacturing business here in 1925. To house it, they used some of the blocks from the building that once was the old theater, and later the water works plant.
In 1930, the company changed its name to Pine Castle Boat and Construction Company, and in 1936 it was changed to Correct Craft. Its greatly expanded facilities are now located along Orange Ave.
City of Edgewood Resident Guide, (City of Edgewood 1995)
Flashbacks: The Story of Central Florida's Past, by Jim Robison and Mark Andrews (The Orlando Sentinel 1995)
Historical and Architectural Survey, City of St. Cloud, Project Report, (Brenda J. Elliott & Associates 1993)
The History of Public Education in Orange County, Florida, by Diane Taylor (Orange County Retired Educators Association 1990)
Orlando: A Centennial History, by Eve Bacon (The Mickler House 1975)
Orlando: A Century Plus, by Baynard H. Kendrick (Sentinel Star Company 1976)
Orlando: The City Beautiful, by Jerrell H. Shofner (Continental Heritage Press 1984)
Pine Castle: A Walk Down Memory Lane, by Ruth Barber Linton (Book Crafters 1993)
The River of the Long Water, by Alma Hetherington (The Mickler House Publishers 1980)
Webb's Historical, Industrial and Biographical Florida, by Wanton S. Webb (W.S. Webb & Co. 1885)
Click here for a copy of the trail rules.