History of Eustis
PO Box 1210, Eustis, FL 32727-1210
Phone: 352-357-3434 Fax: 352-357-1392
A Bit of Eustis History
The people of Eustis, on the eastern shore of Lake Eustis, took their time deciding on a name. First, it was Highlands, then Pendryville and finally Lake Eustis, named about 1823 for General Abraham Eustis.
The forces of General Eustis, prominent in the Seminole wars, had skirmishes with the Indians on the south shore of the lake, near present-day Tavares.
Fort Mason, just north of Eustis, was settled in the early 1880’s and named for Major Richard Barnes Mason, who built a stockade there during the Seminole War of 1837.
Eustis Territory was first founded by G.D. Clifford, C.T. Smith, P.P. Morgan, Augustus Gottschee/E.F. King, Level & Co. in 1875.
When a newcomer came to the area, a “workless day” was declared so that everyone could help the newcomers build their cabins.
Early settlers drove once a year to the coast with their pots and at the water’s edge boiled sea water for their yearly supply of salt.
In 1876 A.S. Pendry homesteaded land and set out a citrus grove. In the fall of 1877 he opened the Ocklawaha Hotel. The post office in the hotel lobby carried the sign “Pendryville.”
The first tree cut, in what was to be Eustis, was cut January 1, 1876 on the site of the Ocklawaha Hotel.
The first school was held in Mrs. Pendry’s home at the Ocklawaha Hotel, with 14 children. The youngest was Lottie Clifford Taylor at the age of 4 years.
The first homes in Eustis were those of D.W. Herrick, A.D. Herrick and Henry Kay. In 1881 Clifford & Smith built the first general store in the building later occupied by A.D. and C.D. Miller.
According to Kennedy’s “History of Lake County,” the town’s mail was left by supply wagons in a crude box nailed to a pine tree. Kennedy noted that in those days by gentlemen’s agreement, “every man was his own postmaster.”
A big year was 1878 when the town’s first telegraph line connected Eustis, Leesburg and Sanford.
The first railroad came in 1880 from Astor in Fort Mason where passengers and freight could make lake steamer connections to Leesburg, Helena, Yalaha, Lane Park and Tavares. The early train engineers blew long continuing blasts of the locomotive whistle when freezing weather was expected thus notifying farmers in the county of the expected frost peril to their crops.
Before the railroads came in 1882, Eustis was a busy port for steamers plying Lakes Harris, Eustis, Dora and Griffin.
In 1883 he “Lake” was dropped and the town just became Eustis.
Early clubs in Eustis - The Ohio Club, The New Englanders, The Kentuckians, The Pennsylvanians and the All States Society.
Ferran Park was named after E.L. Ferran.
Lake Eustis is 5 miles wide and 7 miles long.
Lake Nettie was named for the oldest daughter of P.P. Morin.
Lake Joanna was named for the wife of St. Clair Abrams.
Lake Gracie was named by A.S. Pendry for his daughter, Grace Pendry.
On June 16, 1881, the first issue of the Eustis Semi-Tropical appeared under editorship of B.H. Vogt. Three years later the Hill Brothers bought the paper and named it the Eustis Lake Region.
Bertie Clifford was the first baby born before Eustis was incorporated in 1883 and Edith Hutchins became the first baby of the newly incorporated town.
D.W. Herrick was the first mayor.
Glenwood Cemetery land was bought and plotted by G.D. Clifford in 1885 and in 1902 it was sold to Greenwood Cemetery Association.
Eustis had its first Washington’s Birthday Festival in 1902 and has been continuing to hold them to the present day.
The Fountain Inn, which would later become Waterman Hospital, was completed June 1, 1923.
The Lake County Country Club became a sports and social center in the 1930’s but was developed as homesteads after World War II. An annual trapshooters meet, the Winter Vandalia, was sponsored each February by the Eustis Gun Club, adopting the name of a shoot held for years in Vandalia, Ohio.