Here, then, we have in Volusia County a representative cross-section of agricultural central Florida. Like the rest of Florida, it is a land of forests and clearings, with the forests predominating, of lakes, rivers and drainage canals, a land traversed by magnificent highways and dotted with scenic beauty spots, with its population concentrated in three major cities, Daytona Beach, New Smyrna and DeLand, the county seat, and twenty-six agricultural villages.
DELAND, A PLEASANT COLLEGE TOWN
DeLand’s peculiar distinction is that it is the home of John B. Stetson University, founded in 1883 by Henry A. DeLand and his friend, the famous Philadelphia hat manufacturer. Under Baptist auspices, its present president, Dr. W. S. Allen, was formerly vice-president of Baylor University of Texas. With a coeducational student body numbering about 700 and a teaching faculty of more than one hundred, Stetson University attracts students from all over the world and has a high reputation among educational institutions. Its scientific courses and those in the liberal arts are especially thorough. It is entirely supported by private endowments and tuition fees. And, ironically enough, the male students and most of the faculty men habitually go hatless the year around!
The presence of the University gives to DeLand an atmosphere of culture which has made it a popular winter resort for northern people whose interests are in intellectual pursuits. Indeed, it was the atmosphere of culture and neighborliness which Henry A. DeLand found at this spot that inspired him to establish a town here. Mr. DeLand, a manufacturer of Fairport, New York, took a winter vacation trip to Florida in 1876. Sailing up the St. Johns River into what was then the heart of the Florida jungle he found, to his surprise, ten families living on their plantations near the headwaters of the river, who made him so welcome and whose manner of living gave him such proof that people could live in Florida and maintain the cultural standards with which he was familiar, that he was impelled to dispose of his northern interests and invest his entire fortune in land on the site of the city which now bears his name.
He interested his friend, John B. Stetson, who agreed that a college should be an essential part of the new community; and so, before Henry M. Flagler and his East Coast Railroad had made the Atlantic beaches accessible to tourists and winter visitors, DeLand had become a winter resort to which northern travelers came by way of shallow-draft steamboats up the St. Johns. DeLand today, with a permanent population of 8,000, attracts nearly 3,000 winter visitors, for whom it provides not only the usual facilities for entertainment and recreation, but the added attraction of access to what piscatorial authorities have termed the best black bass fishing in the world, in the waters of the upper St. Johns River.
DeLand is especially proud of its municipal water supply, drawn from artesian wells and so free from odor, taste and chemical impurities that it was awarded a gold medal at the St. Louis exposition of 1904 as the world’s purest water supply. Besides its citrus fruit packing houses, DeLand’s industries include lumber mills, canneries, and a factory manufacturing brushes from palmetto fiber. It is one of the most attractive of Florida cities, its streets lined with moss-covered live-oaks and its business as well as residential districts reflecting the high standards of good taste of which DeLand is particularly proud.