Deland Florida often called the Athens of the south is the city I moved to upon leaving WNY. When I walk these streets I feel like I am in the movie groundhog day the sun comes up hits in me in the eyes, my neighbor waves to me each morning, I walk downtown to get a paper and see what looks like the same person painting there store, another person hanging a sign and a old man getting his haircut at the barber shop. But regardless this town is so beautiful as flowers line the side walks, old street lamps still rise high above the sidewalks, and some streets are made of brick and stone. With over 100 small shops such as Fish Tales, Candy Castle, Merlin's Occult Shop, a bakery, Dublin Station Bar, Blue Martini, Boston Coffee House, Art Gallery, Pioneer Park, Artisan, Stetson University, Spiritual Shop and many more just to name a few it is no wonder why I spend almost everyday walking downtown. The old historical buildings give it a old west type of feeling as the shops are all connected almost and even one building has a gargoyle on it. To me its the perfect place to take a girl sit on a bench and kiss or enjoy a ice cream cone together and yeah yeah I still have yet to do that guess that I have had more luck with the ghost downtown Deland then the girls but there are many reasons why I chose to investigate it. But what I am trying to do here is paint a picture for those that have never have been here. But one thing I like about walking downtown is scaring everybody with my Tattoos and long hair. They almost look like they seen a ghost so there is some fun to living here.

For one we have alot of history. Secondly there are many old buildings some of them like the Volusia County Courthouse or Michaelos Building which a century ago was a meet market and still is one of the oldest remaining structures that stands today. Then you have the Athens Theatre and Stetson which is gorgeous and built in the 1800s. So lots of old buildings. Often if you walk downtown you will see small little cafes and restaurants have tables outside and on a late night you'll see people eating outdoors right along the  sidewalks. Or you could hang out listen to some rock and roll at Downtown Music store. But alot of people walk these streets they sit outdoors enjoying some pasta but the thought probably never crossed there mind if there is a ghost sitting next to them on the beach or watching them eat and drink. But now others will know yes many different ghost haunt and walk the sidewalks of Deland as you will see from our first investigation. On a Sunday however Deland is like a ghost town at night perhaps this is what I love that sense of peace knowing that its just me downtown and the supernatural. Before I ever knew any history or the fact that another group does ghost tours downtown I already investigated this city and to my success found downtown to be very haunted. As you will see from one brief walk many different ghost captured on my first investigation here just as I strolled past a few shops lit dimly by only a few Christmas lights some dark.

Before the city was established the Spanish in 1513 walked these lands and for miles upon miles was 1000s of pines and woods. Over 15,000 years ago many different tribes lived off the land proof of this has been found from the pottery, shell fish, spear points Etc Many tribes came to the Deland/Volusia county area because it was humid and warm plus the fact many mammals roamed the lands so food was not scarce. The Native Americans also lived on these lands because glaciers and a terrible ice age covered most of the north so it was easier to cross the bearing straight. Many of them were Nomadic hunters. When the mammals perished many new ones were seen here such as alligators and manatees which were also hunted for food. The Timucuan tribes and villages were the most abundant in the area especially where Blue Springs Park and Hontoon Island exist today. Juan Ponce de Leon one of the first European explorers visited this area one of the first when he arrived in North America. There was a war in 1600 between the French and Spanish over who should own the river and greater Deland area at that time the Timucuan tribes became caught up in it and some were killed while many diseases wiped out the entire tribe over 13000 perished leading to extinction. After this 200 years of peace remained and the lands of Deland were uninhibited by anybody. Then in the 1700s some plantations were built and some Seminole Indians started to migrate in the area to trade and live a peaceful life. However many colonies in Florida were receiving supplies from the English this upset northern colonies like the Carolinas or Georgia and a small revolution broke out with many years of rebellions, guerrilla warfare as the Seminoles and Brits allied together. The war ended in 1783 when Spain took Florida back from the British. However Deland was a bloody battle ground for many years and many died on these lands. However in 1818 Andrew Jackson engaged war on the Seminoles because although Spain took back the lands the raids did not stop. Many Seminoles would raided plantations kill the owners or chase them out and take what they wanted. Then in 1821 Florida was Ceded from Spain turned over to America. Then from 1835 to 1842 a second Seminole war broke out in the area this lasted 7 years, 1500 soldiers were killed, over 3000 Seminoles This war today is still one of the bloodiest most expensive campaigns led against the native Americans. So as you can see the Deland area is full of history most of the earlier years quite tragic such as plagues, war, raids, revolutions Etc.

After the civil war much had changed the blacks who were free from slavery settled around Deland which beforehand was known as Springhill. However a very wealthy business man from NY founded the city of Deland in 1876. Below you will find a little more history on the city of Deland in how it was started. What is unique about some of the streets in Deland is they were named after early pioneers. For example New York Ave was named after Deland's home state. Then Amelia was named after Amelia Deland Leete which was Henry Deland's sister she was also the wife to the first town minister. Then we have Clara Ave which was named after Clara Rich which was captain Johns wife. They had the first child born in Deland. Many other streets were named after early pioneers or states that they were originally from. The town was booming as a second drug store opened up, bank, stables where the Athens theatre now stands so that explains why I captured so much energy there, saloons, and many stores all made out of wood. The first school teacher came into town in 1876 she came in a ox cart raising money for a church that's when Deland gave her 1000 dollars to build one and teach the local children.

In 1886 a fire broke on in the Wilcox saloon a cigar caught onto the sawdust and the entire place went up in flames engulfing downtown Deland in a fiery demise.  Only one building remained standing in the 100 block sections that was the Dreka Department Store which is now South Trust Bank. As the fire occurred at 2am residents were hanging wet blankets on the roof to prevent it from burning down. At this point Saloons were no longer allowed downtown. However whether deaths occurred from the fire I do not have that information however above most of the shops most owners did reside and in the 1800s they were not equipped to handle fires so death was unavoidable.

Then we have other honorable mentions such as Earl Brown the superintendent, teacher, principal, for many years in the early 1900s, a park named after him which I also investigated. We will talk about him at a later time. 

An example of some of the Hauntings that occur here is Merlin's Vision the metaphysical book an supply shop. AT one time it use to be a Mom and Pop drug store in the 1950's but the Pharmacist at the time known as Doc was killed in an electrical fire. Doc has been sighted but previous shop owners still on the job. Another location one of downtown Deland's oldest inn  said that they feel very uncomfortable there often feel dizziness in certain areas of the building. Some investigators do not like the 3rd floor especially. But with downtown DeLand's Victorian and old West historical look it is no wonder many of these places each have a ghost story of there own.

So as you can clearly see we have alot of history to this very large city which is only about 18 miles from Daytona Beach and an hours drive from St. Augustine's. So the area is very old, battles took place, a fire, plantations once existed some still stand today, raids occurred, Indians roamed these lands and even the conquistadors.  There is no doubt in my mind that ghost do not walk these streets in the later hours of the night. Perhaps this is why many call it dead land.

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The City of DeLand is a town with a rich history and a close community, bound together by its unique heritage. Henry A. DeLand founded DeLand in 1876, with the purchase of a $1,000 plot of land. He decided to move to the area after visiting his brother-in-law, O.P. Terry, who was living in an area called Persimmon Hollow. Mr. DeLand was a prosperous businessman in New York, but chose to move to Persimmon Hollow.

Mr. DeLand's plan was to develop the area by convincing settlers to come to DeLand and buy land from him. If they didn't like the area they could sell the land back to Mr. DeLand within the first two years of settlement. He became a generous benefactor to the settlers, enabling them to build schools and churches. The settlement was located near what is now Woodland Boulevard and New York Avenue. One winter there was such a bad freeze that the settlers of DeLand lost their crops. These people could no longer stay in DeLand, so Mr. DeLand bought all land back from them.

In 1883, Henry DeLand founded the DeLand Academy, but after the freeze of 1885, he no longer had the funds to support the Academy. John B. Stetson took over the endowment and the name of the academy was changed, upon the request of Mr. DeLand, to John B. Stetson University. The name was changed again in the 1990's to ,simply, Stetson University. The original building, which housed DeLand Academy, is still a part of Stetson University campus as an office building for the President of the University.

The fire of 1855 forever changed the face of downtown DeLand along Woodland Blvd. The fire started in Wilcox's Salon and destroyed the 100 block of Woodland Blvd. on both sides. The day after the fire, two city ordinances were set up. The first banned all salons in DeLand and the second mandated that all buildings in the downtown area be built using masonry material, not wood. As you drive down Woodland Blvd today, you will see that all the buildings are made of concrete and brick. The most exquisite buildings are those of brick. They give the feel of what DeLand was like years ago.

The appeal of DeLand would not be the same if not for the old oak trees that line the streets. These trees were planted by residents of DeLand in hopes of a tax break. In 1886, residents of DeLand were allowed to take 50 cents off their taxes for each oak tree they planted that lived for one year. The residents planted so many trees that the city had to repeal the tax break because there wasn't enough money collected from taxes to pay the town Marshall. The tax break of 1886 contributed greatly to the beauty of DeLand.

The following year, the Volusia County Court house was moved from Enterprise to DeLand, a big step for such a small area. The courthouse was rebuilt in the same spot in 1927 and is considered to be one of the most beautiful in the state of Florida.

A major development and contributor to the furthering of prosperity for the DeLand area was the construction of roads. In 1916, Woodland Blvd was bricked in one direction to Old Daytona Road and in the other direction to Orange City. New York Avenue was also bricked down to the St. Johns River. The following year, a road was built to connect DeLand, Daytona and New Smyrna. In 1960, International Speedway was rebuilt with four lanes going to Daytona.

In the 1920's, DeLand left the same prosperity as much of the rest of the country. DeLand had its first tremendous growth spurt, both in population and building. A new style of Mediterranean architecture was seen. Subdivisions were opened all over the area and sidewalks were installed downtown. The city limits were expanded west to the river, east to lake Winnemissett, and south to Orange Camp Road and north to Daytona Road. The expansion of the city lasted but a few years. In 1928, the great depression brought hard times to the city. Subsequently, it was reduced to one square mile. DeLand recovered the economic hardships and continued to prosper.

During WWII, the Navy built a naval airbase in DeLand. The Navy turned the airbase over to the city of DeLand in 1946. It is now the municipal airport.

DeLand's rich history has been recorded and kept alive through the work of the West Volusia Historical Society. This organization runs the Henry A. DeLand House Museum, The Conrad Research Center, and the DeLand Memorial Hospital Museum. To learn more about DeLand, visit the DeLand House, Tuesday - Saturday from noon until 4:00pm.