Henry Addison Deland
1835 – 1908
Henry Deland, younger brother of Daniel Deland, joined the Deland Chemical Company in 1854. He was, at nineteen years old, a salesman par excellence. His sales ability was recognized by the Rochester Union & Advertiser: “H.A. Deland, the junior partner in Deland Chemical Company, is known everywhere to the business public. The manner in which he has introduced the chemical saleratus in his travels has been such as to insure its favorable reception.” He quickly became Deland Chemical’s general manager and the supervisor of a small army of salesmen selling Deland products throughout the country.
In 1864 he married Sarah Parce, sister of Minerva Parce Deland. They had two children, Harlan, born in 1865 and Helen, born in 1869.
Daniel Deland died in 1872, after falling down an elevator shaft. Henry became president of the company, as well as general manager. He continued to travel around the country selling Deland products. Its Cap Sheaf Soda soon became the best-known baking soda in the country. By 1874 Deland Chemical Company sales amounted to $517,000 annually.
In 1875 Sarah and Henry built a new house at the corner of Main and Church Streets. The 34-room house, now known as The Green Lantern Inn (Deland House), was built in the French Chateau style with mansard roofs and iron work trim along the roof lines. It was surrounded by trees, shrubs, green lawns and formal gardens – with a stable, kitchen garden and chicken coop in the back. It cost $50,000 to build, making it the costliest private residence in the town. It was the permanent home to five people: Henry, Sarah, son Harlan, daughter Helen, and Sarah’s mother, Betsey Parce.
It was also a temporary home to many others – family member, friends and guests. In an age when travel was difficult and rented accommodations often suspect, it was not unusual for visitors to stay for weeks or months at a time. The Deland home was large enough to accommodate such guests.
In 1876, after 22 years at the Deland Chemical company, Henry Deland decided to take a vacation. His nephew Levi, Daniel’s heir, had been closely involved in the business since his father’s death, allowing Henry the much-needed time off.
The Deland family traveled first to South Carolina to visit Henry’s brother-in-law, Oliver Terry, then, by train and paddle-wheeler, to Enterprise Florida. The women and children remained in Enterprise while Henry and his brother-in-law traveled inland, eventually reaching the high ridge lands of Volusia County, where they stayed with a friend of Terry’s, John Rich. Henry was so impressed with what he saw, and with the possibilities there, that he purchased a large tract of land in the area. Six months later he returned to Florida and bought more land. Shortly thereafter he retired from Deland Chemical and put all his energy into the planning and development of the new community he envisioned in Florida.
Deland’s proposal was for a planned community dedicated to orange cultivation and tourism. On December 6, 1876, he called a meeting of all settlers within a 10 to 12 mile radius of John Rich’s cabin. He donated $400 and an acre of land for a school house. He offered a similar gift to the first congregation to build a church. He donated a one-mile strip of land, which ran north and south through the center of the area, to be the main street, Woodland Boulevard. The boulevard would be planted with orange, magnolia and oak trees and would be an impressive main thoroughfare of the new community. That evening those in attendance voted to name the new community Deland.
Deland promoted the area as he had once promoted Cap Sheaf Soda. He backed investors and guaranteed their investments. Soon the town had a newspaper, a store and a post office. The school opened in May 1877, the first church in 1880. The city of Deland was incorporated in 1882.
Many Fairport residents invested in Deland; several moved there. They served on the Board of Administrators of the city, built hotels, ran newspapers, were members of the school board, served as pastors of the local churches.
Henry also promoted the idea of advanced education. A college was chartered in 1883. The first building was constructed in 1884, a dormitory soon followed. It was the first college in Florida, named, appropriately, Deland College. In 1887 it was incorporated as Deland University. In 1889 it was renamed Stetson University, in honor of Deland’s dear friend, John Stetson. Stetson was a loyal and generous supporter of the school, donating $1,000,000 to the university between 1886 and 1906, the year he died.
Although a winter freeze in 1885-86 destroyed all fruit still on the orange trees, it did not harm the trees themselves so the local economy was able to recover. Nine year later, in 1894-95 a disastrous freeze destroyed the trees as well as the fruit. Many investors and settlers were wiped out.
One of the hardest hit was Henry Deland. He had invested in real estate rather than oranges, but, had guaranteed the investments of others. He felt a moral obligation to honor his guarantees. By 1896 he had sold off all his property in Florida and Fairport. Saying he was 60 years young, not old, he returned to Fairport to work for the Monroe County Chemical Company. He worked until he had paid off all debts. He died on March 13, 1908, penniless.
Deland is well-remembered in both Fairport and Florida. His most visible memorials in Fairport are his house, The Green Lantern Inn, and First Baptist Church, which he helped build and which was an important part of his life all his life. In Florida an entire city bears his name. His son is remembered in the Harlan Hotel, his daughter in Lake Helen. However, his true legacy is as the antithesis of the twenty first century investor and corporate raider - as an honorable man.
For more on important historic personages that have lived or contributed to our community visit the People of Perinton page.