A QUINTESSENTIAL AMERICAN FRONTIERSMAN
CitrusLAND: 12 CENTRAL FLORIDIANS SERIES:
PART TWO: MAHLON GORE THE JOURNALIST
Watching smoke signals rise from distant hills in the Dakota Territory didn’t seem to bother Mahlon Gore, for the reason cited for his moving to Central Florida was declining health. Gore had lived in the Wild West for 18 years before departing for Sanford, Florida in May of 1880 – six months before South Florida Railroad was ready to inaugurate its new train service into the county’s interior.
Gore walked the final 22 miles between Sanford and Orlando, hiking a more westerly route than that of the First Road to Orlando. Mahlon reported he “spent the first night with a native that lived near Longwood,” suggesting the Dakota transplant followed a newer route into the county, a route that was being established by the railroad. Grading for track had begun that February, and iron rails had been laid down as far south as Longwood by May. On his second day’s hike, Gore continued on toward Orlando.
Mahlon Gore described Orlando of May, 1880: “The number of people in Orlando does not exceed 200 and the entire business district of the town is confined to three sides of the court house square. There are four stores, one hotel, one blacksmith and wagon shop, and livery stable.” Orlando had been the Orange County Seat for 23 years by that time! Gore’s description continued: “You have to leave your order for your conveyance two days in advance to give the liveryman time to go out in the woods and hunt the horse and then the best he can do is to give you a buckboard to ride in.”
One of Central Florida’s earliest towns, developing the town of Orlando had stalled for nearly an entire quarter century between 1857 and 1880. Writer George M. Barbour, in his book, Florida for Tourists, Invalids and Settlers, described Orlando in 1880 “as an old place, typical of the South. The boom that has enlivened every other spot in Orange County seems to have left Orlando comparatively untouched.”
The Orange County Reporter was Orlando’s newspaper in 1880, and Mahlon Gore joined the editorial staff of publisher and owner, Sayres B. Harrington. By the summer of 1880, Mahlon Gore was a “Journalist”, a boarder residing with his employer, S. B. Harrington. Later that year though, Gore bought the newspaper, and continued as Editor and Publisher of the Orange County Reporter for over a decade.
Orlando’s first train arrived November 11, 1880, making Orlando, Florida, for a brief time, the most southerly railroad town in the United States. Robert R. Reid of Palatka, owner of the 80 acres surrounding the (4) acre 1857 Village of Orlando, also recorded his town plat in 1880. Reid had owned this land since purchasing it at auction, on Orlando's courthouse step, in 1867. (Reid’s plat, laying out streets and avenues, should not be confused with the 1875 Incorporation of the Town of Orlando, during which city limits were established as being one (1) square mile around Court House Square.)
Mahlon Gore’s arrival in Orange County coincided with an Orlando renaissance. A journalist who had to walk to a new job and home, within six months was covering the arrival of the first train to Orlando, and reporting of the story in a newspaper he then owned. As Orlando finally began to develop, Mahlon Gore and the Orange County Reporter’s role in that growth would be described as occupying “a large place in the affairs of the county and became an information bureau and immigration agency combined.”
Mahlon Gore was one of Orlando’s staunchest promoters, evidenced by numerous historical accounts of the man’s presence in Orange County. 130 years before I began writing of Central Florida’s story under the moniker CitrusLAND, newspaperman Mahlon Gore, in cooperation with retired Massachusetts newspaperman Sherman Adams, published ORANGE LAND, a 100 page official publication sanctioned in 1883 by Orange County’s Commissioners.
Often reading more like an advertising brochure, Orange Land is an extraordinary historical document offering a rare view of Orange County in the early 1880’s as seen by the actual pioneers of the 1880's, a research tool that exists today in large part because of a journalist named Mahlon Gore.
Mahlon however was more than a journalist. Stay tuned for Part 3: the Mahlon Gore the Politician – coming here to Rick’s FREE Blog April 25th.
YOU CAN HIKE the real FIRST ROAD TO ORLANDO in the comfort of your favorite reading chair. An ancient Indian trail became a military road in 1836, and over the next 44 years, served too as the only route for interior-bound settlers arriving at Lake Monroe. At first a 28 mile long Ft Mellon to Ft Gatlin Road, by 1857 this dirt trail had become a shorter 22 mile 'Mellonville to Orlando Road', providing access to the mysterious little wayside that suddenly became the Orange County Seat of Government. First Road to Orlando also delves into how each town along the road got its name – including analysis of the multiple versions of how ORLANDO was named. For further details, simply click HERE!