Stotesbury’s Sanford & St. Petersburg Railroad:
Reviewing the convoluted timeline of Sanford & St. Petersburg Railroad should likely come with a caution label, something on the order of: Warning, analyzing the timeline for excessive periods of time may bring on a migraine.
Established in late 1893, central Florida’s Sanford & St. Pete operated along 153 miles of track between Sanford on Lake Monroe, and St. Petersburg on the Gulf of Mexico. Track had been installed in 1880s by Orange Belt Railway, and one only individual, Edward T. Stotesbury of Philadelphia, had been involved throughout the history of the Sanford & St. Petersburg Railroad:
1886: Peter A. Demens of Longwood, Florida established Orange Belt Railway;
1889 Jan 21: Orange Belt Railway files Plat extending the railway 4 miles from Monroe, on Lake Monroe, east into Sanford, including a Lake Monroe Pier at Cedar Avenue;
1889 May 31: Edward T. Stotesbury signs Orange County document as the “President of Orange Belt Railway Companies”;
1892 May 16: Creditors of Orange Belt Railway foreclose, naming Edward T. Stotesbury as Trustee for H. O. Armour; E. W. Clark & Company; and Drexel & Co, (E. W. Clark and Drexel are both Philadelphia banks.)
1893 Apr: Orange Belt Railway publishes Time Table in which Edward T. Stotesbury is listed as President, William McLeod Vice President;
1893 Dec 7: Orange County Sheriff sale on Orlando’s Courthouse steps sells assets of the Orange Belt Railway to “John P. Ilsley and Joseph S. Clark, both of Philadelphia.” Ilsley had been employed as Manager of a Pennsylvania railroad which E. W. Clark had been appointed as Trustee. Joseph S. Clark was the son of Philadelphia’s E. W. Clark). Total purchase price is shown as $150,000.00;
1894 May 22: Edward T. Stotesbury, Trustee, conveys Sanford parcels on Cedar Avenue at Lake Monroe, to the Sanford & St. Petersburg Railroad (See 4 mile extension listed above for Jan 21, 1889);
1895 Feb 7: “On the night of the 7 of February, 1895, a still greater freeze occurred, in fact, the greates ever known in the history of the state, the thermometer reaching as low as 18 degrees above zero, by reason of which second freeze, almost all of the orange trees in orange and other counties were killed to the ground.” February 8, 1896, Benjamin M. Robinson;
1895 Feb 11: A Time Table is issued by ‘Sanford & St. Petersburg Railroad’ that includes a footnote: “Formerly the Orange Belt Railway.” (This timetable was likely printed prior to the freeze of four days earlier);
1895 Mar 17: The New York Times publishes a story telling of the sale of the Sanford & St. Petersburg Railroad to the Plant Systems;
1895: Jun 15: At the Palm Springs railway stop: “While others were complaining, and saying there was no use of planting any more orange trees, nor in fussing with them, Mr Root said he sold $600 worth of oranges right here at this doorstop in
1894: Why should I give up?’ The Orange Belt Railroad has packing houses along its whole length. At an early hour Monday morning we stepped off the train at St. Petersburg, at the southern termination of the Orange Belt Railroad.” Gleanings in Bee Culture, June 15, 1895.
1897 Dec: Central Florida’s paper, ‘Florida Home, Farm & Field’ described Oakland as having two railroads, one the “Orange Belt Railway”, adding that this train connects in Sanford with the ‘Plant System’;
1899 Mar 13: John P. Ilsley, President of Orange Belt Investment Company, transfered an Oakland, Florida parcel to the Sanford & St. Petersburg Railroad;
1902 Jan 12: “John Parker Ilsley, well known to western railroad men, is dead.” Age 77, Ilsley died at his home in New York. There was no mention of being known to ‘southern’ railroad men.
1903 Mar 19: Edward T. Stotesbury, signing as President of Sanford & St. Petersburg Railroad, conveyed ownership of the railroad, including all 153 miles of track, to the ‘Atlantic Coastal Railroad,’ part of the Henry Plant system.
Edward T. Stotesbury (1849-1938) served as a partner in J. P. Morgan & Co. and its Philadelphia affiliate, Drexel & Company for 55 plus years. In 1910, it was estimated that his worth was in excess of $100 million. Of the many northern companies Stotesbury is most often associated with are: Reading Railroad; Lehigh Valley Railroad; Philadelphia Fidelity Bank; Girard Trust Company; Cambria Iron Company; Latrobe Steel Company; Penn Mutual Life insurance Company; and the Niagara Falls Electric Power Company.
In 1916, Stotesbury was provided with his very own private parlor car, Reading Car 10, which he named ‘PARADISE.’ His personal residences included El Mirasol at Palm Beach, Whitemarsh Hall in his native Philadelphia, and a summer mansion at Bar Harbor, Maine.
Biography material found in Who’s Who 1910 and Stotesbury.com – but in closing I should add – there is not even one mention of Edward T. Stotesbury’s involvement in Orange County, Florida between the years 1889 and 1902.
2015: CitrusLAND: Ghost Towns & Phantom Trains was released in a 'Second Edition.' As a passenger aboard the Orange Belt Railway weeks after the devastating 1895 freeze, readers journey, from Sanford to Oakland, with Edward T. Stotesbury and John Parker Ilsley. Along their route, both men meet with the landowners who had just suffered a terrible blow. Not knowing quite yet what they should do, towns of Sylvan Lake, Island Lake, Glen Ethel, Palm Springs, Forest city, Lakeville, Clarcona, Crown Point, Winter Garden, Oakland and Killarney, all fear for their future.
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