Monday, February 21, 2022


The railroad from Ocala to Leesburg was completed in 1883 and was used until the 1960's by which time the automobile had poached it's passengers and trucking had become more economical for freight. The rails ran from Ocklawaha along the east side of Lake Weir then paralleled hwy 25 and 441 passing through Lady Lake and Fruitland Park before arriving in Leesburg. The bridge to the north of Lady Lake, currently being demolished to widen 441, was built to carry traffic over the tracks. 

I am riding east along Lake Ella Road and pass the lake which I can see between the trees on my left. I continue to 441, where I estimate the railroad tracks would have been, and this is the location of the settlement of Chetwynd established by Granville Chetwynd Stapylton in 1883. 

The Dorm

Stapylton was a young English banker, entrepreneur and rascal who planned to make a killing in the citrus business. He did so by convincing many young Englishmen to buy apprenticeships in his groves where they expected to reap the benefits of the new world but wound up living in "The Hall", a dormitory, and earning little. Nevertheless the community thrived with the construction of houses and shops near Lake Ella and the Chetwynd Arms hotel which was built near the lake and the railroad. It is believed there may have been a depot there with a special rail car for transporting visitors to the hotel.

Stapylton's father was a pastor who helped establish the Holy Trinity Episcopal Church on Spring Lake Road which was completed in 1888. Much of the original interior still exists today and it is well worth a visit. Apart from the church there is little trace of the Chetwynd community. 

Holy Trinity Episcopal Church on Spring Lake Road

Chetwynd's end came about due to the big freezes of 1894 and 1895. Alfred Bosanquet, a descendent of an early settler recalled the day many Chetwynd residents left. “I remember as a child growing up and seeing some of the houses still standing, with the breakfast dishes on the table, the blankets on the beds, the windows pulled down but the doors unlocked. The people had got discouraged on seeing their groves and all the fruit frozen and caught the first train out. They didn’t even pack up their silver on the table."

"Fortunes melted away in a night and groves that were valued at thousands of dollars were valueless at sunrise." From The Evolution of Fruitland Park published in the Leesburg Commercial March 30, 1917.

D.R.S. Bott has written an excellent book about the community called The Chetwynd Chronicles.

For route information click here.

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