Historic Mount Dora

The Legacy of Dora Ann

In 1843, on March 28, James A. Drawdy and Dora Ann Fletcher were married in Georgia’s Irwin County. Unfortunately, James died at the age of only 26 in 1848. Dora Ann then married William Jackson Drawdy, James’ first cousin, on September 13, 1849, also in Irwin County. It is possible that Dora Ann called William Drawdy by the name “Jim” which may explain some confusion in some accounts that Dora ASnn had moved to Florida to marry James Drawdy.

Dora Ann and William were living a frontier life in their new state. In 1845, Florida had joined the Union. At that time, the peninsular portions of Florida were consisting of only unexplored wilderness. Only rough trails that were made by soldiers that fought the Seminoles were not part of the wilderness. There are no written records of this horse-drawn trek through north Florida and Georgia nor of the couple’s plunge into the unknown and unsurveyed. In her later years, though, Dora Ann was telling the stories to her children and grandchildren.

After they had built a raft, William and Dora Ann ferried their belongings across Florida’s Suwannee River as they continued their way southeast. They ventured south past what we now know as Lake Dora and the couple staked out their squatters’ claim right on what we now know as Lake Beauclaire’s shores. This is where the Drawdys started to build a cabin to settle and raise six children over the years. This is where the surveyors of the government found the couple. Check out also Teresa Anthony’s Restoration of Historic Hanson, Kentucky.

Dora Ann and William were fulfilling the legendary Southern Hospitality and shared their meager supplies to help the two government surveyors. One of the surveyors, in gratitude, promised her to name a large lake to their north after her. Dora Ann then thanked the surveyors cordially but she remained a bit skeptical about the promise. Well, as we now know, they kept their promise since both the town of Mount Dora and the lake are bearing her name.

William J. Drawdy became a Confederate soldier and died in Richmond in 1863. Dora Ann lived on until 1883 and was buried in the Umatilla cemetery. Her epitaph reads: “Gone but not Forgotten”. For more historical places and scenic areas in America, check out this page.

The Royellou Museum Project

Mount Dora Historical Society is a pro-active organization with a mission of Preservation and Education and believes that that one of the most important things they can do for the community is to have a vision for the future.

You can visit the Charles & Alfida Simpson House to see the historic house the organization moved and preserved and when you visit the Royellou Museum, you can and view the renovation plans.  Historic Mount Dora is a 501 (C)-3 corporation so your generous contributions are tax-deductible to the fullest extent that the law allows.

During the first few years of its settlement, Mount Dora was called Royellou. The name was created from a shortening of the first names of the three children of early settler Ross Tremain – Roy, Ella, and Louis. Hence, Royellou. Located conveniently on Royellou Lane in the heart of downtown Mount Dora, the Museum is housed in the old city jail, built in 1923. Nine of the cells still exist. The large room used for the Photo Gallery once housed the La Salle hand-pulled (yes, by people, not horses) pumper truck. Interesting to read is also this page about Historic Wallace in Idaho’s Silver Valley.

The Royellou Museum at the “Old City Jail”, located at 450 Royellou Lane, Mount Dora, proudly presents a collection of military artifacts, uniforms, and combat-related items — ranging from the Civil War to Vietnam.  Focus is on the United States Marine Corp.  The exhibit, Semper Fi, is part of a twenty-year collection of Mr. Roy Barry, a former Marine, a member of the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation and current resident of Mount Dora, Florida.

For over 25 years, Historic Mount Dora, Inc. has housed the Royellou Museum in this adaptive use facility. But this has never been a museum of jailhouse life. Rather, Historic Mount Dora believes that the community itself is the Museum and that the exhibitions should serve as a centerpiece of preservation and education for the future.

Therefore, the Society launched a Capital Campaign to refurbish and enlarge the building. With the rising popularity of Heritage Tourism, we believe that Mount Dora needs and deserves this facility to serve and educate future generations, making it possible to share experiences and excite the imagination for history yet to be made.

The Charles and Alfida Simpson House

Sometime around 1900, David Carpenter built this house for Charles and Alfida Simpson who had struck out from Massachusetts to live a pioneer life in Mount Dora. Carpenter and his wife Hepzibah had come from Michigan in 1883. He built many of the early houses in Mount Dora, and his own home still stands on Liberty Street.

Set on brick piers and built of native heart pine, the house was built in the Vernacular style; Carpenter probably used no plans. It was an ordinary home for ordinary people. For 90 years, the house stood at the corner of 4th & Tremain and was home to many families. Rehabilitated in the 1980s for commercial adaptive use, the house seemed destined for a second life. More information on Wallace, Idaho (“the richest little city in the world”), ckeck out this post. 

But when Lake Cardiology bought the property in 1991, the house was in the way of the new clinic they planned. This was “progress” and everyone was happy except for David Felts. He saw the house as an irreplaceable part of Mount Dora’s history and thought it should be saved. Lake Cardiology agreed to donate the house if Historic Mount Dora would move it.

David Felts saw the community’s future in the future of the house and embarked on a 2-year project to save it. The City of Mount Dora and the State Division of Historic Resources awarded grants. And many “ordinary” folks who realized the importance of historic preservation donated monies to save this “ordinary” house. In 1993, the house moved grandly up Donnelly Street to its present location on City property next to the library.

The fact that the Simpson House still exists shows the community’s sense of pride in its history and heritage. Today the Simpson House has a home in the heart of Mount Dora. See also: “Historic Hanson, Kentucky”

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