The city of Winter Garden now has about 45,000 residents, but 135 years ago, just six or so families made the area their home. As the city limits expanded and streets officially were marked in what is now historic downtown Winter Garden, many were named for the early settlers.
Green Berry Westley Bray (1856-1918) and his wife, Dora Bray, came to Winter Garden in 1884 with three small sons. G.B.W.’s brother, John William “Foster” Bray, came to Winter Garden four years earlier. G.B.W.’s son, G.W. Bray, and M.Y. McMillan opened in 1906 the first hardware business selling items such as wagons and mule collars, as well as gasoline.
G.B.W. Bray was one of the first sponsors of the city’s deep well system around 1912.
The first schoolhouse for Winter Garden was located on property, 160 acres in all, homesteaded by J.W.F. in 1880. The area was known as the Bray Grove, and the schoolhouse was at the northwest corner of West Colonial Drive and Park Avenue.
BRAYTON and BRAYTON ROAD
The area of Brayton and Brayton Road, off West Plant Street, also are named for the Bray family. J.W.F. had given right-of-way land to both the Orange Belt Railroad and the Tavares & Gulf Railroad and was named agent; depots were built and named Brayton. A wagon road led off the Winter Garden-Oakland road (West Plant Street) and was known as Brayton Road, where farmers hauled their vegetables and fruits to the station to be shipped north.
The Bray family operated a packinghouse at Brayton in the early 1900s.
William P. Vining and J.L.Vining were prolific in citrus and vegetable raising and shipping, as were W.L. Story, J.L. Dillard and George Swan.
William P. Vining — who served as a city commissioner in 1913 — homesteaded 80 acres of land in what is now part of historic downtown Winter Garden. His home place ran from Story Road north along South Lakeview to just behind the post office and west to Park Avenue then south back to Story. W.P.’s father, Josiah Vining, was another early settler.
The Vining family was large with 16 or 17 children, Mabel Dillard Grimes recalled in her 1977 recorded memories.
William Lasenby Story Sr. arrived in the area in the 1880s and lived one mile south of WG. He was publisher of the West Orange News and was an extensive citrus and grove owner in Orange County.
Story, the Rev. J.A. Richardson, J.L. Dillard and A.W. Hurley were instrumental in the founding of the First Baptist Church of Winter Garden, originally established in Ocoee in 1888.
In 1934, when Bray Hardware Company and the adjoining movie theater caught fire downtown, Story braved falling boards in the blazing building to save movie projectors and amplifying equipment.
EWING – HOUSER – WOODLAND STREET
Before Woodland Street was so named, it was Houser Street.
Only two pieces of information were discovered at the history center. A man by the name of Harry Houser was married by 1922. And in 1944, I.H. Houser purchased from the Bray Hardware Company one gallon of house paint at $3.75 and one gallon of seed for $2.10.
Prior to the Houser name, the road was called Ewing Street.
George Knox “G.K.” Ewing and his sons, Edgar Louis, Benjamin Edison and Earl Wayne, moved south to Winter Garden and made their homes here.
Earl set up a real estate business in downtown Winter Garden and also made a living as a merchant; Ben opened a business in Ocoee.
G.K. had purchased a great deal of land near around Plant Street, and in one transaction sold property to J.L. Dillard in the Earl Wayne Ewing Plat, named in memory of his son, who died at age 24. First Baptist Winter Garden later was built at this location.
Jasper Newton Joiner Sr. (1862-1921) and his wife, Annie Tanner Joiner, came to Winter Garden from south Georgia in 1899. He worked with John Lorenzo Tanner in grove caretaking and rehabilitating ruined groves in the "Great Freeze of 1895." He bought and planted his own groves and was referred to as "The Citrus Wizard of Orange County." The Joiners had a daughter, Cora. Joiner managed John T. Fuller Packinghouse in the 1900s. He served as a city commissioner in 1914, was on the board of the First National Bank of Winter Garden and was a stockholder and director of Avalon Groves Co. After Annie died, he married her younger sister, Neva Tanner, and had nine children.
The Joiners’ home was near Dillard and Plant streets.
Newton Street was planned as a short east-west road south of Plant Street between Highland and Lakeview avenues and Tremaine and Smith streets, but it never was built. Arthur Bullard Newton constructed a house facing “Newton Street,” but since the road never came to fruition, the house at Highland and Smith faced backward. It stands still today.
Newton published the city’s first newspaper, The Ricochet, and was the first mayor, postmaster and storekeeper. He owned the only imposing brick building in town, and his general store carried most every kind of merchandise. He also operated a packinghouse and sold crate material and fertilizer to growers.
Newton came to Winter Garden from Mississippi in 1892. At that time there were only a half-dozen dwellings within the territorial limits of what is now Winter Garden.
South Highland Street once was called Wright Street, named for Rufus P. and Ora Lee Wright, who had a home on that road during the city’s infancy and whose children lived along the road and around the corner, as well.
Rufus was an early clerk for A.B. Newton, the only merchant who was able to afford a bookkeeper and have a typewriter, according to recollections written in 1940 by W.B. Burch.
As the city grew in size, so did the need for more roads in and around downtown. Roper Drive likely was named for William C. Roper, the first in a long line of influential family members; and Fullers Cross Road was named for John Fuller, who owned a packinghouse near the West Orange Trail in the northeast part of the city.
On the city’s east side are streets named Mildred Dixon Way, for a former city commissioner and longtime east Winter Garden advocate, and Maxey Avenue, for longtime educators William S. and Juanita Maxey.
*ALL PHOTOS COURTESY OF WINTER GARDEN HERITAGE FOUNDATION
Community Editor Amy Quesinberry was born at the old West Orange Memorial Hospital and raised in Winter Garden. Aside from earning her journalism degree from the University of Georgia, she hasn’t strayed too far from her hometown and her three-mile bubble. She grew up reading The Winter Garden Times and knew in the eighth grade she wanted to write for her community newspaper. She has been part of the writing and editing team since 1990.