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Henry and Hettie Austin Papers

Identifier: MS 319

Scope and Content

The letters and newspaper clippings in this collection document homesteading in central Florida in the last quarter of the 19th century. The Austins were involved in establishing orange groves and pineapple fields in the vicinity of Lake Beresford, west of DeLand. They frequently wrote to family, describing how they were progressing and encouraging others to move to Florida. Letters in this collection deal with many topics, and include notes about Henry Austin's and John Cannon's reconnaissance of DeLand, Fort Reid, Orlando, Maitland, Titusville and other places in 1875.

The bulk of the information in the letters revolves around the day to day life and hardships of planting and commerce. Letters tend to be lengthy and detailed. Early letters give accounts of clearing land, planting orange trees, soil conditions, natural surroundings, and suitable crops. Others tell of the progress made on Austin's homestead as well as the increasing activity in the area, with Austin describing how the county was filling up. A letter to Hettie Austin from Miami in 1898 includes a description of troops awaiting departure to the Spanish American War. It also describes the festivities that took place in Miami on the Fourth of July 1898, and the involvement of the troops in these festivities.

A family history by Hettie Austin discusses her project to get subscriptions from settlers to establish a local church. These subscriptions would eventually result in the first public building in DeLand.


  • Creation: 1871-1940
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1876-1903



The collection is open for research.

Biographical/Historical Note

Henry Austin and his wife Hettie, both originally from New Albany, Indiana, settled in Florida in the 1870s in the area that is now modern-day DeLand. Austin arrived in 1875 and built their homestead near Lake Beresford. Hettie followed in 1876. The family operated a general store with Austin's nephew, John Cannon, and also grew a variety of different crops including oranges and pineapples. Henry Austin died in 1904. His wife Hettie lived into her eighties and was often cited in local newspaper stories about the early history of DeLand.


0.2 Linear feet (1 Box)

Language of Materials



Collection of letters by members of the Austin family and newspaper clippings documenting pioneer life in DeLand, Florida.

Physical Location

University of Florida Smathers Library Building

Acquisition Information

This collection was acquired by purchase from Gregory Beyhmer in 2012.

Alternate Form of Material

Items in this collection have been digitized and are available via the University of Florida Digital Collections (UFDC) as part of the Pioneer Days in Florida project, which is generously supported by a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC). Please read the Permissions for Use statement for information on copyright, fair use, and use of UFDC digital objects.

A Guide to the Henry and Hettie Austin Papers
Finding aid created by Alice Oben
January 2013
Description rules
Finding Aid Prepared Using Dacs
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is written in English.
Digitization funded with the generous support of the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC).

Repository Details

Part of the Special and Area Studies Collections, George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida Repository

George A. Smathers Libraries
PO Box 117005
Gainesville Florida 32611-7005 United States of America