people of Eustis, on the east shore of Lake Eustis, took their
time deciding on a name. First it was Highlands, then
Pendryville, and finally Lake Eustis, itself named about 1825
for General Abraham Eustis.
General Eustis, prominent in the Seminole Wars, had skirmished
with the Indians on the south shore, near present-day
Tavares. In 1876, A.S. Pendry homesteaded and set out a
citrus grove. In 1877 he opened the Ocklawaha Hotel. The post
office in the lobby carried the sign Pendryville".
Before railroads came in the 1880s, Eustis was a busy port for
steamers plying Lakes Harris, Eustis, Dora, and Griffin. In
1883 the "Lake" was dropped and the town became just Eustis.
The first homes were those of D.W. Herrick, A.D. Herrick, and
Henry Key. In 1881 Clifford and Smith built the first general
store in the building later occupied by A.D. and C.D. Miller.
big year was 1878 when the town's first telegraph line
connected Eustis, Leesburg, and Sanford. The railroad arrived
in 1880, the first train coming from Astor to Fort Mason,
where passengers and freight made lake steamer connections to
Leesburg, Helena, Yalaha, Bloomfield, Lane Park and Tavares.
Bertie Clifford was the first baby born before Eustis was
incorporated in 1883, and Edith Hutchins the first baby of the
newly incorporated town. D.W. Herrick was the first mayor.
Guilford David Clifford was a man with a big heart. Although
his Eustis dream home was designed in 1894, the Big Freeze of
1894-1895 postponed its completion until 1911. Says Eustis
historian Louise Carter, "Even though the freeze brought the
town's economy to a standstill, Mr. Clifford kept his
lakefront general store open and extended credit until people
could recover." According to an 1887 business directory, the
Clifford Store on Lake Eustis sold "groceries, hardware,
building material, fertilizers, stoves, crockery, glassware,
hay and grain. And the opera house, on the second floor, was
a cultural center of Eustis and a wide swath of Central
The eighteen-room house at the corner of Bay Street and Bates
Avenue was worth waiting for: Today it houses the Eustis
Historical Museum and Preservation Society, and takes visitors
back to the gracious Lake County lifestyle of one hundred-odd
The historical information provided on this page was obtained
from the book entitled "Lake County Florida - A Pictorial
History" by Emmett Peter Jr. This book is available from the
City of Eustis Library, 120 N. Center Street, Eustis, Florida