Edward Henck (1846-1930) arrived in Mellonville (Sanford) by steamboat in November 1872, from Boston. He looked at some maps of available homesteads and picked out a few promising locations. Horses were scarce, so he started walking south. He diverged from the main trail to Orlando and took a more western fork near Soldier Creek. He arrived on the southern shore of East Lake and decided to call it home.
Edward put in a homestead claim for the eastern side of the section that stretches from 434 on the south to almost Longwood Hills Rd on the north, from Milwee Street on the west to 427 on the east. This was around 156 acres. His wife, Mary, purchased another 156 acres between 427 on the west to Grant Street on the east and from Georgia Ave on the north to 434 on the south.
They built their permanent home in Longwood on Freeman Street. After the Great Freeze of 1894-1895, the Hencks essentially left town for two decades, staying mostly full-time in Boston. They came back in the teens to start promoting their town again. Mary died in 1926, after a long bout with sickness. Edward followed her in death in 1930.
The couple had no children and left their estate to their caretakers, the Hunt family.
Edward Henck was a veteran of the Union Army in the Civil War. He is the last survivor who was in the Honor Guard at Abraham Lincoln’s funeral.
Henck named the town of Longwood after his old neighborhood in Boston. He laid out the town, promoted it, donated land for schools and churches, recruited workers, built railroad s, invested in real estate, and constructed buildings. He was a civil engineer by trade. He did a lot of real estate business in Boston, as well as Florida.
From Footprints Book:
To quote the historical marker located in Longwood, “Mr. E.W. Henck, a young man of Boston, arrived in this wilderness section of then Orange County in November of 1873” (Seminole County was not separated from Orange County until 1913.) Mr. Henck had arrived by steamboat in Sanford, then called Mellonville, on the St. Johns River. He walked overland to what is now the Historic Longwood Area where he and his wife staked out an approximately one hundred and sixty acre homestead claim on mostly high and dry land in the public domain. They occupied it in a tent until they could build a home. On June 24, 1878 they became owners of the land. An engineer by background, Mr. Henck laid out the area and named it Longwood after a grand estate named Longwood on which he had worked in the Brookline suburb of Boston. The estate in turn had been named after the estate on St. Helena Island in the South Atlantic, off Africa, to which Napoleon was ultimately exiled. His town was bounded by Orange Ave. on the north, West Lake St. (now Milwee) on the west, Grant Ave. on the East and Molnar St. on the south (now SR 434). Most lots were 50 x 100 ft. In 1876, he was named the first Postmaster of Longwood. On March 16, 1880, Mr. Henck deeded the land bounded by East Lake on the east, Church Street on the South, a strip of land 200 ft. wide and 1350 ft. long (about 6 acres), to the Episcopal Diocese of Florida. Later, in April 1885 the Diocese deeded back to Mr. Henck the strip of land 200 ft. wide starting on East Lake and running west 200 ft. along Church St. Mr. Henck also donated land on Pine St. to the Corinth Missionary Baptist Church. To encourage growth, Mr. Henck along with Mr. Haskell of Maitland began a railroad to run between Sanford and Orlando. The South Florida Railroad started running in 1880; and the present tracks running through Longwood are on the road bed laid out for the South Florida Railroad. Mr. Henck eventually sold his railroad to the Henry Plant Rail System. Longwood was incorporated as a town in 1883 and Mr. Henck was elected the first mayor. Longwood maps of 1886 show the Florida Midland Railroad running through town on Florida Avenue and a spur of the Orange Belt railroad running down Bay St. from the west to Mr. Demens’ lumber mill located in the block between Warren and Bay Streets and centered across Myrtle Avenue. By 1887, Mr. Henck’s Longwood boasted a population of over 1000. The first Longwood Hotel is identified on the “Birds Eye View of Longwood” published in 1885 as being on the east side of the railroad with a Mr. Henry Hand as proprietor. Mr. Henck desired a much more imposing hotel to set off his growing town and began a second three story hotel known as the Waltham. It was completed in 1888. In full view of the passengers riding the railroad cars, it had 38 rooms. It is still standing and is now known as the Longwood Village Inn operating as an office building. Although recent historians could not find conclusive proof, Mr. Henck alleged that he had been a member of the honor guard on the train which returned President Lincoln’s body to Illinois. Mr. Henck died in 1930.
Edward Henck wrote this in the early days after he arrived, according to the History of Orange County, Florida: Narrative and Biographical (page 25):
“When the winter arrived in Mellonville in November 1873, the town consisted of two general stores, a so-called hotel, a saloon and two cottages. This was the main landing-place for all coming to what was then called South Florida. Sanford, three-quarters of a mile west of Mellonville, had one general store, one dwelling, a small board church (Episcopal), and one drug store, the proprietor of which also kept on sale caskets in which to ship his victims North. Mellonville was the distributing point for Fort Reed, Maitland, Orlando, and Apopka, and was the head of navigation on the St. Johns River, although small boats plied between that point and Lakes Jesup and Harney.
At that time the main arrived at Sanford by boat three times a week and was distributed throughout the county by a route from Sanford to Apopka, Maitland and Orlando, carried in saddle bags by a main on horseback three times a week; the entire mail for all these points could have been put into an ordinary coat pocket.
Two days after arrival the writer located a homestead upon which the town of Longwood is now situated. As there were few horses in the country—none for hire—this trip was made on foot, the party arriving back in Sanford at midnight after a thirty-mile walk.
In the spring of 1874 the writer had the above mail route discontinued and a route established direct from Sanford to Orlando via Longwood and Maitland. The mails were still carried in saddle bags for some time, each postmaster as the mail arrived at his post-office sorting out his few letters and sending the rest on. Soon, however, the country was settled up, and a stage line was operated trip-weekly between Sanford and Orlando by Mr. Joseph Bumby.
The writer named Longwood after the beautiful suburb of Boston of the same name which he, as a young engineer, had helped to lay out. At that time there were no other inhabitants in what i now the corporation of Longwood, but on the outskirts of Fairly Lake there lived a family named Hartley of which there are now many descendents still in residence.
Homestead settlers arrived rapidly and most of the vacant land was entered by 1876. In the sprint of 1874 the writer made a reconnaissance on horseback looking toward the construction of a railroad from Sanford to the Gulf. Orlando, which was a mere trading post, grew considerably in the succeeding five years, and in 1879 the need for transportation had grown so greatly that the writer believed the time had come for construction, and with two friends he incorporated the South Florida Railroad Company, floating the bonds in Boston, and the actual construction was begun in the fall of 1879. The officers of the road at that time were: E. W. Henck, president; E. T. Crafts, secretary; and C. C. Haskell, treasurer.
The road reached Orlando the latter part of October 1880, and regular daily service between Sanford and Orlando was begun November 15, 1880, connection being made at Sanford with boats on the St. Johns River. There was no railroad south of Jacksonville at this time and boat connection was maintained until 1886, when the Jacksonville, Tampa & Key West Railroad reached Sanford.
In 1883 the Florida Midland Railway was incorporated and 45 miles of road was constructed from Lake Jesup to Kissimmee via Apopka. By the sudden death of the contractor of this road this company was thrown into litigation and was not finished for some years, when it was sold by order of the United States District Court and purchased by the Plant interests which had already control of the South Florida Railroad.
The whole of Orange County increased rapidly after the construction of the South Florida Railroad and remained as a whole until 1913 when it was divided into two counties, Orange and Seminole.
Longwood “points with pride” to the fact that the whole development of this section of Florida was inaugurated by three Longwood citizens who, unaided, constructed the first railroad in the state after the Civil War, and who had the vision and the nerve to evolve and carry out a plan for such development in spite of the jeers and head shakings of the old railroad magnates in Jacksonville and the opposition of pessimists among the citizens of Orange County.”