John Neill and Eva Searcy

John Neill Searcy arrived in Mellonville (Sanford) by steamboat and homesteaded in the Longwood area in 1873. He first settled near the Longdale/Sky Lark/Candyland Park area before relocating to the south shore of West Lake.

Mr. Searcy was originally from Tennessee and served as a sergeant in the Confederate army during the Civil War. His father (also named John) was a doctor and joined him in Longwood.

They and several other prominent citizens helped build the Christ Episcopal Church on West Church Street. The church held its first service on Easter in 1882.

In 1885, he married Eva Lessie Muzzy. Together, they had three sons, only one surviving until adulthood. Mr. Searcy was a carpenter, worked on a railroad survey crew, planted groves, and served as Postmaster in Longwood for several years beginning in 1889.

In 1888, he built a Victorian home at 593 West Church Street. The estate became known as Magnolia Acres, and it still exists. His homestead was on the eastern edge of West Longwood, a separate collection of settlers from Longwood proper.

The Searcy family donated the land for the Longwood Memorial Gardens Cemetery.

John was born in 1842 and died in 1926. Evan was born in 1853 and died in 1930.

Contemporary Story about Searcy

From “Early Settlers of Orange County, Florida” Book (1917):

John Neill Searcy’s paternal ancestor emigrated from Italy to England and then to North Carolina. His maternal ancestors came from England and Ireland before the Revolution. His maternal great-grandfather, Col. Matthew Martin, moved from South Carolina to Bedford County, Middle Tennessee, in the early settlement of that county.

Both of his grandfathers fought under General Jackson in the War of 1812. His grandfather, Robert Searcy, was clerk of the Federal Court in Nashville, TN, and the second Grand Master of Masons. His father, Dr. James Searcy, was born in Nashville on Dec 8th, 1812. He married Miss Sarah Clay Neill, daughter of Col Jno. L Neill. They raised seven children to manhood and womanhood. 

John was born near Fairfield, Bedford County, on March 15th, 1842. His father moved his family to Panola County, Mississippi, in the fall of 1855. He was living there when the Civil War began.

His oldest brother and he joined the Pettus Artillery in May 1861, commanded by Captain Alfred B. Hudson, who was killed at the battle of Shiloh. They changed the company’s name to “The Hudson Battery.” James L. Hoole then took command of the company, but owing to his ill health, he commanded it only briefly.

Lieutenant Robert Sweeney took command until the siege of Vicksburg, where he was killed. The command then fell to Captain Edwin S. Walton. He was severely wounded but recovered and retained command until they were patroled at Gainesville, Alabama, in May 1865. Those who were in the siege at Vicksburg can fully appreciate and sympathize with the hunger and suffering of the Belgians, as they could easily eat their three days’ rations at one meal without appeasing hunger.

They found mule meat very good and quite “filling.” After the fall of Vicksburg, they were under General Forest until the surrender and were paroled on May 12th, 1865, in Gainesville, Alabama. He has his parole framed and hung over the mantle—a priceless souvenir.

After the war, his father moved back to Bedford County, and he remained there until March 17th, 1873, when he started to Florida. He came up the St. Johns River on the steamer Starlight, landed at Melonville on the 23rd, and went to Fort Reid after dark. The following day, he looked at the palmetto flags and thought, “Have I left good old Tennessee to starve in this desert?”

He started to Maitland and met a good old George Cracker, who persuaded him to stop with him. He homesteaded land near the town of Longwood. He had good sport with the Cracker, hunting deer where Longwood now stands. When E. W. Henck built the railroad from Sanford to Orlando, he was with the surveying party. On the second day of February 1885, he married Miss Eva L. Muzzy. Three boys were born to them, one of whom is now living—Charles Blanchard. 

His wife was born in Gardner, Maine, but was raised in Middle Tennessee. She is the daughter of Eden Muzzy, whose wife was Miss Sarah A. Wallerfield of Gardner, Maine.

References and Related links