Peter Demens

Mr. Demens arrived in Longwood in 1881 when he was 31 years old. He was born into Russian nobility in St. Petersburg, Russia, and his birth name was Pyotr Alekseyevich Dementyev. He served as an officer in the Imperial Guards. After his parents died, he inherited their estates at an early age but had little success with them and decided to emigrate to America.

Upon arrival in Longwood, he had sufficient funds to purchase 80 acres for an orange grove and a one-third interest in a sawmill. According to his account, he worked diligently to clear the land for orange trees and to assist in the sawmill, eventually buying out his less industrious partners.

He grew the business into a major supplier of building materials in the area and expanded it to include design and construction. One of his contracts was to supply railroad ties for the infant Orange Belt Railroad. When the railroad could not pay him, Mr. Demens was presented with the charter instead. When he acquired the line, it had a charter to run from the St. Johns River to Lake Apopka. During the next several years, Mr. Demens spent his energies raising the capital and expanding the line to its ultimate terminus in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Mr. Demens served as mayor of Longwood and was an unsuccessful candidate for the state senate in 1884. In 1889, he sold the railroad to satisfy his debts and moved to North Carolina. He died in California in 1919.

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