Daytona Beach has a rich history that dates back to the indigenous peoples who lived in fortified villages in the area. These people, the Timucuan and Mayaca Indians, were completely exterminated by disease, war and enslavement with the coming of European settlers. Neither group exists today as distinct racial entities. Large shell middens at Tomoka State Park in Volusia County are evidence of their habitation. Also, prior to the Second Seminole War, the Seminole Indians, who are descendants of the Creek Indians from Georgia and Alabama, frequented the region of Daytona Beach and Volusia County.

The British ruled over the land that is now Florida in the late 1700s. A failed colony was started in the area of southeast Volusia County by Andrew Turnbull and named New Smyrna. This settlement was connected to St. Augustine, the capital of East Florida via the Kings Road. Between 1763 and 1783, the Kings road passed directly through present-day Daytona Beach. After the colony at New Smyrna failed, many of the settlers migrated to St. Augustine via the 70-mile Kings Road. Following the American Revolution, the Spanish Crown regained control of Florida from the British. In 1804, Samuel Williams received a land grant of 3,000 acres from the Spanish Crown, and this area encompassed what would later become Daytona Beach. He built a large plantation to grow cotton, rice and sugar cane, which was serviced by slave labor. In 1836, General Winfield Scott established a fort on the east shore of the St. Johns River in Volusia County, at what is present day DeBary. Samuel William’s son, Samuel Hill Williams, abandoned his father’s plantation during the Second Seminole War. Also known as the Florida War, this conflict between various groups of Native Americans collectively known as the Seminoles, and the United States, lasted from 1835 to 1842. The Seminoles burned the Williams’ plantation to the ground.

In 1871, Mathias Day Jr. of Mansfield, Ohio, purchased a 3,200-acreage site of the former William’s Plantation. It encompassed the west bank of the tidal channel known as the Halifax River. Day built a hotel, and a community began to grow up around the hotel. This very spot is where the Daytona Beach Historic District is today. In 1872, Day lost the title to his land due to financial troubles. However, settlers in the new community named the city Daytona in his honor. The town of Daytona Beach was incorporated in 1876. In 1886, the St. Johns & Halifax River Railway arrived. The line was purchased by Henry Flagler in 1889, who made it part of his own Florida East Coast Railway.

The area continued to grow, and in 1926, the separate towns of Daytona, Daytona Beach, Kingston, and Seabreeze merged to become Daytona Beach. It had become a popular beach vacation and holiday destination and was dubbed “The World’s Most Famous Beach.” The wide, hard compacted sand of Daytona attracted automobile and motorcycle races as early as 1902. It hosted “land speed record attempts” beginning in 1904, when William K. Vanderbilt set an unofficial record of 92.207 mph. Many other racers came and made the Daytona Beach course famous. It wasn’t without tragedy, however, including numerous fatal crashes. On March, 8, 1936, the first stock car race was held on the Daytona Beach Road Course, located at the present-day town of Ponce Inlet. In 1958, William France Sr. and NASCAR created the Daytona International Speedway. The area continued to thrive across the decades, and today, Daytona Beach is still a popular vacation destination that offers swimming, surfing, fishing, other water sports, or just relaxing in the warm sunshine on a sandy beach. The International Speedway replaced racing on the hard-packed sand, but Daytona Beach is still one of the only U.S. beaches that allows cars - at a maximum speed of 10 mph only.


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