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Holly Hill, Florida
City of Holly Hill
The Holly Hill City Hall in 2007.
The Holly Hill City Hall in 2007.
Official seal of Holly Hill, Florida
Location in Volusia County and the state of Florida
Location in Volusia County and the state of Florida
Holly Hill, Florida is located in the United States
Holly Hill, Florida
Holly Hill, Florida
Location in the United States
Country  United States
State  Florida
County Logo of Volusia County, Florida.svg Volusia
 • Total 4.52 sq mi (11.72 km2)
 • Land 3.96 sq mi (10.26 km2)
 • Water 0.56 sq mi (1.46 km2)
13 ft (4 m)
 • Total 12,958
 • Density 3,272.22/sq mi (1,263.51/km2)
Time zone UTC-5 (Eastern (EST))
 • Summer (DST) UTC-4 (EDT)
ZIP code
Area code(s) 386
FIPS code 12-31350
GNIS feature ID 0284170

Holly Hill is a city in Volusia County, Florida, United States. The population was 11,659 at the 2010 census. Holly Hill's city limits lie entirely on the Florida mainland, unlike the larger cities on either side of it, Daytona Beach and Ormond Beach, which encompass both the mainland and the barrier island (beach front) across the Halifax River.


Holly Hill is located at 29°14′38″N 81°2′47″W / 29.24389°N 81.04639°W / 29.24389; -81.04639 (29.243808, -81.046476).

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 4.5 square miles (12 km2), of which 3.9 square miles (10 km2) is land and 0.6 square miles (1.6 km2) (13.94%) is water.


Holly Hill was incorporated in 1901.

Early history

Holly Hill's beginnings date back to the early 19th century, when Governor Coppinger of Spanish East Florida gave a royal title of 4,500 acres (18 km2) on the Halifax River to Fernando de la Maza Arrendonda. The area was then sold to Thomas Fitch. Thomas Fitch eventually sold a large parcel of property to William Samuel Flemming Sr. in 1817. Flemming acquired one of the Spanish grants containing 3,200 acres (13 km2) along the Halifax River. In 1835 he lost everything during the Second Seminole War. The Halifax area was again abandoned until after the Civil War, but settlers seeking a better life arrived to take advantage of the natural beauty and enticing climate.

William Wallace Ross arrived here sometime in the 1860s and established a home site at a point which he called "Palmetto Point", where he established the first Holly Hill area post office at his home, which was called the Palmetto Post Office. Records of the Post Office Department in the National Archives confirm that a post office was established at Palmetto Point on July 21, 1868, with Samuel P. Wimple appointed postmaster. It was discontinued on July 12, 1870.

Ross was the brother of Edmund G. Ross, who was a U.S. senator from Kansas. Tax rolls for 1869 show that Ross had 200 acres (0.81 km2) of orange trees valued at $600. He owned the grove jointly with his brother-in-law Wimple. Abilene, Kansas, records state that Wimple started the grove and a sugar plantation in Florida in 1868. Ross then invested in the grove. When Mathias Day, founder of Daytona Beach, arrived here in May 1870, he spotted the Wimple and Ross grove behind a growth of palmettos on the west bank of the Halifax River. This information is obtained from Day's diary.

Ross and Wimple returned north after a freeze in the very early 1870s wrecked their orange crop.

There is no record of what happened to the Ross cabin, but through the years it disappeared. In 1904 the Mabbette family lived to the west just across the road (Riverside Drive), and it became known as "Mabbette Point". On February 26, 1958, the Holly Hill Council officially named the point "Ross Point Park" in honor of Ross, and a marker was placed there, preserving its importance in the city's history.

William Samuel Fleming, Sr., meanwhile had not given up on the area. The land owner was born in Holywood (pronounced Hollywood) County on the coast of Northern Ireland near Belfast. In the summer of 1876 Fleming went to Philadelphia with the express purpose of influencing settlers to come to Florida. He got the promise of fifteen families. Among the families were the Wetherells and the Simcoes.

Mr. Wetherell was born on October 30, 1846. He and his wife, Margaret, were both born in Durham, England, and now had four children: Tom, the eldest, Charles, William and a baby girl of a few months.

William Wetherell first came to America in 1866 to work in Philadelphia, on the preparations for the big Centennial celebration. He had left his bride behind in northern England, while he grabbed the opportunity to earn more in this country. He received a job working on the Continental Building. In 1868 he returned to England, but he was already making plans for a permanent move to the United States. In 1872, the family sailed into New York, settled close to Pittsburgh, and later moved to Philadelphia. It was there that Wetherell met William Simcoe, a friend from his earlier days in the city. Mr. Simcoe heard that Miami was beautiful and because of the climate it offered a chance for tremendous growth and work. He was able to convince the Wetherell family that Miami was the place to be.

Two other families Flemming influenced were the Monroes and the Woods, neither of whom had any children. It is notable that Newport News, Virginia, was settled by the Irish in 1621 and the Monroes were quite probably of the same Virginia family tree as James Monroe, the fifth U.S. president.

William Samuel Fleming, Sr., in 1876 owned most of the land now comprising Holly Hill, and his land holdings continued from there south through Port Orange, where he and his wife Mary lived. In 1877 he owned 4,000 acres (16 km2) on the Halifax River between Ormond Beach and the recently settled site of Daytona and began to erect a simple frame dwelling on a portion of his riverfront property.

The Wetherell family left Philadelphia in middle September 1876 in a small schooner and sailed to Fernandina, where the schooner Magnolia was to pick them up there, but it ran aground in Ponce Inlet. The Monroes and the Woods from Virginia joined them there. They were stranded in Fernandina at the far northeast tip of Florida for three weeks until Captain Charlie Fossard, who ran a freight and passenger schooner between Daytona and Fernandina, arrived. The families got passage on his boat, the Frank Stone, to complete the trip. A storm forced them ashore at Ponce Inlet on October 15. Fortunately for Holly Hill they never completed the trip to Miami. Thomas Wetherell, aged nine at the time, wrote an account of their arrival in Daytona years later. The Frank Stone brought them safely through the inlet, but they saw the remains of the unfortunate Magnolia being torn apart by the surf. They landed in Daytona on October 17, 1876.

At that time this part of Florida was practically a wilderness. There was no railroad closer than Jacksonville. Mail was brought in about once a week on horseback from Enterprise, then the county seat of Volusia County. The post office was a dry goods box that sat in the corner of William Jackson's small store at the south end of Daytona.

The Wetherells spent that first fall and winter at Daytona Beach in the woods in an old house at what then was the northeast comer of Ridgewood and Volusia Avenue but is now known as International Speedway Boulevard (U.S. Routes l and 92). But in the spring Flemming got them to move to Holly Hill, where they bought from him the 220 feet (67 m) on Washington Avenue, now LPGA Boulevard, between Daytona Avenue and Dixie Highway, for the sum of $75. Their first home there was a one-room shack they built of driftwood found along the river and palmetto fans. Tragedy hit the Wetherells when their fourth child, the baby girl, died very young, but two more girls were born to them in Holly Hill, Ethel and Victoria.

The Monroes were the only other family settling directly in Holly Hill at that time, living in a cottage at the site of the old city hall where the jail is now located.

Dependent on boats for their supply of groceries, these families experienced frequent food shortages during periods of stormy weather. Though fish, oysters and wild game were abundant, women and children often dug for coontie roots, which they grated and baked into pancakes to use in place of bread. For drinking water they dug a hole in a low spot of ground and drank this surface water. The wells were sometimes visited at night by wild animals. One evening Mrs. Wetherell was startled by a noise at the well and looking out saw a big black bear down on his haunches trying to get a drink. The oldest boy was chased by a large panther on what is now Daytona Avenue. It pursued him to the gate and even attempted to jump the picket fence after him. Another time Mrs. Wetherell was nearly paralyzed with fear when on going to the bed for the baby, she found a six-foot black snake coiled up in the bed beside it.

Holly Hill at that time had no name, and in discussion among the settlers Mrs. Monroe would have liked to have had it named Newport News, after her old home. This was a popular way of naming towns at this time, as Ormond Beach was originally named New Britain, after the Connecticut hometown of many of the early settlers there. In the discussions among the settlers, however, they decided that as Mr. Flemming owned nearly all the land and was the colony founder he should have the naming privilege, despite the fact that he still lived in Port Orange. Mr. Flemming decided to name the colony Holly Hill in memory of his Irish Holywood home, because there were lots of holly in the area and there was a bit of a rise in the terrain. One can easily see the similarity between the two areas in old photos.

Mr. Flemming began building a simple frame dwelling on a portion of his riverfront property. The land was cleared just south of the Holly Hill Canal right on the river shore. He died in 1878, however before construction was completed. His son, Samuel Flemming Jr., who then took charge of his activities, never carried the building plans further and continued in the large house they occupied in Port Orange, which eventually burned down in the late 1970s.

After a few years both the Monroes and the Woods left Holly Hill to return to Newport News. The Wetherells, however, remained in the same location for 51 years. Mr. Wetherell died here on March 20, 1922. He gave time and money, the latter of which was not plentiful to anyone in the colony, to developing the town. He was foreman on the first canal dug through Holly Hill. It was started in 1880 and took about two years, as all had to be done by hand.

The Carter and Harris families became an important part of the settlement area in the late 1870s. Events were moving swiftly along the Halifax in 1876 when Daytona was incorporated by its 26 leading citizens. People were coming in by sea or overland from the St. Johns River. Bishop Young of the Episcopal Diocese of Florida was ready to establish the church in this area.

The oldest home still standing in Holly Hill was built in 1878. Its existence provided many varied and interesting stories to the history of Volusia County.

Dr. William Hyde Carter, then of Passaic, New Jersey, desiring to seek a better climate, came to Florida in 1877. He was interviewed by Bishop Young and invited to establish a mission. He returned with his family and Reverend H. B. Stuart-Martin in May via the St. Johns, arriving at Daytona May 15, 1877. The first service in Daytona was on May 25. His field was from New Britain to present-day Titusville. The family was housed in Port Orange since there was no housing in Daytona available.

On January 14, 1878, Mrs. William Flemming, who was newly a widow, gave Dr. Carter the two lots south of his home site. Dr. Carter had already received his home site from Mr. Flemming. These two lots were for the expected church and rectory.

Later "The Little Church in the Wildwood" was erected by the bishop at the back of the corner lot on Connecticut Avenue (now 9th Street). A service was held there once yearly so the diocese could preserve the title to the property.

Dr. Carter's daughter Allie Harris shared his diary in 1941. It states:

"January 14, 1878. ordered lumber for the house.
March 19. started fence.
April 4, 1878. steamer Agnes wrecked at the Inlet.
July 28. .worked on house, finished the weatherboarding.

December 28, work began on the orange grove, William Wetherell assisting. The trees came from Port Orange and City Point. 94 in all."

There is little further mention of the house. Dr. Carter was assigned to St. Johns Church, Tallahassee, in 1879 and served there until his death, circa 1908.

Mrs. Carter, her daughter Allie and two sons remained in the home, and Mrs. Carter became the Holly Hill postmistress October 29, 1877, and held the post for 30 years. An old photograph shows the path from the walk around the south of the house to the little post office between the two-story house front and the kitchen. It can be speculated that the six years between William Ross and Mrs. Carter's posts were the years Charles Wetherell served as postmaster.

Mrs. Carter died at the home in 1910 and left the house and grove to her eldest son William W. Carter, who died in 1960. William Carter had printed the Halifax Journal from its beginning in 1884. Arthur Carter was a Journal reporter. William was the owner briefly toward its last days. Since his wife, Clara Mitchell, died in 1934 he left the house and grove to Allie Carter-Harris, wife of Charles A. Harris. She died in 1950 at the age of 96. The family was very active in Masonic circles.

There was one Carter descendent, Mrs. Zilpah Carter Cole, who inherited both the Carter and Harris homesteads. The old Carter home was sold by Mrs. Cole in 1952 to Dr. Benjamin H. Rawls. The house now has a brick facade, and the dormer and old fence are gone. There was a huge pittosporum in front that probably came from Indiana, where Dr. Stuart-Martin was born. His home to the north was called Fernbank, while the Carter place was Magnolia Manor.

Charles Wetherell became active in civic affairs and built the first church and school in 1885 on the corner of Michigan (now 6th Street) and Daytona Avenue. The school still stands. Before this time the only schooling the children received had been given by Reverend H. B. Stuart-Martin, who out of concern and generosity taught the children on his own time and expense at his home. Tom and Charles Wetherell were two of his pupils. Mr. Will Harris was the first teacher of this school, receiving $30 a month. Victoria Wetherell attended this school with Josephine Hawley, who with her sister Frances Hawley lived at 427 2nd Street.

Reverend Stuart-Martin, after several years in Palatka, returned to Volusia County and built the three early Episcopal churches in the county in 1883: All Saints in Enterprise, St. Barnabas in DeLand, and St. Mary's in Daytona Beach. In later years he homesteaded on Rentt Island, but returned to Indiana before his death. The first artesian flow well of the area was dug by Mr. Maley and his father. This well, all dug by hand, was put down in back of the Maley store on South Beach Street in Daytona. A second such well was later dug to be used for his saw mill.

Also around 1880, G.W. Harris established his grocery and general merchandise store on the banks of the Halifax River on what is now 8th Street and Riverside Drive. All merchandise was delivered by boat, and many of their customers used the river for transportation.

Mr. Wetherell helped build the Ponce Inlet Lighthouse. It is now on the National Register of Historic Places and is the tallest lighthouse in America still standing in its original location. In 1934 his son Tom went to work for Sears Roebuck and Company and earned the salary of $17.50 a week. He stayed with the company until he retired as manager of the Daytona Beach store. His marriage to Mildred Kent, which lasted for fifty-four years, produced two sons, T.K. and William. T. K. Wetherell served for many years in the Florida Legislature and was Speaker of the House from 1990-1992. He served as President of Florida State University from January 6, 2003, to January 31, 2010. His brother William ("Billy") is associated with Daytona State College.

It was with great pleasure that Mrs. Wetherell on her 80th birthday, January 1, 1927, recounted the family history in her latter days. She remarked that she would not want to go through the same experience again.

A big event in the lives of the settlers was when the first train came through from Jacksonville to Daytona in 1887, eleven years after the Wetherells' arrival. It was nothing like the trains of today but an important welcome link connecting Daytona area with the outside world.

In the early 1880s, as other settlers arrived, Holly Hill's name began to gain in popularity. The settlement now had a church, school, post office, general store, sawmill and many homes. The slowly developing village had a population of about fifty, which did not significantly increase in the next several years.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1910 207
1920 332 60.4%
1930 1,146 245.2%
1940 1,665 45.3%
1950 3,232 94.1%
1960 4,182 29.4%
1970 8,191 95.9%
1980 9,953 21.5%
1990 11,141 11.9%
2000 12,119 8.8%
2010 11,659 −3.8%
2020 12,958 11.1%
U.S. Decennial Census

At the 2000 census there were 12,119 people in 5,583 households, including 2,998 families, in the city. The population density was 3,113.5 inhabitants per square mile (1,202.9/km2). There were 6,148 housing units at an average density of 1,579.5 per square mile (610.2/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 87.10% White, 8.97% African American, 0.36% Native American, 1.00% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 0.91% from other races, and 1.63% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 3.69%.

Of the 5,583 households 22.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 34.9% were married couples living together, 13.6% had a female householder with no husband present, and 46.3% were non-families. 36.9% of households were one person and 17.2% were one person aged 65 or older. The average household size was 2.14 and the average family size was 2.77.

The age distribution was 19.9% under the age of 18, 7.0% from 18 to 24, 28.4% from 25 to 44, 23.5% from 45 to 64, and 21.2% 65 or older. The median age was 42 years. For every 100 females, there were 91.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 87.6 males.

The median household income was $26,651 and the median family income was $29,154. Males had a median income of $25,946 versus $19,178 for females. The per capita income for the city was $16,098. About 13.5% of families and 16.5% of the population were below the poverty line, including 23.4% of those under age 18 and 12.1% of those age 65 or over.

Notable people

  • William S. McCoy, lived and worked in Holly Hill as a skilled yacht builder, prior to his entry into rum-running
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