Orange County, Florida

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Orange County FLGenWeb: Biographies: James La Fayette Dillard

Source: "History of Florida: Past and Present, Historical and Biographical," Volume 2, Harry Gardner Cutler, Lewis publishing Company, 1923, Florida.

James La Fayette Dillard

James La Fayette Dillard has throughout a period of a third of a century been one of Orange County's most constructive citizens, a developer of the land, utilizing the resources of soil and promise for fruit and other production, employing his capital and enterprise for the building of homes and the upbuilding of institutions!

Mr. Dillard, whose home is at Winter Park, was born at Hillgrove, Pittsylvania County, Virginia, December 29, 1858, son of Edward J. and Sarah (King) Dillard, who were natives of Virginia and of Scotch-Irish ancestry. His father served as a Confederate soldier throughout the war with the rank of captain, and in private life was a tobacco planter. He died when nearly sixty years of age and the mother lived to the age of seventy-four. They reared five children, four sons and one daughter.

James La Fayette Dillard was reared on a farm, acquired a common school education and at the age of eighteen began doing for himself. For two years he lived on a farm, for four years was employed in railroad construction and for about four years was supervisor of outside property for the asylum at Staunton, Virginia.

In 1888 at the age of thirty Mr. Dillard came to Florida and settled at Winter Garden. Winter Garden was then the center of a district being rapidly developed as a citrus and vegetable growing district. Mr. Dillard rented lands and cultivated fruit and vegetables on the shares with J. H. Vick on the property then known as Washington Place, land that has subsequently been incorporated in the City of Winter Garden. During 1804-05 he suffered with other growers from the heavy freeze, but instead of abandoning the business he began planting heavily in orange and grapefruit trees and in time became one of the largest individual producers of citrus fruits and vegetable crops in this section. He gave his personal supervision to this branch of his business until 1910. He has acquired large real estate interests in Winter Grove and has developed much of his property with homes and he also gave the community a substantial brick hotel. He has been a merchant, and was identified with the organization of the first bank, the Bank of Winter Garden, of which he is a director and vice president.

Mr. Dillard is a democrat, has allowed political honors to keep him out rather than standing as an aspirant for any office. Nevertheless he served eight years as county commissioner and was for several terms a member of the town council, and in the fall of 1918 was elected to the Legislature, serving in the extra session and the regular session of 1919. He is a member of the Baptist Church and was chairman of the building committee which has had supervision of the building of a church home to cost $150,000 when completed.

In 1888, a short time before coming to Florida, Mr. Dillard married Miss Mattie Showalter, a native of Rockingham County, Virginia. She died August 8, 1922, and is survived by one son, Marvin D., and two daughters, Mabel and Gladys.

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