Orange County, Florida

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Orange County FLGenWeb: Biographies: Buford Marion Sims

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

Buford Marion Sims, who was a captain in the Confederate Army, came to Florida shortly after the war, and some of the most interesting distinctions of pioneer achievements in Orange County are credited to him. Captain Sims for considerably more than a half century has had his home at Ocoee.

He was born at Marietta, Georgia, September 30, 1836, son of William Bennett and Isabella Damaris (Campbell) Sims. His father was a native of South Carolina, son of Mike Sims who came from Ireland where he married a Miss Weaver. Mike Sims moved to Georgia, where William B. Sims grew up. Isabella D. Campbell was also a native of South Carolina, daughter of Jesse and Isabella (Lynch) Campbell. The Campbells were of Scotch lineage. Isabella Lynch was a daughter of Jesse Lynch of South Carolina, whose rulings as a judge have been perpetuated in the well known phrase "Lynch law." William B. Sims was a Baptist minister, and for many years preached the Gospel in Georgia and Tennessee.

Capt. B. M. Sims was a small boy when his father moved to Ducktown, Polk County, Tennessee, where he was reared in a household of eight children. After the common schools he attended Hiwassee College at Madisonville, Tennessee, and almost direct from college entered the Confederate Army in 1861 with a regiment of mounted infantry. He rose to the rank of captain, and was in service until the end of the struggle, participating in the Battle of Shiloh and thereafter for the most part serving in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. During the last months of the war he was in North Carolina where he surrendered. He then rode his army horse back to his old home in Ducktown, Tennessee, but in August, 1865, he came to Florida. In area, Orange County was then a very large county, but there were only seventy-five voters, and there was no railroad or post office. The early settlers, men of wealth and substance who had developed the old Southern system of planting at South Apopka, had found fortunes disorganized by the war, and many of them had left. Captain Sims was therefore one of the pioneers of the second period of settlement of Orange County, and no one has been a more alert leader and constructive worker in the development of the county. He taught the first school in the county at Sanford, and he also built the first frame courthouse to replace the old log courthouse with a dirt floor. In 1866 Captain Sims settled at what is known as Fuller's Crossing and became the founder of the town Ocoee. The first year he rented fifty acres of an old plantation, and raised a very profitable crop of cotton and corn. In the meantime he acquired a tract of wild land on Lake Apopka. This land was covered with wild orange trees, and he grafted domestic oranges on the stumps, and thus acquired the first ten acre orange grove in Florida. It is said that he was the only man in Florida selling oranges from his own planting in 1870. He developed the first mercantile citrus nursery in the United States, and the nursery business for half a century was continued by him. He furnished stock for nearly all the large groves in his section of Florida, and shipped many trees to California. Altogether he has planted and developed 200 acres of citrus groves and among other distinctions he shipped the first grape fruit to New York City. He acquired extensive lands, built up a large business as a shipper of oranges, and his success was achieved from a capital beginning that comprised only his savings as a teacher. He not only taught the school at Sanford, but also was a teacher at Winter Garden for eight months. Captain Sims suffered with other orange growers in the big freeze during the nineties, and in addition to the loss in his groves he also lost his stock and was heavily assessed by the failure of the Citizens National Bank of Orlando.

Captain Sims is the oldest member of the Masonic Order in Orange County, and was once district deputy grand master. The only political office he ever held was that of county commissioner.

In Orange County in 1866 he married Miss Fannie Roper, whose father, William Roper, was one of the pioneer colony who settled around Lake Apopka prior to the war. Mr. Sims lost his wife more than thirty years ago. They had seven children, and the six who grew to mature years were: Eugene, Walter, Otis, Lena, Lillie and Mollie. Captain Sims has been a democrat all his life and he married for his second wife Lena McKey of Valdosta, Georgia.

Joseph Brown Hardin was for a quarter of a century a traveling salesman for hardware and farm implements, and for the past six years has been permanently established in a retail business of that kind at Tampa. He is one of the successful merchants of the city and otherwise active in local affairs.