Pine Castle Pioneer Days, 1974


Holden Heights

Although he was the second permanent settler in Orange County, arriving from Virginia in 1843, William Harrison Holden was not the first person to live on the lake which now bears his name. The early settlers found a forest primeval with wild game so plentiful it seemed never ending.

Wild turkey, deer, and bear abounded. Panthers and wildcats came right up to the doors of those early cabins. On at least one occasion, wolves surrounded a cabin so that even the dogs were afraid to go out. Yet, when one of the wolves in the pack was shot, the others ran away.

William Harrison Holden lived for a time in what was to become Orlando before moving to Watson Island. There he served as an Army scout and carried the mail to the southern part of the state.

He moved to Enterprise, where he began to raise cattle. He imported the first full blooded Brahma bulls into the country. They were named "Champ" and "Victor," and did much to improve the breed of native Florida cattle. By now, he was married to Nancy Mizell and had a family of six children, three boys and three girls.

In 1865, he bought land from Mr. Aaron Jernigan and with adjoining land purchased from the U.S. Government, he homesteaded 1,200 acres on the south end of a lake in Orlando. This lake still bears the name of Holden.

Holden had intended to continue in the cattle business. However, after years of having his cattle stolen or run off by the Indians or other settlers, he finally gave it up. His remaining cattle were placed on open range in the southern part of Florida.

Holden did not leave the land by the lake. He planted an orange grove and started a large sugar plantation. He was also the first person in the Orlando area to grow garden vegetables for market.

Now the farms, cattle, and almost all the groves have given way to progress. Today the Orange Blossom Shopping Center, motels, and apartments stand where wild game roamed a hundred years ago.

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