City of Lake Wales Florida
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City of Lake Wales, Florida Depot Museum
Historic Lake Wales
Early Lake Wales
"It was a foggy morning and having been a rainy fall, the water was up to both sides of the R.R. in many places causing us to almost regret having come to Florida. But just before coming to Lake Wales, the sun came out in all its glory and banished our idea of being in a swamp; we expected snakes and alligators to be running around like chickens and of course found that a great mistake...
The train stopped at the platform north of the little station (used to load and unload barrels of turpentine from the still) where they unloaded our trunks before we could get off... There were no sidewalks, no lights or hard roads just deep sand everywhere with hogs and cattle roaming all over, but when I stepped from the car door and saw how beautiful the view was over the two lakes, this big moss draped pine and oak and a church under construction, I was content..."

~Excerpt from "Rose Wetmore's Diary", Autumn 1912




1853 Survey made of region around present-day Lake Wales by W.A. Williams and J. Jackson, deputy surveyors of the State of Florida; area considered to be uninhabitable by early settlers
1879 Lake Wailes (lake) named after Sidney I. Wailes, agent for the Florida Land and Improvement Co., who had helped surveyor Col. J.W. Childs obtain a contract to do second survey of the region
1885 Robert J. Ruth of Baltimore, Maryland, obtained 1,400 acres of land around Iron Mountain
1902 G.V. Tillman scouted region and saw potential for turpentine, citrus, and other industries; developed idea to colonize area around Lake Wailes
1905 B.F. Bullard, C.L. Johnson, A. Sessoms, G.F. Deen, and J.M. Bell purchased land around Lake Wailes to develop Naval Stores business; Sessoms Investment Co. formed
1910
Atlantic Coast Line Railroad broke ground at Haines City for branch line south to Frostproof

Railroad construction in Lake Wales area, 1910-11
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1911
C.L. Johnson Co. formed by G.V. Tillman, B.F. Bullard, C.L. Johnson, and B.K. Bullard to plan turpentine still at northeast corner of Lake Wailes (near present-day Kiwanis Park)

Atlantic Coast Line Railroad tracks reached Lake Wailes ending isolation of the area; depot built near present-day Park Avenue

Turpentine Still constructed with commissary, blacksmith shop, church, and living quarters for workers

Lake Wales Land Co formed by E.C. Stuart and officers of C.L. Johnson Co.

A.C. Nydegger hired by Lake Wales Land Co. to survey and plat townsite

Surveying Crew , c. 1911
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Streets cleared and construction of Hotel Wales began

Sawmill constructed north of town
1912 General Store opened by T.J. Parker; post office boxes installed

Bartow-Lake Wales mail service inaugurated

Construction started on boardinghouse for employees of Lake Wales Land Co.

Construction started on Associated Reformed Presbyterian Church

Water works constructed

Permanent settlement in town began as families started arriving

1913
Newspaper service instituted with publication of Lake Wales News by Polk County record Office

Home building commenced with construction of Wetmore houses on Twin Lake

Ice plant completed

Spelling of town's name on depot sign changed by ACL Railroad from "Lake Wailes" to "Lake Wales", reflecting popular usage

Banking added to services offered in T.J. Parker's General Store

Early view of town, c. 1912-13
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First services held in town's first church

Hotel Wales opened for business
1914 Electric light plant completed

School opened with 14 pupils

Organized grove planting began

Cemetery established

Organization of community social and civic groups began

Medical services provided with arrival of Dr. C.F. Griffin

Population reached 250

Volunteer Fire Department organized following "first real calamity"

1915
Western Union installed telegraph operations

Seaboard Air Line tracks extended to Lake Wales from Bartow

Telephone line connected Lake Wales with Haines City

Lake Wales Board of Trade organized and joined Ridge Board of Trade

Park Avenue c. 1915
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1916 Local publication of newspaper began with first issue of The Highlander

Military company organized for rifle practice and drill; later became Home Guard

Streets in business district given hard surface

Justice of the Peace appointed in Lake Wales district

School year opened with 98 pupils; $25,000 bond issue approved for new building

1917 Board of Trade organized Farm Loan Association to develop surrounding groves

Asphalt road completed between Lake Wales and Haines City

Charter of Incorporation granted to Town of Lake Wales by Florida Legislature

Town Council elected: M.R. Anderson, Mayor; G.E. Wetmore, B.K. Bullard, L.L. Barnes, G. Swanke, and J.F. Townsend, Councilmen; M.M. Ebert, Clerk

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