Leesburg has a history of filling its schools quickly. Take the old Lee School campus, for instance. The first brick building, the one on the southwest corner of Lee and Herndon streets, was constructed in 1915.

“I shall never forget when the first building was being erected that it would not be filled in the next 25 years,” remembered J. Chester Lee, who was born Nov. 11, 1872. “It was only a few years before the additional building was built.” The north building was constructed in 1923 and then enlarged in 1926. And the present high school was completed in 1928.

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Tavares wasn’t exactly what William P. Floyd had in mind when he left Nova Scotia in November of 1884. “Three other men accompanied my father; all lured here by literature given them in Boston,” wrote Grace Floyd Easton for the Tavares Citizen in 1959. “They had been told that they would be given orange groves, but when we got here, we could not even get a free orange tree.”

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It’s hard to imagine that former President Ulysses Grant influenced the life of Mary Ann McIrvin Jones, who came to live at the Lake View Hotel in Leesburg in 1928.

Jones told local history buffs in March and April what life was like growing up in the Leesburg hotel.

But if it wasn’t for Grant’s visit to Florida in 1881, there might not have been a Lake View Hotel for then Mary Ann McIrvin to call home.

Grant traveled to Florida with George M. Barbour, a writer for the Chicago Daily Times, who documented the journey in a book called “Florida for Tourists, Invalids and Settlers,” which was published by the D. Appleton Company of New York in 1881. It received nationwide distribution.

The Leesburg that Grant discovered had a population of about 200 people and was the seat of Sumter County.

It was a “contented, easy-going, rather old-fashioned sort of a place,” wrote Barbour. “All the business houses being low, plain, wooden buildings mostly of one-story, ranged along one wide, sandy street.”

And one thing was sorely missing. “A winter hotel is badly needed, and would probably be a profitable investment,” added Barbour.

Rick Reed is a columnist for the Daily Commercial. Email him at ricoh007@aol.com.