Taft Historical Society, Logo

Julian Dominy at 407-405-5752 
Joanne Dominy at 407-341-6651

The History of Taft

Native Americans made the first footprints in area. Most historians believe that tribes such as the Seminoles, Timucua and Calusa inhabited the area. Nearby Fort Gatlin, served as the main headquarter fort in the area during the Seminole wars. Our neighbor to the south, Osceola County, is rich in Native American influence, starting with the word Osceola, the name of a great warrior.

California had its gold rush; Florida had its own “ citrus rush”. In the 1880’s many northerners were migrating to Florida to make their fortune in citrus. Lester Newelton was one of these men. He moved to area in 1884, named the area “Newelton”, and soon discovered the soil not conducive to citrus. (This would later prove to be false.) The area now became known as “Big Cypress.”

Around the turn of the century the area became known as “Smithville”, in honor of M.M. Smith a real estate developer and operator of turpentine stills. This industry flourished in the area for many years and provided a source of income for the citizens.

In 1903 the Sphaler brothers moved to the area and bought the general store as well as acquiring many parcels of land. They bought out Mr. Smith’s interest in the turpentine still as well as operating a sawmill and shingle factory. The boys became the area’s “first family.” Besides employing many of the residents in their businesses they donated land for the first school as well as the Baptist church.

In 1909 Braxton Beacham and W.L. Van Duzor saw potential in the area for agriculture. They purchased a substantial amount of land in the area and divided the area into five and ten acre lots and sold them to eager northern buyers. Buyers also received a lot in town.  “Prosper Colony” was born. Agriculture became a viable industry in the area. Flooding would later doom the project, however the Taft Drainage District, established in 1913, resolved the flooding problem.

How did the area become known as Taft? The area is named after President William Taft, but despite legend, he did not stop in the area. They are many theories on this question but no definite answer.

The area would flourish for many years. It incorporated in 1912. During its heyday it had a mayor, a motorcycle policeman, a jail, a grader, tractor and electric lights. Hurricanes occasionally wrecked havoc on the area but the Depression sounded the final death knoll. Taft, like many small communities at the time, had no money in its coffers, and on August 1, 1933 the town was abolished.

Although the town was abolished, the area lived on. New industries settled in the area. Pine Castle, later McCoy Air Force Base, brought new residents. Many pioneer families still reside in Taft, embracing the small town life. The residents, responding to needs, have established a volunteer fire department, built a community center and formed a water association. Taft residents are proud of their community.

We are here to preserve
the history of Taft.

About Us

The THS was established to preserve the history of the Taft Area. Its members, citizens and friends of Taft, are dedicated to this goal, realizing as time passes, history is lost. We have published four books, "The History of Taft Florida", "Families of Taft",  “Veterans of Taft" and "What's Cooking". If you are interested in purchasing any of the books, they retail for $10 each. Simply contact any member of the society.  Our ongoing goal is to collect and display local artifacts at the Taft Community Center. Some of the current exhibits include: • Original siren from the fire station • Vintage fire hydrant • Monument commemorating the Dixie Highway-made from original bricks from the highway. • “Mini” road also constructed from original bricks • Display of pictures depicting the history of Taft • Beautiful quilt made by the ladies of a local church. Stop by any time that the center is open!

Join Us

If you are interested in joining the fight to preserve the history of Taft, contact any member of the society.

We meet the second Thursday of each month at the Taft Community Center. 

The center is located at 9450 S. Orange Ave. Orlando Fl 32824.

The meetings start at 10 A.M.

Taft Historical Society

President - Julian Dominy Secretary - Joanne Dominy Treasurer - Charles Sansbury


The Taft Community Center is located at 9450 S. Orange Ave. Their hours are 8AM-5PM. The Taft Historical Society holds meetings there every second Thursday of the month. You may stop by anytime to view the many artifacts displayed there. If you wish to view historical documents or scrapbooks please call Julian Dominy at 407-405-5752 or Joanne Dominy at 407-341-6651. Also, do you have pictures you can share with us? We would not need to keep them, they would be scanned and then returned to you. All four of our publications are still available. They are each $10. If you have any questions or comments you may e-mail us  or Julian Dominy.

Thank you for your interest. For questions or comments, please use the information listed here. We look forward to hearing from you soon.

Julian Dominy at 407-405-5752
Joanne Dominy at 407-341-6651

Hours of Operation

9450 S. Orange Ave
Orlando, FL 32824