Get Back to Something Real
Sumter County is the perfect place to base your Florida vacation. Located between Orlando and Tampa, right off I-75, you’ll have convenient access to all the big parks and both coasts, so you don’t have to choose between Sea World and Busch Gardens. You also get a chance to experience the Florida your friends are missing. Get your kids’ picture taken with Mickey Mouse, sure. But don’t miss getting their picture flying across the water in an airboat, or at the very spot a war began.
What makes Sumter County so cool? It’s home to tens of thousands of acres of protected lands, including lakes, forests and swamps. There’s fishing, boating, hunting, hiking and geo-caching. There are alligators, bald eagles, wild pigs, egrets, and deer. And, of course, there are airboat rides. There are several lodges and B&B’s available too, so if you love being surrounded by nature, you may never leave.
When you want a break from the famous Florida sunshine, there are also plenty of things to do that include air conditioning. Each of the three Villages Town Centers offers a unique atmosphere and lots of fun, from the fully digital Barnstormer Theater in Brownwood, to waterfront dining at Amelia’s in Lake Sumter Landing, to Kilwin’s Chocolate and Ice Cream at Spanish Springs. All the town centers offer great shopping and dining, as well as free live entertainment every night of the year.
A significant piece of the nation’s history was written right here in Sumter County. This is where the Second Seminole War began, and several important battles were fought here. You can visit those sites and there are tours available at the Dade Battlefield Historic State Park. The Florida National Cemetery honors the men and women who served in the Armed Forces from all the way back to the Second Seminole War through today.
An Historical Perspective
Sumter County was officially founded in 1853, but its history goes back much further than that. Sumter County was named for General Thomas Sumter, a hero of the Revolutionary War. This is fitting because the county has been the primary site for two other wars, the first of which helped make the reputation of another war hero, General Andrew Jackson, and propelled him to the presidency.
The area’s rich military history defined modern day Sumter County until the end of the 2nd Seminole War in 1842. Since then, the area was primarily an agricultural center until it became a Mecca for retirees looking for an active lifestyle. The Villages now comprises the lion’s share of Sumter County’s population.
|1817-1818:||1st Seminole War, a retaliatory offensive against the Seminoles and escaped slaves for their support of the British during the War of 1812; US forces led by General Andrew Jackson|
|1822:||Florida becomes a US territory|
|1832:||Treaty of Payne’s Landing: Seminole leaders agree to move to the Arkansas territory within three years; they will later say they were coerced into signing the treaty|
|1835:||The Dade Massacre; 2nd Seminole War begins (link)|
|1836:||The Battle of Wahoo Swamp (link)|
|1842:||2nd Seminole War ends; Congress passes the Armed Occupation Act|
|1853:||The Florida legislature establishes Sumter County, named after revolutionary war hero General Thomas Sumter|
|1860:||The US census puts Sumter County’s population at 1,429|
|1861:||The Sumter County representative to the Florida legislature votes for secession|
|1881:||Sumterville is established as the county seat|
|1884:||The city of Bushnell is founded, named after railway surveyor John W. Bushnell|
|1894-1895:||A hard freeze destroys most of the citrus industry in Sumter County; the county’s economic base shifts to cattle ranching and vegetable farming|
|1909:||The county courthouse in Sumterville burns down, destroying 20 years’ worth of county records (link)|
|1912:||County residents choose Bushnell over Wildwood as the new county seat by a margin of 9 votes (link)|
|1939-1945:||Sumter County loses nineteen soldiers and Army airmen in World War II (casualty data on sailors and Marines not found)|
|1982:||Harold Schwartz purchases a large tract of cow fields and former citrus farms and establishes a mobile home community called Orange Blossom Gardens|
|1988:||First interment at the Florida National Cemetery (link)|
|1992:||Schwarz and his son-in-law, Gary Morse, change the name of Orange Blossom Gardens to The Villages|
|2000:||The US census puts the population of The Villages at 8,333|
|2013:||The Villages surpasses a population of 100,000 residents|
Sumter County is the perfect place to visit for the whole Florida experience. It’s fun, convenient, and just plain awesome. Don’t cheat yourself, treat yourself to Sumter’s incredible array of cool stuff to do. Then post your pictures on Facebook so all your friends are jealous. In Sumter County, you can have it all. Welcome to the real Florida!