Born in Woodbury, Connecticut
on June 23, 1823 Henry Shelton Sanford was born into old money with a bright
future. In 1836 his family moved to Derby, Connecticut where the young
man would spend the most formative years of his life. Schooled primarily
within the confines of the Episcopal religion, Henry was a good student,
but not considered gifted or expected to have as big an impact on American
history as he eventually would. At the tender age of eighteen Henry
embarked on a sea voyage to Europe to help wit his ailing eyesight.
The voyage was meant to be therapeutic, with the idea of the sea air helping
his ailing eye. Before he could embark, Henry’s father died leaving
him visibly shaken and quite wealthy. The voyage was profound as Henry
would sped some six years travelling through Europe absorbing the culture,
languages, and the subtle nuances that would later help him in his political
career. The next step for Henry would be marriage, and a new challenge
brought to him by President Lincoln.
The United States was preparing to be divided by a dark
and bloody civil war, and Henry was picked by Lincoln to be Minister to
Belgium. The challenge brought to Sanford by then Secretary of State
William Seward was to counteract all Confederate attempts for help in the
war effort. In this Sanford excelled, by using his aforementioned
knowledge of Europe and its culture, Sanford worked hard to keep the United
States war effort in front of European minds and hearts. His efforts
in diplomacy was rewarded as the United States won the war, and Sanford
looked to the South to find his new interest, agriculture in the South.
Sanford like many other northern businessmen looked south
to find new lands and people to make money. Sanford’s interest in
agriculture led him to Florida, along the St. John’s river. After
purchasing some 12,000 acres Sanford began plans to set up an orange growing
community. The community prospered along Lake Monroe, and would eventually
be named after its founder, Sanford. While citrus would be later replaced
with celery, the city was at the forefront of the Central Florida area, until
the growth of Orlando. While never really inhabiting the new city,
Sanford played the role of “caretaker” of the city, and will always be associated
with the area.
Sanford would eventually die in 1891 in Virginia at the
age of sixty-seven. More known for his political career, Sanford will
always be remembered in the town bearing his name. Henry Sanford’s
legacy will always include that small city on the cusp of the St’ Johns River.
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