Black History in Oviedo

Black History of Oviedo mural, photo by Hayden Turner, Hagerty High School Student Journalist

Black History of Oviedo mural, photo by Hayden Turner, Hagerty High School Student Journalist

Celebrate Black history

To Celebrate Black History Month 2021, the City is highlighting the 20 elements of the mural Black History of Oviedo located at Round Lake Park. Painted by local artist Xavier Moss in 2020, the mural showcases just some of the many impactful people and icons of the local Black community.
mural key plaque Opens in new window

The mural key is displayed on a plaque in front of the mural (pictured right). Click here to open the mural key in a new tab.

Check back each day as more elements are profiled, culminating February 28, 2021. 


Element #1: Prince Butler Boston

Prince Butler Boston was the son of a Georgia slave owner named Dr. Alexander Atkinson and moved to Central Florida in 1885 when he was 14 years old. 

After a hard freeze in the 1890s destroyed much of the local citrus crop, Butler Boston graphed the heartier Temple orange that helped the Oviedo economy bounce back from devastation. Moss painted citrus (element #18, the Temple Orange) around Butler Boston to showcase his contribution to the area and citrus industry. 

A longtime member of the Antioch Missionary Baptist Church, Butler Boston was a deacon, superintendent of the Sunday School, and a patron. He gave the church five acres of land establishing a cemetery known today as the Boston Hill Cemetery. 

Big NewtElement #2: Harry "Big Newt" Boston Sr.

Harry "Big Newt" Boston Sr. is part of the other prominent Oviedo Boston families and originally from Georgia. He served in the Army as a medic during WWII then moved to Oviedo. 

After moving to the area, Boston Sr. discovered there wasn't an opportunity for local Black youth to participate in sports, so he built a baseball diamond where Black children could play. He founded the Black Hawks and Lady Black Hawks sports teams, driving the teams across the state and southeast to compete, serving as both coach and bus driver of the "Big Newt Bus."

The City of Oviedo named Boston Hill Park in his honor in 1994.

Check back Wednesday, February 10 as we highlight Hal King, element #3 of the Black History of Oviedo mural.

Picture of Hal King baseball card with Atlanta Braves.Element #3: Hal King

Oviedo born and raised, Hal King was a professional baseball player who began his career in 1962 at 23 years old in the Negro League with the Indianapolis Clowns.

The catcher, a graduate of Oviedo High School, went on to play in Major League Baseball for the Houston Astros, Atlanta Braves, Texas Rangers, and Cincinnati Reds before retiring in 1974 at the age of 30. 

Images of baseball and the Black Hawks mascot are depicted near King on the Black History of Oviedo mural. Moss painted King wearing his blue Atlanta Braves baseball hat (shown right).

King was president of the Booster Club at Oviedo High School while his son attended. He resides in Oviedo.

element #4: Oviedo Black hawks mascot

Black Hawks mascot image of hawk on "Big Newt's" memorial program

There were no opportunities for Black children to play organized sports in the segregated Oviedo of the past. But Oviedo resident Harry "Big Newt" Boston Sr. set out to change that, and the Oviedo Black Hawks and Lady Black Hawks were born.

The Black Hawks provided opportunities for both boys and girls with baseball and softball teams. The Hawks were sponsored by Grant Chapel A.M.E. Church, where many players attended church. They traveled across the state and southeast playing other teams. "We don't want to fight, or fuss, all we wanna do is ride the Newt Bus,” the teams cheered as they rode the “Big Newt Bus” with their coach Boston Sr. at the helm. 

When they played home games, the Black Hawks played on a baseball diamond Boston Sr. built called Boston Stadium. The City name Boston Hill Park in his honor.

The Black Hawks mascot is pictured left as part of a program in memory of Boston Sr.



Element #5: Antioch Church Bell
Antioch Church, with Bell and Bell tower

The Antioch Missionary Baptist Church has chronicled the history and significance of its church bell. The below information is from their website.

“Antioch became an icon for the community with the sounding of the church bell. The Church had a belfry and a large bell. 
When a member died, the Sexton tolled the bell as notice to the community that someone had died. It was a primary duty of the Sexton to ring the bell before each Sunday and weekly meeting.

Each Sunday Morning the Sexton sounded two bells at thirty-minute intervals to remind the members to come to Sunday School. Another was rung to announce the beginning of the Morning Worship. Mr. McCray, the Sexton of many years did this duty until Mr. Charlie Williams assumed this responsibility. They will be remembered for their faithfulness to this task.”

Element #6: Antioch Missionary Baptist Church

The Antioch Missionary Baptist Church, located at 311 East Broadway Street in Oviedo, was founded in 1875 and secured Reverend Amos Laster was the first Pastor of the church. Mr. Prince Butler Boston joined the church in 1886 and was a member until his death in 1947. He served as Superintendent of the Sunday School and Deacon. Boston designed and built a choir stand and two classrooms. The church also owns and operates the Boston Hill Cemetery, named in his honor after his patronage and gift of five acres. Boston Avenue flanks the church today to its east.

The Red School House was adjacent to the church and served as the schoolhouse for all Black children during segregated education in what was then part of Orange County (establishing Seminole County in 1913). 

The Church is an integral part of the history of Oviedo, providing fellowship and community for many.  

Element #7: Congregation at White's Wharf

White’s Warf, named for W.G. White who opened the wharf in 1878. Lake Jessup’s wharves were as far down as steamboats could land freight for wagons to haul to Maitland and Orlando. 
Many farmers brought their crops to the wharves and White became a successful merchant in the area.
Oviedo residents used the springs for their annual May picnics beginning in 1880. Segregated, one Saturday was for the white community, another Saturday for the Black community. The picnics were planned and held by a joint committee from the Baptist and Methodist churches.
The Antioch Missionary Baptist Church held baptisms at the wharf, as is depicted in the seventh element of the mural titled Black History of Oviedo, 2020, by Xavier Moss.

Element #8: Boston Hill Cemetery

Boston Hill Cemetary

The Boston Hill Cemetery is located at 199 Boston Cemetery Road in Oviedo, Florida. Black residents were forbidden from being buried in the town’s cemetery, so Oviedo resident Prince Butler Boston donated five acres to the Antioch Missionary Baptist Church to create Boston Hill Cemetery.

Boston a local businessman and citrus grower was a member and patron of the church for more than 61 years. Boston also made funeral costs free of charge. This allowed Oviedo’s Black community to have access to a proper and honorable burial for loved ones. 

The dedication deed was signed on October 12, 1926, by Prince Butler Boston and E. Garvin, who represented the Board of Trustees. The document was approved by N. E. Douglass, the Seminole County Clerk, on November 3, and was then approved by A. M. Weeks, the Clerk of the Circuit Court, the following day. The deed was then notarized on June 6, 1927, and approved by surveyor Allen H. Stone on November 4, 1928.

ELEMENT #9: ANTIOCH LOGO
logo

The Antioch Missionary Baptist Church, located at 311 East Broadway Street in Oviedo, was founded in 1875 and secured Reverend Amos Laster was the first Pastor of the church. Mr. Prince Butler Boston, Element #1 in the mural, joined the church in 1886 and was a member until his death in 1947. He served as Superintendent of the Sunday School and Deacon. Boston designed and built a choir stand and two classrooms. The church also owns and operates the Boston Hill Cemetery, Element #8 in the mural, named in his honor after his patronage and gift of five acres. Boston Avenue flanks the church today to its east. The Antioch Church Bell is the Fifth Element in the mural. 

The Church is an integral part of the history of Oviedo, providing fellowship and community for many. Today, the church has more than 2,000 members, provides 20 ministries, and is lead by Pastor Charles Jones.  

ELEMENT #10: MARIE JONES-FRANCIS

midwifeNicknamed “The Midwife of Sanford," area resident Marie Jones-Francis delivered more than 40,000 babies in her 32-year career. She delivered babies for both Black and white families in Seminole County, primarily patrons who either preferred natural births or could not afford deliveries at a hospital.

Jones-Francis started out as a successful hotel and restaurant owner in Sarasota, Florida, but returned to Sanford and became a midwife when WWII caused a shortage of doctors and nurses in the area. The Florida Children’s Bureau sent her to study at Florida A&M, where she earned her nursing license in 1945. She specialized in premature babies and returned to Sanford to help her mother, Carrie Jones, who was also a midwife, at Fernald-Laughton Memorial Hospital. The pair opened a maternity ward in their Sanford home. Jones-Francis took over full time after her mother’s health failed. 

Her sister Annie Walker did the cooking, and the house also served as a school where she taught nurses midwifery. Nurses would come from across the state to learn how to deliver infants naturally. 

The Church is an integral part of the history of Oviedo, providing fellowship and community for many. Today, the church has more than 2,000 members, provides 20 ministries, and is lead by Pastor Charles Jones.

ELEMENT #11: OVIEDO CITIZENS IN ACTIONOCIA logo

The organization Oviedo Citizen in Action (OCIA) has served the Oviedo community for 45 years. Its mission is to aid, encourage, and foster community improvements and participation of low-income families in Central Florida.
Founded in the 1950s, local community leaders understood there was a significant need to bridge the gap between the local Black community and the City of Oviedo. OCIA leadership understood what was lacking in the community and searched out programs designed to help low-income families in a variety of ways. They worked with the city and county governments to create programs that allowed the community members an opportunity to receive health benefits, educational benefits, and better living conditions.
Word spread through local churches and membership grew. The group not only help develop programs to assist community members, but they also gathered information to help connect those in need with programs already in place. Their work included connecting people to local food banks, promoting health and education issues, and housing assistance.
According to its website, at the time it was founded, “… Oviedo was primarily a farm town, most of the black citizens worked for companies, such as A Duda & Son, Wheeler Fertilizer, the Nelson Company, and families of wealth in Oviedo; cleaning homes, doing lawn service, picking fruits, farm work, cutting and packing celery on the mule train. Families lived in houses called shotgun houses, that were owned by the landlords and not the tenants.
“OCIA was and still is a bridge-builder, filling the gap created by race disparities. Today OCIA is a more diverse organization than it was back in the late fifties. OCIA has members of many races and ethnicities, professional backgrounds, organizational donate, and various age groups. Members come to OCIA with ideas and action plans to improve the community and the surrounding areas of Seminole.”

ELEMENT #12: JACKSON HEIGHTS

The Jackson Heights area is named for Henry Jackson. Jackson was born in Georgia in 1886 and raised by a white family. Fellow Georgian Prince Butler Boston persuaded Jackson to settle in Oviedo, where he homesteaded 40 acres from 1911 to 1918 on both sides of Long Lake. The area became a predominantly black settlement, now known as Jackson Heights. 
For 25 years he worked for Oliver P. Swope and N.F. Lezette, clearing land. The crew cut through the thick palmettos in the area and dug out stumps, trees and palmetto roots by hand and with mule-drawn plows.
The now middle school bears his name was completed in 1952. Jackson was a member of the Antioch Missionary Baptist Church, where he was a Sunday School teacher.


ELEMENT #13: GLADYS HOLMES SMITHHolmes Smith

Gladys Holmes Smith was a teacher at Oviedo Elementary School before and after integration. The schools in the area were integrated in 1967. Smith, the mother of current Oviedo City Council Member Judith Delores Smith, recounted the school’s history for the Seminole County School Board. The School Board kept separate minutes for white and Black schools that were segregated at the time. 

“The school colors were red and yellow. The school covered grades 1-8 then 1-10 and finally 1-8. We had two basketball teams. We had a music club and a drama club that met on Fridays. We had speaking, singing programs and produced plays. Some interesting facts that I remember about the school: 

"1. We had a 2-room building. 2. We had no running water. 3. We had no inside bathroom. 4. We bought our own books. 5. Discipline was very strict. Lateness was not tolerated. You were there to learn."

Holmes Smith graduated from Florida A&M High School and received her Baccalaureate from the Bethune Cookman College in Daytona Beach, Florida. Her depiction in the mural helps symbolize fellow educators and the many Black women who made great contributions to our community.

Henry Jackson IIELEMENT #14: HENRY JACKSON

Henry Jackson was born in Georgia in 1886 and raised by a white family. Fellow Georgian Prince Butler Boston persuaded Jackson to save money for a home and settle in Oviedo. Jackson homesteaded 40 acres from 1911 to 1918 on both sides of Long Lake. The area became a predominantly black settlement, now known as Jackson Heights. 

Jackson grew up farming and learned to read, write and do arithmetic while working in Georgia. He worked for Oliver P. Swope and N.F. Lezette for 25 years clearing land. The crew cut through the thick palmettos in the area and dug out stumps, trees, and palmetto roots by hand and with mule-drawn plows. In this massive undertaking, the crew piled up the brush and set it ablaze, leading a watcher to describe it as “it looked like the whole world was on fire.” 

The now middle school bears his name was completed in 1952. Jackson was an active member of the Antioch Missionary Baptist Church, where he was a Sunday School teacher.

blue gooseELEMENT #15: BLUE GOOSE

Nestled between a slice of citrus and celery, a blue goose is pictured in the bottom right-hand side of the mural “Black History of Oviedo.” This icon belongs to the Blue Goose brand that started in 1918. The company portfolio now includes grove and crop management, hedging & topping, excavation of site work, citrus real estate, and leasing.

Many in the local Black Community grew citrus – and it was difficult and back-breaking work. From clearing the land to plant diseases and weather, the work was hard for all ages.

According to the book Oviedo: Biography of a Town, a Baptist minister new to town called on a grove manager. “When the minister looked around at the white sand gleaming in the spring sun and the tidy rows of newly set orange trees, he said, ‘Sir, you and Lord have done a wonderful work here!’ The citrus man looked at him and drawled, ‘Yeah, but Preacher, you ought to of seen the place when the Lord had it by himself.’”

Joe Lee celeryELEMENT #16: CELERY FIELD WORK

Oviedo's earliest settlers grew citrus and celery on the area's mucky, rich topsoil. While citrus was the dominant crop for some time, celery took the lead after the Great Freeze of 1894-1895, which destroyed many citrus groves in the Central Florida area. Around the beginning of the 20th century, as many as 25 or 30 farms within 30 square miles of Orlando produced 20 percent of the nation's celery.

Oviedo's celery industry flourished, especially during World War II, and thus contributed to Central Florida's unprecedented growth and development during that period.

Pictured right is Joe Lee, an African-American laborer, with Blue Goose celery at Charles Simeon Lee, Sr.'s farm in Oviedo, Florida, in 1928. During the Great Depression, Lee grew celery and bought 20,000 acres to start a cattle ranch. He passed away on November 9, 1991.

memorial building 1974element #17: Brick layers

Prince Butler Boston (Element #1), in addition to his innovative work in citrus, was also a bricklayer. Members of the Black community worked in agriculture and as bricklayers, who played an important part in the history of Oviedo.

In January of 1946, the City Council, at the bequest of the citizens, began work on the Memorial Building to honor those who’d lost their lives in the war. According to the book Oviedo: Biography of a Town, The City bought the land before the year ended but they did not have enough money to go ahead with the project. The donations were invested in savings bonds for two years until the Council felt there was enough money on hand to build. Costs were rising and the bids were so high that the Memorial Building, pictured left in 1974, suffered one more postponement. 

Oviedo Mayor Lee Gary picked up where his predecessor Frank Talbott left off and plunged into erecting a city hall to replace the “tin-walled building on the northeast corner of Central and Broadway that had served the City for too many years.” 

The bonds matured for two more years, then plans resumed in 1950. The building was completed in January 1951, cost $18,900, and was dedicated to Oviedo’s veterans.  When the building was demolished, the bricks were given to citizens.

FLmapleleaf[1]ELEMENT #18: TEMPLE ORANGES

After a hard freeze in the 1890s destroyed much of the local citrus crop, Oviedo resident Prince Butler Boston (Element #1) graphed the heartier Temple orange that helped the Oviedo economy bounce back from devastation. Moss painted citrus (Element #18, the Temple Orange) around Butler Boston to showcase his contribution to the area and citrus industry.

According to the book Oviedo: Biography of a Town, “Recovery was slow, with many setbacks. In 1906 and 1907 came a prolonged drought of more than a year that killed many citrus trees and ornamentals, as well as ten to fifty percent of the pines in the state. A hurricane in October 1910 lasted 36 hours, damaging the orange crop at the beginning of the harvest. 

“Land values were still low. A large grove in the center of Oviedo, now the [Lawton House], was called the “X” grove because it consisted of ten acres and sold for $10,000 before the freeze. After the freeze, it was bought for $500.”

black hammock celery fieldELEMENT #19: CELERY

“The depression born of the 1894-1895 freeze taught farmers that they could not depend on a single crop. It was not long before some were trying out a new crop: celery.” - Oviedo: Biography of a Town, Published by the Oviedo Historical Society in 2007. 

Many Black residents both grew celery and cleared land for celery crops. The backbreaking work was done with donkeys and plows, and many locals were employed by Nelson & Co. and A. Duda & Sons. 

Pictured right are three African-American farmworkers on a celery field in Oviedo's Black Hammock. Oviedo's earliest settlers grew citrus and celery on the area's mucky, rich topsoil. While citrus was the dominant crop for some time, celery took the lead after the Great Freeze of 1894-1895, which destroyed many citrus groves in the Central Florida area. Oviedo's celery industry flourished, especially during World War II, and thus contributed to Central Florida's unprecedented growth and development during that period.

ELEMENT #20: UNITY

This weekend, as February draws to a close, this project highlights just some of the invaluable and immeasurable contributions Black members of the Oviedo community made locally. Our job as citizens is to celebrate, study, and amplify this history.
Together, in unity, we will continue to share this rich history and ensure that future generations know of and are inspired by the ingenuity, hard work, and sacrifice of the Oviedo Black community.

BHMFinal_Art_Feb2019