More than 500,000 people call Volusia County home. Situated on the east coast of Central Florida, our 47 miles of Atlantic Ocean beaches are a world-class playground, with beachfront cities including Daytona Beach, Ormond Beach and New Smyrna Beach.
Water sports are plentiful, but Volusia’s oceanfront communities are most famous for land sports. Early automotive pioneers such as Louis Chevrolet and Henry Ford enjoyed their leisure time in the sun and found that the hard-packed sand, gentle slope and wide expanse of Volusia’s beach was the perfect proving ground for early auto racing. Ormond Beach, in fact, is known as the “Birthplace of Speed.”
The racing tradition continues today at Daytona International Speedway, one of the world’s finest racing facilities and the home of the world-famous Daytona 500, an event larger than the Super Bowl.
The scenic St. Johns River, famed for its bass fishing, links magnificent parks with wildlife preserves along the county’s western border. True southern charm can be found in DeLand, the county seat. This unique city features an award-winning downtown filled with antique shops and quaint restaurants, surrounded by stately historic homes and buildings.
Volusia-based companies include Hawaiian Tropic sun care products and Boston Whaler boats. Our institutions of higher learning — Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Stetson University, Bethune-Cookman University, Daytona State College and the University of Central Florida — have a national reputation for excellence.
Volusia County also is the headquarters of the Ladies Professional Golf Association, the summer home of the London Symphony Orchestra, and the winter refuge of the endangered Florida manatee.
Volusia County is about an hour’s drive north of Disney World and the Kennedy Space Center. It’s also within a few hours’ drive of other major Florida communities, such as Tampa (139 miles), Miami (253 miles), or Jacksonville (89 miles).
Volusia County consists of 1,207 square miles. Elevation begins at sea level and rises to a high elevation of 110 feet.
Volusia County is named after the community of Volusia, which today is a tiny, unincorporated community on the east bank of the St. Johns River where State Road 40 crosses. However, when Volusia County was carved from Orange County by the Florida legislature in 1854, the community was a prosperous steamboat landing and the largest town in the County. Keep in mind that the entire population of Volusia County barely exceeded 600 people!
The community of Volusia began as a trading post sometime in the first or second decade of the 1800s. It was located where an Indian trail intersected with the St. Johns River. This location was later developed as an important supply depot for the military during the Second Seminole War from 1834 to 1835. When commercial steamships started to travel up and down the St. Johns, the community grew and was listed as one of four post offices in the county. With the introduction of regional railroad systems in the 1880s, the community of Volusia was bypassed, and thus, its era of prosperity ended.
The origins of of the word “Volusia” is of some debate. Despite serious effort by amateur and professional historians, no one has ever discovered a historic document which has provided the definitive answer.
There are three theories:
- The name derives from a word meaning “Land of the Euchee.” When the Timucuan Indian cultures died out in the early 1700s, the land in the area was uninhabited until some of the Indian tribes to the north began to migrate into the area (much like the people that have become known as Seminoles). The Euchee Indians were a tribe originally from an area in South Carolina.
- The name was taken from the name of a British plantation that was located on the St. Johns River in the late 1700s. However, no one has explained where the plantation owner came up with the name.
- The name is derived from the last name of one of the employees at the trading post. He is described as being well-liked and of Belgian or French descent. The story goes that his name was something like “Veluche,” which was pronounced “Va-loo-shay.” The post became known as “Veluche’s Place,” hence the eventual creation of “Volusia.”
– Tom Scofield, Volusia County Historical Planner
Economic facts and demographic information
For more information about Volusia County including demographics, statistical information and economic facts, view the Volusia County Data Report on the Volusia County Economic Development website.
In 1821, Major Charles Wilhelm Bulow acquired 4,675 acres of wilderness bordering a tidal creek that would later bear his name. John James Audubon, the famous naturalist, was a guest at the plantation during the winter holidays in 1831. In January 1836, a band of raiding Seminole Indians, resisting removal to the West, looted and burned the plantation. Today only the coquina walls and chimneys of the sugar mill remain standing. Bulow Plantation Ruins Historic State Park is three miles west of Flagler Beach on State Road 100, then south on County Road 2001 in Bunnell.
For more information, call 386-517-2084.
See also Volusia Anthropological Society story in this website.
Built in 1871 by Frederick deBary, a prominent champagne importer from New York City, this hunting lodge is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It’s open for tours and special events at 198 E. Sunrise Blvd., DeBary.
For more information, call 386-668-3840.
Located in a WWII era military residence, this National Museum of Naval Aviation qualified facility seeks to commemorate the activities and history of NAS DeLand between 1942 and 1946, at 910 Biscayne Blvd., DeLand. For more information, call 386-738-4149.
The former home of the founder of Bethune-Cookman University is a memorial to Mrs. Bethune and the Foundation that is dedicated to research, interracial activity and sponsorship of wider educational opportunities. Built in 1914 and located on the college campus, it opened to the public in 1953. In 1975, the National Park Service gave the Foundation its National Historic Landmark designation. Artifacts, citations, plaques and pictures of dignitaries are on display. It also is the gravesite of Mrs. Bethune. The museum is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday at 640 Second Ave., Daytona Beach.
For more information, call 386-255-1401, ext. 372
This home was built in 1886 by DeLand attorney George Hamlin. It was originally a one-and-a-half story structure, built on land purchased from Henry A. DeLand. This site provides information and museum photos at 137 W. Michigan Ave., DeLand.
For more information, call 386-740-6813.
Learn about the history of plantations and the role of slavery from the First Spanish Period to the U.S. Territorial Period.
Those who are deeply interested in interpreting the rich prehistory of Volusia County may find this a compelling story of our first residents.
See also: People of the Shellmounds by Lani Friend.