Front view of the George Sauls home — Saulsville, Florida 1910s. (State Archives of Florida)
On the outskirts of Deltona, nestled between Courtland and Howland Boulevard lies a quiet street called George Sauls Street. Its significance to Volusia history has been largely lost for decades, but rewind more than 150 years ago and you’d find stagecoaches roaring along its dusty path where an unlikely secret agent spirited a Confederate fugitive into the night.
The street is named for the first settlers to set down roots in what is now modern day Deltona, in a place called Saulsville, once celebrated, but later abandoned and almost forgotten.
George Sauls - Find a Grave Memorial 33274567
George Sauls, born in Nassau County in 1821, settled with his wife Adeline less than a mile from Osteen. The Sauls built their four room home using hand-hewn pine logs and carved pegs. (No nails) A breezeway through the center led to a kitchen, outhouse and well. Each room had a fireplace, with a chimney at each end of the house. There were two rooms on each side of the breezeway.
By the end of the Civil War, George Sauls had enlarged the house to include a dining room, winter and summer kitchens, a pantry and a second story as their family had swelled to nine daughters and one son.
The Sauls became close friends with the Osteen family and educated their children together. Eventually, the area was called Saulsville, one of a few stagecoach stops along the trail between booming Enterprise and New Smyrna Beach.
The Sauls lived entirely off the land. They grew their own food, made their own clothes and built a community. The Sauls house welcomed religious leaders of many faiths. Whomever passed through the area, Jewish, Catholic or Protestant was invited to hold services in the west room of the home.
Education was important in the Sauls household, and although George claimed to have only four days of “schooling,” in his life, he and Hezekiah Osteen shared expenses and lodging for a teacher to spend six months each year tutoring their children. When Chaudoin Hall at Stetson University was built, George Sauls was one of the first $50 contributors, and said, “I am for progress and wishing to make a sacrifice for such.”
Adeline Sauls — Find a Grave Memorial 33274566
A Secret Agent
Unknown, even to his family, George was a secret agent for the Confederacy. Appointed by the governor to watch over children and wives of Confederate soldiers while away from home. He was also in charge of accounting for cattle, cotton and tobacco taken to Lake Harney for shipment to the coast. During the war, family and friends remembered him being away at night without explanation and tell of an oath taken in his own blood for his tasks, but he never spoke about his commission. It wasn’t until 1933 that his surviving family learned of the part he played in the Civil War.
His most notorious role was helping John C. Breckinridge, who served as the 14th vice president of the United States and as a Confederate general during the Civil War, flee capture from northern forces. At the end of the war, Breckenridge had gotten to Florida through underground assistance to the mouth of Lake George on the St. Johns. His party increased to seven and they obtained a lifeboat salvaged from the federal gunboat Columbine, captured by Confederates on the St. Johns during the battle of Horse Landing.
From his location at Holden’s Landing just above Lake Monroe, Breckinridge sent two men five miles inland to Saulsville where they engaged Sauls to meet the party at Cook’s Ferry and help haul the lifeboat to the Atlantic Ocean. Breckinridge described it as “The only wagon to be had in that desolate country.”
With his oxen powered wagon, Sauls took the party, boat, provisions and ammunition from the mouth of Lake Harney to the Indian River at Carlisle’s Landing. This
John C. Breckinridge — Find A Grave # 132
was a three mile trek north to modern-day Titusville. Several versions of the story exist regarding the payment Breckinridge made for Sauls assistance. One account says Sauls refused to agree to a price five dollars until he saw the money. Another says he charged the party an additional five because of the suffering of his oxen during the fly ridden two-day trip. Either way, Breckinridge wasn’t a fan, and made the backhanded comment that, Sauls, “ Was very ignorant, but keener and more provident in all points of contract than any Yankee I ever saw.”
A Thousand Dollars, an Orange Grove or
the Yankee Silvers Spoons
For his daughters, Sauls offered each on their wedding day, the choice of a thousand dollars or an orange grove. It was said he was so close with his daughters, he couldn’t bear to see them leave and when each daughter married in the west room of the house, he took a long walk into the woods and would not return until the ceremony was over.
However, when it came time for the wedding of his granddaughter, Ruth Sauls, the daughter of his only son John, Ruth refused to marry until her grandfather came home. As a gift, Ruth was offered the same dowry, but instead said, “I’ll take the silver spoons.”
The six-coin silver teaspoons, made from “Yankee” silver dollars were left by a polite colonel of the Union army who had taken provisions from the homestead during the war and offered payment for what he took. When Sauls refused to accept his money, and directed the colonial to a well, bucket and gourd on the west side of the house, he later found 60 silver dollars tucked between two logs near the well. He later sent them to Richmond to have the spoons made out of them.
Death and Lost History
When the railroad came to Volusia much of the surrounding area grew while Saulsville faded away. George Sauls died at the age of 89 and a local wrote a tribute to him that appeared the newspaper years after his death:
“‘Old Man’ Sauls, for more than fifty years, a leading spirit in the community, was a kindly, hard working, thrifty, hospitable man, as honest as the Sunshine and as true as steel. He lived a long and useful life and died quiet and peaceful death.”
The Sauls home, along with 15,000 acres of land, was eventually sold to the Deltona Corporation in the 1950’s. Because of its historical significance, the house was gifted to the Volusia County Fair Association with the intent that it be moved to the fairgrounds and turned into a museum. Sadly, the house burned New Year’s Day, 1972. The blame placed on drifters who were said to have been living in the abandoned home.
Sauls Home after the fire 1972
On April 4th, 1976 more than 100 people including the remaining Sauls descendants, county officials and historical society members gathered at the site of the burned home. They renamed the street George Sauls St., and commemorated a plaque laid on a coquina
base to mark the site of the home to preserve the Sauls family history for future generations.
Deltona Misplaces its Pioneer History
In 1981 the Deltona Corporation sold the land, who in turn sold the land again to developer who built a house on the site, completely disregarding the historical plaque resting on the lot. Later the homeowner, irritated with people walking on their property to read the plaque complained to the city until the plaque was unceremoniously hauled into the bed of a truck and moved to a storage barn. None of the remaining Sauls descendants were notified that the plaque had been removed and when the family realized it was missing, demanded answers from the city. It was then moved to Osteen Cemetery, where it rests today next to the graves of George and Adeline Sauls. However, for many years the plaque remained unchanged, referencing the site of a house that no longer stood. Finally in 2006 the plaque was updated by the Volusia County Council to reference its current location. It now reads:
“The pioneer families of this cemetery put down roots on the Florida frontier — a place considered ‘desolate’ at the time. In the 1850’s, George and Adeline Sauls settled two miles west of here on a stage road. They constructed a large log home and raised 10 children; farmed and kept livestock; served travelers: and joined Osteens, Carpenters, and other neighbors in the Saulsville community to organize a church, hire a school teacher, and frame a society. In 1884, Sauls family members denoted this burial ground, along with an African American graveyard to the west. When his long life passed, George Sauls was remembered as ‘a leading spirit’ in his special section of Volusia County.” - Volusia County Council, 2006
Sauls House site plaque, Osteen Cemetery
The plaque makes no mention of its original location or why it was moved. With no marker left on the original house site, it’s exact location could eventually be lost forever.
Fearington, Blanche. “Rich In History, Sauls House Stands Aging and Alone.” Orlando Sentinel, Orlando 27, Dec. 1972
“Osteen History,” notes retyped in 1999 — Enterprise Museum
A.J. Hanna’s: Flight Into Oblivion, 1938. Johnson Publishing Co.
Ronald Williamson: The Daytona Beach News Journal, “Pair set out to replace historical site marker” Oct. 21th, 2006
Sauls Family-Early Setters of Volusia County Florida (n.d.):n.page. Roots & Branches Genealogical Society of West Volusia County. Roots & Branches Genealogical Society of West Volusia County. Web.
The Volusian, “George Sauls, one of the earliest settlers in the Osteen area,” May 1990