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Thank you for being there in our time of need. I'm pleased to say that we're critter-free!
- Sandra M., Daytona Beach, FL
Ocoee is a city in Orange County, Florida, United States. As of the 2010 census, the city had a population of 35,579. It is part of the OrlandoKissimmeeSanford, Florida Metropolitan Statistical Area.
In the mid-1850s, Dr. J.D. Starke, stricken with malaria, led a group of slaves, similarly stricken, to the north side of an open pine wooded lake that provided clear and clean water to avoid further malaria outbreaks. The camp built by the group provided a base of operations from which to commute during the day to work the fields near Lake Apopka and rest at night. As the camp grew into a village, it took the name Starke Lake, a name the lake upon which the group settled bears to this day. The city's population increased further after the American Civil War as confederate soldiers and their families settled into the area, including Captain Bluford Sims and General William Temple Withers who wintered at the location. Captain Sims received a land grant for a 74-acre parcel to the west of Starke Lake in what is now the downtown portion of Ocoee on October 5, 1883. In 1886, Captain Sims, along with a group of original settlers, led an effort to have the town platted and changed the name to Ocoee, after a river he grew up near in Tennessee.Ocoee is a Cherokee Indian word anglicized from uwagahi, meaning "apricot vine place" and this inspired the choice of the city's flower.
Bluford Sims began groundbreaking work in budding wild orange trees while in Ocoee. His commercial citrus nursery was the first in the United States in Ocoee, supplying many other groves in Florida with their first trees as well as shipping young citrus trees to California. The construction of the Florida Midland Railroad in the 1880s spurred growth in the area and many more settlers moved in.
On November 2, 1920, after July Perry and Moses Norman, two black men, attempted to vote and encouraged other blacks to vote, the entire black population of the town was violently attacked. On the night of the massacre, white World War I veterans from throughout Orange County participated. At least 24 black homes were burned, the institutions constituting the black community were destroyed and Perry was lynched. Before the massacre, Ocoee's black population numbered approximately five hundred; after the massacre, however, the black population was nearly eliminated. For more than 40 years, Ocoee remained an all-white town.
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