The V.I.A. first began in 1911 and the trustees were F.W. Hatch, H.J. Magruder and L.L. Mosby. The trustees’ property was deeded to the Village Improvement Society, later changed to the Association, on January 20, 1917, by Mrs. Joan W.C. Howse for the sole purpose of never having the building sold. The building has been at 126 E. Halifax Avenue since 1921 and has been remodeled from time to time. The V.I.A. Building is directly across the street from the Post Office.
The building was originally called “The Town Hall”, and was on US1, built by F.W. Hatch in 1911. It is an octangular shaped building. Since 1967, the V.I.A. officers were Mary Dewees, President; Jeanne Wheeler, Vice President; Gertrude B. Threkeld, Treasurer and Mary Baldwin, Secretary. The trustees at this time are V.B. Baldwin Jr.; A.C. Dewees and Clarence Q. Goodrich, Jr., all having staggered terms of five years.
As president, Mrs. Dewees has seen that the children of Oak Hill had a Christmas party with Santa Claus each year, until her illness forced her to stop all activities and was almost bedridden until 1981, from surgery leaving her completely bedridden. The Fire Department and their auxiliary ladies have seen that children’s Christmas Party was carried on since then.
The V.I.A. officers now are Robert Greatrex, President; Kemp Newman, Vice President; Dana Greatrex, Secretary and the trustees are Mrs. Alma Carmichael; Mrs. Arley Baldwin and Clarence Q. Goodrich, Jr.
In the old days, when the V.I.A. was first built it was used as a community center – even used for dances, with music provided by Morris Wilson who played the piano.
Ladies had ice cream and cake socials to make the money to build the Village Improvement Association building and the First Baptist Church on the corner of Campton Street and Halifax Avenue.
Another old timer was Mr. Grover Allen – his wife died here and is buried in the Oak Hill Cemetery, he left and went to Texas after her death.
The Ewings were other old settlers. Mrs. Mary Anderson knew them well. They had a two-story house just north of where the park is today, down by the old tram. Tram means a spur off the original railroad. It was used to haul shell off the mounds for building roads. Later it was part of the main road, called Dixie Highway.
Mrs. A.F. Swank, coming here from New York, organized Oak Hill Garden Club. Wanda Kennedy was the first president.
The V.I.A. building was moved to its present location on Halifax Avenue from US1 approximately where the V.B. Baldwin Jr. home is now, by teams of horses.
The Village Improvement Association is the most used building in town. The V.I.A. sponsor the Cub Scouts and did a scout troop for several years until the leader had to go in to the service. Through the V.I.A. the county road department removed the white cement posts out of the median of our four-lane highway and put shrubbery in its place. In addition, through the V.I.A., they made a longer crossover for the entrance to Mobile Village. The V.I.A. has helped in many ways. One of the most important was our 5-acre park, valued at $80,000. we have the best park in Volusia County. There is also a skating rink, 100’ by 50’ in oblong shape.
People use the V.I.A. for many events, fish fries, showers, parties, etc. This is where precinct 11 and the City of Oak Hill’s residents go to vote. To be a member of the V.I.A. costs $1.00 a year. We have about 80 members, but very few show up for meetings, unless we have a special event to settle.
We have a city library also, located on the south side of the City Hall.
In 1963-64 the Oak Hill Garden Club president was Mrs. Jack (Betty) Bellamy (halfway through her term, Mrs. Adelbert (Mary) Dewees was appointed to take her place). She also served the 1964-65 term. Ever since that year, the president has been Mrs. Blanche Reed. Mary had a Junior Garden Club held at the school for many years. The present officers in 1984 are: Lela Mae Avery, President; Iona Goodrich, Vice-President; Dorothy Lee Hutchinson, Secretary; Johanna Van Bavel, Treasurer. The club still has 21 members. They meet the second Wednesday of each month at 2 p.m.
In 1864, 1st Sgt. James Edward Taylor of the Federal Army in Kentucky was captured by the confederates and died of a disease in the autumn of that year. His army pay was eight dollars per month.
On March 17 of that year his son, James Alexander Taylor, who never saw his father, was born in Livingston County. When this son was 22 years of age, he was married to Olivia Vena Gaines, who was born in Owensboro, Kentucky and whose parents had migrated to Kentucky from Virginia. This couple had six children, Mayme Louise, David Allen, Thomas DeWitt, Aaron Alexander, Olivia Vena and Robert Truman.
T. Dewitt Taylor was born into the above family February 10, 1983 and the family moved to Shiloh, Florida in April of that year.
The family, with others, worked hard to carve out little citrus groves in the Indian River Live Oak hammocks. All work was by hand labor. It speaks for itself that his family and many others, on account of a big freeze a year later, suffered a great many hardships … among the very few citrus tress to survive the onslaught of these freezes was Dummitt Grove, twelve miles south of Oak Hill. It is reported that growers from many parts of the state went to this place to obtain budwood for the budding stock.
T. Dewitt Taylor attended Shiloh and Oak Hill one-teacher schools, Cocoa High Schools, Rollins Academy and College, Stetson University, University of Florida, Florida State University, University of Virginia, Asheville Normal and College of the City of New York. He graduated from Rollins Academy and Stetson College.
Life was more or less uneventful. Probably the principal means of entertainment was the square dance and waltz. To my boyhood mind, the fiddlers were heroes. Among them were Edgar Goodrich, Glen Montgomery, Manning Bennett, Leonard Griffis and Robert Hagin.
James A Taylor struggled for many years under heavy indebtedness, paying 10 percent compound interest. He would never accept a compromise, always insisting on paying every bit of principal with interest. During this time, he was working at hard labor six days a week from before dawn until after dark, for wages of one dollar a day. He was dedicated to the citrus industry, which finally rewarded him in the year of his death – 1946 at the age of 82. A leading principle of his life was never to break a promise.
T. Dewitt Taylor, born 1893 in Pierson, Florida, was truly a many with a purpose. The day after he retired for the third time two or three years ago in 1974 from teaching his daily class on Bible History at Taylor High School, he decided to start a special program of living.
He wouldn’t make it a resolution, because he was afraid he might break it, but did have a definite plan – to say each morning before getting out of bed, “Lord help me to do something useful today.”
Prayers came naturally to him. He was an ordained Baptist minister; religion always an important part of his life.
He was an expert in Latin and Greek language. Taylor began his education in a one-room schoolhouse in Shiloh, a town south of Oak Hill. From there, he continued in Cocoa Beach, Rollins Academy and finally Stetson University.
He was principal of schools in Oak Hill, Titusville, Seville and Pierson and says, “One of the proudest moments of his life was the night he was notified that the new high school in Pierson was being named for him.”
Right then, he prayed, “Lord, help me live so that the community will never regret this action.”
He attributed his peace of mind and well being to two important factors: the first was his long and happy marriage to his wife, Stella. Second is his feeling of friendliness toward everyone.
He says, “When I meet strangers, I don’t think of them as strangers, but friends. You’d be surprised how nice and friendly most people are.”
He was a great principal here in the 1920s, so people here feel he is a great part of Oak Hill.