Holly Hill's history goes all the way back to 1880. Although the city wasn't incorporated or platted until 1901, as a community we proudly passed our century mark several years ago.
The Wetherells from Philadelphia were among the first residents of Holly Hill, arriving in 1876. They and fifteen other families had been persuaded by a landowner named Fleming to resettle in this area. At the time it was little more than a wilderness of screech owls, panthers, snakes, alligators, wild hogs, mosquitoes and rum runners. Not a very wholesome place for a couple with four small children, but early Florida is filled with accounts of pioneers whose courage and tenacity were nothing short of heroic. The community's first families set to work right away to build sawmills, homes, churches and schools in the midst of exotic flowers, fruits and a profusion of holly trees.
The Wetherells had sailed from Philadelphia in a small schooner as far as Fernandina. There as they waited two weeks for a freight-passenger ship to Daytona, they were joined by two families from New Port, Virginia.
There was no railroad closer than Jacksonville. Mail was brought in about once a week; a dry goods box in the corner of a small Daytona store served as a Post Office. Dependant on boats for their supply of groceries, these families experienced frequent food shortages during periods of stormy weather. Though fish, oysters, and wild game were abundant, women and children often dug for coontie roots, which they grated and baked into pancakes to use in place of bread.
The Wetherells first lived in a house deep in the woods. That site is now the busy intersection of Ridgewood and Volusia Avenues! After a few months they bought 220 square feet on Washington Avenue from Fleming for $75.00, in what was soon to be named Holly Hill.
There was quite a bit of controversy over what the community should be called. Some prefferd Oleander; others wanted to name it New Port News after the home they left behind. Finally Mr. Fleming was allowed to do the honors, since he owned most of the land. He called the settlement Holly Hill in honor of the Irish coastal town where he was born.