Lake Griffin Preserve History
Held by the Same Family Since the 1880's
Only the Third Family to Own This Property Since the Spanish Land Grant
In the early 1800's, the Arredondo family of Havana, Cuba, were granted the Lake Griffin Preserve land by the Spanish. The Arredondo Spanish Land Grant, also known as the "Great Arredondo Grant," consisted of hundreds of thousands of acres across central Florida. A condition of the vast land grant, Arredondo was to help colonize Florida. As the deadline approached, he turned to Moses E. Levy to help recruit settlers to the territory which, by then, was controlled by the United States. The Moses Levy Grant included most of the land in Central Florida from Newnansville in Alachua County to DeBary in Seminole County.
Moses Levy's son David Levy Yulee founded the Florida Railroad Company which earned him the nickname, "Father of Florida Railroads." He was a politician and one of the first U.S. Senators after Florida was recognized as a state from 1845-1851.
Moses Levy went through much of his wealth trying to establish clear title to his landholdings. When he finally was successful, he sold off portions of the land to recapitalize himself. The Bureau of Land Management obtained much of the land in the Levy Grant and surveyed it under the United States Homestead Act. This Act offered land to people who would come to Florida and settle it. The current stewards of the Lake Griffin Preserve, the Matthews family, were among those people who came to Florida, migrating from Cherokee County, Alabama. The Matthews family held Land Patents for land on Lake Griffin when Lake County was established. In 1883, David Matthews, filed a Land Patent with the Bureau of Land Management in Gainesville for 50 acres on Lake Griffin, establishing the family's 130+ year stewardship of this special property, which is now an oasis in one of the nation's fastest growing MSA's.