The VIA 1894-1965

At the meetings where the women sewed for the poor of Orange City and later formed the Library Association, town doings and town needs were discussed, for the women were young and enthusiastic and glad to lend a hand in any worthwhile undertaking, whether it might be cleaning up the school yard or arranging a public entertainment for Christmas.

Soon, they were as busy with town affairs as with sewing. They found so much that needed to be done, and so many pleasant things they wanted to share with one another, that they decided to form a club and to call it the Village Improvement Association (VIA), since their main purpose was to improve Orange City.

An item from an old edition of the Orange City newspaper, South Florida Times, tells of the founding of the Village Improvement Association: “The Orange City Village Improvement Association was organized on May 15, 1894, by Mrs. Louise Morse of New Hampshire and Mrs. Frank Hooker of Chicago. As the Town was very small, it was hard work for them to start anything. There were 12 members.” The membership fee was 50 cents.

At the end of the first year, there were 28 members:

  • Miss Dickinson
  • Miss Foye
  • Miss Rowell
  • Miss True
  • Mrs. Bockee
  • Mrs. Cannons
  • Mrs. Dean
  • Mrs. DeYarman
  • Mrs. Dozier
  • Mrs. Finney
  • Mrs. Foye
  • Mrs. Freeman
  • Mrs. Fuller
  • Mrs. Hill
  • Mrs. Hooker
  • Mrs. Ireland
  • Mrs. Jones
  • Mrs. Morse
  • Mrs. Osborn
  • Mrs. Robinson
  • Mrs. Rowell
  • Mrs. Spencer
  • Mrs. Sturdevant
  • Mrs. Taylor
  • Mrs. True
  • Mrs. Tucker
  • Mrs. Whipple
  • Mrs. White

Mrs. Hooker was elected president and kept the office until she died in 1897. They met the first and third Thursdays of every month at the homes of the members, as there was at that time no club house. Mrs. Eliza A. Hill joined the society through the influence of Mrs. Morse who was then president, and Mrs. Hill was made secretary, holding the office for 19 years. Mrs. Helen Freeman was one of the hardest workers, and it was by much of her effort that the Orange City Library Association was started.

Mrs. Morse, second president of the VIA, was a very efficient leader and worked under difficulties and discouragements. She often thought her work was not appreciated. Mrs. Hill, who was full of zeal and determined not to give up, kept urging Mrs. Morse to still greater efforts, so that Mrs. Morse’s term as president lengthened to eight years. She was very public spirited, and among other good works she placed a drinking fountain on the main street for man and beast.

At that time, there were just dirt paths along the dirt streets. The VIA was the first to purchase a carload of shell from New Smyrna and have a sidewalk laid on the east side of South Volusia Avenue from Graves Avenue to the DeYarman Hotel.

They had oak trees set out along Volusia Avenue north of Lansdowne Avenue, in the center of University Avenue east of Volusia Avenue, and as far as Stillman (later Oak) Avenue. As traffic increased, however, the trees were cut down and replaced with pavement.

The VIA saw that the cemetery was not receiving proper care. They, therefore, asked and received permission from the Town Council to clean it up and put it in order. Some years later, they were responsible for the founding and incorporation of the Orange City Cemetery Association.
They also received permission of the Town Council to repair a bad hole in the road on West University Avenue near the Episcopal and Congregational Churches, and to fill in the rough crossing of the Blue Spring, Orange City and Atlantic Railroad where a man was killed when he was jolted from a truck.

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