The English Colony
A group of Englishmen known locally as the English Colony immigrated to Conway in the 1880s. They came as a result of a land and citrus industry promotion by the state and railroad corporations that promised an annual income of at least $10,000 growing oranges. These settlers were a mixed group of older retired professional men, army officers, a younger group who was supported by family in England, and laborers who came as servants.
Large tracts of land in Florida had been purchased in England from state or railway corporations at about one dollar per acre. They were scattered from the heart of downtown Orlando to Conway and on to Narcoossee.
The Englishmen planted their orange groves but were not businessmen as much as they were sports enthusiasts. They spent their leisure time playing tennis, riding bicycles on the hard-packed roads, and shooting large flocks of pigeons as they flew to the abundant lakes for water. The group formed a yacht club on Lake Conway where they held regattas.
The Polo Club
The Polo Club was conceived originally by retired army officer General J.S. Swindler who arrived in 1886 and bought a large grove and acreage west of Orlando. Game play was started in 1888 with the team playing
at a field in Conway, now covered by the Dover Shores Shopping Center. In 1890, the Englishmen organized the 100 member Orlando Polo Club, bringing teams from other states to play on the field in Conway. Florida cow ponies that were used in the games could not be over fourteen and one-half hands in height. All of Orlando turned out to boost the teams and watch them vie for championships. After the games, in English fashion, the ladies served tea on the grounds. In Orlando, they built the Rogers Building where they established the English Club House that was devoted to indoor games.
After the devastating 1894-1895 freezes that killed most of the orange groves in Orange County, approximately 200 Englishmen abandoned their homes and returned to England or made new homes in Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa.