Dunedin Florida History – Florida Heritage with Scottish Roots

Dunedin History Museum

Dunedin is one of America’s most popular tourist destinations, as well as an excellent place to call home. It has about four miles of scenic beachfront and home to some of America’s most beautiful and completely natural beaches. The city has made a reputation of being a tourist-friendly city with its state-of-the-art parks and all modern amenities that offer plenty of fun and enjoyment to tourists of all ages!

While visiting Dunedin, there is no shortage of fun and entertaining activities. Take a walk into the sugar-white sandy beaches, go kayaking, observe the wildlife, or go on a fishing trip or dolphin cruise from Dunedin Marina.  You will cherish every moment of your Dunedin trip.

Other than the beautiful beaches and the charming view of the Gulf of Mexico, Dunedin also represents the rich American and Scottish heritage that is deeply rooted in its history.

In this article, I will talk about Dunedin Florida history and it’s Scottish roots so you can learn about the Scottish influence of its culture, people and society. 

History of Dunedin And Its Scotish Heritage

Dunedin, Florida, has an exciting history. In the early days, the inhabitants of Dunedin and the surrounding areas were Tocobaga Indians, who inhabited the region from 900 to 1500 AD.

As is the case with a majority of Florida history, settlers were the ones responsible for paving the way for what Dunedin is today, both figuratively and literally.

In the 1800s, some Scottish families were the first settlers that settled in this area. The first recorded land deed in Dunedin can be traced back to 1852. This deed was granted to Richard L. Garrison. 

The last name of Dunedin was “Jonesboro.” In the mid-1870s, John Ogilvie Douglas, and James Somerville, two Scotsmen from Edinburgh, opened a general store on Dunedin’s or previously known Jonesboro’s waterfront. 

In 1878, the two Scots succeeded in establishing the first Post Office in their store. Later, in 1882, the two Scots filed a petition to change the name from “Jonesboro” to “Dunedin” and succeeded in officially renaming their town. The word “Dunedin” is taken from the Scottish Gaelic word “Dùn Èideann,” which refers to Edinburgh, Scotland’s capital in the Scottish Gaelic. 

{If you are in town for more than a day, you will hear people pronouncing the city name, and not all of them with be successful. It is either pronounced – “DUH-nee-den” or “DONE-EE-DIN”, which when you say both of them quickly enough, sound very similar. Thankfully, Dunedin has a number of breweries where you can order a pint or two and debate the pronunciation with you friends.}

Dunedin is the first town south of Cedar Key, Florida. John W. Marston was one of the earliest settlers in Dunedin. He was a woodworker and citrus planter. He gave jobs to other immigrants who came to the settlement. At that time, Dunedin’s economy was mainly dependent on agriculture. Citrus was the main crop that was produced there.  {Dunedin maintain this citrus heritage today with the painted oranges that can be found on businesses and residents throughout the town.

Dunedin has a waterfront that is about four miles in length. To take advantage of this access to the Gulf, the town built a dock to accommodate schooners and sloops. Along with the agricultural economy, the port flourished very quickly and became a vital trading point in Florida. Once, Dunedin had the largest convoy of maritime vessels in the entire state of Florida.  

With the growth of the settlement and economy of Dunedin, pigs became a problem in the town in the late 1890s. They were running rampant throughout the settlement. This led to declaring Dunedin, with only 113 people in the area, as a town for banning livestock. This ban is still-standing up to this date.

One of the noteworthy events in the new century is the establishment of the Dunedin Yacht Club. This century-old club was established in 1903.

Dunedin became incorporated as a city in 1925. 

Before the Second World War, Donald Roebling developed a Tracked Vehicle that could be used to navigate flooded areas and coastline. Roebling and others at the Food Machinery Corporation plant in Dunedin developed the Landing Vehicle Tracked or, in short, LVT nicknamed the Alligator. This LVT played a vital role in the Pacific phase of World War II.

Dunedin is also proud of its firsts. Frozen orange juice concentrate originated here. Dunedin is also the city of origin of the first ever Optimist ‘Pram’ sailboat racer designed by Clark Mills. The prestigious Professional Golfers Association (PGA) established its first headquarter in Dunedin in 1945, where it remained for almost eighteen years.

{You can visit the site of the Optimist Pram shop if you grab a pint at the Dunedin Woodwright Brewery on Douglas Ave. near downtown.}

Traditions

The Dunedin Highland Games:

The people of Dunedin maintain and embrace its Scottish roots proudly. Every year in March, the city of Dunedin arranges the Dunedin Highland Games. Tourists and the members of Scottish clans visit the city during this time of the year to attend the event.

Both Dunedin High School and Dunedin Highland Middle School pipe and drum bands perform in the competition. The highland games feature Highland dancing, traditional music, and Scottish athletic competitions. This provides an opportunity for the people of Dunedin and visitors to learn about Celtic and Scottish culture. 

The Orange Festival:

Along with the Highland Games, Dunedin hosts many other annual festivals like the Orange Festival. During this festival, thousands of visitors from all around the globe descend on the small town.

The Orange Festival is inspired by the town’s rich heritage as a citrus-growing area in the early days. The popular event features orange juice tastings, a cook-off, music concert, dancing, a silent auction, and the main event of the festival, the Miss Dunedin Orange Queen contest.

Places to Learn About the History of Dunedin

Dunedin History Museum:

What better way to learn about history than the museum? The Dunedin Museum holds exhibits highlighting the history of Dunedin through the years, filled with unbelievable stories of survival, tourism, romance, and innovation. 

The Dunedin Historical Museum is located on the site of the original Orange Belt Railway Station, which was a vital part of Dunedin’s progress. The museum contains an estimated 2,000 artifacts and about 2,500 images. The museum collection includes relics from clothing and household tools from the 1870s. 

The House of John Ogilvie Douglas

John Ogilvie Douglas was one of the pioneers of the settlement of Dunedin. The House of John Ogilvie Douglas is a historic house and one of the oldest buildings in the town. It is located at 209 Scotland Street, Dunedin, Florida. The house was built in 1880. It was declared a historic place by the National Register of Historic Places, USA, on November 29, 1979.

Geography of Dunedin, Florida

Dunedin is the fifth-largest city in Pinellas County, Florida, and the 1068th largest city in the United States. It is home to some of America’s most popular beaches, including the Honeymoon Island and the Caladesi Island State Park. Among them, Caladesi Island was awarded as America’s Best Beach in 2008.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 73 square kilometers. About 27 square kilometers of it is land, and 46 square kilometers of it is water, which is around 63.20% of Dunedin city’s total area. The population of this city was 36,244, according to the United States Census of 2019. Dunedin has the most pleasant winter weather in the country. 

The city of Clearwater, another popular tourist destination of America, is situated to the south and east Dunedin’s border, the Gulf of Mexico to the west, and Palm Harbor to the north.

Conclusion

Most people will be surprised when they hear about the Scottish heritage of Dunedin, Florida as it is a long way from Scotland. The people of Dunedin embrace and maintain their heritage with pride. Dunedin Florida History and its scotish roots inspired many of the festivals and events that attracts thousands of tourists to the city all year long. 

By now, you’ve learned all about the history behind Dunedin’s Scottish heritage. Dunedin was always a popular destination for tourists and many people decide to stay and call Dunedin home.  Take a vacation, visit the city’s picturesque waterfront, sugar-white beaches, and historical monuments. You will cherish every moment of your Dunedin trip or lifestyle, that I can guarantee.