Although the Bellamy Road was built through this area in 1822, settlement was very slow until after 1842, with the conclusion of the Indian Wars. The original settlement was about a mile south of present day Melrose around a mill site on Etoniah Creek. It was called Banana as there were many banana trees growing along the creek banks. A post office was established prior to the Civil War. Mail was brought via boat up the St. Johns River to the Oklawaha and to Orange Springs. Then it was brought overland to Banana. This post office was closed during the Civil War and reopened later.
Sometime after the Civil War, families began to settle around Melrose Bay, an inlet off of Lake Santa Fe. Initially, the new community was called "Shake Rag". This name came from the many horse races they used to hold. To start or end a race, they shook a rag, hence the name, "Shake Rag." On May 10, 1877, a plat was recorded in Alachua County naming the community, "Melrose." It has been speculated that the area women desired a more dignified name for their community and named it for Melrose, Scotland.
As settlers found Melrose, new ideas abounded. In the early 1880's, a group formed to build a canal between Lake Santa Fe and Lake Alto to the west with another canal from Lake Alto to Waldo which was located on the railroad. This gave them transportation to northern markets for their crops. In turn, northerners found Melrose a delightful place to spend the winter. Soon, Melrose was a lively and bustling community. Until the great freeze of 1894 winter, this area had been the center of the citrus industry. After the freeze, this area practically stood still for many years. However, we are fortunate that many of the homes from Melrose's heyday have survived. We have 72 structures contributing to our Historic District which is on the National Register.
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Revised February 23, 2007
Florida's First Federal Highway: the Bellamy Road