Family history is much like a seed.
It starts with a person planted in a particular spot and soon enough, it becomes deeply rooted in its community, connecting to things around it and creating a legacy.
Take the DuPont family for example.
In Florida, it starts with a man named Josiah DuPont, who was the first DuPont to settle in the state.
And for the last 30 years, his descendants have researched the family tree from one generation to the next.
Planted in Florida
St. Augustine natives Fred and Jim DuPont were born in the 1940s. They are two of their parents’ six children and descendents of Josiah’s brother, Charles DuPont.
Since 1980, they have compiled extensive research on the DuPont family history, pulling them all the way back to 16th century France.
“I started at the library up in Washington when I first got into it in 1980,” Jim said. “I was always interested, but I didn’t have the time to research it until I got to Washington.”
Their research revealed the DuPont name appeared in the Huguenot stronghold of Rouen, France.
After facing persecution, Abraham DuPont fled to London, where he became a British subject, allowing him to immigrate to what is now the United States.
Born in 1658, he settled down in New York in 1699 and married.
Abraham’s grandson Josiah is who Fred and Jim found to be the first to arrive in Florida based on copies of Spanish land grants that dated back to the 1790s.
He and his family tried to settle on the lands provided by the grants but were driven off by Native Americans in 1801.
The following year, Josiah died from a fever leaving all of his land in Florida to be regranted.
Charles, Josiah’s brother, had 11 children.
One of them was named Abraham, born in 1783.
In 1828, Abraham and his family moved to St. Augustine, where he died in 1857.
“We’ve been here ever since,” Fred said.
Abraham was active in the St. Augustine community.
He owned properties that extended to the south from what is now the Flagler County line to the north end of Hammock and from the ocean to the Matanzas River.
He owned acres on the other side of the Matanzas River bordered by Pellicer Creek.
He also owned a house in St. Augustine that is near where Price’s Barbershop is today.
Abraham was on the building committee for the Trinity Episcopal Church in 1830 and went on to be the mayor of St. Augustine in from 1842 to 1843.
Deepening the roots
In research done in 2013, Fred and Jim explored the development of the DuPont Center.
It sits on some land remaining of the Spanish land grant and is at the intersection of U.S. 1 and County Road 206.
According to the two’s research, the DuPont Center was originally a farm that was created when Cornelius DuPont, grandson of Abraham, and his wife purchased 40 acres of land in the 1900s.
Subsequently, the couple purchased 120 acres, for a total of 160 acres.
The farm was on both sides of what is now U.S. 1.
It got its name when Cornelius and his wife donated the right of way to the government for the highway to be expanded.
After the intersection was established as the DuPont Center, the family decided that gas stations, restaurants and a roadhouse were more profitable options than farming.
That area became a place for travelers to get gas, fill their bellies or even attend a Saturday night dance during the 1940s and 1950s.
“I can remember going there with my parents and the kids would be running around and the parents would be inside and it would be a great time,” Fred said.
In 1947, W.D. DuPont Sr. and his two sons, Andrew and William, founded W.D. DuPont and Sons Construction Co.
W.D. retired in 1959 at the same time the company purchased 120 acres of land to build a factory for the manufacturing of DuPont Steel Buildings and to farm.
In 1970, as W.D. celebrated his birthday, family tragedy struck and his wife suddenly died of an aneurism.
That same year, his son was killed in a plane crash at the St. Augustine Airport, and W.D. died from what his relatives say was a broken heart.
W.D. and Sons folded in the late 1980s and the county bought the property.
Growing up with history
Many of the DuPont family members have good memories of their upbringing.
“It was a great way to grow up. We were all one big family, and we had our own identity,” Fred said.
As a kid, he remembers 160 acres was divided among the family.
Beehives and sugar cane were grown on the property.
“When it was time to harvest, the whole family would go out there,” Fred said. “Every year, the family was provided with cane sugar and honey.”
Chris Delaporte is a DuPont descendent and said growing up DuPont gave him a sense of heritage.
“I was born in Orlando, but my earliest recollection of the DuPont family was going to Crescent Beach to visit my grandparents,” he said. “All those great memories of hunting and fishing were with my family.”
He said keeping track of the family history is key and he serves as president of the family’s council. His mother is one of the oldest in the family.
“(We) create a legacy and something our heirs and the people who came behind us will have,” he said. “The word-of-mouth thing can only go so far.”
Jim said researching the family’s history with his brother works out well for the both of them, and they’re able to retain the memories.
“I’ve always believed you can only see as far ahead of you as you can see back, so I’ve been looking back, back, back,” he said.
Fred says everyone still manages to keep in touch.
“All the families in the area come together and stay in touch with each other,” he said.