John Henry Lyon (Lion) Botefuhr

So who was John Henry Lyon (Lion) Botefuhr?   TIMELINEJHL Botefuhr

To begin with he was my great-great grandfather, he was a world traveler that settled in Daytona Beach and was one of the original white settlers of the Halifax area. He was quite the unique character; he was determined, and strong-willed.  He was known as a teller of tales, a pirate, businessman, husband and father.  His grave is on the list of haunted tours in the area, and one of the main streets in Daytona bears his name. Botefuhr avenue splits his former property and deadends into the beach. 

Schulte Park is named after a niece of JHL Botefuhr; Laura Botefuhr Schulte and her husband moved from Fort Smith, Arkansas to the wilds of Florida.

It is also interesting to note the name of Formosa is prevalent in the area.  JHL Botefuhr's sister-in-law (and cousin) Mercy Beerman HuntMercy Beerman Hunt was killed on a ship named Rover, at the Island of Formosa in 1867.  JHL Botefuhr was married twice, and I am descended from the second marriage.  JHL Botefuhr was of German descent and he towered over my great- great grandmother  Fannie Speridone Carpenter who was descended from the Menorcans that were brought to this county and settled the New Smyrna Colony and sought refuge in St. Augustine.

History of Volusia County, Florida by Pleasant Daniel Gold Author of "in Florida’s Dawn" The E.O. Painter Printing Co., Deland, Florida 1927. Page 81 * Chapter XX page 137 & 138 Page 137, (1870)

About the same time that Mitchell took up his homestead, John Bottiphur (sic), a ship builder and sea captain, who had been livJHL Botefuhr's Home Daytonaing in Swataw, China, came with his family and settled on the river about a mile south of Silver Beach. He built rather a pretentious house and filled it with Chinese curios. It is said that at the time he was a man of wealth and had a span of horses and a carriage, the only on in this section, and his family were probably the first ones to use the world’s famous beach as a driveway. For years he appeared prosperous, but finally suffered reverses. It was found that his house was not built on his own land and he was forced to move it. He died in Daytona Beach at an advanced age.   (At corner of house is Sarah Dobbins, her daughters Etta and Mary, her sons Al and Jim.  Peter B. Dobbins in hat with beard in front of porch.  There is unknown woman on front porch (possibly 2nd wife?  and there are two unknown children upstairs. JHL Botefuhrs family

Page 138

 In 1892 C.C. Post and his wife, Helen Wilmans Post, *4 bought a half interest in the property of Chas. A. Ballough, and they platted the present town of Seabreeze, which Mrs. Post named "City Beautiful." They opened Ocean Boulevard from Valley Street, now Halifax Drive, toJHL Botefuhr the ocean and paved it with marl. At this time there were several houses along the river between the present Ocean Boulevard and Main Street owned by Ballough, Lund, Smith and Myers. The Mitchell, Thompson and Bottiphur(sic) homes were on the river south of Main Street. Mr. Post built a store, a printing office on the corner of Ocean Boulevard and what is now Peninsular Drive, a residence on the corner of Ocean Boulevard and Valley Street, and Mrs. Post began the publication of a paper callled "Freedom," on the subject of Mental Science.... .

Federal Writer’s Project, American Guide, Daytona Beach, Florida

written March 16, 1936 by Clayton L. Perrault and edited By- D.R. Scoville

Captured by cannibals off the African coast, ruler of a native African tribe, prosperous shipyard owner in China, sea rover and gentleman-adventurer, John Henry Lion Botefuhr could spin many a lusty yarn if he were alive today. Colorful remnants from his life are still told in Daytona Beach where he settled when his roaming was over, and where a granddaughter and grandson are now living.
Yellowed newspaper clippings and faded letters from the family records tell a part of the story, and are evidence of the truth which might easily be mistaken for fiction,
As a youngster, John Botefuhr haunted the New York waterfront near his home. Tall and big for is age, he easily shipped as a seaman before the mast when he was hardly in his teens. He saw strange ports and met with strange ventures, strangest of which made him pagen god of a cannibal tribe.
When his tiny trading schooner was storm-wrecked off the African coast, Botefuhr’s life was spared by the natives because they had never before seen a white man and believed him to be a new god. Forced to become a member of the tribe and to take a native wife, Botefuhr despaired of ever returning to his own people.   Eventually he managed to make his way to a neighboring tribe trading with white men. By blacking his body with berry juices, Botefuhr disguised himself as a native, boarded a vessel, and when safe at sea, made himself known.
On one of his few visits home, he met with Sara Burman(sic- Beerman), and on Jan. 10, 1848, they were married. For a short while he was content ashore, but the blood called him back to sea. Ten years later he was owner of a prosperous little ship chandler/business in Hong Kong (actually Swatow), China.

Chinese Fort Swatow about 1865 taken by BotefurBotefuhrs shipyard Swatow China_name on buildingBotefuhrs rooftop scene in Swatow about 1865Botefuhrs residence in Swatow China about 1865Botefuhr shipyard crew_JHL Botefuhr is in top hat

  1. Chinese Fort Swatow about 1865 taken by Botefuhr   Pictures provided by Marilyn Langei {now deceased} (great granddaughter, Sarah Matilda Botefuhr Dobbins)
  2. Botefuhr's shipyard Swatow China_name on building
  3. Botefuhrs rooftop scene in Swatow about 1865
  4. Botefuhr's residence in Swatow China about 1865
  5. Botefuhr shipyard crew_JHL Botefuhr is in top hat

Island of Formosa_now known as TaiwanSeveral years later, Botefuhr’s sister-in-law and her husband sailed from Hong Kong, but their vessel was lost off the Isle of Formosa. Making their way to shore, the crew met Malay head-hunters who swooped down at night to murder all but one Chinese soldier who brought the story back to Botefuhr. Swearing vengeance, Botefuhr impressed the British government with his story and a gunboat was sent down to subdue the natives.
After 7 years of living in China, the Botefuhr family grew homesick for their native land, and they returned to America. When the northern climate proved to strenuous for them, after South China, Botefuhr in 1870 searched the Florida coast for a suitable home place. He found it on the east shore of the Halifax River, across from the tiny settlement of Daytona.
Chartering a small schooner, the family loaded supplies and live stock, in addition to the family dog and cat, and set sail for their new home. Because the schooner was deep-loaded and the river channel was narrow everything had to be lightered ashore, at an additional cost of $40.00 per day for the two days work.
A three-story house was built on a river-to-ocean strip of land and the Botefuhr family was established. Shortly after the house was built, a survey showed it to be on the property owned by C.M. Wilder. Although Mr. Wilder offered to sell the land at a reasonable price, Botefuhr had the house torn down and rebuilt it on his own property. Money, then, was of no importance. Bad investments and Wall street stock market maneuvers completely changed the Botefuhr fortune, however.
Eventually the family was forced to live by hunting and fishing. Deer, beer and wild cat could be shot all through the peninsular wilderness.
On June 5, 1904, at the age of 83 (sic 80), John Henry Lion Botefuhr died and his grave is in a quiet corner of Pinewood Cemetery. Soon after that, the home was razed and only a half-grown palmetto jungle now marks the site of the old Botefuhr place.

Family descendants

JHL Botefur's first family, The children of JOHN BOTEFUHR and D. SARAH BEERMAN are:

  1. SARAH MATILDA BOTEFUHR, b. February 08, 1850, Hoboken, Hudson, New Jersey; d. January 01, 1926, Ortega, Florida (at daughter Ettas House). a. picture 1 about age 22    b. picture 2   c.  picture 3 d. Sarah Botefuhr's calling card in Swatow, China
  2. JOHN JACOB BOTEFUHR, b. February 28, 1854; d. July 10, 1854., Burial: Greenwood Cemetery, New York City
  3. HENRIETTA BOTEFUHR KELLETT, b. December 19, 1856, Hoboken, Hudson, New Jersey; d. May 26, 1896.
  4. MARY CATHERINE BOTEFUHR, b. April 06, 1852; d. August 27, 1860., Burial: Greenwood Cemetery, New York City
  5. MERCY GILMAN BOTEFUHR, b. September 24, 1864, Swatow, China; d. March 06, 1880, Fordham, New York.

JHL Botefuhr's second family, the children of John Botefuhr and Fannie Speridone Carpenter are:

  1. DANIEL CARPENTER BOTEFUHR, b. September 11, 1879. d. 1879
  2. HANNAH ANTONIA BOTEFUHR, b. May 18, 1880, Volusia, Florida; d. November 20, 1944, Osteen, Florida.
  3. DORIS FANNIE BOTEFUHR, b. May 27, 1886; d. January 31, 1934, Osteen, Florida.



3 masted Bark

Rover Incident

1867 Murder of the Captain & Crew of the Rover. (Botefuhrs sister-in-law and cousin).  The Rover was an American Bark-Barque
Before the 1700's the name was applied to any small vessel. Later it applied to a small ship having three masts. The first two being square-rigged, and the the third (aft mast) being fore-and-aft rigged. Fast ship with shallow draft. Favorite of Caribbean pirates. Crew around max. of 90.

Mercy Beerman Hunt


Mercy Beerman Hunt was killed on this island by the natives.

Harrison Garfield Rhodes

Flight to Eden (Book Link)

Written by Harrison Garfield Rhodes (1907) a romance set in Daytona (Tomocala), the character of Jim Harriman is based loosely on JHL Botefuhr.

General Torbert

General Torbert

Popular Union Civil War General, whose untimely death in a Florida storm intersected with the life of Botefuhr on the shores of the Halifax.