By Commissioner Vernon J. Burton
In 1884, early records show that the first Post office that was established in the area that was to become Lake Helen was done in 1884, and in July of that same year Jay Sheldon was appointed as its first Post Master.
In 1886, two years BEFORE Lake Helen was incorporated as a town, a former slave, named Rev. Albert Suber, (affectionately known as “Uncle Suber,”) became the first postman for the newly established Post office.
In 1887, the Blue Springs, Orange City and Atlantic Railroad that ran from Blue Springs Landing to Orange City was extended through Lake Helen to New Smyrna Beach. The Lake Helen railroad station built by H.P. Mace was called the “Prettiest station in South Florida.”
It was from this depot that “Uncle Suber” traveled by “Buck board wagon” each day delivering mail between the depot and the post office. Although not rapid in his movement Uncle Suber’s dedication to duty exemplified the postman’s Motto: "Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night stays these courageous couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds."
By 1888, it was the combination of the railroad and “Uncle Suber’s” regular mail delivery that enabled Lake Helen to become a City. Mail that was not delivered by “Uncle Suber” was picked up at the “Post office” which was housed in the general store that Post Master Sheldon ran, located at Harlan and Lakeview Dr.
In 1902, Sheldon sold the store to Arthur Pelton who then became Lake Helen’s second Post Master. Upon his appointment as Post Master, Pelton rewarded “Uncle Suber’s” 16 years of faithful service by continuing to “employ” him as the City’s Post man. (However after his death, it took a considerable community effort before the government acknowledged his “employment” in order to pay his widow his pension. )
In the early days of Lake Helen Uncle Suber was considered to be well off as he had taken a Homestead largely on the site that is presently Lake Helen. But sharp and unscrupulous men took advantage of him and cheated him out his money and most of his land and almost cost him his house (which stood at the intersecting corners of Pennsylvania Ave and Goodwin St.)
On the morning of Feb.21, 1917, “Uncle Suber,” the man who through his 31 years of faithful service, piety, integrity and loyalty to the community he loved suffered a stroke and died while hitching up his horse to his mail wagon. The funeral of the one man that had become a town institution in the 29 year old City of Lake Helen was held at the Mt. Olive African Methodist Church (where Suber had been the Pastor) it was attended by the Mayor, the postmaster and many leading citizens and a grateful community.
At the funeral, the Mayor paid a high tribute and respect to this venerable beloved elderly man. He also announced that a movement was afoot to secure his government pension for “Uncle Suber’s” Widow Lucy a “Confirmed invalid.”
Before his death “Uncle Suber” donated one of the few remaining parcels of land that he had left, to the African American Community to be used as his final resting place. He donated the land to be used as a formal cemetery for the African American Community who at the time were forbidden to be buried alongside their white neighbors in the “white cemetery”. This cemetery is now known as Suber Memorial Gardens Cemetery. Many of the oldest African American families of Lake Helen are buried in this cemetery.
The irony is that after the I-4 highway construction cut off Suber Memorial from Lake Helen, it is no longer within the city limits of Lake Helen.