“I am wondering if there has been discussion of what people from DeLand should be called. The Beacon uses “DeLandites”. Do you know any history of how that term came to be adopted?”
— Question from a reader
The first use I could find of “DeLandite” was in The Volusia County Record in December 1891, so the origins of the demonym are almost certainly lost in the mists of time.
Possibly, there was some general tendency toward the suffix “-ite” in the 1890s because of increased public knowledge of different minerals (which often use the suffix).
Of course, “-ite” also is biblical, so. Just spitballing here. More likely, it was organically chosen. As a side note, in those early papers. I also found the appalling term “Volusia Countyite.”
“DeLander” was used much more sporadically in newspapers, first appearing in a 1919 reader letter to the DeLand Daily News (the writer wasn’t sure whether they were a DeLandite or a DeLander), and then not again until a handful of times in the 1930s.
Then the whole thing popped to the forefront in 1985, when a DeLand Sun News city desk reporter named Barb Shepherd made a case for DeLander. Immediately after that, the Sun News seemed to adopt “DeLander” under Stewart’s Laws of Municipal Onomastics (a summary of that amazingly-titled codification is found here: https://www.dailywritingtips.com/7-rules-for-identifying-people-by-place-names/) until 1989, when a reader wrote in protest.
I made copies of several newspaper clips of the first usages I found, along with the 1989 arguments and counter-arguments that killed DeLander. In an ignoble death, the last usage of DeLander I found was from a mattress advertisement. Copies of those clips can be seen by clicking through the images at the top of this story.
My opinion would be for DeLandite. If the demonym has no origin story, it likely was born from popular use. While words like this do change, it usually is only when there is a better alternative.
Since, as far as I am concerned, DeLander and DeLandite are equally flawed (DeLandite sounds “like something that requires a salve to cure” and DeLander “rhymes with meander, pander, and slander”), the winner is usage.
Stewart’s Laws of Municipal Onomastics were written more than 40 years after common use here and, as the article notes, “… like many other attempts at codifying human behavior or custom, Stewart’s laws are breached as often as they are observed.”