Florida place names and their origins

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Florida Guide > Miscellaneous

Florida place names and their origins

As you make your way around Florida I’m sure you will wonder where some of the interesting and unusual names for towns and cities came from. I finally got around to doing some research of my own and have discovered that many of them come from the Native American Indians. For example one of the best known tribes were the Seminole; the town of Seminole can be found on the west coast south of Clearwater.

The Seminole tribe shared there land with the Creek and the Miccosukee people. The place “Osceola” (as in Osceola County) comes from one of the best known Seminole war leaders that refused to leave his homeland and gained the respect of the U. S army for his bravery.

The city of “Orlando” came about after the second Seminole battle which ended in 1842. Settlers gathered around Fort Gatlin near downtown Orlando which at that time was called Jernigan. It was renamed in 1857 to honour a soldier Orlando Reeves who was on sentry duty and injured by an Indian arrow, however he still managed to raise the alarm of an oncoming raid. At the time of the renaming, Orlando had a population of 85 and became known for the 3 c’s which were cotton, cattle and citrus.

One of my favourite names is “Apopka” which means “potato eating place” Apopka and lake Apopka can be found North West of Orlando.

However not all names come from Native Americans, “Florida” for instance, was named by a Spanish explorer called Juan de Leon in 1513. Juan was so struck by the lush flora and forna that he named the area la Florida, in honour of Pascua Florida (feast of the flowers) which is Spain’s Easter celebration.

The area “Doctor Phillips” is a relatively new community named after a Dr Phillip Phillips and can be found a little southwest of Orlando. Dr Phillips was one of Florida first millionaires and was known as a citrus magnate. Dr Phillips was responsible for introducing some of the most important methods of processing and packaging of orange juice. He owned thousands of acres of grove stretching over 9 central Florida counties.

The area known as “Winter Haven” in Polk County got its name from people avoiding the cold weather in the northern states. They travelled down to the place they called “haven from the winters of the north”. It also has the nickname “The City of a Hundred Lakes” and since 1923 has been home to the Florida Citrus Festival.

I have had great fun in researching all these place names and where they have originated from. During my future visits to Florida I intend to collect some more and hope to add them to this list in time.

Author: Mrs S Segarty
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