FLORIDA: A STATE WITH A LOT OF NAMES

Nothing tells you more about the history and the people of a state than its names, but Florida, the third most populated American state is a mystery to so many of its residents.  Half of our population came from elsewhere, one in four were born in another country.

Some Florida names seem appropriate: we like being near water so many towns have the word “lake” or “bay” in their title.  We love having a lot of sun and use the word “sun” in many towns, even bridges.

Sometimes, Floridians have struck out with a name.  Florida is no Utopia – two times over. In 1882, a group of farmers started the town of Utopia (Holmes County) and the land was so bad the town was deserted in four months. In 1897 Clifford Clements started a fishing village called Utopia in Okeechobee County. It had a school, two marinas, and a post office when the catfish ran out and Utopia soon ran out.

Friendly is the town, but frost proof it is not.

Like good promoters, a lot of Florida towns have exaggerated names.  Frostproof in Polk County has had days of frost.   Gold was never found in Valrico, nor in Eureka.  Summit, Florida, reached the grand elevation of 180 feet.

The town of Sapp (Baker County) is famous for its blueberries.  There are no maple syrup plants.  There are many Paradise Islands in Florida, and some are nice, but the one in Monroe County is in the Everglades and it is a mosquito-invested gator hole.

Although the early Europeans wiped out the original Florida Indian tribes mostly by the European version of CO-VID, the Indians contributed many names to the Florida glossary.  Then the Seminoles arrived in 1704 to add some names.Our capital is Tallahassee (Creek for “old town”).  Some other good names include Okeechobee (‘big water’), Apalachicola (people on other side of river), Ocala (fertile kingdom), Homosassa (place of wild peppers), and of course, Istokpoga (“dead man”).

No one is certain what it means, but it isn’t “Home of a Rich Rodent.

Unfortunately, scholars can not agree on the meaning of Kissimmee, the home of Mickey Mouse. And Miami still causes debate.  Miami, Ohio, is from the Chippewa tribe and they never vacationed in Southeast Florida.

My favorite word to say was Wimauma (Say it fast five times.), but I then found out that the first postmaster named the village after his three daughters: Wilma, Maud, and Mary.

Many in Miami don’t even know Fort Dallas is still downtown.

The Seminole Wars produced as many towns with the word Fort as Western states: Fort Myers, Fort Lauderdale, Fort Pierce, Fort Walton Beach.   Most Floridians don’t realize Fort Brooke became Tampa and Fort Dade became Miami.

As usual, the Fort Lonesome Grocery is crowded.

My all-time favorite is Fort Lonesome in Hillsborough County.  There never was a fort here.  Just Mrs. Dovie Stanaland and her isolated little grocery.  It was easy to call this deserted intersection Fort Lonesome.  If you go there, they even see tee-shirts.

El Jobean has a museum, cafe, PO, bait shop, & store in one place.

Thinking of some of my other favorite towns: El Jobean in Charlotte County was called Southland until 1924.  While lots of Florida Boom Towns used Spanish and Italian names to add color to their image.  El Jobean was renamed by its main developer JoEL BEAN.

If I have to pick one spot, it is the Two Egg (Jackson County), a sign on US90 where you can see a few distant old farmhouses. The town was once called Allison, but a shrewd parent and black farmer named Will Williams changed its history.

If you text or drive too fast, you might miss Two Egg.

Williams had 16 children and when they started to ask for an allowance, which was beyond his financial means, he gave each child a chicken and told them to sell eggs.  The price of candy back then was “two eggs.” So many locals and visitors saw these transactions that they started to call the place “Two Egg Crossing.”  The sign is there but the grocery is gone.

That makes a good story, but shockingly there is more to Two Egg.  A local girl became a cheerleader first at FSU and then at the University of Florida. Gads! Then she decided to become an actress.

TWO EGG? Two egg?

Despite her refusal to fix a space between her front teeth, Faye Dunaway became the first Floridian to win the Academy Award for Best Actress (Network 1976). She was also nominated two other times (1967 Bonnie & Clyde) and (1974 Chinatown).

She also won three Golden Globe awards.  Not bad.  That would be worth a lot of eggs anywhere.

About floridatraveler

Historian and travel writer M. C. Bob Leonard makes the Sunshine State his home base. Besides serving as content editor for several textbook publishers and as an Emeritus college professor, he moderates the FHIC at www.floridahistory.org
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