Why do they call it that? Dale Mabry and Thonotosassa

11:06 AM, Nov 11, 2009   |    comments
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  • Army Captain Dale Mabry.
  • A flint spear tip on display at the Tampa Bay History Center.
  • A road sign along Dale Mabry Highway in Tampa.
  • An Anhinga perches along Lake Thonotosassa in Hillsborough County.
  • The airship Roma, piloted by Captain Dale Mabry.
  • The wreckage of the airship Roma in Norfolk, Virginia.
  • A sign at Thonotosassa Park in Hillsborough County.

Each Wednesday on The Morning Show, we'll answer the question: "Why do they call it that?" This week, it's the story of an early Army aviator, plus the fun-to-say name that points to a very important place.

Why do they call it Dale Mabry Highway?

Fifteen years before the Hindenburg disaster, Army Captain Dale Mabry -- born in Tallahassee, raised in Tampa -- was at the controls of a Hydrogen-filled military airship over Virginia.

"Something went wrong in piloting it, and the blimp crashed, killing him and other people aboard the blimp," said Rodney Kite-Powell, the curator of history at the Tampa Bay History Center in Channelside.

Kite-Powell says the crash was a disaster -- but could have been far worse.

"When they found his body, it was still clinched onto the steering wheel. And what he'd done is he'd maneuvered the blimp as it was crashing to avoid crashing into people on the ground," he said.

"So, it was kind of a little bit of a heroic feat on his part to sacrifice himself -- in a sense -- so people on the ground wouldn't be hurt."

The military built MacDill Field in South Tampa around World War II and wanted to connect it with Drew Field, which is now Tampa International Airport.

"So they expanded a street called Vera Avenue and called it Dale Mabry Highway, in honor of Dale Mabry," Kite-Powell said. 

Why do they call it Thonotosassa?

"Thonotosassa is a Creek or Seminole word, which means 'flint is there,'" Kite-Powell said.

Flint is one of the hardest stones found in Florida.

For early Indians, it was crucial for survival -- not as much for making fire, as for crafting spear tips and cutting bone and shell.

"If you put it in a really hot fire, it hardens the rock itself. And then you can flake pieces off very easily and get to a really sharp point," Kite-Powell said.

The long, sometimes silly-sounding name of Thonotosassa is a reminder of what was once one of the most important places for Indians in all of Tampa Bay.

Why do they call it that?  Now you know.

There are a lot more places out there with names that could use explaining. If you want to ask "Why do they call it that?", send an e-mail with a name that has you curious -- to Grayson Kamm using this link.



We'll be featuring new places and stories each Wednesday on The Morning Show from 5-7 a.m. on 10 Connects.

Thanks to Matt in Brandon for connecting with us and suggesting Dale Mabry this week.

Connect with 10 Connects multi-media journalist Grayson Kamm on Twitter as @graysonkamm, on his Facebook page, by e-mail at this link, or on AOL Instant Messenger as screen name GraysonConnects.













Grayson Kamm, 10 Connects

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