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How did Plant City get its name? What does Weeki Wachee mean?

8:43 AM, Mar 3, 2010   |    comments
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  • Henry B. Plant
  • Newt Perry, founder of the Weeki Wachee Springs tourist attraction
    

How did Plant City get its name? Surprise -- it has nothing to do with strawberries. And, sure it's fun to say, but what does Weeki Wachee mean?

Why do they call it Plant City?

Plant City is the "winter strawberry capital of the world" -- but the town didn't get its name because of all the plants there.

Let's back up. Plant City's original name did have a connection to crops, but your jaw could come unhinged just saying it.

"The previous name was Itchepuckasassa," said Rodney Kite-Powell, the curator of history at the Tampa Bay History Center.

You can imagine settlers found the old Indian name -- which means tobacco field -- something of a mouthful. For that very reason, an Irish postmaster changed the town's name to Cork. But then the first train rolled in.

"It's named for Henry Plant, who brought the railroad to this part of Florida in the 1880's," Kite-Powell said.

Agriculture in Plant City does go back a long way. A Plant City display hanging overhead in the lobby of the Tampa Bay History Center recreates an old fruit packing label, for example. It's a round, red strawberry with airplane wings jutting from its sides and a propeller where the stem should be.

Despite crop connections like that, the name on Plant City's signs came from the name of the railroad owner who sent his tracks through the town.

Why do they call it Weeki Wachee Springs?

Here's an Indian name that has stuck around. That's probably because -- face it -- it's fun to say.

The tourist attraction is known for its "mermaids" -- women who slip on false fins and put on a show.

Who would come up with an idea like that?

Well, Newt Perry, a man who taught Navy divers and was looking for something to do after World War II.

Who would come up with a name like Weeki Wachee?

The Seminole Indians named the spot. In the Creek language, "wekiwa" means "spring" and "chee" means "little."

The state made Weeki Wachee a full-fledged city in the 1960's so it would show up on signs and maps. It still exists today, even though fewer than a dozen people live inside the city limits.

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.

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

Grayson Kamm, 10 Connects

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