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How did Tarpon Springs get its name? Why is the Florida city called Land O' Lakes?

9:09 AM, Mar 24, 2010   |    comments
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It's a Pinellas County city known for a lot more than just sponges, and a Pasco County town with a buttery name.

Why do they call it Tarpon Springs?

Emmanuel Psomas, the head chef at Hellas Restaurant and Bakery, says he knows the story.

"A woman was walking around Spring Bayou, she saw a fish jump, and... inadvertently said, 'Look at that tarpon spring!'" Psomas said with a cheery smile.

"See, now, if she knew her fish, it would have been called Mullet Springs."

It was the chance to make money from a different sort of sea life -- sponges, not fish -- that brought a population boom around the start of the 20th century.

"Sponge diving is something that is a tradition among some Greeks. And, so, that brought a lot of Greeks -- first from Florida, who had settled here -- and then also directly from Greece," said Rodney Kite-Powell, the curator of history at the Tampa Bay History Center.

Today, the sponge docks are still a great place to stroll through the city that claims the highest concentration of Greek people in the U.S.

As for that story of one woman's surprised shout naming the town?

Kite-Powell thinks that may be more local legend than historical fact.  He says the name likely came from combining two things found around the area: tarpon and springs.

Why do they call it Land O' Lakes?

This Pasco County town is a picturesque place.

In fact, it used to be twelve picturesque places.

Around there were the separate communities of Big Cypress, Disston, Drexel, Ehren, Fivay Junction, Godwin, Mexico, Myrtle-Denham, Pleasant Plains, Shingleton, Stemper, and Tucker.

Whew.

Just after World War II, the area centralized its schools and post office.

Different stories say either a naming contest or a town vote was held.

Either way, they landed the name Land O' Lakes.

And, yes, a few versions of the tale say the town's new name was inspired in some way by the brand of butter with the same name.

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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