How the 67 Counties of Florida Got Their Names

By
Cortney Tarell
How the 67 Counties of Florida got their names

Mast places like cities and counties have had their names for so long that we don't think about where those names came from. Unsurprisingly, most of Florida's counties are named after significant men of history. Some of these men are important figures in Florida's development, some are important American figures (former presidents and founding fathers, for example), and others were just lucky enough to be politicians in Florida at the time of the county's naming. You can see Florida's southern heritage in the choice of many confederate figures with counties named after them. Also common in Florida county's names is its Native American history, with many counties carrying names based on Native words that would have described the area. Additionally, some counties have names that describe the area and what is common there.

So, read about all of the county's names to learn some about Florida's history. Or just scroll through to your own county to get a better idea of where you live. Click through the county link to find more fun stuff your county has to offer!

 

Alachua

a Timucuan word meaning “sink” or “big jug” (sources differ). It was used to describe the many sinkholes in the area, many of which have become bowl-shaped lakes.

 

Baker

Named for James McNair Baker, a confederate Florida senator and judge during the Civil War. The county was named for him while he was serving as a judge.

 

Bay

Named after St. Andrews Bay, which is a defining characteristic of the county. 

 

Bradford

Named in honor of Richard Bradford, who was apparently the first Floridian officer to die in the Civil War during the Battle of Santa Rosa Island. It was formally called New River County.

 

Brevard

Named for Theodore Washington Brevard, an early settler of Florida who was a judge and later became Florida Comptroller from 1851 to 1860.

 

Broward

Named for Napoleon Bonaparte Broward, Florida’s 19th Governor. His greatest achievement was a project to drain the Everglades to create more land for agricultural development. He also has more than 30 roads, a Jacksonville bridge, and a residence hall at Florida State University named for him.

 

Calhoun

Named after John C. Calhoun, the 7th president of the United States. Calhoun never lived in Florida, but he was Secretary of War for the US during the First Seminole War when Florida was invaded and eventually annexed from Spain.

 

Charlotte

Named for the Charlotte Harbor, which was named by English settlers after Queen Charlotte Sophia, wife of King George III. 

 

Citrus

Citrus county was one of the top producers of citrus when it first separated from Hernando County in 1887. Today it is not a huge producer of citrus, declining since the "Big Freeze" of 1894-1895.

 

Clay

Named after Henry Clay, a Kentucky lawyer, planter, statesman, and politician who became the 9th US Secretary of State. He advocated the annexation of West Florida. 

 

Collier

Named for Barron Collier, an advertising mogul and real estate developer responsible for much of Southwest Florida’s development in 1910s and 20s. He became the largest landowner and developer in Florida with the purchase of more than a million acres. He also financed the drainage of the Everglades, the building of the Tamiami Trail, and many more development projects that helped Southwest Florida become what it is today.

 

Columbia

Named after Christopher Columbus. It is one of 4 Columbia Counties in the US, along with lots of cities and of course a country that bear the same name.

 

DeSoto

Named for Hernando de Soto, a Spanish explorer who led the first European expedition through the southern United States including Florida. 

 

Dixie

“Dixie” is a common nickname for the southern United States, referencing the area south of the Mason-Dixon line.

 

Duval

Named for William Pope Duval, the first Governor of the territory of Florida. He established Florida’s court system and designated Tallahassee, which was a small Native American village at the time, as the capital. The famous Duval Street in Key West is also named for him.

 

Escambia

The oldest county in Florida. The name, which comes from the Escambia River, is of unknown origin. Many people believe it comes from the Native American word Shambia, which means “clearwater”.

 

Flagler

Named for Henry Morrison Flagler, founder of Standard Oil and the Florida East Coast Railway. He is responsible for most of the development of Florida’s East Coast and is considered the father of Miami and Palm Beach, making access to those cities possible with his railroad. Flagler College in Saint Augustine, which was originally his Ponce de Leon Hotel, is also named for him.

 

Franklin

Named for Benjamin Franklin, one of the founding fathers of the United States. 15 other states in the US also have a Franklin county.

 

Gadsden

Named after James Gadsden, an American diplomat for whom the Gadsden Purchase, purchase of some land from Mexico, was named. He became a planter in Florida and was appointed commissioner in 1823 when he oversaw the expulsion of most of the Seminole Tribe.

 

Gilchrist

Named for Albert W. Gilchrist, the 20th governor of Florida. The name was given in honor of the governor while he was dying.

 

Glades

Named after the Florida Everglades, one of the largest and most important ecosystems in the state. 

 

Gulf

Named for the Gulf of Mexico, on which the county sits. 

 

Hamilton

Named after Alexander Hamilton, America’s favorite founding father and first Secretary of the Treasury. 7 other states have a Hamilton County.

 

Hardee

Named for Cary A. Hardee, who was governor of Florida at the time of the counties creation. 

 

Hendry

Named for Francis A. Hendry, a cattle rancher, politician, and confederate officer from Florida. Among other achievements, he platted the town of LaBelle, Florida, the seat of government for Hendry County, which he named for his daughters, Laura and Belle.

 

Hernando

Like DeSoto county, Hernando was named for Hernando De Soto, Spanish explorer and conquistador.

 

Highlands

Named because of the hilly landscape of the area. 

 

Hillsborough

Named for Wills Hill, the Earl of Hillsborough, who was the British Secretary of State for the Colonies before the US was founded. 

 

Holmes

Holmes Creek, a creek at the county’s eastern border, is the most likely namesake of the county. Several theories exist as to how the creek got its name.

 

Indian River

Named after the Indian River Lagoon, which runs through the county. 

 

Jackson

Named for Andrew Jackson, the 7th president of the United States. He was the territorial governor of Florida before Florida became a state after leading troops during the First Seminole War and annexing Florida.

 

Jefferson

Named for Thomas Jefferson, primary author of the Declaration of Independence and 3rd president of the United States. Jefferson had just died the year before the county was formed.

 

Lafayette

Named after Gilbert du Motier, marquis de La Fayette, who was an important figure in the American Revolutionary War.

 

Lake

There are 250 named lakes in this county as well as 1,735 other bodies of water, so the name is well deserved.

 

Lee

Named after Robert E Lee, commander of the Confederate Army during the American Civil War. 

 

Leon

Named after Juan Ponce de León, Spanish explorer. He was the first European explorer to enter Florida searching for the Fountain of Youth. He gave the state its name after the Spanish Festival of Flowers.

 

Levy

Named after David Levy Yulee, one of the first senators of Florida when it became a state. He was also the first person of Jewish ancestry to become a US senator. 

 

Liberty

Named liberty to represent American pride and the idea of freedom.

 

Madison

Named after James Madison, the fourth president of the United States. 

 

Manatee

Lots of manatees swim the waters of this area, especially in the aptly named Manatee River.

 

Marion

Named for General Francis Marion, a military officer during the American Revolution. Marion was from South Carolina and was probably chosen by the numerous settlers from South Carolina in this area at the time.

 

Martin

Named after John W. Martin, 24th governor of Florida. He was governor at the time of the county’s creation. 

 

Miami-Dade

Originally just called Dade County after Francis L. Dade, a major in the US army during the Second Seminole War. The name Miami was added because of the international name recognition of Miami, which takes up most of the county.

 

Monroe

Named after James Monroe, fifth president of the United States. He was president of the US when the country acquired Florida from Spain.

 

Nassau

Named after the Duchy of Nassau, an independent state in Germany now a part of the states of Rhineland-Palatinate and Hesse.

 

Okaloosa

A Choctaw word that most likely means “black water”. Some sources disagree about the actual meaning of the word used to describe this area.

 

Okeechobee

Lake Okeechobee is Florida’s largest lake, which borders the county. Okeechobee is a Hitchiti word meaning big water.

 

Orange

Originally called Mosquito County, not the best name for one of Florida’s most visited counties. It was renamed Orange County in 1845 after the crop that grew all over the area and the state.

 

Osceola

Named for the Seminole Tribe leader Osceola, whose name means “Black Drink Cry”. He led a small group of Seminoles during the Second Seminole War. 

 

Palm Beach

Named after the city of Palm Beach, which is named for the abundance of palm trees on the beaches here.

 

Pasco

Named for Samuel Pasco, a US Senator from Florida who had just been elected at the time of the county’s founding.

 

Pinellas

Based on the Spanish term Punta Piñal, which means point of palms.

 

Polk

Named for the 11th President of the United States, James K. Polk. His 1845 inauguration took place on the day Florida officially became a state.

 

Putnam

Named after Benjamin A. Putnam, a soldier during the Second Seminole War. He was also a Florida legislature and the first president of the Florida Historical Society. 

 

St. Johns

Named after the St. Johns River that runs through the county. The river is named after San Juan del Puerto and was named by Spanish settlers in Florida’s early years.

 

St. Lucie

Named after Saint Lucy, a Christian saint. This area was named by the original Spanish settlers after Saint Lucia, which is probably why the spelling is different.

 

Santa Rosa

Named for the Santa Rosa Island, which was named after Saint Rosa de Viterbo, an Italian Roman Catholic saint. 

 

Sarasota

Named after the city of Sarasota, which is a Native American word with unknown meaning. 

 

Seminole

Named after the Native American tribe most abundant in Florida before European settlers took over the land.

 

Sumter

Named for Thomas Sumter, a general in the American Revolution. After the war, Sumter became a member of the US House of Representatives and later the Senate.

 

Suwannee

Named for the Suwannee River, a river that runs through northern Florida and inspired Florida’s state song. There are several theories about how the river got its name, though the exact origins are unknown.

 

Taylor

Named after Zachary Taylor, the 12th president of the United States. During his military career, he led troops in Florida in the Second Seminole War.

 

Union

This county was created in 1921 from Bradford County. It was named based on the united front of the citizens to found their own county.

 

Volusia

Named for the Port of Volusia, which is of unknown origin. It may be based on a Native American word that means "Land of the Euchees,”.

 

Wakulla

Named for the Wakulla River, which is probably a word based on a Timucuan word that means either "spring of water" or "mysterious water."

 

Walton

Named for Colonel George Walton, Jr., who was Secretary of the territory of Florida when the county was founded. 

 

Washington

Named after the first president of the United States, George Washington. Tons of other places in the US are named after him.