Sunday, August 29, 2010

One place, many definitions

Many years ago, Ruth Linton told me it was impossible to define Pine Castle in geographic terms. "It's more of a state of mind," she said.

To be sure, folks struggled to define the region surrounding the Conway chain of lakes south of Orlando as far back as recorded history survives around this little corner of heaven.

Government surveyor Benjamin Whitner flattered the man who signed his federal contract in the 1830s by naming the chain "Conway" after him.

But, according to one of the letters in my current anthology project, Will Wallace Harney claims the Seminoles called the area "Okehitanatchee." According to him, this translated as "land of fair waters." (Can anyone confirm or refute this?)

Harney originally dubbed his vast estate on the shores of Lake Conway, "Okatoulypes." As noted in a previous post, I have no idea what that word might mean. Sounds Greek, no?

Anyway, Harney eventually settled on the more rustic term, "Pine Castle." His neighbors liked it so well, they began applying it to the entire area.

At different times since then, Pine Castle has extended as far north as Michigan Street in Orlando and as far south as the Osceola County line.

For a brief time, from the Florida Land Boom of the 1920s until the Great Depression, Pine Castle was an incorporated town.

The name "Pine Castle" still survives today, and is celebrated with an annual festival. (See

But, you never hear anyone using the name "Okatoulypes" or "Okehitnatchee" anymore . . .

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