Orlando, FL and Its History
Located in the state of Florida, the city of Orlando has been described as one of the most visited tourist destinations in the world. Nicknamed “The City Beautiful” and widely known as “Theme Park Capital of The World,” the city is home to the “happiest place on earth”: the Walt Disney World Resort.
While Orlando, FL is widely known for Disney World and many other resorts, many people don’t actually know much about the city and how it came to be.
How the City of Orlando, FL Came to Be
It is unclear how the little town in Florida that began as a military fort came to be known as Orlando. Historians are unable to agree on any common ground. The first story involves the tale of Judge James Speer, who worked hard to get Orlando named as the county seat, having been inspired by a former colleague with the name “Orlando.” Another version of this tale claims that the city was named from a character in Shakespeare’s As You Like It.
A more interesting version of how the city got its name comes from a time during the height of the Seminole Wars. In the aftermath of a fierce skirmish with Native Indian warriors, a company of soldiers set up camp for the night on the east side of Lake Minnie (now known as Cherokee).
During the night, as his fellow brothers-in-arms rested, Sentinel Orlando Reeves was on guard duty. Suddenly, Reeves spotted a log floating towards his position and upon recognizing the Indian threat, he quickly fired a warning shot.
Unfortunately, the warning shot gave away Reeves’ position and he was immediately cut down by a hail of arrows. However, as a result of his courageous action, Reeves’ fellow soldiers were able to repel the Indian sneak attack. After the battle, Reeves’ was buried under a tree with his name “Orlando Reeves” carved into the tree. It was then said that settlers named the town as a tribute to the brave soldier.
The city has a checkered past steeped in history. It was first founded in 1830 under the name of Fort Gatlin during the height of the Seminole Wars, with the sole purpose of defending settlers from attacks by Indians.
By 1840, the community was developed by settlers who named the small community Jernigan, after the Jernigan family who established the first permanent settlement in Florida. It wasn’t until 1875 that Jernigan became officially known as Orlando, a small town with a total number of 85 inhabitants.
The town would see many changes as time passed. During the 20-year period from 1875 to 1895, the town would become the center of the Florida citrus fruit industry. It was during this time that many smaller citrus farmers would be forced to give up their citrus groves during the “Great Freeze” of 1894 to 1895.
Walt Disney World in Orlando
The opening of Walt Disney World would most likely be the most pivotal event in the history of the city. However, Walt Disney World is not actually located within the city limits, but instead, southwest of the downtown area.
Since operations began in 1971, Walt Disney World has transformed the city’s economy. With over 53 million visitors in 2016 alone to Walt Disney World, it comes as no surprise that tourism has now become the dominant economy. Here’s a fun fact: during the 1980s, infamous drug lord Pablo Escobar made a pilgrimage to Disney World and left with suitcases packed with souvenirs.
Orlando, FL is the perfect vacation destination for everyone looking to get away. With its gentle and warm tropical climate, all you need to do is put on some sunblock and start soaking up the sun. With endless theme parks to keep the family entertained and an interesting history, start planning your next vacation now.
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