Prior to being known as Orlando, it was known as Jernigan. Named so after the Jernigan brothers, Isaac and Aaron, cattlemen who moved down from Georgia in 1843. Aaron Jernigan actually became Orange County’s first state representative in 1845, The town name Jernigan appeared on an 1855 map of Florida, and in 1856 it officially became the County Seat of Orange County.
There are a few stories that surround how Orlando got its current name. One variant is how a man with a herd of oxen was attacked and killed by Native Americans, and buried under the marker “Here Lies Orlando”. Then in 1857 at a town meeting having a debate over the town name, James Speer rose and said, “This place is often spoken of as ‘Orlando’s Grave’… let’s drop the ‘grave’ and just make it Orlando.” And thus it was.
Another variant claims that James Speer simply used the marker as reinforcement for his argument, but his motivation lay in the fact that ‘Orlando’ was the protagonist’s name in the Shakespeare play, As You Like It. We should also note the heroine’s name as Rosalind. Could it be that Rosalind Avenue, a prominent downtown Orlando avenue was named so after the Shakespeare play as well?
Yet another accounting of how Orlando got its’ name is based off a soldier named Orlando Reeves. While there were quite a few who had something to say about the man, there was no historical account ever traced to him and historians agree that likely, he did not exist.
Progress in the 21st Century
In the last hundred years, Orlando has risen up to have a large population and has hit quite a few milestones.
Tourism became the biggest industry for Orlando in 1971 with the opening of Walt Disney World. After consideration of Tampa and Miami, Orlando was chosen for its inland location, meaning there would likely be less damages during hurricanes. Since then, Orlando has risen to have the most theme parks and entertainment attractions in the entire world. Currently Walt Disney is the largest employer in the State of Florida.
Tourism was helped with the establishment of what is today known as McCarren International Airport. In 1962, McCarrnen’s precursor Orlando Jetport, was built from a portion of the McCoy Air Force Base. By 1970, four major airlines (Delta Air Lines, National Airlines, Eastern Airlines, and Southern Airways) were providing scheduled flights. While McCoy Air Force Base officially closed in 1975, what still exists is part of the airport today. McCarren International Airport also retained the former Air Force Base airport code (MCO).
This excerpt of Orlando history was inspired by a perusing of this article. More to come soon as we enjoy our life here in Orlando, Florida.