Naming Sarasota

Posted by Louis Wery on Sunday, September 1st, 2013 at 9:14am.

We Sarasotans possess a keen interest in the history of our community. We’ve even been known to make up fanciful stories about how our town got its name.

Ever heard the one about Hernando de Soto's daughter Sara? As it turns out, that was creative marketing by starting with the first “Sara de Soto” pageant held here in 1916.

I don’t know about Sara, but, by the mid-1700s, maps identified Sarasota as Zara Zote, and Americans and Cubans ran ranchos or fishing camps along Sarasota Bay. They maintained a lively trade selling turtles and fish to merchants in Havana.

By the 1800s, the Seminole War raged and the U.S. Army established a fort at the site of the ranchos. Eventually the Seminole Wars ended and the federal government deported the native peoples west to Oklahoma or forced them south into the Big Cypress swamp. In 1842, Congress passed the Armed Occupation Act and gave the land to private owners of European descent who kept the place name as Sara Sota.

In 1878, Charles Elliott Abbe made it official when he successfully applied for the first Sara Sota post office and became its first postmaster. Six years later, he was murdered by order of the Sarasota Vigilance Committee, whose members resented the postmaster’s success.

Photo of Parade at Five Points (c. 1950) courtesy Sarasota County History Center

For more information about Sarasota & Her Islands, please contact Louis Wery.

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