By Kyle LoJacono
This week, our final installment of What’s in a Name will look into how Wiregrass and Zephyrhills got their names.
(1) WIREGRASS RANCH is named after an actual ranch owned by the Porter family, which bought 14,000 acres of land in the section of Wesley Chapel in 1941.
The ranch stretched from east of New River in Pasco County down into Lutz and New Tampa in Hillsborough County. Today, the Porters own about 5,000 acres of the original land.
The Porters, who still raise cattle on the land, first moved to the area in 1946. At that time, the area was known as Gatorville, the name used to mail things to the town.
A variety of wild grass known as wiregrass grows naturally in the area, which grew thick enough to make walking through large portions of the fields nearly impossible when the Porters first bought the land.
It was not until 1950 when a friend of the Porters, Ed Madill, sent the family a postcard while on vacation in Mexico. Madill did not have the Porter’s address, so he sent it to Wiregrass Porter, Gatorville, FL USA. It made it to the family’s home and the name Wiregrass stuck.
Today, Wiregrass Ranch is generally associated with the area of Wesley Chapel near the intersection of SR 56 and Bruce B. Downs Boulevard, including The Shops at Wiregrass and Wiregrass Ranch High.
The Porters started selling large parts of the original ranch in 1972, with Saddlebrook Resort as the first buyer. The next year the land for Meadow Pointe was sold to a developer. The Shops at Wiregrass opened in 2008 and has more than 100 businesses.
(2) ZEPHYRHILLS was first named March 10, 1910. Before it became Zephyrhills, the area in east Pasco County was called Abbott, after a local doctor named J.M. Abbott. The former town became known as Abbot Station after two train depots were opened within it.
Howard Jeffries, a retired Union Army captain, first came to central Florida looking for a land to farm to supplement his pension.
In 1909, Jeffries bought 35,000 acres of land from James Lee Greer, who owned Greer Sawmill. Jeffries first planted the property in 1910.
Zephyrhills was officially incorporated as a city in 1914 when the Zephyrhills Colony Company was formed.
There are two stories as to how the city got its name. The first comes from when Jeffries signed the contract to buy the land. The deal happened on top of LeHeup Hill between Zephyrhills and Dade City. The word Zephyr actually means breezes, so the name Zephyrhills stuck.
The other speculation is the first person to survey the city had either a first or last name of Hill.
For additional information on these areas and how they got their names, visit www.fivay.org.
This concludes The Laker and the Lutz News series on how historic places were named. Information is provided by interviews with Pasco County historian Jeff Miller of Fivay.org and the West Pasco Historical Society.