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Thonotosassa (Lake Thonotosassa)

Lake Thonotosassa is situated in the north central section of the county, approximately 14 miles northeast of Tampa. Thonotosassa is a derivative of the Seminole-Creek words thlonoto and sasse, meaning “flint is there.” Between 1812 and 1820, a Seminole-Creek village had been established southeast of the lake. It was this group who named the lake and utilized the area’s flint resources for tools. Almost immediately after the erection of Fort Brooke, the military constructed a road between the fort and Ocala’s Fort King, passing along the northwestern end of Lake Thonotosassa. This road, ten years later, became the site of the official beginning of the Second Seminole War with the attack and defeat of Major Francis L. Dade near present-day Bushnell. According to local legend, Major Dade and his troops stopped approximately three miles southwest of the lake to rest on the first day of their fateful march. Some of the men had sweet oranges from Cuba which they ate and disposed of the seeds. These men are credited with having inadvertently grown the first citrus trees in the Thonotosassa region. i

A Native American village is known to have existed near the lake, as late as 1843, led by Billy Bowlegs, a prominent Seminole Chief. The presence of an active Seminole village in the region acted as a buffer against White homesteaders from moving to Lake Thonotosassa. With the cessation of the Second Seminole War in 1842, Whites began to view the lake area favorably. The first such settler was William Goodman Miley, a native of Scotland, along with his wife and five children who homesteaded 40 acres on the southern lakeshore in 1846. They cleared a patch of land for farming and transplanted several of Major Dade’s orange trees to his property. Miley built a log cabin for his family, a common housing type for Thonotosassa homesteaders until the 1880s: ii

Early settlers, usually young folks, built their houses of readily available material, in this case pine logs. Called a “double-pen house,” they had two good sized rooms, fifteen to twenty feet square, with a covered open passageway between, a cool place even in hot weather. In Florida there is always a breeze in the shade. The roof was made of hand riven shingles, and the spaces between the logs covered by hand riven battens, both usually of cypress, a softer wood and easier to split smoothly than pine. Back of this, separate, or connected by a passageway that was often covered, was a smaller structure for cooking and eating. As the family grew shed rooms were added. An old house made one think of a mother hen with here wings spread out to shelter her brood.

These houses were spacious and comfortable. The thick walls kept out the heat in summer. The stick and clay chimney, with clay apron, kept the room warm in winter. Windows were wood shutters, with leather straps in lieu of hinges a the top, held open by a stick. The first glass windows were held up by a stick. The next fastener I recall was a little knob with a spring through the sash into the casing. Doors too were made of boards nailed together, with leather hinges. They were fastened by a piece of board lifted by a rawhide string run often outside a little hole. Hen the expression of hospitality, “The latchstring is out.”iii

The Mileys were soon joined by others including George W. Adams who moved from


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