Okhakonkonhee

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By Saunro

People can experience history in many different ways: in the love of old treasures, through genealogy searches or simply by engaging in hours of The History Channel or A&E television shows.

As a native Floridian, I find great intrigue surrounding the history of where I live especially since my home has a history that goes back to our prehistoric origins.

I live on Crooked Lake at 122 feet above sea level (awesome for Florida) on what is known as the “ridge” or “backbone” of the state, a geographic feature created by the rise and fall of the sea levels over millions of years which allowed the ocean to squeeze mountain tops in the middle of a peninsula.

According to local history, the lake was originally named Okhakonkonhee, then Crooked Lake, then Caloosa before the shift back to Crooked Lake again.

Happy to say that I don’t live on Okhakonkonhee!

The Florida Seminoles hold a very special interest for me due to my Seminole great-grandmother and Crooked Lake was home to some Seminoles who engaged and traded with locals in the mid-1800s, before they were driven into the Everglades. It’s not hard to imagine just steps from our back door a camp of Seminoles full of people that hunted, fished and swam on Crooked Lake.

After the Seminoles, Northerners discovered Crooked Lake. The early pioneers came to escape the harsh winters, grow citrus, and establish townships. Before long Babson Park and Hillcrest Heights and a women’s college (now coed Webber University) sprung up along the shores of the lake.

As in most of Florida, the railroads, new towns and their businesses came and went. Freezes and hurricanes hampered but never defeated the citrus industry.

The Hillcrest Lodge, which featured the Minnetonka, a seagoing yacht docked at the lodge, came along in the 1920s and was popular with big-name guests including William Jennings Bryan, Bobby Jones and Babe Ruth. A Women’s Club was founded in 1923, and in 1933 residents were treated to a flyover by a Graf Zeppelin.

Today, life at Crooked Lake is quiet. The local wildlife: eagles, fox, sand hill crane, otter, raccoon, and alligators along with an occasional bobcat or panther coexist with the castles and cabins that embrace the lakeshore.

It’s been said that memories are the new history and every day I am happy that there are more of mine being made at history rich Crooked Lake!

Saunro is an independent thinker who refuses to be swayed by commercialism. She is living the good life in retirement at Crooked Lake, and she continues to volunteer as an animal and child advocate.

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