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Is it Tuskawilla or Tuscawilla?

The history behind this and other ambiguously named landmarks

Have you ever wondered why Tuscawilla Country Club is located near Tuskawilla Road? Or why Lightwood Knot Canal on Chapman Road seems to have so many different names? Do you always second-guess just how many S’s are in the name “Lake Jesup?”

Behind local ambiguously named landmarks is a wealth of history that dates all the way back to the founding of the area.

Local historian Bob Putnam says the discrepancy between “Tuskawilla” and “Tuscawilla” started with the founding of the country club.

“All the people who started this development of Tuscawilla in 1971 just decided to add a ‘C’ to provide our own unique nom de plume,” Putnam said.

But the origins of the spelling “Tuskawilla” date back to the 1800s and involve the area’s first white settlers and the natives they encountered.

Early homesteader Vincent Lee, along with business partners George C. Brantley and Daniel Randolph Mitchell, built a wharf and store in today’s Tuskawilla Landing in Winter Springs in 1865. He bought nearby property a little more than a decade later, calling it Tuskawilla after a Native American village in Alachua County.

According to “Oviedo: Biography of a Town,” by Richard Adicks and Donna Neely, a post office was established near Brantley’s store and reported to the U.S. Post Office as serving a fast-growing population of 200 people in an area called Tuskawilla. The name stuck.

That is, until the Tuscawilla Country Club was built in 1971.

When first settling in the area in the 1800s, people communicated locations orally. When it came time to label these places, some of the labels were spelled differently, depending on who was writing the sign. Photo by Nick Nimkoff.

Winter Springs changes names … and so does Tuskawilla

Winter Springs Mayor Kevin McCann said that the names of both the Tuskawilla area and the City of Winter Springs changed in about 1971 when the Tuscawilla Country Club opened. And that’s when the trouble began, he said.

“The Tuscawilla Country Club was actually the Winter Springs Country Club originally, and when they first started building out, the city was called North Orlando. They [city leaders] didn’t like the name and they wanted to change it. So they chose the name from the new, big development in Winter Springs.”

The Tuscawilla spelling stuck, and several of the neighborhoods in the area would adopt its spelling before the Country Club could register it as its own.

Jerry Mills, who’s called the Tuscawilla subdivision home for 40 years, says that the subtle name difference is confusing but doesn’t cause too many problems.

“Because it’s pronounced the same way,” Mills said with a chuckle.

While a majority of signs spell Lake Jesup with two S’s, by government decree the lake is actually only spelled with one “S”. Photo by Nick Nimkoff.

Other name debacles around Oviedo and Winter Springs

The Tuskawilla vs. Tuscawilla situation is far from the only one like it in the area. Lake Jesup has historically been spelled with two S’s on most signs marking the body of water, but it’s actually wrong to spell it that way.

According to an Orlando Sentinel article from 1989, the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Division of Geography declared, by government decree, that Lake “Jesup” was spelled with one S.

While spelling is a big point of contention in these areas, figuring out the correct pronunciation can be quite the challenge. Mills pointed to examples outside of Greater Oviedo and Winter Springs.

Mills said that to people who lived here before the area started to rapidly expand in the 1970s, Wekiva Springs was pronounced the German way: “Wekiwa.” And Alafaya Trail also had a silent “A,” being pronounced “Alfaya.”

Canal confusion

Is it Lightwood Knox Creek? Or Leonard Knox Creek? Or maybe Lightered Knot Creek? Perhaps Lighter Knot Creek? How about Litard Knot Creek or just plain Lightwood Knot Canal? Or could it be Literknot Canal? All of these have been used to name the body of water found heading west on Chapman Road in Oviedo.

These seven (yes, seven) different spellings come from several different sources including Putnam, the United States Geological Survey, “Oviedo: Biography of a Town,” and Steen Nelson’s book “Old Time History of By-Gone Days of Lake Jessup Settlement.” Whether the body of water is a canal or creek is also subject to debate.

Of all of these spellings, the most commonly used is Lightwood Knox Canal. It is also what is used when searching the body of water on Google.

Although these discrepancies can cause confusion and frustration, there is a history lesson to be learned. The nomenclature of an area rests entirely upon those who settle it, but perhaps it should be settled in writing, or someone might need to write an article 100 years later explaining why so many people don’t spell it right.

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