Good day to all. Did you know, of the two rivers emptying into Charlotte Harbor, it took the most time to settle on a name for the longest?
The Myakka River flows south from near the Hardee-Manatee County line for 68 miles and drains 235 square miles. The Peace River begins northeast of Bartow, traveling 106 miles to Charlotte Harbor. Its drainage basin is 1,367 square miles.
Bernard Romans, a Dutch born navigator, was commissioned by King George III to map Great Britain’s newly acquired Florida territory in the early 1770s and although not the “discoverer” as he claimed, gave our harbor the name that stuck. His early map of Charlotte Harbor reflects both rivers, noting they were also “discovered” by the author. The more westerly is named New Creek, the longer, Charlotte River, obviously a continuation of the harbor’s name.
By 1822, when Florida had become a United States territory, the Carey and Lee Atlas contained a map with the more westerly Myakka unnamed and the Peace reflected still as the Charlotte River. Shortly thereafter, “Asternal,” with a “long” A, appears on maps identifying the shorter river. It is a medical term for ribs not connected to the sternum (breastbone). Your guess is as good as mine how someone came up with that, but at the time, maps did not depict the Myakka flowing from any other body of water. Perhaps not being “connected” led to the name.
By 1833, although its “sister” river was still the Asternal, the longer river appears on maps as the “Pease or Talakchopco River.” Talakchopco is from the Creek language and means “long peas.” The name seems fitting, due to wild peas with delicate yellow blossoms abundant on the river’s banks and those of its tributaries.
Bradford’s Atlas, published in 1841, near the end of the Second Seminole War, shows the rivers as Pease Creek and Asternal. Pease Creek generally divided the “Indian Reserve” established after the First Seminole War, which covered most of the peninsula’s interior from just north of today’s Tarpon Springs south to a line running east from today’s Shell Creek, which by then had been “tagged” the Charlotte River. The Second Seminole War resulted in the reserve’s relocation to Southwest Florida, with Pease Creek forming its northwestern border.
A U. S. Coastal Survey map 10 years later shows the longer river both as the Talakchopco and Peas River, but the Asternal had become the Myakka. It’s believed the name came from the indigenous Mayaca that lived in north Florida along the St. John’s River when the Spanish arrived. However, it’s unclear how that name became associated with a river in Southwest Florida centuries later.
An 1856 military map, ordered by then Secretary of War Jefferson Davis, depicts the rivers as the Myakka and “Talakchopco-Hatchee or Peas Creek.” Although subsequent maps seem to stick with Myakka, the longer river continues to appear as “Peace or Pease River.” By 1910, the Encyclopedia Britannica reflected only Peace River as the name, but Myakka was shown as Miakka. So, although there was a slight variation in spelling, it appears cartographers settled on the shorter river’s name decades before our “Rio de Paz” became the “Peace” for good.
Unfortunately, historic maps of the Peace and Myakka Rivers cannot be viewed by visiting Charlotte County online library resources. However, visit the same site and select “History Exhibits” to find out what history-related programs and videos are available. Historic maps can be viewed though by visiting the Punta Gorda History Center’s website. Select “Online Collection,” then “Keyword Search” and enter your search criteria.
Also, check out History Services’ yearlong project, “Telling Your Stories: History in the Parks.” It began in January with placement of the first interpretive sign “Charlotte Harbor Spa” at South County Regional Park. The seventh was dedicated last week at McGuire Park and features one of A. C. Frizell’s bulls. All dedicated signs can be viewed at online library resources. Select “Programs and Services,” then “History Services” and “Virtual Programs.”