The City of Orlando: A History

Orlando began as a settlement outside Fort Gatlin in the 1930’s. The fort had been built to protect the settlers from natives. Within a few years, many people had settled there, and a community began to thrive by 1840. At the time, the community was called Jernigan, after the family who had first permanently settled there. By 1850 the community even had a post office, further cementing itself as a place that had sprouted roots.

As the community grew and expanded north towards where Orlando stands today, the community changed the name. There are several theories as to where they got the name. One is that it was named after a soldier from Fort Gatlin who had been killed in an attack. Another was that it was from a wealthy farmer who lived nearby. There is even a theory that the name comes from the character from Shakespeare’s “As You Like It.” We will probably never know for certain where the name comes from, but it was changed in 1857. At the time of Orlando’s incorporation in 1875, there were 85 inhabitants.


In the early days, Orlando was the prime area for the Florida citrus industry. This is largely because of the influence of the Jernigan family. Nowadays, of course, it is one of the largest tourist centers in the world. That said, Orlando’s leaders have been working to make the economy more diverse. To that end, they have recruited more high-tech industries to set up shop in the city. This includes digital media outfits, training, simulation development, and technological manufacturing. Now it can say that along with being a leader in tourism, it is also a leader in the economy of innovation.


For the most part, Orlando sits on miles of wetlands, lakes, and swamps. This makes the terrain relatively flat, although it is also low and wet. This makes the area prone to sinkholes. Orlando itself is made up of 115 neighborhoods alone with unincorporated communities around the outskirts. This makes the outskirts look a bit like a checkerboard. There are pockets of incorporated Orlando intermingled with the unincorporated land. This can make for some confusion with city services. To fight this confusion, Orlando is working on annexing some of that land to have a more easily defined boundary for the city.

As you can see, whether living or playing, Orlando is an amazing place to be.

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