What's in a name?
TERRA CEIA ISLAND
by Bill Burger
When the founding ladies of the VIA tried to find "ceia" in their Spanish/English dictionary, the closest word
they found was "cielo" - meaning sky, or heavens. And so "Terra Ceia" became "heavenly land". The actual story behind the name is
rather more interesting.
In 1783, Frigate Ensign Jose de Evia set sail from Havana on the Comendador de Marsella, a two-masted lugger,
with the commision to explore and chart the Florida Gulf coast. On the Tampa Bay map he produced, Evia noted the locations of
occupied fishing settlements, called ranchos; two of these are shown along the southeastern shoreline. One of these was described
as the "Rancho of Rosie" (See Map #1). Note that this is pronounced "Row-ZEE-ah". This location is also seen on a Spanish map from 1809
(See Map#2) - indicating Rosie's operations apparently continued for some time, perhaps by his family. Research in the archives in
Havana would likely reveal much more of the story, including the date when Rosie first came to Tampa Bay. The fish caught at all of
the ranchos were sent to Cuba and taxes paid. The Spanish were extremly bureaucratic in their record keeping.
When Joseph Atzeroth applied for title to 160 acres on the island on June 18, 1843, he described it as: Said Piece of Land
is Situated on the West Shore of Teo Rocia Bay..." Note his spelling. After the severe 1846 hurricane destroyed the Azeroth's log cabin, one
account says they stayed with a neighbor. Who? The only other known settlers then in the area were the Peterson brothers, who had homesteaded
south across the bay at Peterson's Bayou (adjacent to Palmetto Point). Miguel Guerrero (of Miguel Bay) didn't come to the island until 1848.
Might the "neighbor" have been the Rosie family or their workers?
A military map from 1857 (See Map #3) indicates "Terresilla Island". This spelling reflects the "nyuh" sound of the Spanish
So, through word replacement, mispronunciation, misspelling, and misunderstanding of accents, the rancho of Rosie became the land (terra)
of Rosie, with Terra Rocia contracting into Terra Ceia. (As for "Palma Ceia" in Tampa, I think a land developer over there just like the sound of our name
and took it!)
If my research is correct, I don't think that it changes the fact that we do indeed live on an island that is a heavenly land!.