See our local Marco historian, Woodward, Pires & Lombardo Attorney Craig Woodward in Fake News and the Naming of Cape Romano, Coastal Breeze News, June 9, 2022:
Recently a question came up on a Facebook group focused on local history as to how Cape Romano, a well-known geographical land mass, got its name. Posted in response was an extract from a Wikipedia article. It reads as follows:
“Cape Romano is a cape on the Gulf Coast of Florida, United States, below Naples, just beyond the southwestern tip of Marco Island and northwest of the Ten Thousand Islands in Collier County. Calusa Indians founded the settlement and called it Manataca. Juan Ponce de León briefly stopped at Manataca on his first trip from Puerto Rico to Florida, but the Indians tried to fight him off. There are two competing theories about why the island is called Cape Romano. One theory that Cape Romano got its name from the survivors of a Romanian shipwreck that colonized the island in 1834. Another undocumented theory is Cape Romano was named after it by British surveyor Bernard Roman who sailed by it in 1775. Cape Romano is also the location of the country’s first Romanian Orthodox Church. Completed in 1837, the ruins can still be found on the island just off the beach. It was destroyed in 1897 by a fire after multiple hurricanes forced the inhabitants from the Island.”
A common phrase these days is “fake news” or simply stated, “misinformation.” The above is an excellent example of fake news. Other than the first sentence, almost nothing else stated is true. Let’s examine this further:
“Calusa Indians founded a settlement called Manataca.”
There is no Calusa village named Manataca or anything similar on a well-known list of Calusa settlements that had been preserved by the Spanish. This list has 30 plus names of Calusa villages extending from present day Charlotte harbor south through the 10,000 Islands and near Lake Okeechobee. This is not a big surprise as the correct spelling of this word is Matanca, or Matanza, a Spanish term, and Calusa didn’t give Spanish names to their villages. The name, Matanca, was not given to a settlement, but rather on the location where Juan Ponce de Leon, in his 1513 voyage, had fought the Calusa; the word means Killing or Massacre. In a written history of this battle, it was stated that it occurred in an area with fresh water and “they fought from morning until night without hurt to the Spanish, because the [Calusa] arrows did not reach whilst for the cross bows and artillery shots they dared not draw near, and in the end the Indians retired.” Later on this trip, and before returning to Cuba, Ponce de Leon stopped again for fresh water at this location and named it “Matanca.” Historians have debated where exactly this massacre by the Spanish occurred. The 1514 Freducci map seems to indicate that the battle could have been at Cape Romano, and also in support of this belief, a 1913 map reveals the “Route of Ponce de Leon in 1513,” which runs through Cape Romano. Another possible location is today’s Matanzas Pass in Lee County.
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Craig Woodward moved to Marco Island in 1968 and has practiced law in Collier County since 1980. For many years Craig has led a history tour of the Island for the Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership Marco program.