Translations of the name Monts De Oca vary as do stories regarding the origin of the family. Ancestry.com tells us it is “ Topographic name from a range of mountains forming the watershed between the rivers Ebro and Duero in northern Spain, named with the plural of monte ‘mountain’ and oca ‘goose’.” The Urban Dictionary defines it as “large hills with an oak forest on top” or “large hills with geese on top”.
One version of the origin of the family, submitted by Billy and Diana Buckner, was found in the Osceola County Historical Society files – Don Juan Montes De Oca “a Spanish gentleman of high family” came to America from San Sebastian, Spain, with two of his brothers. The young noblemen were sent by the King of Spain to explore and survey Florida. When one of the brothers died very suddenly of a tropical disease, the other left immediately for Spain. Juan remained in Florida and thus the family history began.
Juan was highly educated. His occupation listed as mariner on early census documents may explain his fluency in the English and Seminole languages. In the March 21, 1857 edition of the ‘Florida Peninsular’ newspaper, Captain John Montes De Oca was owner of the schooner Experiment. Moving to Tampa in its early days, he met and married a young Seminole Indian while working as a translator of Spanish and Seminole for the soldiers at Ft. Brooke in the 1830s. She died at an early age supposedly at the hands of other Indians in retaliation for some wrong they had suffered. Family researchers differ as to how many children Juan and his Indian wife had – some say only a daughter, Victoria, while others say as many as seven. Juan then married Mary (born 1825, died December 4, 1858). Mary is believed to be the mother of all the children except Victoria.
After Mary died, Victoria was sent to live with Dr. & Mrs. Robert Jackson at Ft. Brooke while two of Juan’s sons, Manuel and John Jr. went to William and Annie Willingham, who later moved to the Kissimmee area. The Willinghams dropped the ‘e’ from Montes, thinking it was too Spanish sounding for the children to be accepted.
The second version found on the website “Pioneer Families of the Kissimmee River Valley” by Kyle S. Van Landingham merely states that Juan Montes de Oca, born in 1809 in Cuba, settled at Tampa, married a Seminole Indian and they had Victoria. The story continues with the son John Jr. homesteading on Kissimmee Island at Clay and Grape Hammocks, later moving to Midland, between Ft. Meade and Frostproof in Polk County, Florida. John and his wife, Wealthy Ann Lewis had fourteen children; a son, William married Maggie Bowen. William owned a citrus nursery and cattle herd in Osceola County, Florida. When William registered for the draft in 1918, he was City Marshall for St. Cloud.
The Montes De Ocas married into other Florida families – Godwin, Bass, Mizell and McClelland; their descendants continuing to live in Osceola and neighboring counties. Rose Hill Cemetery in Kissimmee is the resting place of several in the Montes/Monts De Oca family, including “Welthan”, wife of John Jr.
Sources: OCHS family files; Ancestry.com; Urban Dictionary; Find A Grave; http://www.lamartin.com/history/pioneer_families_kissimmee_river_valley.htm
The photos of William and family were shared with OCHS in 2009 by Ileana Monts de Oca and believed to be the property of William Mark Monts de Oca. John and Wealthy Ann Monts de Oca photo was found on an Ancestry Family Tree submitted by Kenny Kopta.