The Alachua area appears to have been the first area occupied by the immigrant Oconees, the original Seminoles, about 1740. Their first town was situated on or near the old Alachua plain, now called Payne’s Prairie in homage to “King” Payne, chief of the Alachua settlements upon his death in 1812.
The meaning of Alachua is suggested by a passage in the journal of Lieutenant Diego Peña, who on his expedition to Apalachee and Apalachicola in 1716, traversed the region, and of the area between the Ichetucknee and Suwannee Rivers in southern Suwannee County remarks:
|“||The 21st day I left the said site (adjacent to the Itchtucknee River) and camped at a place they call Aquilachua this day I marched five leagues. In this day’s march no creeks were encountered but there are good springs of water, and the first (is) named Usichua, (and) the other Usiparachua, and another Afanochua.||”|
That the springs without effluent streams were sinkholes is consistent with the area, which has many. The names of these watering places all possess the terminator chua, which suggests that chua is the Timucuan name for sinkhole. This inference is not inconsistent with the general opinion of residents of the county, that the name Alachua means sinkhole.
Alachua County proper was created in 1824. The original county seat was Newnansville located near the current site of the city of Alachua. In 1854, the new railroad from Fernandina to Cedar Key bypassed Newnansville, and Gainesville, a new town that was located on the railroad, began to draw business and residents away from Newnansville. Gainesville became the county seat the same year.
Quoted from Wikapedia