Live Oak banker and Governor Cary Hardee is honored in the name of Hardee County, founded in 1921. Other proposed names included Seminole (a name eventually used elsewhere in the state), Cherokee, Goolsby, and Wauchula. Historian Allen Morris suggests the incumbent governor was selected because his signature was wanted on the legislation creating this and several other counties.
The county seat is Wauchula, for which several origins are given ranging from "sandhill crane" to "cow house" to "buzzard's roost." The town was previously called by the more pedestrian "English." The Hardee County Courthouse was designed by a local architect, H. G. Little, and was built in 1927 by Robertson Construction Company.