History of Hillsborough County

Clearwater History

Definitions of Indian Tribes/Clans of Early Florida

PROLOGUE: For any person or persons to presume to define the history of a county with so rich a past as Hillsborough County is to do it a gross injustice. With this premise, we at best, can only present a thumbnail sketch. We welcome additions, corrections and criticisms.

"An Act to organize a County to be called Hillsborough, and for other purposes; approved 25th day of January, 1834.

Section 1. Be it enacted by the governor and Legislative Council of the Territory of Florida, That the district of country bounded as follows, to-wit, on the north by Alachua County, a line running east and west from the Indian village of Toachatka, 40 miles from Tampa, east by Mosquito County, south by Monroe County, and west by the Gulf of Mexico, shall constitute a county to be called Hillsborough."

Alachua County, at this date, came as far south as the present Hernando County southern border. Mosquito county later became named Orange County. At the time it extended west to the present eastern border of Polk County.

Hillsborough County, as chartered in 1834, encompassed what is now Pasco, Polk, Manatee, Sarasota, Desota, Charlotte, Highlands, Hardee, Pinellas and Hillsborough County. The county was named in honor of the Earl of Hillsborough, a titled Englishman with huge land holdings in Florida.

For many years, the history of Hillsborough County was primarily the history of Tampa. Even though the county was larger in area than some of the smaller states, it was so sparsely settled that there was little county organization and little county business for the officers. The small burg of Tampa was the county seat. References to other parts of the county during this time period are mostly lacking.

Tampa, in the early-mid 1800's was often referred to as a fishing village. This is false. Fishing played a minor part until recent times. Tampa was both a military encampment and a commercial district serving a large part of the southwestern region.

The true history of Hillsborough County predates its charter status by over 300 years. The first white man of record to reach Florida was Ponce de Leon in 1513. There are mixed opinions on whether he visited the Hillsborough County/Tampa Bay area. In 1528, Panfilo de Narvaez landed in Hillsborough County. He had been appointed to succeed Hernandez Cortez in Mexico. He and most of his followers perished before reaching Mexico.

When the white man first came to Hillsborough County he discovered many small Indian villages. The numbers of size of the shell mounds indicated that Indians had resided here for many centuries. Tribes of the Muskogans, Tomokans, Caloosas, Creeks, Tocobagas and Seminoles were present.

In March 1567, the Menendez flotilla sailed into Tampa Bay. Menendez met with the Tocobagans who seemed interested in using the Spanish soldiers as a peace keeping buffer between them and the Caloosas. After a 4 day conference Menendez was given permission to set up a mission at Tocobaga village. Menendez left soon afterward and relations between the Tocobagans and the Spanish began to sour. All residents of the mission were slaughtered.

Formal territorial government was established in 1822 with William P. Duval as governor. It was necessary to establish outposts to protect the settlers from the Seminoles, now the prevailing tribe. The outpost to the south was established on the present site of Tampa on March 5, 1823. Four companies of US troops from Pensacola under the command of Colonel George M. Brooke and Lieutenant Gadsden landed their vessels and moved to what later became known as the Garrison district. A fort was immediately erected which came to be known as Fort Brooke. For years few lived outside the garrison, the exceptions being a couple of families on the shores of the bay to the east and the members of a small colony who comprised the Spanish settlement on Spanishtown Creek, the bayshore section of what is now Hyde Park.

With the establishing of this garrison and the advent of the soldiers sent to quell the Indian disturbances, increased settlement occurred. Among the first pioneers were the Jackson, Ferris, Collier, Haskins and Givens families.

In 1835 the Seminoles made war. Known as the First Seminole War, it lasted from 1835 until 1842. Its cause is said to be the suspicions of the Indians in regard to treaties between the Seminoles and the United States in which the Seminoles agreed to move west beyond the Mississippi River to land offered them.

During this time, Fort Brooke became the chief supply depot. As many as 3,000 troops were stationed there. Fort King, located 100 miles to the north, was the station of next importance. Nothing but wilderness lay between. In December 1835, an order came to the Fort Brooke commander to send one company to Fort King. This company was led by Major Francis L. Dade. He and his company left Fort Brooke on December 23, 1835 for Fort King (site of the present city of Ocala). The company of 107 men was massacred.

In October, 1837, Osceola, the leader of the Seminoles, was captured. The war continued another 7 years, but the hostilities were somewhat diminished.

Definitions of Indian Tribes/Clans of Early Florida

Courtesy of Mike

1) "Muskogan" . Tribal names and their spellings are European inventions/phoenetic musings. The scientific academic community spelling is "Muskogee" or "Muskogean" and it refers to a Creek dialect or language-not a tribe (see "Creeks" below).

2) "Tomokans". This is the name of a park in north FL (Tomoka park) taken from the "accepted" tribal name "Timucuan" which were here when Narvaez landed.

3)"Caloosas". The accepted spelling for this tribe is Calusa.

4) "Creeks". These people came to FL from (what's now known as) Alabama in the 18th century.

5) "Tocobagas". They were in the bay area.

6) "Seminoles". The upper creeks settled fl. in 1767 and the word Seminole was attached to them ( by europeans) in 1771. Lower Creeks and some Appalachees joined them in 1778 and were assimilated be the "Seminoles".

Hillsborough County Published Resources and Lookup Volunteers

If you can offer your resources and talent to help another "rooter",  please consider volunteering!

We need more volunteers!!!!!!

Tampa Bay History Center. The librarian in our small research library will help with Family files, city directory lookups, cemetery records, etc. Mail:Tampa Bay History Center
Bearss family in Tampa, Florida (Lake Magdalene area) Tawnya Kumarakulasingam
I have Census records for 1860, 1870, 1880, 1900, 1910, and 1920 Hillsborough County. I began transcribing the local cemeteries and have finished Samford Cemetery in Riverview and am starting Hackney Cemetery. Shelia Taylor
"Citrus, Sawmills, Critters & Crackers" written by Elizabeth Reigler MacManus and her daughter Susan. It is over 540 pages long and lists information for Lutz and history on many of it's early residents. It Doesn't have cemeteries of the area. Lisa Wallen Logsdon

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