Monday, April 11, 2011

Hillsborough County History Part 3 of a Series

Within the first two decades of the 1800s, two distinct settlements had grown in present-day Hillsboroough County -- the Cuban settlement of Spanishtown Creek, near today's Hyde Park, and the Seminole village of Thlonotosassa, on the shore of Lake Thonotosassa.  These enclaves attracted little attention until after the transfer of Florida to the United States in 1821.

National and international attention shifted to Florida when General Andrew Jackson made an illegal foray into the territory in 1817 to aid Americans living on the Florida/Georgia border who were fighting the Seminoles and to capture runaway slaves.  Eventually, the United States would fight three wars against the Seminoles, with the last one (1855-1858) ending with the deportation of all but approximately 300 Seminoles from the state to the Indian Territory in Oklahoma.  This last group lived deep in the Everglades of south Florida.  From this determined group grew the Seminole Tribe of Florida and the Miccosukee Tribe of Florida of today.

As a result of early fighting between the Seminoles and white settlers, the American government established a series of forts throughout Florida. 

One of these, Fort Brooke, is now the nucleus of modern Tampa.  Fort Brooke was established in 1824 by Colonel George Mercer Brooke and Colonel James Gadsden.  During the Second Seminole War (1835-1842), the fort served as the United States Army's Southern Headquarters.  Future U. S. President Zachery Taylor, a general during the war, served at Fort Brooke.

Within a few years of its founding, a small village sprang from the northern boundary of the fort.  The first post office (1831) officially named the village Tampa Bay, but the name was soon shortened to Tampa.  The meaning and origin of the name has been debated for years, with no consensus, but a strong theory is it was the name of a native village (sometimes spelled Tanpa) on the bay.

The first town plots were laid out in the 1830s by Judge Augustus Steele, but these were invalidated by the US government because they included Fort Brooke property.  In 1847, the government reduced the size of the fort and donated the excess land to Hillsborough County.  The land was platted for sale, the proceeds of which would fund the construction of a new county courthouse in Tampa, which by this point was the county seat.  John Jackson completed the survey and drew the first official map of Tampa in 1853.

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