Sunday, February 1, 2015

Hillsborough County History: Part Four of a Series

Two years after Jackson's map was complete, Tampa received a city charter from the State of Florida.  Prosperity seemed certain, but national politics held different plans for Tampa and Hillsborough County. On January 10, 1861, Florida became the third state to secede from the Union.

The Confederate Army held Fort Brooke throughout most of the Civil War.  It was shelled by Union warships on several occasions and was captured in May 1864.  After scouting the area for a day, the victors found nothing of use and abandoned the area.  They returned until after the war as occupation troops.

Alfred Beal
Floridians, during Reconstruction, struggled with a wide variety of issues.  Most Black Floridians were experiencing freedom for the first time.  Freedman from the Hillsborough County settlements of Hopewell, Knights and Springhead founded Bealsville, a community south of Plant City.  While the Homestead Act granted the land, it did not guarantee the claimants would become landowners.  To retain title, applicants had to construct homes, clear land and procure farming implements.  Despite the overwhelming odds, the community succeeded, and still exists to this day.

Freedom, too, held no guarantee. It was tainted with the continued indignities heaped upon by whites, both southern and the new northern "carpetbaggers" who came to Florida to turn a quick profit at the expense of southerners, both white and black.  Depression, both emotional and economic, hung over Hillsborough County.

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