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Hernando residents attended court in Newnansville, Alachua County, for a time, until locating a county seat at "DeSoto." This was later moved to
Bayport, then Pierceville, and finally Brooksville. The name may honor another controversial antebellum politician, South Carolina congressman Preston Brooks, whom history remembers chiefly for having savagely caned abolitionist Charles Sumner on the floor of the Senate.

Brooksville's first courthouse was located in the home of Maj. Isaac Garrison, who lived in Chicuchatta Hammock in what was then called
"Melendez." In 1855 Joseph Hale donated land for a wooden courthouse, which served until destroyed by fire in 1877. A second wooden structure was built in 1878, accompanied by appointment of a volunteer fire brigade. The current Hernando County Courthouse dates from 1913. The postcard view to the right is postmarked 1917. In the 1970's the county commission debated razing and replacing it, but local residents protested emphatically, one writing a poem declaring the structure "the Brooksville crown" and the city bereft of it "a headless torso." After a referendum the building was spared and an annex constructed instead.

Contributed by Norita Moss


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  Around 1840, Fort DeSoto was established in present-day Hernando County in the northeast edge of present-day Brooksville to protect settlers in the area from Native Americans. Fort DeSoto became a small community center, trading post, and way station on the route to Tampa. When settlement by the fort began around 1845, it was alternatively known as Pierceville.

Then encompassing a significantly larger area of west central Florida than it does today, Hernando County was officially established on February 27, 1843, two years prior to Florida's admission into the Union. It was created from portions of Alachua, Hillsborough and Orange Counties and included all of present day Citrus and Pasco Counties. Named for Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto, whose name has also been honored in De Soto County, Hernando County was briefly renamed Benton County in 1844 for Missouri Senator Thomas Hart Benton, a strong supporter of territorial expansion who aided in the county's creation. However, Benton fell out of favor with the county's residents later in the decade due to his decision to support the Missouri Compromise and overall reversal of his stance on slavery, and the county's name reverted in 1850.

In December 1854, the legislature designated the small port town of Bayport the County Seat. Residents living in the eastern section of the county instead desired a more central place for the county government, and by 1855, voters had selected an inland site within five miles (8 km) of the center of the county at the town of Melendez. In 1856, the citizens of the Hernando County chose to rename the town, their new County Seat, Brooksville in honor of South Carolina Representative Preston Brooks, who in the same year beat fierce abolitionist Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner with a cane in the Senate chambers, winning the Congressman great renown in the South.

In 1855, town founder Joseph Hale donated land for a county courthouse in the center of present-day Brooksville. Soon thereafter, the structure was completed servicing the county until September 29, 1877, when it was destroyed in a fire.

During the Civil War, Hernando County primarily contributed foodstuffs, cotton, and lumber to the Confederacy. Although Union ships imposed a blockade on the port of Bayport, runners enjoyed a great deal of success--enough to lead the Union in June 1864 to order some 150-250 troops to destroy Confederate stockpiles in the county. In early July, the expedition marched northward from Anclote River to Brooksville, meeting some resistance from assembled Confederate troops hastily organized to protect the city. The Federal troops won this engagement (known locally as the Brooksville Raid) and marched to Bayport, where they and an auxiliary force landing from gunboats sacked Rebel operations. The skirmish between Union raiders and local Confederates is reenacted annually in the county.

On January 2, 1887, the Florida State Legislature divided Hernando County into three independent counties: Pasco County to the south, Citrus County to the north, and Hernando County in the middle. Since then, Hernando County's borders have remained unchanged.

Contributed by Norita Moss


Cities and towns

Incorporated
Brooksville (click for photo)
Weeki Wachee

Unincorporated
Aripeka
Bayport
Brookridge
Garden Grove
Hernando Beach
High Point
Hill 'n Dale
Istachatta
Lake Lindsey
Masaryktown
Nobleton
North Brooksville
North Weeki Wachee
Pine Island
Ridge Manor
Ridge Manor West
South Brooksville
Weeki Wachee Gardens
Spring Hill

 

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