Hillsborough County, Florida

Area, 1,300 sq. m.--Lat. 27* 20' to 28* 50' N.--Long. 82* to 82* 50' W.--Estimated pop. (1889), 14,000.---Pop. (1880), 5,814.--Assessed valuation (1888), $3,200,000.---County seat, Tampa.
This county, or the region adjacent, early received its name after the Earl of Hillsborough, Secretary of State for the colonies of Great Britain during the American Revolution.

The county was organized in 1835. It is mainly in the long-leaf pine region, naturally all woodland, with 1,185 square miles of rolling pine land, 75 square miles of marshly lowland, and 40 square miles of hammock. Of all the Gulf counties Hillsborough is perhaps the most favored in her coast line, which exceeds 150 miles in length, although from north to south the count is only 36 miles wide. This is due to Tampa Bay, which with its branches, Hillsborough Bay and River and Old Tampa Bay, pentrates far into the interior. About one quarter of the whole extent of coast is low and marshy, while the rest rises quite abruptly from the water's edge, often with bluffs and a border of fine beach. The greater part of the county is good pine land, with a fair amoount of hammock and some open prairie. The better lands for agricultural purposes lie in the western part.

Tampa Bay was one of the first discovered and used by the early navigators, and it is almost certain that traders and freebooters visited its waters prior to Hernando De Soto, who anchored there on May 25, 1539, with a fleet of several vessels, and a force of 570 men, comprising the very flower of Spanish chivalry. He brought with him, also, 223 horses, and the whole elaborate equipment of armorers, smiths, and servants essential to the needs of such a force. The Feast of Pentecost of that year fell on the day of arrival, and the noble bay was named Bahia Espiritu Sancto. (Bay of the Holy Spirit), after the devout custom of these early explorers. The Spanish name was for centuries retained on the maps, but it appears to have been dropped in favor of the still older Indian name soon after the English gained a foothold.

On the shores of the bay and along the Gulf coast and the outlying Keys are many Indian mounds of great interest to archaeologists. Some account of them is given elsewhere with a sketch of the results of such explorations as have thus far been prosecuted.

Tampa Bay is navigable for vessels of the largest class. The bar carries 20 feet of water at low tide, and good anchorage for yachts can be found almost anywhere within the bay. There are no dangerous obstructions, and the only difficulty likely to be encountered is in running upon the shoals which make out from the shore, and occasionally occur in mid channel. With a yacht properly constructed for service in these waters running aground is a matter of small moment. For hunters and fishermen the woods and waters of Hillsborough County offer abundant sport. All the game and fishes peculiar to Florida may be found within a few miles of the centres of population.

The South Florida Road, main line, has the following named stations near and within the county:

83 Lakeland (Polk Co.)1 48
88 Shiloh 43
93 Plant City.2 37
98 Cork 26
Dist. fr. 100 Sparkman 24 Dist. fr.
Jackson- 103 Seffner 21 Port
ville. 105 Mango 19 Tampa
109 Orient 15
111 East Cove 13
115 Tampa 9
124 Port Tampa 3 0

1 Connects with Bartow & Pemberton Ferry Branches, S. F. Rd.
2 Connects with F. R. & N. to Pasco County, Dade City, etc.
3 Connects with ocean steamers to Key West, Havana, New Orleans, and Mobile. Also with coastwise steamboats.

The Orange Belt Road, from Monroe, Volusia County, to St. Petersburg, enters Hillsborough County from the north near the Gulf and runs southward down the coast. The stations in and near the county are:

106 Odessa (Pasco Co.) 42
114 Tacony 34
116 Tarpon Springs 32
120 Sea Side 28
122 Sutherland 25
Dist. fr. 123 Yellow Bluff 25 Dist. fr.
Monroe. 127 Dunedin 21 St. Peters-
130 Clearwater Harbor 18 burg.
132 Armour 16
138 Cross Bayou 10
142 Lellman 6
148 St. Petersburg1 0

1Connects with ferry to Port Tampa and coastwise steamboats.

[Source: A HANDBOOK OF FLORIDA: by Charles Ledyard Norton, 1890.] Transcribed by Sheila Massie.

Tampa First a Military Post

Old Tampa Bay was first named Espiritu Santo Bay (Holy Spirit), by Hernando DeSoto, the Spanish explorer, who landed near Tampa, May 25, 1539 on Whitsunday. Afterward it was called Tampa Bay, after the Indian settlement, Tampa---Tampa itself being an Indian name. The Spanish government had owned the territory of Florida for nearly three centuries, when in 1821 “The Exchange of Flags” proclaimed the ownership of the United States Government. Three years after this, February, 1824, Colonel George Marshall Brooke, with a detachment of United States troops, was sent here to locate a camp or cantonment, to protect the Government’s property---the beautiful live oak grove in that portion known as The Garrison. On December 10, 1830 the cantonment was made a military reservation of sixteen square miles, which was named Fort Brooke, after Colonel Brooke. The post became the most important in Florida as a protection for the white settlers against the Indians, and Tampa was headquarters for the outlying military posts: Fort Dade, Fort Myers, Fort Meade and others.

Tampa was distinctly a military post from the time Fort Brooke was established, continuing so for half a century. All the pioneers who are still living, declare that it was never a fishing village, as it has sometimes been called. In real pioneer days the only fishing camp in South Florida was Hunter’s Fishery, located on the Big Manatee River. No fish were ever shipped out of Tampa until Plant’s South Florida Railroad was built. The first fish transactions, excepting the local markets, was begun in recent years by John Savarese and the McIlvaine brothers. The streets in Fort Brooke had shell roads and walks even in the early thirties, making the post very attractive. It was by nature a beautiful spot with its magnificent live oaks, heavily hung with Spanish moss, bounded on one side by the Hillsborough river and on another by the Hillsborough Bay, which joins its waters with those of Tampa Bay, and the Gulf of Mexico. The first city site comprised one hundred and sixty acres, which the Government turned over to Tampa. Washington street became the principle business street of today. Ox teams and mule teams were the only means of hauling and traveling about the village and through the country. Settlers came for twenty-five miles or more to Tampa for their provisions and mail. The officers and soldiers who had families brought them here, and civilians immigrated from time to time, until the village grew slowly but surely into a city. The first families underwent many privations. They raised and ginned their cotton; spun it into yarn, which they dyed with wild indigo; wove into goods, and made up into garments for wear. They had no schools at first, but taught their own children as best they could. They saw much of war, the men going forth to battle in the Seminole war of 1835-42, many of them never returning. Again duty called forth surviving ones in the war between the States of 1861-65. The heroism of the pioneers, not only of the men but of the women, and the strong, unwavering effort of these founders of Tampa in establishing and maintaining their homes, and therefore the town itself, should command the deep respect and love of every patriotic citizen.

The original military reservation of sixteen square miles was reduced by executive orders as war troubles ceased, until in 1878 only a comparatively small portion remained. On January 4, 1883 the reservation was relinquished and was transferred by the Secretary of War to the Interior Department. The land was restored to public domain under the law then in force, and was open to homestead claims. The officers’ headquarters, which is still standing as one of the few landmarks of pioneer days in this now prominent city of sixty-five thousand population, is a frame building which replaced the original log building first used by the army officers and which has been burned. After the abandonment of the post in 1883 this building was being torn down when Dr. Edmund S. Carew and his wife, Lizzie W. Carew, came to Tampa. By Dr. Carew’s request the building was left standing. He then entered homestead claim for one hundred and sixty acres in Fort Brooke, and the large old building became their home. Litigation followed and for a number of years the settlers in that portion of the city who had purchased on homestead lands, were doubtful of being able to hold them. The litigation was finally settled in 1905, Mrs. Carew, widow of Dr. Carew, and other claimants of the section holding a portion of their claims. The question of rights to properties in the Garrison having been settled the development of Tampa’s harbor in that section forged ahead and Tampa has today a $38,000,000 port, which is the nearest available port of importance in the United States to the Panama Canal.


Although the history set forth here is not intended to reach beyond the period of 1870, and no families are recorded herein which came to Tampa later than that period, it is almost imperative to mention the cigar industry, as Tampa has become the most important cigar manufacturing city in the world. Thirty million dollars was brought to Tampa during the year 1913 by the cigar industry, 284,000,000 cigars being shipped out of Tampa during the year. This industry makes Tampa the eleventh city in the United States as a revenue producer for the government. V. Martinez Ybor, Edward Manrara and Sanchez & Haya were the pioneers in the manufacture of cigars in Tampa, coming here in 1886. Ybor City was founded then and named for Mr. Ybor, who is called the “Father of the Cigar Industry in Tampa.” Great destinies are sometimes determined by small incidents. There is such an incident, known only to a few, which is here published for the first time and which turned the tide for Tampa. Mr. Ybor was seeking a location for cigar factories in Florida, and many propositions had been made by him to different cities, but no decision had been reached. One day a telegraph operator here received a telegram from the town of Sanford addressed to V. Martinez Ybor, telling him to come at once, that the town of Sanford had accepted his proposition to locate the cigar factories there. The operator was so upset that he read the telegram aloud, and George H. Packwood, St., who was sitting in the office heard it. The latter having Tampa’s welfare at heart, knew that something must be done at once to save the day. He took the liberty to have an answer sent back to Sanford stating that it was too late, as Tampa had just closed the deal bringing the cigar factories here. Mr. Packwood then notified the Secretary of the Board of Trade, who called a meeting at once and the deal to locate the proposed factories was made. Citizens of Tampa then gave a large tract of land and Ybor City was founded. The factories of Ybor & Manrara and Sanchez & Haya were built at the same time, the latter being the first to open. West Tampa later also became a center for manufacture of cigars.


(Note: For the easier tracing of the families recorded here, the names of the heads of each family and the first descendants of each are printed in italic letters.)

BROWN---W. Charles Brown came to Tampa from Athens, Ohio, in November, 1855. He was a civil engineer, and the clerk of court of the city at one time. He served in the Seminole Indian war, being one of Captain Sparkman’s company. He married Mary E. Hager, June 23, 1859, who came here December 8, 1855 from St. Augustine, Fla., with her mother, Mrs. Florencia Hager, the latter afterward marrying Louis Bell. Mr. Brown surveyed some of the outlying land around Tampa. He died December 31, 1904. His widow and their four children are still living. The children are: Mrs. Mary Sidney (Tom) Gibbons, Mrs. Minnie (Louis) Carney, of Port Tampa; Flossie and Karl, the last two named being unmarried. The widow and descendants, except Mrs. Carney, live on Washington street, this city.

COLLER-JACKSON---Levi Coller was, as far as can be ascertained, about the first American white pioneer of the city of Tampa, who was a permanent settler. He was of English and German descent, and came from Massachusetts to St. Augustine in 1812, married Nancy Dixon, of English and French ancestry two years later. During the war of 1812 Florida was a bone of contention of Spain, England and American governments. After the restoration of peace, the Coller family moved to Alachua County. About the year 1823 Mr. Coller came to Tampa prospecting, with a view of....(Incomplete transcription).

[Source: The Blue Book and History of Pioneers, Tampa, Fla. (1914) by Mrs. Pauline Brown-Hazen; Tribune Publishing Company] (Transcribed by Nina Kramer)

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