A Time Travel Through Florida - Part 3 of 5
19th Century Florida
In 1821, after the acquisition of Florida from Spain, Andrew Jackson established a territorial government. The state now became attractive to individuals from the older plantations of the South, especially those from Virginia, Georgia, and the Carolinas. By 1824, Tallahassee became the state capital. Fort Brooke was also established in the area that is today’s downtown Tampa.
As the number of white settlers grew, so did the pressure on the federal government to remove the Native Americans from their lands. Also, many African Americans, which had escaped the clutches of the slave masters, took refuge among the Native American tribes. Captain Andrew Jackson was elected president in 1829, and he ended up spending an astounding twenty million dollars in his effort to remove the Seminoles from central Florida. The Native American war chief Osceola refused to leave his homeland. The conflict between Jackson and Osceola started the Second Seminole War, which lasted from 1835 to 1842. Osceola was both respected and feared because of his fighting abilities, bravery, strength, and adaptability—all of which made him a formidable leader and warrior.
During this war, white Floridians concentrated their efforts on developing the newly acquired territory as they launched their efforts to gain statehood. The population of Florida during this period was around 55,000, half of which was comprised of African American slaves. The area South of present-day Gainesville had very few white settlers.
A settlement was started on West Central Florida at the edge of the bay and became known as Tampa. The word Tampa was derived from the Calusa village called Tanpa, which translates to “stick of fire”. Tampa had its own set of problems that they managed to endure. They faced their share of skirmishes with the Seminoles and yellow fever epidemics. By 1845, the Village of Tampa was officially recognized. The Village of Tampa had to endure another devastating challenge—a hurricane-generated tidal wave that leveled the entire village in 1848. Undeterred by the destruction, the Village of Tampa was rebuilt in 1850, and, by 1855, Tampa was officially recognized as a city.
Tampa started to flourish with the arrival of Henry B. Plant and the railroad in 1884. The birth of Florida tourism was the brainchild of Mr. Plant as he continued to develop the area. One of Tampa’s most prominent icons was the Moorish-style Tampa Bay Hotel, which was built by Henry B. Plant in 1891. Unfortunately, the Great Depression that started in 1929 brought the hotel down. Eventually, it was resurrected, in 1933, as a center of learning. The Tampa Bay Hotel still stands proud, and today it is known as The University of Tampa.
Next week our travel continues into the latter period of 19th century Florida and we will meet the three dominant cultures that contributed so much to the Sunshine State: the Spanish, Cuban, and Italian settlers.