TAMPA: ITS ORIGINS - 1821-1885
January 22, 1824 � Colonel GEORGE MERCER BROOKE and two others
entered Hillsborough Bay in a small yawl after picking up a muslin message on a
stick planted in a beach that became Gadsden’s Point. The message from James Gadsden
was to meet at the northeast bank of the mouth of the Hillsborough River
to set up a military post, as prescribed by the TREATY OF MOULTRIE CREEK, to distribute supplies to the Indians.
Gadsden expressed other interests: such an outpost would
promote Southern settlement along the coast and could be used to halt the flow
southward of escaped slaves from Georgia
While Monroe’s plan called for an Indian
reservation in south central Florida, Gadsden
and friend WILLIAM POPE DuVAL, former Kentucky Congressman and second
Territorial Governor, hoped the fort would lead to the removal of the Indians
engineering of the Treaty at Moultrie Creek assured that Tampa
Bay and the Manatee River
was outside reservation area. He even got Brooke (to his embarrassment) to oust
a competitive lumbering venture by Robert Hackney from the mouth of the
With 200 men from the Fourth Infantry out of Pensacola, Brooke set up a tent city at Spanishtown Creek (Hyde Park)
and ferried men across the river to clean the dense woods. Hackney’s home
served as officer�s headquarters as the
quarters were built. Brooke, who later brought his wife and three kids to the
fort, allowed families and even some women to settle into the complex. Massachusetts-born
A. LEVI COLLAR and his family were the first to arrive.
The wealthier soldiers obtained slaves to do labor in Fort Brooke.
The most notable slave was LOUIS FATIO
PACHECO, raised on a farm on the St. Johns River
and skilled in French, Spanish,
English, and Creek. He became an official interpreter to the military. Brooke
was sympathetic to Creeks and Seminoles who came to the camp one mile northeast
of the Fort (Government Spring, Ybor City) and
resentful of slavecatchers and wayward settlers.
The death of two of his children to bilious
fever convinced Brooke to transfer from the isolated fort. In July of 1832, the
fort was abandoned with no assignments.
The departure of Brooke allowed more Middle
Florida civilians like Hector and Joseph
Braden, John and Robert Gamble,
and John Addison to enter the region, but it was Augustus Steele, a bankrupted newsman, who settled into the
Village and promoted a post office and The Gouger newspaper. The
settlers allied with the Hackley family whose Spanish
deed gave the civilians authority over the land of the sixteen mile square Fort
Brooke Military site.
In 1834 Steele convinced his Tallahassee
friends to establish 8,580 square miles of West Coast wilderness to be declared
Hillsborough County.Steele got Tampa as a county capital even though there
was no seperate village.
In 1833, the dubious Treaty of Fort Gibson (Arkansas),
calling for the exodus of the Florida tribes
was signed by some Seminole leaders. When younger members and the tribes in the
Peace River area opposed the forced migration, Indian Agent Wiley Thompson
called for the return of troops to Fort
The next months were chaos as events in the
interior was filled with violence and terror, while Indians arrived at Fort Brooke
for shipment to Oklahoma.
A treaty backer Chief Charley Emathla was killed by
Osceola and his Red Stick Creeks.� General
Clinch ordered two companies of troops to reinforce Fort
King (Ocala). The recently
arrived MAJOR FRANCIS L. DADE,
who had already gained a reputation of conflict with the Seminoles.
Dade was actually warned by a friendly chief
that his presence would cause the militants to mobilize. Ironically, at the
last minute before his march to Fort
King, Dade recruited
Louis Fatio Pacheco to serve as interpreter for his
troops. Dade did not realized Pacheco had already sent
a warning message to his Indian friends or Dade�s
On December 27, 1835, Major Dade and his one
hundred troops marched into an ambush, in which a couple of wounded men and
Pacheco survived. There was panic at Fort
Brooke, where Major
Francis Belton, anticipating an Indian attack, destroyed most of the houses to
erect a small triangular fort with blockhouses. The civilian homes were ruined.
No attack came for the Indians concentrated on attacks to the north. The Indian�s victory was also the source of their demise
as Northerners in Congress were forced to send more troops to a �future� slave state.
On February 9, 1836, GENERAL EDMUND GAINES arrived from Pensacola
with 450 regulars and 600 Louisiana
volunteers. The added protection boosted Steele’s plans for Tampa
but by 1840, Tampa
had just seventy-seven whites, ten slaves, and five free blacks. Across the
river in what became Hyde Park was Spanishtown Creek, a small spring with several homes of
Cuban fishermen and straw basket makers.
An 1841 law
allowing 160 acres of land for $1.25 per acre and a law offering land to
Seminole War vets would bolster population growth once the Seminole War
The soldiers treated the small civilian
population as another burden, but on March 3, 1845, Florida
gained statehood and the departure of soldiers for the Mexican War shifted the
politics of Tampa
toward private development.
The people who developed Hillsborough County
in the late 1840’s and 1850’s were mainly from Georgia
and the Carolinas. The dream of developing a
railroad to Olustee to the north promoted investment,
although Yulee�s railroad went across the
state to Cedar Key. A more significant development was the growth of small
plantations and cattle ranches in the interior. This increased the area’s
African-American slave population until it reached 25% at the time of the Civil
By 1860, Tampa had become a market town for the entire
inland region - its protected river location on the West Coast’s largest harbor
made in a good location for trade. The coming of the Civil War ended that
situation, and with Union gunboats entering Tampa
Bay, Tampa became a semi-deserted town as
townsfolk headed into the interior for protection. Federal forces used Egmont
Key as a port to blockade the region and while smugglers like John McKay sailed
to Cuba, Tampa’s usefulness was ended.
When the Civil War ended, Tampa’s condition was slowed by the conflict
of Reconstruction and lack of funding. Tampa
was open to development, particularly by railroad. Tampa
still resembled most Deep South ports:
agricultural by nature; Anglo and African-American by population; and
Protestant by faith. All of that would soon change in Tampa.