Celebrate Hillsborough County's birthday with historical highlights from the last 2,000 years

On Jan. 25, 1834, Hillsborough officially became Florida's 19th county. However, the area had a lot going on prior to being officially established in the early 19th century.

As we celebrate Hillsborough County's birthday, we invite you to enjoy a rich slice of local history. Learn about the region's earliest residents, significant historic happenings, the remarkable figures that have lent their names to notable places, and how you can do your own deep dive into Hillsborough's photography, artwork, news, genealogy, and more.

Early Indigenous residents

Some of the earliest identified residents to occupy the area now known as Hillsborough County are the Tocobaga. Despite thousands of years passing, their mark remains in Upper Tampa Bay Conservation Park. There, shell mounds - or "shell middens" - can be found. Middens are durable human-made heaps consisting of animal remains, broken pottery, and other community refuse. It's hypothesized that these mounds were created to protect estuarine habitats and to keep the mouth of the Double Branch Creek from shifting. Archeologists who have studied the area think that construction of these mounds and ridges may have begun roughly 2,000 years ago. Find more information about Hillsborough's middens.

The Uzita also called Hillsborough County home. The Uzita lived in South County, near the Little Manatee River (what is now Ruskin). They made up one of the many chiefdoms of the Safety Harbor people, a group of tribes that lived along the Tampa Bay shoreline around 900 CE to 1700 CE.

A collection of local Native American artifacts can be viewed at the Camp Bayou Outdoor Learning Center.

Faces behind the places

Does Gasparilla honor a real pirate named Jose Gaspar? Who was Dale Mabry and why is a major highway named after him?

Hillsborough County is full of interesting places with remarkable people behind their names. Explore namesakes of some of the county's well-known buildings, schools, parks, and roads at Faces behind the Places.

Historical markers

Remember the time Jimi Hendrix, one of the world's most innovative and influential electric guitarists, played in Hillsborough County? Or how about when Gibsonton, the former retirement community for circus performers, honored a 7-foot-4 husband and his 2-foot-6 wife for civic leadership? If this is the first time you're hearing about these happenings, you may want to brush up on Hillsborough County's historical markers. Here's just a few highlighting our county's remarkable past.

Bayshore Seawall - Photos of Bayshore Boulevard from over 100 years ago and a timeline of the iconic street tell the history behind the longest continuous sidewalk in the United States.

Miracle at Cockroach Bay - The Leisey Shell Fossils  - Thousands of Ice Age fossils - some 2 million years old - were discovered in Ruskin.

1937 Antifascist Women's March - Almost 90 years ago, the Latina community of Hillsborough County came together to protest the growing fascism movement taking root abroad.

Photography, artwork, genealogy, and more

Still curious about our county? The Hillsborough County Public Library Cooperative  (HCPLC) currently has 12 unique digital collections that each tell a vital story about the local history, culture, and people of Hillsborough County and Florida. There are over half a million items to explore, from historic images to artwork and genealogy records.

If you'd like to see what Hillsborough County looked like 200 years ago, take a look at the Burgert Brothers Photograph Collection. This collection presents a pictorial record of the commercial, residential, and social growth of the region and Florida's West Coast from the late 1800s to the early 1960s. The Burgert Brothers Photograph Collection includes 20,263 items that chronicle the history of the Tampa Bay area as it faced wars, natural disasters, economic booms, and busts.

Whether you're interested in Gasparilla festivities from the early 1900's, Hillsborough fashion of the 40s or 50s, or newspaper stories from the 70s and beyond, the HCPLC digital collection  will satisfy your interests.

The royal court gathers at a Gasparilla celebration. (Photo courtesy of Tampa-Hillsborough County Public Library System.)

Photo Information: (Top) First Gasparilla Parade, two couples seated in decorated 1903 Cadillac : Tampa, Fla. - Burgert Brothers Photographic Collection - Digital Collections (hcplc.org)
Image Caption: Portions of Bayshore Boulevard were paved with clay bricks in the 1920s. (Photo courtesy of Tampa-Hillsborough County Public Library System.)
Posted: 1/24/2024, 3:36:19 PM