The best county in Florida celebrates its 190th birthday on Jan. 25 with a look back at its early days
When you think of Hillsborough County, images of stunning waterways, Hiking in Hillsborough County, and fresh strawberries may be some of the first to come to mind. However, there's more to your favorite county than meets the eye. Throughout its 190 years, Hillsborough has acquired a rich history, including a Northern Irish name of noble heritage.
Earl of Hillsborough
Hillsborough County was named after Wills Hill, the first British Secretary of State to the Colonies from 1768-1772. From 1751 to 1789, he was named Earl of Hillsborough in the Peerage of Ireland. The Peerage of Ireland refers to titles of nobility, such as duke, marquess, earl, viscount, and baron, which were created by English monarchs. Royal Hillsborough, more commonly known as Hillsborough, is a village in Northern Ireland, south of Belfast.
In 1772, Hill was also made Earl of Hillsborough in the Peerage of Great Britain. Though he was appointed Marquess of Downshire in 1789 (a higher noble ranking than earl), he was simply known as the Earl of Hillsborough in North America.
Hillsborough County is not the only locale named after Hill. Hillsborough Township, New Jersey, Hillsborough County, New Hampshire, the town of Hillsborough, New Hampshire (within the county), and the town of Hillsborough, North Carolina, were also named after the earl.
Days of yore
Hillsborough County was first mapped and explored by the Spanish in the early 16th century. Between 1559 and 1819, the area now called Florida was under the rule of four nations: Spain, France, Great Britain, and the United States. The United States purchased Florida from Spain in 1821 for $5 million.
On Jan. 25, 1834, the U.S. Legislative Council for the Territory of Florida approved an act organizing Hillsborough as Florida's 19th county. In 1845, Florida was granted statehood.
At that time, Hillsborough County was a sprawling area that included what is now Pinellas, Polk, Manatee, Sarasota, Charlotte, DeSoto, Hardee, and Highlands Counties, most of Glades County, and part of Lee County. Despite its size, Hillsborough's population was only 836, not including soldiers or Native Americans.
Hillsborough County today
Today, about 1.5 million people call Hillsborough County home. Residents and visitors appreciate its expansive Parks & Leisure, Homegrown Hillsborough, events, and public services. As the area continues to grow and evolve, people from around the world come to enjoy its offerings and celebrate Hillsborough as Florida's finest county.