Native American Settlers - The Early Days - A County Divided

Native American Settlers

Hernando County is now touted as being the center of Florida’s Nature Coast, but long before Florida was even a state, there was no beginning or end to the swamps and forests that lined Florida’s West coast.

But, by the early 1800s, Florida’s unspoiled land began to look promising for settlement, and the Native American tribes were pushed towards the center of the state, away from precious ports.

In 1823, Seminole Chief Black Dirt signed the Treaty of 1823 at Moultrie Creek. The treaty was one of the many used to force Native Americans farther south and toward the middle of the state. Chief Black Dirt took his tribe inland, started a village and called it Chokko Chatee.

The tribe was eventually pushed off the land and the area became what is now known as Brooksville.

The Early Days

In December 1838, a military outpost called Fort Cross was established and connected Fort DeSoto, Pierceville and Melendez. The small towns, not much more than outposts at the time, grew quickly as a result of the increase in traffic.

On February 24, 1843 Hernando was chartered as a county. On February 27 it was officially named Hernando after Spanish Conquistador Hernando DeSoto who led an expedition through Florida in 1539.

The first County Seat was established in DeSoto but, in 1853, it was moved to Pierceville because of its central location. But as Hernando grew as an exporter of cotton, produce and lumber, the port town of Bayport became an important area and, in December 1854, it was named the new county seat.

In December 1856, however, the County Seat was moved to Melendez, which was had just recentely been renamed to Brooksville in honor of Sen. Preston Brooks, a pro-slavery senator from South Carolina famous for beating an anti-slavery senator unconscious on the senate floor.

A County Divided

Originally, Hernando consisted of approximately three times the area it does now.

In January of 1877, Hernando was divded into three counties: Citrus, the northern third, Hernando, the central third, and Pasco, the southern third.

The photo below shows Hernando as it was before being divided.

Citrus, Hernando and Pasco Counties

The original version of this map is courtesy of the University of Texas at Austin.