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Early Spanish explorers to visit the area interacted extensively (and violently) with the Tocobaga, whose principal town was located at the northern end of Old Tampa Bay near today's Safety Harbor in Pinellas County.
While there is a substantial historical record of the Tocobaga (and the Calusa, who lived far to the south), there is less surviving documentation describing the Pohoy chiefdom, which controlled the area near the mouth of the Hillsborough River near today's downtown Tampa.
The town grew slowly, and had become a minor shipping port for cattle and citrus by the time of the United States Civil War. Census data showed an average annual growth of 2.47 percent, or a gain of approximately 97,000 residents per year.
Expeditions led by Pánfilo de Narváez and Hernando de Soto landed near Tampa, but neither conquistador stayed long.It was home to 185 civilians, or 974 total residents including military personnel, in 1850.During the Civil War, Florida seceded along with most of the southern states to form the Confederate States of America, and Fort Brooke was manned by Confederate troops.The indigenous cultures of the Tampa Bay area had collapsed by around 1600, leaving the west coast of Spanish Florida largely depopulated and ignored for more than 200 years.In the mid-18th century, events in the American colonies and early United States drove the Seminole people into northern Florida, but they did not move into central Florida until after the United States gained control of Florida in 1821.
A later Spanish expedition did not notice the mouth of Charlotte Harbor while sailing north along the west coast of Florida and assumed that the current Tampa Bay was the bay they sought, thus accidentally transferring the name on Spanish navigational charts.