Photo of early settlers in the Blountstown, Florida area. (Click for larger view.)

Florida Settlement

by Frank Howard
© May 31, 1995

In the early days not many people seemed interested in living in Florida. The Indians had tired of the constant wars and attempts to enslave them. Most of them had simply left the area. The Spanish had deemed it too hostile and not worth the effort (no gold worthy of interest had been found!!). St. Augustine and Pensacola, with their good harbors, were okay but the rest of Florida was not worth much to them. St. Marks was in and then out of the picture. Even the site chosen for the Territory's Capitol was a mostly deserted place (Old Fields!). The nearby Indian town of Tallahassa Taloofa (from somewhere near the corner of North Monroe and Monticello Drive, where the Tallahassee Mall now stands, over toward North Florida Christian School on N. Meridian Road) was mostly deserted by the 1824 trip to choose the capital site.

The entire area was devoid of major population except for a small area around Quincy, Florida. A few settlers had moved there even before Florida was ceded back from the Spanish. Word soon spread that the hills of north Florida were indeed good land and the plantation period began.

But what about the southern lowland parts of the territory? The Indian wars brought many soldiers and camp followers into Florida. Some stayed, and some returned north. By the time of statehood in 1845, Florida had about 60,000 residents.

Given all that, it was the pioneer railroad development that began in the 1880's that actually triggered the settlement of Florida. By 1980, 100 years after the railroad, Florida had a population of 9.7 million, ranked 7th largest population of the 50 states, and had an average of 180.1 persons per square mile.

more articles by F. Howard
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