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History of Clearwater Beach, Florida

Information for Florida Vacations in Clearwater


The Tocobaga Indians first settled the Clearwater and Tampa bay areas around 900 A.D. and, like the Timucua and Caloosa Indians, were known for constructing various ceremonial and communal mounds. The Tocobagas were skilled craftsman, including many potters, living mainly from the seafood that are plentiful in the area. They were also known to raise corn, making them one of the few agricultural tribes in Florida.

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The Tampa Bay area was visited by several Spanish explorers prior to European settlement in the area. In 1528, Pánfilo de Narváez visited the Tocobagan village at Safety Harbor. Hernando de Soto visited the Tampa Bay area in 1539. Hernando de Escalante Fontaneda, a shipwreck survivor who lived with the Indians of southern Florida from 1549-1566, spoke of the Tocobaga in his story and in 1567 Pedro Menéndez de Avilé visited the Safety Harbor site.

The Federal Armed Occupation Act of 1842 gave 160 acres of land in Florida to any head of family or single man over 18 who would bear arms and cultivate the land. Among the first to take advantage of this Act in the Clearwater area was James Stevens, Samuel Stevenson, and the seven McMullen brothers. Most settlers to the area farmed vegetables and raised cotton for export, with a few fishing the nearby waters.

During the Civil War, while most men of the Cleawater area were away fighting for the Confederacy, Clearwater and the surrounding area became a frequent target of Union gunboats raiding for supplies. In 1888, when the first railroad reached the area, the community had 18 families. The Historic Belleview Biltmore hotel was built by railroad tycoon Henry Plant in 1897, to increase passengers on his trains. The community of Clear Water Harbor gradually changed its name to Clearwater and was incorporated as a city in 1915 three years after Pinellas county was created from the western portions of Hillsborough County.

It was during this time that the first hospital was built in Clearwater, using money donated and raised by Morton F. Plant, son of Henry Plant. Andrew Carnegie donated money to build Clearwater's first library and the first wooden bridge was built connecting Clearwater with Clearwater Beach. In the 1940's the Philadelphia Phillies baseball team began to play Spring Training games in Clearwater.

During World War II, Clearwater became a major training center for the U.S. Army, with almost every hotel in the area being used as barracks for the recruits. It became common for traffic in Cleawater to become backed up due to the soldiers marching in the streets. Nearby Sand Key was used as a training area for fighter-bomber target practice. Many of the recruits that trained here returned after the war to start their families.















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