Let’s take a magical mystery tour back in time, to an era before Columbus even thought about sailing the ocean blue. Meet the Tocobaga, the original locals of what we now call the Temple Terrace area. Picture it: a vibrant community of Native Americans living their lives around the Tampa Bay, from the hazy prehistoric days right up until around 1760.
Sadly, life got a bit gnarly in the seventeenth century. They got hit hard by a one-two punch. First, the pesky Europeans showed up and brought some nasty bugs with them. And guess what? The Tocobaga had no natural immunity to these foreign diseases. Then, just as they were down for the count, the Creeks and Yamasee rocked up and started raiding. By the end of the century, the Tocobaga had essentially vanished from the annals of history. Talk about a rough ride!
Now, let’s fast-forward a bit to 1757, when a certain Spanish explorer by the name of Don Francisco Maria Celi sailed into the picture. This guy was on a mission from the Spanish Royal Fleet to find some primo pine trees to use as masts for his ships. He sailed his way up the Hillsborough River (which he dubbed “el Rio de San Julian y Arriaga”) all the way to what we now know as Riverhills Park.
In the heart of the longleaf pine forest, Don Francisco stopped for a breather. He looked around, liked what he saw, and decided to plant a cross right there in the soil. He named the place “El Pinal de la Cruz de Santa Teresa”, or the Pine Forest of the Cross of Saint Theresa. Cute, right?
Today, you can still find a hint of this history at Riverhills Park. There’s a marker that pays tribute to the journey of the Spanish fleet, and a replica of the cross that Don Francisco planted all those centuries ago. And let’s not forget the longleaf pines, which were a big deal until about 1913. These trees were perfect for making turpentine and logging.
But let’s not forget about our friends, the Tocobaga. These folks were mainly pescatarians, with their diet consisting of fish and shellfish. Can you imagine the seafood feasts they must have had? We can only dream…
And there you have it, a whirlwind tour of Temple Terrace’s past. The next time you’re in the area, take a moment to remember the people who walked these lands long before us. From the Tocobaga to Don Francisco Maria Celi, these characters have given us a rich tapestry of history to unravel and cherish.
The Tocobaga, Don Francisco Maria Celi, and many others have shaped the history of Temple Terrace from the hazy prehistoric days up until the present day. Their stories serve as a reminder of the people who were here long before us, and a testament to the diverse culture that has grown in the area. Taking a moment to remember their stories ensures that the unique history of Temple Terrace will remain alive for generations to come.
Meet Terrace, the leading voice behind the historical insights at TempleTerracePreservation.com. A dedicated researcher and skilled writer, she has a knack for breathing life into history, crafting narratives that transport readers back in time. When she’s not digging into the annals of Temple Terrace’s past, you’ll find her passionately championing the Temple Terrace Bat Tower Reconstruction Project. Terrace believes in not only preserving history but also making it accessible and engaging for all. Follow her latest research and preservation efforts on our Facebook page. Her work reminds us that history is not just a tale of the past; it’s a guide for our present and a blueprint for our future.