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Pre-Columbian The original inhabitants of the Temple Terrace area were known as the Tocobaga, a group of Native Americans living around Tampa Bay, both in prehistoric and historic times, until roughly 1760. Their numbers declined in the seventeenth century, due, at least in part, to diseases brought to the New World by the Europeans, to which the natives had little natural resistance. All of the Florida tribes were also severely affected by the raids of Creeks and Yamasee during the late stages of the seventeenth century. In any case, the Tocobaga disappeared from history less than a hundred years later.

Spanish Exploration Spanish exploration of the area dates back to 1757 when Spanish explorer Don Francisco Maria Celi of the Spanish Royal Fleet made his way up the Hillsborough River (naming it "el Rio de San Julian y Arriaga") to what is now Riverhills Park in search of pine trees to use as masts for his ships. Here, in the extensive longleaf pine forest, he erected a cross in what he named "El Pinal de la Cruz de Santa Teresa" (the Pine Forest of the Cross of Saint Theresa). Confirmation of the fleet's travels is found in its map and log book. An historic marker and a replica of the cross erected to honor St. Theresa is found in Riverhills Park today. Up to 1913, the longleaf pine trees made the area suitable for turpentine manufacturing and logging.

Early Tocobaga Indians, whose primary diet consisted of fish and shellfish, are depicted in this painting by Florida historical artist Dean Quigley.


This illustrated map of the Temple Terrace area was found with the log book of Spanish explorer, Don Francisco Maria Celi, and dates from around 1757.