History of Tallahassee

Brief history of Tallahassee

Tallahassee is the capital city of the State of Florida. It is the largest city of Northwest Florida, but only the 7th largest city of the whole state. According to the 2010 census, the capital has 181,376 citizens, but according to the 2016 estimations, the number has risen to a little over 190,000.


The history of the Florida state capital begins with the Spanish, the first Europeans to step foot on the today’s Tallahassee area, in the 16th century. In 1528, Spanish Conquistador Pánfilo de Narváez and 400 of his man found refuge in the part of Florida just around today’s Tallahassee, after many hurricanes and Indian attacks. But it was in another wave of Spanish explorers that the exact area of the state’s capital was inhabited, when Henrique de Soto occupied Anhaica, an Apalachee town, today’s Tallahassee, in 1538.

Due to de Soto’s brutality towards the Native Americans, his and all other missions by the Spanish explorers in the territory of the Apalachee, were not very peacefully welcomed. There were three Seminole wars fought in that and the surrounding areas, also known as the Florida wars, in the beginning of the 18th century between the Seminoles and the US Army.

Becoming the capital

Up until 1821, Florida was a Spanish territory, and in that year it was finally ceded to the United States. Now there was a need to designate the new state’s capital city, to find a most convenient central location. Two of the most important cities at the time were St. Augustine and Pensacola, which had functioned as capitals of East and West Florida respectively, former Spanish territories. The legislative sessions were held in the two cities alternately, but since it was quite a journey to travel from one end of the state to the other, it was decided to choose a central location at equal distance from both cities, and that is how Tallahassee became the capital.

From the 19th century until today

Second half of the nineteenth century saw the development of the education and universities in Tallahassee, now a well-known college city. Educational institutions that led to and later became the Florida State University began opening and developing. The year of 1843 saw the founding of the Tallahassee Female Academy, and later, in 1854, the Florida Institute was opened. In 1851 it was decreed by a legislature that two seminaries are to be built, West and East Florida Seminary.

The ancestor of today’s Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, Normal College for Colored Students, opened its doors in 1887, designating Tallahassee as the best place for African-American students. It later changed its name to State Normal and Industrial College for Colored Students.

Up until the second half of the 20th century Tallahassee was only a small, average southern town. But after the World War II and with the development of the universities and the state government strengthening its hold and economic influence in it, the city became the developed and progressive capital that it is today.

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