History of Tallahassee, Florida

Tallahassee is one of the oldest towns in Florida.

Tallahassee, the capital city of Florida, has a rich and fascinating history that spans hundreds of years. Its story involves Native American settlements, European exploration, colonial rule, territorial changes, and eventual statehood.

Before the arrival of European settlers, the Tallahassee region was home to numerous Native American tribes, including the Apalachee, Creek, and Seminole peoples. These tribes lived off the land, grew crops and traded with neighboring tribes.

Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto was one of the first Europeans to arrive in the area in 1539. He led an expedition through Florida, encountering several Native American villages along the way. The Spanish attempted to establish missions in the region during the 17th century to convert the indigenous population to Christianity.

Over the years, the area experienced shifts in control between the Spanish and the British. The region was ceded to Britain in 1763 after the Seven Years’ War (also known as the French and Indian War) through the Treaty of Paris. However, the Spanish regained control of Florida in 1783 after the American Revolutionary War.

In 1821, Florida became a United States territory, and two years later, Tallahassee was designated as the capital of the new territory.

This decision was influenced by its central location between the eastern and western parts of Florida, as well as the relatively high elevation, which provided some protection against floods and hurricanes.

On March 3, 1845, Florida was admitted as the 27th state of the United States. During the Civil War, Tallahassee became an important Confederate stronghold. It was actually the only Confederate state capital east of the Mississippi River that was not captured by Union forces during the conflict.

After the Civil War, Tallahassee, like much of the South, faced the challenges of Reconstruction. The city slowly rebuilt its economy and infrastructure.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Tallahassee saw significant growth and development. Educational institutions like Florida State College for Women (now Florida State University) and Florida A&M University were established, shaping the city’s future as an educational hub.

In the 20th century, Tallahassee was also a focal point of the Civil Rights Movement in Florida. The city experienced sit-ins, protests, and other demonstrations to challenge racial segregation and discrimination.

Throughout the 20th century, Tallahassee continued to grow, becoming a center for government, education, and culture in Florida. In 1967, the Florida State Capitol building, which is located in the city’s downtown area, was completed.

Today, Tallahassee is a vibrant city that celebrates its rich history while looking towards the future. It remains the state capital of Florida and is known for its beautiful scenery and cultural attractions.

Tallahassee History Timeline:

1000 AD:

  • The Apalachee Indians establish a capital village at what is now the Lake Jackson Mounds Site near Tallahassee.

1200 – 1500 AD:

  • The Apalachee Indians establish another village, named Anahica, in the area that is now modern-day Myers Park in Tallahassee.

1500 AD:

  • The Apalachee abandon their capital village at the Lake Jackson Mounds Site and make Anhaica their capital village.


  • On October 6, Spanish explorer Hernando De Soto encamps for the winter near the Apalache village of Anhaica.


  • In March, De Soto packs up his winter encampment.

Circa 1633:

  • Sometime after 1633, a Spanish deputy governor and his crew settle in an abandoned Apalachee village in west Tallahassee where they establish a mission and name it San Luis.
Watercolor of San Luis de Talimali mission in Tallahassee, Florida
Watercolor of San Luis de Talimali mission in Tallahassee, Florida


  • A Spanish Mission named Escambi is established near what is now Interstate-10 and Old Bainbridge Road.


  • The Spanish build Fort San Luis next to Mission San Luis sometime around 1640.


  • The Spanish move Mission San Luis to the second highest hill in Tallahassee to serve as a capital for Spain’s western settlements in Florida.
  • The chief of Anhaica village agrees to relocate his people to the new hill-top mission.


  • A third Spanish mission, named Purification de la Tama, is established in the Tallahassee area near where the village of Anhaica was once located.


  • The British and their Indian allies began attacking the Spanish missions in the area during Queen Anne’s War.


  • On July 31, fearing a British attack, the Spanish and Apalachee evacuate Mission San Luis and burn the buildings to the ground themselves.
  • In early August, a British expedition arrives and finds Mission San Luis already destroyed.


  • Florida becomes a territory of the United States and the government sends two scouts to look for a suitable location for a capital city.
  • The scouts discover the area that is now Tallahassee and found that it is inhabited by about 500 Native-Americans who welcome them. They soon worked out a deal for the land.


  • On March 4, Tallahassee is declared a capital city.
  • The Seminole Indians of Tallahassa and Mikisuki (Miccosukee) are ordered to relocate to a reservation established in Central Florida.
  • Governor DuVal relocates to Tallahassee and purchases 160 acres of land in what is now Myers Park and Cascades Park.


  • Tallahassee becomes an incorporated city in Florida.
  • Sometime around 1825, Prince Achille Murat, nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte, is persuade by Marquis de Lafayette to buy 900 acres of land in Jefferson County, just east of Tallahassee, where he establishes a cotton plantation named Lipona Plantation.


  • On July 12, Prince Achille Murat marries Catherine Daingerfield Willis Gray, the great grandniece of George Washington, in Tallahassee.


  • The Old City Cemetery is established on West Park Avenue by the Territorial Legislative Council.


  • The William “Money” Williams Mansion, also known as the Columns, is built on North Duval Street.


  • Frederick Towle opens the first jewelry store in town and sell watches and jewelry, as well as guns and musical instruments.


  • The Tallahassee – St. Mark’s Railroad is established.


  • The First Presbyterian Church is built on North Adams Street sometime between 1835-38.
  • Two small factories open, one of which manufactures tin and pewter and the other manufactures cotton saw gins.
  • In May, the first commercial ice is shipped to Tallahassee from Apalachicola by wagon. It is stored and sold at the Kindon’s Candy Factory.
  • Tailor J.B. Bull opens a clothing store that sells dresses imported from New York and London.


  • The St. John’s Episcopal Church is built on North Monroe Street.


  • The Old City Cemetery is acquired by the city of Tallahassee.
  • The St. John’s Episcopal Cemetery is established on the corner of Monroe Street and East Call Street.
  • The population of Tallahassee is 1,616.


  • The Union Bank is constructed on the Apalachee Parkway.


  • On May 25, a fire breaks out in the Washington Hall Boarding House and spreads quickly and destroys nearly half of the city’s buildings.
  • On September 13, a strong hurricane hits Tallahassee.


  • The Florida State Capital is built on South Monroe Street.
Florida State Capitol Building, Tallahassee, Florida circa 1929
Florida State Capitol Building, Tallahassee, Florida circa 1929


  • The Southern Journal newspaper is established.


  • The Florida State College for Women is founded.
State College for Women, Tallahassee, Florida circa 1926
State College for Women, Tallahassee, Florida circa 1926


  • The Brokaw-McDougall House is built on North Meridian Road


  • The Tallahassee Station, also known as the Jacksonville, Pensacola and Mobile Railroad Company Freight Depot, is built on Railroad Avenue.


  • On March 6, 1865, the Battle of Natural Bridge takes place at the site of a natural bridge over the St. Marks River.


  • The Pisgah United Methodist Church is constructed on Pisgah Church Road.


  • Rollins House is built on Rollins Pointe.
  • Despite being a capital city, the town quickly earns a reputation as an outlaw frontier town and a police department is formed sometime around 1870 which finally brings an end to the lawlessness.


  • The St. John’s Episcopal Church on North Monroe Street burns down.


  • The St. John’s Episcopal Church is rebuilt on North Monroe Street.
Town seal of Tallahassee, Florida
Town seal of Tallahassee, Florida


  • The David S. Walker Library is established on East Park Avenue.


  • On October 3, the State Normal College for Colored Students begins classes.


  • The John Gilmore Riley house is constructed on East Jefferson Street.


  • On February 10-14, the Great Arctic Outbreak of 1899 occurs and causes sub zero temperatures in Tallahassee.


  • The population of Tallahassee is 2,981.


  • The Oakland Cemetery is established on Bronough Street.


  • The Old City Waterworks was built on Gaines Street.


  • The Florida Governor’s mansion is built on North Adams Street.
Grounds of the Governor's mansion, Tallahassee, Florida circa 1929
Grounds of the Governor’s mansion, Tallahassee, Florida circa 1929


  • The Carnegie Library at the Florida A&M University is built.


  • The State Normal College for Colored Students changes its name to the Florida Agricultural and Mechanical College for Negroes.


  • The Bloxham Building is built on South Calhoun Street.


  • The Covington House is built on Cortez Street.


  • On November 10, the first municipal airport in Tallahassee, the Dale Marby Field, opens near West Pensacola Street.


  • Ruge Hall Episcopal Student Center is built on West Jefferson Street by John G. Ruge of as a memorial to his wife, Fannie Ruge.


  • The Governor John W. Martin House is constructed on Governor’s Drive.
  • The Tallahassee Historical Society is formed.
  • A historical marker is erected at the site of Fort San Luis.


  • The Greenwood Cemetery is established on Old Bainbridge Road.


  • The Florida State University College of Business is founded.


  • The Florida Agricultural and Mechanical College for Negroes changes its name to the Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University.


  • The Lewis Spring House is designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and constructed on Okeeheepkee Road for George Lewis II, President of the Lewis State Bank.


  • The new Florida Governor’s mansion is built on North Adams Street.


  • The population of Tallahassee is 48,174.


  • On March 29, the Tallahassee Municipal Airport opens at Capital Circle Southwest.


  • The Tallahassee Junior Museum is founded.


  • In May, the Lake Jackson Mounds State Archaeological Site is established in northern Tallahassee.
  • The Florida State University College of Law is founded.


  • In August, the New Salem Missionary Baptist Church Cemetery, also known as the Airport Cemetery, is rediscovered on the grounds of the Tallahassee International Airport.


  • In May, the Lake Jackson Mounds Archaeological State Park is established in northern Tallahassee.


  • The Florida State University College of Social Sciences is founded.


  • The Museum of Florida History is established.


  • The population of Florida is 81,548.


  • The Florida State University College of Engineering is founded.


  • The Mission San Luis de Apalachee Archaeological and Historic Site established.


  • The site of the village of Anhaica, now known as the Martin Archaeological Site, is rediscovered by archaeologist B. Calvin Jones.


  • On December 3, the Tallahassee Regional Airport opens at Capital Circle Southwest.


  • The Knott House Museum is established.


  • The Riley Museum of African American History and Culture is established on Jefferson Street.


  • The population of Tallahassee is 181,376.

For more information on the history of Tallahassee, check out this article on the many historic sites in Tallahassee.

Hare, Julianne. Tallahassee: A Capital City History. Arcadia Publishing, 2002.
Ensley, Gerald. “Tallahassee Airport had several locations in its first 100 years.” Tallahassee Democrat, 23 Aug. 2014, tallahassee.com/story/life/2014/08/22/tallahassee-airport-several-locations-years/14446893/
Shores, Venila Lovina. “The Ruins of Fort San Luis near Tallahassee.” The Florida Historical Society Quarterly, vol. 6, no. 2, 1927, pp. 111–116. JSTOR, jstor.org/stable/30149666. Accessed 22 Mar. 2021.
“Mission San Luis.” Florida Department of State, missionsanluis.org/learn/history/mission-san-luis/
“Old Spanish Trail Highway Historical Maker.” The Historical Marker Database, hmdb.org/m.asp?m=157512
Nichols, Larry. “Lost Cemetery Dates Back to Slavery Times.” The Tallahassee Democrat, 11 Aug. 1967, newspapers.com/clip/28984795/new-salem-church-cemetery-airport/

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