The History of Tallahassee, like the History of Leon County, begins with the Native American population and its interaction with Britishand Spanish colonists as well as colonial Americans and fugitive slaves, as the Florida Territory moved toward statehood. Growing numbers of cotton plantations increased the settlement’s population greatly. It became a city and capitol in 1821.
Tallahassee is situated within the Apalachee Province, home of the Apalachee, a Mississippian culture of agrarian people who farmed vast tracts of land. Their capital, Anhaica, was located within Tallahassee’s city limits.
The name “Tallahassee” is a Muskogean Indian word often translated as “old fields”, or “old town.” This may stem from the Creek (later called Seminole) Indians that migrated into this region in the 18th century. The Apalachee’s success as agriculturalists did not go unnoticed by the Spanish, who sent missionaries to the area throughout the 17th century. Several mission sites were established with the aim of procuring food and labor for the colony at St. Augustine. One of the most important mission sites, Mission San Luis de Apalachee, has been partially reconstructed as a state historic site in Tallahassee.
The Spanish missionaries were not the first Europeans to visit Tallahassee, however. The Spanish explorer, Hernando de Soto spent the winter of 1538-1539 encamped at the Apalachee village of Anhaica, which he had taken by force. De Soto’s brutal treatment of the natives was fiercely resisted, and by the following spring De Soto was eager to move on. The site of Anhaica, near present-day Myers Park, was located by Florida archaeologist, B. Calvin Jones, in 1987.