Historic Hernando: Fort De Soto

We are introducing a series on unmarked historical locations and their impact on our county. The goal is to provide you with history and founding of our area and how these places played an important role in who we are today. Many of these places are worth a visit to what remains of them and hopefully you will be filled with enough knowledge to feel their impact if you do in fact want to explore them on your own.

We are all aware of Fort Desoto Park located in Pinellas County which is home to the fort established and was the entryway for Spanish troops many centuries ago, and also named after the same explorer.

The Fort De Soto this article is about was actually located right here in Hernando County. It was a military settlement named after Hernando De Soto, and established in 1840. Its purpose was to protect settlers from the Seminole Indians, but it grew to a small community that housed a trading post and became a regular stage coach stop on the way to Tampa.

This area isn’t marked with any historical site plaque, and there aren’t any remains of settlement to visit, but it did exist all the same. Fort Desoto was located in the North East corner of present day Brooksville, on Croom Road about one-half mile east of U.S. Highway 41. The property is currently owned by Edwin House. Historian Frasier Mountain recalls a wood sign over the entrance to the House property marked Desoto.The approximate coordinates of the old De Soto stage stop are 28.56795,-82.3863694. Mr. Mountian also mentioned that the stage stop was rumored to have been a place that Hernando De Soto camped as he explored Florida.

It is the oldest settlement in Hernando County. On February 27, 1843 two years prior to Florida joining the Union, Hernando County was deemed a county. Fort De Soto was named the county seat. N.G. Rowe was one of the early settlers and served as postmaster for the fort. Other early settlers included D.F. Thresher, and W.R Mills.

The demise of this small community was due to the fact that it was built on lime rock, making it difficult to obtain water. Therefore, despite the significance on the stage coach trail, Fort De Soto was abandoned. The settlers had to disperse and a new settlement, known as Pierceville, about three miles south of the abandoned Fort location flourished. Pierceville later became part of Melendez, or the city known as Brooksville today. The county seat was moved to Bayport then finally to Brooksville where it remains.

When Hernando County was formed in 1843, it was much larger than it is today, including present day Pasco and Citrus counties. The county name was changed briefly to Benton County, but it was later changed back. Although very little is known about Fort DeSoto, and its existence has long since passed, it is important because it helps define our local history.

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