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The Safety Harbor culture developed in the area around the year 1000 AD, and the descendant Tocobaga and Pohoy chiefdoms were living in or near the current city limits of Tampa when the area was first visited by Spanish explorers in the 16th century.

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Local authorities consulted by Michael Kruse of the Tampa Bay Times suggest that "Tampan" was historically more common, while "Tampanian" became popular when the former term came to be seen as a potential insult.

A mix of Cuban, Italian, and Spanish immigrants began arriving in the late 1800s to live and work in the new communities of Ybor City and West Tampa.

The native inhabitants repulsed any Spanish attempt to establish a permanent settlement or convert them to Catholicism.

The newcomers brought with them infectious diseases, resulting in a total collapse of the native cultures of Florida.

The Civil War ended in April 1865 with a Confederate defeat.

In May 1865, federal troops arrived in Tampa to occupy the fort and the town as part of Reconstruction. Tampa was a fishing village with very few people and little industry, and limited prospects for development.

First, phosphate was discovered in the Bone Valley region southeast of Tampa in 1883.

The mineral, vital for the production of fertilizers and other products, was soon being shipped out from the Port of Tampa in great volume. The discovery of phosphate, the arrival of Plant's railroad, and the founding of Ybor City and West Tampa—all in the mid-1880s—were crucial to Tampa's development.

The town grew slowly, and had become a minor shipping port for cattle and citrus by the time of the United States Civil War. Census data showed an average annual growth of 2.47 percent, or a gain of approximately 97,000 residents per year.

Tampa Bay was blockaded by the United States Navy during the war, and Tampa fell into a long period of economic stagnation that continued long after the war ended. Petersburg-Clearwater, Florida Metropolitan Statistical Area. The four-county area is composed of roughly 2.9 million residents, The Greater Tampa Bay area has over 4 million residents and generally includes the Tampa and Sarasota metro areas. Between 20, the Greater Tampa Bay Market experienced a combined growth rate of 14.8 percent, growing from 3.4 million to 3.9 million and hitting the 4 million population mark on April 1, 2007.

Other historians claim the name means "the place to gather sticks".

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