The entrances to Tampa Bay and Charlotte Harbor are obscured by barrier islands, and their locations, and the names applied to them, were a source of confusion to explorers, surveyors and map-makers from the 16th century though the 18th century.
Bahía Tampa and Bahía de Espíritu Santo were each used, at one time or another, for the modern Tampa Bay and Charlotte Harbor. Tampa", corresponding to Tampa Bay, appeared on a British map of 1705, with "Carlos Bay" for Charlotte Harbor to the south, while a 1748 British map had "B.
He described Tanpa as an important Calusa town to the north of the Calusa domain, possibly under another chief.
Archaeologist Jerald Milanich places the town of Tanpa at the mouth of Charlotte Harbor.
Several US Navy ships were stationed near the mouth of Tampa Bay, but small blockade running ships were often able to slip by the blockade to deliver cattle to Spanish Cuba, earning gold for the Confederate cause.
On June 30, 1862, the gunboat USS Sagamore sailed into Tampa Bay and opened fire on Fort Brooke, which returned fire.
Today, Tampa is part of the metropolitan area most commonly referred to as the "Tampa Bay Area". When the pioneer community living near the US Army outpost of Fort Brooke was incorporated in 1849, it was called "Tampa Town", and the name was shortened to simply "Tampa" in 1855.
A mix of Cuban, Italian, and Spanish immigrants began arriving in the late 1800s to found and work in the new communities of Ybor City and West Tampa.
A variant of the Weeden Island culture developed in the area by about 2000 years ago, with archeological evidence suggesting that these residents relied on the sea for most of their resources, as a vast majority of inhabited sites have been found on or near the shoreline and there is little evidence of farming.
At the time of European contact in the early 16th century, the Safety Harbor culture dominated the area, with indigenous peoples organized into three or four chiefdoms around the shores of the bay.
Before the American period, the Tampa Bay area had a handful of residents: Cuban and Native American fishermen who established small seasonal camps called "ranchos" on the shores of Tampa Bay.
The largest was at the mouth of Spanishtown Creek in today's Hyde Park neighborhood along Bayshore Boulevard. The sparse civilian population practically abandoned the area during the Second Seminole War from 1835 to 1842, after which the Seminoles were forced out and many settlers returned. On January 18, 1849, Tampa was officially incorporated as the "Village of Tampa".