Prior to European exploration and settlement the Pinellas peninsula, like all of Tampa Bay, was inhabited by the Tocobaga Indians, who built a town and large temple mound overlooking the bay in what is now Safety Harbor.
The modern site is protected and can be visited as part of the County's Philippe Park.
Clearwater would later become the first organized community on the peninsula as well as the site of its first post office.
During the early 16th century Spanish explorers discovered and slowly began exploring Florida, including Tampa Bay.In 1528 Panfilo de Narvaez landed in Pinellas, and 10 years later Hernando de Soto is thought to have explored the Tampa Bay Area.After trading hands multiple times between the British and the Spanish, Spain finally ceded Florida to the United States in 1821, and in 1823 the U. The very next year Odet Philippe became the first permanent, non-native resident of the peninsula when he established a homestead near the site of the Tocobaga village in Safety Harbor.It was Philippe who first introduced both citrus culture and cigar-making to Florida.It was the longest automobile toll bridge in the world at the time.
Prohibition was unpopular in the area and the peninsula's countless inlets and islands became havens for rumrunners bringing in liquor from Cuba.Railroad owner Peter Demens named the town that grew near the railroad's terminus St. Construction of Fort De Soto, on Mullet Key facing the mouth of Tampa Bay, was begun in 1898 during the Spanish–American War to protect Tampa Bay from potential invading forces.The fort, a subpost of Fort Dade on adjacent Egmont Key (which lies in the mouth of Tampa Bay), was equipped with artillery and mortar batteries.Even into the early years of the 20th century, West Hillsborough had no paved roads, and transportation posed a major challenge.A trip to the county seat, across the bay in Tampa, was generally an overnight affair and the automobiles that existed on the peninsula at that time would frequently become bogged down in the muck after rainstorms.Angry at what was perceived as neglect by the county government, residents of Pinellas began a push to secede from Hillsborough. Petersburg concert venue Jannus Live (formerly known as "Jannus Landing") memorializes the flight.