History of Steinhatchee

Historical Beginnings

Brevet General Zachary Taylor built 35 forts throughout Middle Florida to assist in the "pacification of the territory." One of these forts, Fort Frank Brooke was built on the lower Steinhatchee River. Early maps refer to the river as "Achenahattchee" or "Esteen-hatchee" and "Esteen-E-Hatachre. "As early as the 1700s, maps labeled the river mouth and bay as "Dead Man Bay."

The military presence pressured the Indian groups into southern Florida's everglades region and homesteading gradually began. In 1856 the southern two thirds of Madison County became Lafayette and Taylor counties. The first county census totaled 1,837 residents. Steinhatchee and Taylor County's most significant contribution to the Confederacy's Civil War efforts was the procurement of salt from seawater. The remains of these "salt works" are still evident along the mud flats and salt marshes.

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Located at the mouth of the Steinhatchee River, Deadman Bay was on Spanish maps by the early 1500s. Spanish Conquistador Panfilo de Narvaez came through the area in 1529 followed by Hernando de Soto ten years later. DeSoto crossed the Steinhatchee River at the "Falls."

In 1818 General Andrew Jackson (1767-1845) also crossed at the Falls on his way to dispatch the Seminoles who were raiding "white" settlements.

In 1838 General Zachary Taylor (1784 -1850) was sent to put down the Seminoles during the Second Seminole War. Fort Frank Brook was established up the Steinhatchee River in the same year and abandoned in 1840.

In 1879 James Howard Stephens (1825-1906), a local pioneer, offered land for a post office changing the name from Deadman Bay to Stephensville.

In 1931 the community was renamed Steinhatchee after the river. The name Steinhatchee was derived from the Native American "esteen hatchee" meaning river (hatchee) of man (esteen).

Steinhatchee's long history of human habitation includes prehistoric man dating from 12,000 BC, pirates from 15th through 18th centuries, loggers in the 1800s, sponge divers in the 1940s and 50s and commercial fishermen, shrimpers, and crabbers today.