Before the advent of the tobacco industry, Tampa was a population center of slight importance in the State of Florida. Fishing, wood-cutting, and the cultivation of certain vegetables were the principal occupation of its few inhabitants. Located on sandy and relatively arid ground which was covered by few trees other than stunted pines and unexploitable palmetto palms, the extensive prairies of the region were marked principally by numerous marshes and a few sulphur springs. It was not an infrequent occurrence among the isolated thickets to stumble upon an apparently sleeping alligator or a scarcely less dangerous rattlesnake or water moccasin.
Muniz, Jose Rivero
"Tampa at the Close of the Nineteenth Century,"
Florida Historical Quarterly: Vol. 41
, Article 4.
Available at: https://stars.library.ucf.edu/fhq/vol41/iss4/4