Philippe's Grove, 1820s
The first citrus trees in Florida were planted by the Spanish in the settlements of St. Augustine and Pensacola in the 1500s and 1600s. By the time that Florida was officially recognized as a United States territory in 1822, Indians and travelers had inadvertently spread orange seeds across the state, and as a result, wild orange trees dotted the lakes and swamps of Florida. Taking advantage of U.S. initiatives to populate the new territory of Florida, Count Odet Philippe, a former French medical officer in the Napoleonic Wars, claimed a homestead. Philippe braved the threat of Indian attacks and the remoteness of the region to settle along the western shore of Tampa Bay in 1823. Philippe is credited with being the first person to grow citrus intended for commercial profit in central Florida, and the first permanent white settler in what is today Pinellas County.