Hernando DeSoto, the Spanish Conquistador's name was used for two Florida Counties. Hernando DeSoto led an expedition through Hernando County in 1539, moving north to widely explore most of the southeastern United States.
The County of Hernando was established On February 27, 1843, named in honor of Hernando DeSoto, the Spanish explorer. For a while they changed the name to Benton but later changed the name back to Hernando.
Hernando County, to the Native Americans, was found to be a garden of eden. The vast amount of rivers, lakes and streams were loaded with fish. There was plenty of deer in the inland forests, and an abundance of oyster beds around the Gulf of Mexico. The climate was perfect and this was truly a paradise.
Bayport was one of the primary settlements by the early 1850's. It was a main port of entry for the county. Brooksville was held by Confederate forces, in 1864. During the Civil War, Union Navy and Army forces, marched from the Union held Anclote Key to attack the Confederate force. The Union forces landed at Bayport and launched an attack on Brooksville, shelling the town heavily. There are no remains, today, of the original settlement of Bayport. The settlement was so heavily damaged during the war that it was abandoned. New houses have been built near the original site and the site now serves as a waterside park and welcomes visitors. The event is celebrated every January as the "Brooksville Raid Festival". Bayport was chosen originally for the county seat but the east section of the county was unhappy so the voters chose a site located within 5 miles of the center of the county. It became Brooksville in honor of Representative Preston Brooks.
In the 1880's a Bill was passed to divide Hernando County into three counties, thus creating the counties of Citrus to the north and Pasco to the south.
In the following decades the lumber industry flourished, the citrus boom hit central Florida, the phosphate industry stabilized and limestone mining was established. The Depression of the 1930's and World War II had a severe effect on the availability of resources and further development. As the county has slowly recovered it has become a slower paced community for those wanting to escape the more hectic life in Metropolitan Tampa Bay's larger communities.
Hernando County's isolation kept its population low until the completion of Interstate 75. After the completion through the county, and massive business growth in the Tampa Bay area, it was possible to live in Hernando County and work in Tampa. Many retirees discovered that the area was convenient and moved their families and income there.
Hernando County is approximately 488 square miles in size. The population was 11,000 residents in 1960, according to the census. By 1990, there were more than 100,000 residents in Hernando County. Today, the county is still experiencing a rapid growth.