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History of the Hillsboro Canal




One of the early names for this area, Hillsbourough, originated from the Earl of Hillsborough, who received large land grants from King George III during England’s hold on the region between 1763 and 1897.  The passing of the Swamp Lands Act in 1850 and the authorization of the Florida Coast Line Canal and Transportation Company to dredge a canal from Jacksonville to Biscayne Bay in 1882 allowed for the completion of the Florida East Coast Canal through Hillsborough by 1895. It was a toll canal originally 50 feet wide and five feet deep run by private industry.

The Hillsborough area was renamed in 1897 by C.E Hunt, an engineer, working on the Flagler Railroad. He renamed the settlement Deerfield because of all the deer in the area. At this time, the major industry in this area was farming. Crops included: pineapple, tomatoes, peppers, corn and cucumbers.

 Historical records show that by 1898, there were about 20 to 30 pioneers settling along the banks of the Hillsboro River. In 1904, Napoleon Bonaparte Broward was elected as Florida governor. He commissioned the drainage of the Hillsboro River in 1905. By 1911, the new canal, named the Hillsboro Canal linked up with Lake Okeechobee, 45 miles to the northwest. The project opened up more business opportunities for the farmers and the town.

 Prior to dredging the Hillsboro Canal, it was reported by town residents that the water in the Hillsboro River was so clean you could drink from it.