Indian Rocks Beach is located on a barrier island in the Tampa- St Petersburg area, and it was incorporated in 1956. But history of the area goes back to the early sixteenth century, when the first Europeans landed there, searching for gold.
According to legend, the name of this beach town comes from a sulpher spring that was surrounded by rocks. A tribal medicine man is said to have healed an ailing chief with water from the spring. After that, the Indians would go there in a group for more medicinal water, and the early settlers would say “The Indians are on their way to the rocks.”
The first European to land in the area was the explorer Panfilo de Narvaez, who infuriated Chief Hirrahigua of the Uzita tribe by cutting off the Chief’s nose, and having his war dogs tear the Chief’s mother to shreds in order to find out where the gold was hidden. Getting no information, Narvaez marched to the north looking for gold, and finding eventual death in the wilderness.
But one of Narvaez’s young officers, Juan Ortiz, had become separated from the expedition. He was taken prisoner by Chief Hirrahigua, who began taking his revenge by torturing him. But before he killed Ortiz, the Chief’s eldest daughter pled for his young life. Then knowing her father would change his mind, she enlisted the help of her fiancé, Chief of the Mocoso tribe, to protect him. And with the Mocoso he stayed for ten years, until Hernando de Soto came through the area. All this 80 years before the John Smith and Pocahantas story is said to have taken place.
The first serious settling in Indian Rocks Beach was the mid 1800’s. The Hendricks and Lowe families are mentioned among the earliest to live there. After a road was made to more populated areas, it became a favorite picnic spot. And when a bridge was built to the mainland in 1916, it developed into a beach house area for the well off people of Tampa.
Growth in the area continued slowly until after World War II, when people from the north east and Canada realized it provided an excellent winter retreat. Today it has a population of over 5,ooo, and it’s primary industry is tourism.