Lakeland is a city in Polk County, Florida, along Interstate 4 east of Tampa. The westernmost city in Polk County, it is part of the Tampa Bay Area. According to the 2019 U.S. Census Bureau estimate, the city had a population of 112,136. Lakeland is a principal city of the Lakeland–Winter Haven Metropolitan Statistical Area. Native Americans lived in the area from soon after the end of the last ice age until the end of the Second Seminole War. European-American settlers arrived in Lakeland from South Carolina in the 1870s. The city expanded in the 1880s with the arrival of rail service, with the first freedmen railway workers settling here in 1883. They and European immigrants also came because of new jobs in the large phosphate industry that developed. Lakeland is home to the 1,267-acre Circle B Bar Reserve.
The first Paleo-Indians reached the central Florida area near the end of the last ice age, as they followed big game south. As the ice melted and sea levels rose, these Native Americans ended up staying and thrived on the peninsula for thousands of years. By the time the first Spanish conquistadors arrived, an estimated 350,000 Native Americans were living in what is now the state of Florida. Some of these first early tribes were the Tocobago, Timucua, and Calusa. In 1527, a Spanish map showed a settlement near the Rio de la Paz.
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