Miami-Dade County was first inhabited 10,000 years ago by nomads following herds of big game animals such as mammoth and bison. As these animals became extinct, the people turned to smaller game, along with fish and shellfish. Juan Ponce de Leon visited the area in 1513. Two years after founding St. Augustine, Spanish Admiral Pedro Menendez de Aviles established the first European mission on the Miami Riverís north bank in 1567. Hostile Indians and mosquitoes soon forced them to leave. The Spanish controlled Florida for the next 250 years, bringing with them modern weapons and diseases that eventually caused the Tequestas to vanish. In the early 1800s a few Bahamian families accepted Spainís offer of land and began to settle and farm land along the Miami River.
In 1821 Spain sold Florida to the United States for five million dollars. In 1836 the county was created and was named for Major Francis L. Dade, a soldier killed in 1835 in the Second Seminole War. The County Seat named Dade Battlefield stretched from Indian Key to Jupiter inlet. In 1844 the County seat was moved to Miami. Six years later a census reported 96 residents living the area. By the late 1890s there were fewer than 1,000 residents in all of Dade County.
Following the Civil War and the passing of the Homestead Act, determined homesteaders slowly began staking claims and farming the land. Rapid development followed the arrival of the railroad 1896. The City of Miami was incorporated later that year with 344 voters. The real estate boom of the 1920s was interrupted by a major hurricane and halted by the stock market crash and the Great Depression.
In the 1960s thousands of refugees from Cuba began coming into the area. In the 1990s Haitians fled their homeland to come here seeking a better life. Emigration helped the Countyís population surpass one million in 1962. Today many different ethnic groups and cultures live in this modern metropolitan community.
On August 24, 1992 one of the countryís worst disasters caused more than $20 billion in damage when Hurricane Andrew hit Miami-Dade County. In 1997 the County changed it name to Miami-Dade County after being approved by voters. Since the second-costliest natural disaster happened the communities have been rebuilt and today tourism and transportation continue to be the major local industries.