DeSoto County was split off from Manatee County in 1887. The new county included what is now Hardee, Highlands, Glades, Charlotte, and DeSoto counties.
Pine Level had been the county seat of Manatee County and initially remained so in the new county. However, other communities had begun overtaking the tiny hamlet, often described as lawless (like a town from an old Western movie). So a movement began to relocate the seat of government.
At that time, the voting precincts for the county were: Fort Green, Hartsuff (Wauchula/Zolfo), Coker, Pine Level, Charlotte Harbor (Punta Gorda), Fish-Eating Creek (Venus), Fort Basinger, Grove City, Trabue, Fort Ogden, Arcadia, Locklar, and Popash.
Many communities in the county began vying to become the new capital, with wealthy locals in Brownville, Nocatee, and Zolfo offering land and money for courthouse construction. In the initial election in August 1888, there was no majority winner, with votes: Arcadia 295, Fort Ogden 186, Nocatee 110, Pine Level 59, Fort Basinger 1, Bowling Green 1, Punta Gorda 2, Zolfo 1. Several more elections were held to little down the list until a majority could be received.
In October 1888, Arcadia received 52% of the 875 votes cast, so the county began moving the court records. A temporary courthouse was set up until a new impressive building could be completed.
The County Commissioners approved $3,000 to go along with $3,000 donated by cattlemen J. W. Whidden, L Parker, J.N. Parker, and W. E. Daniels. The first permanent courthouse was opened on June 5, 1889, and built by contractor Peyton R. Read.
The 1889 structure was replaced in 1913 with the current courthouse. It is located on the same block as the original.