The final battle for Fort Brooke lasted over 20 years, but it was not fought with cannon, guns or swords.
It was fought with the pen, the word, capital and the law.

View of barracks and tents at Fort Brooke in Tampa Bay - Tampa, Florida
Gray & James. (1837) Tampa Bay on the Gulf of Mexico. Florida Tampa, 1837. [Charleston, S.C.: T.F. Gray and James]
Retrieved from the Library of Congress.


Engraving of Ft. Brooke in 1838
, State Archives of Florida


Copy of engraving showing activity at Fort Brooke: Tampa, Fla. Negative number. R289 | Print number 559 Engraving from 1846, Courtesy of Hillsborough County Public Library System

This photo of an engraving comes from the Burgert Bros. relic photograph collection. See this Sunland Tribune article concerning this collection of photos/negatives they bought from other photographers: "Finding Relics in the Burgert Brothers Photographs," by Bill Harris, (2018) Sunland Tribune: Vol. 34 , Article 6.

Concerning the above engraving, Bill Harris in the above article wrote:

The earliest subject matter shown in the [Burgert] ledger as a Relic photo is from 1846. However, the photograph was likely taken much later. The photo is of an engraving of Fort Brooke. The caption at the bottom of the photo says “Scene at Tampa Bay, Florida 1846.”

In Yesterday’s Tampa, Hampton Dunn states that the photo is of the old Carew homestead at Franklin and Platt streets in the year 1846. Dr. Edmund S. Carew was a pioneer Tampan who acquired a huge tract of land for homesteading.  Karl Grismer, in his book on the history of this area, contends that Dr. Carew arrived in Tampa on April 13th, 1883 and moved into the officers’ quarters.  This would suggest that this photo depicts the officers’ quarters in 1846, where Franklin and Platt streets are located today in downtown Tampa.

[TampaPix: The house in the engraving looks more like a post office than someone's house.]



From "A History of Tampa" by Karl Grismer.

When the troops departed Fort Brooke for the last time in 1882, attempts were made by spirited public citizens, led by Silas A. Jones, to acquire the garrison, with its graceful palms and towering, moss-hung oaks, for use as a town park. They sought the assistance of a United States senator who was supposed to be most friendly to Tampa, Wilkinson Call, a breast-beating spellbinder who had enthralled voters many times by his denunciations of Republican carpetbaggers. Senator Call promised his support.

On January 4, 1883, the War Department turned the property over to the Department of the Interior and Tampa people confidently believed the Land Office would soon transfer title to the town. But on Friday, March 23, 1883, bad news was received from Tallahassee. On the day before, a diagram of the reservation had been received at the Federal Land Office and immediately on its arrival, an application for a homestead had been filed by Dr. Edmund S. Carew who lived in Arredondo, near Gainesville. The application was for the finest part of the garrison, a tract on which the officers' quarters stood. The town of Tampa was stunned.

The announcement that the reservation had been opened for homesteading resulted in a rush of citizens to Tallahassee, all eager to get a portion of this valuable property. During the following week, homestead applications were filed by Clifford Herrick, Louis Bell, Daniel Mather, Andrew Stillings, Joel B. Myers, Richard Nash, G. W. Kirby, Frank C. Thomas, John H. Havans, Julius Caesar, Frank Jones, W. B. Henderson, E. B. Chamberlain, Wirt Myers, Marion M. Nelson, and Henry W. Beach, the father of the boy who years later became a famous author, Rex Beach.

Dr. Carew arrived in Tampa with his family on April 13, 1883 and soon took possession of the officers' quarters. By that time most of the other applicants also had moved onto the land they claimed, and many others had entered the reservation to "squat," living in tents and hastily erected shacks.

Years later evidence was introduced during a legal battle between various claimants for the property which showed that Dr. Carew had received a telegram from Senator Call telling when the land diagram had been sent from Washington. There was also evidence indicating that the doctor had received money from Call to pay for the homestead application. Many persons contended that Call directed Carew's actions with the expectation of getting at least part of the land for himself. In all events, Tampa had been double-crossed by the senator, beyond all doubt.

As a result, the town lost forever its opportunity to get a fine park at its front door. And the once beautiful garrison finally became a commercial and industrial section.



The following is from: Godna, Martin M. (1975) "Some Petitions Relating Tampa Families and the Disposal of Fort Brooke Lands, 1882-1883," Sunland Tribune: Vol. 2 , Article 5 at USF Library's Scholar Commons

With the end of Indian hostilities in South Florida long since concluded and the withdrawal of all federal troops from the South in 1877, the U.S. War Department began the deactivation of many southern military posts. Among them was Fort Brooke at Tampa which had been established in 1824 and is considered to be the founding of Tampa as a town.

The question of what to do with the federal lands associated with the fort brought forth many petitions, and genealogists have another resource in the names on the petitions. Two such documents are in the Special Collections at the University of South Florida Library, Tampa.

In 1882 the last federal troops departed from Fort Brooke, according to local historian Anthony P. Pizzo in his book Tampa Town, 1824-1886 (Miami: Hurricane House, 1968), and in 1883 the War Department deactivated the old fort. Its 16 square miles of reserved land on Tampa Bay became open for private development. At the same time Henry Bradley Plant was completing his Jacksonville to Tampa railroad. Many citizens feared the fort lands along the bay would fall to the railroad or manufacturing establishments served by the railroad. The first petition deals with this fear.


From:  Lewis, Jeffrey (1982) "How Tampa Lost the Fort Brooke Military Reservation" USF Library Digital Collections Ex Libris 5, Summer 1982.

In the Special Collections department of the University of South Florida Library are two old documents--petitions--that inadequately tell a fascinating story; the long dispute over the title to the Fort Brooke Military Reservation land after it was decommissioned by the military in 1882.

Many Tampans desired that this land should not be developed for commerce or industry, but instead set aside as a public park for its great natural beauty. It would be a great opportunity for the town to have such a scenic landscape adjacent to downtown.


Looking north into Tampa from old Fort Brooke, 1882.
(State Archives of Florida/Morrow)

The larger of the two petitions is dated November 13, 1882, and is signed by 165 residents. It noted that land now south of Whiting Street and west of Meridian Avenue would soon be abandoned as a military reservation and expressed concern that the valuable tract would fall into the hands of speculators or railroad companies.

The petitioners urged that the Senate vest the land in the town of Tampa for use as a "park or public pleasure ground for the recreation of the inhabitants."


In 1883, the second petition asked that Louis Bell be allowed to retain his home in the event that the land was sold. Bell, about eighty years old and a veteran of the Mexican and Seminole Wars, earned a "scanty subsistence" from his garden and had lived on the reservation land for years.

Bell came to Fort Brooke sometime between the 1830 and 1840 censuses.

1840 Census, Fort Brooke/Tampa

Bell was one of only 20 heads of house listed at Ft. Brooke, Tampa in 1840.  He was age 30 to under 40, presumably his wife, age 20 to under 30, and presumably their son, under age 5. (Who would have been Louis Bell, Jr. at age 1 and appearing as age 11 on their 1850 census.)

1840 Census, Fort Brooke, Tampa Bay*
*Fort Brooke was the name of the settlement, Tampa Bay was the name of the U.S. Post Office, not the name of a village, town or city.

Read about Count Odet Phillippe, the namesake of Phillippe Park.

The number of persons in Hillsborough County consisting of Four hundred and fifty two viz. 96 inhabitants of Tampa Bay and 356 inhabitants of service of the United States appears in the within schedule and I certify that copies are prepared to be set up in the County.
St. Augustine Florida 31 Oct 1840. 

Jos. S Sanchez, Marshal, Dist. East Florida.



1850 Census, Fort Brooke

 The 1850 Census of Fort Brooke, 19th Division, shows Louis Bell at age 47 with his wife Eliza, age 30. Louis' occupation was "mason" and he was born in Canada.  Their five children ranged in age from 11 to 1 year old:  Louis Jr., Eliza Ann, Charles Harry, Joseph and Thomas J. Bell.  A 28 year old stage driver named E. L. Smith lived in their home at the time.


1880 Census, Tampa
A few years before the petition

The Louis Bell family was the second dwelling to be listed on the 1880 Census in the Town of Tampa; the first dwelling being that of William Brown, Clerk of the Court.  Louis was 77, still a brick mason, and had been unemployed for 12 months. Here, Eliza is listed as also born in Canada.


The Officers' Garrison, 1882
State Archives of Florida


The structure built by Robert J. Hackley as his home in 1823, on land acquired by his father Richard in a Spanish land grant, was "dispossessed" from Hackley by Col. Brooke in 1824 while Hackley was away at Pensacola and Brooke arrived to build a fort. 


But was the structure in the photo really the house built by Robert Hackley?
Read later about the hurricane of 1848 and the damage it caused to the buildings of Fort Brooke.


The Hackleys were just one of several parties vying in the final battle for the Fort Brooke land when the U.S Government decommissioned Ft. Brooke.

See several more images of Ft. Brooke in the 1870s to 1900s


The fact that about 230 citizens in a town of 1,450 signed one or both of the petitions shows what a high degree of interest Tampans had concerning the ownership and use of this land. The signatures are a veritable "Who's Who" of early Tampa/Ft. Brooke.

Also in the Library's files are transcripts of several letters and telegrams, most of which are dated in the crucial early weeks of the controversy. They present a personal record of the events and are especially insightful as to the actions of such figures as community leader John T. Lesley and Florida's United States Senator Wilkinson Call.


The petitioners show that they are citizens of the said town of Tampa. That at the present time existing on the Southern boundary of the said town are about 160 acres of land which is known as the Fort Brooke Reservation being a plot of ground now used as a Sanitary Station for the troops at Key West. It is understood that this land is about to be abandoned by the Military Authorities of the United States as a Military Station and your petitioners are informed and believe that efforts are being made by persons who are desirous of acquiring the same to have said lands transferred from the Department of War to the Department of the Interior so as to vest the same in the public domain and then purchase the said reservation for speculative purposes or otherwise. Or that Railway Companies which are building roads out of the immense grants of lands made to them for that purpose by the State of Florida are desirous of absorbing said reservation for their purposes and your petitioners show that the said grounds occupy a position of great beauty and now and always would afford a place of recreation for the inhabitants of said town as a park and as there are ample lands without defacing or cutting these lands into lots in the neighborhood for building purposes.

Your petitioners therefore pray that the said lands be either retained by the Military Authorities intact or should they be handed over to the public domain that your honorable body will pass an act vesting the said lands in the said town of Tampa on condition that said land is retained unsubdivided as a park of public pleasure ground for the inhabitants of said town forever giving to the said town however the right to allow certain slightly public buildings to be erected thereon in such a manner as to not detract from the beauty and usefulness of said grounds. And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.

November 13th 1882

H. L. Crane, W. J. Campbell, J. K. Spencer, Jno T. Lesley, Henry Brummett, Wm. C. Brown, R. B. Thomas, Thos. A. Carruth, H. J. Madsen, Joseph Hawley, C. A. Harrison, Thos. E. Jackson, John Jackson, R. A. Jackson, Henry Allen, H. B. Whitehurst, Geo. Alexander, C. L. Friebele, Chas. F. Garrett, J. B. Furman, Otto Kammerer, J. H. Leonardy, W. J. Allen; A. P. Brockway, W. J. Knight, D. Ghira, Frank Ghira, W. G. Ferris, E. W. Ferris, H. L. Branch, M. A. Branch, G. E. (Haynsworth), John Darling, E. A. Clarke, Duff Post, W. A. Givens, D. B. Givens, L. F. McLeod, O. G. Wood (W. Goat), (F. A. Tim), (Gas. Fergur), W. T. Gordon, S. T. Hayden, J. J. Hayden, W. T. Hines, A. H. Hayden, G. W. Hayden, T. T. Smith, D. S. Buchanan, U. Sinclair Bird, C. Perkins, H. R. Benjamin, A. J. Bulloch, J. H. Krause, John P. Wall, Jas. Williams, Mary Williams, (R. Mugge), Bertta Hahn, John L. Elliott, (J. M. Eddins), Jos. A. Walker, A. Stillings, John Miller, A. W. Cuscaden, S. B. Casby, Wm. T. Haskins, P. H. Collins, D. K. Fisher, W. E. Haile, B. Leonardy, (Herrmann Weissbred), F. P. Kennedy, Jas. McKay, John Long, F. W. Bosworth, (M. Loant), T. A. LeBel, (? Howard), Henry Brumwick, Jas. Jackson, E. Durham, D. Jameson, B. A. Coward, John Culbreath, W. P. Culbreath, Jas. H. Culbreath, H. C. Culbreath, P. P. Culbreath, Asa Morgan, (W. Pope, Cu ? ), J. A. Campbell, H. Seling, D. Isaac Craft, H. M. Craft, T. W. Jones, T. F. Hampton, Geo. L. Calloway, Jacob Vogt, J. C. Guild, Matthew Hooper, Henry E. Wells, J. L. Haskins, R. B. Canning, H. M. Chapman, A. Niel, Sam Clay, Parkins Bods, J. T. Magbee, D. B. McKay, H. Proseus, J. A. Proseus, E. Tibery, S. W. Warns, J. H. Dorsey, James He. Wells, Mrs. E. C. Dorsey, L. S. Wells, W. T. Bolben, F. S. Lewis, Henry Brandon, Eola Morris, W. H. Ferris, James H. Holmes, Sallie M. Randolph, Anne McKrause, Josie W. Weissbred, Willie M. Robles, Charles F. Binkley, Joe H. Culbreath, Henry J. Krause, L. Blanche Henderson, Cornelia C. Pickett, W. H. Bulloch, James S. Hooper, Daisy Wall, Annie E. Hale, Alta E. Holmes, (Cora ? ), Cora L. Bulloch, Mamie T. Collins, Maggie F. Campbell, Lizzie Chekine, Julia T. McKay, Harry C. Parcell, Ronnie Hayden, Samuel Wells, Fannie Wells, Eva C. Haddon, Clarence Hill, ( ? ), ( ? ), Lizzie Bulloch, Stella Morrison, Mrs. M. Cuscaden, ( ? ), F. C. Binkley, C. Binkley, Mrs. E. C. Dorsey, G. B. Sparkman Mayor of Tampa, C. W. Wells, R. W.


The undersigned citizens of the Town of Tampa, County of Hillsborough and State of Florida respectfully represent that Louis Bell a citizen of the United States and residing in the Fort Brooke Reservation adjoining said Town of Tampa that said. Louis Bell has resided in said Reservation for many years, that he has been in the service of the United States for serving in the Mexican and Seminole Wars, that he is now old and infirm and unable to work for a living, that he has a dwelling, out houses, fruit trees and a garden in the premises from which he derives a scanty subsistence, that said Louis Bell is an honorable and worthy citizen and has always been true and faithful to the government of the United States.

Your petitioners therefor pray that your honorable bodies grant to the said Louis Bell such relief in the premises as you think meet and just, allowing him possession of the land he now occupies as a home in the event that the Fort Brooke Reservation- is sold: the age and record of the valuable services of this old man will be found in the War Department and many of the old Army officers who served in the war aforesaid knew him personally. And your petitioners shall ever pray.

K. Krause, Ja. H. Hickman, M. Weissbred, John L. Binkley, A. J. Bulloch, J. T. Magbee, E. Tinny, J. A. Proseus, A. Grillion, C. A. Masters, J. H. Krause, Joseph Grillion, I. G. Haynsworth, J. R. Swingly, E. A. Clarke, (? S. Gedelius), W. H. Givens, R. R. Thomas, W. G. Ferris, Josiah Ferris, C. L. Friebele, Chas. F. Garrett, J. A. Campbell, W. H. McFeely, I. J. Raine, Joseph Hawley, Matthew Hooper, Eliza Hooper, H. P. Kennedy, J. M. Dorsey, E. C. Dorsey, E. Delaunay, John Cole, F. C. Binkley, Kate Binkley, C. Perkins, J. C. Field, Thos. W. Perkins, Wm. Mahn, R. Mugge, D. Ghira, F. Ghira, B. Leonardy, D. S. Buchanan, (W. J. Baden), M. Govengreen, R. A. Jackson, Josh Cardy, J. B. Jackson, Herrmann Weissbred, Chas Wright, J. W. Canning, ( ? ), Jno T. Lesley, Francis M. Robles, H. S. Snodgrass, (Duff Yost), Thos. P. Kennedy, W. J. Allen, James Henry, Philip,Collins, (Robert Gommary), H. R. Benjamin, Geo. L. Calloway, Orlando D. Thayer, E. P. Holmes, A. Ross, Dan Mather, (George F. Barslow), (Copl 3rd Arty), Frank W. Hess, Capt. 3rd U. S. Arty, Adolphus Russel, U. S. Sch. Matchless, Edward S. Millar, 2nd Lt. 3rd U.S. Art., William McCarthy, Charles Kavanagh, James Johnstone, James Shaw, John J. McCarthy, Vincent S. Rol, William Moran, John Neaven, Thomas McDairmant, Laeo Schnurr, John Shelly, Edward Robinson, (William Hnitte), Albert Kherle, James Jennings, ( ? ), Frank O.. Ferris, James T. Magbee.





Pres. James Monroe, c.1819
Portrait by Samuel Morse from Wikipedia


Map from Wikipedia "Adams-Onis Treaty"

The Adams–Onís Treaty of 1819 was a treaty between the United States and Spain in 1819 which gave Florida to the U.S. and defined the boundary between the U.S. and New Spain. The treaty is named after the men who negotiated the agreement: John Quincy Adams, Secretary of State of the United States, and Don Luis de Onís y Gonzalez-Vara (1762–1827), the Spanish minister in America.  The treaty was negotiated during the presidency of James Monroe, the 5th American President, who served in office from March 4, 1817 to March 4, 1825, and was one of the important events during his presidency.

When the Transcontinental or Adams-Onis Treaty was in the process of negotiation between the United States and Spain, some persons in the Spanish court prevailed upon King Ferdinand VII to grant tracts of land to three royal favorites: The Count of Punonrostro, the Duke of Alagon (both grants on December 17, 1817) and Don Pedro de Vargas on January 25, 1818.



John Quincy Adams
Photo courtesy of Library of Congress.

At right: Cavaliere De Onis, Ambassador of the
Catholic high Courts of London.


Henry Clay discovered Adams' slip up.





When John Quincy Adams and Luis de Onis y Gonzalez discussed the treaty by which Spain relinquished Florida, they decided Article VII should stipulate that all royal grants made before January 28, 1818 in the ceded area which was Florida should be regarded as if Spain still owned the area. Of course, those made after that date would be declared null and void.  Actually Onis would have been willing to nullify all land grants made by the Crown after 1802 but Adams let this point slip by and would soon discover that much of Florida would remain under Spanish control in private hands.


It was Henry Clay, Speaker of the House of Representatives, who discovered the error made by Adams and insisted that corrections be made. Clay discovered that if the treaty had been approved in its original form, much of American Florida would remain in foreign ownership. Accordingly Adams informed Minister to Spain George W. Erving that the United States would not ratify the treaty unless the King of Spain nullified the grants.


Acting under American pressure the Spanish representative body known as the Cortes annulled the grants on October 5, 1820, and on October 24 of the same year King Ferdinand VII approved the action of the Cortes. When speculation reached Spain that the grants would be nullified, parts of the grants were assigned to American citizens in the hope that they could influence members of Congress and gain some profit from the aborted transaction.



President James Madison,
friend of Richard S. Hackley.
Photo from Library of Congress



Richard S. Hackley (father of Robert J. Hackley), former consul of the United States at Madrid, claimed that he had proposed a contract for half of the grant to the Duke of Alagon on January 1, 1818, and the two had signed a contract for the transaction on May 22, 1818.


The Duke of Alagon grant included the central part of Florida extending from the Suwannee River to Lake Okeechobee, approximately 11 million acres. Since Hackley’s wife was the sister of Governor Thomas M. Randolph of Virginia and Hackley knew many important people including former President James Madison, he had considerable political clout.







Richard Shippey Hackley (born 27 Jul 1770 in Spotsylvania County, Virginia) was a successful and well-traveled merchant who resided at various times in Fredericksburg , Norfolk, Richmond, New York, Florida and Spain. By 1789 he was an established merchant in New York. In 1806 he was a appointed U.S. Consul at St. Lucia, Spain, and in 1807 he was appointed U.S. Consul at Cadiz, Spain, the latter being a more prestigious position at that time. Richard had claims to 12 million acres of uncultivated land near present day Tampa, Florida. He was deeded this Florida land by the Duke of Alagon on 29 May 1819, who previously had been granted this tract by the King of Spain by order dated 17 Dec 1817. (This claim has been well documented and was asserted by a number of the heirs of Richard for a number of years following his death.)

See World Connect Rootsweb for more details of the case and Hackley genealogy


De Onis's last diplomatic mission sent him to London in February 1821, where he participated in diplomatic consultations for the recognition of Hispanic American countries by the United States and managed to prevent the European powers from following the US example. In November 1822, Onís returned to Madrid, where he died on 17 May 1827, after an illness of four days.
Image and info from Wikipedia


In July of 1822, Richard Hackley sent S. S. Seymour to look over his prospective land holdings.  Entering the bay known at that time as Bahia de Espiritu Santo faced on the left by which some called "old" Tampa Bay and others Buffalo Bluff and on the right Mangrove Bluff, Seymour moved into Hillsborough Bay and River. He noted the huge swarms of fish in the bay-large numbers of sheep head, bass and mullet. In addition, there were many manatees and turtles. After noting the names of the rivers flowing into the bay which included the Hillsborough, Manatee and Alafia, he proceeded ten miles up the Hillsborough. Although Seymour saw no Indians, there probably was an active village at Thonotosassa and an abandoned one at present day Plant City. There were no Cuban fishing ranchos in Tampa Bay but Seymour had learned one had been there probably on Mullet or Egmont Keys but the fishermen left when the United States acquired Florida.


Seymour wrote such an excellent report concerning the commercial possibilities of the thick forests and bounties of seafood that Hackley dispatched his 25 year old son, Robert, to Florida. Some time in November, 1823, Robert Hackley made a landing at the juncture of Hillsborough River and Hillsborough Bay and began laying the foundations of what he hoped would be a profitable plantation. According to Hackley there were only Indians, alligators, panthers and wolves on the land but no white settlers. Since he had brought with him spades, hoes, a plow, and a work force of 16 white men. Hackley proceeded to clear the land of trees and underbrush and assemble a frame dwelling that he had carried by boat from New York City.

So far as can be determined, the Hackley building was erected on lots 9-10, Section 24, Township 29 South, Range 18 East. Soon the cattle, oxen, hogs and poultry which had been carried from New York were earning their keep by clearing the Florida vegetation. The Hackley plantation was destined not to last very long.

This 1882 land ownership map from the Library of Congress shows where the Hackley property 
was located outlined in green at probable location of lots 9 & 10 in Sec. 24 of Township 29 South, Range 18 East.

See this map at the Library of Congress website--it is huge.  You can see it online and
download the TIF file which is over 500 Mb.




Fort Brooke was established in response to the Treaty of Moultrie Creek--an agreement negotiated between the new American government in Florida and the Seminole tribes in 1823, calling for the removal of the Indians to the southern part of the state. Millions of acres in central Florida from Ocala to Charlotte Harbor were set aside for an Indian reservation.

The Federal government decided to establish a string of forts in various parts of South Florida to police the area and keep the Indians down. A military post was suggested for the Tampa Bay area to "protect" the Seminoles from outside influences, to forestall the introduction of weapons from Cuba, and to serve as a station for the Indians to obtain rations and supplies. Late that year Col. George Mercer Brooke, comfortably situated at Fort Clinch near Pensacola, was ordered to Tampa Bay. 

For hundreds of years earlier, the Seminoles referred to the area by its topography--they called it  cotan' chobî, a contraction of the phrase cotanî chobî--a phrase that meant "the big place where the water meets the land."  In English, we write "Cotanchobee" pronounced "Co-tawn-cho-bee."

George Mercer Brooke was a professional soldier. Born in Virginia in 1785 he was the son of Richard Brooke, a planter and state senator, and Maria Mercer. He entered the army in 1808 as a first lieutenant of infantry, and in the War of 1812 against the British, he rose to the rank of major and won distinction in the sanguinary Battle of Lundy’s Lane. During the war he was brevetted twice. In 1819 he married Lucy Thomas of Duxbury, Massachusetts. In his correspondence he comes through as a man with a high sense of duty and honor. His letters are clear and direct and he avoided the verbosity so common in that day. Also, he seems to have steered clear of the petty quarrels which distracted some officers of high rank.

Col. James Gadsden was sent first to mark the boundaries of the new military reservation. Thus, the landing place of the party was designated "Gadsden Point," the area now occupied by MacDill AFB, and the new fort itself was named to honor Brooke. Gadsden chose a tract on the east bank of the Hillsborough River at the point where it enters Hillsborough Bay, mainly because of the improvements already made there by Robert J. Hackley.  Hackley, who had cleared the land and built a fine home and wharf, was an Englishman whose family had purchased large amounts of land from Spain before 1819.

James Gadsden, aide-de-camp to General Jackson during the Florida campaign of 1818. He played a later role in the history of the Seminoles by negotiating the Treaty of Payne's Landing (1832).

Gadsden is best known mainly for negotiating the Gadsden Purchase (part of Arizona) while serving as ambassador to Mexico in 1853.
Photo of Claribel Jett's painting.
Portrait from State Archives of Florida
Captions from "Rebellion, John Horse and the Black Seminoles."



The photograph is from a painting by Gilbert Stuart (c. 1819).

The photo above is a portrait of George Mercer Brooke (1785-1851)United States Army, which was presented to Gen. Sumter L. Lowry, chairman of the Sesquicentennial, Dinner of the Tampa Historical Society, by Col. George M. Brooke, Jr. 

During the years Brooke was at the cantonment, his family life was scarred by tragedy. His wife was with him part of the time, but she was plagued by ill health. In January 1824 at the very time Brooke and his troops were clearing away the dense undergrowth on the shores of Hillsborough Bay, Mrs. Brooke, presumably at Pensacola, gave birth to her third child, a boy. A fourth child, John Mercer Brooke, the first resident to be born in Tampa, was born at the cantonment on 18 December 1826. That was a critical time at the post. That very day Brooke had received several desperate letters from Governor Duval describing a new crisis with the Indians, and in response he was fitting for combat two companies of soldiers who had just arrived.

Because of Mrs. Brooke’s failing health, her husband took her to Pensacola in February 1827. He returned to his command, but when she failed to respond to treatment, he obtained sixty days’ leave from General Gaines with permission to apply to the Commanding General for an additional six months. Brooke made the request for the extension on the grounds of his wife’s condition, his own health which was "very much impaired," and the fact that he had "not been on furlough for ten years." Brooke was granted the furlough.

In October the following year, 1828, he sustained his greatest loss. In stark words he related the tragedy. "I have lately been visited by the heaviest calamity which a father and husband can feel. Whilst in Ma. my family was attacked by a most violent bilious fever, which has taken from me two of my beloved children (my daughter and eldest son). My wife’s life was despaired of for some time and in her illness (she) gave birth to a dead son. She is most unhappy and wretched and wishes me to come on."

Brooke was granted another furlough. Of Brooke’s eight children, only two, John Mercer Brooke and William Neverson Brooke, lived to maturity. The latter never married. John Mercer Brooke, the one born at Cantonment Brooke, served with distinction in the United Stales Navy and later in the Confederate Slates Navy of which he was Chief of Ordnance. Lucy Brooke died in 1829 at the age of thirty-five and the old soldier never remarried.

In early 1829, Brooke became a brigadier general and was transferred North, leaving this key outpost that was destined to play a major role in the Seminole Wars.  In 1831 Brooke was promoted to Colonel and transferred north of the Ohio River where he took command of the Fifth Infantry Regiment with headquarters at Fort Mackinac, Michigan Territory. The Fifth Infantry remained in the northwest until the Mexican War. Brooke died in 1851 at San Antonio, Texas, as a brevet major general in command of the Department of Texas.



It took many months to secure the needed building supplies, equipment and provisions, and the colonel was in no hurry to face the challenge of the mosquito-ridden wilderness.  Brooke and his five-ship convoy arrived with four companies of militia in late January 1824, and began building the cantonment.  "We found a jungle-like land with giant live oaks spreading enormous limbs as big as tree trunks, hung with pendants of Spanish moss and yellow jassamine," he wrote in his journal.  Brooke spent the first month landing supplies, clearing the “worst undergrowth he had ever seen," and planting gardens.


By March of 1824, the troops had realized what a comfortable house Hackley had erected and taking advantage of his absence on a trip to Pensacola, they seized the house from an agent of Hackley named Rhodes and put it to use as officers’ quarters. It was difficult for Hackley to oppose the claim of the troops for they occupied much of the land he claimed, erecting barracks, parade grounds and store houses.

Hackley was promptly dispossessed of his land by Col. Brooke and was thereafter unsuccessful in attempts to reclaim his plantation, having  lost his rights to it in 1821 with the Transcontinental Treaty, by which Spain ceded East Florida to the United States. (See the story of Levi Coller, Dr. Robert Jackson and Hyde Park.)


The fort was finished by September 1824 and stood where Florida Avenue and Eunice streets intersect to the area around Franklin St. and Platt in today's downtown Tampa.  Brooke wrote that the Indians appeared "to be more and more displeased with the limited land of their reservation in the center of the state." A marker near the Platt Street Bridge marks the company's landing.

Part of the reservation was a beautiful place with orange and lime trees planted by Hackley. There were several springs, a winding creek and an Indian mound. Although there were two small springs located near the barracks, the soldiers depended upon a large spring located in present day Ybor City for water supplies. Despite this, there were few soldiers sent to Fort Brooke in the period from 1827-1834 and at one time was virtually abandoned.

Meanwhile, outside the reservation, early settlers came and established a tiny village that later became the metropolis of Tampa.  The settlers had close ties with the garrison, providing the soldiers with fresh vegetables and fruit until their gardens produced, and Cuban fishermen such as Maximo Hernandez provided fish and succulent turtle steaks.




Judge Augustus Steele came from Connecticut to Florida around 1825, originally settling in the St. Marks River area south of Tallahassee. By the early 1830s he had settled in the Ft. Brooke area and purchased 25 acres at Fort Brooke from Hackley which was lying to the north of the garrison just beyond the garrison buildings and parade grounds but still part of Federal land. 

Beginning at this time Steele's accomplishments are remarkable. He became notary public, fisheries officer, and was the first county judge in Hillsborough County, a county he practically  founded himself through the sheer force of his own energies. Steele was also elected to the Territorial legislature two different terms. He was the first to lay out the plats of what would become the city of Tampa. After the Dade Massacre in December 1835, it was Steele who delivered the message to the Governor in Tallahassee.  

Steele relocated one more time and developed a resort in Atsena Otie at what is now called Cedar Key in Levy County Florida. Steele died in 1864 in Wellborn, Florida.

Portrait courtesy of Cedar Key Historical Museum.
Augustus Steele at Find-A-Grave



Maps of Fort Brooke, 1838
With Whiting St. and Franklin St. superimposed at approximate locations.
Place your cursor on the map to see present-day downtown superimposed on Ft. Brooke features.

Above map modified from this Tribune 2016 article by Rodney Kite-Powell

Fort Brooke was one of the largest military establishments in the United States when this map was made in January, 1838. Legend: 1-Judge Augustus Steele’s home and out-buildings. 2-Indian dwellings. 3-James Lynch’s home and store. 4-United States cemetery. 5-Hospital buildings. 6-Sutler’s store. 7-Bakehouse. 8-Commissary buildings. 9-Horse sheds. 10- Quartermaster buildings. 11-Principal wharf. 12-Carpenter’s shop. 13-Allen’s store. 14-Flag pole. 15-Blacksmith shop. 16-Ordinance department buildings and Major Frazer’s redoubt. 17-Clothing department. 18-Uncovered marquees. 19-Prisoners’pen. 20-Major Frazer’s quarters. 21-Leut. McCrab’s quarters. 22-Capt. Evan’s quarters. 23-Covered marquees. 24-Horse shelter. 25-Barracks. 26-Uncovered marquees. 27-Horse shelter. 28-Cemetery. 29-German Dragoons.


During the first Seminole War (1835-42) more than 3,000 soldiers were stationed in the 16-mile-square reservation. It served as Army Headquarters for that war and the later Seminole war (1855-58). Because of its proximity to the water, Fort Brooke was the chief supply depot for troops in Florida.

During the Second Seminole War 1835-1842, there were 4,000 or more troops at Fort Brooke and the numerous buildings were kept in good condition. Fort Brooke was the most important fort in Florida during the Second Seminole War but its utility decreased in later years.  Six years after the war had ended, the buildings had fallen into such bad shape that Colonel John T. Sprague complained that two buildings were in a condition that was dangerous. 

Three images below from same map at Library of Congress:
Hood, W., Poinsett, J. R., Abert, J. J., Stone, W. J., Fillmore, M. & United States Army. Corps Of Topographical Engineers. (1852) Map of the seat of war in Florida. Washington: Bureau of Topographical Engineers. [Map] Retrieved from the Library of Congress,





The turnaround for Tampans began in 1845, when Florida achieved statehood. The legislature soon reaffirmed and legitimized Tampa's role as Hillsborough County's seat thanks to the efforts of Judge Augustus Steele.  The new state government also threw its weight behind attempts to compel federal authorities to grant title to the land upon which the town stood. An elected county government organized under state law in January 1846, just as most regular Fort Brooke troops departed for service in Texas in preparation for the Mexican War.


On January 21, 1845, Colonel William Worth reduced the military reservation to four miles square and, after approval by President James Polk, Hillsborough County obtained 160 acres to the north of the reduced military reservation.  Although Fort Brooke was not to be abandoned for 30 more years, it would steadily decline in use by the military from that time. The county commissioners hired surveyor John Jackson to plat and expand Judge Steele’s village plan for the acreage north of the reservation.


Below is a crop of the county survey of Township 29 south, Ranges 18 east and 19 east showing the entire area of the military reserve by surveyor Charles F. Hopkins in March, 1852.  Outlined in blue are the original limits of the military reserve.  The ladle-shaped area outlined in green shows the reduced Ft. Brooke reservation.

The red numbers are the size of the outlined tract of land in acres. The red outline shows the 160 acres obtained by Hillsborough County for the county seat.





This 1852 land plat shows the area occupied by Fort Brooke outlined in green, and the town of Tampa, outlined in red.  Mouse-over the photo to see this area today. Monument erected at Franklin St. and Platt, in 1928 by the Daughters of the American Revolution, De Soto Chapter. This plaque has been removed from its stone monument and moved to one of the support columns of the Tampa Convention Center. 

The location of the plaque today.
Place your cursor on the photo to see the plaque location.

Photo from The Historic Marker Database.



This pencil sketch below of the Captains' Quarters was drawn by one of the officers stationed at Fort Brooke in 1845.  Beyond the majestic, moss-laden oak tree at the left is seen the ancient Timuquan ceremonial mound enclosed by a fence.  Leading from the gate is a path that forks to the left and to the right towards the top of the mound where a small Chinese summer house was perched.  The ladies of the fort had socials there.  Beyond the small cottage to the right of the mound is a glimpse of Hooker's Point.  The first three large dwellings to the right of the cottage were the officers' quarters.  The fourth building was occupied by Rev. Henry Axtell, the Army Champlain, his wife Juliet, and two of their daughters.  The last building to the right was the chapel with its broad portico and small front yard set out with mulberry trees.  Wide shell and gravel walks criss-crossed the post.    The sketch has been preserved by the family of Chaplain Henry Axtell for over 150 years.

Image and info from "Tampa Town, 1825 - 1886: A Cracker Village With A Latin Accent" by Tony Pizzo, 1968


General view of Fort Brooke and parade grounds 1845, by Juliet Lay Axtell

Thanks to the artistic talents of Juliet Lay Axtell, one of the Army Chaplain Axtell's daughters, who at the age of 12 sketched this view of Fort Brooke.  At the time, the garrison consisted of 20 whitewashed buildings with Col. Wm. G. Belknap in command. The large building at the left of the flagpole was the commanding officer's headquarters. The small buildings to the right at a distance were the soldiers' quarters.  The line of buildings from the Adjutant's office to the Indian mound was known as "Bachelor's Row" because the buildings were occupied by unmarried officers of the post.  The mound with the Chinese pavilion on its crest and encircled by a fence appears to the right of the large oak tree.  The Captain's quarters and the post chapel are at the right.  The flagpole and cannons mark the parade grounds where the mounting of the guards were held every morning and the site of many grand parades.

Image and info from "Tampa Town, 1825 - 1886: A Cracker Village With A Latin Accent" by Tony Pizzo, 1968


View of Fort Brooke sketched by an Army officer during the 2nd Seminole War
Fort Brooke pencil sketch and caption from How Tampa Lost the Fort Brooke Military Reservation
by Jeffrey Lewis,  Ex Libris 5 Summer 1982




At right, the old structure seen so often in articles about Fort Brooke, described as the officer's quarters which was originally built by Robert Hackley as his home.


A letter from Maj. R.D.S. Wade notes:  "Very severe storm from the SE, destroyed all the wharves and most of the public buildings at the fort.  Storm began about 0800 from the SE and raged until 1600 when winds veered to the S and SW until weakening around 2000.  The storm was most intense between 1300 and 1500.  Flooding was exceptionally great, no lives were lost at Ft. Brooke."  Observations from the post surgeon at Ft. Brooke wrote:  "Tide rose 15 feet above low water, water rose very fast between 1000 and 1400.  Barometer fell from 1020 mb at 0900 on the 24th and 1013 mb at 2100, to 954 mb prior to 1500 on the 25th.  By 1500 on the 25th, barometer rose to 967 mb and winds were from the South." 


In James McKay I, the Scottish Chief of Tampa Bay, " Sunland Tribune: Vol. 8 , Article 2, Tony Pizzo wrote:

During the fierce storm and tidal wave of 1848, which destroyed or washed away most of Fort Brooke and the village, the McKay house was swept up the river by the flood, and all of the Gadsden Point peninsula was inundated to a depth of about seven feet. McKay had cattle on the peninsula, and all were drowned.

In "Tampa Town, 1824–1886: the Cracker Village with a Latin Accent," (1968) Tony Pizzo wrote:

The warehouses, horse sheds, officers’ quarters, barracks, wharf and hospital were destroyed or heavily damaged as were virtually all of the buildings. After the high winds had died, the standing buildings were repaired and other buildings including the wharf, barracks and officers’ quarters were rebuilt.  The military authorities issued tents for the homeless.

In "Some Observations Concerning the History of Fort Brooke and Tampa," Sunland Tribune: Vol. 22 , Article 6 at USF Library's Scholar Commons. James W. Covington wrote:

Virtually all of the buildings of the fort were destroyed in September, 1848, when a terrible hurricane hit hard at the warehouses, horse sheds, officers’ quarters, barracks, wharf and hospital destroying or heavily damaging virtually all of the buildings. After the high winds had died, the standing buildings were repaired and other buildings including the wharf, barracks and officers’ quarters were rebuilt, but Fort Brooke had been greatly reduced in size both in extent of land and number of buildings by the storm and actions by Congress.

In "The Greatest Gale Ever Known - Tampa and the Hurricane of 1848," The Sunland Tribune Volume XXIV 1998 at the USF Digital Collections, Canter Brown Jr. wrote:

Major Wade and other officials assessed the scene at Fort Brooke "[The] storm … destroyed all the wharves and most of the public buildings at this post," the commanding officer informed superiors. "The commissary and quartermaster storehouses with all their contents were swept away, and a few damaged provisions, etc., only can be recovered." He went on to note that "the officers' quarters (except headquarters) are destroyed or very badly damaged, and the barracks are beyond repair." Even the hospital, where many soldiers and civilians eventually had gathered, suffered damage. "The roof ... was completely carried away, the doors broken," described assistant surgeon B. P. Curry, "the windows destroyed and the property otherwise lost or materially injured, with the exceptions of the medicines, and stores, which received but little damage."

In History of Hillsborough County, Florida, Narrative and Biographical, 1928, Ernest L. Robinson wrote:

In the garrison they found that the little church on the beach, the soldiers' quarters near by, C. B. Allen's boarding house, the Indian agent's office and the Ferris property had been wrecked, and all other buildings in that locality more or less damaged. North of Whiting street, the block house and the Turman and Ashley residences had been swept away. The roof of W. S. Spencer's house was blown off.


It appears that Hackley's house didn't survive the hurricane, or at least was damaged badly enough to require practically rebuilt in its entirety. So the house seen in the photo of the "Officers' Quarters" was, for the most part, built in 1848.

Read more about this hurricane in the feature about James T. Magbee here at TampaPix.



Thirty-five citizens of Manatee (Bradenton) sent a letter to the Secretary of War pointing out that the people of Tampa did not want the fort because they wanted the land for a town site. The Manatee people listed the good points of a Manatee River location including a nine foot deep water channel.  Somehow, however, their request was denied but the Fort Brooke area was reduced in size and influence.

When the people of Tampa did get most of the military reservation for a town site, the military saw little hope for further use for the base. By August, 1850, Major David Twiggs wrote that the post of Fort Brooke was to be broken up and the chaplain transferred to Camp Twiggs, Miss.  Yet, the post remained opened used as headquarters for the Indian emigration agent (Thomas P. Kennedy) during the 1850s and played a fairly important role in the last Seminole War 1855-1858.




The 1850 Census of Hillsborough County, Florida, lists such prominent Tampa citizens as John Jackson with his family, and seen here, Capt. James McKay and his family.  James and his wife Matilda were born in Scotland; their first four children (George, Sarah, James and John) were born in Alabama, and their two youngest, Donald and Marian, were born in Florida. 

On the 13 pages listed for Fort Brooke Tampa district, 546 persons were enumerated.



A marker erected at the present-day location of Franklin St. and Jackson, (next to One Tampa City Center) by the Tampa Historical Society honors Capt. James McKay, the 6th mayor of Tampa and the only non-U.S. citizen to serve as such.  He remained a citizen of the United Kingdom throughout his life. The marker reads:




On this site, after the devastating hurricane of 1848, McKay, a native of Scotland, built his first permanent home of finished lumber from Mobile, Ala. Here, with his wife Matilda, they raised their children.  McKay was a dominant factor in the building of Tampa in pioneer times. His shipping lines established the first commercial connection with the outside world. In 1848, he built a courthouse; in 1858, opened the first cattle trade with Cuba, and in 1859, was elected Mayor. During the Civil War, with his side wheeler, the Scottish Chief, he became one of Florida's most active blockade-runners; also formed the "Cowboy Cavalry" to protect cattle drives headed for the war-front. 

Historic marker photo from Suzasippi's Lottabusha County Chronicals.
See several more beautiful photos of this area designated "Poe Plaza" at the above blogsite.

Read more about James McKay at the TampaPix feature James T. Magbee/Tampa in the Civil War 
Read: "The Scottish Chief of Tampa Bay" by Tony Pizzo
from the USF Scholar Commons: Sunland Tribune, Journal of the Tampa Historical Society, Vol. 8, Issue 1.

The homestead of Capt. James McKay. This view shows the home in the 1870s, and was located on the southeast square of Franklin and Jackson Streets, the present-day site of One Tampa City Center skyscraper. The McKay children were reared in this house.

Photo from the Sunland Tribune, Journal of the Tampa Historical Society, Vol. 8, Issue 1, article by Tony Pizzo, "The Scottish Chief of Tampa Bay" contributed by Helen McKay Bardowski.



After military units were transferred from Fort Brooke in 1858, the place was leased to Captain James McKay but his stay was interrupted first by Confederate and then Union troops. When the fort was occupied by the Confederates, the place was bombarded several times by Union warships.

In 1861, Union forces established a blockade in Tampa Bay in order to keep the Confederates from making contact and trading with other nations such as Cuba. The Union Army believed that if the Confederacy was unable to receive supplies they would eventually be forced to surrender. Despite Union efforts many blockade runners were able to evade the Union Army and trade with Cuba in order to gain supplies. In response to the blockade runners, Union forces attacked the fort in the 1862 Battle of Tampa.

This small battle consisted of a Union gunboat firing upon Tampa in hopes of a confederate surrender, yet the Union army quickly ceased fire without the surrender it had sought. In 1863, the Battle of Fort Brooke took place in which two more Union gunboats fired upon the fort as part of a diversion, so that a group of soldiers could find and destroy Confederate vessels and blockade runners. Upon realizing the plan, a group of confederates found and attacked the Union soldiers resulting in casualties.

                 JOHN THOMAS LESLEY

John T. Lesley on his wedding day,
Aug. 26, 1858



October 14, 1861 - Orders from Major W. L. L. Brown, the commander at Fort Brooke in Tampa to Capt. John T. Lesley, commanding the small garrison at Shaw's Point on the Manatee River. 

He instructs Lesley to issue half rations of flour to his company and supply the deficiency with corn meal or potatoes purchased from the surrounding country, and supply the deficiency of bacon with beef or pork, all to be procured in the most favorable terms possible.


On May 6, 1864, both Fort Brooke and Tampa were captured by Union Forces.  At the end of the Civil War and the beginning of Reconstruction, Fort Brooke was occupied by federal troops until 1869.

Read more about the Civil War in Tampa here at the TampaPix feature about the renegade scalawag judge, James T. Magbee.



By 1873, the buildings were unoccupied and James McKay was given a lease to use the wharf and one-half of the warehouse for his cattle shipping operations. Captain McKay at this time had the largest fleet of schooners and steamers in the state of Florida.


As Tampa languished during the 1870s and early 1880s, so did Fort Brooke.  When the occupying troops left Fort Brooke during Reconstruction days, some of the land was declared part of the public domain. When yellow fever became a grave problem for the artillerymen stationed at Key West, military authorities searched for a nearby place where most of the men could be moved during the so-called "sickly season."


In 1877 the size of the reservation was reduced. The military authorities regained control of Fort Brooke when the President of the United States set aside in January 22, 1877 and May 29, 1878, one hundred and fifty-five acres for military purposes with the remaining land kept in the public domain, which became known as the town of Fort Brooke. 


The editor of the Sunland Tribune favored better accommodations if Fort Brooke is to be a permanent military post for troops from Key West avoiding frequent Yellow Fever outbreaks there (at a cost of $30,000)



During the winters of 1878-79, and 1879-80, the Key West garrison was moved to Fort Brooke  where it remained until traces of Yellow Fever had disappeared from Key West. Believing that the seasonal move from Key West to Tampa would become an annual event, the quarters at Fort Brooke were given a thorough evaluation by military authorities. 

During the time that the post had been deserted, people of Tampa had roamed through the deserted post removing windows and doors, and carrying away boards and bricks for use in their homes.  Such removals were commonplace. Insult was added to injury at Fort Brooke when citizens deposited their night soil on the grounds.


One who became concerned about the condition of the area was Charles Hanford who commanded the Union troops at the fort when they occupied the place. He noted the grass and weed-ridden cemetery noting, "No longer is it a fit resting place for soldiers." The cemetery, one-fourth of an acre square was located one-fourth of a mile from the reduced military reservation.

In response to Charles Hanford's letter to the Army command, $200 was spent by the Quartermaster Corps to improve the conditions. In an inventory of the standing buildings made during the 1870s the following valuation was made: officer’s quarters, 85 x 46, $3,000; barracks, 110 x 50, $1500; hospital, 42 x 30, $500; mess hall, 50 x 25, $500; bake house, 50 x 25, $300; storehouse, $50; commissary, $100; flag staff, $500; four wooden cisterns, $480 and boardwalk, $50, making a grand total of $7,180.4

Captain Jacob Rawles of the Fifth Artillery made a thorough inspection of the one hundred and fifty-five acres with its rundown buildings, Indian mound, scattered live oak and orange trees, dock, cemetery, springs, winding creek and thick woods to the east of the buildings.

In his report dated September, 1880, Rawles noted that there were no storehouses at all on the site. Quartermaster supplies for the troops from Key West were either placed under tents or in an old log stable and food stored in an old guard house building. Officers’ quarters likewise in poor condition, consisted of one building containing a hall and four rooms on the first floor, and four attic rooms on the second. Two kitchens to prepare food for the officers were located twenty feet from the building, but under a common roof that needed shingles.  Only one large wooden building served as housing for the artillerymen from Key West. The doors and windows had been stolen and the sills under them were in a rotten state. New floors and a roof were needed. The hospital consisted of a small wooden building which contained a dispensary, beds for twelve patients and erected nearby was the kitchen.

On December 24, 1880 the Secretary of War authorized the expenditure of one thousand dollars for the repair of the buildings and detailed sketches of proposed barracks buildings planned for Fort Brooke can be found in the military records at the National Archives.


The Sunland Tribune gives Fort Brooke a glowing review as if it was in a tourist brochure.

The troops from Key West remained in Tampa from May 1880 until 1882 when they were transferred during the "sick season" to St. Augustine and Mount Vernon, Alabama.  The last roll call of soldiers occurred in 1882 and the last soldiers were shipped out in December the same year.  The post was decommissioned by the US Army in 1883.

In 1883 the War Department relinquished title to the the General Land Office of the Interior Department and the reservation was opened to homestead applications at the Federal Land Office.  The 20 or more bodies in the Fort Brooke Cemetery were moved to Barrancas National Cemetery at Pensacola.

As a result of the disclosure of the closing of the cemetery, it is clear that in the 1850s Tampa had three or more cemeteries, one for the military, one for the older Tampa families - Oak Lawn - and at least one for the Indians and those who for one reason or the other could not be placed in the other two.









Soldiers standing at attention in camp at Fort Brooke.
This is very likely to be the Key West Troops who were stationed there from May 1880 to 1882, after which the fort was decommissioned. 

Soldiers standing at attention in camp at Fort Brooke.

This photo is from the USF Digital Collection where it is attributed to the Burgert Brothers and dated "1880?"  It's not possible that the Burgert brothers took this photo.  The oldest Burgert brother was Willard Chesney Burgert and would have been 5 years old in 1880. 
This photo is part of the Burgert's "Relic photo" collection; photos they bought from other photographers.

Samuel P. Burgert (who was an itinerant photographer) and wife Addie (parents of all the Burgert Bros.) were still living in Ohio in 1880.   Somewhere around 1882 to 1886, Samuel moved his family to Jacksonville, Florida. Webb's Jacksonville city directory for 1884 through 1888 listed S.P. Burgert as a photographer at 71 & 1/2 Bay St, with the latter years also listing him as a crayon artist at the same address, and his home at 4th and Helen.

Samuel traveled around the state for photographic opportunities. Some early photos of Tampa taken in the mid to late 1880s with the Burgert signature mark (not the Burgert Bros. logo) are evidence that Samuel may have made trips to Tampa in those years. The Burgert family moved to Tampa around 1896 to 1897.   Over the years in Tampa, the Burgert brothers did buy out other photographers photos, some of which may have been taken in the early 1880s.  The Burgert Brothers commercial photography business, consisting of Al and Jean Burgert, was founded in 1917.

See this Sunland Tribune article concerning the Burgert's "Relic" photograph collection, photos/negatives they bought from other photographers "Finding Relics in the Burgert Brothers Photographs," by Bill Harris, Sunland Tribune: Vol. 34 , Article 6.

Learn more about the Burgert family of photographers at TampaPix






It was at this time, 1883, that efforts were begun to procure the land in the name of Tampa.  Prominent Tampa citizen John T. Lesley, who was a fighter in the Seminole and Civil wars, sheriff, mayor, cattle rancher and later, a member of the state constitutional convention of 1885, sought the aid and advice of Senator Wilkinson Call, who agreed to investigate a workable plan. Fearful that the land would be obtained by speculators within the Land Office itself, Call in turn discussed the situation with the Secretary of the Interior, John W. Noble. Acting on the Secretary's suggestions, he had made preparations to secure the reservation by mid-March, 1883.


Since the town itself could not homestead the land, a plan was devised wherein men residing near the Gainesville land office would file an application for homestead and make the accompanying cash entry payment. At the same time, one from Tampa would file a claim of preemption--the right of an actual settler to purchase land before others. Call wrote that this scheme would serve to "secure both ends."


Sen. Wilkinson Call
Call was a nephew of Florida Governor Richard K. Call and cousin of Arkansas Senator James D. Walker.
Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Accordingly, Dr. Edmund S. Carew and J. A. Carlisle of Gainesville were selected by the Senator. On March 19, 1883, Carew filed for homestead on the entire tract and Carlisle made the cash entry. On the same day, Call telegraphed Lesley to proceed with the preemption. The cash payments of Carew and Carlisle were not accepted until late on March 22, when a plat of the land was received from the General Land Office in Washington. They had been advised by Senator Call of when the plat had been sent and so were prepared to make the payments within five minutes of its arrival in Gainesville. They were also instructed by Call to use his funds to pay the $421.00 entry money and homestead application fee. Call relayed this information to Lesley, who immediately paid the Gainesville men's draft on the Senator's account.

Clifford Herrick, a 23-year-old store clerk from Michigan, was apparently the man selected by Lesley and his associates to fulfill their "end" of Senator Call's plan. He filed for preemption on March 26, alleging in his required statement that he made settlement and began improvements on the land five days earlier. The third man to claim the Fort Brooke land was old Louis Bell, who asserted his settlement rights by filing for preemption on March 30. Call termed his claim to the entire tract a "Land Office trick," and was sure that he would "not be allowed to claim more than the single lot he has asked for repeatedly."


John T. Lesley, circa 1885
Florida State Archives


There were few aspects in the life of the young community of Tampa that Capt. John Thomas Lesley (1835-1913) did not touch in some significant way.  At the age of 25, Lesley had already become one of Tampa’s leading citizens. 

Born in Madison County, Florida, John Lesley moved to Tampa with his family in 1848. During the Third Seminole War, Lesley joined the Florida militia as a private but quickly was promoted to lieutenant. At the outbreak of the War Between the States, he formed a company of Tampa men and was elected its captain. In October 1862, Lesley was commissioned a major in the Confederate Army. At the end of the war, Lesley returned to Tampa where he worked to establish his financial and social position. During the next several years, Lesley served as sheriff for two years and built a sawmill that supplied much of the lumber used to re-build the town. He later became a cattle rancher and state legislator.

At the end of 1865, Tampa resembled a ghost town. The majority of residents had left the city during the war; the economic condition was dismal and there was no municipal government. The election of Edward Clarke as mayor on October 25, 1866 was unable to substantially improve conditions. Clarke’s administration was confronted with an empty treasury, yellow fever epidemics and frequent unrest in the city. The situation worsened with arrival of federal troops and administrators to impose the Reconstruction policies established by the U.S. Congress. Deeply resented by the population, soldiers and federal civil authorities were subjected to frequent harassment. In response, both federal military and civil authorities used their position to make life even more miserable for the resident population.

The antagonism between federal authorities and Tampa residents was the foundation for John Lesley’s mayoral campaign in early 1869. He campaigned on a single platform that Tampa’s charter should be revoked by the state legislature due to the City’s destitute financial condition. The majority of residents agreed and Lesley was elected mayor on March 1, 1869. While a city clerk, treasurer and a city council was elected, the Lesley Administration did little more than wait until the state legislature revoked Tampa’s Charter due to an inactive government. On October 4, 1869, the state legislature responded as expected and revoked the City’s charter. When the news reached Tampa, Lesley and other City officials resigned their positions. The Hillsborough County government appropriated all City properties and assumed responsibility for providing educational and other principal services to Tampa’s residents. Tampa’s status as a non-chartered city continued until August 1873 when residents voted to re-incorporate the city.

After resigning, Lesley returned to his business ventures. In 1872, he sold his lumber mill to raise cattle for the lucrative Cuban market and accumulated a fortune. Lesley was also one of the founders of the First National Bank and the Tampa Electric Company which, in 1887, installed the first electric traffic lights in Tampa. In 1876, Lesley was elected to the state Legislature and was re-elected in 1882 and 1886. He later campaigned and won a seat in the state senate and was one of the members of the constitutional convention that drafted the present state constitution.

In a life that spanned 78 years, Lesley saw Tampa grow from an outpost on the edge of the frontier to a bustling community on the verge of becoming a major Florida city.  He has been described by Donald J. Ivey as "Tampa's Pioneer Renaissance Man", in an excellent attempt at the only biography of Lesley that's ever been written.

John Thomas Lesley - 12th Mayor of Tampa
City of Tampa City Clerks, Previous Tampa Mayors

Ivey, Donald J. (2018) "John T. Lesley: Tampa's Pioneer Renaissance Man," Sunland Tribune: Vol. 21, Article 3.


Carew arrived with his family in April of 1883 to take up residence in the vacated officers' quarters near the present intersection of Platt and Franklin Streets. It is unclear from available records why Dr. Carew established his home on the reservation. He was supposedly informed beforehand that his homestead was only a means to prevent speculation on the land. It was to be turned over to the people of Tampa as represented by Lesley and his friends.

Neither Carew nor Carlisle used his own money in the process, but rather that of Senator Call, and indirectly that of John T. Lesley.  Furthermore, Carew paid only the $20.00 register and receiver's fee, while Carlisle paid the crucial $421.00 entry money.

A partial answer to this question of why Carew established his home on the land may be found in the testimony of Lesley at an 1889 hearing called by order of the Secretary of the Interior. Lesley claimed that an agreement was reached with Carew on the advice of members of the town council and other prominent citizens. It was decided that after six months the reservation would be divided into six parts. The town of Tampa was to make its selection first, with that lot to be used as a public park. The other sections would then be divided among William B. Henderson, John A. Henderson, Stephen M. Sparkman, John T. Lesley, and Dr. Carew.

According to Lesley, he was astonished when Carew later rejected the terms of their oral agreement. The doctor said that he was the only man who had any rights to the land and he intended to hold it.

It is not clear when this understanding was reached. The report of the hearing officers indicated that it was prior to the March 22 homestead. Yet, the agreement was made between Lesley and Carew, who had no contact or correspondence before that date. If Carew was a party to this arrangement before March 22, or if he originally thought he was homesteading for Senator Call (as Lesley once claimed he had admitted), his homestead application would have involved perjury. By law, an affidavit was signed by each applicant wherein he swore that he was neither acting as an agent for, nor "in collusion with any person, corporation or syndicate to give them the benefit of the land entered."

At the hearing, officers concluded that at the time of his filing, Carew was acting as an agent of Senator Call. He did not file in good faith for the purpose of making the land his home, but rather under an agreement to donate some of the land to the town of Tampa and hold the remainder jointly with several other persons.   Meanwhile, others who wanted the land erected tents and shacks on desired tracts, but soon businessmen purchased lots driving out the intruders, tearing down the ruined buildings and erecting buildings that served as bases for the many firms that were moving to Tampa.


John T. Lesley's home in 1899 at 407 East Street, one block back of the court house. His land formerly blocked Madison Street for exactly 100 years and was the boundary line for the Town of Fort Brooke (org.1887) and the city of Tampa until it was joined to the latter in 1907.
Photo courtesy of the University of Florida Digital Collections of Photographs.


Horses in the back yard of John T. Lesley's home, 1895.
Photo courtesy of the University of Florida Digital Collections of Photographs.

Location of the John T. Lesley house


Maps courtesy of University of Florida Sanborn Fire Insurance map collection.


When Carew announced his determination to settle all of the land, Lesley and his associates concentrated on advancing Clifford Herrick's claim. The strength of this claim was the fact that Herrick's settlement date was one day prior to Carew's homestead. John S. Turner, a Virginia attorney selected by Senator Call, warned Lesley that it was "very important that Herrick's settlement and beginning of improvements should be fixed on March 21." He was confident that Stephen M. Sparkman, Tampa's future U.S. Representative, would see to the proper date. Sparkman had in fact telegraphed Lesley when Herrick was still in Gainesville to "continue improvements," and to have "Clifford keep off all trespassers." Attorney Turner felt that Herrick had the "inside track," and Call reported that the Secretary of the Interior felt that the Carew and Bell claims were inferior.

Nevertheless, there was apparently some reason to question the strength of Herrick's preemption. Turner thought it possible that Carew could cast doubt on the genuine nature of the claim. He also feared that Herrick might "go back on us and make a more profitable arrangement to himself by making a clean breast of it." Perhaps one of these contingencies was realized, for Herrick's claim is not considered in later Department of the Interior case reviews.



On April 2, 1883, the commissioner of the General Land Office ordered the local land office to accept no more applications for homestead or preemption. The subsequent attempts of Frank Jones, Daniel Mather, Julius Caesar, Andrew Stillings, and Enoch B. Chamberlain to file for all or part of the land were rejected. This was doubtlessly an unexpected development, and the unsuccessful applicants requested an appeal. After reviewing the case, the commissioner reiterated his decision in December, 1883. He held that the land was not, and never had been subject to homesteading or preemption. Because it lay adjacent to a town, the tract had a greatly enhanced value over agricultural lands normally available for homesteading. The commissioner concluded therefore that it was in the public interest that everyone have an equal opportunity to purchase lots. He ordered that the only proper method of disposal was by a public sale, and the claims of Carew, Herrick, and Bell must be cancelled. The commissioner's decision was upheld by Interior Secretary Henry M. Teller.

Julius Caesar's 1880 Census in Tampa indicates he was a 50-year-old whitewasher from Florida, living alone.


Senator Call's proposed bill proposed Tampa would get lots 8, 9 and 10 of section 24 donated and that up to 10 acres of it to be set apart as a park to be kept in order and open to the public.  The remainder of the land, excluding streets, alleys and avenues, be granted to Tampa for the purpose of free, public schools "to the benefit of all children of school age, without distinction of race.  The proposed bill also provided for single lots to be sold at auction for public sale by Tampa in 10 years, the purchase price going to the school board for teachers' pay and upkeep of the schools.  Finally, it provided for the sale of land no larger than 20 acres as settlement of any pending claims or litigation for any part of the land.


The Tampa Journal was for S. A. Jone's proposal, known as the "Plumb Bill" seen below.






Below from: Lewis, Jeffrey (1982) "How Tampa Lost the Fort Brooke Military Reservation" USF Library Digital Collections Ex Libris 5, Summer 1982.

Two more important claimants emerged to compound the confusion. In September 1887, the heirs of Robert J. Hackley, the settler thrown off the site by Col. Brooke 63 years before, claimed the right of preemption and purchase. They argued that Hackley was guaranteed this right by an act of Congress in 1826, and upon his death it was transferred to them.


Jeffrey Lewis, in "How Tampa Lost the Fort Brooke Military Reservation, states that in 1889 an act of the State Legislature created the new City of Tampa and extended its incorporate limits to cover the reservation.  On this basis the city maintained that it was entitled to the lands for use as a public park. 

Below, the amended charter passed on June 5, 1889, was presented in the Tampa Journal of Jun. 27th.  The article states that there was only "a slight change in the boundary lines."


Below in GREEN is an approximate mapping of the description above.   The approximate boundary points of Tampa's original charter are shown in PINK.  The RED outline is the original 160 acre tract given to Hillsborough County on which establish the county seat. The purple line is the South Fla. Railroad track.


As can be seen below, the 1889 coordinates follow the 1887 coordinates EXACTLY except where the boundary follows the original 1845 boundary southward to the Fort Brooke boundary (Whiting St.)  At that point, the 1889 boundary follows the line of Whiting street just a short distance more before it takes a turn to the east (See inside the yellow oval.)  The 1887 boundary turned east at the point where the eastern border of the original 160 acres (red outline) intersected Whiting St. (See enlargement after this map below.) 


Above: The red outline shows the original 160-acre tract that was first granted to Hillsborough County by the Federal Government

in 1845 in which to establish the county seat.  The light blue area represents the Fort Brooke land.




At the point indicated by the yellow arrow below, the 1889 boundary (green) followed the line of Whiting street just a short distance more (dashed green line, two lots, 7 & 8) before it takes a turn to the east.  The 1887 boundary turned east at the point where the eastern border intersected Whiting St. 


It's rather clear that the boundary change WAS indeed slight, as the Journal article said, so there was no greater basis to argue ownership of Ft. Brooke land due to geographic incorporation boundary changes than there was before the 1889 charter revision.



THE BATTLE RAGES ON - Sen. Call  vs. Rep. Plumb

The Tampa Journal of April 8, 1890, summed up the situation with respect to who favors what:  Most of Tampa is in favor of the Plumb Bill proposed by Reps.. S. A. Jones and Plumb, but Senator Call has an opposing motive--the interest of Tampa attorney Stephen B. Sparkman's  clients Wm. B. Henderson and John T. Lesley and in mind.  The article calls for the people of Tampa to unite to get the Mayor and City Council to back the Plumb bill because it would have a strengthening effect upon the bill in Congress.





Silas Armistead Jones, generally known as Col. S. A. Jones, was born in Shelby County, Kentucky on  January 31, 1853.  He was an ex-Confederate officer** and grandfather of Sen. George A. Smathers, who served Florida for several terms, and thus the great-grandfather of Florida Sec. of State Bruce A. Smathers, who served in the Florida Legislature.

**It is doubtful he was ever a Confederate officer, as he would have been 8 to 12 years old during the Civil War.  Or, he was born way before 1853.

(The title of "Colonel" was a social one, not a military rank, which carried an aristocratic tinge designating a southern gentleman archetypal of the southern aristocrat.)


Photo from Tampa Bay Magazine, History: "From Cracker to Flapper, Fifty Boomtown Years: 1875-1925" By Frank Wells.


S. A. Jones became an attorney but when he came to Tampa in 1876 he first entered the cabinet-making and contracting business.  Three years later he started a builder's supply firm. Later he became one of Tampa's most active developers and strongest boosters. He was one of the principal organizers of the Board of Trade in 1885.

The ad below is from a publication titled "A Descriptive Pamphlet of Hillsborough County" published by the Hillsborough County Real Estate Agency in 1885,  online at Internet Archives.

Below, the organization of the Hillsborough County Real Estate Agency.  S. A. Jones was on the Board of Directors and was General Manager.

In 1888, William Beckwith entered into the real estate business with S. A. Jones  The firm was originally known as Jones and Beckwith and they were closely affiliated with the Chicago and Tampa Investment Company, which was a concern in which considerable Chicago capital was invested. Mr. Beckwith  subsequently sold his interest in the Chicago and Tampa investment Company to Mr. Jones and purchased Mr. Jones' interest in the Jones and Beckwith Real Estate Company. 




A meeting was called on July 19, 1889 at the Branch Opera House in order to gather support and funding to entertain a "large and influential committee of representatives of the business interests of Chicago" for their visit to Tampa that summer.  S. A. Jones addressed the meeting as to the high importance of catering to that committee while they were in town, and it was decided they needed to raise $300 to carry this out.  The proposal was unanimously approved.

The members of the Chicago Board of Trade were well pleased with what they saw in Tampa.  The Journal wrote "This undoubtedly means a big boom for Florida--and to Tampa belongs the credit."




Catches the Plumb bill proponents by surprise

On April 8, 1890, the Tampa City Council had a special meeting.  The efforts of S.A. Jones and the vast majority of the people of Tampa (referred to as "the city" in this article) desired the council to endorse the Plumb bill which was to come up for approval soon by the Senate and the House.  But at the meeting which the Journal claims "only a few of our people knew that this special meeting of the council was to be held" Wm. B. Henderson, John T. Lesley, and their attorney S.M. Sparkman, went before the council and "by a most subtle argument against the Plumb bill "succeeded in 'bamboozling' the council members present into taking a most stupid action against the interests of the city." 

The Journal stated that the city was without legal representation "to combat the sophistry and subterfuge advanced by Mr. Sparkman in behalf of his clients."  It calls the action of the council appointing a committee of three to draft a new bill embodying the good points of both the Call bill and the Plumb bill "supremely disgusting and ridiculous" and that it would undo all the work that the city had done in the last two years. "The stupidity of such an action on the part of the members of the council present at last night's meeting reflects seriously upon both their intelligence and independence, and they will have the censure and contempt of nine-tenths of the people in this city, and they deserve it."

The article stated that Henderson and Lesley were the Girard script claimants on the land and their interest was personal and inimical to that of the city and their sole object was to defeat the passage of any bill by Congress.  It claims Senator Call was "in league with the scrip claimants, and every amendment or bill he has introduced on this subject has been for the purpose of delay and defeat of any measure in behalf of the city.

In conclusion, the Journal stated that it did not believe this action to have any material influence upon Congress, but businessmen of Tampa should take prompt action to counteract its possibility.


At right:

As a continued topic but a separate article on the same page as the above, the Journal mocked the seven City Council members who decided to draft a new bill, by question-marking "seven wise (?)" and declaring them to "have shown themselves off like a lot of donkeys."

It claims Sparkman's opposition to the Plumb bill is because the government would keep title to the valuable 25-acres set apart for a park.  It says Sparkman's argument was to vest the title with the city so that he would have the opportunity to harass the city in courts in behalf of the scrip claimants--his clients.

With the Plumb bill, the U.S.  government would stand between the city and Henderson and Lesley, and Tampa would have its park.

"Even Col. Sparkman is laughing in his sleeves at their display of wisdom(?)"


At Left:

Councilman Biglow, who was a member for the previous City Council that approved of the Plumb bill, now "was quite active in fighting it."

The Journal says that Biglow "snapped at Sen. Call's school bait, a proposition that had already been before the Senate and voted down.

It claims Sen. Call is using it as an obstructive measure, even though the leading Senators have sided with the interest of Tampa's majority of citizens, saying that they stated that this proposition would never pass the Senate.

"Why does Mr. Biglow permit himself to be made a tool of to jeopardize the city's interests?"

At right:

The Journal ends its salvo of criticism with an note of encouragement to S. A. Jones by claiming the City Council is in favor of the Plumb bill, they were only foolish in their decision last night to propose to create a third bill as a compromise to both sides of the issue.

"Stand your ground Jones--you are right, and the people will stand by you."



On April 10, 1890, the Journal published a lengthy article on the recent turn of events.

"The public mind began to ferment with both surprise and indignation" as those without a personal claim at stake backed the Plumb bill.

Businessmen and prominent citizens could be seen discussing the matter in the streets, and it was agreed that steps should be taken to counteract the City Council's mistake.

A petition was drawn up by 10 a.m. and was carried by several of Tampa's influential around businessmen for signatures: Taliaferro, Brown, Drawdy, Jackson, Cooper, Morrison, and Knight.

The Journal even published the names of the only two who didn't sign it.

Signers of the petition




Fort Brooke's back yards are filthy.

The county board of health served an official notice on
Fort Brooke to clean up the filth.



December 18, 1890 - News received in Tampa was that the Land Commissioner had awarded all the Fort Brooke land to the Hackley heirs.  LaPenotiere's co-attorney believed that the decision would not stand and all other parties would appeal to the Secretary of the Interior.  Those aware of the facts in the case said the decision apparently was based on the fact that Hackley was in possession of a portion of the land when Gen. Brooke made it a military reservation and Hackley was forcibly ousted from his possession by Brooke.  The letter about the decision did not give reasons for it.


Late in that year a hearing was held before the officers of the local land office to determine the character of the various claims. They ruled that the claim of the Hackley heirs was superior to all others. Hackley was the first settler and had twice attempted to regain the land by filing a claim of right of preemption. The claim of the heirs of Louis Bell, who died on the reservation in 1885, was found to be worthy of consideration, but only because of Bell's "good character." They reported that the homestead and entry of Dr. Carew was not made for the purpose of establishing a home and therefore was invalid. The claim of the City of Tampa was rejected since the rights of any legitimate settler could not be affected by a later incorporation. The officers recommended to the commissioner of the General Land Office that the cases of all the claimants except those of the Bell and Hackley heirs be cancelled. All other persons living on the reservation land through 1883 were squatters, as the land was never legally opened to homesteading.


The decisions of the local officers were appealed to the commissioner, who upheld them except in regard to the heirs of Louis Bell. He felt that if the Hackley claim was allowed, all others must be denied. The Hackley heirs alone at this juncture would be able to perfect their claim and have all of the land awarded to them.




In a letter to the Tampa Journal on Dec. 17, 1890, Silas Jones aired his argument against the Hackley heirs' claims.  He began by listing sections of the law which set the requirements for claiming the former military reservation lands, then goes on to describe the circumstances where the Hackleys failed to comply with any of the laws.  About twenty lines of text are obscured from the article by a stray piece from another page.



Once again an appeal was requested, and the entire matter came before Secretary of the Interior John W. Noble in November 1892. He agreed that the Carew homestead was not made in good faith, and that the claims of the other settlers or their heirs were also properly rejected. However, he went on to reverse the judgment for the Hackley heirs. The act of Congress in 1826 under which they claimed specifically exempted military reservations from those lands it made available for preemption and purchase. Furthermore, this act was not in effect during the time of Hackley's settlement. The appropriate law in force at that time made any settler upon the lands of the United States either a tenant at will or a trespasser. Hackley was the latter. As his settlement was illegal, he had no rights to the land which could descend to his heirs.



Originally part of a battery of three 24-lb. shot cannon mounted on Barbette Carriages and placed in the year 1861 near the northeast corner of the mouth of the Hillsborough River, these two were used to defend Tampa and Fort Brooke during the Civil War.  On May 5th, 1864, Federal Troops composed of elements of the 2nd US Colored Regiment, 2nd Florida cavalry, US Sailors and Florida Union (irregular troops) landing south and east of Tampa, enveloped Tampa in a pincers movement and captured it by surprise.  The 24-pounders were disabled by breaking off a trunnion and destroying their barbette carriages. The indentation on the barrel of one of these 24-pounders indicates that a 6-pounder was fired point blank at its barrel. The two smaller 6-pound shot size cannon were then carried away and taken to Key West. 

*CANNON is both singular and plural

TampaPix cannon photos from April 2, 2011.
Please credit this page with a link if you wish to use these for any not-for-profit use such as personal or educational.
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Two cannon from a battery at Fort Brooke and a Tampa building that looks like a battery.


Since these cannon were placed in Fort Brooke before the Civil War, they originally pointed inland to defend against Indian attacks.




The cannon's naval mounts used here were designed and funded by the Fort Brooke Commission.  The historical recreation of Plant's garden folly was a project of the Friends of Plant Park in 2008.  The plaque is placed on pieces of limestone salvaged from the original wall of Plant's "Spanish Fort."

In 1891 upon the completion of his Tampa Bay Hotel, Henry B. Plant recovered these two cannon from Old Fort Brooke and along with help from his landscape architect, Anton Fiehe, he placed them over a limestone wall near here as a folly called "The Spanish Fort" which became a children's play area.

Click the plaques to see them larger.

If H. B. Plant originally displayed the cannon over "a wall" (singular) like the plaque says, then this photo below from Tony Pizzo's Tampa Town 1824–1886: Cracker Village with a Latin Accent, pub.1968, was a design that replaced Plant's original one because this doesn't appear to be "a wall."  (Or possibly, Plant's original wall between the two cannon was removed at some point before this photo.)  The cannon below does appear to rest on limestone blocks the same as the pieces on which the plaque is currently displayed.

The cannon as they were previously displayed at Plant Park.





John Willock Noble (October 26, 1831 – March 22, 1912) was a U.S. lawyer and brevet general in the Civil War. Noble was born in Lancaster, Ohio and attended Miami University. In 1851, he graduated from Yale University with honors. After service in the Civil War, he became U.S. Attorney for the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri. He served as Secretary of the Interior throughout the entire Benjamin Harrison administration. He later practiced law in St. Louis and died there in 1912. He served as the Secretary of the Interior between 1889 and 1893. 

The "General Noble" Giant Sequoia was named for this Secretary of the Interior. See photos and read about its interesting history.


Secretary Noble's decision in Nov. 1892 effectively meant that the status of the reservation was the same as when it was abandoned by the Department of War. The land would be sold at public auction at whatever date the Secretary deemed proper. For differing reasons, few in Tampa were satisfied with this state of affairs. The land was never made available for public sale, but within a short time seventeen applicants including Dr. Edmund Carew from Gainesville who moved into the officer’s quarters, claimed land and squatters settled on the reservation with their tar paper and wooden shacks, tents and huts.  Some lots in this area sold for eleven dollars an acre. Thus, a town known as Fort Brooke was organized on Tampa’s borders.

The Descriptive Pamphlet of Hillsborough County (1885) stated that the land's natural beauty was "marred by the fences which have been erected around and through" what was to have been an attractive public recreation area. The clouded title to such a valuable tract, with frontage on both the river and the bay, was an impediment to the town's growth. The development of the port was especially hindered. Finally, none of the claimants had been able to gain a clear title, and the years of confusion added much bitterness.


In this atmosphere it was charged that Senator Call had double-crossed the town. It was implied that there was something dishonestly secretive about Call's correspondence with Dr. Carew. A later author also cited the fact that Dr. Carew received the homestead application and entry money from the Senator to suggest that Call may have intended to obtain the land for himself. Both of these surmises are quite questionable. The plan to use Carew and Carlisle was known to Lesley and other prominent Tampans by March 19 at the latest. On that date Lesley received a telegram from Call notifying him that the two men were ready to act. While it is true that the Senator's money was used initially, it appears that this was done for the sake of expediency.  The petition signed by 165 Tampa residents asking Congress to transfer the Fort Brooke Military Reservation to the town of Tampa for use as a park was dated November 13, 1882. He wrote Lesley that, "There was no time to be lost, and all these several methods of defeating the land ring" were necessary. Call assured him that his role in the matter was "without any personal interest and solely in pursuance of your wishes." Indeed, Call was involved for years in the effort to have the Fort Brooke land granted to the town.




The judgment of Secretary Noble, which was favorable to none of the claimants, was appealed to his successor Hoke Smith. Secretary Smith ruled that the order of the commissioner of the General Land Office to accept no more applications for homestead or preemption after April 2, 1883, and to cancel all previous claims, was not proper. Although the commissioner had the authority to dispose of the lands either by public sale or under the homestead and preemption laws, once an entry had been allowed under one method he could not opt for the other. The revocation of the order of April 2 necessitated the re-examination of all applications before and after that date. Dr. Carew had died on the last day of 1886 and his widow remained in the officer's quarters. Lizzie Carew continued to press the claim as heir to her husband, but limited it to two of the seven lots into which the land had been divided.

Michael Hoke Smith (Sep. 2, 1855 – November 27, 1931) was a newspaper owner, United States Secretary of the Interior (1893-1896), 58th Governor of Georgia (1907-1909,1911), and a United States Senator (1911-1920) from Georgia.





Newspapering in Tampa began in the days preceding the Civil War when M. Whit Smith and the Rev. Cooley Sumner Reynolds began planning the establishment of a newspaper here in 1853. On Jan. 10, 1854, the first issue of the TAMPA HERALD appeared. 

Feb. 17, 1855

Smith sold his interest in the Herald in November, 1854, to Dr. J. S. Jones. Throughout his life, Cooley Reynolds, a member of the well-known Brandon family, was torn between two callings, his clerical duties first and foremost, and as a writer and publisher, second. After the Civil War, Reynolds turned up in Clearwater and there in 1873 he established the city’s first newspaper, the Clear Water Times. Also involved in the publishing of Tampa’s first newspaper, the Herald, was Henry A. Crane. The newsman left Tampa and joined the Union forces in Key West during the Civil War, while his son, Judge H. L. Crane, served as a Confederate soldier through the conflict.

When Dr. J. S. Jones took over the Tampa Herald he changed its name to the Florida Peninsular and in August, 1855, sold it to Simon Turman, Jr., saying in the editorial column that he was forced to sell because "it did not pay sufficient to support my family.”  Three years later William J. Spencer bought an interest in the paper.

April 7, 1855


  Alphonso DeLaunay was also Tampa's first postmaster and served from 1852 through 1860. On December 6, 1856, DeLaunay was appointed mayor by the council to complete the remainder of Lancaster's term of office. He replaced Acting Mayor, Darwin Austin Branch who had served eleven days before resigning as mayor. DeLaunay served as mayor for slightly over two months during which he attempted to manage the influx of local settlers coming into Tampa to escape attacks by the Seminoles during the Third Seminole War (1855-1858) and the State Legislature's demand that Tampa supply more recruits for the war.

Concurrently, DeLaunay guided the transition of the city's administration to conform to the procedures established by the Legislative Act of December 15, 1855. After losing to Darwin Branch in the next election, DeLaunay returned to his position as Postmaster of Tampa.

In 1858, he also became editor for the local newspaper, Florida Peninsular but resigned in early 1860 to found the Sunny South newspaper with his brother. The first issue of this newspaper appeared on January 29, 1861. A strong supporter of secession, DeLaunay served as a Hillsborough County delegate to the Florida Convention which voted overwhelmingly for secession. In early 1861, the Confederate government appointed DeLaunay, Postmaster and Deputy Inspector of Customs for the Port of Tampa, and he served in both capacities throughout the Civil War. The publication of his newspaper, Sunny South stopped shortly after the outbreak of war and the printing presses and other related equipment moved to the interior to prevent their confiscation by Union troops. 

City of Tampa Former Mayors

One editor of the Peninsular under publisher Spencer was Alfonso DeLaunay, who served as Tampa's first Postmaster.  He left the paper in early 1860 and was succeeded by Simon Turman, Jr.  DeLaunay immediately started to seek backing for a new paper which he got from his brother, St. John DeLaunay, and O. C. Drew, who became the publishers of THE SUNNY SOUTH which hit the streets on Jan. 29, 1861. 





Because of the Civil War, the Florida Peninsular was forced to suspend publication on May 25, 1861. 

During the war the Peninsular's press and type were taken into the country so the Yankees could not find them When the war ended, the equipment was brought back to Tampa and publication was resumed on April 28, 1866 by William Spencer’s two brothers, John Edward and Thomas K. Spencer.  A couple of months later, John Spencer became ill. He had contracted dysentery while serving in the Florida Volunteers. He died June 30, 1866. Thomas Spencer carried on the paper, which was Democratic.

May 5, 1866                                                                                

Tempora mutantur is a Latin adage that refers to the changes that the passage of time brings.  It also appears most commonly Tempora mutantur, nos et mutamur in illis, meaning "Times are changed, we also are changed with them".

In 1868, the Peninsular got a Republican competitor, THE TRUE SOUTHERNER, claiming to be the "official" paper of the Sixth Judicial Circuit. This was in the Carpetbagger days. The newspaper was short-lived, however. It had little support from the populace and no advertising and after the November elections, died a sudden death.

H. L. Mitchell, Editor
T. K. Spencer, Proprietor

"Here Shall the Press the People's Rights Maintain, Unawed by Fear, Unbribed by Gain"
Oct. 14, 1871

Meanwhile, Republicans still wanted a newspaper voice in Tampa for the next national election, in 1872, and so they purchased a controlling interest in the Peninsular. The Democratic editor retired and the new editor, C. R. Mobley, announced that the paper would become Republican. This change of complexion of the newspaper proved fatal, and the newspaper soon collapsed.  (No masthead images found after 1871.)

Enter now the infamous Judge James T. Magbee, scalawag, a Southern turncoat who joined the northern oppressors.** Governor Harrison Reed, a Republican, appointed Magbee to be Judge of the Sixth Circuit which covered the West Coast from Brooksville to Key West. Under threat of impeachment, Magbee resigned his post in 1874, after serving six years. He then launched into the newspaper publishing business, calling his paper the Tampa Guardian.  He continued publishing it until his death on Dec. 12, 1885.   H. J. Cooper and C. H. Baxter carried on the paper until Dec. 8, 1886, when Cooper announced the publication would soon cease. After Magbee's death, the masthead proclaimed it would be "Independent in Everything, Neutral in Nothing."

**Contrary to what you may read about Judge Magbee in some articles, he did NOT enlist or serve in the Confederate Army during the Civil War.  He was a Florida Senator and lawyer, he was representing clients in cases in Tampa during the start of the Civil War, and when he was unseated in the Senate in 1862, he was so infuriated that he came to Tampa to sell his belongings and move to Newport, Wakulla County for the rest of the war. There he lived the life of a planter with seven slaves.  See

An image of the "Guardian Building" appeared on the front page of each issue, just under the masthead on the left.


An ad for the Guardian placed in a Tampa publication titled "A Descriptive Pamphlet of Hillsborough County"
published by the Hillsborough County Real Estate Agency in 1885,  online at
Internet Archives.


The Democrats of the county were without a journalistic voice for a couple of years and in 1876 a significant election was coming up. Support was forthcoming to finance C. N Hawkins  in a new paper. Thus, on March 2, 1876, appeared a new weekly called the Sunland Tribune. A Tampa physician with a flair for journalism, Dr. John P. Wall, assistant editor until Thomas Spencer took over publishing. Dr. Wall was then made the editor.  Wall was member of a pioneer Florida family and was a versatile man of many talents, including Tampa mayor. Wall was highly critical of Magbee and used his sharp tongue to infuriate Magbee, along with many other newspaper editors.  Magbee and Wall fought vicious political battles in their respective papers.



First issue with Spencer as owner, April 6, 1878.



This excellent article by Dunn is used in this feature as a major resource for Tampa's newspaper history.  In a few short paragraphs, Dunn's article gives credit to  the Jan. 19, 1882 issue of the Sunland Tribune for suggesting that Tampa organize a historical society WITHOUT DELAY:

A Historical Society?

"It was the Sunland Tribune that first suggested that Tampa form a Historical Society. In its issue of Jan. 19, 1882, under a major headline, "TAMPA SHOULD HAVE A HISTORICAL SOCIETY WITHOUT DELAY" displayed a story quoting Judge J. G. Knapp of Hillsborough County as follows:

'Ponce de Leon landed at Tampa Bay and started his march through the wilderness in search for the Fountain of Youth. This is one reason why Tampa should have a Historical Society. We reflect - how long will it be before not a vestige of the history (of our past) will remain, unless snatched from irretrievable loss by the men and women of the present day. And we ask and receive no answer. Who shall do it?'"

It was 89 years later, in 1971, before a Tampa Historical Society actually was organized. The Society began a Journal of its own in July, 1974, and named it the Sunland Tribune."

See at right that portion of  Dunn's "THOSE HELL-RAISIN' TAMPA NEWSPAPERS" which appeared in THE SUNLAND TRIBUNE, Journal of the TAMPA HISTORICAL SOCIETY, Volume VI Number 1 November, 1980.

Dunn presents Judge Knapp as saying that Tampa should have a historical society because we need to preserve history such as the account of Ponce de Leon landing in Tampa Bay and starting his march through Florida from there.  That history such as this will be lost unless we "snatch it from irretrievable loss by the men and women of the present day.


Knapp's point was completely the opposite.  See at left, the start of the Jan. 19, 1882 article that Dunn was referring to.

The article is actually a letter to the Tribune from Hillsborough County Judge J. G. Knapp.  He starts by saying there is a writer for the ECONOMIST (possibly another local newspaper) whom Knapp calls Crispin (the shoemaker) who at some unspecified point in time wrote a letter or article about Ponce de Leon in Florida.  Judge Knapp goes on to quote Crispin:

"Tampa having been the starting point of Ponce de Leon, when he set out upon his famous march through Florida, in search of the fabled fountain of youth, is historically a place of great interest."

Knapp then goes on to say that there is no question that Hillsborough County is a place of historical interest.  Then he proceeds to criticize Crispin's letter as an erroneous account of de Leon's travels.  Knapp says no time should be wasted in snatching the historical facts from the waste and death of oblivion, while they can be.  Knapp is expressing there needs to be an urgency in rescuing history before it's twisted, distorted, and the truth is lost forever.  He refutes the story of Ponce de Leon starting in Tampa Bay, and says that the need for a historical society was because erroneous history such as this needed to be corrected before the true history of the past is lost--the last vestige of accurate history needed to be snatched from present day men (such as Crispin) and women who pervert the truth with stories such as this one about Ponce de Leon.

See here at this link the entire front page of that issue of the Sunland Tribune

The same 1882 article rearranged so that it fits your screen better and may be easier to read.  Your browser might shrink it to fit it on your screen, but if you click it again it should enlarge to full size.

Knapp criticizes the Sunland Tribune for presenting Crispin's letter and not questioning its factualness; for accepting it as historical fact.  Knapp goes on to say "...and it's not the first time I have noticed writers locating the place of Ponce de Leon's landing in Tampa Bay." He also questions that de Leon ever even entered Tampa Bay, or even sailed on the Gulf side of Florida.

"Let us see." he says.  "History should not only preserve facts, but it shall also correct errors.  Facts should be committed to print and not left to the frail memory of forgetful men and women, etc.  Here is the reason why Tampa should have a historical society, without delay..." 

In the rest of the letter Judge Knapp goes on to give his version of the history of Florida and Ponce de Leon.

So it was Judge Knapp who says Tampa should have a historical society without delay, not the Sunland Tribune.  Unless one argues that by publishing Knapp's letter, the newspaper is calling for a historical society.

Now, about that "major headline..."


The original Sunland Tribune changed its name to THE TAMPA TRIBUNE on March 1, 1883. It editorially continued to fight for city improvement. Tampa was swept by another epidemic of yellow fever in 1887. The city was panic stricken. Hundreds fled to the country. Among those who fled was then Editor of the Tampa Tribune, G. M. Mathes. A young printer-reporter, Donald Brenham McKay, was left in charge of the paper with only two employees to assist.

The first paper to be published on a daily basis in Tampa was the Tampa Daily News which started in 1887 with O. H. Jackson as the editor and proprietor. Many people called it the Daily Kicker because Jackson was a chronic faultfinder. Mr. McKay recalled that Jackson "’had the ability as a writer and plenty of courage."

When Jackson died, D. B. McKay bought the little paper, the News, and published it for several months. But he had an opportunity for a business out of town, so he sold the paper to G. M. Mathes. Before Mathes had made his first payment, McKay wrote, "without my knowledge or consent, he moved the plant to Ybor City and it was destroyed in the great conflagration which reduced two-thirds of the cigar town to ashes."

Tampa got its first "real" daily a short time after the demise of the News. Harvey Judson Cooper, who had been hired by Judge Magbee to refurbish the unsavory Tampa Guardian, changed its name to the Tampa Journal in 1886.


Both the Journal and the Weekly Tribune were underfinanced and understaffed and were limping along in a half-hearted fashion.  Silas Jones led a movement to buy the two small newspapers and start a new newspaper that would be a credit to the city and a powerful factor in the development of the South Florida metropolis and surrounding territory, so the Tampa Publishing Company was founded February 1, 1893, with the financial backing of many leading citizens.  S. A. Jones became president; W. B. Henderson, vice-president; A. J. Knight, secretary, and T. C. Taliaferro, treasurer. The company was capitalized for $25,000. Immediately after the incorporation, the new company purchased the TAMPA Journal for $3,500 and the TAMPA TRIBUNE for $3,450. H. J. Cooper was appointed general manager at $75 a month. The mechanical plants of the two papers were consolidated in the Journal's plant on the southeast corner of Franklin and Washington. The first issue of the TIMES appeared Tuesday, February 7, 1893.

Shortly after the two old papers were purchased by the TIMES, word of the merger reached a young, aggressive editor of a small weekly published at Bartow, the Polk County News. He was Wallace Fisher Stovall, then 24 years old. Reasoning that the consolidation of the two old papers into one might provide an opening for an "opposition" paper, Stovall came to Tampa to learn if his hunch was correct. He found one man who had the same idea, Dr. John P. Wall.

With Dr. Wall's endorsement on a note, Stovall borrowed $450 to move his plant to Tampa and start publishing. The first issue of his paper appeared March 23, 1893. He called it the TAMPA TRIBUNE, appropriating the name of one of the papers which had perished. · The Tribune then began waging war against the Times with sharp criticism for everyone involved, especially for Jones, who was lobbying the Federal Government to pass the Plumb Bill concerning the public use of the former Fort Brooke land.  The two papers took opposing views, with the Tribune pushing for Senator Call's bill and Walls' sharp tongue criticizing the "Organ on the corner" as the paper for the elite and controlled by the rich.  He had words for all the key players.

In 1893 Col. Jones became ill with Malaria while with a party of engineers who where seeking a railroad route through the Everglades and went to Waynesville, NC to recuperate.  Later he discovered a deposit of rhodolite, organized the Carolina Abrasive Manufacturing Co., and founded a town called Ruby City. 

He died in Waynesville on Nov. 9, 1933.  He was survived by his widow, five daughters: Mrs. Harry Eldrige, Sr., Mrs. Frank Smathers, Mrs. Elos Crary, Miss Nanette Jones, Miss S. A. Jones, and a son S. A. Jones Jr.

By 1895 Stovall turned the Tribune into a daily. In the beginning, Stovall found the going hard. But he turned out a splendid, progressive paper and soon the Tribune was carrying as many ads and had as many readers as the strongly-backed TIMES. Stovall continued publishing the TRIBUNE for thirty-two years and made it one of the leading papers of the entire South.

In the latter part of 1898, The Times was in financial trouble. H. J. Cooper called D. B. McKay into his office. The Times was broke; there wasn’t enough money in the till to pay for an incoming shipment of newsprint. Cooper had been offered a job in Cuba and McKay could have the management contract for the amount of Cooper’s moving expenses to Havana. McKay walked over to the Court House where he borrowed the needed $500 from former Gov. Henry L. Mitchell, who was then serving as Clerk of Circuit Court. Within a year, The Times was on a sound basis and was speedily buying out the local businessmen who had stock in it. It took McKay until 1922 to buy up the last stock and become the sole owner.


Information combined from:






Although the Carew entry was twice rejected in the past because of a lack of good faith, Secretary Smith found no evidence to support that charge and ordered that the entry be allowed. The earlier findings were based on the testimony of John Lesley at the 1889 officers' hearing. The Secretary felt that Lesley's statements were suspect because they were made in a revengeful spirit by a person interested in discrediting Carew's claim. Also ordered allowed were the claims of Frank Jones, Julius Caesar, Enoch B. Chamberlain, the heirs of Louis Bell, and Martha Lewis, the mulatto widow of Andrew Stillings, to one lot each. The preemption application of Daniel Mather was rejected on the grounds that he never intended to reside on any part of the land, but filed only for speculative purposes. The claim of the Hackley heirs was again denied because Robert Hackley himself had no legal right to initiate a claim.


This 1894 ruling was not the end of the title controversy. Unsuccessful within the Department of the Interior, the Hackley heirs brought their case before the Circuit Court for the Southern District of Florida. This case was dismissed and the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed the dismissal.

On November 7 and 8, 1904, the case known as Scott versus Carew was argued before the Supreme Court of the United States. Sally Field Scott and the other Hackley heirs were represented by an array of nationally prominent attorneys, including former Florida governor Francis P. Fleming. Lizzie Carew and the other defendants secured the services of William Wade Hampton, Edward R. Gunby, and Horatio Bisbee, Jr., the latter being for four years the area's Republican Congressman. A decision affirming the dismissal by the Court of Appeals was handed down on January 3, 1905. Justice David J. Brewer wrote for the Court that Hackley was a trespasser on the land and had had no legal right thereto. Carew and the other settlers of 1883 were the lawful owners.

Read about the case at the Supreme Court website Justia, and the opinion of the Court delivered by Justice Brewer.




Meanwhile, Ft. Brooke continued to develop as its own separate municipality with its own elections, mayor and other city officials such as marshal and city council. Lesley also served as its municipal judge.



Ft. Brooke also had their own Post Office.

The Fort Brooke Post Office didn't last long, as it was ordered shut down in Feb. of 1897.

John T. Lesley is elected mayor of Ft. Brooke again.







This 1895 plat shows two lots, 9 & 10, planned for the Fort Brooke garrison land by Hendry & Knight. The draftsman has rotated the view so that most of the streets are vertical and horizontal. (Garrison Ave. and Krause St. actually run due East/West and Nebraska Ave. actually runs North/South.)  Notice at lower left, Hendry & Knight represented Lizzie W. Carew and the Carew Land Co. among others.  The red outline marks the location of the Carew home, with Carew Ave. just south of it.  Hendry & Knight also represented W.W. Hampton (for whom Hampton Ave. was named) and Edward Gunby, men whose services were procured by Lizzie Carew for her Supreme Court defense.  Also see at lower right and upper right, underlined in green, the subdivisions of Lewis Bell and Enoch Chamberlain, whose claims were also allowed.


Mouse over the photo below to see how the town of Fort Brooke fits in this area today.  Brorein St. replaced Hampton Ave.,  Platt St. follows Carew Avenue.  Garrison Ave. became Cumberland.  A portion of Eunice Ave. still exists.  The Carew home was located at the north end of the present day convention center.  Here, the Hendry & Knight survey has been rotated to fit the actual compass points.




The photo below shows the old Fort Brooke area in 1911 with ships at the Mallory Steamship Company docks at the Hendry & Knight Terminal.  Looking north along Franklin Street, it is apparent that much of what was planned in the Hendry & Knight survey of 1895 did not come about. 

Burgert Brothers photo courtesy of the USF digital photograph collection.

The image below is the same photo zoomed in slightly to show more detail.

Place your cursor on the photo to see some indicated landmarks.  This is now the site of the Tampa Convention Center (left of Franklin St.) and the Embassy Suites Hotel (right of Franklin St.)  In the foreground at lower right is where the Tampa Marriott Waterside is located.


After more than two decades of departmental and judicial contests, the title to the Fort Brooke land was finally cleared. To many, the reservation had been "lost," but certainly the day was long past when Tampa could have reasonably hoped to obtain the land for a park. It would be surprising if such prime real estate could have escaped development in a burgeoning young town. Today the live oaks are gone. The final traces of old Fort Brooke's location are the parking garage named for it at Whiting St. and Franklin St., and Cotanchobee Fort Brooke Park along Old Water St. at Channelside west of the Tampa Bay History Center.  One can only imagine the appearance of Tampa's waterfront today if the hopes of a century ago were realized.

Don't miss this first-hand account of life at Fort Brooke in 1845 by an English soldier in the US Army, published in 1853.  Chapter 9 describes George Ballentine's experiences at Fort Brooke, along with a wonderful description of the Tampa Bay area, his observations of the Seminole Indians and interaction the soldiers had with them.  Ballentine also details some of the things they did to break the monotony of daily life at Fort Brooke, including forming a debating society.


This marker is placed at the northwest corner of the intersection of Franklin and Brorein Streets, in the island where Brorein splits between Franklin St. and Florida Ave.

OFFICERS QUARTERS FORT BROOKE - Maj Gen ANDREW JACKSON (1st Provisional Governor of Florida) (7th President of the United States) First Recommended This Area As A Military Site In 1818 (established 1824) During the 1st Seminole Indian War Brig Gen ZACHARY TAYLOR (12th President of the United States) Commanded From Here, 1838-1840 the U.S. Army in 2nd Seminole Indian War.

Photo by Roy Winkelman, Jan. 7, 2006



This marker is placed at 101 N. Franklin St. at the Fort Brooke parking garage.

Photos by R. C. of Shrewsbury, NJ, Aug. 2, 2010


Tampa Historical Society President Kenneth W. Mulder opens special memorial services remembering the 102 "unknown soldiers and settlers" reburied from the old Fort Brooke cemetery in the Oaklawn Cemetery on May 3, 1981.  Members of the Rough Riders Association look on.  A slab marking the reburial site is shown at left.

Photo from the Sunland Tribune, Volume VII Number 1 November, 1981 (Founded 1973 by Hampton Dunn) Journal of the Tampa Historical Society, HAMPTON DUNN Editor


Apparently, there was a 2nd cemetery or the one found at the Fort Brooke garage construction site was much larger than they expected.  The graves found recently at the "Water Street" development site in 2018 is considerably due east of the Fort Brooke garage.

The cemetery excavation is in the central portion of the photo surrounded by privacy fencing.
Place your cursor on the photo to see the Fort Brooke garage marked.

See this article published Nov. 28, 2018 in the Tampa Bay Times newspaper:  Water Street Tampa uncovers graves from 1800s and more of city’s past

See this report of a 2008 archeological excavation of a barrel well at Ft. Brooke, located where the US AmeriBank is now located.  The detailed report was published in the The Florida Anthropologist Volume 64 Numbers 3-4 September-December 2011.  The report gives a well-documented history of Fort Brooke.

This photo and caption is from that report:



This marker is at the intersection of S. Franklin St. and East Brorein. The marker is located under an elevated section of the Leroy Selmon Crosstown Expressway, adjacent to a parking lot under the structure.

In the summer of 2010, this area was undergoing road work for the TECO streetcar line.
Photo by Roy Winkelman, Jan 7, 2006, courtesy of Exploring Florida

Aug 2010 photo below by Glenn Sheffield at Historic Marker Database


Robertson & Fresh photo below courtesy of USF Digital photo collection



Above:  The Old Fort Restaurant at the corner of Franklin St. and Platt St., Jan 1947.  The cannon on the roof was designed with neon lights to simulate firing.  Notice the historical monument placed by the D.A.R in 1928, at lower left of the above photo.  Now this is the location of the Tampa Convention Center.

Left:  By the late 1950s, the Old Fort Restaurant had expanded its building almost to the curb, eliminating the patio area.



Tampapix Home

Tampapix pages featuring former locations of Fort Brooke
The Life and Times of James T. Magbee and Tampa during the Civil War

Tampa Convention Center   |   Cotanchobee Fort Brooke Park   |  
The Ice Palace (St. Pete Times Forum)

Tampa City Government Cotanchobee Photo Gallery

The Riverwalk at Cotanchobee / Ft. Brooke at night


   Photo Sources:

For pencil sketch scans of old Fort Brooke and display of cannon at Plant Park.

Tampa Town, 1824-1886
Cracker Village With A Latin Accent by Tony Pizzo (for census images)

State Archives of Florida

Tampa Bay Magazine

Tampa Public Library Burgert Bros. digital photo collection,

University of South Florida Library Digital Photo Collection





History Sources:

Brooke, Col. George Mercer, Jr. (1974)  Professor of History Virginia Military Institute, Lexington, Va Early Days At Fort Brooke, Sunland Tribune, Vol. I No. 1, (Tampa, July 1974) at USF Library's Scholar Commons

City of Tampa Past Mayors, John Thomas Lesley, 12th Mayor of Tampa

Covington, James W. (1980) "The Hackley Grant, The Fort Brooke Military Reservation and Tampa," Sunland Tribune: Vol. 6 , Article 2 at USF Library's Scholar Commons .

Covington, James W. (2018) "Some Observations Concerning the History of Fort Brooke and Tampa," Sunland Tribune: Vol. 22 , Article 6 at USF Library's Scholar Commons.

Exploring Florida, Old Fort Brooke Parking Structure Memorial  Florida Center for Instructional Technology, Exploring Florida: Social Studies Resources for  Students and Teachers (Tampa, FL: University of South Florida, 2009)

Ivey, Donald J. (2018) "John T. Lesley: Tampa's Pioneer Renaissance Man," Sunland Tribune: Vol. 21 , Article 3 at USF Library's Scholar Commons.

LaGodna, Martin M. (1975) "Some Petitions Relating Tampa Families and the Disposal of Fort Brooke Lands, 1882-1883," Sunland Tribune: Vol. 2 , Article 5.  at USF Library's Scholar Commons

Lewis, Jeffrey (1982) "How Tampa Lost the Fort Brooke Military Reservation"
USF Library Digital Collections Ex Libris 5, Summer 1982.

Young, June Hurley (1982) "He Built a Fort in the Wilderness," Sunland Tribune: Vol. 8 , Article 11 at USF Library's Scholar Commons.