Always the partisan, he fought for his causes, and never surrendered.  --Kyle S. VanLandingham

Page 1 - 1846 Magbee's arrival in Tampa to 1860 Lincoln elected

Page 2 - 1861 Secession to End of Civil War     Page 3 - Reconstruction to 1890s

TampaPix is grateful to the Judges of the 1oth Judicial Circuit (Hardee, Highlands, and Polk Counties), namely, Hon. Judge Peter F. Estrada and Hon. Judge Michael E. Raiden, who both share an enthusiasm for Florida History and especially the local history shared by Hillsborough and Polk Counties.  They assisted TampaPix in obtaining the pertinent material from D. B. McKay's "Pioneer Florida" (a 3-volume work), and suggested other sources on Judge Magbee (named below), as well as providing other research advice.


Also, special thanks to Prof. James M. Denham, Professor of History and Chair of Florida Southern College, and to E. Canter Brown, Jr., historian, professor and author, for their assistance in attempting to locate a portrait of Judge Magbee.  Prof. Brown has written many great works pertaining to the Civil War era of this area, including Tampa Before the Civil War, Florida's Peace River Frontier, Tampa in Civil War and Reconstruction, Ossian Bingley Hart, Florida's Loyalist Reconstruction Governor, and many more. 


According to Prof. Brown, a portrait of Judge Magbee was among those hanging in the old Hillsborough County Courthouse that was demolished in 1952.  The portraits were then stored somewhere, but the whereabouts are currently unknown.

Many more resources are listed throughout and at the end of this feature.



Throughout this feature are boxes such as this one, which describe events taking place in Tampa as told by James McKay, Jr.   His accounts offer a unique view of Tampa's history as he lived it.   James McKay, Jr. was born in Mobile, Ala. in 1842 and moved with his parents to Tampa in 1846. In his later years he wrote two articles about the early history of Tampa and Hillsborough County. The first was printed in the Tampa Times, Dec., 20 1921, and was later reprinted in D. B. McKay’s Pioneer Florida. The second article (the one used in this feature) appeared in the Tampa Times, Dec. 18, 1923.


"There have been many articles published by the press of the early days of Tampa, composed by those who obtained their information from hearsay and not personal knowledge, that were only partly correct.

I will, to the best of my memory, relate what I know from the late 1840s and 1850s of what Tampa was then, and its slow but substantial growth to the 1870s...Our family came to Tampa from Mobile, Ala. in 1846."


The photo of James McKay, Jr. above is an enhanced newspaper photo used on June 5, 1902 when he was elected mayor of Tampa. It was used again in the 1921 article and another one in 1923 when he was head of the Old Timers Society. The artist attributes his sketch to a 1902 photo. 

Captain James McKay, Jr., 1902
34th mayor of Tampa
Sketched by Philip Ayers Sawyer in 1938.
State Archives of Florida
Florida Memory

Read more about the sketch on the left, and this one on the right which online sources say is James McKay ,Sr.  But TampaPix believes that this is also a sketch of James McKay Jr.  See why.


Many of the events of the senior James McKay's life are presented here on this page and more about him on these separate related TampaPix pages:




Also in this feature is information from "History of Hillsborough County, Florida, Narrative and Biographical, 1928" by Ernest L. Robinson, Director of High Schools of Hillsborough County, formerly Principal of Hillsborough County High School.  Robinson tells of the early history of Tampa through the use of County Commission meeting records.





The life of James T. Magbee is presented here primarily as the late Kyle S. VanLandingham wrote in James T. Magbee: “Union Man, Undoubted Secessionist, and High Priest in the Radical Synagogue” which appeared in The Sunland Tribune, Journal of the Tampa Historical Society, Volume XX November, 1994, of which VanLandingham was the Editor in Chief.  The text in blue in this feature is from that work; some details have been omitted.


The late Kyle VanLandingham, 1996, while President of the Tampa Historical Society.


 D.B. McKay presented a chapter on Magbee in his 3-volume book, Pioneer Florida published in 1959, which is also used in this feature.

Donald Brenham McKay
Editor in Chief of the Tampa Times
Four times Tampa Mayor
Author and Historian
 Grandson of Capt. James McKay, Sr. 

38th, 39th, 40th & 42nd Mayor of Tampa 

Photo from  City of Tampa Previous Mayors

Born: July 29, 1868    Died: September 8, 1960
1st term - 2 yrs.
Jun 10 ,1910 - April 10, 1912
2nd term - 4 yrs.
Apr. 10, 1912 - Apr. 18, 1916
3rd Term - 4 yrs.
Apr. 18, 1916 - Jun. 1O, 1920
4th Term - 4 yrs.*
Jan 4, 1928 - Oct 27, 1931
*This term was to end on Jan. 4, 1932, but he resigned early to tend to business interests.




The history of the railroad coming to Tampa is presented in context with the life of James T. Magbee, in sections in the style of this one. 


The railroad history is from Canter Brown, Jr's  Tampa and the Coming of the Railroad, 1853-1884, as presented in  The Sunland Tribune, Volume XVII November, 1991 Journal of the Tampa Historical Society. Some info comes from  Tampa, A History of the City and the Tampa Bay Region of Florida, by Karl H. Grismer, edited by D. B. McKay, 1950.


Text in GREEN is opinion, comments or corrections by TampaPix.     


Clippings and info from these newspapers are also used in this feature.
From the University of Florida Digital Newspaper Library.

Georgia Historic Newspapers








A WORD ABOUT WORDS--What did it mean during the 19th Century?
&c etc. / et cetera
instant / inst. Used after a date to refer to a recent occurrence in the current month
communicated Usually found at the beginning or end of an article, indicates it was written by someone other than a staff writer and sent (communicated) to the paper, such as a letter to the editor.
proximo / prox. Used after a date to indicate that date of the next month
ultimo / ult. Used after a date to indicate that date of the previous month.
Colonel / Col. This is often used as a title of respect, social status or wealth, even if the person never even served in the military.  According to Wikipedia, There is an aristocratic tinge to the social usage of the title "colonel", which today designates the southern gentleman, and is archetypal of the southern aristocrat. (For example, "Col. Sanders" of fried chicken fame was never a colonel.)
row A fight, usually fistfight but not limited to one.
carpetbagger 1. A political candidate who seeks election in an area where they have no local connections. 2. A person from the northern states who went to the South after the Civil War to profit from the Reconstruction. 3. A person perceived as an unscrupulous opportunist.
scalawag 1. A white Southerner who collaborated with northern Republicans during Reconstruction, often for personal profit. The term was used derisively by white Southern Democrats who opposed Reconstruction legislation.  2. A person who behaves badly but in an amusingly mischievous rather than harmful way; a rascal.




ames T. Magbee, at age 26, was the first attorney admitted to practice law in Tampa and was elected to serve as State Representative in the Florida House of Representatives by the age of 28, serving three terms from 1848 to 1854.  He was appointed twice as the Deputy Collector of Customs and Inspector of the Port of Tampa, first in 1855 and again in 1883.  He served as Senator in the Florida State Senate by age 40, from 1860 to 1862, and was appointed by Gov. Harrison Reed as Judge of the 6th Judicial Circuit of Florida in 1868. 


But he was notorious for public drunkenness, brawling, and his unconventional behavior on the bench, and he was despised by many in Tampa and the surrounding area for being a scalawag during the post-Civil War Reconstruction period. 


In 1870, he was the first Florida official ever to face impeachment for judicial misconduct, and after having his trial dismissed in 1871, and receiving an honorable discharge, he faced impeachment again in 1875, on charges all based on his drunken behavior.  He resigned rather than go to trial, and went on to publish The Guardian newspaper in Tampa until his death in Dec. 1885.


He was married three times, for a total of 35 years, having outlived his first two wives, and had no children of his own. But he wasn't devoid of some good will or charity; he and his 2nd wife adopted an orphaned boy from Scotland, donated land to the city for Oaklawn Cemetery, and at least once made a donation of gold coins to help a family who had lost their home and possessions in a fire.


Ever since his arrival in Tampa in the winter of 1845-46, he was at the forefront of controversy, and after he died suddenly in Tampa, there was even more controversy over his will and his estate.


The header image above is a rearrangement of actual letterhead Magbee used.

Image from
James T. Magbee: “Union Man, Undoubted Secessionist, and High Priest in the Radical Synagogue
by Kyle VanLandingham


Where was James T. Magbee born?


Location of Butts County

D. B. McKay on why Magbee left his home in Georgia:

Mrs. Mary Caldwell once asked me, "Why didn't you talk to me before you wrote that incomplete story about old Judge Magbee?  (Referring to a story McKay had written for the Times.)  I could have told you where he came from, and why he left home.  I had an uncle living in Georgia who was a brilliant lawyer and the state historian. When I  was a little girl, my uncle told me that J. T. Magbee left his birthplace in a south Georgia county at the invitation of his neighbors, that the action was taken because of Magbee's bad conduct."

It was a polite way of saying his neighbors ran him out of town.

McKay knew Magbee personally; he referred to the time when he was a young boy working in Magbee's print shop during the time Magbee was publishing his newspaper, The Guardian, in the 1880s:

"As an apprentice in the printing business, I worked in the Guardian office several months, and to me the old fellow was always kindly and generous.  I was working in the printing business the day the first train on the South Florida Railroad arrived--Jan. 25, 1884..."


Mrs. Caldwell said that Magbee "left his birthplace in a south Georgia county".  Numerous sources researched for this feature claim that James T. Magbee was born in Butts County, Ga. in 1820.  Those who have researched his ancestry say he was a son of Hiram and Susanna (Wooten) Magbee (married Oct 6, 1816).   The basis of his birthplace being Butts County appears to be due to the presence of his father on the 1830 census of Butts County. (The 1830 census recorded the name of the head of house only, with others enumerated as a count of males and females separately in several age ranges.)

James T. Magbee could not have been born in Butts County because it didn't exist in 1820; it was formed on December 24, 1825  from portions of Henry County and Monroe County. 

To further complicate matters, Henry County also didn't exist in 1820, it was created in 1821 from Creek Indian lands. The state legislature later divided land originally set aside as Henry County into Butts, Clayton, DeKalb, Fulton, Newton and Spalding counties and large portions of present day Rockdale and Fayette counties.

Monroe County also didn't exist in 1820. It was created in 1821 from Creek Indian lands, later divided to make Pike and Lamar counties along with parts of Spalding, Butts, Upson and Bibb counties.

So was James born in the area that became Monroe or Henry County, which then became Butts County by the time of the 1830 census? As for what Mrs. Caldwell said about Magbee's birth place, none of these counties can be considered "south Georgia."


Henry & Monroe Counties, early 1820s
Before formation of Butts County



Present day Georgia Counties Map
Location of Butts County


1830 Census, Butts Co., GA

Censuses before 1850 only showed the name of the head of house, with the rest of the family counted in age groups.

In 1830, the Magbees are found in Butts County.  The one male age 30 to under 40 would be Hiram, and the one female age 20 to under 30 was his wife, Susan.  James would have been around 9 or 10 years old (depending on his birth month and the date of the census) so he should be one of the two males listed in the age 5 to under 10 column.  If he was 1o he would have been counted in the next column and there is no entry there.

There is one more male in the age group with James, and another under 5 years old which means James had two brothers born from 1820 to 1830.  The child under 5 would have been his brother Samuel, born 1830, so this leaves one male age 5 to under 10 (born after 1820 to 1825) unaccounted for.  The one female under 5 would have been James's sister Penelope Adeline. 

Evidence presented below will show that James was more likely born in Clarke County.

1820 Census, Salem, Clarke Co., GA


This census lists three households as "Mcbee" but the names suggest these are Magbee family members.  The first 6 columns count males (notice there is overlap with columns 3 and 4), the last 5 columns count females.  The age groups for males are:  Under 10, 10 to under 16, 16 to 18, 16 to under 26, 26 to under 45, and 45 & over.  Rachel is 45 or over 45 and the only member of her household.  This is a clue that she was Laban & Hiram's mother and widowed. Living on each side of her would be her sons, Laban and Hiram.  (See the Last Will and Testament of Rachel Magby.)


Laban has two males under 10, and he himself is age 27 to under 45.  Females include one under 10, two age 10 to under 16, and one age 26 to under 45 (Laban's wife).


Hiram has one male under 10--this would be his newborn son James T. Magbee. Hiram himself was age 18 to under 26.  There is only one female in this household, who would be Hiram's wife Susanna, also under 26. Hiram would later name a daughter for his mother; Rachel Elizabeth Magbee. 


This is evidence that James was more likely born in Clarke County and that Hiram and his family came to Butts County by the time of the 1830 census.


Georgia Counties
Early 1820s


Below, the location of Clarke County along with Henry and Monroe counties before Butts County was created. 
This shows that Clark County wasn't involved with the Henry/Monroe/Butts County creations and that after James was born, the Magbees moved to Butts County in time for the 1830 census.


Present Day Georgia Counties

For 1840 and later, the Magbees were in Heard County.


The Heard County 1840 Census of this family shows Hiram and Susan with 8 others in the household.  Five are definitely their children, the other 3 could be any combination of cousins or white farm hands/servants. There was a total of four males in the household younger than James.  One of the four would have been James's brother Samuel who would have been around 10.  Another was William, who would be around age 2 or 3 (as you will see on their 1850 census).  This leaves TWO males age 15 to under 20 who are unaccounted for. 


The female age 10 to under 15 would be Penelope Adeline.  There are TWO new females in the household.  One under age 5 would be a new daughter born into the family (Rachel Elizabeth) and an unknown female at age 20 to under 30.  It is not clear if this is a "1" and then marked out.  If this is indeed a "1", this could be a cousin or a housekeeper who moved in sometime after 1830 and was gone by 1850.


1850 Census, Heard Co., GA

Below, the 1850 census of Heard County, Ga. shows Hiram Magbee and his wife Susan, with children (Penelope) Adaline, Samuel, (Rachel) Elizabeth and William, ages 20, 19, 14, and 12, respectively.  James was not present because he was living in Tampa by this time.  Missing are the two unknown males who were age 15 to under 20 in 1840, who would now be age 25 to under 30. Below, the 1860 Census of Heard County, Ga., Post Office Franklin, shows Hiram and Susan with daughters Elizabeth and Adeline, apparently still single.  William Magbee would have been around 22, is now missing.

Their ages are rather inconsistent with their 1850 census ages--Susan became 4 years younger than her previous census; Hiram and Adeline only aged 6 years from 1850 to 1860.  The whereabouts of William Magbee are not known at this time.







James T

unknown male1* 1820-1825  
unknown male2* 1820-1825  
unknown female1* 1820-1829  

Penelope Adeline

Samuel B. 2-14-1830  
Rachel Elizabeth c1836  
William c1838  


James was one of at least five children, and as many as eight.

*The unknown persons are those who only appeared on one or two censuses before 1850, and so their names are not known.


See Magbee Census Analysis and Last Will and Testament of Rachel Magbee (James's paternal grandmother; Hiram's mother)
at the end of page 3.



1845:  Florida becomes a state

First governor under statehood
June 25, 1845 to October 1, 1849
Portrait and some info from the Florida Historical Society website.


On March 3, 1845, Florida became the 27th state of the Union and William Dunn Moseley became the first state governor.

Born in Lenoir County North Carolina in 1795, Moseley pursued a legal career in his native state before moving to Florida.   He graduated from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill in 1818 and received a Master’s degree in 1821. He served in the North Carolina Senate from 1829-1832 before moving to Jefferson County, Florida in 1835.

Moseley served in both the territorial House and Senate before winning the hotly contested 1845 gubernatorial race against former territorial governor and popular Florida politician Richard Keith Call.

As governor, Moseley supported the expansion of agricultural endeavors, especially the planting of citrus, avocados, tobacco, and cotton. He was a strong supporter of states' rights and favored the establishment of state-funded public schools.  The state capitol was completed and fully occupied in the first year of his administration.

He served only one term as governor then moved to Palatka in 1851 where he became a planter and raised citrus on his plantation until his death on January 4, 1863.



1840s:  James T. Magbee studied law in Georgia, then moved to Tampa


It is assumed that James studied law in Georgia, probably under the supervision of a practicing attorney, which was the standard of the time. After receiving his "frontier education" in rural Georgia, James Magbee came to Tampa.


In the winter of 1845-46, soon after Florida became a state, James Magbee appeared at Fort Brooke and was admitted to the law practice in 1846. He was around 26 years old.


Burgert Bros. photo of an illustration of Ft. Brooke in 1846 courtesy of the Tampa-Hillsborough County Public Library.



By James McKay, Jr. in "Reminiscences - History of Tampa in the Olden Days"  Dec. 18, 1923

At that time there were but few citizens who were civilian and but few houses outside of the government reservation. The military post was known as Fort Brooke, garrisoned by the Fifth Infantry, and commanded by Colonel Waite. There was but one store on the reservation, owned and operated by W. G. Ferris.  He was known as the sutler  for the post. These stores are now called post exchanges at army posts.


Read about the establishment of Fort Brooke and its namesake, Col. George Mercer Brooke, here at the TampaPix feature "The Final Battle of Fort Brooke."




This 1838 map shows Fort Brooke at its pinnacle, when it was the headquarters for the U.S. Army of the South.
Matheson History Museum

Map from this Tribune 2016 article by Rodney Kite-Powell


General view of Fort Brooke and parade grounds, 1845. 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.



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 to be used as the county seat.  Although Fort Brooke was not to be abandoned for 30 years, it would steadily decline in use by the military from that time.

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, with the "handle" portion of which was the property on which the road to the government spring in today's Ybor City was located.  The dotted line shows the road going on to Fort Dade.

The red outline shows the 160 acres obtained by Hillsborough County for the county seat.  Being drawn in 1852, it shows a rough sketch of the southern boundary of the village of Tampa which was surveyed and drawn by John Jackson from 1847 to 1853.  See section further below on Jackson and his plan.


The small 16.8-acre island in the bay was the smaller of two mud flats which would later play a role in the Civil War and eventually, with the larger one not seen here ("Depot Key"), become the foundation for Davis Islands in 1926.




1845 - 1846:  Magbee is quickly considered troublesome

Becoming a resident of Tampa around this time, young James T.  Magbee was immediately embroiled in a long-standing controversy between the settlers on the Ft. Brooke military reservation and the army commanders.


Capt. John H. Winder had assumed command at Fort Brooke in November, 1845. He soon ran into trouble with Indian agent Thomas P. Kennedy and decided to close the local trading post.


Also, hogs owned by the settlers were "running at large" on the military post and if they were killed by the soldiers the settlers would prosecute the guilty parties. Winder considered building a fence to keep out the hogs but preferred “ kick out Thomas P. Kennedy, M. C. Brown, J. T. Magbee, and such others as from time to time may prove troublesome.”


[Winder may have found Magbee troublesome if he provided legal counsel to the  settlers in the prosecution of the soldiers. Perhaps they were his first clients.]



1846:  The earliest existing records of Hillsborough Co. Commissioner meetings
History of Hillsborough County, Florida, Narrative and Biographical, 1928" by Ernest L. Robinson, Director of High Schools of Hillsborough County, Formerly Principal of Hillsborough County High School

1846 - Jan. 5:  The board members, the lost book of 1845, pay and taxes

The first meeting (for which records still exist) of the Hillsborough County Commissioners was held.  The board consisted of William Hancock, M.C. Brown, Benjamin Moody, Simon Turman, and James A. Goff (not present). Simon Turman was Judge of Probate and President of the Board.  At this meeting, a small record book of the previous year's proceedings was turned over to the board by Manuel Alvilla, former Clerk of the County Court.  This book has never been found.  Also at this meeting, pay was established for the board at $2 per day while in session.  The county tax for 1846 was established at 50% of the amount assessed for the State.  S.L. Sparkman was the tax assessor and John parker the tax collector.


 1846 - April 7:  Treasury balance, build a courthouse

At this meeting, Thomas P. Kennedy was the Treasurer of the County and reported the balance to be $267.63. The commissioners were appointed to "superintend the building of a court house and other public buildings in the Village of Tampa" and instructed to "select the spot of ground for the said public buildings, make a plan to start the building and finish them as soon as practicable taking into consideration the funds on hand..."


1846 - May 23:  Establish a ferry, build a road

At this meeting, Thomas Piper was granted "the privilege of establishing a ferry across the Hillsborough River at Tampa."  The grant was to last four years and he was to pay five dollars per year for the last three years.  The ferry fees were fixed at five cents per man and proportionately higher for vehicles. A road was authorized to be extended as well.


1846 - Oct. 19:  Contract to Ledwith to build courthouse, get bids from surveyors to plat the town

At this meeting, the  Board of County Commissioners ordered " continue the contract with Michael Ledwith for building the Court House provided he enter into bonds to have the house completed by the first Monday in next April."  [Michael Ledwith and his wife, Margaret Wyatt, were residents of Tallahassee.]

Also at this meeting, the Board ordered the President of the Board to get bids from ''two or more competent surveyors for laying off 40 acres into suitable sized lots and streets for a Town or Village at this place."

The Federal Government had donated these 40 acres just north of the garrison line to Hillsborough County for a county-seat.


1846 - October 27:  Taxes collected, contract to John Jackson to survey Tampa

At this meeting the tax collector reported that the amount of county taxes collected for the year 1846 was $148.69. The Board received bids from several surveyors for the survey of the forty acres granted for a town and gave the contract to John Jackson, former assistant City Engineer of New Orleans.



By James McKay, Jr. in "Reminiscences - History of Tampa in the Olden Days"  Dec. 18, 1923

The north side of the government reservation ran east and west along Whiting street. The village was situated north of this line, and was a bed of sand and thick growth of what was called the scrub. The post office was on the reservation. At the time our family came to Tampa, the postmaster was Dr. John M. Palmer. He constructed a small hotel on the north side of Whiting street near the river and named it the Palmer hotel. This was a building containing 10 or 11 rooms, with a dining room the entire length of it on the back, and about 15 feet wide, which was used later on as a dance hall for the young people.  Colonel Hugh T. Fisher was the manager of this hotel. He became the postmaster on June 10, 1850. Colonel Fisher was the grandfather of our present deputy sheriff, Mr. Brooks.


In 1846 Darling & Griffin opened a store at the corner of Whiting and Tampa streets. Later on the name of this firm was changed to Kennedy and Darling. My father also opened a small store in 1850, at the corner of Washington and Franklin street, where the Tampa Daily Times is now published.

[The McKay family arrived in Tampa in 1846]



1846:  Magbee takes the spotlight in Hillsborough County politics

Magbee quickly assumed a leadership role in Hillsborough County politics. Writing to Gov. William D. Moseley in July 1846, he complained that local officials had not received "the acts of the last legislature" which was required by law. This made it difficult to properly conduct county elections.

Governor William Dunn Moseley
First governor under statehood June 25, 1845 to October 1, 1849
From Dept. of State website




John Jackson - Surveyor, Merchant, Short-term Mayor

Born in County Monaghan, Ireland, Jackson immigrated with his brother Thomas to the United States in 1841. The brothers traveled to New Orleans where John worked as an Assistant City Engineer for two years.

In 1843, the federal government hired Jackson to survey a large land grant in present-day Palmetto, Florida. After completing the assignment, the federal government gave Jackson a permanent position as a federal surveyor. He accepted this appointment and then moved to Hillsborough County with his brother Thomas to begin work. In addition to his salary, the federal government gave Jackson a large land grant in Hillsborough County.

Jackson's work also took him to various regions of Florida and it was on an assignment in St. Augustine that he met and married Ellen Maher on July 22, 1847 with whom he had four children: Thomas, James, Kate and John. Several weeks later, Hillsborough County hired Jackson to survey and map Tampa which had been designated the county seat in 1846. Jackson named the streets of Tampa after U.S. Presidents, military figures and one local individual, William Ashley, the first city clerk of Tampa. 
[See "
What's in a Name" feature at TampaPix.]

After completing his assignment, Jackson returned to surveying but in 1849 he and his wife decided to move to Tampa where he established a general store on the corner of Washington and Tampa Streets. Jackson also became involved in Tampa's civic activities.

Jackson's ad shows he didn't sell on credit. "He is convinced that no system of business affords the same facilities for the satisfaction of both buyer and seller, as does the cash system."

Elected 9th Mayor of Tampa on February 3, 1862, Jackson has the dubious distinction of serving the shortest term as an elected mayor in Tampa history: 19 days. On February 22, 1862, the Confederate Military Commander dismissed the mayor, city council and other employees.  

City of Tampa, Previous Mayors



1846 - December 30:  Survey received, fee paid, "Village of Tampa" streets laid out and named

History of Hillsborough County, Florida, Narrative and Biographical, 1928" by Ernest L. Robinson, Director of High Schools of Hillsborough County, Formerly Principal of Hillsborough County High School


The Board of County Commissioners ordered the survey of John Jackson received and the plan to be recorded immediately. The section surveyed was called the Village of Tampa. One hundred dollars was paid for this survey. In this first survey only the outlines of the town were laid out and a portion of the blocks subdivided. Mr. Jackson built a house on lower Tampa street on block 19, in 1847, and settled down here.

At this time the government was commanded by Lt. Col. Charles Jarvis Whiting, who aided in the initial survey work, and the first street laid out was named in his honor. Jackson named most of the other streets after presidents, also one for Franklin, one for Lafayette and one for his friend, Tampa's first City Clerk William Ashley who settled in Tampa in 1830, and whose residence was located on the west half of the block on the southwest corner of Lafayette and Tampa streets. The blocks were laid out in one-acre squares. Those between Franklin street and the river front were each divided into six lots 70 feet by 106. The blocks east of Franklin street were divided into four lots. each, 106 feet square. The streets were given a width of eighty feet.

Photo of Lt. Col. Charles Whiting from

See "What's in a Name" at TampaPix


Up until this time, the buildings of the village were nearly all within the limits of what was known as the reservation, the northern boundary of which coincided with Whiting street. The business part of Ft. Brooke was near the river, extending in an irregular manner from the Palmer House, at Whiting and Water streets, to a point near where the phosphate works used to be. W. G. Ferris, the army sutler, had a large store fronting both east and west, along the wharf, about 300 feet south of the Palmer House, and the same distance north of the commissary, which was situated at the north end of the wharf.


1847 - January:  The original plan for the village of Tampa

The plan shown below was published in the Tampa Times on Jan. 25, 1935 as part of an article about John Jackson and his son, Thomas.  It shows the plan as originally drawn, with only the blocks subdivided.  The significance of the large X's are yet to be determined.  They might signify that structures had already been built there.

Notice the location of "Court House Square;" it was two blocks east of where the actual courthouse was built.  Monroe St. became Florida Ave. in the 1880s.




1847:  James McKay's bid accepted to build the courthouse & the 1st authorized sale of lots in Tampa

When permission had been given to Hillsborough County officials to erect a courthouse on land formerly occupied by the troops, a meeting of the board of county commissioners was called on January 11, 1847 for the purpose of receiving proposals for the building of a courthouse. "The proposal of James McKay to build and finish a two-story house 20 by 45 feet in the clear according to specifications named in his proposals for the sum of $1368 was accepted by the board."

Also at this meeting, in order to raise funds to pay McKay, it was ordered that a sale of lots in Tampa should be made on the first Monday of next April and that public notice be given in the Jacksonville News and the Southern Journal, published in Tallahassee.

(At the meeting of the previous October, the Commissioners of Public Buildings had been ordered to have the courthouse built by Michael Ledwith if he could meet conditions demanded. The contract had evidently not been carried out, and so we find this contract entered into with James McKay.) 

Accordingly, the sale of lots with prices ranging from $25 to $83 a lot was held on April 5, 1847.  This sale would represent the first legal transaction from government to private ownership of the Fort Brooke land.   


History of Hillsborough County, Florida, Narrative and Biographical, 1928" by Ernest L. Robinson, Director of High Schools of Hillsborough County, Formerly Principal of Hillsborough County High School

See the later section below about the courthouses.



Magbee legal notice in Nov. 26, 1847 Jacksonville paper--The News

1848 - Magbee Elected State Representative

Within two years of arriving in Tampa, by 1848, Magbee had established himself sufficiently to run for the House of Representatives of the General Assembly of Florida. He defeated the incumbent William Hancock by a vote of 114 to 27.  Magbee was around 28 years old.


An 1847 legal notice in the Jacksonville "The News"  shows he was handling the estate of Felix Ortis.


1848 - Magbee Appointed Guardian at Age 28

On February 15, 1848, according to Hillsborough County recordsJames T. Magbee was appointed guardian of the person and estate of George Wanton, a free mulatto man.




The Hurricane of 1848

1848 map from Exploring Florida Maps; a part of Maps ETC and Exploring Florida websites. Produced by the Florida Center for Instructional Technology College of Education, University of South Florida.

The 1848 Tampa Bay hurricane, also known as the Great Gale of 1848, was the most severe hurricane to affect the Tampa Bay area and is one of only two major hurricanes to make landfall in the area, the other having occurred in 1921. It affected the Tampa Bay Area September 23–25, 1848, and crossed the peninsula to cause damage on the east coast on or about September 26. It reshaped parts of the coast and destroyed much of what few human works and habitation were then in the Tampa Bay Area. Although records of its wind speed are unavailable, its barometric pressure and storm surge were consistent with at least a Category 4 hurricane. A survivor called the storm "the granddaddy of all hurricanes."

The storm appears to have formed in the central Gulf of Mexico before moving northeast to make landfall near Clearwater, Florida. It then crossed the Florida peninsula and exited near Cape Canaveral.  After moving into the extreme western Atlantic, the cyclone continued to the northeast just offshore of the East Coast of the United States to the Grand Banks of Newfoundland.

Fort Brooke recorded peak winds of 72 miles per hour, and a barometer at the fort measured a minimum pressure of 28.18 inches of mercury (954 mb), though the winds were still blowing at the time that reading was made. The storm produced the highest storm tide ever experienced in Tampa Bay. The water rose and fell about 15 feet in six to eight hours. The tide inundated Pinellas County “at the waist,” covering all low-lying elevations, and reportedly submerged most of the Interbay Peninsula, where South Tampa and MacDill Air Force Base currently reside. “The bays [Hillsborough and Old Tampa] met.” General R. D. A. Wade, commanding at Fort Brooke, reported the destruction of the wharves, public buildings, and storehouses. B. P. Curry, the fort’s assistant surgeon, reported the hospital destroyed. Only five houses were left standing in Tampa, and they were all damaged. The water rose twelve feet higher than had been noted in the past, and strong winds downed many old trees.

On the Pinellas Peninsula, the storm destroyed the fishing rancho of Antonio Máximo Hernández, reputedly lower Pinellas’ first white settler, forcing him to emigrate permanently. The storm almost obliterated the citrus crop and destroyed the main house at St. Helena plantation—now part of Safety Harbor—forcing the residents to shelter on an elevated Tocobaga mound. Even so, they nearly drowned as the storm tide eroded part of the shell mound. Winds also felled almost all of the trees along what is now Indian Rocks Road in Largo.

The storm completely altered the coastal geography of the Tampa Bay area, cutting new inlets, filling in others, and altering the shape of bays and keys, thereby making navigational charts useless to mariners. Allen’s Creek was widened from less than 200 feet  to about half a mile at its mouth. Passage Key, between Egmont Key and Anna Maria, was obliterated but reformed later. The storm created what would become known as “Soldier’s Hole” at Mullet Key, so called because soldiers at Fort De Soto used it as a swimming hole. John’s Pass was opened but has since shifted north. After the storm destroyed the lighthouse on Egmont Key, the keeper (Marvel Edwards) rode out the storm in a rowboat tied to a palmetto tree. The end of the rope was later found 9 ft. off the ground, which had an elevation of about 6 ft.

The Great Gale of 1848 at Wikipedia


By James McKay, Jr. in "Reminiscences - History of Tampa in the Olden Days"  Dec. 18, 1923 and "Oldest Tampa Citizen Recounts Tampa's Deeds," Dec. 20, 1921, Tampa Times.

In 1848, the town was visited by a terrific hurricane causing the tide to rise above 15 feet above low water mark, washing away the W. G. Ferris store and the house we were living in; in fact, most of the houses that were located on the river bank.

At this time, my father was absent at New Orleans with his schooner, the Wm. H. Gotzmer, this vessel at that time being the only means of transportation with the outside world in securing supplies for the small colony of Tampa. 

Our family was moved to the Palmer hotel, and when driven out of there on account of the tide, to the Darling and Griffin store, and then to the military hospital on the reservation. The Palmer Hotel withstood the hurricane, although the water rose two feet over the main floor. 

After the hurricane, the military authorities issued my mother tents to house our family, which, with their assistance, was placed on the block now occupied by the Knight & Wall Hardware Co., that block at the time being owned by my grandmother, Sarah Cail.

When my father returned in his vessel, he had some logs cut and hauled in and a house built, where we lived for some 20 months, until he could bring lumber from Mobile and build a house on the block now occupied by the Almeria Hotel.

As soon as Mr. Ferris could obtain material he erected a small building on the south side of Whiting street near the intersection of Franklin, which did not extend farther south, on account of the reservation.

 A few years later Mr. Ferris, having some trouble with the military officials, was ordered off the reservation, so he moved his store to the corner of Florida and Washington streets and built his residence on the same lot. This residence became the old folks home and later on was moved to the site the home is now occupying and somewhat improved, or made larger.

E. L Robinson's account of the storm:

The turbulent weather preceding the great storm of 1848 commenced on Saturday, September 23. During Sunday the wind came in gusts from the east accompanied by occasional showers. A number of men went down the bay on Sunday to assist in bringing in W. G. Ferris' schooner, the John T. Sprague, due from New Orleans with a cargo of supplies. Great difficulty was experienced in towing the vessel against the strong wind, and it was necessary to "kedge" (move by hauling in a thick rope or cable attached to a small anchor dropped at some distance) more than once before reaching the landing. It was well for the troops and villagers that this cargo was saved, for it was some time afterward before more supplies came in. The schooner also brought specie (coins) and currency to be paid to the soldiers, Mr. Ferris being "acting'' paymaster at the time. 

On the morning of the 26th, the wind shifted to the south and finally to the southwest.  Then the trouble commenced. A high tide came in, and the velocity of the wind increased, driving the water deep into the garrison. Ferris carried his family to the Palmer House, then waded ·in "water up to his armpits back to the store, where he succeeded in getting out the currency and account books. Then upon looking southward, he saw the commissary building rolling and tumbling straight toward his warehouse. A moment later there was a crash as the warehouse was struck and away went the whole structure, reduced to a mass of wreckage that included $15,000 worth of goods and a large amount of specie.

The Palmer House now seemed doomed. Tables began to float around in the dining room of the old hostelry. Josiah Ferris, son of the sutler, distinguished himself by swimming out through the north door with a young girl in his arms. The refugees retreated to the Kennedy store, thence to still higher ground at the corner of Franklin and Washington. But the Palmer House withstood the storm. The scene in the garrison was now appalling, though sublime in its grandeur, as the great waves came charging in, and the bay as far as the eye could reach was lashed to a fury. The islands in the bay were out of sight under the water, and the tidal wave rushed across the peninsula west of the river into Old Tampa Bay. The tremendous pressure of wind and water raised the river until only the treetops were visible, far north of the village. The Sprague, with the government specie still on board, had been anchored up at the ship yard," and during the worst part of the gale the hull of an old abandoned boat floated against her and broke her cables, allowing her to drift out into the pine woods east of the river and somewhere west of what is now Franklin street with captain and crew still on board.

During Monday afternoon the wind died away and the waters receded somewhat, giving the villagers an opportunity of viewing the damage. 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. The residence of Capt. James McKay, Sr., was spared. [Notice McKay says their house was washed away.]

On Tuesday morning the men from the Sprague came down out of the woods and brought some coffee, hard bread and other needed supplies. Learning that the food on the vessel was intact, the commander at the fort sent a detail of soldiers to bring the supplies to the village and these were divided between the storekeeper and the troops. Later, the government paid for these confiscated goods. Ferris' stock was scattered all the way from Sulphur Springs to Gadsden Point. Several days later the strong box was recovered by the sutler, the specie intact.

Whiskey flowed freely on the evening following the gale, several barrels of the potent stuff having been salvaged from the bay and river. Most of the liquor as well as a number of cases of wine was turned over to the post commander, however.  A number of cedar logs which Ferris had kept in a "bight" on the Alafia river were scattered along the shore from a point up the river around to the north shore of Old Tampa Bay. It is said that the waters of the bay were phosphorescent during several nights preceding the gale, and on Sunday night the light from this source was "almost bright enough to read by."

The village school, taught by a Mr. Wilson, had been dismissed on the forenoon of the day of the gale, and Mr. Henderson, who was one of the pupils, said that the velocity of the wind was so great the people were forced to hug the ground in order to get anywhere. During the storm the lighthouse at Egmont was so badly damaged that a new one was built. No lives were lost as a result of the gale, but there were many narrow escapes from death. As to the cause of the inundation, various theories were advanced. Many were of the opinion that the east wind had blown great volumes of water into the gulf, and that the south wind coming on with the tide, drove the waters of the overtaxed gulf into the bays along our coast. Of such was the memorable storm of '48.

History of Hillsborough County, Florida, Narrative and Biographical, 1928" by Ernest L. Robinson, Director of High Schools of Hillsborough County, Formerly Principal of Hillsborough County High School


William Gould Ferris, Sr.
(1810 - 1895)
Photo from the Ferris family collection at Sunland Tribune referenced below.


William G. Ferris, Sr.

Eliza (Morris) Ferris

Photos from the Ferris family collection at Sunland Tribune referenced below.

FERRIS — William Gould Ferris was the founder of one of Tampa’s leading nineteenth century pioneer families. Born June 11, 1810 in Ovid, New York, he was the eldest of five children of Josiah and Lydia (Bangs) Ferris. As a young man, William went to the Choctaw Indian Nation Territory (Hempstead County, Arkansas), and was married there June 4, 1834 to Eliza Morris, a native of Fort Wayne, Ohio.

William G. Ferris arrived at Tampa from Arkansas in 1841. He was employed by the U. S. Army and had received orders while onboard a ship in the bay when he was  transferred to East Florida. The following year, in 1842, he returned with his family to settle at Fort Brooke, where he served as acting paymaster and sutler to the troops. Ferris soon opened the first general merchandise and clothing store at Ft. Brooke in 1843.  It was a small building that was washed away during the storm of 1848. He then built another store on the south side of Whiting Street which he operated until 1857, when he moved the store to the northeast corner of Washington and Monroe Streets (now Florida Ave.). Also in 1857, William G. Ferris constructed a new two-story home for his family on Washington Street, just east of the store.

In addition to being a prominent merchant, William was a pioneer in the shipping business and owned a number of schooners and steamers. Among them was the fast-sailing schooners Harrison Jones and the John J. Taylor.  Perhaps the most famous of the Ferris's ships was the steamer Scottish Chief.

Ad for Ferris's business in the Mar 8, 1855 Florida Peninsular newspaper

William G. Ferris, Jr.
1844-1867  Second son of W.G.& Eliza Ferris. Photo from the Ferris family collection at Sunland Tribune referenced below

The Peninsular reported on July 28, 1860** that W. G. Ferris and Son had entered the cattle business and had purchased a small steamer, the Scottish Chief, "a ship well calculated for the cattle industry." Later during the Civil War, the Scottish Chief was used as a blockade runner by Capt. James McKay and was set afire and sunk by Union forces in the Hillsborough River in October, 1863.  

[**The July 28, 1860 Peninsular is missing and isn't scanned at the UF digital Newspaper collection. Yet, previous & subsequent issues are available.]

William G. Ferris was a leader in many fields. He was a founder and fifth largest stockholder of the Florida Peninsular Railroad Company in 1859 and was president of the Tampa Ice Company which erected an ice house on Washington Street in 1860. On Nov. 24, 1860 when Hillsborough Countians convened in a mass meeting at the Alafia to urge secession of Florida from the Union, W. G. Ferris was among those present who signed the petition calling for a state convention to consider the matter.

After the Civil War, the Ferrises resumed their shipping business and continued to operate their general store.

Josiah Ferris
He and his brother William were members of the Tampa Cornet Band.
THE SUNLAND TRIBUNE,  Nov. 1996,"TAMPA IS THE PLACE OF PLACES”: The William G. Ferris Family Collection, by Kyle S. VanLandingham

The eldest son, Josiah, who was born in Arkansas in 1836, continued as partner with his father. Josiah was also in the jewelry and watch and clock repair business.

In 1866, Josiah was elected to the Tampa City Council. During his first term on the Council, he was serving as Council President when Mayor Edward A. Clarke unofficially left office in December of 1866. As a result, Ferris served as Acting Mayor from January 1, 1867 until March 1, 1869. This was just before citizens voted to dissolve Tampa’s government. It was a tumultuous time in Tampa’s history in which yellow fever was rampant and the city had few resources to help its citizens.  Ferris returned to the City Council for another term, serving from August of 1873 until August of 1874. He then returned to managing his retail establishments until 1877, when he was elected as Tampa’s City Clerk. He served in this position for nine years, working for six different mayors.  He was the only person to serve in all three positions.

Josiah Ferris as Tampa Mayor pro tem, 1869
(Photo from City of Tampa Previous Mayors)

He and his father served on the first vestry of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in 1871.  Josiah Ferris died in Tampa on November 24, 1901.

In 1880, William and Eliza's son, Henry Clarke Ferris, was elected Mayor of Tampa. (No existing photo). Involved in civic affairs and local politics for several years, Henry Ferris campaigned for mayor in the August 1880 municipal election. Ferris won the election and, at the age of 32, was one of Tampa's youngest mayors. He was also the second Tampa native to hold this office.

Henry Ferris served only six months as mayor before he was compelled to resign on February 19, 1881 because he moved outside the city limits.  Tampa's Charter required that the mayor and other city officials must be residents of the city while in office. After his departure, city council president, Matthew E. Haynsworth, served as acting mayor until a special election was held on March 22, 1881 in which George B. Sparkman was elected mayor.

H.C. Ferris & Co. Gent's Furnishings and W.A. Givens drugstore on the southeast corner of Washington St. and Franklin, 1881.
Burgert Bros. collection at the Tampa-Hillsborough County Public Library


Always the trailblazer, Col. Wm. G. Ferris, Sr. was reported by the Sunland Tribune in June 1879 as converting the lighting of his residence from kerosene to gas. Col. W. G. Ferris passed away in Tampa, Aug. 3, 1895, after a long and productive life.

THE SUNLAND TRIBUNE, Journal of the TAMPA HISTORICAL SOCIETY, Volume XXII, Nov. 1996,"TAMPA IS THE PLACE OF PLACES”: The William G. Ferris Family Collection, by Kyle S. VanLandingham

The City Clerks of Tampa, A Project of the City of Tampa, Shirley Foxx-Knowles, CMCCity Clerk, City of Tampa

Tampa Blue book and Pioneers, 1914 at Internet Archive     

 City of Tampa, Previous Mayors 

In these days, Washington Street was the principal business thoroughfare of Tampa.

This 1884 map shows on the south side of Washington St., outlined in green, the building that housed H.C. Ferris & Co. Gent's Furnishings and W.A. Givens drugstore seen above.  The location of Billy Wall's mercantile business is outlined in red. Around 1888, Monroe St. was renamed Florida Avenue. At the northwest corner of Franklin and Washington, outlined in blue, is the location where Judge Wall's son-in-law, Christopher L. Friebele, set up his general store in the 1850s.



1846 - 1849 - Seven attorneys admitted to practice in Hillsborough County

In 1849, court minutes of Hillsborough County listed seven “attorneys and counselors at law” admitted to practice in the Hillsborough County Circuit Court. Among these were future Supreme Court Judge Bird M. Pearson and future Circuit Judge Thomas F. King.  James Gettis and Hardy D. Kendrick later became solicitors.  Those admitted to practice from April 14, 1846 to October 13, 1849 were James T. Magbee, James Gettis, Thomas F. King, Bird M. Pearson,  Alfred Gale,  David Provence, and Hardee D. Kendrick. 


1849 - January 18

Fourteen men met at the county courthouse and  unanimously vote to incorporate the village of Tampa with a trustee form of government.

The Mayors of Tampa 1856 - 2015,  A project of the City of Tampa, City of Tampa:  Incorporation Timeline

1849 - January 25

Tampa elected five trustees with M.G. Sikes serving as president of the governing body. Thomas P. Kennedy, Jesse Carter, C.A. Ramsey, and William Ross trustees; James Gettis, first town clerk.

The Mayors of Tampa 1856 - 2015,  A project of the City of Tampa, City of Tampa:  Incorporation Timeline

While there is no definite record of any further ratification of this act of incorporation, it seems to have been accepted as a sort of working basis and for several years an organization called the Corporation of the Town of Tampa remained in existence.  There is no evidence that this corporation did anything or had any important influence on conditions in Tampa.

History of Hillsborough County, Florida, Narrative and Biographical, 1928 by Ernest L. Robinson, Director of High Schools of Hillsborough County, Formerly Principal of Hillsborough County High School.



1849 - Magbee Makes an Appeal in Tallahassee for Protection of Pioneers


Thomas P. Kennedy, a Philadelphia native, arrived in 1840 at Fort Brooke where he gained business acumen while a settler during the Second Seminole War. The firm of Kennedy & Darling, with its store and warehouse on the corner of Whiting and Tampa streets, soon emerged as the financial backbone, not only of Tampa, but the entire southwest area of the state.  He also served as the county treasurer.

The leader of the Hillsborough County Know-Nothings was John Darling of Tampa. Born in New Hampshire in 1808, while serving in the U. S. Army he had come to Fort Brooke and served there and at other posts during the Second Seminole War (1835-42) as an ordnance sergeant. Discharged, he settled in Tampa where in 1848 he became Kennedy's business partner.

The Indian situation threatened to erupt into open warfare in the summer of 1849 when a raiding party attacked the settlement near Fort Pierce on the Indian River and the Kennedy and Darling store on Peas Creek. Shortly after the July 1849 raids, Magbee made a "hurried trip to Tallahassee and made a personal appeal to officials there" for protection of the pioneer settlements.  He was around 29 years old.



Read about the Seminole Wars at the Florida Dept. of State website.

Bay Area Rivers

Peas Creek eventually became known as the Peace River which flows into Charlotte Harbor.  Map by Ted Starr (edited) from "Florida's Peace River Frontier" by Canter Brown


The Peas Creek raid in the news

The Savannah Daily Republican, Sept. 14, 1849 published these letters concerning the warfare of July & August. 

The editor of the Ocala Argus, having no news of his own, sends the Savannah Republican the "P.S." of a letter from a gentleman at Tampa Bay, in order to show that the news received in Savannah via New Orleans is incorrect about Billy Bowlegs surrendering. 

The Aug. 27th letter from Tampa mentions the summer raids by the Indians.  He also writes about an apparently friendly Indian named Chi, and his wife Polly, who came to Fort Brooke and spoke with Gen. Twiggs.  Chi stated he left the Pease Creek store 3 days before it was burned, and had been hunting and fishing on the coast, not seeing any Indians since he left the store, and had no knowledge of the war until he came to Fort Brooke. 

"Some think Chi is a rascal, and others say he is a true friend.  I have no knowledge of him from which to judge, except that he and his wife Polly get (frequently) gloriously drunk--he is a strong, athletic, morose looking man."



Savannah Daily Republican, Sept. 14, 1849


1849 - Magbee buys 160 acres in Putnam County

On Sept. 1, 1849, William P. Brooker sold 160 acres of land he had received in a land patent to James T. Magbee.  Although the sale states it was in Alachua County (green on map), Brooker's land patent shows it was in Putnam County (red on map).  This difference can be attributed to the fact that Putnam County was formed out of Alachua County in 1849.

SeeBureau of Land Management:   Patent to William Brooker

Alachua County Clerk records:  William P. Brooker sells  160 acres in Alachua Co. to Magbee

This Indenture made the first day of September in the year of our Lord One thousand Eight Hundred and forty nine between Wm P. Brooker of Hillsboro County and State of Florida, Laborer and Margaret his wife, of the one part and James T. Magbee of the County and State aforesaid, a Lawyer, of the other part; Witnesseth that the said Wm. P. Brooker and Margaret his wife, for and in Consideration of the Sum of Seventy five dollars to them in hand paid by the Said James T. Magbee... Unto the Said James T. Magbee, and to his heirs and assigns all that messuage and tract of Land lying and being Situate in the County of Alachua...

Text has been edited, see complete text and image of this page of original document

The North East quarter of Section Thirty two, Township Ten South, Range Twenty then East, surveyed March Eighteen hundred and Thirty-five and described by Surveyor as follows to wit- NE 1/4 32.10.23. (the patent of the same having been issued in the name of William P. Brooker Upon Permit Under the armed occupation Act, being numbered 846)... tract of one hundred and Sixty Acres of Land,...Unto the Said James T. Magbee his heirs and assigns to the only proper use and behoove of the Said James T. Magbee his heirs and assigns forever; And we hereby Covenant with the Said

Signed Sealed & delivered in presence of Wm P. Brooker (L.S.) W.G. Ferris her Jas Gettis Margaret x Brooker (L.S.) mark

William P. Brooker's land patent of 1849, numbered 846, was in the NE quarter of Section 32, Township 10 South, Range twenty THREE East.  The transcription reads "Twenty then" East.



By James McKay, Jr. in "Reminiscences - History of Tampa in the Olden Days"  Dec. 18, 1923

In 1848-49-50 my father owned and operated the schooner Sarah Matilda (named for my mother) between Tampa, Mobile and New Orleans. With the exception of the government vessels, this was the only vessel that was being used commercially for this port. He also constructed a twin wharf at the foot of Washington street. Cattle were penned between the wharves, for shipment to Key West, by schooner.

The Indians having moved to the Everglades and the country being in a peaceful condition, many settlers came into the country and some located in Tampa, purchasing lots and building homes, clearing up the scrub as they would build, putting down plank sidewalks and in some instances shell, but the sand remained in the streets making it hard on teams as well as pedestrians. No lot of 105 feet by 105 feet sold for more than $25 or $140 for the square. That is what our family paid for the lots where the Olive hotel is, also The Times lot, and the Almeria hotel square.



1850 - Marriage at age 30 to Susan Tatum

The year 1850 was an eventful one in the life of James T. Magbee.

On January 17, 1850, he married Susan A. Tatum in Leon County. (Tallahassee)


According to Gene Jeffries of the Orangeburgh German-Swiss Genealogical Society, Susan's middle name was "Almeria" and was born Aug. 8, 1828 in S. Carolina.  She was one of seven children of Capt. John Tatum and Phoebe Harriet Cleveland who married in Beaufort District, SC in 1826. 

The first Hillsborough Lodge building was built in 1852 at the corner of Franklin & Whiting St.
Photo from Hillsborough Lodge No. 25 website


Marriage license of James T. Magbee & Susan A. Tatum from
Florida Marriages 1830-1993, Leon Co.

Returning with his bride to Tampa, he joined other Freemasons in creating the Hillsborough Lodge No. 25, F. & A.M. Charter members included, among others, Joseph Moore, Jesse Carter and M. L. Shanahan. Magbee was also a charter member of the Tampa Odd Fellows Lodge.

Lodge photos from their Facebook page

The Lodge in use today, on the corner of Kennedy Blvd. & Morgan St, was built in 1927.



By James McKay, Jr. in "Reminiscences - History of Tampa in the Olden Days"  Dec. 18, 1923

The first Masonic lodge was organized, I think, in 1850 and the upstairs of my father’s store was fitted up for holding their meetings, and later on I think in the later part of 1852, the lodge building at the corner of Whiting and Franklin street was erected, first a two-story building, the upstairs for a lodge and the lower floor used principally for school purposes, and later on an addition of a two-story building at right angle to the first one, was constructed.

I am under the impression that my father was one of the charter members of this lodge, and had as much if not more than any other citizen in its organization and construction but later on had a difficulty with one of the members, withdrawing from the lodge, saying he would never enter it again as long as this party was a member, and I do not think that he ever attended a lodge meeting after that.

I am under the impression that he had several hundred dollars of stock in this organization which he lost for some reason. If I have made incorrect statements in reference to this matter and the lodge has records on file in regard to it, I would be very glad to be put right in the matter. We children attended school in this lodge building. Rev. J. K. Glover, a Methodist minister, was the teacher.

[James McKay, Sr. became a member of Hillsborough Lodge No. 25, F&A.M. Apr. 10, 1850. He was expelled Dec. 15, 1855 due to a dispute with fellow Mason Madison Post. McKay was reinstated in the lodge, Sept. 5, 1863.]




1850 Federal Census of Jas. T. Magbee and Susan A. (Tatum) Magbee, Tampa

James would have been closer to age 30 than age 28 shown here on his 1850 census.  His wife Susan was listed as 20, so their age difference was around 9 to 10 years.  His occupation was "Lawyer" and his real estate property valued at $1200.  His place of birth is shown as "Georgia" and his wife's "S. Carolina."




1850 - Magbee Participated in Support of the Nashville Convention


Slavery and the future of the Federal Union were much on the minds of Hillsborough County residents in 1850. On April 8 and 11, citizens met at the Hillsborough County courthouse to support the Nashville Convention, a proposed gathering of delegates from the Southern states which would enunciate at the convention, the position of the slave holding states and their relationship with the Union. Magbee played an active role in these local meetings.


     The Nashville Convention (1850) was a two-session meeting of proslavery Southerners in the United States. John C. Calhoun initiated the drive for a meeting when he urged Mississippi to call for a convention. The resulting Mississippi Convention on Oct. 1, 1849, issued a call to all slave-holding states to send delegates to Nashville, Tenn., in order to form a united front against what was viewed as Northern aggression.
     Delegates from nine Southern states met in Nashville on June 3, 1850. Robert Barnwell Rhett, a leader of the extremists, sought support for secession, but moderates from both the Whig and the Democratic parties were in control. The convention ultimately (June 10) adopted 28 resolutions defending slavery and the right of all Americans to migrate to the Western territories. The delegates were ready to settle the question of slavery in the territories by extending the Missouri Compromise line west to the Pacific.
     In September the U.S. Congress enacted the Compromise of 1850, and six weeks later (November 11–18) the Nashville Convention reconvened for a second session. This time, however, there were far fewer delegates, and the extremists were in control. Although they rejected the Compromise of 1850 and called upon the South to secede, most Southerners were relieved to have the sectional strife seemingly resolved, and the second session of the Nashville Convention had little impact.
  Information from

May 9, 1850 The Florida Republican Meeting in Hillsborough Co, April 8 & 11
Seven resolutions cut from the article, see the whole article at above link.


1850 - Magbee Narrowly Reelected to 2nd Term in the Florida House of Representatives


In the fall of 1850, at only about 30 years old, Magbee stood for reelection to the Florida House of Representatives. It was a very close race. Running as a "Union man," he defeated fellow Democrat Lucius D. Rogers by a vote of 93 to 91. Elias J. Hart received 60 votes.


An angry Dr. Lucius Rogers followed Magbee to Tallahassee to contest the election. In spite of some "slight irregularities," the Assembly declared Magbee the winner by a vote of 92 to 88. Rogers received "$33 for eleven days attendance, and $70 for his traveling expenses from Hillsborough Co. to this place, a distance of three hundred and fifty miles."

                        Jan 2, 1851 Florida Republican






Soon afterward, Magbee, exhibiting a vindictive streak in his personality, attempted to have legislation passed which would prohibit the allowance of pay and mileage for candidates contesting election results to seats in the General Assembly.  That legislation did not pass, 15 for, 21 against.


On Dec. 6, 1850, Magbee was one of the committee which submitted a bill to provide for the final removal of the Seminole Indians.



Though considered a "Union man" by his constituents, Magbee voted along with those attempting to postpone consideration of a strong pro-Union resolution. But his most important vote at the 1850-51 session was to elect Stephen R. Mallory to the United States Senate over incumbent David Levy Yulee.






By James McKay, Jr. in "Reminiscences - History of Tampa in the Olden Days"  Dec. 18, 1923

In 1849 Mr. Payne’s store situated near Peace River, present Hardee County, was burned by a party of Indians and he was massacred. The Indians being at peace the government demanded that the perpetrators of this crime be delivered to the authorities and they pressed this demand with such force that Billy Bowlegs surrendered three of his tribe*.

They were placed in jail and held for some time, when one day about noon, they gave a war whoop and when the sheriff went to the jail found all three of them dead, hanging to the bars, by their blankets. One of them did the hanging and then stood on a bucket, kicked it from under him, as he was found with his feet on the floor and his legs bending so as to throw his weight on his blanket, showing how determined they were. Benjamin J. Hagler was the sheriff at that time. I was a boy [8] years of age and I have never forgotten how these Indians looked, while hanging. This incident was so impressed on my mind that it has remained with me to this date.

[*McKay combined two memories into one. The three involved at the Peace River incident were later sent to the Indian Territory. In August, 1850, Daniel Hubbard, an orphan boy, was abducted by Indians and murdered. In 1851, Billy Bowlegs delivered the three alleged murderers to civil authorities in Tampa. See "The Seminole Indian Murders of Daniel Hubbard," by Jas. W Covington, Sunland Tribune, Vol. XV, Nov. 1989.]




Artist's sketch of Ft. Brooke as it appeared in 1850
Image from The Mayors of Tampa 1856 - 2015




By James McKay, Jr. in "Reminiscences - History of Tampa in the Olden Days"  Dec. 18, 1923

In 1851 we shipped cedar logs that were cut from up the Hillsborough river, to Blanchard and Fitch in New York, for making pencils. In 1851 my father erected a saw mill at the place where the Tampa Steam ways is now situated, for the manufacture of lumber. Previous to this, all lumber was freighted from Mobile. Sawdust from this mill was placed on the municipal streets to assist teams in hauling. When the yellow fever appeared in town many of the citizens claimed it was from decayed sawdust and the practice was stopped.


Fort Myers was established, I think, in 1850 by the government. My father was appointed sutler of this post in 1852 and used a small schooner named Emma to take his goods from Tampa to Fort Myers. He also opened a store at Fort Denaud, which was on the Caloosahatchee river some 20 miles above Fort Myers and chartered a little steamer he owned, named the Woodduck to the quartermaster department to carry supplies to the troops at that place. She was operated between Punta Rassa, Fort Denaud, and Fort Myers.


The mails were brought to Tampa overland from Gainesville by stage first weekly, then semiweekly, under contract with my father in 1852. The first court house was constructed in 1848 and the second and larger court house was built by the Rev. John H. Breaker, being a two-story building in 1854.


The Location of James McKay Sr's Sawmill


These two Sanborn fire insurance maps from the University of Florida Sanborn Maps collection show the sawmill area when it was Tampa Steam Ways (left) and close up (right) in 1915.  It was located just south of the Magbee Spring and Tampa Waterworks in the Tampa Heights area along the river.  Today, the area formerly occupied by McKay's sawmill is the southern tip of Tampa Waterworks Park and part of the I-275 ramp system downtown.

Tampa Steam Ways Co., formerly abutting the present day Water Works Park to the south, was primarily involved in marine repair and boat construction, but also received shell and sand. Available fire insurance maps showed two marine ways with marine railways on Tampa Steam Ways’ property.  The Corps of Engineers survey indicated that the business had “marine ways” capable of accommodating vessels up to about 120 feet in length with drafts of 8 to 10 feet. A circa 1899 photograph of Tampa Steam Ways  already showed an active marine repair business on the site and large boats moored at its wharf. As late as January 1956, Tampa Steam Ways constructed a wooden-hulled 73-foot exploratory fishing vessel for the Department of the Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service.  

Brief Historical Review of Dredging History Tampa Heights Shore Protection & Docking Facility Project by Land Assessment Inc., 2006


1852 - October 10 - Tampa Village government abolished

Officials learn they had no legal authority to levy taxes and on this day, the electors vote to abolish the village government.   The Mayors of Tampa 1856 - 2015,  A project of the City of Tampa, City of Tampa:  Incorporation Timeline

The corporation of the Town of Tampa was dissolved by an act of the county commissioners and its assets ordered turned into cash with which to pay its debts.

History of Hillsborough County, Florida, Narrative and Biographical, 1928" by Ernest L. Robinson, Director of High Schools of Hillsborough County, Formerly Principal of Hillsborough County High School.





Leader of the Hillsborough County "Know Nothings," John Darling.  Read more about him at "The history of John Darling" where this image is from.


By James McKay, Jr. in "Reminiscences - History of Tampa in the Olden Days"  Dec. 18, 1923

About this time the Know Nothing Party was organized against the Democratic party. The political excitement reached our quiet little town, and Rev. Glover advocated the party so strong, denouncing the Democratic Party, that we were removed from his school and sent to James Petty as teacher. Well do I remember the public meeting that was held in the court house. Rev. J. K. Glover advocating the tenets of the Know Nothing party and Mr. Alfonso DeLaunay denouncing the Know Nothing party and defending the principles of the Democratic party. Their speeches were bitter but the people believed that Mr. DeLauney was right. The Know Nothing party was of short life. Mr. DeLaunay was appointed postmaster Dec. 21, 1852 and served a little more than 8 years, he was of French descent, very intelligent and a fine talker.




The Hillsborough County Courthouses
[Red text from E. L. Robinson's History of Hillsborough County]

The first courthouse had been erected in Tampa soon after the County of Hillsborough was organized. Hillsborough County was created on January 25, 1834, from Alachua and Monroe counties, during the U.S. territorial period (1822–1845). The new county was named for Wills Hill, the Earl of Hillsborough, who served as British Secretary of State for the Colonies from 1768 to 1772. The County was created through efforts by Judge Augustus Steele.

That little log courthouse was burned by the Indians at the outbreak of the Second Seminole War.  At that time, fewer than a thousand people lived in Hillsborough County and cattlemen came to the courthouse most often to complain about stolen livestock. And, of course, judges and attorneys traveled long distances by horseback or stagecoach to cover their “circuit," a name still in use today.

When the first County Commissioners met in 1846, the general topics were taxes, transportation, a new courthouse and jail, and downtown development. The next year, the Commissioners accepted the bid of Captain James McKay to construct a two-story courthouse, which was 20 ft x 45 ft. at a cost to taxpayers of $1,358.  This is the courthouse most refer to as the "First courthouse" although it was really the 2nd one.

This courthouse was completed and accepted from James McKay on January 3, 1848 and his bill paid; including ten dollars allowed for additional work.

This, the "first court house" of Hillsborough County, was erected on the block bounded by Lafayette, Franklin, Madison and Florida. The entrance was on the south side and there was one large room for a court room and two small rooms on the west side for offices and jury rooms. The material for this building was brought to Tampa from Mobile by Captain McKay who had come to Tampa in [1846].

This building was soon outgrown and no longer adequate for the increasing business of the county. When a new building was ordered this building was sold to John H. Redbrook who moved it to Franklin street. Later it was moved to the comer of Zack street and Florida avenue and used as a store house for the Peninsular Telephone Company.

A third structure was erected in 1854, the one in the photos below.  It was built at a cost of  $5,000 and was used until 1891.  Of course, it also had a picket fence to keep the animals out of the courtyard.

Hillsborough County Courthouse, Lafayette Street entrance, looking east from intersection with Franklin Street, 1886.
This is the courthouse Magbee would have held court in for Hillsborough County trials.
Burgert Brothers photo from University of South Florida Digital Collection

TAMPA, FLORIDA. WEDNESDAY, JUNE 7. 1854. Our Court House.

Through the kindness of Mr.[John H.] Breaker, contractor and builder of this magnificent Court House, we are enabled to furnish our readers with a full description of its order, size, various offices, etcc. etc. The building is 76 ft. long, by 45 wide, and two stories high. The 1st. story is 12 ft. between joints; the second is 14 1-2 ft. On the 1st floor is the City Hall, Judge of Probates, Clerks’, and Sheriff Offices, and Grand Jurors’ room. A spacious Hall extends from the Southern entrance of the building, between the four offices to the City Hall.

On the 2nd floor is the Court Room, 42 by 45 ft., and two spacious Jury rooms, with a passage extending from the south entrance, between the jury rooms to the Court-room. A projecting Portico, an each end, the whole width of the building supported by heavy Grecian Columns. A double flight of stairs ascends from each end of the building, landing - on the 2nd floor of the porticos. The roof is mounted with a dome and tower, 18 ft in diameter, and 24 ft high, covered with tin, or zinc.

The extreme height of the building, from the pinnacle of the tower to the ground is 68 feet; and the whole is being beautifully finished in a combination of the Grecian, Ionic, and Corinthian orders. The plan was drawn by the contractor, Mr. Breaker, who has engaged to erect the building, for a sum less than $5000. The execution of this contract, we are satisfied, will be attended with considerable loss to the builder, unless the generosity and liberality of the County Commissioner’s shall interpose to prevent it, for the credit of our Town and County, we hope they will, and not in any stingy manner.

Tony Pizzo states in his James McKay, the Scottish Chief:

"In 1870, a visitor commented: The first building to attract my attention was the courthouse, a frame building set in a clearing in a big scrub. It had a cupola or belfry, and was the first house I had ever seen built of anything but logs.”

In 1870, the visitor would have seen the 1854 "Mr. Breaker" courthouse.  Pizzo goes on to say, "This building served as the courthouse until 1891, when it was moved to Florida Avenue near Cass Street (where the Kress Building stands) and served as Tampa’s first hospital."

It was bought by J. J. Kinsman in 1891 who had it moved north on Fla. Ave. between Cass and Polk streets and turned it into a boarding house.  It was after 1900 that it was turned into a hospital.  See "History Rewritten - Tampa's old City Hall Clock."

Hillsborough County Courthouse seen from Lafayette St. and Franklin Street, circa 1880s.
Image from Florida Memory State Archives and Library collection.

The iron door from the jail in the old Court House built in 1848* by Capt. James McKay I is preserved by Dr. Albert Gutierrez in his bird sanctuary at the mouth of Palm River and McKay Bay. Shown studying the relic are Robert McKay, left, son of D. B. McKay and great grandson of the famed captain, and his cousin, Dr. Gutierrez. Photo by Tony Pizzo.
*It may have been from Mr. Breaker's 1854 courthouse if they, too, thought McKay's courthouse was the one used until 1891.

In August 1892, an ornate, red brick courthouse with a silver dome was built, occupying the same block in downtown Tampa, but facing west to Franklin St. The architect, J.A. Wood, also had designed the Tampa Bay Hotel.  This courthouse was demolished in 1952 because of it's poor condition, but mainly because of the need for parking space.   The property became a parking lot until a horrible, ugly blue-cube building and parking garage was built there.

Info from the 13th Judicial Circuit Hillsborough County history website** (Except for the last two sentences and except where noted.)


**Contrary to what the judicial website says, this dome is not at Joe Chillura Park Square now, it is a scaled down replica there.



1852 - Magbee's First Client in a Supreme Court Case

Magbee continued his legal practice and in March 1852 when he was around 32, the Florida Supreme Court met at Tampa for the first time. During this brief term, in which
three cases were decided, Magbee represented his first Supreme Court client, Thomas Mitchell, before the High Court and won. Before the Justices took their leave of Tampa, a gala dinner was held at the home of Dr. Samuel B. Todd. Lawyers and laymen feasted "on turkeys, ducks, ham, pies, etc." and then the endless rounds of toasts began. "Sparkling vintage" and cake were served, and Magbee and others took turns hoisting their glasses until several hours later, when the festivities finally adjourned.

Information from University of Miami Law Review -  "A History of the Florida Supreme Court" by the Honorable Joseph A. Boyd Jr. and Randall Reder:In July 1845, the Florida General Assembly elected the circuit court judges who would also serve on Florida's first supreme court. The general assembly elected Thomas Baltzell, George S. Hawkins, Isaac H. Bronson, and William Marvin to serve as circuit court judges for the Middle, Western, Eastern, and Southern Circuits respectively. Two of those elected, Isaac Bronson and William Marvin, declined the invitation to serve. Thomas Douglas was appointed to serve in place of Isaac Bronson, and George W. McCrae was appointed to replace William Marvin. The first session of the Florida Supreme Court convened in January 1846, and at that session Thomas Douglas was selected to serve as chief justice.

In January, 1851 the Florida legislature created a new supreme court independent from the circuit courts. The chief justice and the two associate justices of this new supreme court were each to be elected by the legislature to serve for a term of eight years.  Walker Anderson was elected as the court's chief justice, and Leslie Thompson and A. G. Semmes as the associate justices. These three men were important in establishing the Supreme Court of Florida as an independent judicial body.

This legislatively elected supreme court met for the first time in Tallahassee on January 30, 1851 in a political atmosphere still flushed with the pride and excitement of the state's recent admission to the Union.  The difficulties and obstacles that had postponed statehood were forgotten. The panic of 1837 and the associated bank failures and economic depression were but a dim memory. Even the problems with the Indians seemed to wane in the face of this new state.  It was in this vibrant and optimistic atmosphere that the court began holding sessions in each of the four circuits, first convening in Tallahassee in January, then moving to Jacksonville and Tampa, and finally completing its term in Marianna by March.

Cases Argued and Adjudged in the Supreme Court of Florida, Term at Tampa, Southern Division, March 1852

Thomas P. Kennedy, Appellant, vs. Thomas Mitchell, Appellee.

Gettis and Pearson for Appellant Kennedy
Magbee for Appellee Mitchell


Justice Semmes delivered the opinion of the Supreme Court.:  "We are of the opinion that the court below committed no error in overruling the plaintiff's motion, and in dismissing the suit upon the verdict of the jury finding the issue in favor of the defendant. 

Per Curiam-Let the judgment of the court below be affirmed.

Arthur H. Morse, Appellant, vs. Isaac Garrison, Appellee

Pearson for Appellant
No counsel for Appellee


Chief Justice Anderson delivered the opinion of the Supreme Court:  The judgment of the court below dismissing the levy must be reversed, and the levy re-instated, with directions to the proper officer to proceed therewith according to law.

William Sanders, Appellant, vs. Marshal Pepoon and Robert Olcott, Appellees

King for Appellant


Justice Thompson delivered the opinion of the Supreme Court:  The judgment of the court below must be reversed, with costs; and inasmuch as it appears by the record that the amount of the judgment and costs has been paid by the appellant, let a writ of restitution of the amount so paid issue from this court, upon the application of the appellant or his counsel.


Read about these cases in their entirety.







Jesse Hayden's ferry at the foot of Jackson St., circa 1880s
The Haydens came to Tampa in 1866, bought some land from General Carter, and filed a homestead claim for 60 acres. Jesse and Susan’s daughter Mattie married Donald S. McKay, son of sea captain James McKay, Sr.  The Jacksons and the Haydens were among the prominent families of Old Tampa, and along with the Haskins, owned most of what would later become Hyde Park. The Haskins family, however, sold their land before Hyde Park was developed because of the inconvenience of crossing the river with children.
See Lafayette Street Bridge History at TampaPix

In 1852 we opened a ferry at the foot of Jackson street, so as to cross the stage with the mail. It was also used by the public. Ponds that were located on the east end of Jackson street caused the city officials as well as the people, considerable annoyance, especially during the rainy season. One of these ponds at the corner of Jackson and Marion street would take in all four corners and prevent pedestrians from passing in that direction. I have skated rocks over ice on this pond when it was frozen over during the winter.

The authorities dug a ditch in the center of Jackson street to drain these ponds, and in some places it was 12 feet deep. Across Franklin and Tampa streets small bridges were placed so as to permit passage of teams and the public. This did not accomplish what was desired so the ponds were filled in later on.

By James McKay, Jr. in "Reminiscences - History of Tampa in the Olden Days"  Dec. 18, 1923






1852 - The Florida Senate settles election results dispute

On August 27th, the Senate voted to end a contested election between David Levy Yulee and Stephen R. Mallory of Jacksonville. When Yulee’s seat came up for reelection in 1851, he lost the balloting to Mallory by two votes. Yulee contested the election.

David Levy Yulee
In 1845 Florida's first two US senators, David Levy Yulee of St. Augustine and James D. Westcott, Jr., of Tallahassee, presented their credentials and took their oaths of office. Senator Yulee, born David Levy in St. Thomas, West Indies, June 12, 1810, was the first Jewish-American to serve in the Senate. Taking office as David Levy, at the senator’s request, the Florida state legislature officially changed his name to David Levy Yulee in 1846.
See Biographical Directory of Congress for more info.

On August 27, 1852, the Senate voted in favor of Mallory. In 1855 Yulee returned to the Senate, and he and Mallory served together until 1861.


1852 - Magbee wins 3rd term as State Rep.

In the fall of 1852 Magbee ran for his third term in the Florida House of Representatives, once again as a "Union man." Out of a total of 302 votes cast, he received 120 with 99 for John McNeal and 83 for William Hancock. Magbee's plurality was about 40%. The ensuing legislative session was marked by action on the railroad and Indian questions.  Magbee was around 32 years old.


Stephen R. Mallory
Photo by Mathew Brady from Wikimedia.
 Born in Trinidad, West Indies, about 1813; immigrated to the United States with his parents, who settled in Key West, Fla., in 1820.  See more information at this source:

Biographical Directory of Congress




1853 - June 4 - Formation of a Vigilance Committee

A meeting takes place in Tampa to discuss rumors of a large cow trail found leading from the stock yard toward the Indian Nation.  It is suspected that the Indians have been stealing their livestock.  A proposal for an armed party to investigate is turned down so as to not stir Indian hostilities, and they postpone pursuit until next October.  Two committees are set up.  The correspondence committee of 5 men: Magbee (Chairman), Crawford, Sparkman, Moore, and Turman.  The vigilance committee is comprised of 22 men.  Any information obtained by a vigilance committee member was to report to the chairman of the correspondence committee, who would report to the Executive Department.

The July 21 Florida Republican newspaper (Jacksonville)



1853 - Magbee suspended from the Hillsborough Lodge


After returning from Tallahassee to Tampa in 1853, Magbee got into trouble with his Masonic brethren. Charges of an undisclosed nature were filed against him on March 5 by M. L. Shanahan, and on March 19, 1853, Magbee was “suspended for an indefinite period of time."  He was around 33 years old. 


Michael Lucas Shanahan would become Tampa's city marshal in 1859.  Born in 1813 in Maryland, Shanahan is listed on the 1850 census in Tampa as a "Grog seller" and was living with his wife and family next to Magbee. Shanahan died in 1863 and is buried in Oaklawn Cemetery.



Railroad fever first hit Tampa in 1853. At the time only 500 or so individuals lived in the tiny town. Barely deserving the title village, this was a rough frontier settlement. One unimpressed visitor scornfully noted:

"Tampa is a small town - inhabited by the most worthless population in the world. They seem to be the scum, well, refuse of creation... (There) are three or four lawyers, as many preachers, three stores - half a dozen grog shops, and these live on each other. I do not believe there is a dollar per head among them. They hate the sight of an honest man.”

Sen. David Yulee photo by Mathew Brady
From Wikipedia (Ult. source NARA)



Despite his exaggeration, the visitor properly expressed the town's poverty. Other than by water, Tampa essentially was cut off from the well-settled portions of Florida, which lay 120 miles or more to the north. The few roads were little more than tracks in the wilderness, sand traps in dry weather and mud holes in wet. When bridges were built, they often were swept away by hurricane winds and flooding. In 1862 a traveler noted of a stagecoach ride from Ocala: I arrived in Tampa, after having travelled on and in that old (coach) for thirty-two hours continuously through the most dreary country I ever saw." He added: "You may well imagine I was tired."

Most Tampa residents had little hope of overcoming their poverty until Tampa's transportation isolation was broken. At first, it seemed the problem might easily be solved. In January 1853 the Florida legislature approved the building of the Florida Rail Road. Backed by United States Senator David Levy Yulee, the line was to run from the area of Fernandina to "some point, bay, arm, or tributary of the Gulf of Mexico in South Florida.

High hopes had been aroused when announcement was made that Senator David Levy Yulee and his associates had received a charter from the state to build a railroad diagonally down the peninsula from Fernandina to Tampa Bay. Inasmuch as the state guaranteed interest payments on all bonds issued by Yulee's road, and huge grants of land were promised as a reward for its construction, no one had any doubt but that Tampa soon would get rail connections with the north(Tampa, A History of the City and the Tampa Bay Region of Florida, by Karl H. Grismer, edited by D. B. McKay, 1950)

Local citizens immediately organized to bring the road to Tampa. A great "railroad convention" was held and delegates were sent to Yulee for guarantees. Railroad officials did not disappoint them. 

On July 1, 1853 a Railroad Convention was held in Ocala with representatives from around the state, for the purpose of beginning to plan the railroad system in South Florida. The Hillsborough representatives were Madison Post, C.L. Frieble, E.J. Hart, H.C. Bellows, and C.Q. Crawford.  After committee appointments and much discussion, the following resolutions were adopted:

July 21, 1853 Florida Republican (Jacksonville)

The news threw Tampa into a whirl of growth and development.  Scores of new residents arrived, intent upon expected profits. Among them were Lake City planter and railroad investor L. Whit Smith and Judge Joseph B. Lancaster, former mayor of Jacksonville and speaker of the Florida House of Representatives. Smith soon founded the town’s first newspaper, the Herald, which in 1855 became the Florida Peninsular. Lancaster was elected Tampa’s first mayor the following year.

Tampa and the Coming of the Railroad, 1853-1884, by Canter Brown, Jr, in The Sunland Tribune, Volume XVII November, 1991 Journal of the Tampa Historical Society.




By James McKay, Jr. in "Reminiscences - History of Tampa in the Olden Days"  Dec. 18, 1923

It has been remarked that Tampa had not been visited with a hurricane since 1848 until the one of 1921, which is an error, Tampa was visited with a pretty stiff hurricane in 1853, that I recollect very well. The schooner John Roalef owned by W. G. Ferris and sons arrived from New Orleans with a cargo of general merchandise and just as she had finished discharging this cargo, this hurricane came along, bringing in a tidal wave with it that landed this vessel about 100 yards north of the A. C. L. railroad warehouse where it stands now and about 100 yards from the river bank. My father bought this vessel, had her jacked up and repaired, dug a canal to the river and launched her into this canal, floating her. The tide must have risen some 10 feet above low water mark as this vessel was drawing some five feet or more of water, at the time she went ashore.


1853 - February:  John Jackson combined previous surveys and expanded the plan of Tampa

After lots were put on sale for the first time in April of 1847, land owners apparently began to be written to the original plan as seen below. 

Image from Judge Steele Left His Mark by Rodney Kite-Powell, Jun. 30, 2013, Tampa Bay Times online. (Read this article to see how Jackson expanded on the first plan for Tampa by Judge Augustus Steele.) This image is low resolution so it was extremely difficult to make out the lot owner names.  The more recognizable names have been added as an overlay.  Place your cursor on the image to see the added names.  It is possible that there is some error here. 

Below is the new Feb. 1853 survey which shows structures already in place sketched in red.

1853 plan of Tampa certified by surveyor John Jackson
From the University of South Florida digital map collection

"I hereby certify this map is the original general map or plat of the Town of Tampa made and drawn by me in February AD 1853 from surveys made by me in the years 1847 - 1850 and in January 1853. Witness my hand and private seal.
(Signed) John Jackson

(Signed) H. C. Crane  [Henry Crane]
(Signed) Willam Brown

         Click the map to see it larger, then click the new window to see full size.


1853 - September 10

A meeting was called of the residents for the purpose of voting on a plan to incorporate the town of Tampa.  The electors vote 23 to 2 to reestablish the government; citizens vote to organize as the Town of Tampa with a Board of Trustees form of government. John Darling was elected president and Henry Evans, Clerk.

The Mayors of Tampa 1856 - 2015,  A project of the City of Tampa, City of Tampa:  Incorporation Timeline




1854 - Magbee decides not to run for 4th term in the House

In 1853, railroad meetings were held in Tampa but Magbee apparently was not actively involved, although he did speak out on the Indian question.  He was reported to have been willing to be the "candidate of the Whig party" for reelection in 1854, but he eventually decided not to run.



Despite the town’s excitement, two years passed, and no railroad construction had begun. All hopes were not dimmed, though, for in January 1855 the legislature enacted a comprehensive program of subsidies for railroad construction. Known as the Internal Improvement Act of 1855, it granted railroad companies land in exchange for new tracks. The state government supported the railroads because better transportation would help facilitate a stronger economy for Florida. With state support, railroad developers began linking East and West Florida.  It specifically provided support for a line "from Amelia Island, on the Atlantic, to the waters of Tampa bay, in South Florida, with an extension to Cedar Key." The language clearly applied to Yulee’s road.

Within months, however, suspicions were aroused that Yulee intended to build only the more lucrative northern portion of his line. Under the leadership of Hillsborough County politician and lawyer, James T. Magbee, local citizens held out the possibility of the county investing in the railroad while demanding that the company "undertake to construct the road upon the whole route according to the intent and meaning (of the law).”  Before their efforts could show results, though, the Third Seminole or Billy Bowlegs War broke out in December 1855. For a time, the railroad question took second place in the minds of south Floridians.

Tampa and the Coming of the Railroad, 1853-1884, by Canter Brown, Jr, in The Sunland Tribune, Volume XVII November, 1991 Journal of the Tampa Historical Society.

1855 - April 2:  Hillsborough Circuit Court session opens; Press mingles with the lawyers

"...who know how to enjoy themselves by indulging in witty satire, brilliant repartee, brandy smashes, gin cocktails, pungent innuendoes, and occasional dips into their client's pockets..."

The position of Collector of Customs - Responding to the urgent need for revenue following the American Revolutionary War, the First United States Congress passed and President George Washington signed the Tariff Act of July 4, 1789, which authorized the collection of duties on imported goods. Four weeks later, on July 31, the fifth act of Congress established the United States Customs Service and its ports of entry. As part of this new government agency, a new role was created for government officials which was known as "Customs Collector". In this role, one person would have responsibility to supervise the collection of customs duties (taxes) in a particular city or region. For over 100 years after its birth, the U.S. Customs Service was the primary source of funds for the entire government, and paid for the country's early growth and infrastructure. Purchases include the Louisiana and Oregon territories; Florida and Alaska; funding the National Road and the Transcontinental Railroad; building many of the nation's lighthouses; the U.S. Military and Naval academies, and Washington, D.C.


1855 - Magbee appointed as Collector and Inspector


By early 1855, Magbee had secured appointment to the lucrative position of Deputy Collector of Customs and Inspector of the Port of Tampa. He was around 35 years old.


With a salary of $1,095 per year, Magbee greatly supplemented his income. The position was political and had been granted under President Franklin Pierce's Democratic administration. Magbee's immediate superior, Col. Hugh Archer, the Collector at St. Marks, directed Magbee in March 1855 to “proceed to have the serpentine course of the channel from Hillsborough River to the Bay, properly defined by permanent stakes and the navigable courses of the bay made clearly intelligible by the fixture of iron buoys."



April 28, 1855 - Florida Peninsular





While the Seminole Indian war raged, construction work on the Florida Railroad was started in the summer of 1855 at Fernandina, slowly progressing southwest.  



By James McKay, Jr. in "Reminiscences - History of Tampa in the Olden Days"  Dec. 18, 1923

In 1855 the Morgan Steamship Line operated their steamers between New Orleans and Havana, touching at all the Florida ports semi-monthly, which also gave the town mails, freights and passengers.

The Leonardi brothers conceived the idea of erecting a hotel of some 25 rooms on the lot occupied by the Scottish Rite building, naming it the Florida House. This building my father purchased from them and operated as a hotel until the beginning of the war. It was full every winter, with tourists who visited the town for their health.


1855 - September 15

Citizens vote to abolish the town government and establish a city charter.  A majority vote to adopt a city charter, elect a mayor and council, and have the corporation validated by the state legislature.

The Mayors of Tampa 1856 - 2015,  A project of the City of Tampa, City of Tampa:  Incorporation Timeline

The Florida Peninsular mentioned the dissolution of the Town of Tampa in the Sept. 20, 1855 issue of their newspaper, when they announced the appointment of Simon Turman as President of the Board of Health for the port of Tampa, and Darwin A. Branch, M.D., as the appointed port inspector.



Sept. 20, 1855 - Florida Peninsular
Circuit Court convened on Sept. 17.

Sept. 20, 1855 - Florida Peninsular
James McKay rents his Tampa store to M.C. Brown
and moves his business to Ft. Myers.



1855 - December 15

Governor Broome signs a Special Act of the Florida Legislature granting the corporation a charter for the City of Tampa.

The Mayors of Tampa 1856 - 2015,  A project of the City of Tampa, City of Tampa:  Incorporation Timeline

"This incorporation was finally made effective by an act of the State Legislature on December 15, 1855, which date is really the birthday of the City of Tampa."  (E. L. Robinson)

History of Hillsborough County, Florida, Narrative and Biographical, 1928 by Ernest L. Robinson, Director of High Schools of Hillsborough County, Formerly Principal of Hillsborough County High School.


The Florida Peninsular - Dec. 29, 1855
"What a difference there may be
twix Twedledum and Twedledee."




1855 - "Pep Rally" at the Courthouse Concerning Indian Attack


Maj. Gen George Lucas Hartsuff
Photo from RootsWeb feature by Spessard Stone

Political bickering was put on the back-burner in December 1855, when Tampa received news that Lt. Hartsuff’s surveying party had been attacked in the Big Cypress swamp. On December 23, "the court house bell was rung," to announce a meeting of the citizens. It was called to order just after 2 p.m. with a committee appointed to draft resolutions expressing the feeling of the meeting. A traveler in Tampa at the time wrote in his diary:

"When the committee retired, Col. Magbee, a lawyer of the town, having his energies all stimulated by an over quantity of whiskey, rose and addressed the meeting in the most patriotic language he could use and with such zeal... caused everyone to feel like fighting for the county, for their homes, the wives of their houses, and their little children. He decanted at length on the duties of man, on the horrors of savage warfare, and upon the treacherous character of the Indian."



Simon Turman, Jr., editor of the local newspaper, the Florida Peninsular, described the meeting as "very enthusiastic," stating that "our fellow-townsman, Col. J. T. Magbee, entertained the meeting very feelingly and eloquently. As war sentiments dropped from the speaker’s lips, he was heartily cheered by the assemblage." 


[The Dec. 23rd issue is not filmed or online.  The Dec. 29th issue is filmed and online but is very light and has significant damage.  However, much of it is discernable and no mention is made of this meeting.  Issues for Jan. 1856 are also missing.]


Volunteer militia companies were soon organized and the Third Seminole War was underway.  Magbee was 35.


By James McKay, Jr. in "Reminiscences - History of Tampa in the Olden Days"  Dec. 18, 1923

In the month of December, 1855, the Indians again went on the war path and the early part of 1856 found a number of volunteer companies mustered into the military service, and also more regular troops sent to Fort Myers and Tampa. The government sent also two small steamers from New Orleans named Grey Cloud and Texas Ranger, to ply between Tampa and Fort Myers. My father also purchased the schooner** Venice at Mystic, Conn., to freight goods from New Orleans to Tampa. Things around Tampa began to be active and quite a lot of money was placed in circulation.

[**Gov. records show the Venice was classified as a bark, not a schooner.]

The Indians burning and massacring settlers near Tampa, the citizens were organized and performed picket duty on all the roads entering Tampa. Boys as well as the men were used in the discharge of this duty. The stage conveying the mails had a guard of several soldiers mounted, to protect it. The court house bell was to sound the alarm in case of a night attack and the citizens were kept in a state of excitement all the time.

Considerable improvements were made on the reservation. New barracks and officers’ quarters and store houses were erected.



1856 - February 9

In the first election under the city charter, Judge Joseph B. Lancaster was elected mayor; Councilmen chosen were  Micajah C. Brown, C.Q. Crawford, R.J. Hagler, and Darwin A. Branch; William Ashley, clerk; E.N. Lockhart, treasurer; and A. N. Pacetta, marshal.

The Mayors of Tampa 1856 - 2015,  A project of the City of Tampa, City of Tampa:  Incorporation Timeline
Feb. 16, 1856 Florida Peninsular newspaper image below from the University of Florida digital Newspaper archives


Supreme Court Justice
Joseph B. Lancaster
Tallahassee, Florida
Photo from Florida Memory, State Archives & Library of Florida


Tampa’s 1st Mayor

Term: February 14, 1856 – November 25, 1856 (died in office)
Lawyer, Judge, State Representative, and Politician
Born: 1790, Kentucky
Died: November 25, 1856, Tampa, Florida

Joseph B. Lancaster was a Florida Supreme Court judge (1851), speaker of the Florida House (1843-1847), and mayor of Jacksonville, Florida (1846-1847). Lancaster and his wife Annie moved to Hillsborough County in 1853 with their daughters Laura Louise and Eliza Caroline. Four years after statehood, on January 18, 1849, Tampa’s population had increased to officially incorporate as the “Village of Tampa.” Tampa was reincorporated as a City on December 15, 1855, and Judge Joseph B. Lancaster became the first mayor in 1856. He had served successfully as judge of Alachua County, chief clerk of the Territorial House of Representatives, a captain of volunteers during the Second Seminole War (1835-1842), and a customs collector.

Elected only months after the beginning of the Third Seminole War (1855 – 1858), Lancaster’s administration dealt almost exclusively with war-related issues. The constant threat of attack produced an influx of settlers seeking refuge to a city that had little means nor funds to feed, shelter, or care for them. Lancaster sought assistance from the state, which could provide only limited funds, and was in need of recruits for the war effort. The City’s financial base worsened when the Florida Railroad Company chose to extend the line to Cedar Key instead of Tampa. Lancaster died while in office, serving less than one year as Tampa’s first mayor.

The Mayors of Tampa 1856 - 2015,  A project of the City of Tampa, City of Tampa:  Incorporation Timeline


In 1856 the Ferris store was moved to the corner of Florida avenue and Washington street where the building was for many years after the Civil War an object of much interest because of a hole which had been torn in its side by a large shell from the Federal gunboats. The residence was converted by the government into a hospital for troops and was used for that purpose for many years.

Included among the other buildings of that time was J. B. Allen's boarding house, about a hundred yards east of the commissary, and the Kennedy store, which stood on the lot next to the Palmer House. A few hundred feet north of Kennedy's was the place of L. G. Cavacivich. Still further north, along the river, was a large blockhouse built for a refuge in case of attack by the Indians. Judge Simon Turman had just completed a double log house on the ground where the customs house was afterwards erected, hard by the present site of the Lafayette street bridge. The blockhouse, Judge Steele's residence and William Ashley's house were situated near the foot of Lafayette meet, or between there and Jackson street. Further eastward from the river stood the original court house, on the site of the present court house. This building was a wooden affair having two rooms only, and it served as a school house also.


History of Hillsborough County, Florida, Narrative and Biographical, 1928 by Ernest L. Robinson, Director of High Schools of Hillsborough County, Formerly Principal of Hillsborough County High School.


Tampa’s 2nd Mayor (Acting)

[No photo]               

Term: November 25, 1856 – December 6, 1856
Physician Born: November 28, 1832, Vermont
Died: August 16, 1858, Tampa, Florida

Born in 1832, Darwin Branch was trained as a physician. Politically dynamic, Branch served from 1854 to 1855 as Secretary for the Florida Know-Nothing Party (also known as the American Party). The Know-Nothings in Florida and other southern states were adamant that the national party support a strong proslavery platform. This platform was adopted at the 1856 Presidential Convention that nominated former President Millard Fillmore. After Fillmore’s defeat in the presidential election the Know-Nothing Party’s deteriorated as a national party.

Darwin Branch remained politically active in Tampa and served as President of Tampa’s City Council in 1856. In early September of 1856, Mayor Lancaster became too ill to perform his duties and as City Council President, Darwin Branch became the acting mayor.

Although he stepped in for Mayor Lancaster at this time, he was not officially recognized as acting mayor until Joseph Lancaster died on November 25, 1856.  At 24 years old, he was Tampa’s youngest mayor until James Lipscomb (who was twenty-three years old when he took office) in August of 1873.

During his short term, Branch essentially served as a caretaker until December 6, 1856 when the City Council appointed Alfonso DeLaunay as acting mayor to complete the remainder of Lancaster’s term of office.

The Mayors of Tampa 1856 - 2015,  A project of the City of Tampa, City of Tampa:  Incorporation Timeline





Tampa’s 3rd**  Mayor
(**Or 2nd Mayor, depending on how you consider Austen Branch's "acting" term.)

Term: December 6, 1856 – February 9, 1857
Lawyer, Hotel Manager, Postmaster
Born: 1810, Virginia
Died: July 28, 1865, Tampa

J. Alfonso DeLaunay was the son of a Revolutionary War patriot born in France.  A lawyer by profession, he came to Tampa around 1848 in search of health and operated the Palmer House hotel, and became active in local politics. DeLaunay was Tampa's first postmaster and served from December 21, 1852 until April 1861.

Alfonso DeLaunay was married twice; first to Miss St. Johns of Georgia,  and secondly to Victoria Montes de Oca, daughter of Juan Montes de Oca, a Spanish gentleman of high family.  Juan came to Tampa from his native country around 1830. Being highly educated and a master of languages, he acted as interpreter for the Government at Fort Brooke and the surrounding area. He was beloved alike by the Americans and the Indians. Juan wooed and wed a beautiful Indian maiden, lovely of soul as in person. This girl wife died early in life, leaving their little daughter, Victoria motherless. Victoria was reared by Robert and Nancy (Coller) Jackson (of what would later become Hyde Park). Victoria grew to womanhood and married Alfonzo Delauney, of French birth, a lawyer by profession, who came here to be restored to health.

By Victoria, Alfonso had four children:  Pauline, Emma, Harry and Florida.  Victoria, was a woman of noble character and lofty mind, and their children were very intelligent. Two of them, Pauline and Emma, were among the most prominent teachers in the public schools of the early days.

Previous to his marriage to Victoria, Alfonso DeLaunay was married to a Miss St. John of Georgia, who died in childbirth of their son, St. John.  The boy was brought up by his uncle, James DeLaunay, in Columbus, Georgia, coming to live with his father and step-mother Victoria by 1860.

On December 6, 1856, DeLaunay was appointed mayor by the council to complete the remainder of Joseph B. Lancaster's term of office (Tampa's first mayor). DeLaunay replaced Acting Mayor, Darwin Austin Branch who had served eleven days immediately after Lancaster's death, before resigning as mayor. DeLaunay served as mayor for slightly over two months to complete Lancaster's term, during which time he attempted to manage the influx of local settlers coming into Tampa who were trying to escape attacks by the Seminoles during the Third Seminole War (1855-1858) and also dealt with 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 which provided 160 acres of land to homesteaders.

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. He ceased publication of his newspaper when the Civil War began and hid the presses and other related equipment in the interior of Florida to prevent their confiscation by Union troops. In April 1861, the Confederate government appointed DeLaunay Confederate States postmaster and deputy inspector of customs for the Port of Tampa, serving in both capacities throughout the Civil War.  He later served as a private in the Confederate Army and was mustered out on April 26, 1865 and returned to Tampa, where he died on July 28, 1865

Tampa historian Tony Pizzo, in his book Tampa Town 1824-1886: The Cracker Village With a Latin Accent (Tampa, 1968), states that Alfonso DeLauney, Tampa’s second mayor, brewed the first beer in the area -- Spruce Beer "a delicious and healthful drink." p. 76.

The Mayors of Tampa 1856 - 2015,  A project of the City of Tampa, City of Tampa:  Incorporation Timeline

**The information above about Juan Montes de Oca, Alfonso's family, marriages, and first son comes from "The Blue Book and History of Pioneers, Tampa, Fla, by Pauline Brown-Hazen, 1914.  She gives the details of St. John's upbringing by his uncle. 

In Grismers's biographies section of his book Tampa, A History of the City and the Tampa Bay Region of Florida, by Karl H. Grismer, edited by D. B. McKay, 1950. he also mentions St. John of Alfonso's first wife, in his biographies section,  but in the narrative history of Tampa, Grismer says St. John was Alfonso's brother: "After leaving the PENINSULAR, DeLaunay immediately started to get backing for a new paper. O. C. Drew and St. John DeLaunay, brother of Alfonso, advanced money and became publishers. The first issue of the paper, called the SUNNY SOUTH, appeared January 29, 1861."
Alfonso appears alone on Tampa's 1850 census in Tampa. 

On his 1860 census he's married to Victoria.  He has a 19-year-old [son] named John, born in Georgia, even though Victoria and the rest of the children were born and raised in Florida.  This would support the story by Pauline Brown-Hazen that "St." John was his son from a prior marriage before coming to Florida.




In 1857 the Florida Congress authorized land grants to subsidize construction of railroads, and it was believed that the action, as one newspaper put it, "doubtless will operate as a stimulus to effect an immediate practical commencement of that portion of the road (to Tampa.)"  Everyone expected that from Gainesville the road would head south to Tampa.  By April, 1858, seventy miles had been completed from Fernandina and thirty additional miles to Gainesville had been graded.

Tampa, A History of the City and the Tampa Bay Region of Florida, by Karl H. Grismer, editor D. B. McKay, 1950.

Tampa and the Coming of the Railroad, 1853-1884, by Canter Brown, Jr, in The Sunland Tribune, Volume XVII November, 1991 Journal of the Tampa Historical Society.



By James McKay, Jr. in "Reminiscences - History of Tampa in the Olden Days"  Dec. 18, 1923

In 1857 during the summer, Tampa was visited by an epidemic of yellow fever, but it being very late in the summer and cold weather coming on, there were not many cases and but few deaths, but in 1858 it started early in the season and spread rapidly over the town. All that could move to the country did so but there were many deaths, some of our best citizens passing away. I was stricken with the disease and only for my mother and grandmother, being most excellent nurses, they having passed through an epidemic in Mobile sometime previous, I would not be here today writing this article.

There were many theories advanced from what source came the disease. Some stated that it was introduced from New Orleans by schooner. Others claimed it originated from filth in the town. Any way there was a campaign of cleanliness and sanitary measures were adopted in the winter of ’58 and early ’59. These measures were rigidly enforced and before the summer of ’59 came in, the town was placed in fine shape. But it gave the town a setback from which it did not recover for two years.


Savannah Daily Republican, Jul. 30, 1857 -- page 2



1858 - Tampa's Two-Year Flirtation With Violence and Tragedy - The Regulators
(Read more about it at Politics, Greed, Regulator Violence, and Race in Tampa, 1858-1859 By Canter Brown, Jr.)

Magbee continued a leadership role in local Democratic politics in 1856 and 1857. His law practice continued to prosper and he took on a law partner, John L. Tatum (possibly his brother-in-law.) But the following year Magbee was to experience political defeat and humiliation.


Billy Bowlegs, or Billy Bolek (Holata Micco, Halpatter-Micco, Halbutta Micco, and Halpuda Mikko in Seminole, meaning "Alligator Chief")
Image from Wikipedia

1858 was one of the strangest years in Tampa’s history. After over three years of fighting, the Indian war was winding down in early 1858. In March, Billy Bowlegs agreed to leave Florida and many of the volunteer companies which had fought the Seminoles were mustered out and discharged at Fort Brooke.


The government finding it difficult to drive the Indians out of the country or capture them, concluded to enter into negotiations with them and with this plan in view sent Major Rector, with 50 civilized Indians from Arkansas, into the Everglades some distance below Fort Myers, in [1858]. These Indians scouted around until they got in conference with Billy Bowlegs and Sam Jones, the Seminole Chiefs and at a meeting induced Bowlegs to leave them and emigrate to Arkansas with his band. They were concentrated on Egmont Key and when all reached that point were embarked on the Steamship [Grey Cloud], for New Orleans. Sam Jones declined to leave the state, but this ended the Seminole war.

by James McKay, Jr. in "Reminiscences - History of Tampa in the Olden Days"  Dec. 18, 1923



One soldier, writing years later, said:

"When we went to Tampa to be mustered out we found ten other companies there for the same purpose. The paymaster was off somewhere and there was unusual growling because he didn’t show up. He got delayed somewhere and a great many of the men had to sell their discharge certificates to get funds to reach home. These discharge papers** had a transfer blank attached and could be readily made payable to anyone. The merchants of Tampa had a regular picnic. The soldiers were at their mercy and the discharges were bartered at big discounts. Many, however, concluded to wait until the paymaster came and among them was myself.


The worst element of these volunteers took the town by storm and made a veritable hell of it. There was no law and no order. They traveled in marauding bands at night and didn’t even stop at highway robbery and murder. After awhile they got to be so desperate that it wasn’t safe for a lady to be on the streets either day or night.


It was thought that the arrival of the paymaster and the paying off of those to whom anything was due would rid the town, but it did not. In fact, lawlessness filled the very air. The citizens, coming to the conclusion that something must be done, organized themselves into a vigilance committee resolved to do desperate things if necessary."


**When soldiers enlisted in military service, they were promised a pension, monetary payment or free land, or both, upon completion of their service.  Their discharge certificate stated the amounts and could be sold at whatever price they wished by completing the transfer blank on their discharge papers.  See Military Records at National Archives and State Archives of Florida.   Army and Navy Pension Laws, and Bounty Land Laws of the United States: From 1776 to 1854 Inclusive


Active in the vigilante or regulator organization were some of Tampa’s leading citizens: Henry Crane, who had served in the Indian War and was then acting editor of the Florida Peninsular, as well as Mayor Madison Post, Dr. Franklin Branch and a young future lawyer, John A. Henderson. The regulators were active "from Tampa to Fort Meade and to Brooksville in Hernando County.” 


By early April of 1858, the Tampa contingent of regulators was making itself known. Whipping and banishment were utilized and eventually, lynching. The situation was so bad that the County Commission decided on April 6 not to make "any arrangements for public schools this year" because "of the unsettled condition of our county.”



1858 - Magbee does battle with the regulators

Magbee now entered the fray against the regulators. The hard drinking, outspoken but successful lawyer and Federal office holder was a formidable target for the ascendant regulators but he began to feel their wrath in April 1858. Almost from the time of his arrival at Tampa, twelve years earlier, Magbee had been the leading political figure in Hillsborough County. With the disintegration of the American or Know Nothing Party in 1857, many of its members shifted to the Democratic Party. With no organized opposition the Democrats were factionalized and divided.


1858 - Magbee speaks out against the regulators

The campaign against Magbee had begun. On May 11, 1858, the City Council denied his application for a "remittance of a portion of the City Tax upon his property."  Magbee began to speak out against the Regulators. He blamed "the violent opposition against him... to his steady condemnation of the acts of a secret sworn band of men who had recently taken the law into their own hands.” 


Mustering out of the [Seminole War] volunteers threw a lot of disreputable men on the town and they became so bad that the citizens organized themselves as a band of regulators, whipping some and driving them out of town and in one or two instances hung some. This broke up lawlessness and the town was restored to quiet and order.

After the excitement of mustering out of volunteers was over and the unruly element driven out of town, business began to improve and all citizens co-operated in making improvements to their property and others locating in the town, adding to the population, Tampa put on city airs. There was not an over plus of skilled mechanics "out sufficient to carry on all building and construction work. These mechanics were experts in their lines of work. None better could be had in the state. Houses were built to last a lifetime.

by James McKay, Jr. in "Reminiscences - History of Tampa in the Olden Days"  Dec. 18, 1923


1858 - Magbee Not Present at Town Hall Meeting Due to Altercation


There was a political meeting held at the Tampa Town Hall on the evening of April 26, for the purpose of appointing delegates to the Democratic State Convention. Mayor, regulator and former Know-Nothing Madison Post was chosen along with Jesse Carter, James Gettis, James McKay and others. Magbee was not chosen and apparently was not present.









On that evening, Magbee became intoxicated and was involved in an altercation with a young man named James Hays.


According to Hays:

Magbee, being stupidly drunk, became incensed at my declining the honor--honor, forsooth!!** --of walking him to his residence.  After many threats of personal violence, holding a cane over my head in a menacing manner, accompanied by the vilest epithets, he struck at me and brandished his knife, then, and not till then, was he assaulted.

**for·sooth  - adverb archaic humorous: indeed (often used ironically or to express surprise or indignation). "forsooth, there is no one I trust more"


Magbee claimed that "during some business transaction" Hays had been "insulted without just cause." Later that evening, Magbee, reportedly "came to the store of Capt. James McKay with the avowed intention of taking [Hayes'] life.” Magbee unsuccessfully attempted to enter the store but was refused by the City Patrol and sent away. On the following morning, on his way to a steamer at the port, Magbee was assaulted by Hayes. 


But it was Magbee, not Hayes, who was brought before the Mayor's Court. He pleaded "not guilty," and upon the hearing of the evidence, was adjudged guilty and fined $25 and costs. He was also ordered to be placed in prison under the custody of the Marshal until the fine was paid.


[VanLandingham's account of what happened next separates this incident from a "June 15" incident where Magbee was fined and jailed for "Violating the 5th Ordinance."  This apparently is not the situation, as the rebuttal by Crane in the Peninsular and a spokesperson for Mayor Duff Post shows it was all related to the same incident. Magbee pled guilty, and said "Fine me, fine me!" according to "Fair play" below.]


To the Editor Peninsular:

As the Mayor of the City of Tampa is absent, I beg leave to make a few remarks, in relation to a statement made by James T. Magbee which, unless properly explained, is calculated to convey a false impression, with regard to the "facts of the case," manifestly to the injury of the reputation of the absent Mayor, and to the credit of the Citizens of Tampa.  He says:  "we were arrested by the Marshal, and carried before the Mayor, who, without hearing any evidence, that we are apprised of, ordered us to jail."  The above is James T. Magbee's statement.  I will now give you the Mayor's version, and pledge myself, that he will verify it, nearly word for word, on his return to Tampa.

"When Col. Magbee was brought before me, scarcely waiting being interrogated he said, 'I don't want any witnesses, I am guilty--I am guilty--fine me--fine me!' In addition to Mr. Magbee's confession of guilt, the Mayor told me, he was an eye witness himself to the commencement of Magbee's disgraceful row [fight] at James McKay's store. The Mayor has given a certificate now in the possession of the Collector at St. Marks, that Mr. Magbee was sent to jail for an infraction of the 5th Ordinance, of the city of Tampa.  You will oblige several other Citizens besides myself, by publishing the aforesaid Ordinance.

Ordinance No. 5
Any person or persons who shall commit a riot, or an affray, or who shall make loud noise, or vociferation, or shall do malicious injury to private or public property, or shall do any other act or acts having tendency to disturb the peace of the inhabitants within the incorporation, shall be deemed guilty of disorderly conduct, and on conviction thereof before the Mayor shall suffer punishment at his discretion."

My reason for this communication is to defend M. Post as Mayor of the City of Tampa from the charge of having fined and imprisoned one of his fellow citizens without any testimony to convict him of the infraction of any Ordinance, which would subject him to the penalties thereunto appended.

[Signed] FAIR PLAY




1858 - The Campaign to Remove Magbee


Henry Crane, Madison Post and their friends [James McKay**] wanted Magbee removed from his position as Deputy Collector at the port. Magbee's frequent drunken behavior and his recent conviction in the Mayor's Court were the basis of their charges.


**It has been asserted that James McKay and his cattlemen associates were behind the effort to oust Magbee from his position as Collector and Inspector at the port.


Henry A. Crane had a modest but successful military career in the 2nd and 3rd Seminole Wars.  He was a man of moderate means, but his literary abilities provided him with the opportunity to serve in many minor political positions.

Crane was born in New Jersey in 1811 and worked as a clerk in Washington DC.  He came to Florida during the 2nd Seminole War where he engaged for the first time in fighting for his country.  After his enlistment expired, he settled in St. Augustine where he met and married Sophia Allen.  Their only son, Henry Lafayette Crane, was born in 1838.


In the 1840s he staked out a claim in Orange County, near Fort Mellon, now part of Sanford.  He was a Clerk of the Circuit Court and in 1844, Gov. Moseley nominated him for judge of probate at Orange Co.  In 1852 he brought his family to Tampa, gave up farming, and worked full time as the printer of the Tampa Herald newspaper.


He was intelligent and inquisitive enough to profit from his readings about new inventions elsewhere in the world.  He became interested in photography during its early development, and 6 years after ambrotype photography was introduced, he listed his occupation as an ambrotype artist.

Read more about Henry A. Crane further down in this feature.

Blockaders, Refugees, & Contrabands - Civil War on Florida's Gulf Coast, 1861-1865 by George E. Buker, "Henry Crane - Unionist"

Petitions were drawn up by Magbee and by his opponents and sent to Sen. Mallory. Former State Senator Hamlin V. Snell and Postmaster Alfonso DeLaunay were put forward as replacements for Magbee.

The legal system was being attacked in the Peninsular and lawyers like Magbee were charged with misleading juries.


On June 5, 1858, the embattled Magbee set forth his case in a four-page letter to the Peninsular. He denied that he had "neglected any of our official or professional business on account of drink" and also attacked the Regulators. (Unfortunately, the issues of the Peninsular online from May 1, 1858 to June 12, 1858 are missing.)


The following week (June 12) the Peninsular responded with this.  Included in the response are details of Magbee's "violation of the 5th ordinance" stemming from the April altercation with Hays:


Parts of the rest of the Peninsular's response:

  • Mr. Magbee may not be apprised of the fact, but over and over again he has apprised the community of this fact by his drunken brawls in the streets.

  • With a modesty that ill becomes the poltroon, Magbee inquires...

  • He is guilty of deliberate falsehood, for it is fact well know to our citizens..

  • worthy of the man who quotes from Virgil--an author he cannot read in the original, nor understand by means of his translation.

  • He is undeniably a blackguard.  Yet his chances of success at the outset of his career in this County, were great and manifold.  Our delegation in Congress took him by the hand, bestowing upon him an office, the duties of which he did not understand, and would not perform.  Fortune favored him, a frontier education and society--expanded and polished his natural love of liquor, and improved his manner into the insinuating and the irresistible address of the drunken loafer.  He early became popular with that class, and might have erected a laudable reputation in their midst, had he possessed ordinary meanness.  His moral stamen was weak, and instead of seeking the comparatively bracing and healthy society of dock loafers, he preferred the impurer airs, and gave way readily to lower and more...[illegible] of his descent, after many warnings.

  • His tendency has always been downwards.  He has been cautioned, punished and forgiven.

  • Competency, love, friendship, reputation all were neglected and forfeited--abandoned under the detestable passion for drink and ignoble company.

  • ...He became a vagabond, the slanderer of honest men--the delirious drunken vagabond of the lowest shops--hated by some--despised by others, and avoided by all respectable men.

  • He has attained the lowest abyss of moral imbecility, and disrepute...

  • Aside from his gross intemperance, his character is jealous, irritable and weak altogether, wanting in honesty of purpose in all that is frank, manly and generous.  Add this to his moral depravity and you have a picture of the man--one that every resident of this City will recognize and confirm.

  • His address is a disconnected mass of falsehood--known to be such by our community--intended to be used abroad and among strangers.

  • Before our next issue he will be supplanted in office by an honorable and high-minded gentleman.  This will give an impetus to the cause of Democracy that cannot be shaken.  In fact, our party will hang out her ensign, inscribed, "Redeemed, regenerated and disenthralled."

  • "We are done with Col. Magbee, -- so has the party!!" 


See the entire response  VanLandingham refers to it as Henry Crane's "diatribe."]

In the June 12, 1858 issue Crane published an exposé of a supposed "Mystic Circle of Alchemy," which he claimed was now in Hillsborough County. This was part of the campaign against Magbee. Crane, in the June 26, 1858 issue, (seen below) is quoted as referring to Magbee as a T-R-I-U-Q-S, or "squirt" spelled backwards.

Crane criticizes Magbee's English grammar and his Latin, then hints at how to decipher TRIUQS.  He also makes reference to James Hays, with whom Magbee had his last altercation, and Veritas, Latin for "Truth."

See the entire June 12, 1858 Crane exposé on the Mystic Society in Hillsborough County.
It starts at the top of column 2, on the front page.





A posthumous portrait of Hamlin Valentine Snell by artist Ruth Finney Horney. Snell was one of the early settlers of the Village of Manatee. As president of the Florida Senate, he introduced the bill that created Manatee County in 1854.   He was Tampa's 8th mayor, though only from Feb. 2 to May 1861. On hearing the news that Confederate guns had fired on Fort Sumter, Mayor Snell proclaimed a day of celebration. On April 21, 1861, the 20th Florida Regiment took over the abandoned Fort Brooke and declared Tampa under martial law. About three weeks later, Snell resigned as Mayor and hurriedly left Tampa after selling his properties. Photo from the Manatee Co. Public Library System. Info from the same and City of Tampa.

On June 19, 1858, the Peninsular announced the appointment of Hamlin V. Snell as Deputy Collector at the port. 


Magbee retired to nurse his wounds and prepared to fight another day.  He was around 38 years old.


James McKay's Motive to Remove Magbee


The cattle trade to Cuba was being initiated and McKay intended to bring back certain items such as cigars, rum and sugar. In order for McKay and the other cattlemen to avoid the national tariff laws, Magbee would have to be removed and replaced by a “more amenable collector."

As McKay's prosperity boomed with the cattle business, he took an increasingly strong role in Tampa business and political affairs.


June 26, 1858 Florida Peninsular
Alfonso DeLaunay resigning as Postmaster

In both he associated closely with a group of men that included, among others, William Brinton Hooker, merchant Madison Post, and lawyers Joseph M. Taylor and James Gettis.


Politically, they battled the regular Hillsborough County Democratic party which loosely was centered upon lawyer and former legislator James T. Magbee.  McKay’s faction in 1858 ousted Magbee from his important federal position as collector of the port of Tampa, and the following year McKay was elected to a one year term as mayor.










By James McKay, Jr. in "Reminiscences - History of Tampa in the Olden Days"  Dec. 18, 1923

In 1858 my father came to the conclusion the country would be benefited from the exportation of cattle to Havana, Cuba, so he purchased the brig Huntress, fitted her up with cattle pens and contracted with the Morgan Steamship Line to load their decks twice each month, paying $1,500 per trip, whether he loaded the decks or not. He constructed a small dock at Ballast Point and lightered the cattle out of these vessels. Through this source quite a sum of money was placed in circulation in south Florida. In fact after the military left this part of the country the shipment of cattle was the only source of obtaining money. There was only a small amount of sea island cotton made in this section and some potatoes, sugar and hides. These were brought to town and sold in trade, for other goods.



Faced with what they considered to be Sen. David Yulee's treachery, the Tampa area residents decided to build their own railroad line. In the summer of 1858 these men-including future governors Ossian Hart and Henry Mitchell-organized the Florida Peninsula Railroad. Bragged Tampa's newspaper, "This movement is the very thing we needed, and we heartily rejoice at it.  A yellow fever epidemic devastated the community, however, and no progress was made. Another effort was launched in 1859 under the chairmanship of Capt. James McKay.17 Before financing could be secured, the Civil War extinguished any chance of construction.

Tampa and the Coming of the Railroad, 1853-1884, by Canter Brown, Jr, in The Sunland Tribune, Volume XVII November, 1991 Journal of the Tampa Historical Society.

The Floridian & Journal, July 3, 1858



By James McKay, Jr. in "Reminiscences - History of Tampa in the Olden Days"  Dec. 18, 1923

During the winter of 1859 the young men of the town organized the Tampa Cornet band, employing J. A. Butterfield as leader. This band was composed of some 14 members and when, after practicing a few weeks, it ventured in giving promenade concerts and dances, charging a nominal sum for admittance, it gave the young people many evenings of pleasure and enjoyment. There are only two of this band now living. Henry Crane and myself.

[Butterfield was listed in McKay Sr's. household on the 1860 Census.]


Former mayor and former postmaster Alfonso DeLaunay joins Turman as editor of the Peninsular in late Oct. of 1859.  In a long article on page 2, titled "A Parting Word", Turman describes the duties of an editor as "irksome."



In November, 1858, reports were received and rumors circulated that Sen. Yulee had no intention of building to Tampa-he was going to extend the road to Cedar Keys, carrying it through a section where he had vast real estate holdings. Verification of the reports soon were received and Tampa was stunned. The people were so angry that an effigy of Yulee was hastily made and hung from an oak tree in the courthouse grounds. And then it was set afire. But the burning of the effigy did not bring the railroad-and as a result of the change in Yulee's plan, Tampa was destined to suffer for many years, its growth being greatly hindered.


1859-1860 James McKay, Sr. becomes Tampa's 6th mayor, the Scottish Chief steamer makes its debut

While deeply involved in his varied enterprises, in 1859, Captain McKay, Sr. was elected Mayor of Tampa. He served as Tampa's 6th mayor, from  February 12, 1859 to Feb. 1, 1860, the only non-U.S. citizen to ever do so.

Read more about James McKay on this separate page at TampaPix.

The Scottish Chief, the celebrated side wheeler steamship in Tampa's history, arrived in the Hillsborough River for the first time on July 26, 1859; her owner was William G. Ferris.  "Her arrival was announced by the booming of cannon, the flourish of trumpets, and the hearty huzzas of the entire population. The Tampa cornet band boarded her, with a few citizens and she steamed up the river a short distance and returned to the delight and entire satisfaction of all concerned." 


[The above information about the debut of the Scottish Chief is from Tony Pizzo's "James McKay The Scottish Chief" article.  He does not cite the source but it sounds like a newspaper article. The July 30, 1859 Peninsular makes no mention of this event, neither does the Aug. 6 issue or the July 16 issue. or the July 9 issue.]

In 1860, as mayor, McKay sought to purchase the entire Fort Brooke military property for the city since the Fort was no longer needed for military purposes. Unsuccessful in purchasing it, he was able to lease it from the government.  The City held the property until the Civil War broke out and the Confederate Army occupied the garrison.

The flag of the Confederacy was then unfurled by the citizens with appropriate ceremonies. Captain McKay raised his flag in front of his store, followed by Charlie Brown's clothing establishment.  Mr. Ferris and son, not to be outdone, hoisted the U.S. flag in front of their store--upside down.

The Civil War brought an end to McKay's lucrative cattle trade with Havana. A few weeks before the war, McKay had purchased 10,000 head of cattle for transport to Cuba, but most of these were driven to Tennessee for the Confederate Army.




By James McKay, Jr. in "Reminiscences - History of Tampa in the Olden Days"  Dec. 18, 1923

In January, 1860, there was constructed a pasture fence, beginning on Hillsborough Bay just near the present site of the Spanish sanitarium, extending across the peninsula about two miles north of Port Tampa, to old Tampa bay, for the purpose of concentrating cattle.

The demand for cattle had increased to such an extent that my father in the spring of this year went north to purchase a steamer suitable for the trade and after searching the eastern ports, not finding a suitable vessel, went to Chicago and there purchased the steamer Salvor. She was not of sufficient size for the trade, so he took her to New York, cut her in two, putting 70 feet in the middle of her.

Before leaving Tampa he purchased from Captain L. G. Lesley, his entire stock of the S. V. brand of cattle, as well as 2,000 head of beef cattle from other parties. These cattle were all delivered to this pasture by June 5. The steamer should have arrived here by June 1, but owing to the slow manner of completing the work on her, she did not reach Tampa until the middle of July. 

In the meantime the pasture went dry, not a drop of water for cattle and many died before the rains began. There were only about some 3,500 head that were in a condition to stand shipping, and those that were left alive, we altered the marks and brands and drove to Manatee county. The pen where I received all this number of cattle, some 8,000 head, was situated some 200 yards from where I am now living. At that time there was but one house within one mile of the pens. What wonderful improvements have I witnessed since that time.



Jan. 14, 1860 Florida Peninsular
Magbee represented the widow of judge and former mayor of Tampa, James B. Lancaster.

Jan. 14, 1860 Florida Peninsular
Proposals are being solicited since Dec. 24, 1859 for repairs to the courthouse.



Tampa’s 7th Mayor

Term: February 1, 1860 – February 2, 1861
Born: September 7, 1821, St. Mary’s, GA.
Died: November 8, 1893, Tampa


John Crichton attended New York State Medical College before he arrived in Tampa, and began a successful medical practice here. He was a member of the Board of Health, and soon committed to politics. Crichton married Adelaide Christy Kennedy, the widow of Thomas P. Kennedy, a local merchant. Crichton and his wife had three children--one daughter, Mary, married James McKay, Jr. with whom she had nine children.

As with many southerners, Crichton was afraid and angry over the anti-slavery violence in Kansas and growing abolitionist movement in the northern states. Only months before his election, on October 16, 1859, John Brown, with 22 men, captured the federal arsenal at Harper’s Ferry, Virginia. In Tampa, there was fear that abolitionists would attempt a widespread uprising. With the unofficial support of the mayor, residents took it upon themselves to expel anyone suspected of abolitionist sentiments and, in some cases, those that were northern born.

The State of Florida passed an ordinance of secession on January 10, 1861, and soon became one of the states of the “Confederate States of America.” In September 1861, the “Sunny South Guards,” a local company commanded by Captain John T. Lesley, was mustered into service. The official response of Mayor Crichton and the City Council was to establish a “City Watch.” Under the auspices of the city marshal, local men, between the ages of 18 to 45, patrolled the streets and outskirts of Tampa. While they never found any signs of insurrection, the “City Watch” did arrest citizens for drunk and disorderly behavior, petty theft, and alerted residents of fires.

The Mayors of Tampa 1856 - 2015,  A project of the City of Tampa, City of Tampa


Aug. 4, 1860 Florida Peninsular references a trip to the Manatee made by the Scottish Chief on the previous Thursday, which would have been on Aug. 2nd.


Aug 4, 1860 Peninsular's endorsements for the upcoming election.


Aug. 11, 1860 Florida Peninsular
An account of the Aug. 2, 1860 pleasure cruise to Manatee on the Scottish Chief

Column 3 above continues on Column 1 below.



Aug. 11, 1860 Florida Peninsular
A report on the Salvor's activity





1860 - Magbee Wins a Senate Seat at age 40


In 1860 the political tides turned, and during the election year, a bitter election season, with a little serendipity, two pro-frontier candidates attained legislative seats -- Magbee managed a comeback by defeating William B. Hooker’s son-in-law, Benjamin Hagler, for election as southwest Florida’s state senator, and Joseph Howell was victorious in the House. 


William B. Hooker
 Photo from

Madison Post
Tampa's 5th mayor
Photo from City of Tampa

Benjamin Hagler, who became Wm. B. Hooker's son-in-law in 1851, succeeded Hooker’s brother John as sheriff in 1849 and remained in office as Sheriff until 1853. John Parker (who had married the widow of Hooker's brother Stephen) was elected to the county commission in 1849 for a two-year term. Thus Hooker’s position and power were enhanced by the presence of his relatives in high positions. Hooker and his wife Mary were concerned that their children marry well and live comfortably. They gave $2,000 a year to each son-in-law. Capt. Hooker was opposed to his daughter, Martha, marrying Benjamin Hagler, whom he considered an "old fogy" with an irritating speech impediment. He preferred that she marry her suitor, George G. Keen, from Columbia County. But Mrs. Hooker prevailed, believing Sheriff Hagler to be a wealthy match for her daughter. As it turned out, Martha married Hagler in 1851, but the marriage ended in divorce in 1866.


1860 Federal Census: Magbee a Wealthy Man


At the end of 1860, James T. Magbee was a wealthy man. He had 760 acres of land and improvements valued at $3,000 and 14 slaves worth $8,500. The census reported his household in the city of Tampa and the value of his personal property, including slaves, at $13,700.  He was listed as 40 years old, which is consistent with an 1820 birth year.  His wife, Susan (Tatum) was 29--an 11-year age difference. Living a few households away was William B. Hooker and his famil


1860 U.S. Census of J. T. Magbee and first wife Susan in Tampa.



Magbee ad in May 1861 Peninsular newspaper--an ad he had been running since at least Feb. 1855.

Magbee had a successful law practice and some years in the past, before 1858, had represented such prominent clients as William B. Hooker, James McKay and Francis A. Hendry before the State Supreme Court. Occasionally, he worked with fellow attorneys James Gettis or Ossian B. Hart to jointly represent a client. Magbee and Hart had become good friends. In the fall of 1857, they and their wives took a vacation to "the north," and after almost eleven years of marriage to Susan Tatum, the Magbees had no children.




Nov. 10, 1860 Peninsular - The Tampa Cornet Band gave a concert on Nov. 8 to an appreciative audience.  The band is "an institution of which our citizens justly feel proud.  Long may it--blow!"


Nov. 17, 1860 Florida Peninsular

This subject and election results by state fills just about the entire page 2 of this issue.

At the right and below is only the beginning.  The article goes on to attempt to invalidate the election of President Lincoln in several individual numbered statements.

Such were were the Southern Democrats of the era, who were considered to be the conservatives, with the anti-slavery Republicans labeled as "radical."

The article is racist but is presented here as a matter of historical fact.  This was the ugly history of Tampa. 

The opinions in the article are definitely not the opinions of this website.

The right-side column above continues below on the left.




Notices such as this one advising of the US Mail steamers schedule appeared in every issue of the Peninsular (weekly).

John Jackson dry goods ad running since Nov. 17, 1860 from May 11, 1861 Peninsular.


Page 1 - 1846 Magbee's arrival to 1860 Lincoln elected



(For this feature and the Magbee/Ulele Springs history feature.)

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