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

Page 3 - Reconstruction to 1890s


Page 1 - 1846 Magbee's arrival to 1860 Lincoln elected     Page 2 - 1861 Secession to End of Civil War




In 1862, Magbee's term in the Florida Senate was cut short.  At Gov. Milton’s request, Attorney General Galbraith had  issued an opinion on the 1861 Florida Confederate constitution which was approved by that year’s convention. According to Galbraith, all senators, even those elected like Magbee to four-year terms in 1860, would have their terms expire in October 1862 and would have to run for re-election.  Soon after the word arrived in South Florida, James D. Green of Manatee County announced his candidacy.  Samuel B. Todd of Tampa entered the contest along with Gen. Joseph M. Taylor of Hernando County.


Magbee decided not to run, but to contest the election. Green, a Unionist who was "a particular friend and correspondent" of Magbee, soon withdrew, possibly at Magbee’s urging. 


On October 6, Todd out-polled Gen. Joseph Taylor in Hillsborough but Taylor prevailed in the rest of the district and went on to win the election.

Magbee was furious. He returned to Tampa, sold his belongings and moved with his newly wed bride, his 2nd wife, Julia A. Henderson, to Wakulla County (located on the south border of Leon County, on the Gulf of Mexico.) Magbee waited out the Civil War at this new home in the town of Newport, Wakulla Co., living the life of a planter with his wife and seven slaves.


1865 - June 13 - Magbee signs Oath of Allegiance to the U.S.


When the Civil War was over, Magbee signed an oath of  allegiance to the United States on June 13, 1865.  He was 43 years old.

I hereby solemnly swear that I will bear full faith and true allegiance to the United States of America. That I will support and maintain her against all her enemies. That I hereby renounce all allegiance to all other or foreign powers or governments. That I will support the Constitution of the United States so help me God.


Restoring the Union
From Florida Memory, State Library & Archives of Florida

Click to see this page larger.

Restoring the Union following the destruction of the Civil War proved to be an enormous task. Several questions emerged in the wake of General Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Courthouse in April 1865; namely, the pace and scope of reintegrating former rebels and Confederate states back into the Union, rebuilding the southern economy, and the futures of millions of newly freed slaves.

President Abraham Lincoln’s desire to enact swift Reconstruction clashed with the so-called Radical Republicans in Congress who wanted to punish the South. President Andrew Johnson, who took office after Lincoln’s assassination on April 14, 1865, tried to follow Lincoln’s general approach to Reconstruction and was eventually impeached for it (and acquitted.)

Part of the plan implemented by Johnson included granting amnesty to some former Confederates who pledged an oath of allegiance to the United States.


The only known physical description of James T. Magbee
These oaths of allegiance were entered in Leon County between May 31 and June 17, 1865. The signees, although primarily from Northern Florida, represented several Florida counties and a few different states. These rosters include information otherwise available in census or service records, such as date, name, residence and occupation. Of particular interest are Pages 5 and 6, which also include columns for complexion, hair and eye color, and height.

James T. Magbee of Wakulla Co, Lawyer, Light complexion, grey hair, blue eyes, 5 ft. 9 in. tall

See the entire document and transcription.




1865 - July 15 - Troops arrive in Tampa to enforce reconstruction law


Federal troops of the 2nd U.S. Colored Infantry Regiment arrived in Tampa to occupy the fort and the town as part of Reconstruction. They would remain until August 1869.


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

After the close of the war we all returned to our homes, which we found in most instances in a dilapidated condition. Tampa was a hard-looking place. Houses were in bad order. Streets and lots were grown up mostly with weeds and the outlook certainly was not very encouraging. To make matters worse two companies of negro soldiers were sent to garrison the place. White officers commanded them. It was not long before the troops became overbearing and in some instances threatened arrests of our citizens.

I was one that was to be brought before a military court, for the destruction of papers and documents. Getting uneasy over the many reports coming in, I with my brother Donald, mounted our horses and laid out in the woods for six weeks. The excited condition of the country and activity of the officers at this place being reported to Washington by a revenue officer, a special agent was sent here to investigate with authority to act and he soon had matters straightened out.

I received notice from my father to report to the commanding officer in the garrison before stopping anywhere, which I did and was given a paper stating that I was not to be molested only on order from Washington. Shortly after this event the negro soldiers were removed and white troops of the regular army went to garrison the place. It was not long before they were on good terms with the citizens - and assisted in pushing the town ahead, trying to make us forget that we were enemies at one time.


1865 Hurricane Season

Of the seven storms during the 1865 storm season, two were hurricanes.  The seventh storm and final tropical hurricane of the 1865 season formed on October 18, just north of the coast of Panama. The storm brushed the country's coast with high waves for several days, causing $300,000 in damage. Moving north-northwestward, the storm intensified into a hurricane by October 21 over the western Caribbean. After turning more to the north, it struck Cuba, producing strong winds that destroyed the roof of the Belen College Observatory in Havana. In the city, the hurricane destroyed several boats and houses. A station on the island recorded a pressure of 975 mbar (28.78 inHg), suggesting winds of about 80 mph (135 km/h).

After crossing the island, the hurricane intensified further over the Florida straits until striking Key West, Florida, where peak winds were estimated around 105 mph (165 km/h). Its pressure was estimated at 969 millibars (28.6 inHg), and the hurricane either sunk or washed every boat ashore at the harbor in Key West. Rainfall totaled 4.10 in (104 mm) over a three-day period. In nearby Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas, the hurricane destroyed one building and damaged several others, killing one person. It later moved across the Florida mainland, weakening slightly. About a dozen ships encountered the hurricane across the western Atlantic, before the storm was last observed on October 25 north of Bermuda.

Wikipedia - 1865 Atlantic hurricane season


Oct. 23, 1865 hurricane reported in the Nov. 17  Savannah National Republican - Great storm at Key West




The steamer Gov. Marvin arrives in Key West - Savannah National Republican  Nov. 28, 1865


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


USS Honduras at anchor in Key West, 17 January 1865. Scott De Wolf Collection.  Courtesy of Mrs. Ida M. Harris, Sunnyrest, Port Washington, New York, 1932.  From Naval History and Heritage Command.

My father succeeded in getting to Havana by a fishing smack and from his friends in Cuba got sufficient funds to take him to New York, landing there with only a few dollars in his pocket. Meeting the old merchants he dealt with previous to the war, they assisted him in buying a vessel named Honduras, costing $72,000, which had carried Union troops to Tampa.  He renamed it the Governor Marvin.

He also bought a stock of goods valued at $24,000. He left New York in October, 1865, with this vessel loaded and 165 passengers. He met a hurricane off St. Augustine and came very near losing the vessel and all hands, but by the graciousness of the Heavenly Father he pulled through it with some slight losses only.

Two or three days after the hurricane, in passing down along the Florida reef, he saw some 21 vessels of all kinds ashore, as quick as he could, he discharged freight and passengers that were for Key West, patched the steamer up, and left for a bark loaded with sugar and a steamer that was ashore and worked on them for two weeks, for which he received enough to pay for one-half of the Marvin.

The Honduras was originally built to carry cattle from Honduras to Cuba just at the beginning of the war, but was taken by the United States Government.  At that time she was chartered by the United States Government and was used as a transport along the Florida coast from New Orleans to Key West and the Tortugas.  My father purchased her in New York after the War in 1865, and I lost her in the hurricane of 1872, but got her into the harbor of Key West before she sank. She was named after the Provisional Governor of Florida who was and had been a true friend of my father long before the Civil War.

Many times have I read the log books of these vessels giving an account of this expedition. Captain Van Sice commanded the Honduras at the time of this expedition. I got acquainted with him in Havana after the war, he then being master of the City of Vera Cruz of the Alexander Steamship Line plying between New York and Havana. He discussed with me the capture of Tampa.  A few years later Captain Van Sice, with the City of Vera Cruz, was lost in a hurricane off St. Augustine.

When reaching Tampa about the last of November, he entered into the shipping of cattle to Cuba but as the cattle were beginning to get poor and the grass being bad in Cuba, they did not sell for sufficient to pay for cost, duties, and freight and about the last of December he discontinued shipping them. In the meantime stores opened on Washington street and although there was not much money in circulation, still there was considerable business, mostly in trade.  K. Roberts and Company operated a weekly line of steamers along the coast from New Orleans to Havana, bringing freight and passengers. That was of great assistance to this section of south Florida.



1865 - The Florida Constitutional Convention


Image from Florida Memory, State Library & Archives of Florida.  See all pages there.

When the war ended in 1865, Magbee was elected by Wakulla County voters as their delegate to the Constitutional Convention at Tallahassee, where he was a framer of the new Florida Constitution. The convention convened October 25 and Magbee was joined by former secessionist James Gettis of Hillsborough, Unionist James D. Green of Manatee and former Confederate officers Francis A. Hendry of Polk and Samuel E. Hope of Hernando.



The convention "annulled" the Ordinance of Secession but Magbee and the majority rejected radical language that would have declared secession "null and void from the beginning."


On the subject of slavery, conservative language that the institution had been destroyed "by the Government of the United States" was approved 20 to 14, with Magbee and Gettis in the majority. Additional conservative language was supported by Magbee and Gettis but was defeated by a 30 to 7 vote.


The state remained under martial law, and Congress refused to seat legislators from the former Confederate states until more stringent requirements were met. Florida ultimately scrapped the Constitution of 1865 in favor of a new version created in 1868.


Interestingly, Magbee, attempted to have wording removed that limited testimony by blacks only to cases involving them, unless "made competent by future legislation."



Judge Perry G. Wall and the Civil War

Perry Green Wall has been described as a Unionist who opposed secession. Nevertheless, he continued to serve as probate judge of Hernando County after Florida seceded from the Union in January 1861. He was reelected to his final term in the October 1861 elections. From March 29 until May 17, 1862, he served in Capt. J. H. Breaker’s Old Guards, Mounted Rangers, along with son-in-law, Aaron T. Frierson, Samuel Pearce, Francis Ederingrton and Malcolm C. Peterson.    (Judge Wall is sometimes referred to as "Perry Green Wall, I (the first) because he had a grandson named Perry Green Wall, II, who was a son of Billy W. Wall and served as a mayor of Tampa.  Read about the life of Judge Wall at TampaPix.)

Perry Green Wall and Nancy Hunter had seven children:

  • Mary Matilda Wall b.1831 d.1905  marr. Aaron Taylor Frierson

  • Julia Ann Wall b.1832 d.1915  marr. Christopher L. Friebele

  • William "Billy" Washington Wall b.1834 d.1878 m. Minnie May

  • Dr./Mayor John Perry Wall b.1836 d.1895 marr. 3x

  • David Hunter Wall, b. 1838 d.1864

  • Sarah Louise Wall b.1840 d.1925  marr. Edward A. Clarke

  • Susan Catherine Wall b. 1843 d.1899  marr. William Marion Hendry

Judge Perry G. Wall
Image from
Journal of the Tampa Hist. Society
Volume XXIII November, 1997


Judge Wall Appointed to Freedmen's Bureau

Wall was to play a prominent role in Hernando County Reconstruction. On November 2, 1865, apparently after a meeting in Tallahassee, Wall was appointed agent for the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands in Hernando County. He was directed to "proceed at once to systematize the affairs of the county in so far as the Bureau has jurisdiction; and, especially so far as it is in his control, induce the Freedmen to make contracts for labor with the planters and other parties wishing to employ them."  The order was signed by Col. Thomas W. Osborn, Assistant Commissioner of the Bureau in Florida.

Writing to Thomas from Brooksville on December 8, Wall outlined his actions as agent:

In the years following the Civil War, the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands (the Freedmen's Bureau) provided assistance to tens of thousands of former slaves and impoverished whites in the Southern States and the District of Columbia. The war had liberated nearly four million slaves and destroyed the region's cities, towns, and plantation-based economy. It left former slaves and many whites dislocated from their homes, facing starvation, and owning only the clothes they wore. The challenge of establishing a new social order, founded on freedom and racial equality, was enormous.

The Bureau was established in the War Department in 1865 to undertake the relief effort and the unprecedented social reconstruction that would bring freed people to full citizenship. It issued food and clothing, operated hospitals and temporary camps, helped locate family members, promoted education, helped freedmen legalize marriages, provided employment, supervised labor contracts, provided legal representation, investigated racial confrontations, settled freedmen on abandoned or confiscated lands, and worked with African American soldiers and sailors and their heirs to secure back pay, bounty payments, and pensions.

After arriving home, I was within two or three days, taken down very sick, from which I did not recover sufficiently to go out, for about three weeks.  As soon however as I was able to do so, I proceeded to make known to the colored people of this county, my agency in the Bureau and such system for hiring out labor for the incoming year, as I deemed most promotive of their interest. The Colored people here pretty generally seemed very much pleased with me as their agent, and disposed to be governed by my instructions, which was that in order to insure employment and a competency for next year, they must —and especially those with families — make contracts with the planters having farms, either for stated wages or as a share of the crop.

On the presumption that I am superseded as agent by the Judge of Probate of this county, I will proceed no further in the duties thereof at least until I shall hear from you."

The records left by the Freedmen's Bureau through its work between 1865 and 1872 constitute the richest and most extensive documentary source available for investigating the African American experience in the post-Civil War and Reconstruction eras. Historians have used these materials to explore government and military policies, local conditions, and interactions between freed people, local white populations, and Bureau officials.  Read about the entire collection, including marriage records, at the National Archives

Judge Wall Controversy

In March 1866, Lt. William G. Vance, sub-assistant commissioner for the Bureau, was in Brooksville. He reported that he had visited Judge Wall "to have him accept the civil agency for the county which after some hesitation he did."  Almost immediately after his appointment, Wall was involved in controversy.  Acting at Vance’s direction, and in his capacity as civil agent, he performed a marriage ceremony for a black couple who had lived together for many years as man and wife. This violated an act of the state General Assembly and he was brought up on charges before the county criminal court.  Fearing that Wall might be subjected to a whipping or the pillory, Gen. Foster ordered the commanding officer at Tampa to send a force of ten men to Brooksville to keep order. If Wall, who was described as a "sound and truly loyal man," was sentenced to corporal punishment, he was to be taken to Tampa for protection. The trial was postponed to June and Vance wrote to Osborne on May 25:

They have got a very poor opinion of the Judge here and say he was a good secessionist as any of them till the War ended when he took sides with the Unionists. But from what I have seen of him he appears a good Union Man. The people in this section of the country are strongly opposed to those men who have been Unionists or in our army and every little chance they can get they bring them before the court, and punish them with very heavy fines while men of their own opinions go free after committing more grievous offences.

The troops were sent to Brooksville and at the trial Wall was convicted and fined one dollar. Vance, who was present at the trial, believed that a harsher sentence was averted only by the presence of the troops.

Judge Wall was forced to relinquish his position as special agent for the Freedmen’s Bureau in August 1867 because he was unable to take the "test oath," also known as the Ironclad oath, which was required of all Federal officers. The oath disqualified from Federal service those persons who had supported the rebellion. As a former county officer who had taken an oath to support the U. S. Constitution and later engaged in rebellion, Wall was also disqualified from holding Federal or state office under the 14th Amendment which was ratified in 1868. But when Congress passed its first act in 1868 removing disabilities from former Confederates, Perry Wall was one of 14 Florida men whose right to hold office was restored.

"To Faithfully Discharge My Duty - The Life and Career of Perry Green Wall" by Kyle S. VanLandingham, The Sunland Tribune, A Journal of the Tampa Historical Society, Vol. 23, Nov. 1997



1865 - Race for Secretary of State and Move to Tallahassee


On November 29, 1865, Magbee was defeated in the race for Secretary of State by B. E. Allen.  Magbee received 583 votes against B. E Allen’s 2,729. When the State Senate met in December, Magbee was appointed Engrossing Clerk, a position he also held in the 1866 session the next year. He was 46 years old.


He reentered the legal profession, relocated to Tallahassee and opened a law office there in February 1866. 

Aug 9, 1866 ad in Tallahassee Florida Sentinel

The Florida Weekly - Nov. 12, 1867 - Magbee ad in Tallahassee newspaper


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

In 1866, during the summer, the trade with Cuba had increased to such an extent that my father purchased [another former Union steamship], the Huzzas and renamed it "Southern Star," to assist the Governor Marvin to freight cattle, but the demand did not last longer than that year, as the insurrection in Cuba broke out and buyers were afraid to put cattle on pastures.

Nov. 16, 1866 Floridian

He chartered the Marvin to a party of Spaniards to load mules at Tampico, but when we arrived there found an insurrection had sprung up in Tamaulipas and we were detained for a month, when we loaded 357 mules for Havana. Arriving at our destination we found the city in a state of excitement for fear of an attack from the Cuban army. The night of the day of our arrival, while myself and officers of the ship were upstairs in the Louvre playing billiards, as a battalion of Spanish soldiers were passing, someone fired a pistol. The soldiers opened fire on the lower or ground floor and shot the place all to pieces. We made our escape over the tops of buildings and were let down through a trap door on the top of the building on the opposite side of the block. It was not long before we found ourselves on board the Marvin and very glad to be there.



1866 - October 25  - The campaign in Tampa for unincorporation

Elections were held per the state legislature to reorganize the city’s incorporation. E. A. Clarke elected mayor; Dr. L.A. Lively, R.F. Nunez, Josiah Ferris, and B.C. Leonardi, councilmen; and John G. Robles, marshal. In order to meet financial obligations, occupational taxes were levied; many objections were raised; protests ensue with talk of real estate taxes; a “no corporation” slate of officers pledge to discontinue the government until better times return.

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



Civil War and lack of Congressional assistance block railroad efforts


Enhanced map from map by Ted Starr at
"Florida's Peace River Frontier" by Canter Brown

The Civil War had devastated Tampa. It was blockaded, shelled, and occupied by Union forces. Confederate martial law prevailed, and, at times, the community virtually was deserted. The early years of Reconstruction were little better. By 1867 the local stores were without supplies, and yellow fever again struck. So difficult were circumstances for most that, in 1869, the town abandoned its charter. From a pre-Civil War population high of 885, the total had dwindled by 1870 to 796. When yellow fever reappeared in 1871, Tampa was completely depopulated. Nine years later the census revealed only 720 residents.

Throughout the Civil War period Tampans continued to long for a railroad as their only chance to stop the town’s decline. Shortly after the war, hopes were lifted when construction of a line either to Tampa Bay or Charlotte Harbor was proposed. Warned one newspaper: "If the people of Tampa want this road, they can get it ... if they give it the ’cold shoulder’... they may lose it." Lose it, they did. Although Republican Governor Harrison Reed pledged his support, necessary Congressional assistance was blocked. The town even went without a telegraph. When a telegraph line was constructed down the peninsula in 1867, it by-passed Tampa by fifty miles.  For the next decade news was received overland from Fort Meade.

THE SUNLAND TRIBUNE, Journal of the TAMPA HISTORICAL SOCIETY, Volume XVII November, 1991 Journal of the Tampa Historical Society - TAMPA AND THE COMING OF THE RAILROAD, 1853-1884, by Canter Brown, Jr.





Governor Harrison Reed
9th Governor of Florida
Florida Memory State Archives

Radical Reconstruction began in Florida in 1867 and by April 1868, Magbee was a committed Republican. He befriended Harrison Reed and when Reed became governor under the new 1868 constitution, Magbee was appointed to an eight year term as judge of the 6th Circuit.  It covered the West Coast of Florida from Brooksville to Key West, comprised of the counties of Hernando, Hillsborough, Polk, Manatee and Monroe.


Claiborne R. Mobley of Tampa, an ally of James D. Green, also wanted the judgeship, but was forced to settle for the position of State Attorney for the 6th Circuit.  After Senate confirmation, Magbee’s appointment was announced in the August 15, 1868 edition of the Florida Peninsular. Editor Henry L. Mitchell stated:

I would have preferred many others to Magbee, yet under the circumstances we are satisfied and have sound cause to rejoice. The contest for the appointment had been between Magbee and Mobley, and of the two, we a thousand times prefer Magbee. ...Magbee is a lawyer of much experience and we doubt not, will make a fair judge.



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

A renegade judge of the court was placed in office in this section and with the notorious Jim Green and his deserters to assist him, they joined the republican party, the fight became quite interesting. The loyal Confederates soon were engaged in a struggle that was not much inferior to the war between the states.  At one time it appeared as another losing proposition but with the aid of the Ku Klux Klan, all over the south began to see daylight.

In 1876 this state as well as others, emerged from the fight by placing George E Drew in the governor’s chair, [but] Florida’s presidential vote was given to Hayes. It was not long after this when the renegades and deserters were fired from office and sound democrats installed. From that time this section began to improve, and every person felt safe and happy. Previous to this there were many night rides by the citizens, to accomplish what they did.



1868 - Opposition to Judge Magbee in Tampa


When the newly appointed judge arrived in Tampa he faced opposition from two quarters. First, the local Republicans, who were led by Claiborne R. Mobley and Matthew P Lyons.


Lyons, a resident of Fort Green during the 1850s, had become an ally of Manatee County and farmer-politician, James D. Green. Lyons was noted for his whining letters to the Florida Peninsular during the Third Seminole War. Late in the Civil War, returning from a visit to Union-controlled Fort Myers, he was captured by Confederate troops and taken prisoner.  Lyons was now Clerk of the Circuit Court, appointed by Gov. Reed.


Mobley and Lyons were suspicious of Magbee, and resented having to share power with him. On the other end of the political spectrum were the Democrats, or Conservatives as they were then often called. Former secessionists, Whigs, all those opposed to radical rule (Republicans) were now identified with the Democratic party.


Magbee’s "honeymoon" lasted about two months.



1868 - Magbee designates an "official newspaper"


On October 10, 1868, Judge Magbee declared the newly established Republican newspaper, the True Southerner, "the official newspaper of the Sixth Judicial Circuit of Florida" and ordered that all legal advertisements and notices be published therein.  The paper’s editor was Edward O. Plumbe, soon to be County Judge and the publisher was listed as Charles L. Newhall**. Eventually, Magbee was identified as the paper’s owner.  **The publisher was W.J. Stallings.

Rowell's American Newspaper Directory edited by George Presbury Rowell, 1870


1868 - Magbee speaks at a Republican meeting in Tampa

A "Republican Mass Meeting" was held in Tampa on October 21, 1868. Capt. James D. Green spoke in the afternoon session, which was followed that evening by a "torch-light procession" to the Courthouse. Speeches were offered by E. O. Plumbe, C. R. Mobley and Judge Magbee. Magbee "took the stand and delivered a most eloquent and patriotic speech, literally a feast of fat things, full of the soundest logic and argument,” according to the "True Southerner" of October 29, 1868.



1868 - William B. Henderson's article on the Republican meeting draws contempt charge by Magbee




William Benton Henderson, 1891
Photo from Florida Memory, State Library & Archives of Florida


Unlike many of Tampa’s identifiable sections, Tampa Heights was an area of many small subdivisions, established by original homesteaders or developers. Most of the early homes were constructed by individual contractors and while the area had its share of land speculators, the Heights was designed for Tampans with little newspaper promotion and attractions for Northern winter visitors.

Perhaps the four block Tampa Heights subdivision, created in September of 1889, by William Benton Henderson, best reflected the growing prestige of Tampa Heights in the last decade of the nineteenth century.

The eldest child of a large Georgia farm family, Henderson made his own way in life at the age of twelve. He came with his father to Fort Brooke in 1846 and started one of the first stores on the Alafia River. He married Caroline Spencer, daughter of Palma Ceia homesteader William Samuel Spencer.

It was during the Civil War that Henderson gained his Colonel status, serving first in Captain (judge) James Gettis’ Company D of the 7th Florida Regiment and later commanding John T. Lesley’s Company after Lesley was wounded. 

After the war, he joined Captain John Miller in a steamboat and mercantile business that dominated Tampa’s commercial contact with the outside world.

Henderson was a diversified and dynamic promoter: he introduced Durham bulls into the Florida cattle industry; he built Tampa’s first telegraph line; he started the banana trade with Central America; and consolidated two local papers into the Tampa Times.

His business ventures were so successful that he retired from active business, channeling his energies into financial investments and public service. This active involvement brought him even greater influence, as he served as: President of the Tampa Building and Loan Association, President of the West Tampa Land and Improvement Company,. President of the Tampa Publishing Company, President of Tampa’s first Railway Company, City Councilman, Chairman of the County School Board, and Chairman of the Board of County Commissioners.

When he built a large house, complete with observation turret, on the bluff at Tampa Heights, he was soon surrounded by so many business and family associates that the two block section of Seventh Avenue East resembled a Henderson corporate center, which would heavily influence Tampa’s economic growth for many years.

Henderson' home on 7th Ave, in 1902

THE SUNLAND TRIBUNE Volume IV Number 1 November, 1978 Journal of the TAMPA HISTORICAL SOCIETY

In an Oct. 24, 1868 article in the Florida Peninsular newspaper, correspondent William B. Henderson took a different view of the meeting.



Henderson reminded his readers that Magbee was...

"holding his regular term of the Court in this county,” and Henderson was "surprised that a high Judicial officer of the State... should enter the political arena as a stump speaker." 


According to Henderson, Magbee held the Democrats "responsible" for the Civil War "and that their hands were dyed in the blood of more than half a million loyal men." This angered Henderson who remembered that Magbee had been the most active, ultra red-hot secessionist in the whole county. His efforts to hang James McKay in 1861 and his description of himself as an "undoubted secessionist" at that time were fully aired in Henderson's article.


Henderson signed the piece, "A Looker On  in Venice.


See Henderson's entire article on this separate page.


See the original Oct. 24, 1869 Peninsular newspaper scan online.


Magbee was so angry that he threatened to "strike from the roll of attorneys [Henry L. Mitchell] the editor of the Peninsular; unless he gave up the author of the piece.


The judge then became very ill with fever and was unable to preside at Court. Sam C. Craft, an attorney in the Circuit and friend of Magbee's, met with him after his illness and attempted to calm him down.


Magbee believed...

"...that this was but the first development in a widespread and deeply laid plot to destroy [his] judicial influence, and thereby to defeat the ends of Justice and consequently was such a contempt of court that [he] could not permit it to pass; that if this act was permitted to go unpunished, it would soon be followed by others; and that [he] had to meet it, or else the country would have to go back under military rule."

Craft urged the judge to "loosen the reins" for awhile but Magbee replied that "he was not sent on the circuit to gain popularity but to execute the Laws, and the surest way to prevent fruit was to clip the bud."


Judge Magbee had Henderson brought before him on a contempt charge at the end of the term. Henderson was represented by counsel who argued that the article was a "legitimate exercise of the liberty of speech," and the remarks were not directed against the Court but against the judge politically, a "reply of a Democrat to a Republican."


Judge Magbee was unmoved and fined Henderson $100 for contempt of court. 


This would later be one of the articles of Magbee's first impeachment.



1869 - On the circuit with Judge Magbee


As judge of a five-county-circuit which included most of west central and southwest Florida, Magbee did a great deal of traveling. He was required to hold spring and fall terms of Court in all five counties. Travel in the back country could be difficult and hazardous. In the spring of 1869, John B. Stickney, a young lawyer accompanying Magbee, remarked on the swollen streams and heavy rains and the discomfort of riding in an open buggy under unpredictable weather conditions. All in all, Stickney found the trip pleasant and enjoyed the company of the judge and the friendliness of the people on the route.


Hubbel's Legal Directory, 1881-82



See: The ghost of Judge John B. Stickney  


Magbee's enemies, however, began to subject him to a series of practical jokes. On one occasion in mid-1869 at the Brandon residence east of Tampa, his buggy traces were cut.


From Jesse Hope, descendant of a great Indian fighter and Confederate soldier, Capt. Sam Hope, comes another Magbee story. Jess said circuit court was in session in Brooksville, and one morning the judge, the clerk and the sheriff walked into the courtroom at the time for convening and found an old grey jackass tied in the judge's chair, tied so tight that he was sitting upright on his rump. Gazing at the braying jack a moment, the witty old scalawag remarked, "That's Sam Hope's old ass. Leave him there. He's about the kind of judge to suit this situation."


1869 - March 1 - City of Tampa abolished

By the end of the 1860s the City of Tampa faced a bleak future. Former Confederate officer and leading Tampa citizen John T. Lesley ran for mayor in Tampa’s 1869 election with a simple campaign promise: vote for him and he would abolish the City of Tampa.  Citizens of Tampa voted overwhelmingly for the No Corporation People’s Ticket. The platform of this party was to close the city government in Tampa, thus forcing the state legislature to revoke Tampa’s 1855 city charter by allowing it to lapse, effectively eliminating the City of Tampa as a legal municipality. The charter was revoked on October 4, 1869 due to the deadline in a state act providing for the reorganization of municipalities.

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



Letter obtained from Stewart Lutz Historic Documents









1869 - October 4

County commissioners decreed that “as the City of Tampa has forfeited its charter, all property of the City shall be taken over by the county clerk.”

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





  Legal battle sets the stage for more obstacles





Former Florida State Senator David Yulee is in the news for a lawsuit in New York involving Francis Vose.  Later, Vose would play an antagonist's role by impeding the progress of the railroad development in Florida.


Around 1859, the Florida Railroad bought iron from the firm of Vose & Livingston in New York, and gave its note endorsed by Sen. David Yulee 195 Internal Improvement Bonds for $1,000 each as collateral security.  Later, around 1870, the firm of Vose & Livingston would dissolve, and the note and bonds would come into possession of Mr. Vose as his share of the assets.  This issue would later escalate to the point of deterring the progress of the railroads in Florida. The story continues later.







1870 - The Magbees on the 1870 Census


The 1870 census reported fifty-year-old James T. Magbee as residing near present-day Brandon, where he described himself as a "Farmer and Lawyer." His age is consistent with an 1820 birth year.  Julia was listed as 27 years old, making their age difference 23. He and his wife Julia had no children, but living in their household were his elderly mother Susan (born in Ga.), and two of his sisters, Penelope and Elizabeth, and a young female Dorrie.  There were also 3 farm laborers and a 60-year-old servant, Rose, listed.  The closest neighbor was James Brandon. 







It wasn't until the 1880 census that relationships to head of house were listed, so these relationships are conclusions based on other sources, such as names, ages and places of birth.  It is not known what relationship Dorrie had to any of the household members.  She was a white female, attending school, so it's not likely that she was a servant.




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

I have been compelled to mention my father many times, which I could not prevent, from the fact that in the early days of Tampa there was not a single interest connected with the town but what he was either the originator, or connected with it in some manner. He was identified with every improvement in the town.

As this article is rather lengthy I will close, wishing you and all a merry Christmas and a happy New Year..


H. B. Plant's steamer Olivette was a 250-foot ship built under the supervision of Capt. James McKay, Jr. in Philadelphia and launched February 16, 1887. Captain McKay, Jr. brought the vessel in April 29, 1887 [to Tampa] and thereafter served as her master.

James McKay Jr. on his horse during the 2nd Gasparilla invasion, 1905.
Photo from the Lesley Collection, Tampa Bay History Center.
By TampaPix:  This photo might not be quite this old.  Compare to his 1902 election photo with beard and this Jan. 15, 1918 passport application photo.  The Gasparilla photo more closely resembles him in 1918.:

See his passport application, he is mistaken about his father's whereabouts from 1831 to 1876.




State Senator John T. Lesley, ca. 1885
Photo from Florida Memory, State Library & Archives of Florida


John T. Lesley
Ca. late 1890s
Photo from Wikipedia

John Lesley's short term as mayor

The antagonism between federal authorities and Tampa residents was the foundation for John Lesley’s mayoral campaign in early 1869. He campaigned on a single platform that Tampa’s charter should be revoked by the state legislature due to the City’s destitute financial condition. The majority of residents agreed and Lesley was elected mayor on March 1, 1869. While a city clerk, treasurer and a city council was elected, the Lesley Administration did little more than wait until the state legislature revoked Tampa’s Charter due to a inactive government.

On October 4, 1869, the state legislature responded as expected and revoked the City’s charter. When the news reached Tampa, Lesley and other city officials resigned their positions. The Hillsborough County government appropriated all city properties and assumed responsibility for providing educational and other principal services to Tampa’s residents. After resigning, Lesley returned to his business ventures.

Lesley was elected to the Florida House in 1876 and the Senate in 1878 being reelected in 1882. He was a member of the constitutional convention of 1885. He was also owner of John T. Lesley's wholesale and retail drug store. He died on July 13, 1913.  Tampa’s status as a non-chartered city continued until 1887 when residents voted to re-incorporate the city.


1870 - Magbee the Scalawag Judge and impeachment

As a Republican official during Reconstruction, Magbee rose to prominence in the Tampa community.  He had supported the Confederate army during the war, but after the fighting, he became for reasons unknown, a "scalawag," a Southern turncoat who joined the northern oppressors. 



James Dopson Green, Unionist
One of the earliest pioneers of the Peace River valley.  He was a county officer in the 1850s, a captain in the Union Army, and the area's main Republican leader during Reconstruction.
Photo and info from Florida's Peace River Frontier, 1997, by Canter Brown, Jr.

Capt. James D. Green, a pioneer settler of Hillsborough and Manatee counties, was a controversial figure in the Civil War and Reconstruction era in South Florida.  Green's most radical act while serving as Manatee's Representative was his efforts to impeach Governor Harrison Reed. In the special legislative session in November 1868 H. S. Harmon, James D. Green, and Marcellus L. Stearns were appointed a committee to prepare and report articles of impeachment against the governor. The ensuing resolution was reported to the Senate as though the governor had been impeached, and Lt. Governor William H. Gleason, an opponent of the governor, opportunistically interpreted it to mean he was governor. Governor Reed, however, outmaneuvered his enemies and successfully had Gleason removed from office as he had not been a citizen of the state for two years as required by the constitution.

James Dopson Green, by Spessard Stone

Magbee had very few friends in Tampa; he used his office while serving as judge to "get even" with those who opposed him. He delighted in forcing prominent white men to serve on the same juries with blacks, something that didn't sit well with many of Tampa's citizens of that period. He frequently had men brought before him in contempt proceedings for something they had said or written in criticism of his actions and imposed heavy fines on them---entirely without justification in law.

On February 18, 1870, James T. Magbee became the first Florida official to face impeachment by the Assembly of the State of Florida for misconduct--"high crimes, misdemeanors, malfeasance in office and incompetency." The vote was 29 to 4 in favor. A committee headed by James D. Green presented Articles of Impeachment which were approved 24 to 3. The Senate was duly notified and responded that trial would be held at "its next regular session." The following is a Summary of the Articles:

Article I
He caused one citizen, William B. Henderson, to come before his court and fined him $100 for contempt for writing and publishing an article criticizing a speech delivered by Magbee. Magbee unlawfully detained and imprisoned Henderson until the fine was paid when in fact, Henderson's article was published when Magbee's court was not in session and Henderson was not in contempt.


Article II
He unlawfully removed two grand jurors from the panel regularly drawn and caused the names of two petit jurors drawn on the regular panel of petit jurors to be placed on the panel of grand jurors in their stead, thereby committing a misdemeanor.


Article III
Prior to the drawing of grand and petit jurors for the fall term of 1869, he unlawfully attempted to induce and influence the Clerk of the Circuit Court to commit fraud in drawing the grand and petit jurors for the fall term in that he asked the clerk not to place the names of certain jurors, if drawn, upon the jury list and, instead, to place the names of certain other persons on the list, whether drawn or not, thereby committing a misdemeanor.


Article IV
He purchased pipes, tobacco, envelopes, stamps, and other articles for his own private use and unlawfully caused these articles to be charged as "stationery" against the State.


Article V
He persuaded Irene Jenkins, charged with adultery, that a plea of guilty would induce a mitigation of the penalty, whereupon she entered a plea of guilty. Magbee, disregarding his promise, imposed cruel and unusual punishment, to wit, twenty-one months' imprisonment at hard labor, while at the same time, Louis M. Jenkins, charged with the same offense, plead guilty and was fined only $75. By such acts he manifested a cruel and wicked disposition of heart and an incompetency for the position of judge.



The legislature adjourned February 19, 1870. As an impeached official, Magbee was now under suspension, pending the Senate trial. Gov. Reed called the Legislature into extra session on May 23. Magbee entered a plea of not guilty and demanded a speedy trial during the special session. He submitted an impressive collection of letters and affidavits attesting to his innocence.  


The Assembly managers requested a continuance and trial was postponed to the next regular session in January 1871. Magbee traveled the state soliciting support from friends and legislators. He played an active role in the 1870 Republican state convention as a member of the Reed faction and joined in the unsuccessful efforts to re-nominate Congressman Hamilton. Later, in Gainesville, he was involved in a drunken brawl, beaten up and fined by the mayor. [See "Magbee on the Rampage" after this section on Judge Perry Green Wall.]


Judge Perry Green Wall

On January 13, 1870, Democratic State Sen. John A. Henderson and Democratic State Rep. Charles Moore of Hillsborough recommended to Gov. Reed the appointment of "Perry G. Wall, Esq. of Tampa, as a suitable person for the office of County Judge of Hillsborough County.”  Wall was confirmed by the Senate on January 26 and took office on March 13, 1870. The Tampa Peninsular newspaper reacted warmly to Wall's appointment:

Gov. Reed has appointed the Hon. Perry G. Wall, Judge of the County Court for Hillsborough County. This is an excellent appointment and it will, we feel assured, give universal satisfaction. - Judge Wall has filled with fidelity many important offices in this State, and whilst he presides as Judge of the County Court he will do so intelligently, impartially and independently.

The local Republican County Committee, chaired by Judge James T Magbee, was not pleased with the appointment of Wall.  Magbee, having been impeached by the House, was awaiting trial and thus temporarily out of office,  retained influence but was opposed by other Tampa Republican leaders C. R. Mobley and Matthew P. Lyons.

Judge Perry G. Wall
Image from


Magbee's committee asserted that Wall did not reside in the county and wanted E J. Gould named to the post of county judge. Despite his loyalty to Reed, Magbee's wishes were not honored.

Magbee had reason to dislike the Wall family. One of the impeachment charges against him involved his alleged improper purchase and use of goods and supplies obtained from the firm of Eddington and Wall in Brooksville (co-owned by Billy Wall, a son of Judge Wall.)

As county judge, Perry G. Wall also served as ex officio probate judge and also as a justice of the peace. He and his son, Dr. John Wall, had their initiation into the printing business when Republican C. R. Mobley acquired the Florida Peninsular in late 1871. Mobley turned it into a Republican newspaper and hired William P Neeld who in turn retained the Judge and Doctor as editors. Publication continued only a few months until the paper went bust in the spring of 1872.

Judge Wall continued in office until April 26, 1873 when he tendered his resignation to Gov. Ossian B. Hart. On March 10, 1873, Judge Wall had received the lucrative appointment of Postmaster at Tampa from President Ulysses S. Grant. He served as postmaster until January 22, 1877 when he was replaced by Robert B. Thomas.

In retirement, Perry G. Wall suffered the loss of his wife, Barbara, on May 30, 1883. Her body was returned to the old home place at Spring Hill and she was buried in the Lykes Cemetery. Perry did not remain a widower for long and on December 4, 1883, he married Sarah Watlington of Key West, the 47-year old daughter of Francis and Emilene Watlington. Perry and Sarah entered in to a prenuptial agreement prior to the marriage. They lived at their home in Tampa, occasionally visiting Key West and spending some time at the resort of Rocky Point, on Old Tampa Bay, west of downtown Tampa. At 4 o’clock on the afternoon of July 8, 1897, at the home of his daughter, Julia Ann Wall Friebele, on Franklin Street, Perry Green Wall died, after an illness of several weeks duration. He was 87 years old. His will named his two younger sons, Joseph and Charles, as executors, he having outlived his three oldest sons.





Tampa rail hopes rekindled


Not all hope was lost for a railroad connection to Tampa. In 1870 south Florida’s cattle trade with Cuba began to prosper again, and local enthusiasm was rekindled. At Governor Reed’s urging, the legislature approved several lines into south Florida. One group, backed by area residents such as cattleman Francis A. Hendry and lawyer John A. Henderson, planned to build a line from near Gainesville directly to Tampa. Hillsborough and Polk County investors similarly organized the Upper St. John’s, Mellonville, Tampa & South Florida Rail Road to tie the town to the St. Johns River.

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.




1870 - June 1 - The Peninsular reports on the May 26th meeting at the courthouse


James D. Green and C. R. Mobley lambasted Magbee at a Republican meeting on May 26, 1870.  




1870 - Nov. 9 - Magbee on the rampage in Gainesville

"...and his Honor, after being soundly pummeled, with his countenance disfigured, one eye in mourning, his garments rent, and his flowing locks plentifully powdered with the dust and sand of the street, was conveyed to the back room of a bar and there laid out 'in state' on the bare floor.  His fame had preceded him, and when it was announced that Judge Magbee's carcass was on exhibition, many persons...passed in procession through the aforesaid bar room, pausing for a moment, some to pity and regret, some to criticize and deride, but most of the simply to 'see the monkey.'  There he lay, a mournful spectacle--dead to all surroundings, dead to the jeer, the scoff and the smile of scorn, dead alike to pity and to mockery, and--dead drunk."



1871 - Jan. 3 - Charges against Magbee dismissed

When the Legislature reconvened on January 3, 1871, the previous enthusiasm for Magbee's impeachment had vanished. Assembly managers appeared before the Senate and recommended that the case be dismissed, which was accomplished by a vote of 19 to 0. Magbee’s counsel asked the "court" to declare the Judge "honorably discharged." There was no objection and Chief Justice Randall obliged, after which he adjourned the "high court of Impeachment."  The charges against Magbee have been described as "flimsy" and "superficial" and indeed they were.


Magbee's impeachment, the first in Florida politics, contributed little to the body of American impeachment precedents. It is unusual only in that it was tinder consideration, in one form or another, in three separate and distinct sessions of the legislature. However, the time factor was not great, far less than twelve months intervened between original investigation and abandonment of the charges. In essence, the whole episode was no more than an attempt to embarrass Governor Reed.  [VanLandingham cites #150: Ewing "Florida Reconstruction Impeachments," 316-318; Shofner, Nor Is It Over Yet, 212; Allen Morris, compiler, The Florida Handbook, 1959-1960 (Tallahassee, 1960), 128.)]


Jan. 25, 1871 Florida Peninsular

Editor Henry L. Mitchell's commentary on the withdrawal of Magbee's charges.




Prospects improve for a railroad line to Tampa


With the legislature's approval of several railroad lines into south Florida, and Hendry and Henderson's plan to build a line from near Gainesville directly to Tampa, along with investors organizing to build two lines, excitement again was in the Tampa air, and the town’s prospects were boasted.

An 1871 "Commercial Convention" attempted to organize local efforts, and its members prepared to notify the country of the area’s "many natural advantages” to draw in business.

July 8, 1871 Florida Peninsular

(Edited for brevity.)

Francis Vose derails Tampa's hopes

But within months, the hopes of Tampa came crashing down. A New York investor in Florida bonds, Francis Vose, obtained a federal injunction barring the state from granting land to support railroads. Construction plans came to an immediate halt.

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.




Facts of the Vose case


The Vose case was described in a general statement of facts in the June 2, 1875 Jacksonville The New Sun:





Republican meeting at courthouse leaves Magbee without support

July 22, 1871 The Peninsular takes its usual dim, satirical view of the day's planned Republican meeting.


July 29, 1871 Peninsular-An article about the July 22, 1871 meeting


Editor H. L. Mitchell delights in Magbee's downfall at the meeting of radical leaders and citizens of the previous Saturday.





1871 - Magbee's drunken downfall at Franklin and Washington Street


If the casual Tampa history fan knows anything about James T. Magbee, it would most assuredly be of this event.  It seems to have become THE signature event in Magbee's life, mainly due to the two or three most vivid images it evokes in our "mind's eye."  That is, passing out on the sandy streets of Tampa, being covered with molasses and corn by his enemies, and having his clothes ripped off by the roaming hogs that feasted on the sweet mixture.




The coating of "sweet mixture" and  the "rooting hogs" tearing off his clothes are presented as "additional indignities" in many historical accounts.  But just who or what was the original source of these additional indignities?

According to VanLandingham:

One of the most embarrassing incidents in James T. Magbee’s life occurred in the fall of 1871. On Oct. 16, having returned from court at Brooksville, "he fell dead drunk in the sandy street at Franklin and Washington.The Peninsular reported that he "lay wallowing in the grime, the slime, the odor of -- nature.  By chance!!! additional indignities were added.” 

A group of his enemies “poured molasses and corn over him. The delectable mixture was soon discovered by roaming hogs. They rooted him around until they ripped off nearly all his clothes." He snored and hours later, the judge sobered enough to get up and go home.

We assume the "added indignities" were the "delectable mixture" and the rooting hogs ripping off his clothes.   VanLandingham cites Grismer as the source of these additional indignities, see ** below.   But the Peninsular did not mention either one.

VanLandingham obtained the next day's events from the Peninsular:

On the next day, the 17th, drunkenly reminded of his own (suffered) indignities, and in a terrible plight, revolver in hand, Magbee wanted satisfaction. He encountered several, he demanded satisfaction and he succumbed. He drank anew, and drank again anew. He imbibed to inhibition, and he, lay despoiled of his arms, such an object whereas Tampa never saw before. Half clothed without countenance, witless of self, fortune and fame, he lay prone in as clean a place as a stable.

**The Oct. 21 article in the Peninsular (see image of it  below) makes no reference to anyone pouring molasses and corn on Magbee as "added indignities" or otherwise, nor does it mention roaming hogs at all.  The Peninsular was the only newspaper to cover this event at the time it occurred.   If this actually happened, why wouldn't the Peninsular have reported it?  Surely the Peninsular would have relished in publishing this indignity. 

So what was the original source of the account of the delectable mixture and roaming hogs?  VanLandingham cites Grismer p.156 for it. 

Grismer on the delectable mixture and the hogs:

Quite naturally, Magbee had few friends among the Democrats. And when he fell dead drunk in the sandy street at Franklin and Washington on November [sic] 16, 1871, a group of townsmen poured molasses and corn over him. The delectable mixture was soon discovered by roaming hogs. They rooted him around until they ripped off nearly all his clothes. Hours later, the judge sobered enough to get up and stagger home.  He suspected James E. Lipscomb of having planned the outrage and charged him with contempt.

Grismer's account erred on the date, stating it occurred on Nov. 16, 1871.  Grismer has misread the Oct. 21st, 1871 article in the Peninsular, which opens by alluding to their November 11, 1870 article "Magbee on the Rampage," because the Oct. 21, 1871 article in the Peninsular states:

"But Oh! Tampa! the sixteenth day of the present month of the good year 1871..."

and goes on to describe the incident at Franklin and Washington Streets, but not the sweet mixture and not the rooting hogs.  Grismer thought that the "present month" was  November instead of the present month of this article--October.

Grismer's account makes it appear that the contempt charge on Lipscomb came right after Magbee "staggered home."  The contempt charge did not come until the following year in March.  The Peninsular did not mention Lipscomb, nor anyone else being suspected.  The only mention of this is that on the next day, "...he encountered several, he demanded satisfaction..."

Grismer doesn't cite his work with footnotes, but rather, lists a bibliography at the end of his book.  The editor was D.B. McKay.  Among his many sources are several newspapers, one of which may have been the source of the "added indignities" of the mixture and the hogs, but all were written quite a long time afterwards.  Perhaps one of these papers may have interviewed a witness some years later, if indeed a newspaper story was Grismer's source of the sweet mixture.

So which of the above newspapers could have written about the event and known what the "added indignities" were?

The Tampa Herald is listed at the Library of Congress as being published from 189? to 19??, based on: Vol. 1, no. 254 being  Dec. 8, 1897.  Latest issue consulted: Vol. 4, no. 222 (Nov. 3, 1900). If this was a weekly paper then this would cover a period of about 5 years, putting its start around 1892 -- about 21 years after the event.

The Tampa Guardian didn't exist yet; it was established in 1875 by Magbee.  Nor did the Sunland Tribune exist yet; it was established March 2, 1876. The name of The Sunland Tribune was changed to The Tampa Tribune, March 1, 1883.  Daily publication of the Tribune started in 1895 when Wallace Stovall upgraded printing from once a week.  The Library of Congress reports the Tampa Journal as starting in 1890, but sources used for this Magbee feature cite Tampa Journals of 1877 (election of George Sparkman as Tampa Mayor.) So the Tampa Journal would not have been around to report in 1871. The Tampa Times also came later.  The True Southerner published from 1868 to 1869 at the latest, according to the Library of Congress.  Also, it was a Republican newspaper, reportedly owned by Magbee, with  Edward O. Plumbe, editor.  We know the Peninsular didn't report it, and it ceased in 1874.

One of the above newspapers which were started after the incident, may have written a story in retrospect, and included the "added indignities" as being the pouring on of molasses and corn, and being "rooted by hogs" as subsequent knowledge.  Any citizen of Tampa alive at the time of the incident during the early years of these publications might have added to the original story.

One final observation:  The Peninsular did make reference to Magbee being "half clothed," but that was on the next day.

See "Newspapers published in Tampa lists 74 Tampa newspapers and their years.

The original article as it appeared in the Peninsular, Oct. 21, 1871

 "...Magbee besotted himself, that at 12 p.m. [noon] he lay like the wounded traveler by the wayside.  None passed so poor as to do him reverence. He lay wallowing in the grime, the slime, the odor of--nature.  By chance additional!!!  indignities were added.  He snored, he swore, and he rose upright.  G[illegible] Scott never fashioned breeks but that in that posture would parallel their occupant.  On the 17th, drunkenly reminded of his own (suffered) indignities, and in a terrible plight, revolver in hand, wanted satisfaction and he succumbed.  He drank anew, and drank again anew.  He imbibed to imbibition,  and he lay despoiled of his arms...half clothed, without [illegible]--chance, witless of self, fortune and fame, he lay prone in as clean a place as a stable."

No mention of a sweet mixture, molasses or corn, or roaming hogs. 
How could the Peninsular not have reported this if it occurred?

1871 - Oct. 23 Town of Tampa votes to not incorporate


Florida Peninsular, Oct 28, 1871



Florida Peninsular, Nov 18, 1871


Public opinion of Magbee varies greatly

Magbee was criticized by local Democrats for "compelling white men to serve on juries with Negroes. He was repeatedly charged with showing rank favoritism while hearing cases."  Yet, the Manatee County Grand Jury, in its Fall 1871 presentment "took great pleasure in tendering to the Hon. James T. Magbee our regards and good wishes for his able and impartial manner in expounding and enforcing the law, and for the good order, quiet and decency which characterize his courts.









Savannah Morning News, Jul. 26, 1872 -- page 1

Magbee witnessed on the streets of Tallahassee on July 23rd,
"...who is somewhat famous as a petty tyrant
and a drunken ignoramus, in a beastly
state of intoxication"



  James Edgar Lipscomb (no photos available)
Born: July 23, 1850 Died: April 8, 1882
Term: August 11, 1873 - August 13, 1876

Born in Leesboro, Alabama, Lipscomb moved to Tampa with his sister Ida in 1869 where he worked as a clerk in William Wall's general store. In 1876, he married Mary Friebele and, shortly afterward her father, Christopher L. Friebele made him co-owner of his store located on the corner of Washington and Franklin Streets.

Lipscomb became involved in local politics and was elected mayor in 1873 and re-elected for two more one-year terms. 

In 1873, Lipscomb's administration moved against other problems besides yellow fever. Fines were imposed on firing guns, starting a riot or disturbing the peace, using a wooden chimney or throwing animal parts into the streets. Additional funds were raised by licensing hotels, vehicles and professions; hotels with more than ten boarders, $10, less than ten, $5, drays, $3, druggists, $5, physicians $2.50, lotteries, $10 and bowling establishments, $5. Further, citizens were required to maintain the city roads and streets.

After his last term as mayor, Lipscomb returned to his business but returned in August 1877 to serve as election inspector for the mayoral election. Two years later, he was elected to city council where he served under Mayor John Wall from August 13, 1879 to August 14, 1880. James Lipscomb passed away in Tampa on April 8, 1882.

City of Tampa Mayors

1873 - August 11 - Tampa becomes a Town, Lipscomb elected Mayor

By mid-summer of 1873 economic conditions had improved to such an extent that the citizens decided that a municipal government should be re-established.  On August 11, 1873, a public meeting of “persons residing within the original 160-acre township” took place at the County Courthouse and the 48 electors who attended voted to incorporate, this time as a town instead of as a city. The vote was 48 to 0 for incorporation as a town.

James Edgar Lipscomb, at age 23, was voted the first mayor of the Town of Tampa. Charles Hanford, clerk, and John G. Robles, marshal. Councilmen elected were W. T. Haskins, E. A. Clarke, John T. Lesley, Josiah Ferris and Henry L. Crane. Soon afterward, the first town seal was designed and adopted. It showed a palm-surrounded waterfront with a few sail and steamboats in the foreground.

The corporation went by the name Town of Tampa until it was granted its second City Charter by the Florida State Legislature in 1887. 

The Mayors of Tampa 1856 - 2015 
Tampa, A History of the City, etc by Karl H. Grismer


1873 - Aug. 11 to Jul. 15 - Mayors during the Town of Tampa years


Mayors of the period: James E. Lipscomb, Harlan P. Lovering, Thomas E. Jackson, Dr. John P. Wall, Henry Clarke Ferris, George B. Sparkman, Duff Post, and Herman Glogowski.

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


   1873 - Assassination attempt on Magbee

During the fall 1873 term of court in Manatee County, Magbee was the victim of an assassination attempt. As he was sitting in the parlor of his Pine Level boarding house someone fired a shot through a window at him." The pressure began to show on the judge and his heavy drinking increased.

Savannah Morning News, Dec. 12, 1873 -- page 1


Savannah Morning News, Dec. 31, 1873 -- page 1
Marianna Courier:  Some extravagant and reckless assassin in Manatee county squandered a good load for a double -barreled gun by expending it in a fruitless effort to murder Judge Magbee.  If he had struck his mark and accomplished his purpose he would not have obtained value received. 


1873 - Dec. 31 - Jan 1, 1874 - Magbee jailed for drunk & disorderly conduct & his Habeas Corpus stunt

This section reflects the writings of four Florida authors and historians--Kyle VanLandingham, Karl Grismer, D. B. McKay, and Jefferson Beale Browne.  Where their writings record essentially the same information, the details  have been combined.  But where their versions of the events differ, they have been presented here separately.

On New Year's Eve, 1873, in Tampa,  Magbee over-imbibed again and "became involved in a street row [fight], was arrested by Marshal O. H. Dishong, and hauled before now mayor James E. Lipscomb." Magbee was fined for drunk and disorderly conduct by Mayor Lipscomb but Magbee refused to pay. He was ordered locked up in the town jail until morning.

Recovering from his alcoholic stupor, Magbee called his wife to the jail, and had her bring the necessary papers, then issued a Writ of Habeas Corpus “commanding the mayor to bring the body of James T. Magbee before His Honor James T. Magbee to show by what authority the mayor was depriving him of his liberty."

According to historian Karl Grismer, the marshal obeyed the order:

"The marshal could do nothing but obey and of course the judge released himself as soon as he was taken to the courthouse.  He thought so well of his strategy that he later wrote up the case for law journals."

Jefferson B. Browne, in his Key West: The Old and the New, 1912, said the mayor disregarded the writ, as it deserved to be:

While Magbee was in the city jail for public drunkenness, the most remarkable proceedings ever witnessed in a court of justice occurred.  While in jail, Magbee issued a writ of habeas corpus, commanding Mayor Lipscomb to bring the body of JAMES MAGBEE before His Honor, James Magbee, to show by what authority he was depriving him of his liberty.  Magbee had the writ served on Mayor Lipscomb, who treated it with merited contempt.

Kyle VanLandingham says:

"The writ 'utterly failed' and the officials 'paid no attention' to it.  Magbee reportedly 'paid his fine and apologized.'” 

VanLandingham cites this with  footnoted sources: Savannah Morning News, April 9, 1874; Bartow Courier-Informant, August 1, 1912; J. Beale Browne, Key West, 68-69.  He also notes: McKay reported that the writ was successful and Magbee was released. McKay, Pioneer Florida, II, 377; Tampa Tribune, November 23, 1952. Also, see Grismer, Tampa, 156.

Owen Huggins Dishong, 1st Sheriff of DeSoto County
1887 to 1894 & 1897 to 1901
Photo from DeSoto Co. Sheriff website - Our History"


But Magbee did not forget the incident and Mayor Lipscomb and Marshal Dishong were summoned to appear before the spring term of the March (23) 1874 court on a charge of contempt.  The culprits were fined $100 each and ordered jailed for ten days. Henry L. Mitchell and John A. Henderson, representing the defendants, asked the court to stay the ruling but Magbee refused. 

J. B. Browne's account also says the writ of habeas corpus was disobeyed:

When the judge was released from jail, he issued a rule for the mayor to show cause why he should not be punished for contempt of court in refusing to obey the writ, and made public his intention to send the mayor to jail.  People from all parts of the county came to town to protect the mayor from the threatened outrage, and the courthouse was filled with armed and determined men.




1874 - March 23, Spring term, hearing day - The Lipscomb courtroom shotgun incident

Whose shotgun and was a shot fired?

According to Jefferson B. Browne:

At the hearing, the judge overruled the defendant's plea and sentenced him to jail.  In an instant, Mayor Lipscomb snatched a double-barreled shotgun from one of the bystanders and leveled it at the judge, but before he could shoot, he was surrounded by his friends and escorted out of the court in defiance of the judge.  No attempt was made afterwards to enforce the order.  This incident was one of the minor outrages of that era.

E. A. Clarke
10th mayor of Tampa

VanLandingham says, "Lipscomb reportedly 'snatched a shotgun' from a man standing nearby and threatened to shoot the judge. He was disarmed and walked out, but before leaving the courtroom issued a vicious diatribe against Magbee. Reportedly, Magbee attempted to form a posse to carry out the court's sentence but no one responded."

Grismer says, "On the hearing day, Lipscomb went into court armed with a shotgun. He pointed it at the judge and pulled the trigger. But just then E. A. Clarke struck the barrel and the load of buckshot went into the ceiling. Although he escaped, Magbee was so frightened that he dismissed the case."




D. B. McKay, who relied on Grismer, writes in his three-volume Pioneer Florida, Volume 2, Chapter 10, A Self-Made Scalawag:


On the day set for the hearing Lipscomb left his store carrying a shotgun. E. A. Clarke, whose store was opposite that of Lipscomb on Washington street, saw him and knowing his hot temper followed him. Lipscomb went into the court room with his gun and sat down on the front bench directly in front of the judge's rostrum. Mr. Clarke sat beside him. When Magbee ordered Lipscomb to plead to the charge, the latter stood and aimed the gun at the judge, but as he fired Mr. Clarke struck the barrel of the gun and the load of buckshot was deflected into the ceiling of the court room. And that ended the case.

Of particular importance is VanLandingham's sources footnote on the courtroom shooting incident:

Savannah Morning News, April 9, 1874 (See image below); Bartow Courier-Informant, August 1, 1912; Tampa Tribune, November 23, 1952. Grismer confused the Lipscomb courtroom shooting incident, placing it in 1871. Grismer Tampa, p156. The mistake was repeated by D.B. McKay, Pioneer Florida, II, pp378-379.



The writ "utterly failed," no mention of a shotgun or shots fired at the March 23rd hearing.
Savannah Morning News, Apr. 9, 1874 -- page 1


The Ocala Banner carried the whole story-- March 17, 1905 (31 years later).
Its author is anonymous and signs only as "South Floridian."
"Written especially for the Ocala Banner."


This article is quite accurate with these events in Magbee's illustrious life, as found in articles published at the time of the events.  INCLUDED is an example of how this event has been perverted over the years.  The 1921 Tampa Times article not only says the Habeas Corpus stunt worked, it comes up with new drama about Magbee arraigning himself and finding himself guilty.


Summary of the Habeas Corpus event:

Magbee is drunk during the New Years holidays of 1873-74.  He gets involved in a street fight and is arrested by the marshal and is brought before the mayor's court.  The mayor fines Magbee, but Magbee refuses to pay and becomes abusive.  He is locked up in jail until morning. 


Magbee has the mayor and marshal served with a writ of habeas corpus and it is ignored.  The next day, Magbee sobers up and  apologizes.   


In the March term of the circuit court, 1874, the mayor and marshal are arrested and taken to court before Judge Magbee where they are charged with contempt for refusing to obey the habeas corpus writ.  Mayor Lipscomb and Marshal Dishong are the defendants, future governor H.L. Mitchell (editor of the Peninsular) and John Henderson are their attorneys.  Reference is made to Dishong later having his picture in illustrated papers of New York City while he was sheriff of DeSoto County. 


O. H. Dishong is buried in Owen Cemetery, Arcadia, DeSoto County.
Photo from Finda-a-Grave.

After lecturing the defendants on the "sin of disobedience to judicial mandates" Magbee fines them $100 each and jail for 10 days (in Manatee County, there apparently being no jail in Tampa.  Or possibly, no room in the jail?).  Mitchell and Henderson appeal to Magbee to stay the sentence until an appeal could be taken to the supreme court, citing that public opinion would otherwise cause much trouble, but Magbee refuses and orders the sheriff to send a deputy to escort them to Manatee Co. 


Lipscomb, a proven temperamental man, snatches a shotgun from a bystander and threatens if he goes to jail it would be for "blowing out your infernal brains, you old scoundrel!"  Friends disarm Lipscomb, no shots are fired, and Lipscomb proceeds to "pour upon Magbee's head the most terrific storm of imprecations" that the writer had ever heard.  Then in defiance to the court, Lipscomb and the marshal walk out of the courtroom. 


After Magbee composed himself, he ordered the sheriff to round up a posse, but none would enjoin due to their siding with Lipscomb and the marshal. Magbee then appealed to Gov. Stearns to call out state troops, but he refused, and there the incident ended.






The writer, apparently an eyewitness to the event.  To wit, "...the most terrific storm of imprecations it has ever been my fortune to listen to." He goes on to say:

"Judge Magbee realized that  he had reached the limit of oppression and tyranny beyond which a long suffering people would not permit him to go, and that any future effort to enforce his sentence would probably cost him his life.  There is hardly any doubt that such would have been the result, as the people of Hillsboro [sic] county had suffered so much from the depredations of carpet-bag and scalawag officials until they felt that forbearance had ceased to be a virtue."



1874 - Sept. 1 - Savannah Morning News carries a story from Magbee's Aug. 22nd Tampa Guardian


Savannah Morning News, Sep. 1, 1874 -- page 1


1874 - 1875  Pranks on Magbee & more reports of public drunkenness

Illustration from
D. B. McKay's
Pioneer Florida,

From D. B. McKay's Pioneer Florida, Volume 2, Chapter 10, "A Self-Made Scalawag", 1959:

On another spree someone shaved the hair off one side of Magbee's head and covered the bare scalp with red paint.

Magbee drove a pair of ponies hitched to a buggy to make his court appointments. In Brooksville after a session of court he indulged his appetite for liquor freely, got into his buggy to drive back to Tampa but had moved only a few yards when all four wheels fell off--someone had removed the nuts.

Possibly the same event, as with many incidents in Judge Magbee's escapades, is presented differently in this 2007 St. Pete Times article about the old  Hernando County courthouse.  It is a somewhat different version as told by Jesse Hope in McKay's Pioneer Florida:

One memorable prank involved Circuit Judge James T. Magbee, who had lost his effectiveness with the people of Hernando County. According to F.B. Coogler: "One night just before court was scheduled ... there was a little jackass strapped sitting up in the judge's chair with his feet on the desk. The judge came in (the next morning), looked at the jackass and walked out- called for the clerk to get his horse and buggy. "The clerk said, 'Judge how am I going to get your horse and buggy - where is it?' 'It's down there in that stable.' The clerk replied: 'No sir, come here I'll show you.' He took him around behind the courthouse. There was the buggy hung up in an oak tree, and the horse was gone. The judge said: 'Mr. Clerk, get my horse and buggy or I will leave this town and I will hold no court.' " Magbee left town and never returned.

Magbee was reported publicly drunk in Jacksonville on May 15, 1874 and in Bartow on June 1. en route to Tallahassee, and stopping at Cedar Key on January 3, 1875, he was arrested for "drunkenness and... riotous and disorderly conduct" and was confined in the town "calaboose."  In Tallahassee, he appeared drunk at the Assembly Hall of the State Capitol "in the presence of both Houses of the Legislature...and in the presence of the Governor," cabinet and other high officials on the occasion the Governor's annual address.



Marcellus Lovejoy Stearns
Florida's 11th Governor
Mar. 18, 1874 - Jan. 2, 1877. 
Photo from Florida Memory,
State Library & Archives of Florida

1875 - Another call for Magbee's impeachment


This was the last straw. Dade County Assemblyman William Watson Hicks demanded an investigation which resulted in new Articles of Impeachment against Magbee. Six specifications were presented, all involving his drunken behavior during the past year.

Savannah Morning News,
Feb. 24, 1875 -- page 1

Toddy - a usually hot drink consisting of liquor (such as rum), water, sugar, and spices.

On February 16, the Assembly voted 29 to 19 in favor of impeachment, less than the two-thirds required. Then a resolution was offered by a Magbee supporter calling for an investigation into Assembly members who had been "Intoxicated" during the present session and declaring those seats vacant. The maneuver backfired when Hicks offered a substitute calling for an investigation of drunkenness by members.  Another vote was taken on the impeachment articles and this time they were approved, 34 to 11.





1875 - February 17 - Magbee resigns


But there was to be no trial. Fearing conviction by the Senate, Magbee tendered his resignation to Gov. Stearns the following day, February 17, 1875.


Savannah Morning News, Mar. 2, 1875 -- page 1



Mar. 6, 1875 Jacksonville's The New South
The New South's editor urges that the Vose Suit be settled at any cost, before it reaches the Florida Supreme Court.



Florida Railroads in 1875

1875 - Magbee resumes law practice in Tampa, becomes newspaper editor, and adopts a son


Magbee came back to Tampa, resumed his law practice and started the Tampa Guardian newspaper. As editor of a newspaper, Magbee now had a forum to expound his views to the public. The masthead proclaimed it would be "Independent in Everything, Neutral in Nothing."  The "Guarding Building" was located on the northwest corner of Polk and Franklin streets. His residence was adjacent to the office, on Franklin Street, and Magbee owned the entire block.


His wife Julia became assistant editor and the childless couple adopted a son, Archie Donnelly, who also learned the printing trade.  
(More about Archie at the end of this feature.)




Magbee attempted to address and resolve his drinking problem by becoming a charter member of the Order of Good Templars, a temperance organization. His wife joined him in membership but controversy followed.

Worthy Chief Templar was Dr. John P. Wall, also noted for his former drinking habits. When Wall's half-brother, Joseph Baisden Wall, a local attorney, was proposed for membership, Magbee objected. Shortly after, Magbee was charged with violating his pledge by becoming intoxicated and was expelled. His wife was also expelled on the charge that she had cast two blackballs against the admission of Wall.


The only known image of the Guardian building where Magbee lived and printed his newspaper appears on the front pages of some issues from 1878 where subscription pricing is shown.




Savannah Morning News, May 19, 1875 -- page 1

Savannah Morning News, Aug. 7, 1875 -- page 1


Savannah Morning News, Aug. 14, 1875 -- page 1

Savannah Morning News, Sep. 11, 1875 -- page 1


Savannah Morning News, Oct. 5, 1875 -- page 1
Magbee appointed as Notary Public by Gov. Stearns

Savannah Morning News, Nov. 16, 1875 -- page 1



Savannah Morning News, Jul. 7, 1876 -- page 1

Savannah Morning News, Aug. 19, 1876 -- page 4
This one is interesting because in 1885 Magbee would marry a young lady from Philly.



Monroe St. was renamed Florida Ave. in the 1880s.

Savannah Morning News, Feb. 9, 1877 -- page 1 
Magbee removed as Notary by Gov. Drew

Sunland Tribune, July 28, 1877 --p John Wall ad 


(Above) Sunland Tribune, August 17, 1878 --p2
Dr. John P. Wall considers the Guardian to be "a convict's paper--the proper medium for all kind of ribaldry, scurrility and other indecencies, from blackguards and poltroons."

Sunland Tribune, August 31, 1878 (Right)
Another Bait of Crow


Criticism of Gov. Drew, who when campaigning for governor, promised not to appoint anyone to office without conforming to the will of the people and the party which put him in power. Despite delegates' request to have Magbee removed as State Notary during the previous governor (Stearns) term, Drew reappointed him as Notary anyway.  Democrats take it as an insult.





1877 - 1878

With the end of Reconstruction, emboldened Democrats often sought revenge against their former enemies. Magbee was indicted April 13, 1877 by the Polk County grand jury for "maliciously threatening an injury to the person of another with intent thereby to extort pecuniary advantages." A year later, on April 10, 1878, he was convicted but Magbee succeeded in having the verdict set aside with an order for a new trial. Another year passed and the charges were dismissed on May 19, 1879.

Savannah Morning News, Sep. 20, 1877 -- page 1 

Sunland Tribune, August 17, 1878 --p3 Caning




Joseph Baisden Wall prospered as a lawyer, entered politics, and by 1886 was President of the State Senate. He was hot tempered like his nephew-in-law, James E. Lipscomb.

Portrait from the 10th Judicial Circuit Court of Florida

The Lipscomb caning incident

On August 12, 1878, Magbee was caned on the streets of Tampa.  James E. Lipscomb, the former mayor who had (reportedly) tried to kill Magbee in 1874, accosted him about an Aug. 10, 1878 article in his newspaper, the Tampa Guardian, which he considered offensive to the late William W. Wall, Lipscomb's former employer and the uncle of his wife.  According to the Democratic Sunland Tribune, Lipscomb asked for the author of the article and Magbee "drew a pistol." Lipscomb "collared and jerked the old sinner out of his buggy and caned him to his entire satisfaction.” 

William "Billy" Washington Wall, a son of Judge Perry Green Wall, was a well-respected Tampa businessman. His death in 1878 was considered a serious calamity by all of Tampa. In 1884, Billy's mercantile business was resurrected. Henry Laurens Knight, a son-in-law of Billy Wall, formed the Knight & Wall Company with Billy's young son, Perry G. Wall, II, who was only 17 at the time. (Photo below.)

Perry's uncle and financial guardian, Edward A. Clarke (a former mayor of Tampa) authorized all the necessary legal documents and from the resources of the estate he financed Perry as a partner in the business.

The firm was originally known as Clarke and Knight but the business name was changed to Knight and Wall in 1888 when Perry turned 21.

Perry (right) was the 41st mayor of Tampa.  Joseph Baisden Wall was Perry's uncle, a half-brother of Dr. John P. Wall. 

See Knight & Wall feature here at TampaPix


Sunland Tribune, Sept. 7, 1878  (Right) Lipscomb, Wall & Magbee are arraigned in Mayor's court for fighting & riotous conduct on September 2, 1878, with acting Mayor W.T. Haskins, Pres. of City Council, presiding in absence of the Mayor (who was none other than newly-elected Dr. John P. Wall.) A witness for Magbee commits flagrant perjury but due to oversight is released and he runs. A warrant is issued for him, J. S. Barrow, a "white tramp."  The green text in the yellow area represents digital repair to a hole in the image.


Sept. 14, 1878 - Sunland Tribune  Joseph B. Wall's response to Magbee's caning by Lipscomb. (Below)

In a Sept. 11 letter to the Tribune, (of which his half-brother is editor) J. B. Wall denies that any member of the Wall family touched Magbee, and that he was the only Wall family member present at Lipscomb's caning of Magbee.  He goes on to justify the caning by saying that Magbee is sufficiently young and strong enough to be vicious, and therefore "by all social laws amenable to chastisement," a fact Magbee was prepared for by going out armed with a pistol ready and cocked on the seat of his buggy. (Magbee was 58.)

Wall goes on to say that in the Mayor's court, Magbee claimed that he had no foreknowledge of the Aug. 10 article in the Guardian which mentioned Wm. W. Wall, but that former mayor Thomas Jackson swore on the stand that Magbee had told him about the articles on the previous day of its publication.

Florida Senate of 1889 and several of their family members.
Sitting in the middle holding a gavel is Senate President Joseph B. Wall.
State Archives of Florida/Harper

Joseph Baisden Wall
(23 January 1847 – 29 December 1911) 1899 – 1911 Circuit Court

Born in Hernando County, Joseph B. Wall was the son of Judge Perry Green Wall. He studied law at the University of Virginia 1868-1869. He began his practice at Brooksville, Florida before relocating to Tampa in 1872 where he practiced with Henry L. Mitchell.  J. B. Wall's career included service as State Attorney in 1874. In 1882 he participated in a lynching of a white man outside the courthouse in Tampa, and was barred from federal practice.

He was elected to the Florida Senate in 1886, President of the Florida bar in 1887, and served as the President of the Florida Senate in 1889. He was appointed judge of the Criminal Court at Hillsborough County by Governor Mitchell in 1893 and to the 6th Judicial Circuit by Governor Bloxham in 1899.

Read more about J. B. Wall and his hot temper, along with incidents of the caning of James T. Magbee, and his assistance in the lynching of a rape suspect, here at "Knight & Wall"

 Judge J. B. Wall information from the 10th Judicial Circuit Court of Florida


Occasionally during the 1870s rumors circulated that the Vose Injunction would be lifted. In 1877 the possibility seemed so likely that area men met again in Tampa to organize a line. Called the Tampa, Peace Creek and St. Johns Railroad, it was intended to connect Tampa and Jacksonville. The road was chartered, and surveys were conducted. Soon its name was changed to the Jacksonville, Tampa & Key West Railway, and William Van Fleet was named as its president. For the moment, though, no construction was undertaken. Meanwhile, 1879 two rival lines were chartered. One eventually was known as the Florida Southern Railroad, and it also enjoyed the support of south Florida's increasingly wealthy cattle interests. The second was the South Florida Railroad Company, which proposed a line from the St. Johns River to Tampa or Charlotte Harbor.

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.


1878 - Magbee runs again for State Senator

It was in this climate that Magbee reentered the political arena as a candidate for the State Senate in 1878.  His opponent was John T. Lesley and the Sunland Tribune poured vitriol upon Magbee until election day.

Sunland Tribune, Oct 5, 1878 p2    Radical program and ticket
J.P. Wall alludes to secret collusion between Magbee and Sweat who are expected to run as independent candidates.

Sunland Tribune, Oct 12, 1878 p2   The County Democratic Nominees - J. P. Wall praises the members of the Democratic convention for nominating men...

"known to be true and good--men of irreproachable character and worthy of the confidence of the people...that not one of them is an office seeker, and in consenting to accept the true, high-minded men, every other motive save that of genuine patriotism, to serve the people to the extent of their best ability."

"The idea that they represent any ring or clique in Tampa or elsewhere is too absurd to be entertained for a moment, and is only worthy of that class of men whose envious natures close their souls to every liberal thought or generous impulse."





Sunland Tribune, Oct 26, 1878
Editor Wall pulled out all the stops in the October 26, 1878 issue. Readers were reminded of Magbee's second impeachment for "drunkenness and incompetency," his attempt to hang James McKay in 1861, and his fining of William B. Henderson for contempt in 1868. Magbee was accused of bringing his "90 year old" mother into town on an “ox cart" from her home sixteen miles east of Tampa to complain about articles against her son.


Sunland Tribune, Nov 9, 1878
When the election was held the following month, Lesley soundly defeated Magbee, 555 to 143.



1879 Julia Magbee Tampa Guardian newspaper article

The Guardian’s assistant editor was Mrs. Julia Magbee. While she was the editor’s wife, articles such as this imply that her title was not merely for show.  From the Tampa Guardian, June 7, 1879, p. 3.

The woman who works in some honorable way to maintain herself, loses none of the dignity and refinement of true womanhood, and is just as much, even more, an ornament to her sex than the women whose days are passed in luxurious indolence and indulgence.

The following year Magbee announced that the "Guardian in the future will be published as a Republican journal.” (Magbee continued publishing the Tampa Guardian until his death on Dec. 12, 1885.  H. J. Cooper and C. H. Baxter carried on the paper until Dec. 8, 1886, when Cooper announced the publication would cease.)

An ad for the Guardian placed in "A Descriptive Pamphlet of Hillsborough County, Florida, with numerous maps, Engravings, etc."  Published by the Hillsborough County Real Estate Agency in 1885.


 Read this excellent  description of Tampa in Oct. 1879 in the Savannah Morning News


Sunland Tribune Dec. 11, 1879 Dr. John Wall response to "Bystander"
In the editorial below, Dr. John P. Wall refers to an article signed "Bystander" in Magbee's Tampa Guardian newspaper of Dec. 6, 1879, as "no doubt" having been written by Magbee.  Wall calls the paper a "Radical organ" and a "high-toned" and "scurrilous sheet."  He refers to Magbee's "deserved scrubbing" by Judge Mitchell for his habeas corpus stunt and Magbee's contempt of court fine against Henderson.  Apparently, Magbee's article in the Dec. 6 Guardian criticized Judge Mitchell and connected him with an issue regarding the resignation of a Manatee County court clerk.


Sunland Tribune, Feb 12, 1880
J.P. Wall criticizes Magbee and summarizes his view of Magbee's logic as "The greatest and best men of our country are most abused; I am much abused by all who know me; therefore I, J.T. Magbee, am a great and good man."  Wall also points out Magbee's hypocrisy for considering Sen. David L. Yulee as now "admirable" when once, Yulee was burned in effigy in the streets of Tampa for deciding to back the railroad being built to Cedar Key instead of Tampa, it was Magbee who "furnished the old clothes for the occasion and was the active leader in the pyrotechnic display."

Savannah Morning News, Jun. 23, 1880 -- page 1


1880 - Magbee is doing quite well

By early 1880 the former judge was prospering. He entered into a partnership with A. S. Mann of Brooksville for the practice of law in Hernando County. He established an orange grove on Florida Avenue, about a mile north of town, on the "brow of the rising ground overlooking Tampa" (now Tampa Heights), and furnished the paint for the Nebraska Avenue school.

When additional land was needed for the expansion of the town cemetery (Oaklawn), Magbee "deeded as a gift land adjoining the burial ground to the east. This was immediately divided into lots and offered for sale."

He playfully attacked rival editor John P. Wall in May 1880:

"Dr. Wall, editor of the [Sunland] Tribune, admits that the scent of bad whiskey is the true Democratic password and wants to prove that we are Democrat because we used to drink whiskey. Now Doctor, when we drank whiskey it was not the Democratic stuff,  for we drank nothing but the very best.  As neither of us now drinks whiskey, and for that reason and for no other, we ought to be Republicans--We will leave it to the community in which we live, as to which of us has drunk the oftener. 

There’s an old adage--a veritable fact, that the kettle should ne’er call the pot black.

And another that says 'none but drones, in glass houses living, will throw stones.'"

1880 Census of James, Julia, and Archie Magbee

The U.S. Census of 1880 in the town of Tampa shows Magbee was doing quite well, having 2 servants.  Here, James' age is misreported as 50, the same age indicated on the 1870 census.  James would have been 60 on this census.  Julia is listed as 35, only 8 years older than her 1870 census age.  Differences in birth date and census date can vary ages by + or - one year, so here their age difference could be around 24 years, somewhat consistent with their 23-year age difference in 1870.

Name Relation Race Age Status Occupation birthplace father's bp. mother's bp.
Magbee, Jas. T.  head w 50 married Lawyer & Editor Georgia Va Ga.
Magbee, Julia wife w 35 married Editor of paper Ala. Ga Mo
Magbee, Archie

adopted son

w 12 single Printer Scotland Scotland Scotland
Raine, Thos. Printer w 60   Printer SC SC SC
Proctor, Carrie Servant m 18   Servant SC SC SC
Saunders, Peter Servant m 10   Servant Fla. Ala. Ala.


Dec. 1880 - Vose Injunction Lifted


In December 1880 the South Florida Railroad completed its track from Sanford to Orlando. At the same time, state railroad construction soared as the Vose Injunction finally was lifted. Funds necessary to satisfy the Vose claim came from the sale of 4,000,000 acres of state lands, located primarily in central and south Florida, to Philadelphia businessman Hamilton Disston. The price was twenty-five cents an acre. Disston and his associates immediately undertook a massive development effort aimed principally at the Kissimmee and Caloosahatchee river areas. Francis A. Hendry’s town of Fort Myers boomed, as did the towns of Orlando and Kissimmee with which Disston was more directly involved. By March 1882 the South Florida Railroad, in line with Disston’s plans, had extended its track to Kissimmee. There, however, its money ran out.

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.



August 13, 1881 - Florida Mirror - News on the South Florida Railroad and the Jax/Tampa/KW Railroad

As investors, developers, speculators, and immigrants poured into south Florida in the wake of the Disston Purchase, Tampa remained locked in its tropical isolation and economic depression. Numerous lines were authorized to construct into the town, but the steel rails reached no closer than Kissimmee.

Florida Transit & Peninsular Railroad lines, in operation and construction commenced.
The connection from Lake Panasoffkee southward was not completed.


It was upon this stage that Henry Bradley Plant stepped in in the spring of 1883.

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.


Model of a waterfront section of Fort Brooke as it would have appeared around 1883
Tampa Bay History Center


1880 - 1885 - Magbee's final years:
Gets old job back, serious illness,  death of Julia, and J.T. Magbee remarriage

Two of James T. Magbee’s major interests were to bring the railroad to Tampa and the growth of the Florida Republican party.

Wm. D. Bloxham served twice as Florida's Governor. First as the 13th Governor from January 4, 1881-January 6, 1885 and then as the 17th Governor from January 5, 1897 until January 8, 1901.
State Archives of Florida

He was angered that President Rutherford B. Hayes’ conciliatory policy had harmed the interests of the party in Florida and he resented having to share the federal patronage with his political enemies.  Referring to the Democratic party as that "old enemy of human rights," Magbee asserted that it deceived and stole from the "poor white man" by telling him that if he voted Republican he belonged to the "Negro party." It "preyed upon his prejudices to make him steal from himself, by his vote, his own and his children's liberty.

In the 1880 elections, the Guardian endorsed Republican James A. Garfield for President and Democrat William D. Bloxham for Governor. When the election was over and Garfield and Bloxham had won, the Tallahassee Floridian declared that James T. Magbee must be the "happiest man, politically," in the State of Florida.

With the election of Garfield, Magbee sought a suitable political reward. He traveled to Washington in July 1881, but the President’s assassination required another trip the following year.

There was speculation that Magbee was next in line for Collector of Customs at Key West or Postmaster at Tampa. He received his reward in February 1883, with his appointment as Deputy Collector of Customs at the Port of Tampa. After almost twenty-five years, Magbee had gotten his old job back. 

Magbee also lived to see the completion of the railroad to Tampa, January 22, 1884. It is fitting that Magbee, who had fought for almost thirty-five years to achieve this goal, was present at the gala celebration at the Orange Grove Hotel that evening.

1884 - H. B. Plant brings the railroad to Tampa

Map of Florida for Poor's Manual of Railroads Projection. Digitization provided by the USF Libraries Digitization Center. Rare Maps. This is a railroad map of Florida, circa 1883. According to the USF library, "Poor's Manual of Railroads was an annual publication from 1868 to 1924 and included railroad financial reports and short histories."

Exploring Florida, Maps Etc.


Plant’s first step toward Tampa came in May 1883 when his Plant Investment Company purchased a three-fifths interest in the South Florida Railroad. The quick negotiations and purchase illustrated the strength and flexibility of Plant’s financial position, something not enjoyed by many of his undercapitalized competitors. His general superintendent later explained:

"We speak of the Plant Investment Company--do you know what the Plant Investment Company is? It is Mr. Plant and his friends who have money, cash, to invest. When it is decided to do a certain thing, build a piece of road for instance, they figure out what each is to pay and send in their checks for the amount. They have no bonds, no indebtedness, no interest to pay; they build railroads to operate them and not for bond and stock speculations."

Despite his financial resources and his desire to run, not speculate in, railroads, Plant nonetheless was a demanding businessman intent upon making the best bargain he could. With the South Florida Railroad within his control, he had a charter to build from Kissimmee to Tampa. But in granting that charter the state had offered a subsidy of only 3,840 acres of land for each mile of rail constructed.

Plant noticed that the Jacksonville, Tampa & Key West Railroad, originally founded at Tampa in 1877, also had a charter to build from Kissimmee to Tampa. But they had run out of money after grading fifteen miles of roadbed. What was most interesting, though, was that the road's charter called for a state subsidy of 10,000 acres of land for each mile of track, as well as the grant of alternate sections of land within six miles of each side of the road. The total commitment came to 13,840 acres per mile of track.

The huge subsidy proved irresistible to Plant. There was a problem, though. The subsidy was due to expire in January 1884 unless construction was completed before then. Other railroad men told Plant it simply could not be done, but Henry Bradley Plant decided to prove them wrong. First, he struck a bargain with the Jacksonville, Tampa & Key West's management. He provided them funds for construction of the line's northern end and received, in return, all rights to the subsidy for the route from Kissimmee to Tampa. Within a matter of weeks Tampa's town council had extended all necessary accommodations to Plant and had leased the lower ends of Polk, Zack, and Twiggs streets-with all rights to the adjacent riverfront-to the railroad for $30 a year.

Excitement at once was in the air.

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.


Rail Georgia

1883 - June 16 - Construction begins in Tampa toward Kissimmee

As Karl Grismer explained: "On June 16, 1883 a crew of 168 track laborers came into town and began grading operations. More men quickly followed. Other crews started grading westward from Kissimmee. Orders were given for hundreds of thousands of crossties; workers in logging camps worked from dawn to dusk, and new mills were brought in to cut the timber. Construction men bought or leased every mule and ox within a hundred miles, and every vehicle in which earth could be moved. Farmers quickly sold every bit of produce they could grow; cattlemen reaped a harvest selling beef to the construction crews. Hillsborough County seethed with activity, and so did Tampa. Overnight it became a boom town.”

As the roadbed pierced the countryside, improvements continued in Tampa. A wharf was constructed at the foot of Polk Street, and schooners from around the country unloaded their huge quantities of supplies and equipment. Settlers streamed into the community, and the sounds of construction everywhere were to be heard.30

Through the heat of summer and fall two parties of twelve to fifteen hundred men worked toward each other from both ends of the line.  Crews began the arduous task of laying the track through formidable Florida wilderness, described in an 1887 publication by the South Florida Railroad Company: “They fought through raw woods – through pine and oak scrub, green tongues of cypress swamp protruding into them. A seemingly impenetrable wall of cypress, bay, cedar, magnolia, live oak, water oak and more, rose scrambling and choking from the brown pools. That black venomous mass was fought hand to hand with ax, pick and spike.” Many of the workers were black. The Plant System had used leased convict labor on other projects, and some of the men likely were prisoners. The heat, humidity, pests, and other working conditions were terrible. Nonetheless labor contractors drove the men mercilessly.  Week by week the line was extended.

1883 - September 1 - Locomotives arrive by ship in Tampa

Jacksonville, Tampa and Key West Railroad steam engine #4, circa 1885
Built by Baldwin Locomotive Works, 1884
State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory

The first two locomotives for the South Florida Railroad arrived in Tampa on a schooner on September 1, 1883.  Five days later, after being assembled, their boilers were fired. Early the next morning the town was awakened by repeated blasts of the engine whistles.

Reported the TRIBUNE: "The echoes had hardly died away when from every street and alley, every doorway and window, and from the four winds came a mass of humanity to gaze at the monsters of the rails. It was an impromptu celebration such as Tampa had never seen before.

Now everyone knew for sure that the city really had a railroad."

As the rails were laid, new communities-such as Lakeland, Auburndale, Lake Alfred, and Winter Haven-sprang up along the line.  In Hillsborough County a town was laid out near the old Indian settlement of Itchepuckesassa and the Seminole War post, Fort Sullivan. For a time it was known simply as "End of Track." Soon, it was called Plant City.

Henry B. Plant. Photo from the Henry B. Plant Museum Collection., courtesy of Tap Lines

H. B. Plant came to Tampa for the first time on December 1, 1883, arriving at 8 p.m., accompanied by James E. Ingrahm, president of the South Florida, and Col. H. S. Haines, general construction superintendent, who had left Kissimmee at five o'clock that morning.

Eighteen miles of the journey over the uncompleted portion of the line between Plant City and Auburndale had been made by horse and buggy. The party was royally entertained at the Orange Grove Hotel built in 1859 as the home of cattleman William B. Hooker. Perhaps that evening-if not before-Plant conceived of the need for grander accommodations in his new city On the following day was taken on a Tampa Bay excursion on the Capt. Miller, a new steamer of the Tampa Steamship Line. 


1883 - December 10 - Monday- The first train from Tampa to Plant City

South Florida #6, the “E.B. Haskell” photo from the Harold Vollrath collection.. Courtesy of Don Hensley Jr's "Tap Lines"

Trains began pulling in and out of Tampa nine days later, on Monday, December 10, 1883, when service was started to Plant City. The first train left Plant City at 8:30 a.m. and arrived in Tampa at 10 a.m.; left Tampa at 2 p.m. and arrived in Plant City at 3:30. Thereafter the train ran daily except on Sundays. H. H. "Hal" Scarlett was the conductor and M. W. Carruth baggage-master. Plant City was founded in 1883.



Troubling, however, was the gap remaining from Plant City to Auburndale. And time was running out. The state subsidy was set to expire on January 25.

Through December, the Christmas holidays, and New Years, the workers toiled seemingly without relief. Day by day the track inched forward.   He had negotiated with the Jacksonville, Tampa and Key West Railway Company to buy a six-month franchise for a railroad extending from Kissimmee to Tampa.  But each day brought Plant’s company closer to the deadline. The first week of January passed, then the second and the third. 


1884 - January 23 - The line between Tampa and Kissimmee is completed

A railroad construction camp was located on the shores of Lake Wire in late 1883. Herbert J. Drane, then only 20 years old and the first white man to live in the original 80 acres that comprised Lakeland, was a superintendent of construction. In December if 1883 with the railroad almost to their doorsteps, the townspeople met to select a name for the new settlement – the site of today’s Munn Park Historic District. Lakeland was enthusiastically chosen.

There, on the morning of January 23, 1884, the last rail on the tracks between Tampa and Kissimmee was laid.  The last spike was driven,  just days away from the expiration of Plant's franchise.  From each end of the line, trains from Kissimmee and Tampa “kissed” cowcatchers at Carter’s Mill, five miles east of Lakeland.  

The stranglehold of Tampa’s isolation finally was broken.  Tampans went wild and the celebration commenced that evening at the Orange Grove Hotel and lasted until daybreak.

Plant was not present but many other topflight railroad officials were, as well as almost every prominent man in Tampa. Many speeches were made and the festivities continued until almost daybreak. Committee members who had charge of the banquet included Judge James T. Magbee, Dr. Duff Post, Rev. T. A. Carruth, Henry L. Crane, John B. Spencer, Judge H. L. Mitchell, J. B. Wall, R. B. Thomas, John T. Lesley, Capt. John Miller, G. B. Sparkman, S. A. Jones, Harry L. Branch and John N. C. Stockton.  

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

Townspeople were delirious at Henry Plant’s boast that he would turn the "sand heap" of Tampa’s main street "into the Champs-Elysees and the Hillsborough into the Seine."  The first through train left Tampa for Sanford that next morning, and regularly scheduled service began on February 13. It took six and a half hours to make the trip. Two weeks later connections were available to points throughout the country.

The editor of the Ocala Banner, though writing two years later, summed up the sentiments of the time:

"How this railroad service kills time and space! Only a little while ago it took two days to go from Ocala to Tampa and four days to reach Jacksonville. Now we can speed over the route in a few hours in comfort. Because of the railroads, this entire country is being magically transformed."


Tampa's first railroad passenger depot in 1884
 This residential dwelling near Twiggs and Zack* [sic] streets was used as the passenger depot until a suitable station could be built on Ashley Street alongside the Hillsborough River. The locomotive seen here is in the typical 4-4-0 style of the day.

(*Twiggs and Zack streets run parallel, they don't intersect anywhere.)
Tampa Bay History Center photo
from TPavluvcik flickr

And so, Henry Bradley Plant magically transformed Tampa. Two years before it had been a village, and a decade before that it had for a while been a ghost town, deserted in fear of yellow fever. With the railroad, the town’s 1880 population of 720 doubled and redoubled so that, by 1890, Tampans numbered well over five thousand. That figure again tripled by the turn of the century.

This 1884 Sanborn fire insurance map of Tampa shows Plant's South Florida Railroad wharf and depot at the west end of Madison and Lafayette streets.  The tracks came into town down the middle of Polk Street from the east, as seen in the 1889 map below.

Place your cursor on the map to see how the tracks came in from Ybor City, down the middle of 6th Avenue.

Plant’s accomplishments, however, should not overshadow the efforts of decades to bring a railroad to Tampa. His ability to lay track so quickly was dependent, for instance, on the work of the local organizers of the Jacksonville, Tampa, and Key West Railway. Those men had explored all practicable routes across the peninsula and had identified the one ultimately followed. They additionally had graded fifteen miles of roadbed and had secured necessary permissions from the local governments involved. Those preliminary efforts allowed Plant to meet his deadline-though just barely. Otherwise, the history of Tampa and south Florida might have turned out quite differently.

H. P Hepburn, an engineer who had once surveyed those routes, said in April 1878, "It is unquestionably true that a road connecting our magnificent bay with the St. Johns River would do more towards settling up and developing South Florida than any other like enterprise that could be projected." Prophetically, he continued: "The road would undoubtedly make Tampa the chief business place of South Florida, and the whole of this section of the State would be benefitted thereby."

Henry Plant recognized the genius in other men’s work and capitalized on it with his own relentless energy and financial resources. Truly he transformed Tampa, but it was the vision of others--developed over three decades of struggle-that led the way.

Florida Southern Railway terminus at Port Tampa with H.B. Plant's Port Tampa Inn (L) and the St. Elmo (R), in 1900.
 Photo from Shorpy, Detroit Publishing Co.



Builder: Rhode Island Locomotive Works, const. no. 1477.

Year built: 1884.   Engine type: 4-4-0.

Cylinders (diameter & stroke): 14" x 18"

Diameter of driving wheels: 48"

State Archives of Florida

Florida Southern engine #8



Florida Transit and Peninsular Railroad company steam engine #21

Builder: Rogers Locomotive and Machine Works, const. no. 3457.

Year built: January 1884.

Engine type: 4-4-0.

Originally the S.L.&E. #287. It later became the J. Buttgenbach & Company #99 in Saint Augustine, then the T.T.&P. #21, the Florida Central and Peninsular #21 and then the Seaboard #315.

State Archives of Florida



Florida Southern Railway Company engine number 107


(State Archives of Florida)









Jacksonville, Tampa and Key West Railroad ticket

State Archives of Florida

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.

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

The History of Bonnet Springs Park, Lakeland

Tampa Bay Trains First railroads in Tampa

Read more about the South Florida Railroad's push to Tampa, and Henry B. Plant at Tap Lines, by Don Hensley, Jr.



1898 Plant System letterhead
Library of Congress

1883 -1884 Magbee in ill health

It is of interest to note that Magbee's participation at the railroad celebration at the Orange Grove Hotel took place during the period of being "seriously sick" as described below. 

According to an affidavit presented to the Supreme Court of Florida by Magbee's associate counsel, in the case of J. T. Magbee vs. T. P. Kennedy, et ux., Magbee was "frequently absent on professional business, and at other times unavoidably absent, and when at his office at home was busy a greater part of the time in professional and other matters that claimed his almost constant attention."  Another affidavit presented by his wife, Julia, stated her husband was "seriously sick the greater part of every day from the middle of December, 1883, to the beginning of April, 1884, so that he was wholly unfit to attend his law business, and that nearly all the work he did as Deputy Collector of Customs at the port of Tampa was done while confined to his room."

Cases adjudicated, Florida Supreme Court, Jan. term, 1890   Southern Reporter, Vol. 7, Feb. 19 - Sept. 17, 1890


1885 - January - Death of Julia Henderson Magbee

Tragedy struck on January 27, 1885 when Julia Ann Magbee died. The death of this "brilliant and pungent writer," who had been assistant editor of the Guardian, was a heavy blow to the aging lawyer and newspaperman.

He retired as editor of the Guardian but remained active in civic affairs, helping to organize the Tampa Board of Trade the following May.  Magbee was 65.

From D. B. McKay's Pioneer Florida, Volume 2, Chapter 10, "A Self-Made Scalawag", 1959:


Magbee owned the entire block bordered by Franklin, Cass, Tampa and Polk streets. His fine home was on the site now occupied by the J. C. Penney store, and adjoining the residence on the west was a large building (for those times) in which he had a modern printing plant.  From this plant he issued a weekly newspaper, the Tampa Guardian.








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 his printing office the day the first train on the South Florida railroad (now the Atlantic boast Line) arrived--January 25, 1884. The late Capt. H. H. Scarlett was conductor on that train.

D. B. McKay on the kinder side of Judge Magbee:

I have taken up a lot of space telling the story of James T. Magbee, but I hope it has been sufficiently interesting to justify me. However, I want to relate one more incident--I have written so much to his discredit that it is pleasing to present another phase of his character.

A pioneer family had lost their home and its contents by fire and a group of citizens were raising a fund to provide a new home for them. It was during the time that I was working in the Guardian office.  Judge Magbee called me into his private office, opened his safe and took out a metal box which had in it what appeared to be about a peck of gold coins. He scooped up a handful of the gold, gave it to me and said, "Take this to those d--- rascals and tell them if more is needed there is plenty more where that came from."


1885 - Magbee's third marriage

On Sept. 16, 1885,  eight months after Julia's death, Magbee married Carrie Burr Fisher, "an old woman of very unattractive appearance" (according to D.B. McKay). The night of this marriage, a crowd of men and boys gave them a charivari which for loud and unearthly noises has never been rivaled here. There was no interference by the police, as there was general approval by the public.

VanLandingham refers to Carrie as a young woman:

On September 17, 1885, he married a young woman named Carrie Burr Fisher, of Philadelphia.** A pre-nuptial agreement was signed providing that the survivor would receive nothing upon the death of the other party.

On the night of their wedding, the couple was subjected to the old Southern tradition of charivari or chivaree:

"The crowd of several hundred-nearly every white man in town-assembled shortly after dark and pandemonium reigned until near daylight. Among the noisiest of the musical instruments was a huge bull fiddle. It was made of a large dry goods box with one side open. Across the opening was tautly stretched a broad strip of rawhide. The bow was also made of rawhide and it was operated by two men, one at each end. The sounds it gave forth were hideous and unearthly beyond description. The party was described as the "wildest [and] noisiest of all the chivaree parties in Tampa’s history".


Less than two months later, Magbee was dead. He passed away in Tampa, "suddenly" on December 12, 1885. There were rumors that he had been poisoned. But even in death, he remained controversial. He left an estate valued at from $50,000 to $75,000. The widow claimed she was pregnant and demanded monthly support payments. She continued to live for a while in the Franklin Street residence and was reported ill there the following June. There is no evidence that she ever had a baby.

**Footnote by VanLandingham: The Tampa Journal of July 27, 1888 referred to Carrie Burr Fisher as Magbee’s fourth wife. If that is the case, then he was married prior to Susan Tatum.  [TampaPix: Perhaps the Journal was making reference to this being Carrie's fourth marriage? See below on Carrie Burr Warner Fisher.]


Magbee had executed a will before Julia’s death, leaving his estate to her, his mother, sister and Archie, the adopted son. Magbee later wrote "cancelled" over the "portion of the will referring to Archie D. Magbee,... but did not destroy the document which was found among his papers after his death. An administrator was appointed and the case dragged on until 1888. In spite of the ante-nuptial agreement the widow declared that she was "sole heir." An order was finally entered which gave Carrie Magbee a one-third share of the estate with the remaining two-thirds going to a sister, Penelope A. Magbee and a brother, Samuel B. Magbee.


Who was Carrie Burr Fisher and was she young or old?

TampaPix has been unable to locate Carrie Burr, Carrie Warren, Carrie Fisher, Caroline or Carroll or any similarly named person in Florida's 1885 State Census.  The city area of Tampa was enumerated on the first 12 pages, and she does not appear there.  In these pages can be found the same neighbors of Magbee from the 1880 census.  The 1885 census date was June 1, 1885, they married in September, so they would not appear as husband and wife on this census.  It is possible that Carrie had not yet arrived in Tampa or settled in by June, 1885. 

There is a New York City marriage record (shown below) of a Louis Fisher who married in 1877 to a Carrie Burr Warner age 30.  Her birth surname is Burr, and she was at the time the widow of Mr. Warner, and was born in Harrisburg, PA.   It is possible that if Mr. Fisher also died (or they divorced), she would be Carrie Burr Warner Fisher and if she then became Magbee's wife, she may have chosen to not use "Warner" anymore when she came to Tampa and married Magbee.  Her pre-nup with Magbee worked two ways, he would get nothing of hers if she died first, and vice-versa. 


Marriage record of a "Carrie Burr Warner" to a Louis Fisher


This Carrie Burr Fisher of the marriage record above would have been around 38 in 1885, Magbee would have been 65.  Would Carrie's claim of being pregnant with Magbee's child in 1885 or later been credible is she really was was an "old woman" as McKay wrote?  On the other hand, McKay was a boy when Magbee's marriage to Carrie took place.  He would have seen her personally, so was he writing from a young boy's point of view?


Also, no record has been found of her parents, James T. Burr and Rachel (White) Burr.

New York, New York City Marriage Records, 1829-1940," database, FamilySearch (March 2015), Louis Fisher and Carrie Burr
Warner, 29 May 1877; citing Marriage, Manhattan, New York, New York, United States, New York City Municipal Archives, New York; FHL microfilm 1,562,182.

1887 - June 2 - The City of Tampa is established, first city mayor elected July 12
The City of Tampa was established on Jun 2, 1887 when under special act of the state legislature, the Governor approved a bill that granted the city of Tampa a new charter, abolishing the town governments of Tampa and North Tampa.  Section 5 of the charter provided for a city-wide election for mayor, eleven councilmen and other city officials, to be held on the 2nd Tuesday in July.  The new charter also greatly expanded the corporate limits of the city.  Tampa now took in North Tampa, Ybor City and some land on the west side of the Hillsborough River.  The first city election under the new charter was held July 12, 1887, and the new mayor took office on July 15, 1887, the date considered to be when Tampa was organized. 

What Happened in Tampa on July 15, 1887 or Thereabouts, by Joseph Hipp

In a hotly contested race, George Bascom Sparkman was elected mayor for his 4th term, defeating Henry C. Ferris, 283 to 269.   

Born: September 20, 1855 in Simmons Hammock (Dover, FL)
Died: Aug. 31, 1898 (Yellow Fever)
First Term: March 22, 1881 - August 13, 1881 (Acting Mayor)
Second Term:

August 14, 1881 - August 13, 1882

Third Term: August 14, 1882 - August 13, 1883
Fourth Term: July 15, 1887 - March 8, 1888








George B. Sparkman
First Mayor elected for City of Tampa, 1887
Photo and info  from Biographical Sketches of Circuit Judges, 10th Jud. Cir. website


The son of Elijah Bird Sparkman and Sarah Ann Mizell Sparkman, George Sparkman attended local schools and graduated in September 1877 from the University of Virginia Law School where he earned a law degree. He returned to Tampa where he opened a law office with his cousin, Stephen M. Sparkman who also became one of Tampa's most prominent citizens. The success of his law practice encouraged his strong interest in local politics.

First appointed on March 22, 1881, George Sparkman replaced acting mayor Matthew E. Haynsworth who, as President of the City Council, had been appointed to complete the term of former mayor, Henry Ferris. After completing Ferris' term, Sparkman campaigned for mayor in the municipal elections held in August 1881 and won the election for his 2nd term. He was re-elected in August 1882 for a third term as mayor.

On April 26, 1883, George married Mary Kershaw of Madison County, Tennessee, with whom he had seven children.

Sparkman then served on the City Council from August 13, 1884 to August 13, 1886. In July 1887, Sparkman ran for for a 4th term as mayor a hotly contested campaign [details below] for the City of Tampa's first mayor under the new charter. Local newspapers and some citizens complained that Sparkman had bought the July 12 election by providing alcohol and women to voters on election day. In any case, Sparkman won the election by only 14 votes and the accusations eventually faded away. [See below comments by the Tampa Journal].


Council Chambers
City of Tampa, Fla.
July 15, 1887

The newly elected council of the city of Tampa convened this afternoon at 3 o'clock whereupon the members were duly qualified by His Honor George B. Sparkman, Mayor.  The firsst business in order being the election of a President.  Councilmen Harrison and Biglow were placed in  nomination for that position.  A vote was taken, and Councilman Harrison having received a majority of votes cast was declared duly elected.  The Council then adjourned until 7:30 o'clock Monday evening, July 18th.

Approved July 18th, 1887
H. L. Knight
President pro. tem.

[signed] Lamont S. Bailey
City Clerk


Elected under provision of the new city charter on July 12,1887 were George B. Sparkman-Mayor; J. LaMont Bailey-Clerk and Treasurer; W.T. Haskins-City Marshal; J. C. Robbins-Tax Assessor and A. M. Fleming-Tax Collector. City Council members included:  Charles E. Harrison-President, William Benton Henderson , President pro tempore, William A. Honaker, Isben S. Giddens, Henry Laurens Knight, Frederick M. Meyer, Silas L. Biglow, Candido Angel Martinez-Ybor, Joseph A. Walker, Charles N. Brigham, James E. Mitchell - Died 11/26/1887 (Apparently his vacancy was not filled.)  Source: Council Minute Book 2, page 59.

After his 4th term as Mayor, Sparkman served on the City Council again, from March 4, 1891, to March 4, 1892. Both of his terms on City Council were served under the administration of Mayor Duff Post.

In 1893 Sparkman was appointed as judge to the Sixth Judicial Circuit by Governor Fleming, serving until 1894.

Knowledgeable of the city’s history when a railroad was built to Cedar Key instead of Tampa, Mayor Sparkman and the City Council gave an exclusive franchise for the Jacksonville, Tampa, and Key West Railroad to lay tracks along Spring, Water, Polk, and Whiting streets. Unfortunately, within a short time, the company lost its assets. It would be only a short time before Henry B. Plant would engage the city. In the summer of 1883, Tampa’s Town Council gave the railroad franchise to Henry B. Plant, this time for $30 a year, giving him the riverfront area between Polk and Twiggs streets. Locomotives arrived by schooner in September, and the completion of the South Florida Railroad gave new life and hope to the area.

Archives, Tampa City Council Member Jan 1849-Jun 1904
City of Tampa past Mayors, George Bascom Sparkman - 19th And 22nd Mayor Of Tampa
The Mayors of Tampa 1856 - 2015,  A project of the City of Tampa



Chapter 3779 [No. 99]
AN ACT to abolish the corporations of the Towns of Tampa and North Tampa, to provide
a municipal government for the City of Tampa and to define the boundaries thereof. 

Under the provisions of the act, the city's boundaries were extended to include North Tampa and Ybor City. The City of Tampa's government was also to be administered by a mayor and eleven councilmen, two elected from each of the four wards and three elected from the city at large. Elections were to be held on the second Tuesday of each year and other officials such as the city marshal, city clerk, treasurer, tax assessor and tax collector were to be elected at the same time as the mayor and City Council. The charter also allowed ordinances to be passed by the City Council over the mayor's veto.

Click each image below to see larger, then click larger image to see full size.

City of Tampa established, former charters abolished.

Mayor & councilmen, first election, annual election

Compensation, powers


Taxes, loans, bonds, veto, fire limit

Existing indebtedness provided for, Act to take effect AT ONCE.


1887 - July 12
The City of Tampa's first election
"...a disgrace to an intelligent and civilized community..."

Tampa had 895 registered voters in 1887 and the Tampa Journal reported that only 575 of these men exercised their opinion - only 64%.   Mr. Sparkman was elected as the new Mayor by 14 votes.

The Journal reported on the election as follows:

As a public servant, the Journal would be derelict in its duty if it passed over some of the irregularities and disgraceful occurrences of Tuesday’s election without calling attention to them. It was such an election as we hope never again to see in Tampa. For two or three days before the election, whiskey was dispensed free by some of the saloons. On election day the streets were lined with drunken men; the most obscene, vulgar and profane language could be heard, not only in the streets, but in the room in which the election was held. Frequent rows and fights occurred, and during the entire day and night a drunken and riotous mob held possession of the town. Such a state of affairs are a disgrace to an intelligent and civilized community, and the Journal desires to place itself on record as being opposed to any such proceedings. We denounce the buying of votes by any man, either with money or whiskey; we do not believe in coercion or intimidation, and we call upon the respectable, law-abiding and intelligent citizens of Tampa to see to it that the like does not happen again.

The new Mayor didn't need to concern himself with a job description. The Journal did this for him and for his officers as well:

Many things have been promised by the newly elected Mayor - and many reforms are hoped for. There are two or three things to which the Journal desires to direct His Honor’s special attention. One is the closing of the saloons on Sundays - back and side doors as well as the front doors. There can be no disproving the assertation that the law has been shamefully violated in this matter.  All that is necessary to close these places effectually on Sunday is for the policemen to do their duty.

Another important matter that demands prompt and aggressive attention to the city’s officials is the houses of ill-fame and their occupants. There are several of these vile dens within the corporate limits of the city; that they are exerting a most demoralizing and pernicious influence on the community, there can be no question; young men - often mere boys, are being enticed from the path of virtue and started on the downward road to shame, disgrace, disease and hell; their very life-blood is being sapped by these degraded and fallen creatures. The boldness and brazen effrontery exhibited by these women is already notorious and shameful.  Almost any hour of the day or night they can be seen either walking or driving through the streets, visiting the saloons and making themselves generally conspicuous. Something must be done to check this growing evil for the sake of the boys as well as the girls.

The police whose duty it is to look after violations and report the same to the proper officials simply do nothing. You can find the whole work force lounging along the saloon block at any time half asleep.

THE SUNLAND TRIBUNE Volume VI Number 1 November, 1980 Journal of the TAMPA HISTORICAL SOCIETY - What Happened in Tampa on July 15, 1887, by Joseph Hipp

Historian Karl Grismer differentiates the date of the act of the Florida Legislature and the election of Mayor Sparkman., in Tampa, A History of the City and the Tampa Bay Region of Florida, by Karl H. Grismer, edited by D. B. McKay, 1950.
The Mayors of Tampa 1856 - 2015,  A project of the City of Tampa, City of Tampa:  Incorporation Timeline



Major rivers and railroad lines in the Tampa Bay area, circa 1890

Enhanced map from map by Ted Starr at "Florida's Peace River Frontier" by Canter Brown


The 1890 Federal Census

The U.S. Census records for 1890 were destroyed in a fire while in storage in Washington D.C. before they could be microfilmed. (Most of the damage was due to the water used to put out the fire, and not the fire itself.)  In 1993, Julius J. Gordon created an 1890 Census index from information gathered from other sources.  He wrote in his forward:

"This work is a feeble attempt to reconstruct the 1890 census records for Hillsborough County through the use of other existing government records in the Hillsborough County Courthouse: Tax Records, Marriage Records, Death and Burial Permits, Deed Registers, Voter Registration Lists, Poll Tax Lists, Delinquent Tax Records, Church Records, and Tampa's daily newspapers.  Through these records some 10,000 names were reproduced of persons having contact with their local governments, and through social events as recorded in the daily newspapers."

Hillsborough County, Fla. Directory - Julius J. Gordon, 1993


Carrie B. Magbee is described as "young widow," the Tampa Journal newspaper was the source.  Carrie is "visiting Tampa" so she apparently had moved away before 1890.


HH is not explained in the abbreviations list.

TJ = Tampa Journal newspaper, followed by date

HCTR = Hillsborough Co. tax roll


  Censuses of James T. Magbee and relatives
1850 Magbee, Hiram & wife Susanna (Wooten) Magbee (parents of James T. Magbee) w/children: Adaline, Samuel, Elizabeth and William, 1850C Heard Co. Ga Lines 12 - 17

This census indicates that Hiram and his family had moved from Butts Co (red) to Heard Co. (blue) by 1850.

1850 Magbee, James T, wife Susan A. (Tatum), 1850, Tampa, Fla. Lines 18 - 19
1860 Magbee, Hiram & Susanna (Wooten) (parents of James T. Magbee) with children Elizabeth & Adeline 1860 C Heard Co. GA Lines 28 - 31
1860 Magbee, James T,  wife Susan (Tatum), 1860C Tampa, Lines 36 - 37
1870 Magbee, James T, wife Julia, mother. Susan, sisters Penelope & Elizabeth, unk. Dorrie, 1870 C, Tpa Fla Lines 17 - 23
1870 Magbee, Samuel B, brother of James T. Magbee 1870C, Lee Co., Ga. Line 18
1880 Magbee, James T, wife Julia, adopt. son Archie (Donnelly), printer Thomas Raine, 2 servants, 1880C, Tampa Lines 35-40
1880 Magbee, Samuel B., brother, single, 1880C, Terrell Co., GA Line 45
1885 James Magbee wasn't listed on the 1885 Florida census.  According to his 1880 neighbors, he should be near John Krause here.
1885 Magbee, P. P. sister, (Penelope Adaline)  and mother Susan Magbee 1885 Census, Hillsborough Co, Fla Lines 26 - 27
1885 Magbee, Archie adopted son (Donnelly) 1885C, Leon Co., Fla. Line 43
1900 Magbee, Ada sister, (Penelope Adaline) 1900 Census Precinct 16, Bloomingdale, Hillsborough County Line 13
1900 Magbee, Samuel B., brother, 1900 Census Precincts 7 Peru (Riverview), Hillsborough Co, Line 77  (b. Feb. 14, 1831 d. Dec 23, 1906)
1910 Magbee, Adaline, sister, (Penelope), single, 1910 Census, Hillsborough Co., Bloomingdale Line 54
1910 Magbee, Archie D. adopted son (Donnelly), wife Fannie (Frances Pinkard), children Ruth, Francis, Byron, Katherine, B-in-L Lucius Pinkard Lines 75 - 81 (This record shows Archie immigrated to the U.S. in 1867.)

From all these census records, it would appear that James's sisters and brother never married nor had children.  Only James's adopted son Archie had children.  The whereabouts of James's brother William, b. ca. 1838 in Georgia is yet to be found.


James T. Magbee and his family are buried in Tampa's historic Oaklawn Cemetery, in a plot located on land he donated to the City.  His sister Penelope and brother Samuel are buried in Woodlawn.

Magbee family gravesite, Oaklawn Cemetery, Tampa.


Lawyer, Florida Legislator, Delegate Constitutional Convention of Florida, Circuit Judge, Editor and Proprietor of the Tampa Guardian

James and 2nd wife Julia (Henderson) Magbee


Sister, Rachel Elizabeth Magbee and mother, Susanna A. (Wooten) Magbee



The small obelisks mark their actual burial spot.

J. T. Magbee (James) J. A. Magbee (Julia) - Wife


R. E. Magbee (Rachel Elizabeth) - Sister


S. A. Magbee (Susanna Wooten)-Mother



  Magbees listed in City of Tampa Cemetery Records

  • It is not known yet what relationship C.R. Magbee had to James T.  If the "R" is actually a "B" it could James's third wife, Carrie Burr Magbee.  Carrie may have outlived all of the Magbee family in Florida and it could be that at the time of her death, nobody was left who knew her age, or date of birth, so her marker may only bear her initials.

  • P.A. was James's sister, Penelope Adeline.  She never married and lived out her years in the Bloomingdale area of the county with her widowed mother. 

  • Rachel E. Magbee was James's sister Elizabeth, however, Elizabeth was born circa 1837 on both of her censuses in Georgia (1850 & 1860) and Rachel E. has a circa 1841 calculated birth year in this cemetery record.  On James's 1870 census in Tampa, Rachel is present as "Elizabeth" age 27, only 4 years older than her 1860 census in Georgia.  Apparently, she never married or had children.

  • Sam B. was James's brother who came to Florida from Georgia sometime between 1880 to 1900 and lived in enumeration district 7 of Hillsb. Co.--Peru (today's Riverview/Alafia River area.) No indication he ever married, was listed as single in all his censuses.

  • Susanna was their mother, wife of Hiram Magbee. 

  • On the 1850 Census of Heard Co., Ga., James's parents Hiram (54) and Susanna (50) who married in Jasper Co., Ga. in 1816, are listed with their children Adeline (20), Samuel (19), Elizabeth (14), and Wm. (12).

  • On the 1860 Census of Heard Co., Ga., James's parents Hiram (60)  & Susanna (46) who married in Jasper Co., Ga. in 1816, are found only with their daughters at home, Elizabeth (23) and Adeline (26)

Kyle VanLandingham sums up James T. Magbee:

In his later years, D. B. McKay seemed to delight in printing derogatory accounts of Magbee’s career in his weekly "Pioneer Florida" page which ran in the Tampa Tribune from 1946 to 1960.  Magbee’s alcoholism and his role in Radical Reconstruction made him an easy target. McKay once described Magbee as "probably the most widely and intensely hated man who ever lived in Tampa."

See the 1880 Census of Donald Brenham McKay in Tampa, age 12. Line 47.

Karl Grismer’s Tampa, published in 1950, negatively portrays Magbee but even Grismer admitted that the Tampa Guardian was “well edited and most readable."

Theodore Lesley's writings during the 1950s also followed the same negative line.  As late as 1983 in Tampa: The Treasure City, Gary Mormino and Tony Pizzo once again accepted the traditional view.

In Florida’s Peace River Frontier, published in 1991, Canter Brown, Jr. offered a revisionist version of Magbee, portraying him in a far more favorable light.

Julius J. Gordon of Tampa has spent many hours researching Magbee's life and is convinced that this lawyer, politician, and editor played a positive role in the development of Hillsborough County and west central Florida.  Magbee was clearly an opportunist, but a look at his enemies reveals the same trait. Before the Civil War, his main detractors, Henry A. Crane, Madison Post and James McKay were all ambitious men who did not hesitate to vilify Magbee to further their own personal objectives.

In the post-Civil War period, James D. Green, Henry L. Mitchell and John P. Wall were advancing their own agendas when they attacked him.

Circumstances seemed to govern Magbee's life. Greed and hysteria prompted his removal from the customs position in 1858. An unfortunate Attorney General's opinion led to his removal from the Senate in 1862, probably embittering him toward the Confederacy. The rise of the Radical Republicans in 1867 prompted his move to the Republican Party and launched his judicial career. Later, the resurgent Democrats made his downfall inevitable.

In spite of his weaknesses, Magbee should be remembered for his accomplishments. Although revenge and opportunism often motivated his actions, he eventually came down on the side of equal rights for all citizens, regardless of race.

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

Magbee Census Analysis











18801 18851 19001 19101 1920 Born







d           1796







70 nf 85 d.12-25-1886     1800

James T




  281   401 50 506 nf d. 12-12-1885     1820
unknown female1 - - 20-29 gone               1820-1829

Penelope Adeline






37 nf 48 708 778 d.8-13-1911 1829
Samuel B. - 0-4 10-14 19 nf   384   485 nf b.Feb 18313,7 d. 12-23-1906   2-14-1830
unknown male1 - 5-9 15-19 gone               1831-1835
unknown male2 - - 15-19 gone               1831-1835
Rachel Elizabeth - - 0-4 14 23 27 nf d.1-27-1881       1836
William - - 0-4 12 nf, d?             1838

1 James is in Tampa, having turned 20 in 1840.  James should be 30 in 1850 and 40 in 1860.

2 The Magbee family ages in Heard County are off by quite a bit, info possibly given by a neighbor.

3 Even though Samuel's birth year is given as Feb. 1831 on his 1900 census and is calculated as 1831 or 1832 from his burial and previous three censuses, the 1830 and 1840 censuses show one male under 5 in 1830 and one male 10 to under 15 in 1840.  If Samuel was born in 1831, he would NOT be on the 1830 census and would have appeared for his first census in 1840 as a "1" in the age 5 to under 10 age group.  There is not a male counted in that age group in 1840.

4 Lee County, Georgia
5 Terrell County, Georgia
6 James was actually 60
7 Samuel was in Hillsborough County, Precinct 7, Peru (this area is now Riverview.)
8 Adeline is living in Hillsborough County, Bloomingdale
Last Will and Testament of Rachel Magby (James Magbee's paternal grandmother; Hiram Magbee's mother.)

Source: Recorded Butts County Wills - Administration Of Estates 1826 - 1841, P239 - 240.
Written: October 9 1833 
Recorded: November 7 1833

Butts County

In the name of God Amen. I Rachel Magby, being weak in body, but sound in mind  & Memory, do make ordain & constitute this my last will & testament hereby  revoking all others, in manner and form following, that is to say. It is my wish and desire that all my property, both real and personal after paying all my just debts fairly and equitably, be equally divided between all my lawful heirs, and grand children in manner and form hereafter described, share and share alike, that is to say. To my son Laban Magbee one share in fee simple for ever. To my son Hiram Magbee, one share in fee simple for ever. To my daughter Tabitha Maxcy, one share during her natural life time, and then descend unto all her children, share and share alike forever. My daughter Elizabeth Apperson, one share during her natural life time, and then to descend unto her lawful heirs share & share alike forever. To my grand children William Pryor, Susan Pryor, and Mary Pryor, one share being the lawful heirs of my daughter Mary Pryor deceased, which said share I give and bequeath unto them forever, share and share alike. I give and bequeath to my grand son in law John P Wyatt one good feather bed furniture and stead.

Lastly, I constitute make and ordain my son Laban Magbee and my friend E W Lane my executors to this my last will and testament in witness whereof, I the said Rachel Magbee have hereunto set my hand and affixed my seal, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and thirty three, this 9th October.

Signed sealed and delivered in the presence of us her subscribing witnesses

Rachel X Magbee (Her Mark)
James Thompson
Josiah Crain
George L Thompson

Proved Nov 7th 1833. Recorded Butts County Wills - Administration of Estates
1826 - 1841, p239 - 240.









This Supreme Court case reveals general information about the ownership of the Magbee Spring area, and the hydrology of the spring itself.


According to "Cases Adjudicated in the Florida Supreme Court, Jan. term, 1896, in a previous State Court case, Tampa Waterworks Co. v. George W. Cline, concerning the land formerly belonging to James T. Magbee where the waterworks spring was located, complainant Tampa Waterworks Co. sought an injunction against George W. Cline Sr. and Jr.  Apparently, the Clines were excavating on their property, and among other allegations of malicious intent, planned to build a bathing pool. Tampa Waterworks claimed this would interfere with the flow of the spring and was polluting the water used in supplying the city.


The State Court case was originally filed against George W. Cline Sr. and Jr, but then was amended later to include only Sr. upon the death of Jr.

The Tampa Waterworks Co. (hereinafter "TWC") was in contract for 30 years with the City of Tampa to furnish an abundant supply clean water for the purpose of drinking.  To accomplish this, the corporation acquired title in fee to Lots 6 and 7 in Block 28 [sic] (should be Block 23, there is no Block 28) in the first addition to Highland Park, in the South half of Lot 1, Sec. 13, Towship 29 South, Range 18 East, according to a Brown and Swingley plan and map used as an exhibit:

The lots were originally a part of a much larger tract of land owned by James T. Magbee, deceased, and that his heirs and distributees laid off the tract into lots and blocks, with streets and alleys, all within the corporate limits of the City of Tampa.  That Lot 6 has issuing from underneath the ground thereon natural spring of water which is supplied by a well-marked and defined subterranean stream coming from the east, and flowing underneath the ground at a depth of 12 or 15 feet below the surface of land of both defendant Cline and complainant Tampa Waterworks Co., until it issues out of and forms the spring in Lot 6, where it again disappears beneath the surface, but comes out again a few feet from the western boundary of complainant's land and flows thence in a stream in a westerly course to the Hillsborough River, some 200 feet away.


TWC and those who have owned this land for at least 17 years prior, highly prized the water for its purity, and if maintained in its present state would continue to be useful in its obligation to supply the city with water.


Complainant TWC alleged that George Cline Sr, with the intention to harass and injure TWC, had recently acquired title to lots 1, 8, 9 & 10, in block 23, immediately above TWC's land, and was proceeding to excavate, and had excavated, a large and deep hole on his lot 8, near the TWC's lot 7, which was around 18 to 20 feet in circumference, and some 12 to 14 feet deep, which penetrated to the water of the subterranean stream.


In the diagram below, the 1888 First Addition to Highland Park with the Magbee Spring has been overlaid onto a present day plat of Block 23 and 24, Tampa Waterworks Co. Lots 6 & 7 are marked in green, Cline's Lots 1, 8-10 marked in red.  Location of Cline's excavation is approximated with X in blue dot. The wavy blue arrow marks the general flow direction of the underground stream as Tampa Waterworks contends.


TWC charged that in making the hole, Cline acted wantonly and maliciously, for the purpose of injuring TWC by polluting the water flowing into the spring, and diminishing the flow, which would happen if the continued to be dug or was permitted to remain.


TWC further charged that Cline intended to put up a bathing pool or pools where the hole was, and would if not restrained, use it to pollute and diminish the flow of water, with the view to damage the TWC, or compel it to purchase that land at an exorbitant price.


Mention is made that TWC expended large sums of money previously drilling a well somewhere else, but failed to secure a large enough water flow sufficient to supply the city.  (This well would have been #1 at 6th Ave. & Jefferson St.)


TWC further contended that the Magbee spring was the only one with enough water to supply the city economically, and if Cline was allowed to continue, the water would become polluted and totally worthless.  That the water runs under and between a rock formation, the top of which is some 6 feet below the surface, and extends down until the subterranean stream is reached, and without the excavation being made, it is not possible to pollute the water until it comes out on TWC's land, at which time they could thoroughly protect it when its waterworks was built.


TWC asked for an injunction, if even only a temporary one, stopping Cline from further digging and making him fill up the hole.


Cline's answer was that the south half of Section 13, of TS20S, R18E, belonged for many years to Magbee who conveyed 7 acres of it in 1885 to Cline's wife.  That Magbee died still owning the remainder of the lot, which had recently been laid off into lots, blocks and streets, and that W.A. Jeter and G.A. Boardman purchased by mesne conveyances* from a distributee of the Magbee estate (which would have been Magbee's sister, or brother, or maybe even widow) Lots 6 & 7 of block 23, and afterwards sold them to TWC.  Then in July, 1889, defendant Cline purchased from the distributees of Magbee's estate, lots 1, 8, 9 and 10 in block 23, for the purpose of improving and beautifying the lots and developing their own water supply. That soon afterwards, began to excavate a sink on lot 8, at a point about 20 feet from the alley, and a few feet east of TWC's lot 7, and after removing a large amount of marl** and decayed vegetable matter, came upon a large spring of pure cold water of great use and value to Cline and the estate which he had purchased.  He also developed a large bed of marl of great value as a fertilizer and for paving roadways and sidewalks, and hoped would yield him great profit in helping to defray the expense of cleaning out and beautifying the spring.

* Mesne conveyance - An intermediate conveyance; one occupying an intermediate position in a chain of title between the first grantee and the present holder.

**Marl - An unconsolidated sedimentary rock or soil consisting of clay and lime, formerly used typically as fertilizer.

Furthermore, Cline stated that the land to the west of the excavation he was making to improve the spring falls rapidly to the street over 2 lots of the TWC's land, so that when the sand and marl are removed and the excavation enlarged to open up the sink to its natural edge, no rain falling around the excavation can run into TWC's property.  That the level of the water in Cline's spring is 13 feet below the surface of the surrounding land, and about 4 feet above the water level in the ground, so that the surface water can not come into the spring fully saturated with water, which can only occur in case of unusual flood, and then the water would come by percolation through the sand and marl into the spring, but at no greater extent than if the excavation had not been made.  That the sand of the countryside was coarse, the topsoil spongy, and the underground drainage so complete that no water ever seen on the surface.


Cline's answer denied that the spring comes out of the ground on TWC's land, and denies that he has polluted, or intends to pollute, the water in the stream.  He denied that he intended to divert the spring from its natural channel, or that the rays of the sun, and the surface drainage by reason of the excavation, will pollute the spring.  He also denied that he purchased the lots with intent to harass and injure TWC, or that the excavation was made maliciously for the purpose of compelling TWC to purchase the lots, and the allegations of the intent of Cline to put bathing houses in the water and thereby pollute it, were denied.


Cline said that the excavation was made in good faith for the purpose of enhancing the value of his own lots, and to lawfully use the water, and that his spring is not supplied by a subterranean stream with a well-defined channel, but by water coming from unknown and undefined sources, and that the water comes from a great depth and from unknown percolations.


Cline then filed a motion to dissolve the injunction, a upon the preliminary hearing there was a modification of the injunction granted, to the extent of allowing Cline to dig to the stream and take a reasonable quantity of water as might be necessary for his use, but not to take or divert the water wantonly, or to transport it to another place.  The modification also permitted Cline to quarry any stone he might desire, provided that he did not pollute or injure the water flowing into TWC's spring.


Testimony was then taken, and upon final hearing the bill was dismissed and TWC appealed. 


What follows in the Supreme Court case are the opinions of that court and the precedents on which it ruled.  In those opinions, the Court considers much information pertaining to geology of springs and rights to them, and makes these comments:


The tract of land through which the water in question runs belonged for many years to James T. Magbee, and after his death, some time during the year 1888, his heirs and distributees had it platted into lots, blocks and streets, which are now within the corporate limits of the city of Tampa.  Appellant (TWC), through mesne conveyances, acquired title to Lots 6 & 7 of the plat in the early part of 1889, and a few months later appellee (Cline) purchased Lots 1, 8, 9 and 10, which were immediately east or northeast of TWC's lots.  The formation of the land 12 to 15 feet below the surface, and in which water is found, is of a limestone character.


There is some diversity of opinion among the witnesses as to the character of the rock in contact with the water.  One of TWC's witnesses, an expert, states that the rock in contact with the water was stratified (layered), and away from it was in boulders lying in detached lumps.  Considering all the evidence there is no doubt that the land is underlaid with rock of a limestone formation.  Issuing from the Magbee tract of land not far from the Hillsborough River was a bold spring of constantly flowing water, known as "Magbee Spring," and the plat located this spring in a street or avenue.  The lots purchased by TWC were east and northeast and nearest to the spring.  From the spring east and northeast across the lots of both parties there were surface depressions or sinks, such as mark the course of subterranean streams in limestone regions.  On one of TWC's lots a sink went down so that the water below could be seen, and at or near this point the company's waterworks for supplying the city with water were established.  A deep shaft was dug (by Cline) and a reservoir made to receive the water running in an underground stream, and it is an alleged diversion and disturbance of this water supply that caused the company to complain.  Appellant (TWC) commenced to excavate first (referring to TWC's first attempt for #1 at 6th Ave & Jefferson St.) but then changed locations.  Before (TWC's) 2nd excavation for the reservoir (at Magbee) was commenced, Cline began an excavation in a sink on one of his lots a short distance away, and had reached a stream of running water when the injunction was served on him.  From the evidence in the record we are satisfied that the stream reached by Cline in his excavation extends to the reservoir of TWC.  The source of this steam is left in speculation, without definite proof, but from all that is shown we are of the opinion that this is a well-defined subterranean stream flowing through the lands of both parties.


There is some diversity of opinion among the expert witnesses examined by TWC as to the course and limits of the stream.  From Magbee Spring, where the stream issues from the ground, to the river, the banks are 20 or more feet wide, and one expert states that the stream above covers an equal space in circuit; while another was of the opinion that it covered a much larger space, and was probably supplied by several lateral streams converging at the point where the reservoir of TWC was located.  The depressions and surface indications in a direct line over the lands of the parties, and for some distance further east, indicate a sub-surface stream as found in limestone formations.  The capacity of this stream at the reservoir, not more than 175 feet from Cline's excavation, is between 2 and 2 1/2  millions of gallons of water per day, and fresh water fish from 6 to 10 inches long were discovered in both excavations.  The water when muddied or colored with analine dyes in Cline's shaft showed in a very short time in the one below, and from such evidence of a well-defined stream taken in connection with that of the experts we do not doubt that it does exist.  The rule as to well-defined surface streams must therefore be applied to the stream in question.  Cline has the right to the use of this water as much as if it ran upon the surface of the ground.  He cannot divert or pollute it, but he may open up a water supply on his own land so as not to interfere with the legal rights of adjoining owners, and also make a reasonable application of the water, certainly for domestic purposes.  We discover no reasonable objection to the improvement of his own property by the removal of the soil in the depression between the rocks, over the stream and beautifying the place by opening an accessible way to the water.  The mere opening of a space so that the rays of the sun can reach the water below will not of itself be a contamination or an unreasonable use of it.  It is true that impurities from surface drainage might get into the stream if unprotected and thereby pollute it, but this cn be guarded against; and it is the duty of Cline to prevent the surface water from overflowing into the opening made by him.  There is no sufficient showing that any serious injury has been done, or will be done with proper precaution, to the stream by reason of the opening.  The maxim, sic utere tuo ut non alienum laedas* will apply.


*The maxim sic utere tuo ut alienum non laedas does not mean that one must never use his own property in such a way as to do any injury to his neighbor. It means only that one must use his property so as not to injure the lawful rights of another. Under this maxim, it is well settled that a property owner may put his own property to any reasonable and lawful use, so long as he does not thereby deprive the adjoining landowner of any right of enjoyment of his property which is recognized and protected by law, and so long as his use is not such a one as the law will pronounce a nuisance.”[ Fontainebleau Hotel Corp. v. Forty-Five Twenty-Five, Inc.,114 So. 2d 357 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 3d Dist. 1959)]


We do not see that we can hold, on the showing made, that Cline has diverted the water in the stream.  According to the testimony of witness Campbell...(two opposing witness opinions presented.)


We do not think the testimony shows that Cline acted wantonly and maliciously...


We are further satisfied that it is not sufficiently shown that Cline intended to devote his excavation to bathing purposes...


If it is not affirmatively shown that the subsurface water is supplied by a definite flowing stream, the presumption is that it comes from ordinary percolations.  The testimony is also indefinite as to the character of the blasting done or contemplated by Cline, and our conclusion is that the decree (of the lower court) should be affirmed on the evidence.


While Cline has the right to use the stream in the manner indicated, and may also make such legitimate use of his own property as he pleases, he must do so in a manner not to divert or pollute the stream of water flowing through it.


On the allegations of the bill and the evidence submitted, the decree will be affirmed, and it is so ordered.

George W Cline Jr gravesite


About Archie Donnelly Magbee, James & Julia's adopted son


From an archived genealogy post of Feb. 27, 2004 at RootsWeb, by Clare  [Some of her notes are not accurate.]


I first heard his name from Mace Magbee of Whittier Ca. in 1994, wanting to know if I had James T. Magbee in my data base. I did not but did a little research for him. Mace has a brother Byron "Jr." whom I also corresponded with and he gave me information on their family, but nothing on James T.


Here is what I found then: James T. Magbee b. c. 1820 in [CLARKE CO.] Ga  d. Tampa FL, was married to a woman named Julia. He and Julia adopted a boy named Archie Donnelly who immigrated from Edinburg, Scotland.  Archibald Donnelly (he changed his name to Magbee) married Fanny Pinkard in Atlanta c. 1890 and had 4 children, Ruth, Francis, Byron "Sr." and Kathryn.


Mace and Byron are the sons of Archibald and Fanny's son Byron "Sr." who died in Columbus, OH. According to Byron "Jr." Magbee, the grandson, Archibald and his brother Lucius** were brought to this country by their parents about 1860, the parents died during the voyage and the two young boys were orphans landing in Key West. They were adopted by Judge Magbee.


**TampaPix note:  There is no record of a brother to Archie Donnelly in the home of James T. Magbee, nor does any historian mention Lucius. Lucius was Archie's brother-in-law, born in Alabama, brother of Archie's wife Frances Pinkard.  See link for 1910 Census of Archie Magbee above.  Archie immigrated to the U.S. in 1867 according to his 1910 census in Clinton, Franklin Co., Ohio.


Apparently Lucius went to Tulsa, OK (I know there are Magbee's in OK but don't know if they are the descendants of Lucius Donnelly (or Magbee?)  [or] Archibald, also was in the newspaper employ in Atlanta and worked last being at The Miami Herald where he died in 1951 in Miami.


James T. Magbee had no children of his own. I was able to find nothing more on James T. Magbee at that time so just filed it away in my "great file" of unknowns. Now to the present!


In January I was working in the University of South Florida Library, in Tampa, ask to have some copies made of material I had found on my husband's Simmons line, and had to give them my name. The very nice Librarian ask me if I was related to Judge James T. Magbee, a very well known person in Tampa in the 1880s. I said no but I knew of him. He printed me out pages and pages about this man and this is what the print out said...


...He was married 3 times, Susan Adaline (Almeria?) Tatum, 2. Julia and 3. Carrie Burr Fisher.   James T. was born c. 1820 in Butts Co., GA and died in Tampa 12 Dec 1885, the son of Hiram Magbee and Susanna Wooten. Hiram was the son of James Magbee and Rachel Buckley. His older brother was Laban Magbee who married Rebecca Whatley in Greene Co., GA in 1806. Laban is my husbands ancestor. If you would like more on this James T. Magbee I would be happy to copy the information and send it to you but this is basically all the genealogical information on him.


The rest is about his antics and career, his burial, (if I remember correctly he gave the land for the city cem. in Tampa). Hope this sparks some interest in this line. I believe that James Magbee who was married to Rachel Buckley was the son of James Magbee and wife Sara (they died in Franklin Co., GA , both James Magbees died about the same time. I have not been able to prove that James and Sarah were the parents of James married to Rachel. Surely would like help there. I also know of any other children of Hiram and Susanna Wooten. Hiram was not of age when his father died and Laban, his brother was named his guardian. --Clare




This feature relies heavily on this excellent biography of James T. Magbee by the late Kyle S. VanLandingham, a direct descendant of William B. Hooker.  It appeared in the Nov. 1994 Sunland Tribune, Journal of the Tampa Historical Society. 

JAMES T. MAGBEE: “Union Man, Undoubted Secessionist, and High Priest in the Radical Synagogue” By Kyle S. VanLandingham, at the USF Digital Collections.

VANLANDINGHAM, Kyle Samuel, 57, who was a historian and genealogist, died November 17, 2009, in a Denver hospital from the H1N1 virus, also known as swine flu. He is survived by his mother, Jane Ernestine Alderman VanLandingham; and brother, Larue Pierre VanLandingham and wife, Denise, of DeFuniak Springs, Fla. He was preceded in death by his father, Samuel Pierre VanLandingham.

Mr. VanLandingham was born December 10, 1951, in Fort Pierce, Fla., where he graduated from Dan McCarty High School. He subsequently received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Maryville College in Maryville, Tenn., and a Juris Doctor degree from the Cumberland School of Law at Samford University in Birmingham. After receiving his law degree, Mr. VanLandingham opened a law office in Okeechobee, Fla., and shortly thereafter was appointed county attorney for Okeechobee County in 1978. He held that office for just short of 10 years, at which time he came into a family inheritance. Resigning his position as county attorney, he embarked on what would be his true vocation, researching and writing about genealogy and Florida history. He also indulged his love of travel, visiting 26 countries. When traveling in the United States, he was always on the lookout for the best local barbecue. His favorite was Eastern North Carolina BBQ. After leaving Okeechobee, Mr. VanLandingham lived in Savannah, Riverview, Fla., Kerrville, Texas, and Denver, Colo. While in Riverview, he was active in the Tampa Historical Society, serving as president for one year, as editor of their publication, Sunland Tribune, for seven years, and contributing numerous articles. During this time, he authored the book, In Pursuit of Justice: Law & Lawyers in Hillsborough County 1846- 1996. His other books include Florida Cousins: The Descendants of William H. Willingham, Parker and Blount in Florida, A History of Okeechobee County, Pioneer Families of the Kissimmee River Valley and Pictorial History of Saint Lucie County 1565-1910. Mr. VanLandingham also served as the president of the St. Lucie County Historical Society for one year and as a director of the Florida Historical Society for three years. Mr VanLandingham was a Mason and served as the Worshipful Master of Okeechobee Lodge No. 237 Free & Accepted Masons in 1985. Kyle, who took great pride in being a sixth-generation Floridian, will be missed by his family and all his historical and genealogical collaborators, for whom he was an endless source of valuable and accurate information.

Published in the Tampa Bay Times on Dec. 10, 2009


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

Saving Fairyland
Page 1   Page 2   Page 3   Page 4   Page 5    Page 6

Page 7 (Fairyland at Ulele - A History of Magbee/Ulele Spring & Tampa's Waterworks)

Lowry Park/Fairyland History    Herman - King of the Zoo     Safety Village      Fantasia Golf

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