This feature is in the process of being updated.

May 26, 2003 - Photo by Dan Perez, property of

Did you know? The yearbook is the HILSBOREAN (one "L") but a person is a HILLSBOREAN (two "L's")

Hillsborough High School is one of the South's oldest high schools and the oldest high school in Hillsborough County.  Over the years, Hillsborough High School has earned some nicknames. "Harvard on the Hill" originates partly from the fact that Hillsborough High School was built on one of the highest geographical elevations in Tampa at the time, had graduated many illustrious people, and emulated many of Harvard's traditions with regard to its alma mater and school color scheme--a crimson shade of red and black, and the big letter H.

  Later, Hillsborough High also picked up the nickname "Peyton Place," probably sometime in the late 1960s or early 1970s, because the opening scene of the tower in the popular Peyton Place television soap opera somehow reminded some individuals of Hillsborough High's clock tower, and also because as one teacher put it, "it seemed there was always some sort of soap opera going on at the school."

SOURCES (For all pages in this feature.)



The emergence of the first "high school" in Tampa is interesting, but can also be very confusing when reading of the times. Valid historical documents that are 120 years old are rare and, when available, are often laden with inconsistencies. For the first high school, and for many other schools during this period, different names were used on different documents (and newspaper articles.) For example, what eventually became known as Hillsborough High School was also known by three different names at various times.  Today's Hillsborough High School descended from a series of schools beginning with School #l. The names were used interchangeably throughout the last 1800's.

Tampa Institute
Tampa School #1 (also known as School No.1 and Tampa Graded School)
Tampa High School
County High School
Hillsborough County High School
Hillsborough High School

The historical documents, including the Board records, often do not clearly identify the location of many of the schools in the city. As was the case from the 1850s and 1860s, schools continued to operate in public and private buildings donated for the cause or rented by the Board. Tampa High School (i.e., School #1) retained the original location on Franklin St.between Twiggs and Madison from early 1878 through the mid 1880's.  Since it shared the facility with the grammar (primary or elementary) school, it is probable that this site was also referred to as Tampa Graded School.

Today's Hillsborough High School was officially "Hillsborough County High School" up until 1927 when the county opened another high school, H. B. Plant. The existence of two public county high schools in Hillsborough county required a name change, so "County" was dropped from the HCHS name.   However, it was commonly referred to as "Hillsborough High" even before the official name change. 


Some possibilities to consider:

  • A public school is free, doesn't charge tuition, open to everyone.

  • A county school is one where the teachers, principal and other staff are employed by the county from its treasury, which is financed through the collection of taxes from citizens of the county and/or some other means. The school's operating costs are also paid from the same.  The school operates under the rules set by the county, usually, a school board of some sort with a superintendent, all employed by the county. 

  • Public schools or private schools may even have a private institution or foundation provide some of its financial needs. 

  • A private school is usually owned, operated and staffed by private individuals or an organization (not by the county government.)  Students are usually charged tuition which pays for the salaries of teachers and staff, including the principal or headmaster.  Some or all of its faculty or staff could be  volunteers, and the school might be run tuition-free as a charity. 

  • In matters not controlled by laws & statutes, private schools may have their own rules, and place whatever rules they deem appropriate on students and teachers, for example--dress codes such as a school uniform, but always in compliance with government regulations. 


Some possibilities to consider:

  • A graded school has students grouped by grade level based on their scholastic achievement. A curriculum based on their learning ability is provided for each grade.   The ones achieving a certain level of proficiency when the term is over are certified ready to pass to the next level. 

  • Levels may be further grouped as Primary, Intermediate, and Advanced, or any other similar terms, such as Elementary, Middle or Junior High, and High or Senior High, with grade levels designated.  For example, Elementary would be grades 1 through 6, Middle would be 7 and 8, or 7 though 9, and High is 9 or 10 through 12. 

  • The meanings for the school groupings have evolved over the years.  Primary or Elementary school might be called a "Grade School" which probably evolved from the term "Graded school," or even a "Grammar School" though it would teach more than grammar.  "Grammar" along with "reading and writing and 'rithmatic" are considered the primary or elementary courses, which may include English grammar, spelling, penmanship, and  spoken and written language, along with basic math.

This 1898 photo shows Hillsborough County High School's  second home (1886-1892) about 6 years after the high school had moved out and the building became the location of the public county primary school. It was located at 6th Avenue & Jefferson Street.



Does the ownership of the building determine whether or not a school is a county, public, or private school?  

  • What if the building's construction cost, and/or the land it's on, was paid by a private individual or individuals who donate the facility for a school to meet in his building, but whose faculty and staff's salaries and building maintenance cost are paid by the county?  

  • What if the county pays rent for use of that building?

  • Or the other way around, what if the county allows the use of a room in, for example, its courthouse or city hall, for no charge, by private individuals who teach tuition-paying students, and that individual's salary is paid solely from the tuition?





When it comes to calling a school a county, public, or private; graded, primary, or high school, in the formative years of the Hillsborough County educational system, there were many different combinations of situations presented above. 

  • So when did Hillsborough High School start? 1927?  Most would say, "No, before that" because it was just a minor name change in 1927. 

  • Did it start when the county high school first opened? 

  • Was it when the higher level/older students were taught in a separate building from the primary level students? 

  • Is it when the first high school-level curriculum is offered, even if the high school is together in the same building with the lower level students but in separate rooms? 

  • Is this physical separation necessary to be considered a high school? 

  • What if when the high school first opened, students had to pay a portion as tuition because the county couldn't cover all the costs?  Is it still a public high school?

These are all situations present during the early days of public high school education in Hillsborough County.


Page = 1366, Table1=1350, Table2=1300, Table3=1250




IN THE BEGINNING - circa 1848

Early settlers in rural Hillsborough County had to homestead their land just like the pioneers of the West. And like the West, Florida had an extensive Native American population long before the first settlers arrived. Although historical records are inconsistent regarding the degree of conflict between the them and the early settlers, their presence did have a direct impact of the patterns of settlements throughout the state and in Hillsborough County.  Due to the threat (or perceived threat) of attack, most of the early settlements were located in close to forts such as Fort Dade, Fort Pierce, Fort Meade, and Fort Brooke in Tampa.

Santa Claus poses on the porch of Stemper School A with faculty and students in the early 1910s, where the teacher would ride her white horse to the school every morning from her home at Lake Magdalene. The first settlement in the area now known as Lutz was originally a Catholic mission started in the late 1880's by Luxembourg Catholic priest Francis Xavier A. Stemper.  Stemper bought quite a bit of acreage on the west side of Lake Bruing in section 13 of township 27, range 18 east for the purpose of starting a Catholic colony.  Later, the area on the north side of Stemper became Lutz.  Photo courtesy of Nealie Squires from Citrus, Sawmills, Critters & Crackers - Life in early Lutz and Central Pasco County, by Elizabeth & Susan MacManus, Univ. of Tampa Press, 1998.

See History of Lutz at

In the first half-century or so after the establishment of a Hillsborough County Board of Education and a Schools Superintendent, there were many private schools being conducted in homes, churches, community buildings, etc, scattered around the county.  The teachers, if not volunteers, and maintenance costs, were being paid from tuition fees. 

Most were one-room school houses with children of all ages at various levels of achievement.  Some had very few students and were taught in private homes.  Many had students of any age, but could have all been on the same or nearly the same basic educational level, just starting to read and write, and understand math. Some may have had a more advanced course being taught to the older students, but in the same room (if only one teacher) or in separate rooms at the same time, if more than one teacher was available.  Many were exclusively for females or for males.

The students attending those schools became some of the first pupils under the newly developing county education system; a system whose "seed" schools were those private schools, from in the heart of Tampa, to outlying areas of the county--and the county was much bigger than it is now.  It was some of these very same private schools, which over a period of years, appointed trustees, and petitioned the county for funding, and were approved by the County School Board.  They underwent a transition from private, tuition-based funding to county funding.  They went from privately owned buildings, to county financed, newly constructed buildings.  They went from privately employed teachers whose pay came solely from tuition, to partially or fully paid from the county payroll--and this didn't happen at the same time.

Mention of "public" schools in Tampa exists in various records as early as the 1850s,  By 1848, a school was in operation in the county courthouse.  Counts of the student population exist as early as 1866.  In 1868, the State of Florida's constitution provided for a board of public instruction, and in the same year, Hillsborough County elected a County Board of Public Instruction and a superintendent. 

The first written Hillsborough County record of education held in a "public facility" was established in 1848 when an educated Englishman, William P. Wilson, opened a school and was allowed the use of the County Courthouse in Tampa. 

1850 Census of William P. Wilson, Tampa

William P. Wilson was 45, occupation teacher, born in England.  His wife, Mary Wilson, was 34, born in KY.  Their daughter, Mary C. Wilson, was 15, born in AL.

The courthouse he would have used in 1848 was one built by Scotsman James McKay on the property bounded by Franklin St, Lafayette (now Kennedy Blvd.), Monroe St. (now Florida Ave.) and Madison Street. This became known as "Court house square"  and the building referred to as the "McKay courthouse."  There are no known existing photos of this courthouse.  The streets back then were no more than wide, sandy, cleared paths through the brush and palmetto scrub.   

In these years, the Hillsborough County Commission served as the Board of Education until 1869.  Unfortunately, shortly after Wilson's school opened, instruction was halted by the disastrous hurricane of Sept. 25, 1848 that destroyed most of the buildings close to the bay.

Read about this hurricane at The Final Battle for Fort Brooke and This Old House - The Historic Stringer House  (in the process up being updated.)




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

That little log courthouse was burned by the Indians at the outbreak of the Second Seminole War (1835-1842).  At that time, fewer than a thousand people lived in Hillsborough County and cattlemen came to the courthouse most often to complain about stolen livestock. And, of course, judges and attorneys traveled long distances by horseback or stagecoach to cover their “circuit," a name still in use today. 

When the first County Commissioners met in 1846, the general topics were taxes, transportation, a new courthouse and jail, and town development. The next year, the Commissioners accepted the bid of Captain James McKay to construct a courthouse, which was 20 ft x 45 ft. at a cost to taxpayers of $1,358.  This is the courthouse most refer to as the "The McKay Courthouse" or the "First courthouse"  although it was really the second one.  No photos have ever been found of this courthouse.

From E. L. Robinson's History of Hillsborough County:

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

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

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

**See correction to this later, in the section on "WHERE DID THIS SCHOOL MEET?"

About a year after the 1848 hurricane, Wilson was once again permitted to use the courthouse for his school. 

Nov. 20, 1849 - Minutes of the County Commissioners meeting:  
"Ordered by the Board that W. P. Wilson be permitted to continue his school in the courthouse (when not occupied for public purposes,) until the first Monday in April, 1850, which time the citizens of Tampa must furnish a schoolhouse or be deprived of a school."

In 1854, Wilson reopened his school in Mr. Lawson's house near the Methodist church.  He also offered evening classes in Latin, Greek and French, or any of the English branches,, for young men not able to attend during the normal hours.

Over the next twenty years, small one-room schools sprung up around the county in such remote areas as Safety Harbor, Alafia, Plant City, and Socrum.  W. P. Wilson's school program was funded entirely by tuition fees. In this sense, it was private. However, the County Commissioners allowed Wilson to use the courthouse free of charge, which constitutes the first use of public resources for educational purposes.



Nov. 29, 1853 - From minutes of the County Commissioners meeting: 
There were 560 children to be educated in the county for which the State contributed $107.04.  The County Commissioners added $200 for a total of $307.04 for the 1853-54 school year.  This worked out to 55 cents per pupil.

Assuming a public school can be any school funded by the county, regardless of where it's held, then the first public schools in Hillsborough County were all located in public or private buildings that had extra space available. All of the limited funds were directed to teacher salaries and expenses for operation.  Although Seminole War Gen. Jessie Carter constructed a school building privately during this period, the County Commission, and later, the Board of Education, did not finance construction of a building until 25 years later.

In 1853, Jasper K. Glover opened a school known as the "Tampa Academy" with 45 students on the first floor of the Mason's Lodge at Franklin & Whiting streets. Later, Emelia (?) Porter founded a private school for girls in the same facility.  According to a legend, children from both programs feared the goat that reportedly lived upstairs in the Lodge room.


Prior to 1869, there was no official Board of Education in Hillsborough County. The schools were scattered throughout the county and were under the supervision of the Board of County Commissioners. 

On Oct. 29, 1853, Simon Turman was appointed duties of a superintendent of public instruction, being the President of the County Commission.  In 1854, Mr. Turman earned $33 for his duties in overseeing the schools of Hillsborough County.


Simon Turman Sr. was born Feb 23, 1799 in Champaign County, Ohio.  He was a son of Benjamin Turman, Jr. (ca. 1762-1818) and Sarah Harbour (ca. 1762-1814).   When he was a youth his family moved to Indiana.  In 1843 he promoted the migration of a group of Ohio and Indiana families, including Ezekiel Glazier, Mortimer Bright, William Lockwood, and Asa J. Goddard, to Florida.  Coming first to New Orleans, the colonists met John Jackson, a native of Ireland, who was assistant city engineer of New Orleans.  They persuaded Jackson to join them and chartered a sailing vessel to make the journey. Arriving at Manatee Settlement in July, 1843, they immediately filed applications for homesteads along the Manatee river and were granted permits in August. Turman built a house at the river, at what later became known as Turman's Landing, and was living there when elected Hillsborough County commissioner in 1845.  The commission hired John Jackson in 1847 to survey the 140 acres set aside by the Federal government as the county seat, and lay out the streets of Tampa in 1848.  Soon afterward, he and Jackson moved to Tampa.

Each built a Tampa home, Turman at Lafayette and Ashley St. and Jackson on lower Tampa Street where he built and opened his general store.  Judge Turman and his wife, Abijah Cushman Turman, had four children: Solon, born in 1825; Nancy (Turman) Cunningham Haygood, born in 1826; Simon Turman, Jr., born about 1829, and Mary, born October 81, 1843, at Turman's Landing on the Manatee River. 

Judge Turman was stricken with yellow fever during the 1858 epidemic and died October 31.  His widow Abijah died January 3, 1864.  They are buried in Tampa's first city cemetery, Oaklawn.

Photo at right from Find-A-Grave by Jamay  

Photo from Find-A-Grave by Vero DeSpirito

In 1854, the County Commission approved schools to be placed in the following ten districts.  This was only an approval, not all districts were able to establish their schools, some would take years.

1.  Old Tampa (Safety Harbor)   6.  Itchepucksassa (Plant City)
2.  Edward's school house   7.  Soak Rum (Socrum, N. of Lakeland)
3.  Spanish Town (Hyde Park)   8.  Peas Creek (Ft. Meade-Peace creek)
4.  Three schools in Tampa proper   9.  Alafia
5.  Sparkman (near Sydney--SW of Plant City 10.  Manatee


According to Tampa historian Tony Pizzo, the County Commission "boasted of three approved schools" under its jurisdiction, each receiving $33 for its term of operation.  Due to the vast size of Hillsborough County in the 1850s, the Commission provided little supervision of the schools.



Crop of Copperthwaite's Florida 1850 county map from Florida Memory, State Library & Archives of Florida




A third county courthouse was built in 1854 by John Breaker (sometimes referred to as "the Breaker courthouse") at a cost of  $5,000  and was used until 1891.  Of course, it also had a picket fence to keep the animals out of the courtyard.

Tampa historian Tony Pizzo stated in his article "James McKay, the Scottish Chief": In 1870, a visitor commented:

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

Hillsborough County Courthouse, Lafayette Street entrance, looking east from intersection with Franklin Street, 1886.

This is the courthouse that would have held school classes during the late 1860s and 1870s for Hillsborough County.
Burgert Brothers photo from University of South Florida Digital Collection

State Archives of Florida
This view of the courthouse was probably taken from 1882 to 1891



Our Court House


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

On the 2nd floor is the Court Room, 42 by 45 ft., and two spacious Jury rooms, with a passage extending from the south entrance, between the jury rooms to the Court-room. A projecting Portico, an each end, the whole width of the building supported by heavy Grecian Columns.

 A double flight of stairs ascends from each end of the building, landing - on the 2nd floor of the porticos. The roof is mounted with a dome and tower, 18 ft in diameter, and 24 ft high, covered with tin, or zinc.

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


The clock was added in 1882 during a renovation.  Read about the purchase of this clock, and what happened to it after the building was sold.  No, not in City Hall. You will be surprised.

Tampa had no City Hall building, it had "Town Hall" which was located in this courthouse.




 This old courthouse was sold and moved to Florida Ave between Polk & Cass St, then converted into the Magnolia boarding house.  The new brick courthouse was built in its place in 1891


"The History of Hillsborough County Public Schools"  shows an image (below, left) described as "Courthouse built in 1855" which is from Yesterday's Tampa by Hampton Dunn.  But the photo is actually one of the old Palmetto Hotel at the northeast corner of Florida Ave. and Polk St..   Due to the way the images were arranged across the page spread in Dunn's book, the authors of the school history book misinterpreted the image descriptions.

At right is a crop of a photo of the Palmetto Hotel from the ROBERT N. DENNIS COLLECTION OF STEREOSCOPIC VIEWS (filtered for Tampa) at The New York  Public Library Digital Collections.  See the whole picture.

As it did in 1848, the courthouse served as the primary public school for the students in Tampa. It is probable that the students paid tuition as they did at the courthouse before the hurricane. However, some historians viewed the use of a public building for educational purposes as "public education."   

Three schools offer a tuition-free four week term

In 1855 the state appropriated $239.71 to the Hillsborough County Commission and the County Commission added $160.29 for a total funding of $400 for the 1854-55 school year. The funds were divided among the schools with each school receiving between $36 and $40. Districts throughout the state were permitted to charge tuition if their schools and teachers required additional funds for salaries and operations.

This Jan. 20, 1855 article in the Tampa Herald announced the funding of three schools by the County from the public school fund.  J.K. Glover, James Petty, and W.P. Wilson offered a 4-week period of free schooling to children over 5 to under 18. The Herald hailed this as "the first step in the practical commencement of the Public School system..." and urged parents who could not afford to pay for their child's education not to delay in sending their children to school now.  Similar arrangements were to be made in other parts of the County.

The four weeks having expired, these 3 schools were back to tuition-based funding.


Interest in public education decreased during the third Seminole Indian War. The county contributed some funds to the schools during these years, but state funding was allowed to accumulate. Most teachers' salaries and school expenses were provided totally through tuition. In other districts, teachers received $53 per year from public funds, but also received compensation from tuition. In addition to poor pay, teachers were faced with severe social and behavioral restrictions. Reports stated that teachers were not permitted to go out on school nights, nor were they permitted to dance or play cards. Due to the minimal pay, many teachers boarded with families in their communities, which further restricted the social lives of the teachers.

During the 1850s, it was difficult to locate qualified teachers for these new schools. For the most part, individuals qualified to teach if they could read and do basic arithmetic. However, there were a few exceptions of quality teachers with good credentials.  Francis C. Boggess was remembered as an outstanding schoolmaster who taught at Alafia, Fort Dade, and Fort Meade.  W.P. Wilson, the Englishman who founded the 1848 school at the courthouse, became so popular that he later opened a private school of higher studies known as the "Wilson Academy."

This ad in early 1855 announced that Mary Griffin had opened a school for females with all the "ordinary branches of an English educations."  She also offered courses in music, if enough students enrolled, on the piano-forte, which was the predecessor to the modern day piano. The school was located in a house formerly occupied by Mr. Alexander.

March 3, 1855 Job Wanted ad by two graduates in
S. Carolina looking for teaching positions.



J. K. Glover had another profession, probably a
bit more lucrative than teaching,

This Jun. 30, 1855 ad by J.K. Glover indicated that the Tampa Academy was financed by tuition and was teaching high school level courses--Grammar, Geography, Philosophy, Algebra, Chemistry, Ancient Geography and Geometry.  His was a 3-month course--at least.

n Sep.1857, Mary McAuley announced that her "Tampa School for Young Ladies" would be held in the "Addition to Tampa Lodge Building" starting Oct. 5.

Very few ads for private schools were published in 1857.


Anna Welling opened her private school for girls in Tampa in April 1855, in the residence of Mr. T.C. Andrews.  She could be the young lady looking for a teaching job in the ad above.


This W. P. Wilson ad announced an 11-week term would begin on Dec. 3, 1855 "at the school house near the Methodist Church."


On Jul. 19, 1856, a public meeting of the Tampa Precinct for the "American Party"  was held in the courthouse.  John Darling acted as the Chair and Ed A. Clarke the Secretary. Their purpose was to choose delegates for the County Convention of the party, to be held in Tampa on the first Monday in August, to nominate a candidate for an Assemblyman, and to elect delegates to the district convention of the party, to be held at Desoto in Hernando Co on the first Monday in September, the purpose of that convention being to nominate a candidate for Senator.  J. K. Glover was among the County delegates chosen.




Seminole wars Gen. Jesse Carter built a schoolhouse in early 1858 on the west bank of the Hillsborough River.  It was located on what would become the grounds of the Tampa Bay Hotel, now the University of Tampa.  Some writers cite a circa 1855 date or even as early as 1850, but the wording in an 1858 newspaper ad for the school implies a Feb. 1858 completion date.


On January 25, 1849 Tampa elected five trustees in what is considered Tampa's first City Council, with M .G . Sikes serving as president of the governing body. The trustees were Thomas P . Kennedy, Jesse Carter, C .A . Ramsey, and William Ross; James Gettis, first town clerk.

A Florida native, Jesse Carter resided where the University of Tampa is now located. He served as a State Militia Colonel and General in the 2nd Seminole Indian war, as well as Florida's special agent on Indian affairs to Gov. Broome.

In 1853, Tampans were able for the first time to travel north by stagecoach, a line being established then by Jesse Carter who got the contract for bringing in the mail from the nor them part of the state. Carter's line ended at Gainesville where connections were made with other lines running to St. Augustine, Jacksonville and Tallahassee. (Grismer, History of Tampa)

Carter served repeatedly in the legislature in Alachua County. In 1850 he joined other Freemasons in creating Hillsborough Lodge No. 25, F. & A. M. Charter members included, among others, James T. Magbee, Joseph Moore, Jesse Carter and M. L. Shannahan. Carter also operated a boarding house. An advocate for transportation, he was elected in October 1854 as Hillsborough County’s Democratic representative in the General Assembly. The railroad issue was preeminent to Carter. Carter served as a ferryman for ferry service across the Hillsborough River. He also worked to establish schools in Tampa, and had a key role in the construction of Tampa’s first school building in 1858.

(Info from The City Council of Tampa, etc)

The beautiful photo of the school below is from the Historical Marker Database website.

Photographer: AGS Media Taken: July 31, 2010 Caption: Old Schoolhouse and Marker. Submitted: August 2, 2010, by Glenn Sheffield of Tampa, Florida  Photo from the Historical Marker Database website


The History of Hillsborough Co. Schools and the historical marker placed at the school, state that General Carter built the school because he intended to provide an education for his daughter, Josephine.

To do this, he paid for the construction of a small, one-room schoolhouse and hired Mrs. Louisa Porter, a teacher from Key West. Although this school could be classified as a "private school," General Carter opened the school to the public free of charge.


This breakout page contains quite a bit of interesting history surrounding this school, Jessie Carter, Louisa Porter, and Ossian Hart (the 10th governor of Florida,) as well as Tampa's first mayor, Joseph B. Lancaster.

More photos of this school and the historical marker.

Don't miss it!





Throughout this period, population directly determined the need for public school in the most rural areas of the county. In the early 1860s, it was estimated that there were only 867 "schoolable children" throughout the county. It was required that an area had at least 10 children of school age before a school could officially be sanctioned in that area.

The County Commission did not own any school buildings specifically designed for instruction.  All buildings used for schools were owned and constructed by private citizens to serve as schools in their neighborhoods. Although the schools were private, most were open to other children in the immediate area who wanted to attend. Some of the earliest construction of one-room schools originated in areas of present-day eastern Hillsborough County. Early pioneers in the Plant City area such as George Hamilton, Elijah Byrd Sparkman, and Joseph Casey were believed to have opened schools as early as the late 1860s. Both Sparkman and Casey later petitioned the Board of Education and were sanctioned as schools #5 and #7 respectively.  As in Tampa, some early rural schools were also held in churches or other public buildings such as churches.


This ad below for a boys school at "Mr. Petty's School House" was offered by W. P. Wilson.  His school had primary level classes as well as higher classes for English, Greek, Latin, French, and a business course in stenography.



Six months afer Miss McAulay started a school in Mr. McNabb's house, it appears that Mr. McNabb has passed on and William T. Coons has replaced her school there, "assisted by a competent Lady" (who would probably have been Miss McAulay.)  Perhaps Mr. McNabb was assisting Mary and now couldn't do it all on her own.


But Mr. Coon's can't guarantee the term will be more than 3 months, and the full amount of tuition was expected at the close of the term.  The only exception was in cases of "protracted sickness."

It is never a good thing to misspell "Grammar" in a school ad.




Below, Wm. P. Wilson offers a night school in his home, for young men.



In this ad, Miss Mary McAulay announced the start of her winter term for boys and girls would begin Jan. 3, 1859, "in the Points House lately occupied by Mr. McNabb"  She assured parents she would "give her undivided attention to the intellectual improvement of pupils..." and "watch, with parental solicitude, their moral deportment.



Wilson offered primary and high school courses located in Mrs. Petty's school house.


Wm. P. Wilson announced the reopening of his boys school for the winter term, starting on Jan. 7, 1861.


The legal notice below is the last we hear of Mr. Wilson in the Tampa papers.  Mary Wilson was his wife, according to his 1860 census record, and it appears Mr. Wilson has been made the administrator of her estate.




Students living in Tampa would have taken the ferry to get to Carter's school house.

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

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

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

 1846 - April 7:  Treasury balance, build a courthouse

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

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

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

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

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

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






On January 10, 1861, Florida became the third state to secede from the Union ushering in the beginning of the Civil War. During The Civil War years, there was no mention of the schools in the records of the County Commission. It is thought that most schools closed during these years. Those that remained open operated on a minimal budget with funds provided completely through tuition.  According to historian Canter Brown, even W.P. Wilson had to plead with parents for tuition payments.



Some private schools opened within a year after the war ended, such as Mrs. Hawkins' Private School for Girls and Samuel C. Craft's Private School for Boys. Both Craft and Mrs. Hawkins charged tuition fees of $8 per term, when paid in advance, and $12 when paid in installments.





In 1866 Samuel Craft returned to Tampa to open a school at the Baptist Church initially known as the "Select and Limited Male School." Craft had conducted a school earlier in Tampa, but was forced to relocate to Bartow in 1863 due to a controversy over misuse of county funds. At one point during the war, Craft was paid for his services in "bacon, potatoes, sugar, syrup, and other commodities".

After the war, Craft had a definite effect on the educational philosophy in regard to discipline within the Tampa schools. His influence was greatly magnified by the fact that, besides being the head teacher of the school, Craft was also the editor of the local newspaper, the Florida Peninsular. In addition to arithmetic and English Grammar, Craft focused on lessons geared to developing the "character" of the child. Initially, his school was well received and several dozen students were enrolled. However, Craft's rigid and harsh methods caused many students to drop out.

The first term had already closed and the second term was due to start next Monday, May 30th, when Sam Craft placed an article in Tampa's Florida Peninsular newspaper.  Craft routinely placed ads in the Peninsular concerning his school's offerings, tuition and schedule. 

His school's terms were for 12 weeks and only for boys, but with one exception--"very little girls that are too small to go to school by themselves and have to go with an older brother."  Only elementary classes would be taught, such as spelling, reading, writing, arithmetic, English grammar, geography, history, with emphasis on arithmetic & grammar.




Craft had over 25 years of experience, with testimonials of success.   He believed that "Order is Heaven's first law."  

Craft laid down strict rules regarding the conduct of the boys sent to him for instruction. There would be no deduction of tuition for sick days except in cases of protracted illness. He ends with a specific warning: Entering this school puts Mr. Craft in supervision of the students' moral conduct.  He warned that all those who "make a practice of visiting any drinking or gambling place or other resorts of vice would be promptly expelled."   

See the whole article.



Besides being proprietor of the school, Craft also was pastor of the Baptist Church, editor of the PENINSULAR newspaper. Despite this multiplicity of jobs, he had a hard time making ends meet.

 On July 21, 1866  Sam Craft placed another lengthy article announcing the closure of his school due to lack of income caused by lack of enrollment, which he in turn attributed to apathy. 

"I have never found a place equal of apathy and apparent indifference on the I have found in Tampa.  Few seem to care whether their boys go to school or not, and the few who do seem entirely indifferent..."

He reported that his income from all sources for the first six months of the year had been just $149. "That's not enough to live on," he moaned, "particularly now that we have to pay l0 cents a pound for beef."


Craft's editorials in the Peninsular had an impact for many years on the disciplinary practices that existed in the district, especially in rural schools. Craft's philosophy of strict order and discipline was the cornerstone of many small smaller schools for decades after Craft left Tampa.

Unfortunately, Craft's philosophy was sometimes carried to extremes by overzealous educators. A historian from Hernando County reported the following disciplinary practices used in rural schools in the late 1860's and 1870's: "The severity occasionally reached draconian levels. Flogging was an everyday occurrence as punishment for offenses of all kinds.  There was little regard for age or sex in such punishment." 

Craft did have some positive influence on the development of schools. He was one of the leaders of school reform and called for more uniformity in textbooks and procedures in local schools. In an editorial in his Florida Peninsular on February 2, 1867, Craft wrote,

"Teachers are not alone, however, interested in this enterprise. By adopting a uniform standard of school books throughout our country, a vast amount would be annually saved to parents.


Dec. 3, 1866 - The first known report of school age children by race and gender, minutes of the County Commissioner's meeting.

Boys: White 251, colored 63
Girls:  White 235, colored 51

In 1867 the federal government's Freedmen's Bureau agreed to erect a school for African Americans, which was completed in 1871. Historian Canter Brown described a visit to Tampa from Rev. Duncan, State Superintendent of Colored Schools to plan for the construction of the first "colored" school in Tampa. Records indicate that this early school probably was Tampa School #2. This school was replaced by a new two story building known as the "Harlem Academy" in 1889.



Mrs. Glover's school opened the same day Louisa Porter's school opened.  The article stressed the importance of sending their children to a good school and supporting the schools regularly, and to "PAY THEIR TUITION PROMPTLY. An education is the best legacy you can leave them..."





She was Frances Livonia (Branch) Glover, b. 1835-36 in S. Carolina.  She first appears on the 1850 census of Tampa at age 14, a daughter of Dr. Franklin Branch and his wife Matilda.  On Oct. 31, 1852 she married Jasper K. Glover, lawyer and founder/teacher of the private school Tampa Academy in 1853.  His ads for his school in the 1850s can be seen earlier in this feature starting here.     
 See their marriage license.


She was Meroba H. Hooker, b. c1843-44 in FL, one of several children of Tampa cattle baron William B. Hooker and his wife Mary.  On Sep. 20, 1869, Meroba married Simon Turman, Jr, early editor of the Fla. Peninsular and son of Judge Simon Turman.  Turman Jr. was killed in the Civil War in 1864.  Meroba then married Judge Henry L. Crane, also editor of the Peninsular.  They also managed the Orange Grove Hotel which was originally the Hooker's home built by Wm. B. Hooker.  See section on Henry Crane below.


Simon Turman, Jr. c.1855
Photo courtesy of The Sunland Tribune, Volume XXII November, 1996, Univ. of S. Fla. Scholar Commons.

Simon Turman Jr. (1829 – May 22, 1864)   

Simon Turman, Jr. was an early resident of Tampa, coming as a young teen with his family from Indiana to Florida in 1843, and to Tampa in 1845.  Simon Jr. was a merchant and publisher/editor of the Tampa newspaper "The Florida Peninsular" in the mid-1850s.   His father was a county probate judge and President of the first Board of Hillsborough Co. Commissioners. On the eve of the Civil War, Turman Jr. attended the Florida Secession Convention as a representative of Hillsborough County along with James Gettis; both signed the Ordinance of Secession. 

On May 14, 1862, Turman Jr. joined CSA Co. E, 7th Fla. Infantry, a unit known as the South Florida Bulldogs.  He rose to the rank of first lieutenant on Nov. 20, 1863 and was wounded in the lungs at Resaca, Ga., May 14, 1864.  He died eight days later on May 22 and was buried in Atlanta’s Oakland Cemetery.






 J. T. Humphries had some impressive course offerings, references, and prices to match.  But they were for a whole year.  However, as far as having any degree in education, it amounted to "having had some experience as an instructor..."


Mrs. Nunez was popular enough to where she could reopen her school the next Monday in January of the new year.

When Mrs. A. H. Nunez decided to open a school, the Peninsular added their own  recommendation: "Mrs. Nunez is in every respect well qualified to teach...

Mrs. Nunez taught small children in one room of her house.


This Sep. 1, 1869 announcement by August Brunner informs his scholars that "The School" has been completely reorganized during last month's vacation.  Old and new scholars were to report with their books at the "appointed time and place."

Apparently Mr. St. Brunner felt that such details as time and place were so well known he didn't need to include that in his ad.

No other reference to Mr. St. Brunner's school can be located in previous newspapers.




Prior to 1869, there was no official Board of Education in Hillsborough County. The schools were scattered throughout the county and were under the supervision of the Board of County Commissioners.  Due to this, the first on record who assumed duties of a superintendent of public instruction was Simon Turman in 1853, being the President of the County Commission.  In 1854, Mr. Turman earned  $33.00 for his duties in overseeing the schools of Hillsborough County.

In 1868 the Florida Assembly provided for a "unified system of public education" to include:
  1. All counties to provide a public education for all children in the county
  2. A state superintendent of education
  3. Each county to have a School Board and Superintendent
  4. The establishment of a state school fund

The following year, additional state legislation mandated "public instruction, open without charge, to all youth in the state between the ages of six and twenty-one." There was no requirement for racial segregation in state legislation.


With the new federal and state legislation of 1868 the first official local Boards of Education were established in 1869 in the more "progressive" counties including Hillsborough.  However, establishing a Board of Education was not an easy task.  Much of public opinion at that time was in opposition to public schools and education in general.  Finally, after several prominent community members refused to serve as Board members, Hillsborough County formed its first Board of Education under the leadership of Ansel Watrous who served as the Board's first superintendent and chairman in 1869. 

But the School Board of Hillsborough County did not become a credible entity until late in 1871, under the leadership of John Givens and William F. White. Tampa was little more than a village surrounded by smaller communities. The existence of a local Board of Education provided a means for small, one-room schools throughout the county to become recognized as public schools.

In 1870 a school was operated with public funds in the City Hall of Tampa (in the county courthouse.**) It is believed that this school was again referred to as Tampa School #l.  Also in 1870, the Florida Peninsular documented the existence of School #3. The article stated: "Pleasant Hill School will open in September for 10 months, two miles northeast of Tampa."  Joseph Robles was a trustee of this school, which later became "Nebraska Ave. School".

**This school was held in what was in the old "McKay courthouse" which had been moved when the newer "Breaker courthouse" was built in 1854.  See section later about "Where did this school meet?" and Jackson S. Redbrook.

Between 1868 and 1871, the Hillsborough County Board of Education was in operation. Records and minutes from these early Board meetings, however, have never been located. It was reported that the records from this period were "removed" from the county by Ansel Watrous when he moved out of Hillsborough County.

Two public schools were reported in Tampa (#1 and #2). Their location was not provided. Six schools were reported in Hillsborough County.  Later Board minutes (September 26, 1876) identified Tampa School #2 as a "colored" school.  This would corroborate Canter Brown's report that the Freedmen's Bureau assisted in erecting a school in Tampa "for the colored people" sometime in 1870.

Despite the laws passed mandating that counties provide public education, state funding was grossly inadequate. During this period, few of the residents of Hillsborough County possessed enough assets to generate a sufficient, local tax base necessary to establish the system mandated by the legislature.



Ansel Watrous Jr. was a native New York. He served in the Union Army during the Civil war, initially as a Private and ultimately as a First Lieutenant in the 137th Regiment of the New York Infantry, Co. D under Capt. Redfields.

The family of our Ansel Watrous Jr. was quite large.  His father, Maj. Ansel Watrous (Sr.) was one of 13 children.  Ansel Jr. was the youngest of at least nine children of Maj. Ansel Watrous and his wife, Demis Luce.

Ansel Watrous Jr. came to Tampa between 1865 and 1868 with his wife and two young children, first taking a position with the Federal Internal Revenue Department as an assistant assessor to Claiborne Mobley.

In 1869, Watrous was appointed by Republican Reconstruction Governor Harrison Reed as Hillsborough County's Superintendent of Public Instruction.  Despite his Northern affiliations, it appears that Watrous was well-respected in Tampa.  He served on various committees such as a committee to draft a constitution and bylaws of Tampa's first hook & ladder volunteer fire company., and one to plan Tampa's Fourth of July celebration in 1869.

Watrous was instrumental in obtaining the first Peabody funds which enabled the county to reduce or eliminate (for a short time) tuition fees for the earliest schools sparsely scattered around the county.

Learn more about the life of Ansel Watrous, before, during, and after Tampa, at this breakout page:

This page also gives some history of Gov. Harrison Reed, and his controversial appointment of Florida's first African-American to serve as secretary of state in Florida’s cabinet, Jonathan C. Gibbs.  Reed also commissioned Gibbs as a lieutenant colonel in the Florida State Militia and Superintendent of Public Instruction.


One source of funding in the latter half of the 1800s was the Peabody Educational Fund established privately by northern financier George Peabody, but this only provided a small proportion of the necessary funding. Consequently, by 1871, the Board of Education still had not purchased any building or property or property for school construction. Education continued to be provided in churches, public buildings, rented buildings, and private homes. In contrast to Hillsborough, Polk County was one of the richest counties in the state due to lucrative cattle trade. Despite their resources, Polk's educational system remained private for the most part.




Founded of necessity due to damage caused largely by the American Civil War, the Peabody Education Fund was established by George Peabody in 1867 for the purpose of promoting "intellectual, moral, and industrial education in the most destitute portion of the Southern States." The gift of foundation consisted of securities to the value of $2,100,000, of which $1,100,000 were in Mississippi State bonds, afterward repudiated.

In 1869 an additional $1,000,000 was given by Mr. Peabody, with $384,000 of Florida funds, also repudiated later. The main purpose of the fund was to aid elementary education by strengthening existing schools. Because it was restricted from founding new schools, it did not benefit freedmen in the South, as there were no established schools for blacks. "The fund introduced a new type of benefaction in that it was left without restriction in the hands of the trustees to administer.

Power to close the trust after thirty years was provided on condition that two-thirds of the fund be distributed to educational institutions in the Southern states.1 "The rules of the Peabody Education Fund were strict, allowing for the distribution of about $80,000 per year over a period of thirty years. By the time of the termination of the fund in 1898, about $2,500,000 had been distributed. In 1875, the trustees of the Peabody Education Fund founded the Peabody Normal School of the South which promptly became the Peabody Normal College (1875-1911). It was maintained in connection with the University of Nashville and supported by annual donations from the Peabody Education Fund. In 1910 the Peabody College for Teachers was organized. Placed adjacent to Vanderbilt University, the college opened its doors on June 14, 1914 for summer school. In September 1915, four new buildings had been completed at a cost of $750,000. About 1915, the Peabody Education Fund ceased to exist.

See also The Creation of the Peabody Education Fund

1L. P. Ayres, Seven Great Foundations (New York, 1911)






The board of trustees of the South Florida Male & Female Inst. private school consisted of well-known and successful businessmen of the community. The ad even advised that good boarding could be obtained in the homes of private families at moderate rates. (Back then, "South Florida" referred to the entire peninsula portion of the state, excluding only the panhandle portion.) You will read about W. P. Haisley a little further down in this feature.


The same ad repeated Nov. 2, 1870 and every week through ---.


  • Dr. Franklin Branch (1802-1882) was early druggist, SE corner of Florida and Washington, and owner of the Branch Opera House on Franklin St.; son Darwin Austen Branch was mayor from 1857 to 1858.

  • William Benton Henderson (1839-1909), one of five children of Andrew Hamilton Henderson who came to Hillsborough County in 1846.  W.B was founder of an early store with Captain John Miller, editor of the Florida Peninsular and developer of Tampa Heights, Tampa's first suburb.

  • Edward Austin Clarke came to Tampa in 1853, was married to a daughter of Dr. Franklin Branch, then married to a daughter of Judge Perry G. Wall. Clarke was first mayor of Tampa after the Civil War, a big investor in real estate and was the Clarke in "Clarke & Knight" hardware store until Perry Wall II turned 21 and took his place as "Knight & Wall".

It was recognized in the county for many years that two men could swing its sentiment for a candidate and that their approval was almost equal to election.  One was Col. Henderson.

Born on September 17, 1839 in Jackson County, Georgia, William B. Henderson came to Tampa at the age of seven with his parents in 1846.  Alexander Hamilton Henderson and Flora Olivia McDonald arrived with their four young boys, of which William was the oldest.  At the time, Tampa consisted of the Fort Brooke military post and a small trading station with a sparse population of civilian settlers on the north side of the post, most of whom were merchants supplying the fort personnel.  In Tampa, Alexander H. and Olivia had one more son, Wesley P. Henderson, in 1848.

Henderson's home in Tampa Heights on 7th Ave, in 1902          

W.B. didn't have the advantage of an early school training. His father died in 1852, so being the eldest child of a large family, he assumed the responsibilities of self-support and of making his own way at the early age of twelve years.  He took a job in Kennedy & Darling's general store to help support his mother and his four younger brothers.

W.B became a successful and well-respected merchant, cattleman, civic leader, real estate developer, and was the "father" of Tampa Heights.


Upon his death, it was said:           

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

No man can write the history of Tampa or of South Florida and leave his name out; and it is equally true that the biography of W. B. Henderson cannot be truthfully written without writing a large part of the history of the growth and development of Tampa and of South Florida."

Read about the amazing success of W.B. Henderson and how he shaped the future of Tampa, here at this breakout page.

Also on this page is a biographical descendants list for Alexander & Flora Henderson,



The Tampa School was a reference to Haisley's male & female school; the terms were used interchangeably in the newspaper. By Feb. 1871, this school had 55 pupils.







The articles were a reference to the same school, the South Florida Male & Female Institute.  Their ad below was the same one they ran in the previous year, and it ran all year long in 1871, each week, even past the Oct. 17 opening date. No articles could be found about the progress of the school after opening, due to the loss of newspapers from 1872 through 1876. The tuition per quarter was subject to a deduction proportional to the funding it received from the county and state school boards.


This school had the most complete curriculum, especially for the intermediate and higher level courses, but it was far from being a public school, as the state and county funding would have been minimal at best. 
This school was the most consistent over a period of several years in the 1870s, advertising in just about every weekly  issue of the Florida Peninsular.



In 1871, William F. White was appointed to the position of Hillsborough County schools superintendent by Florida's Governor Reed. 

It appears that White was either a young man, or not a resident of the county for very long, as the Peninsular questioned the appointment by stating,

"...but it does seem strange that no old citizen of Hillsborough County is good enough in the eyes of his Excellency** even for Superintendent of Public Schools.  Capt. W(hite) is, we think, the third new importation appointed as Superintendent of Public Schools..."

**This is sarcasm by the Peninsular.  Reed was a Reconstruction Republican governor, Tampa was a fervently Confederate Democrat town, and the Peninsular took every opportunity criticize Reed, who had previously appointed Ansel Watrous.





The first available minutes to exist from school board meetings was one from Aug. 28, 1871.  Continuous records exist of the Board of Education's meetings, took place in the county courthouse on Dec. 10, 1871, at which time the Board recognized that a teacher must have some sort of qualifications other than a willingness to teach.  The Board,  consisting of Chairman John T. Givens, T. K. Spencer , Dr. F. Branch, and W. F. White, Superintendent and Secretary, appointed a committee to examine and to "certificate" teachers. 

Male & Female Academy becomes Tampa School No. 1 with change in one trustee

This article in the Dec. 23, 1871 Fla. Peninsular published the results of a Dec. 10th meeting as provided by W. F. White, the county schools superintendent. Nine schools and their trustees were approved, including Tampa School No. 1 with Trustees E. A. Clarke, W. B. Henderson, and D. I. Craft.  These were the same trustees as the Tampa Male & Female Institute except for D. Isaac Craft in place of Dr. Franklin Branch.

The Board decided to meet on the first of each month so that teachers could be examined and trustees appointed.  Those who wanted a school in their neighborhood were to submit the names of the trustees and teachers to the Board for approval and examination.  Supt. White assured the public that the school funds had NOT been expended in the Tampa Schools and would be distributed among all nine schools.  He was expecting the funding for the next school term would be enough for at least three months of free school in every neighborhood of the county, as soon after Jan 1 as possible.


Franklin Branch had probably resigned as Trustee and was replaced by D. Isaac Craft as it became Tampa School No.1, maybe due to Branch being appointed to the School Board.   In the next years of the 1870s into 1880, it is this school that would grow in attendance and County funding, and finally, move into a building specifically built and paid for by the county and becoming Tampa's first graded public school.



On the same page as the above notice, the Tampa Male & Female Institute announced that it was being funded enough to offer one term for no charge, starting on Jan 2, 1872.  This was a reference to funding by the County and possibly by the Peabody Fund.












There are no Tampa newspapers online for 1872 through 1876.  The issues of the  Fla. Peninsular leading up the gap starting 1872 are in extremely damaged condition. With the resumption of newspapers in Jan. 1877 as Sunland Tribunes, those too are extremely damaged for the first few months.

These were the beginning years of a well-organized school system, including the construction of the first public school building.  But all the news of it has be lost with the destruction of the newspapers, leaving only the county school board minutes.





During the 1870s, there were very few qualified teachers throughout Florida. However, there is evidence that there was some form of teacher certification at that time. During a Board meeting in 1873, a Hillsborough County teacher's certificate was revoked for cause. The actual number of "certified" teachers in the district at the time is unknown.

On Jan. 6, 1872, the Board of Education passed its first school tax of 5 mils.  At this time, school taxes were used only for the operation of schools. The primary cost of operation was the meager salaries earned by teachers and administrators. Communities typically paid most of the cost of constructing their schools and parents supplied most of the school materials for their children.

The practice of charging tuition was still permitted in most public schools and many did this to supplement the limited funds they received from the Board of Education. Taxing for the purpose of school construction was still prohibited by law.

In 1872, schools were funded based on their enrollment.  Although the minutes do not provide names, their attendance and appropriations were reported as follows: 

Tampa School #1 housed 147 students and received $331.74.
Tampa School #2 housed 39 students and received $91.11. 
School #4 (possibly Grange Hall) housed 12 students and received $28.00.
School #7 (Joseph Casey's School) housed 31 students and received $72.44.

The per pupil allocation in this early record is interesting. Tampa School #I was allocated $2.26 per pupil, while Tampa School #2 was allocated $2.37 per pupil. The rural schools also received a higher per pupil allocations.



On Jan. 1, 1877, the Sunland Tribune published this letter (at right) to its Editor from a visitor to Tampa on the past Christmas.  The visitor, who only identifies themselves as "VIATOR" relates various experiences of their visit during the holidays, "Like a busy bee I flew around and gathered the sweets from every flower."

A large portion of the letter is devoted to their visit at Miss Verdier's school, apparently a girls school, where the "young ladies displayed not only much talent, but other accomplishments in which school girls are generally deficient...ease, grace, appropriate gesticulation and proper modulation of voice."  The event was apparently a play or skit.  "A happy and original idea it was on the part of Miss Verdier to have the Southern States represented.  Each State was personified by a fair maiden exhibiting in her dress, or on her person, some of the products of the State represented..."

So who was Miss Verdier?

See this breakout page: The Search for Miss Verdier



Between 1873 and 1875, the Board struggled with finding funds for the construction of new school buildings. There is no record of how the funds were raised or of the actual cost of the first school building in Tampa erected by the Board.  However, it would be known as Tampa School (i.e., School #I) and would completed in 1876.  (But was it really? Probably NOT.)

By E. L. Robinson:
In 1872 a tax of five mills for school purposes was asked by the Board of Education. In March of that year a committee was appointed to solicit stock for building a school house and to determine whether it was advisable to build. At a later meeting it was voted to see if help could he obtained from the Peabody fund.  Evidently there had been some difficulty in securing the funds for the school building.  There is no further record as to the method of raising money for the building or how much it cost. But in 1876 the first public school building in Tampa was erected by Mr. John T. Givens and his son, Darwin Branch Givens. This building facing on Franklin Street occupied one-half of the block between Madison and Twiggs Streets about where the Shaw-Clayton book store now is in the "Sparkman block."

(The History of Hillsborough County Schools adds that it was built on land sold to the County for $400 by John Givens.)

This development was met with great dissent from county residents who felt that the Board had exceeded its authority in constructing the school. The controversy was finally settled through a statement from the Attorney General of Florida, who reasserted the authority of the School Board.

In 1888 the property here was divided into lots and sold. The last three lots were bought by Sparkman & Sparkman for $3,000.

John T. Givens and his family came to Tampa on Dec. 25, 1848, to help rebuild two months after the disastrous hurricane of 1848.  He is credited by some sources as having built Tampa's oldest and still existing house, the old Dr. Stringer/Imboden Stalnaker house.

It is the opinion of TampaPix that the plans to build the public school facility may have been begun in 1876, but it was not fully completed and ready for use until Jan. 1878.  This is based on a Jan. 12, 1878 article by the School Board in the Sunland Tribune.  See below.


THE FIRST PUBLIC HIGH SCHOOL (According to "The History of Hillsborough Co. Schools)

The first high school was opened in Tampa as Tampa High School. The advertisement in the Sunland Tribune, dated 1-6-1877, documented the existence of the first public high school program in the area**. "Tampa High School" operated with only three instructors, including the principal.

The School Board minutes concur with this newspaper ad.  Board minutes in 1876 appointed Professor Fellows as a teacher of School # 1 and principal of all other schools in Tampa. Later in 1877, Board minutes documented the appointment of Dr. Fellows as the first principal of Tampa School #1, also known as Tampa High School.  Perhaps the introduction of the name "Tampa High School" was an effort to differentiate the first high school program** from grammar school section of School #I.  The high school and elementary school shared the same facility during these early years.


**The ad specifies a thorough program in the primary branches, but only three classes apart from the primary branches: Greek, Latin and Stenography.  This hardly constitutes a High School curriculum, regardless of what it or the county calls it.  It also was meeting in a privately owned facility due to not yet having moved into the Givens-built public school building, as you will see later in a Jan. 12, 1878 article by the School Board in the Sunland Tribune.  As Dr. Franklin Branch was previously one of the school's trustees, they probably met in Branch's opera house.

In 1877, W. P. Haisley, who had been the principal at the Tampa Institute, was appointed to the position of State Supt. of Public Instruction. 

This Apr. 28, 1877 editorial below by the Sunland Tribune expresses the dissatisfaction with the current school funding system.  Apparently the whole county was treated as one big school district resulting in the majority of taxes raised in the denser population areas being appropriated to the schools in the less populated areas.  It points to the successful application of individual school districts in the North as an example, and advocates dividing the county into school districts, letting each district be independent in regard to levying taxes and appropriating them in support of its schools.

It also speaks to the lack of a free public High School program.

"Unless it can be rendered more successful than it has proven to be so far, it will continue to prove a positive disadvantage by its debauching effect on a large proportion of parents who depend solely on the school authorities to educate their children... Again, under existing laws, there is but one class of schools, so that all farther advances beyond a mere primary English education must be acquired at private expense."

This is evidence that a High School program in a free public school was still lacking.





Although William didn't have an A.M. (Master of Arts), he did have an A.B. (Bachelor of Arts) and an LL.B. (Bachelor of Law) from some rather "high-toned" institutions.

Learn more about W. P. Haisley and see just how "high-toned" he was.  See why he came, he taught, he left and returned.



According to the combined research of several contributors, William Penn Haisley was the fourth of at least six children of Alexander Brown Haisley of N. Carolina and his wife Ann Phillips.  Born in Indiana in 1831, he did a bit of traveling before coming to Florida--the FIRST time and the SECOND time.




The County School Board met on Sep. 17, 1877 and set the school term for 1878 at four months with a rate of funding of $1 per pupil per month.  It ordered that all teachers must be examined before teaching, and the necessary paperwork turned in to the Superintendent for teachers to be paid.  Four teachers were examined and given second class certificates.  For areas that wanted a new school, parents and guardians had to petition the board and include names for Trustees to be reviewed and appointed.  Teachers were required to sign a written contract with the county superintendent before teaching, at which time they would receive a register book and necessary forms to fill out so they could get paid.  This would be enforced more rigidly than it had been in the past.  If a school needed to be suspended for a time, it was to be mutually agreed on by the Trustees, patrons, and and teachers, with time to be made up at the end of the term.


It was also announced in the same issue of the Tribune that the Public School of Tampa would open on Oct. 1st for the new school year.  The principal was to be C. A. Saunders, a graduate of Emory College in Oxford, GA and the "recipient of the first honor" (class valedictorian.)  The teacher assisting him was to be Mrs. Duffie, who had taught a private school in Tampa during the previous summer, "and the rapid advancement of her pupils gave universal satisfaction to the patrons of her school."  She also had high recommendations from "distinguished gentlemen and classical teachers in Virginia where she had been teaching.  The School Board congratulated the school's trustees for securing the services of such competent teachers.

The Board also urged the trustees to seriously consider hiring a good music teacher as soon as possible because it would not only bring in "many girl pupils from the country," there were many girls in town whose musical education should not be neglected. 


Even though colored pupils were not allowed to attend Tampa's schools, the Tribune urged colored citizens in town to  lay aside their personal prejudices and start their own school!  The editor considered it "no difficult job to get up a school that could be funded with $200 from the Peabody Fund.


Also see a photo of him, and find out what college he became the first president of.  All at "Who was Claude Saunders?"




In the fall of 1877, a Peabody Fund agent contacted State Schools Superintendent W. P. Haisley to notify him of a pending cut in funding.



Haisley had actually asked for more funding for the upcoming year, but in view of Mr. Sears's letter, Haisley responded asking that Florida not be cut off entirely, and be funded with enough so that schools here which have not yet been benefited by the fund could still be funded.  He asked for about one-half of the amount of funding from last year--$3,000.



Tuition payment requested from those who could afford it, additional funds coming from the Peabody Fund.

Tampa School to be moved into the new building today.

A Jan. 12, 1878 article (below) in the Sunland Tribune from the School Board encouraged Hillsborough County citizens to maintain the progress of the school system as it has been flourishing.  It asked that they support the new school for at least one quarter and they won't be disappointed.  The trustees of the school (W.B. Henderson, E.A. Clarke, and J.T. Lesley) would accept payment of tuition from those who felt they could afford it, so they could make up the salaries of the teachers for one quarter. 

They needed to keep up the high level of enrollment, but those who could not pay should not keep their children from attending, that "no false pride...will induce them to keep their children from the school, for by doing so they will be inflicting a serious injury on the community by depriving it of the benefit of the Peabody Fund."  This subject ends with a plea to the trustees and teachers to "spare no pains and efforts to have things go on harmoniously" and if they could get through the year, there should be no more problems.

It goes on and speaks to the controversy created by some believing that the school board had no authority to fund the building of a new structure from county school funds.  It seems that opposition from outlying areas, "in the country," questioning the authority of the county-financed structure was due to its location, in the heart of Tampa.  The outer areas wanted a building in their own areas, and with the location selected, their tax dollars were spent where they felt they weren't being benefited.  To this issue, the Attorney General of Florida was consulted and ruled that the Board had the authority, not only to finance the building of a school structure, but "to do...almost anything else which in its judgment would promote the educational interests of the country." [sic] (probably "county.")

It ends with the Board stating that they are authorized to say (to put it bluntly,) when you are able to keep a large school going for a whole scholastic year, the Board will build a school for it.  "This school (Tampa No. 1) is open to pupils from every section of the county as much so as it is to those of the town."

It certainly sounds like they're getting ready to start something new, " the new school for at least one quarter..."  The third column begins with "the school will be moved today into the new school house, recently erected by the Board of Public Instruction of this county." 

If the building was completed in 1876, why now in 1878 would the school board call it "the new school house, recently erected?" And the fact that the school was moving in at this time means it was NOT in there previously.   So did the building sit vacant, unused for a year and a half to two years?  Not likely.  This is evidence that the building wasn't completed in 1876 and had just recently been completed.

Regarding the great controversy over whether or not the County could legally use the tax-generated funds to build a school house, it is highly unlikely they would have proceeded with its construction before the opinion of the Attorney General was rendered.



The article makes no mention of the High School, public or private, so in this regard it is the opinion here that this was a move of the elementary or primary level classes into the newly built public school building. 

In 1878, Tampa School, sometimes referred to as the "Tampa Institute," was fully operational with three teachers. These teachers and their salaries were as follows: Mr. S. Sparkman ($166.66 per year) Miss M. Prevatt ($80 per year) Mr. W. Hensley ($135.30 per year)



The building was located on the block north of the courthouse square.  It was a 2-story building that could easily accommodate 150 students.  It was being used as a graded public school for a scholastic year of nine months (not yet), and it was being funded from three sources: the County school fund, the Peabody fund, and private contributions, nearly in equal amounts.

If the building was being used for the high school,  the editor of the Tribune most likely would have taken the opportunity to boast about this great achievement.  To this point, no sources indicate that the high school operated in this building teaching a full high school program.



The Tampa School No. 1  building was located at what was in 1911 the 500 block of Franklin Street,1 between Madison and Twiggs Streets.  This is the block just north of the county courthouse as Doris' history states.

1889 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from University of Florida Digital Collections

In E. L. Robinson's "History of Hillsborough County" published in 1928, he states that the schoolhouse was located "where the Shaw-Clayton bookstore is now."  Tampa's 1927 city directory shows this bookstore was located at 509 Franklin St.


1Although the 1889 map at left shows the block north of the courthouse, between Madison and Twiggs, was the 600 block, the 1892 map below shows the addresses along Franklin St. were renumbered by 1892, and shows both the old 623 and the new address 509 Franklin St.  When Doris wrote her history in 1911, that location was 509.


The school's location was at the middle of the block of Franklin St., on the east side of the street around where this map shows "B & S" (which could stand for Books & Stationery.)

Since yellow structures were wood frame buildings and the pink ones were brick, the old wooden school building (everything was built from wood in the 1870s) was apparently torn down and replaced by the brick structures seen here in 1889.


Present day aerial view of this block.

Recently, this address is occupied by the CI Group.

In 1929, E. L. Robinson provided the early history of Hillsborough County's education system in a Tribune article.  Having just published his book on the history of the county, the info would have been fresh on his mind.  This is an edited version with quite a bit of the mid-section removed.  See the WHOLE article here.




Mar. 30, 1878 - John P. Wall, editor of the Tribune, physician & surgeon, Mayor of Tampa and Superintendent of County Schools, praised the success of the school, but indicated that the present teachers and principal were not people who were pursuing education as their career:

"Considering that it is the first successful attempt made in Tampa to maintain a graded school, the result so far is very gratifying, indeed, and speaks well for the public spirit of our citizens...By commencement of the next scholastic year, the Trustees of the school will be able to provide the Institute with experienced teachers who have followed teaching as a profession and consequently feel more identified with the success of the school than those who take such positions for temporary employment without expecting to follow it as a life business...success must depend on application and devotion to the calling..."



Oct. 5, 1878 - REPORT OF THE Sep. 30/Oct. 1 SCHOOL BOARD MEETING
Teachers were examined and other business attended to, including establishment of new schools.  It was found impossible to lengthen the term of the schools beyond three months without running the school fund into debt due to "our population increasing disproportionately to our wealth."  The county taxable property was $600,000 and even with a maximum tax rate allowed by law, 5 mils, it would only yield around $3,000, yet there were between 1,100 to 1,200 children of school age.  (Under $2 per child.)  Citing 1870 Census figures, Florida was contributing more to free schools in 3 months than New York for the whole year, in proportion to their wealth.


In 1878, the "Tampa Institute" or School #1 was the first "graded" public school in the entire area of southwestern Florida.  Soon after, other schools followed with the "grading system," but most were private schools.

Schools' terms in the county were limited to three or four months, except for Tampa School which provided classes for 5 or 6 months. (Teachers were paid according to their "class" (i.e., certification & experience). - Class Two teachers received $30 per month. - Class Three teachers received $25 per month. - Superintendent's salary was set at $100 per year.

Although the above articles speak of a "graded school" it doesn't specifically mention a High School.  If the Tampa Institute had a complete high school curriculum,  its population would likely have been given in two groups, primary and high school.  A graded school is one where students have been segregated into various levels of learning capability and achievement, which generally advances with age:  1st Grade, 2nd Grade, etc.  This is in contrast to the old "Little Red one-room Schoolhouse" where students of all levels were taught in one big class simultaneously.  The High School was still being operated independently of the County School system, and therefore would not have occupied the the county-owned facility yet, as evidenced below in the Dec. 6, 1879 Tampa Journal.

No article could be found in the Sep. or Oct. 1878 Tribunes regarding the start of the school term, however this Nov. 16 article indicates it had started with Mrs. Duffie as the Principal and Miss P. F. DeLaunay as her assistant, in charge of younger pupils.  Apparently Mr. C. A. Saunders, the highly-touted principal the previous year, was no longer a consideration, and  Mrs. Duffie was promoted.

The article states the school was free to all whites in any portion of the county or living in town.

There was an offering made of "the classics and higher branches" being taught by Mrs. Duffie, but no specific mention was made as to what the classes were.

The Trustees now were Wm. B. Henderson and F. A. Clarke.

It would appear that there still was no fully organized or complete high school curriculum, probably due to the teachers still not being professional, accredited career instructors. This is evidenced by the fact that every school term that commences has a different teacher and Principal from the previous term.   The higher classes probably still consisted of Latin, French and Stenography.


A search of Hillsborough County censuses for 1870, 1880 & 1885 finds no Duffies in 1870, and two Duffie families in 1880 living in a rural area:
James M Duffie and wife Mary.  James is a blacksmith, Mary is keeping house. 
George Duffie and wife Julia M, George is a farmer, Julia is keeping house. 

Both Duffie families are on the 1885 census with neither of the wives having an occupation. It appears that Principal Mrs. Duffie was another non-career instructor who had talent to teach or lead a school.

P. F. DeLaunay was Pauline DeLaunay, a daughter of Tampa's 2nd Mayor and former Postmaster of Tampa, Alphonso DeLaunay, and his wife Victoria (Montes de Oca) DeLaunay. (She was his 2nd wife.)  They are on the 1860 Census of Tampa with "Polene" age 5.  His son, John A. DeLaunay, became the editor of the Tampa Morning Tribune in the late 1890s.

1860 Census, Tampa

Widowed Victoria and her children are on the 1880 Census of Tampa with Pauline's occupation showing Teacher.


Even with the first successful construction of school buildings owned by the Board, great resistance continued from the public. Enrollment and attendance were disappointing, especially at the secondary level. A reporter for the Sunland Tribune appeared to be chastising the public when he wrote, "We regret the fact, but it seems nevertheless so, that a large majority of our citizens do not appreciate the advantage of education. They seem to be careless as to whether their children attend school or not and appear to leave it entirely to the option of the child. " In a later article, he continued in his attempt to convince the public by stating, "All money expended in educating our children is the most profitable investment that parents can make for their children's future."

The above portion in bold comes from the Feb. 15, 1879 article below, which is actually in praise of the public for for taking more interest in supporting the schools, citing "a little upwards of 100 pupils on the register of the high school." This doesn't seem to be an attempt to convince as much as it does praise. The earlier article alluded to above has not been located, but the source of the above cites the entire paragraph as being from the Feb. 15, 1879 Tribune article. --TampaPix


This article specifically speaks of the success of the Tampa high school, now in its 5th month, which would indicate it started in Oct. 1878.  A page by page inspection of all the Sunland Tribunes finds no mention of school starting in Sep. or Oct.

  This article refers to the Tampa High School as being independent of the "present school system" and expresses optimism in that regard.  Citizens of Tampa were growing dissatisfied with the present system of funding the schools as one school district.




See his censuses below.

1870 Census, Hillsborough Co, Pct. 4
Although this census shows his middle initial as "S," he was William F. Nigels as seen on his 1900 Census.

William was a farmer, age 37, born in Prussia.  His wife was Harriet, age 23.

1880 Census, Hillsborough Co., Pct. 4
William F. Nigles

Again, we see Mr. Nigles/Nigels was a farmer, born in Prussia (soon to become united as Germany.)
He also appears on the State of Fla. agricultural census.

1900 Census of William F. Nigels, Pct. 4

Here Mr. Nigels had no occupation, age 66, married 37 years to Harriet, born in Germany, immigrated in 1850, was a naturalized citizen.
His reputation as being a "good teacher" was probably in his church, but he was no career educator with a degree.



Before 1877, the school term was seldom more than three months, except in Tampa School No. 1 where it was sometimes five or six months.  In 1877 the minimum school term was fixed at four months and the teachers' salaries at $30 per month for 2nd class teachers and $25 for 3rd class teachers.  The county superintendent's salary was $100 per year.

In 1879 Henry L. Crane became superintendent and secretary to the Board, serving until 1881.

 In 1880, Crane illustrated the problem faced by the Board in NOT owning the facilities used for public education. He stated to the Board,

"There are but few permanent buildings over which the Board has any control, and schools are often dependent and subject to the will of those owning the buildings, and are not always conveniently located. This makes a necessity for two schools sometimes, where one would be sufficient if the convenience of the whole community was looked to by the trustees." 


Henry Lafayette Crane
Photo from The City Council of Tampa, etc.


  • Councilman, August 11, 1873 – August 1874
  • President, August 14, 1877 – August 14, 1878
  • President, August 14, 1883 – August 13, 1885
  • President, August 13, 1886 – July 15, 1887
  • Councilman, March 4, 1892 – March 10 – 1893
  • Councilman, March 10, 1893 - March 9, 1894

Henry L. Crane's father, Henry A. Crane, was born in New Jersey in 1811 and worked as a clerk in Washington DC.  He came to Florida during the 2nd Seminole War and had a modest but successful military career in the 2nd and 3rd Seminole Wars.

H.A. Crane was a man of moderate means, but his literary abilities provided him with the opportunity to serve in many minor political positions. After his enlistment expired, he settled in St. Augustine where he met and married Sophia Allen. Their only son, Henry Lafayette Crane, was born there on Sept. 25, 1838.

In the 1840s the Cranes settled Orange County, near Fort Mellon, now part of Sanford. H. A. was a Clerk of the Circuit Court and in 1844, Gov. Moseley nominated him for judge of probate at Orange Co.

In 1852 H.A. Crane brought his family to Tampa, gave up farming, and founded the Tampa Herald newspaper in 1852,  working full time as its printer and editor.  Later he was editor of the Florida Peninsular newspaper.

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

During the Civil War H.A. was a Unionist, a captain and later a major in the Second Florida Cavalry, U. S. Army.  After the war, the Republican H.A. settled in Key West where he served as clerk of the circuit court and as state senator. He was also editor of the Key West Dispatch and, subsequently, founder and editor of the Key of the Gulf. 

But his son, H. L. Crane joined the Confederate forces as Chief Musician of the Fourth Florida Infantry, CSA.  H.L. Crane and the Ferris brothers, Josiah and William, had been members of the Tampa Brass Cornet Band, organized March 31, 1860, by J. A. Butterfield.  H.L. was captured near Spring Hill, Tennessee, Dec. 21, 1864, confined at Camp Chase, Ohio, and released Feb. 18, 1865.

H. L. Crane later owned and operated the Orange Grove Hotel with his wife for many years in the 1870s and 1880s.  It was located near the present day intersection of Madison St. & East St. There is a historical marker in downtown Tampa where hotel was once located. 

The hotel was built in 1859 originally as the home of cattleman William B. Hooker, Florida's pre-Civil War "cattle king." During the Civil War, it was used as Tampa's Confederate Headquarters. It is where Tampa pioneer Joe Robles marched his captive Union soldiers in the winter of 1863. 





Judge Henry L. Crane and his wife, who operated the hotel in 1876, are said to be standing on the left side of the second floor porch. Poet Sidney Lanier has been identified by contemporaries as the man standing on the far right side of the second floor porch with his leg propped on the rail. But D. B. McKay in the Tampa Tribune, March 6, 1955, said Lanier is standing at the left end of the first floor veranda. Located at 806 Madison Street. The original of this photo was owned by Mrs. Samuel E. (Mary Hooker) Hope, later Mrs. Clara (Hope) Baggett and then by Mr. and Mrs. L.E. Vinson of Tarpon Springs.
In 1866, Hooker converted his home into a hotel and sold it to D. Isaac Craft, father of Isaac S. Craft.  D.I Craft, who at the time was the Sheriff, was in charge of the jail.  While he tended to the prisoners in the jail, his wife ran the hotel.  Later, he sold the hotel to Judge Crane, whose wife was Meroba Hooker, dau. of Wm. B. Hooker.  Meroba was widowed for several years from her first marriage as Mrs. Solon B. Turman.  Together, Henry L. and Meroba Crane  operated the hotel for many years into the 1880s.

H.L. was elected as Tampa’s City Clerk in 1869, but like the council members who were elected from 1869-1973, he never served due to the dissolution of the government when the City of Tampa intentionally let its City Charter elapse.

Along with fellow council members Edward A. Clarke and Josiah Ferris as well as former council member William Gould Ferris, Sr., Judge Crane was one of the founders of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church.

On Aug. 11, 1873, the registered voters in Tampa held an election and voted to establish the Town of Tampa. Crane was elected as one of the new council members and go on to serve a total of six terms on Tampa’s City Council.  In 1879 Henry L. Crane was elected as Superintendent of Public Education and served until 1881. He was also appointed to U.S. Commissioner in the 1870s as judge, a position he held for about 40 years.




Throughout the late 1800's, the salary teachers received from the Board remained very low. In most cases, these wages were not sufficient for the living expenses of the times. To compensate for this, teachers commonly received a range of "fringe benefits" from the community in which they taught. For example, in the rural areas of the county, teachers commonly lived in a home of a school trustee, or in the home of one of their students. In many of these "living arrangements," teachers also were provided with their meals. However, the problem of this living arrangement was the lack of freedom and privacy in the personal life of the teacher. In addition to room and board, schools were still permitted to charge some form of "tuition" even though they were considered "public schools". It is likely that this "tuition" varied greatly based on each family's socioeconomic status. Tuition, along with other forms of contributions from the participating families, was used to supplement the meager salaries provided by the Board.


A Tribune reader wrote the editor of the Tribune addressing the need for funds to build a school house on Nebraska Ave.  Apparently a circular was being passed around soliciting aid for this purpose.  There weren't enough residents in the area to provide funding themselves and states that everyone should be interested in the need, not just the local residents, because it would benefit the community at large.

The necessity was made known about a year earlier, by the women of the community, and "the wheel revolved very well until some of the spokes fell out and the tire tired out."  Fearing a complete abandonment of their need, they had a meeting, elected officers, made some rules and regulations, and prepared themselves with determination to have a building constructed before half the summer was over.

Joe Robles, early Tampa pioneer, merchant, and civic leader who lived in the area, donated land for a school building. The writer praises Robles, and adds "long may he live to see his good work increase and 'flourish like a green bay tree.'"

He pleads for support not just in word, but to "put your hands in your pockets giving us liberally, knowing after many days it will come back to you ten-fold, for this building is intended for all purposes of public benefit."

He apologizes for asking the Editor directly in this way, and adds "but you may hear from us gain."



Dr. John P. Wall, Mayor of Tampa and Editor of the Tribune, turns his sharp tongue from criticizing political opponents, to criticizing mothers who "have been too busy with their [children's] clothes, to pay much attention to their [children's] brains.  He says the purpose children being in school " not the display of the wealth or tenderness of their parents" and that anything that diverts attention from learning is an injury to the student, instead, working against them.  Even teachers would agree that "fine clothes oftener work mischief to their wearers than mean clothes do."  He believes simplicity should characterize their dress, that the "highest-minded children are oftenest found in plain garb, while these be-ringed and be-ruffled and otherwise showily attired are generally quite destitute of intellectual home culture."  He stresses personal cleanliness over dress, and in that regard he suggests the student have two suits, "for in the crowded school-room the clothing soon becomes saturated with the exhalations floating in the atmosphere, and an airing of the clothes every three days is necessary to keep them fresh and sweet."



The fall school term for 1880 was to start on Oct. 4 with Mrs. Scull and Mrs. Nunez as teachers.


Her obituary in 1904 would reveal that she was the widow of Rev. William D. Scull, and a daughter of John M. Verdier of Beaufort, SC.  This means she was a sister of Miss Verdier, the teacher in charge of the aforementioned "Miss Verdier's School."


The missing Verdier "puzzle pieces" linking the two ladies are found on the separate page, "The Search for Miss Verdier" and her school of 1876.


The other teacher was  Arabella Helen Nunez, widow of early Tampa settler and merchant Robert F. Nunez. 


Robert Flournoy Nunez was born in 1826 in Appling Co, Georgia and came to Florida during the late 1840s. There was a great influx of settlers to Tampa just after the devastating hurricane of late Sept. 1848, mostly because of the need to rebuild the city.  Many were carpenters and laborers.  Robert probably came in the fall of 1848 or in 1849. 

According to his 1850 Census in Hillsborough County, Robert was living in the 19th Division at the Manatee settlement, which was the area around the Manatee River, now the Bradenton/Palmetto area.  It wasn't until 1855 that Manatee County was created from the southern part of Hillsborough County.  On his 1850 Census, Robert was 24 and listed as a laborer.

1850 Census
19th Division, Manatee Settlement

Robert was living among many unrelated persons with varied occupations--shoemaker, Methodist minister, laborers, and teachers.

In the 1850s Robert came to Tampa and was working as a clerk (in the general store of Kennedy & Darling where he was known to have worked) when listed on the 1860 Tampa census.

1860 Census, Tampa
Robert, Nancy & Emma Nunez

In Robert's home was 40 year old Nancy Nunez, born in GA, and 14 year old Emma Nunez, born in LA.

This census didn't list relationships or marital status, but additional research reveals who Nancy and Emma Nunez were.  Find out how they were related on this separate page, Nancy & Emma NunezNo family connection to the Irish Methodist preacher W. L. Murphy has been made.

In 1860, after the census, Robert rented a store room on the ground floor of John Darling's new building at Washington and Tampa St. and started a general store of his own.  He offered everything you could imagine, "ENTIRELY NEW and WELL SELECTED," "NO OLD OR SHOP-WORN STOCK ON HAND" including goods "never before brought to this market," but did not sell liquor.  He even sold his sundries "VERY LOW for CASH" or in trade for country produce.


This short ad indicates he was still in business in April 1861.

The business center of Tampa back then was at Washington and Tampa Streets where there was located a number of establishments.  Among them, the general stores of John Jackson, Christopher L. Friebele and Robert F. Nunez, which carried all human needs from the cradle to the grave.  To supply the needs of settlers in a greater surrounding area, Tampa boasted of having seven more large general stores in those times: W.G. Ferris & Son, Capt. James McKay, E. A. Clarke & Co., Kennedy & Darling, Michael Wall, L. G. Covacevich  and Jose Vigil.   All these establishments advertised that they were wholesale and retail dealers in fancy and staple dry goods, hats and caps, boots and shoes, ready made clothing for men and women, hardware and crockery, plantation tools, Yankee notions, woodware and hollowware, ship chandlery and paints, a complete line of provisions and fine groceries, wines, and liquors (except Nunez).

Robert F.  Nunez married on July 26, 1862 to Arabella Helen Craft, a daughter of Samuel Charles Craft and Margaret S. Mathers.  Samuel was pastor of the First Baptist Church, private school teacher, editor of the Fla. Peninsula in the early years, and later a lawyer.   .

    Arabella was born Feb. 21, 1846 at Jefferson Co., Fla

1850 Census, Jefferson Co, FL
Sam Craft family

In 1850 Sam Craft was a school teacher.  Arabella was age 4 and the second of four children listed here.

1860 Census, Madison Co, FL
Sam Craft family

Now in 1860 the Craft family was in Madison County.  This record was pieced together because Sam Craft was the last line on the page and the rest of his family on the top of the next page.  The enumerator wrote "Craft" for the first entry on the next page, instead of Margaret, Sam's wife. Margarite, age 9 and May, age 6, were born between the censuses so in all, Arabella one of six children.


Robert Nunez and Arabella Craft had two children, Ruby, who was married to I. S. Giddens. a pioneer grocer of Tampa, and Robert F. (Jr.), who was married to Ellen Hale.  Ruby Nunez and I.S. Giddens had three children: Genevieve Giddens, who married Dr. Sheldon Stringer, Daisy Giddens and Mary Giddens. The children of Robert F.  Nunez, Jr. and Ellen (Hale) Nunez were: Robert (III), Mary, John and Paul.


Robert (I) joined the CSA on Mar. 10, 1862 in Tampa as a 3rd Lieut. of Co. B, 7th Florida Regiment. A year later on Mar. 10, 1863 he was promoted to Captain.  He fought in Tennessee and Kentucky and was in Bragg's famous march. Not accustomed to the colder climate, he contracted pneumonia from which he never fully recovered. Because of his illness he was released from the army on Aug. 8, 1863 and returned to Tampa.

**Grismer says that R.F. Nunez sold his store and joined the Confederate Army. 

Image from Find-A-Grave by Jerry Barnard




According to Education: From Its Beginnings in the Territory To Present, by Norma Goolsby Frazier, The Sunland Tribune, Vol. 19, Nov. 1993, Journal of the Tampa Historical Society, Mrs. Nunez opened her school in 1862 shortly after marrying Robert F. Nunez.

The year coincides with Robert's enlistment with the Army, so this may have been Arabella's means of support due to Robert selling his store.  There are no newspapers available from the Civil War period 1862 to 1865 so any ads placed by Mrs. Nunez during this period are unavailable.


In 1866, due to the civil government having been dissolved during the Civil War, the people decided that the city government would have to be revived.  This was largely motivated by crime and disorder.  According to the Peninsular, freedmen with no means of support were burglarizing homes and businesses at all hours of the day and night, causing Tampans to fear leaving their properties unguarded.  (This is putting it mildly.)

On October, 25 1866. Ed Austin Clarke was elected mayor and Dr. L A. Lively, R. F. Nunez , Josiah Ferris and B. C . Leonardi, councilmen. One of the first actions taken by the city officials was to appoint Louis Bell, Jr. as City Marshall.

Below is a portion of Ordinance No. 5 authorizing a citizens night watch of the city.  All white males over 18, regardless of age, were subject to be chosen by the City Council to serve on a team of four (or more if needed) that would "watch over the safety and good order of the city" within the city limits from 9 p.m. to sunrise.

Those chosen would be notified privately between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. of the day they had to report for duty, for three designated but separate days of the week. There would be no exceptions to serve except due to sickness, and at that, it had to be certified by a physician within 6 hours of duty time.

Sec. 5 authorized the watch members to be armed, at the discretion of the City Marshall.

Due to its length, much of Sec. 2 and all of Sec. 3 & 4 have been deleted.  If you wish to see all of Ordinance No. 5, click here, then click the image to see it full size.



If Robert sold his store before the war, he must have started a new one because he continued to advertise and was listed among Tampa dry goods and grocery merchants after the war.



R. F. Nunez was listed in the Peninsular's business directory for each issue through Jan. 18, 1868.  On the day of his death, his listing did not appear.


Robert F. Nunez died on Jan. 25, 1868, leaving his 21 year old widow Arabella and two children. 

At right is all that was printed in the PENINSULAR concerning his death. (Three months of ensuing issues were inspected carefully, page by page.)  The brevity of this announcement is highly unusual especially for Tampa merchants and especially CSA veterans, who were always given more than just one sentence.

One's first guess might be to say that maybe Arabella couldn't afford an obituary.  But the Peninsular often included a news article consisting of a paragraph of several lines concerning the death of someone who lived in Tampa, or even in a distant county, and who had very little connection to Tampa, if any at all, so it's very doubtful that those were paid announcements.  Also, Robert was Rev. Samuel C. Craft's son-in-law, who at one time was editor of the Peninsular, a private school teacher, and attorney.

TampaPix has a theory.  It may have something to do with Robert's possible heritage.  See more at the end of  Who were Nancy and Emma Nunez?




First rule of tombstone-making:
Spell the deceased's name correctly.

OAKLAWN CEMETERY photos from Find-A-Grave
by Janet McCrary



Two months after her husband's death, Arabella had some women's wear to sell.  It appears that she was continuing to operate Robert's store.  She ran this same ad again on Apr. 18, 1868.

On Aug. 1, 1868, Arabella advertised more new merchandise just received; this time in addition to ladies items, some dry goods and staples such as lard, coffee, rice and butter.



The first private school ads for Mrs. Nunez appeared in the Peninsular on Aug. 28, 1869, announcing her new school for small children opening on Sept. 6.  She planned to teach in one room of her home. 

The Peninsular included their own recommendation: "Mrs. Nunez is in every respect well qualified to teach..."  Arabella was 23 years old at this time.


1870 Census, Tampa
Arabella Nunez and her children, Ruby & Robert

On this census, Arabella was living next to her parents, Sam C. and Margaret Craft, and some of Arabella's siblings. 
Among other occupations Sam Craft had (newspaper editor, preacher, private school teacher,) Sam was also a lawyer.

1880 Census, Tampa
Arabella Nunez and her children

On the 1880 Census of Tampa, Arabella was listed as a teacher for the first time.

Arabella Helen Nunez died Jan. 16, 1932 at age 85. She was living at 1707 N. Fla. Ave. at the time.  Her obituaries in the Tampa newspapers contained  some historical errors.  She didn't open the first private school in Tampa and her husband wasn't killed in the Civil War.

OAKLAWN CEMETERY photo from Find-A-Grave
by Janet McCrary

It was the next superintendent, Wesley P. Henderson, who began reaping the benefits of the strong arguments that Crane presented for more facilities owned and directed of the Hillsborough Board of Education.

Wesley P. Henderson was elected Superintendent of Hillsborough County Schools in 1881 at the salary of $150 per year.  Under W.P.  Henderson's administration a more businesslike management of school finances was established, and there was clear evidence that he county schools were growing into a real system. The county experienced major growth and expansion including the first professional, accredited career teacher/principal, a full high school curriculum, the purchase of facilities for schools and the new construction of school buildings. The Hillsborough County public school system and High School begins to take a shape.

In 1882 it was estimated that the cost of the 57 schools in Hillsborough County would be $4,775.  The length of the term for these schools was fixed at five months and in the Tampa schools at six months.

The meager salaries of the teachers were paid at the end of the year in one sum.  An effort was made to have monthly payments for the teachers but the Board voted to continue yearly payments.  It must have been difficult for a teacher to work six months with no pay and then at the end of the years' work to receive as payment in full $150, or possibly $180 for the year.  This made it necessary for the teacher to have some other source of income or occupation for the remainder of the year, and it made it almost impossible to secure well-trained teachers.  Yet there were in those days men and women who, as public school teachers, were a splendidly constructive influence of training the boys and girls who, partly because of that training, were the leaders in the development of the sparsely settled expanse of Hillsborough County into the great center of agricultural, commercial and industrial life of a great part of the state of Florida.

We find mere mention in these records of the names of a few teachers, as Stephen M. Sparkman who for many years afterwards was the chairman of the important Rivers and Harbors Committee in Congress; William P. Haisley, who in later years was a strong influence in Florida as state school superintendent; Marietta Cuscaden, Miss Prevatt and Mrs. A. H. Nunez, whom great numbers of the leading citizens of the county have remembered with gratitude and affection because of their wise guidance during their childhood school years.


The First High School Curriculum at Tampa School No. 1

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