The oldest house in the Tampa area at its previous location at 3210 E. 8th Avenue as seen Nov. 29, 2016.
Photo by Chris Urso, Tampa Bay Times.

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Sources for the historic house build date

Untangling the Stringers
When was Dr. Stringer born?

Dr. Sheldon Stringer, Sr. timeline and bio

Tampa/Brooksville  Stringers censuses

Tampa/Brooksville Stringers family tree

The Stalnaker years
 Rescue by Stalnaker Bros. Imboden Stalnaker

Judge Leo Stalnaker

Family photos from Gianna Russo, Imboden's great-granddaughter

 Judge Stalnaker courtroom scene



Tampa before 1850
Who was here and when did they arrive?

The Spanish land grants and the Hackleys

Spain cedes Florida to the U.S. - Adams/Onis Treaty

The Fort Brooke years

Judge Augustus Steele

Tampa's revival, surveying and platting

Surveyor John Jackson

Conclusions for the Stringer house thus far


The 1848 hurricane - Could the Stringer house have survived it?

Were the Stringers in Tampa before the "Great Gale of 1848"

Descriptions of the hurricane from various sources: C.A. Winchell, Thomas E. Jackson, W.G. Ferris and son Josiah,
James McKay, Jr., E.L. Robinson,  Canter Brown Jr.,

Did Tampa carpenter John T. Givens build the historic Stringer house?

The life of Tampa pioneer John T. Givens, his arrival and contributions by Chas. Harrison in his "Genealogical Records of the Pioneers of Tampa"

Darwin Branch Givens

Development of the Stringer house block, city hall, and the courthouse square to the north of it.

The City of Tampa is established, holds its first election and is organized.

1890 City Hall
The McKay and Breaker courthouses, the 1892 Kendrick/JA Wood courthouse

Who was Dr. Sheldon Stringer Sr's father? What was Mary Stringer's maiden name?

Did Mr. Stringer make it to Tampa?

The Edgecombe County Stringers - could Dr. Stringer's parents come from there?

Other related Stringers: Texas, Missouri & Wyoming



This 1884 Sanborn map shows the area on Tampa Street between Jackson and Washington where John Jackson's home was located in 1848.  The dwelling in purple shows the Stringer house still in existence.  Notice the proximity to the river of the location of the Jackson home compared to that of the Stringer home.  There is no doubt that this whole area flooded. 

And finally, Mary Stringer would have been around 48 years old at the time.  Thomas Jackson may have considered her to be an elderly or old lady at the time of the storm, but Thomas claims it was his parents who related these events to him.  John Jackson was 36 in 1848.  Would he have referred to Mary as being "elderly" or an "old lady?"



In "The most terrible gale ever known" - Tampa and the Hurricane of 1848, by Canter Brown, Jr.,  he described Tampa outside of the Ft. Brooke garrison before the hurricane:

A few houses dotted the landscape inside Tampa’s surveyed limits east of the river. Among them, widow Mary Stringer occupied a dwelling where Tampa’s city hall now stands. The A. H. Henderson family lived on Florida Avenue at Whiting Street, while surveyor John Jackson had erected a home on Tampa Street, between Jackson and Washington. The Darling & Griffin store (later called Kennedy & Darling) sat at the corner of Whiting and Tampa Streets. East along the north side of Whiting Street near the river (Water Street) rested the town’s principal hostelry, the Palmer House Hotel, operated by Port Collector John M. Palmer and his wife Margaret F. Palmer. A walk of a "few hundred feet" north brought visitors to the L. G. Covacevich home. At or near the foot of Lafayette Street close to the river came Judge Steele’s former residence, a Seminole War blockhouse, and the Simon Turman and William Ashley homes.  A "trail" connected the heart of town lying along the riverside and Whiting Street with the remote courthouse site.

You can read Canter Brown's entire article here in the PDF at the USF Digital Library Collections.

Two of the sources for Brown's article are newspaper articles. One was Thomas E. Jackson, "Storm of 1848 Was Real Thriller, Says Thos. E. Jackson, Pioneer Tampan, In a Letter to the Times," Tampa Daily Times, October 18, 1924.

In this Times article, the author uses comments by Thomas E. Jackson, a son of the first surveyor of Tampa, former short-time mayor and merchant, John Jackson, to corroborate details of an article about the great gale which appeared a week earlier.  Thomas was born in 1852, four years after the hurricane.  His account is by memory of what his parents and others may have told him.

THE TAMPA TIMES - Oct. 18, 1924

Notice that Thomas Jackson describes the scene at his parents' house, but does not say who the "elderly lady" was.

This newspaper article can be seen in its entirety here at TampaPix. Click that newspaper article to see it full size.

The article above references an article of the previous week. That article by C. A. Winchell describes much more of the hurricane.  His sources of the storm's details were existing accounts by W. G. Ferris and his son, Josiah Ferris. The article first describes Tampa before the storm, then the details of the hurricane, then the aftermath. 

Above, the only mention of the Stringer family in that article.

The first page of this newspaper article can seen in its entirety here at TampaPix.  Then click the newspaper article to see it full size. 

The article concludes on a 2nd page here.



More from Canter Brown, Jr.'s  article "The most terrible gale ever known" - Tampa and the Hurricane of 1848"

The blow arrived in earnest at about 8:00 a.m. on Monday, the 25th.  A shift in the wind from the east to the southeast heralded the change. That night, the bay glowed with a phosphorescent sheen. Come Sunday morning, winds commenced gusting from the east, followed by intermittent showers.

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

Most Tampans failed to react quickly to the threat. As the winds grew in intensity, they looked on from their homes as live oaks and shrubs took the brunt of the early going. "In the morning before the storm came to its full height," recorded an Axtell family member, "we watched from the front windows the falling of some of the most beautiful trees that ever graced Tampa."

Then, at 10:00 a.m. the tide commenced to rise. A young woman who endured the storm insisted that "at one time it rose five feet in fifteen minutes." The water quickly submerged the shore, blown toward the post and village with terrific force by the hurricane winds. Caught unprepared, local residents panicked, especially those who lived near the water. "Our house was blown down in part, and the waters from the bay swept around it in fearful violence," declared Juliet Axtell. "We escaped from it in the midst of the fearful tempests," she continued, "the roofs of buildings flying round us and the tempest raging at such a rate that we were unable to keep our feet or wear any extra clothing such as a shawl, to protect us from the piercing rain."

The Ferrises, McKays, and others who did not enjoy military or quasi-military standing headed into the village to the Palmer House. [This was on the north side of Whiting St. near the river.] Many arrived between 11:00 a.m. and noon to discover that "dinner" had been laid out on tables in the hotel’s dining room. At about the time Ferris reached safety, likely just after 1:00 p.m., the tempest reached its full power.

An account which suggests that a tidal surge or "wave" hurled the flood waters to new levels, W. G. Ferris witnessed the results. "Looking southward he saw the commissary building floating directly towards the store, and it was apparently coming ’end over end,’" the Ferris account related. "Part of the time it seemed to ride the big waves, then it would sink away between them, but all the time, and that means only a few seconds, it rolled and tumbled straight on towards the doomed buildings. Finally it struck the warehouse.

As the tidal surge or wave sped the flood toward Tampa’s higher elevations, the panic originally felt by those who resided near the water spread generally. For example, an estimated fourteen or fifteen persons had gathered at the newly constructed and sturdy John Jackson home. Ellen Jackson, a bride of only one year, made them comfortable in the absence of her husband, who was away with a survey crew near today’s Pasco County community of Elfers. The refugees’ sense of comfort and safety soon proved false, however. The rising tide surged under the house, and its waters poured into the building.

Events at the Jackson home then proceeded at a maddening pace. One elderly woman, likely Mary Stringer,** expressed the terror that she felt by voicing an acute fear of getting her feet wet. "When the water began to come into the house this lady and others got up on the chairs and from there to the tables," recalled son Thomas E. Jackson. "When the house began to rock on the blocks, a change to some other refuge was contemplated," he added. "The old lady selected old Captain Paine, a large portly gentleman, to bear her out and keep her feet dry." Jackson concluded, "This Captain Paine consented, but, unfortunately, when he left the porch, he became entangled in a mass of drifting fire place wood, and the couple were soon prostrate in the surging waters." Subsequently, the house floated off its blocks and "crossed the street and bumped into three large hickory trees that barred its way for hours."

After 2:00 p.m., the winds began slowly to subside as they shifted from southwest to west-north-west. Still, according to Major Wade, they "raged with great violence until past 4 P.M., after which they lulled very much toward 8 P.M."

** It appears that Brown has added the suggestion that the elderly woman in the Jackson home was "likely Mary Stringer." It is Thomas Jackson who first describes the frightened woman as an "elderly lady" and "old lady" but doesn't  identify her.  Would Thomas' mother have described Mary Stringer as an elderly or old lady at age 50 or so?  No mention is made by Jackson of Mary's children escaping the Jackson house; Sheldon would have been around 13, Laura around 11, and if Samuel was there, he would have been 17.  It is doubtful that Mary would have left her house to take refuge in another house without her children. If she was in the Jackson home with her family, it probably would have been because the Jackson home was thought to be sturdier.   But the Jackson home, at Washington and Tampa Streets, was closer to the bay and the river and would have flooded from the tidal surge before the Stringer home.  Would Mary have left her house to go to one closer to the flooding?

The Great Gale of 1848 at Wikipedia

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

E. L Robinson's account of the storm:

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

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

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

During Monday afternoon the wind died away and the waters receded somewhat, giving the villagers an opportunity of viewing the damage. In the garrison they found that the little church on the beach, the soldiers' quarters near by, C. B. Allen's boarding house, the Indian agent's office and the Ferris property had been wrecked, and all other buildings in that locality more or less damaged. North of Whiting street, the block house and the Turman and Ashley residences had been swept away. The roof of W. S. Spencer's house was blown off. The residence of Capt. James McKay, Sr., was spared.

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

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

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

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



Primary sources for pre-1850 Tampa history:

Tampapix Home



Historic photos courtesy of
USF Special Collections Digital Archives**
University of Florida Digital Collections, George Smathers Library
Florida Memory Project Photograph Collection, State Archives
Burgert Brothers Collection, HCPLC

Library of Congress Digital Collections

**I have given up with linking to the USF Digital collections.  Each time they change their interface viewer app and revamp their site, they reconfigure the URLs to their materials.  It's impossible for me to keep up with changing my links.  Each time, it becomes more user unfriendly, and geared more toward casual visitors on mobile devices and not toward the serious researcher on a home PC.