(pronounced RO-bless)

The Robles are an old and important family in the history of the Tampa area. Joseph Robles was an immigrant from Malaga in the Andalusia region of Spain, who came to the United States in 1832 as a stowaway.  He jumped ship at St. Mary's Island, and hid in a well until the ship left port according to family tradition. He then went up into Georgia. Unable to speak English he made signs to indicate he was hungry and would work for food. He lived with the Michael Garrison family and worked on their farm for food and shelter, and also learned to speak English.

Joseph married Mary Ann Garrison on December 12, 1841 at Ft. Fanning, Florida.  Mary Ann was born on February 15, 1827 in Effingham County, Georgia. She was the daughter of Michael Garrison and Mary Zetour.
Joseph and his new family moved down into Florida, obtaining a Federal land patent in 1850 in what is now Hernando County.

See Hernando Co. land patent location

Robles and his family moved to Hillsborough County in the 1850s and in 1878, Joseph Robles purchased 80 acres from the Federal government, around what is now known as Robles Park in Tampa. 

See Hillsborough Co. land patent location

Joseph Robles made significant contributions to this area during his lifetime, which earned him the honor of having his name commemorated on the park and also a nearby elementary school. At age 84, he was described as "a hale and hearty old man with hardly a gray hair to his head." Joseph died in 1907 at the age of 89.  Mary Ann Garrison Robles died from pneumonia on April 19, 1886 and was buried in the Old Robles Cemetery and was later reinterred in Mary Robles Tanner's plot in Woodlawn Cemetery.


According to a descendant,

"He couldn’t speak English and he eventually migrated up Georgia and worked on a farm up there and one of the daughters befriended him and taught him English and eventually married him. They came back to Florida and over the years moved down the state and finally arrived here in Tampa and homesteaded that area."

The land was covered in orange and citrus groves. At that time, Robles Lake was only a large pond on a portion of the larger homestead. Mary Louise Smith, a descendant of Joseph Robles,  remembers, "It’s a lake now; they used to call it a pond when I was growing up. I had always heard of Robles Pond. But, it wasn’t even part of the city, of course.  It was fifteen miles from the city, then."  Mary Louise and her sister, Ruth, two of the three daughters of John Horace Robles and Mattie Platt-Robles, were raised along the shores of Platt Lake in the northern part of Hillsborough County. The sisters are not only a part of the Robles family, but of the equally long-standing Platt family. Ruth’s husband, Murray, is a member of the Meares family, another Tampa family with deep roots. These three are not only descendants of three very important families to the history of Tampa, but their families are closely related by blood and friendship.

Joseph was a small man of about 5 foot 4 inches and of small build with blue eyes. He fought during the Seminole War (1835-1842) and helped to defend a Tampa salt works plant from Yankee soldiers during the Civil War.  It is said Joseph made a statement at the beginning of the Civil War that he did not agree with fighting against the country he had pledged to support but he had to follow the state in which he resided.  Joseph is credited with spotting a Yankee gun ship coming in while standing guard. 

The Orange Grove Hotel during the 1876-77 winter season
See historical marker in downtown Tampa where hotel was located
The Orange Grove Hotel was located near the present day intersection of Kennedy Blvd. & East St. See historical marker in downtown Tampa where hotel was located.  The hotel was built in 1859 as the home of cattleman William B. Hooker, Florida's pre-Civil War "cattle king". During the Civil War, it was used as Confederate Headquarters. It is where Tampa pioneer Joe Robles marched his captive Union soldiers in the winter of 1863. (See "The Courage of Joe Robles" below) 

In 1866, Hooker converted it into a hotel. 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.

The large image used above is courtesy of William LaMartin, with ultimate source being the Florida State Archives Memory collection.


In the fall of 1864, Joseph Robles had just finished his stint as a Confederate scout, having been wounded and sent home.  Instead of ceasing his war efforts, he joined the home guard--a civilian auxiliary.  Robles was standing watch near a salt works owned by the Confederate government, located on McKay Creek. Union gunboats had previously destroyed it and locals had rebuilt it when they could.  The salt works were under the jurisdiction of Captain James McKay, Sr., the Commissary Agent of the district of Florida.  A small detachment guarding the works was away at the time when Robles, superintendent of the plant, spotted a Federal gunboat as it entered the bay and anchored about a mile offshore.  A landing party in a small boat approached, presumably to see whether the salt works had been restored. Robles, a wiry man, hid in a big boiler and waited.  As the Union soldiers came ashore, Robles shouted orders from inside the boiler and fired his 10-gauge shotgun into the group just as they landed.  As he began firing, he shouted orders from inside the boiler, to imaginary companions.  The enemy assumed there must be a strong force strategically concealed in the brush. Accounts vary as to how many if any soldiers were killed or wounded, but there's no doubt that Robles disarmed the remaining Yankees.  

Out of ammunition and his shotgun empty, the 135 pound Spaniard victoriously marched the eight captured Union soldiers through the town of Tampa and delivered them to the Confederate Commander's headquarters in the old Orange Grove Hotel.  His Civil War stunt is his most spectacular contribution proving he was extremely brave and perhaps a bit zealous about his home.

Joseph apparently was a very talented man, being accomplished as a surveyor, farmer, and builder. He received a homestead land grant and added to it until he owned many acres along the Hillsborough River.  Joseph joined the Methodist Church and it is said that he would not allow his children to learn Spanish nor attend a Catholic Church. One story was told about his leaving Spain in order to avoid becoming a priest.

Robles’ productive and pioneering spirit drove him to organize volunteers for the building of roadways such as Florida Avenue, which made more land accessible for sale after the Civil War. Descendant Mary Louise Smith remembers: “He opened the road which is now Florida Avenue; he opened it with some of the other men who lived down there, with the City of Tampa’s permission, out to Columbus Drive where the lake is. He opened the first road that is now Florida Avenue. They got the horses and mules and hauled out all the trees and made a road. Always been Florida Avenue since then.”

Robles spirit also drove him to experiment with growing different types of citrus and various other fruits and vegetables to diversify his crop selection. He is credited with growing the first avocados in Hillsborough County. 

i.     Michael F. Robles, b. 1842, Hernando Co., FL; d. Bef. May 1865, Camp Chase.
ii.    John Godeff Robles, b. 18 December 1844, Hernando County, FL; d. 16 September 1936, Tampa, FL.
        He married Georgia Cowart, they had at least one child
iii.   Joseph Paul Robles, b. 14 February 1847, Hernando County, FL; d. 28 February 1951, Tampa, FL.
        He married Martha Anne Boyett, they had 12 children
iv.   Seaborn L. Robles b. 1851; d. 1942, Tampa, FL.
       He married Laura Hanna, they had 5 children
v.    Green W. Robles, b. 22 August 1855, Tampa, FL; d. 23 November 1929, Tampa, FL.
       He married Sarah E. Townsend, they had 2 children
vi.   Francis Marion Robles, b. 26 February 1858, Tampa, FL; d. 7 September 1933, Tampa, FL.
       He married Kate Binkley, they had 2 children
vii.  Horace Theodore Robles, b. 1860; d. 1935, Tampa, FL.
       He married Amy Moon, they had 3 children
viii. Mary O. Robles, b. 5 November 1862, Tampa, FL; d. 6 March 1928, Tampa, FL.
       She married William C. Tanner, they had 5 children
ix.   Frances A. Robles, b. 12 April 1865, Tampa, FL; d. 11 February 1958, Tampa, FL.
       She married Arthur Weston Cuscaden, they had 3 children
x.    Julia A. Robles, b. 1869, Tampa, FL; d. 1941, Tampa, FL.
        She married William W. Harris, they had 1 child
        She married William B. Penn, they had 4 children



1860 Federal Census of Tampa, Joseph Robles and wife Mary with 7 sons:
Michael, John, Joseph, Seaburn, Green, Francis and Horace.


Photo provided by Linda Fay Magee Murrhee at "Find A Grave"


Joseph Paul Robles

When Joseph Paul Robles was old enough to shave, he made it his decision to be fashionable and decided to grow a goatee.  It never left his chin and waggled through many a fascinating stories throughout his years.  

Joseph P. Robles was born Feb. 14, 1847 in Bennett County, Florida, which later was absorbed by Hernando County after it was created from a part of Hillsborough County.  He was 14 when the Civil War started.  At 16 he joined the Florida militia and at 17, the regular Florida militia troops.  Most of his war service was spent guarding the Confederate cotton boats along the Gulf Coast.  He witnessed the Yankee gunboats just off where Davis Islands are now, maintaining their constant vigil against southern efforts to run the blockade. 

Joseph Paul Robles married Martha Ann Boyett (1853-1932) in 1870 in Hillsborough County.


In 1882, Joseph Paul Robles homesteaded a 160 acre piece of land in Hillsborough County.  It was bounded on the north by Sligh Ave; the south by Robles Ave. (now Hanna Ave.); the west by Livingston Ave. (now 22nd St.) and on the east by 30th St.  When he and his family moved to their farm, only about 5 miles from town, they were the only non-Indian family in a square mile.  Indians lived in the woods and occasionally went on rampages when settlers traded them "firewater" for hogs.  Soon though, other pioneer families began to settle around the Robles place. The Henry Murphy, the James Morris and the Tom Bourquardez families became neighbors and close friends. The Robles built their home on Hanna Ave. which  was then called Livingston Ave. With the help of his brother, Seaborn, and his 3 friends mentioned above, Joseph P. Robles purchased the hard pine and cypress lumber needed to build the areas first one room school house. See location of this property


The information in blue text and the cemetery photo below
come from Janet Whitten-Roller's web page here.


Between 1871 and 1897, Joseph P. and Martha had 12 children, all born on the homestead and all formally educated in the 'Livingston Avenue School'.  Two of Joseph's sons, Jerry and (John) Horace were in business together as stonecutters.  Although their business eventually succumbed to bankruptcy, many of the grave markers that they made still stand in Tampa's Woodlawn Cemetery. In 1888, Joseph Paul's brother, Horace Theodore Robles, built a house on Hanna Ave. (back then, Robles Ave.). The house remains today, having been deemed a historical landmark in 2006, because of the great contributions to the area by the Robles family. Here you can see the house after a recent renovation by a reality group, whom are using the building as a leasing office for 'Grand Oaks Apartments' at 2604 E. Hanna Ave.

The Robles house at 2604 E. Hanna

In 1914, (John) Horace Robles (son of Joseph Paul Robles) bought the old Livingston Ave. schoolhouse, knowing that the materials used in construction were of high quality. He took all the materials, and those of an old church and combined them to build his home on Lake Platt. The house is still there and as of 1986 was still in the Robles family.  Joseph Robles Park, once Avon Park and renamed in 1931, was named for Joseph Paul's father, born in Spain.

On his 100th birthday--Valentine's Day, 1947--Joseph P. Robles was presented with a scroll from city and county officials, which read:  "You have been spared to your loved ones far beyond the allotted span of man, and we join them in the expression of gratitude to the Father of all for His gracious favor."  Until his 103rd birthday, he entertained visitors regularly but had to forego that pleasure because his family feared he might become too excited.  He always got a lift from visits and with amazing mental ability, he could spin story after story about life in the state he never once left.  Asked what he did on his 100th birthday, he drawled, "Aw, just swapped lies, that's all."

His philosophy, gathered over generations of experience, was "Think twice before you speak once.  Be sure you're right and you'll never be wrong."  He agreed with Gen. Sherman's view that "War is hell" and was a bad thing.  But Robles said that as long as there are two men living, there would be war.  The May 30, 1949 issue of LIFE Magazine published an article with photos of Civil War veterans who were still living.  This photo of Joseph P. Robles was included.

After living in Dixie for 104 years, Joseph P. Robles died in that same land he fought for as a member of the once-mighty gray-clad forces of the Confederacy.  The last Confederate veteran of this area, he died of a heart attack at his little home in northeast Tampa where he was so frequently visited by his 10 children, 56 grandchildren, 53 great-grandchildren, and 12 great-great grandchildren.

Joseph Paul Robles & Martha had the following children: .

Mary O. Robles               b1872
Daisy Martha Robles       b1873  married to Thomas Weeks
Joseph Paul Robles, Jr.  b1874

Jefferson Lee Robles      b1875
Michael Oscar Robles      b1876-d1877
Jeremiah "Jerry" Green Robles  b1881-d1971 married to Martha Delilah Durant
John Horace Robles        b1882   married to Mattie H.
Katherine Julia Robles   b1885-d1953 married Edward Clayton Palmer Sr. & James "Jimmy" Burns
Herbert Lawrence Robles  b1888-d1968
Edith Robles                   b1891
Marion Waldo Robles      b1894
Alatha Frances Robles    b1897

The Robles-Bourquardez Cemetery is a tiny place with all of 21 people buried there. It seems long forgotten, and sadly neglected. With the old oak trees serving as an umbrella, the brick walls are crumbling and the moss has begun to take over. Some stones lay next to their pedestals, while some are simply missing. Just two feet from a busy road, it goes unnoticed.  The cemetery is located on Sligh Avenue on the left as you head east on Sligh from I-275, about a block before 30th Street.

Photo from Some of the county's long dead lie in strange places, such as private yards

Joseph Paul Robles and Martha Ann Boyett Robles were first buried in the Robles Family Cemetery but their bodies were moved and reburied in Woodlawn Cemetery in Tampa in August 1979. The body of their infant son Michael Oscar Robles was also transferred and reburied there.


Joseph Paul Robles is buried now in Woodlawn Cemetery in the "Oak Garden" of the "Old Section".

The information in blue text and the cemetery photo
comes from Janet Whitten-Roller's web page here.

Joseph P. Robles,  wife Martha and 5 of their sons
Photo provided by Linda Fay Magee Murrhee at "Find A Grave"


Francis Marion Robles
University of Michigan Class of 1890 photo

Joe Robles, Sr.'s  son, Francis Marion Robles, was born Feb. 26, 1858* in Tampa. He married Katie S. Binkley in Tampa on Dec. 22, 1882.  Katie was a native of Terre Haute, Indiana.   Francis obtained his law degree from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, graduating in 1890.  He practiced law the following year, becoming the first lawyer of Hispanic descent to practice in Hillsborough County.  He then entered the cattle business as inspector for Hillsborough County and resigned that position in 1900 to become a candidate for the office of County Judge.  (On the 1900 census in Tampa, his occupation was "butcher.")  He was elected without opposition and took his place on the bench on January 8, 1901, serving in this capacity until Jan. 1909.  He then served as Circuit Court Judge of the 13th Judicial Circuit, beginning his first term in July of 1911 and a second term on July 1, 1917.   Judge Robles was a member of the Democratic organizations and of the Order of the Odd Fellows.  Francis and Katie Robles had two sons, Ibert P. Robles (b. circa 1885) and Orryl S. Robles (b. circa 1895).  Judge Robles died in Tampa on Sept. 7, 1933, age 75.

*The 1860 census of Tampa (above) shows Francis was 3 years old by June 1860.  He may have been born Feb. 1857.

According to Murray Mears,

"Probably the most illustrious member of the family was Judge Robles....My family home was on what they called Michigan Ave., now they call it Columbus Drive. He would ride on a horse, all decked out with his boots on and everything. He would come by riding a horse. He wasn’t paying too much attention to us, I was just a child at the time, and I could see him as he’d go by, and that’s my memory of Judge Robles. He was quite a character in his own way."


Judge Robles, circa 1911
Photo courtesy of Michelle Hanko, great granddaughter

Special thanks to Michelle for her assistance in providing information about her Robles family roots.


Joe Robles' daughter, Frances Robles, married Arthur Weston Cuscaden, another early Tampa pioneer.  Cuscaden settled in Tampa from Ohio in 1878 and grew some of the first orange tree orchards in the area that became Ybor City.  In 1935, Cuscaden's orchard and property was cleared to build the park that now bears his name, Cuscaden Park, and was the popular venue for league baseball and swimming at the Cuscaden Pool.



Orange groves at Ybor City, 1889



Joseph Robles' former homestead became Adams Park when the land was purchased by the city in Feb. 1925.  During the administration of Mayor D. B. McKay, on Feb. 14, 1928, by a 10 to 2 vote, the city board of representatives changed the name of Adams Park to Joseph Robles Park, "in honor of one of the city's pioneers and father of Circuit Judge Francis Marion Robles."  The park was originally named for City Commissioner W. A. Adams who was a member of the board or city commissioners during the administration of Mayor Perry Wall,

Robles Lake is part of the park located between Avon Avenue and Interstate 275.  The area’s transformation first began toward the end of the nineteenth century as the city expanded with the influx of northerners and Tampa Heights became the first suburb of Tampa ( The lake has undergone as much of a transformation since that time as the area surrounding it has. Once a rural stand of orange groves located outside of the city, Robles Lake is now part of a park surrounded by buildings and a public housing complex. The pond was transformed into a lake by  the Tampa Parks Department in 1931 as part of a beautification project.  The pond was dredged and a beautification project enhanced the natural foliage.  Today the park is still in the Tampa Heights area and bordered by public housing. It serves as an oasis to the neighborhoods that surround it. Tampa Heights underwent a re-development project, including a Greenprinting project (sponsored by the Mayor’s Beautification Program) in June 2004 to revitalize Robles Park.

Mary Louise notes that the family has no affiliation with the lake today, but they keep up-to-date on the changes to the area. Mary Louise comments on the park, "It’s nice. It’s nice to have."

The Robles family has now branched in many different directions and his homestead has become an important park to the community that currently surrounds it. 


Some narrative is based on an April 12, 2004 interview by Alexis Broadbent-Sykes with descendants of the Robles family: Mary Louise Smith, Ruth Meares, and her husband W. Murray Mears.

Genealogical Records of the Pioneers of Tampa and of Some Who Came After Them

City Preparing To Polish Robles Park's Rough Spots





From the Bureau of Land Management, Government Land Office website:

Names Patentee: JOSEPH ROBLES Survey State: FLORIDA
Acres: 160 Metes/Bounds: No Title Transfer Issue Date: 4/19/1850

Land Office: Newnansville Cancelled: No
U.S. Reservations: No
Mineral Reservations: No
Authority: August 4, 1842: Armed Occupation Act (5 Stat. 502)

          Click below to see original land patent certificate
Township Range Counties
SENE  20/  23-S  20-E  Hernando 
NESE  20/  23-S  20-E  Hernando 
SWNW  21/  23-S  20-E  Hernando 
NWSW  21/  23-S  20-E  Hernando 
1825 Survey of Township 23 south, Range 20 East
Regarding the 4 red squares in the center of the survey below:
The upper left red square is the South East quadrant of the North East quarter of section 20
The lower left red square is the North East quadrant of the South East quarter of section 20
The upper right red square is the South West quadrant of the North West quarter of section 21
The lower right red square is the North West quadrant of the South West quarter of section 21
This corresponds to the column in the above table, "Fract. Section"

Using I was able to search for this township, range and these two sections to determine the longitude and latitude of the corners of each section. Then using Google maps, I searched for each point by longitude and latitude and connected the points to determine the same sections on a modern-day map.  Sections 20 and 21 are outlined in white below.  The red square marks the boundaries of the 4 quadrants of Joseph Robles 160 acre land patent.

Map of Hernando County below shows the 1850 Robles property marked by the orange marker, between Hayman Rd. and Neff Lake, southeast of Brooksville.

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JOSEPH ROBLES 1878 Land patent in Hillsborough County

From the Bureau of Land Management, Government Land Office website:

Names Patentee: JOSEPH ROBLES Survey State: FLORIDA
Acres: 80.44 Metes/Bounds: No Title Transfer Issue Date: 11/30/1878

Land Office: Gainesville Cancelled: No
U.S. Reservations: No
Mineral Reservations: No
Authority: May 20, 1862: Homestead Entry
Original (12 Stat. 392) Document Numbers Document Nr.: 1226 Misc. Doc. Nr.: 1240 Accession/Serial Nr.: FL0690__.225 BLM Serial Nr.: FL NO S/N


Township Range Fract.
Meridian State Counties
Click to view actual land patent certificate
E½SE  12/  29-S  18-E  No  Tallahassee  FL  Hillsborough 

1852 Survey of Hillsborough County, Township 29 south, Range 18 east
Brown square marks section 12
Red lines divide section 12 into NW, NE, SW & SE quarters
East half of the SE quarter of section 12 marked with blue rectangle, 80.44 acres.

Coordinates of corners of section 12:
Corners  NW 27.9815548, -82.4676367
  NE 27.9815449, -82.4511566
  SE 27.9668648, -82.4511767
  SW 27.9669049, -82.4676634

The larger, outer red square below marks the coordinates above for section 12
The blue rectangle in the map below is the 80 acres purchased by Joseph Robles in 1878, it is the area designated as the East half of the southeast quarter of section 12.

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Names Patentee: JOSEPH P ROBLES Survey State: FLORIDA  County:  Hillsborough
Acres: 160           Metes/Bounds: No

Title Transfer Issue Date: 8/25/1882
Land Office: Gainesville
Cancelled: No U.S. Reservations: No
Mineral Reservations: No
Authority: May 20, 1862: Homestead EntryOriginal (12 Stat. 392)


Township Range Fract.
Meridian State Counties  
NW  32/  28-S  19-E  No  Tallahassee  FL  Hillsborough   

1852 Survey showing Township 28 south, Range 19 east.  Section 32 marked in red square, divided into quadrants.
Blue square marks northwest quarter of section 32.

Coordinates of section 32:

Corners  NW 28.0106048, -82.4346266 Click to view document
  NE 28.0107148, -82.4181867

  SE 27.9961549, -82.4182767
  SW 27.9960949, -82.4347368

The map below shows section 32 marked in the red square with the northwest quarter marked in the blue square.  22nd Street was known as Livingston Ave and Hanna Ave was known as Robles Ave in the early 1900s.

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