- Born: 22 Jan 1815, St Mary's, Florida
- Marriage: Dr. Robert Andrew Jackson Jr. in 1835 in Tampa, Florida
- Died: 24 Mar 1907, Tampa, Florida at age 92
PIONEER WOMEN IN TAMPA LIVED DANGEROUS
LIVES DURING INDIAN WAR
By: D.B. McKay
Three very remarkable women were reared from infancy and nearly reached the century mark in the territory now comprised within the corporate limits of the city of Tampa. They were sisters, and were daughters of the first white family to erect a home here outside the military reservation known as Fort Brooke. The head of the family was Levi Collar, and his three daughters of whom I am writing were Mrs. Robert (Nancy) Jackson, Mrs. Charles (Cordelia) Hoey, and Mrs. William T. (Jeannette) Haskins.
The original home of the Collar family was at a Georgia settlement known as Rosemary Bluff on St. Mary's River. Mr. Collar, his young wife and a party of his neighbors were driven from their homes by Indians in 1815. They fled south into Florida, and the first night out the first child of the Collars (Nancy) was born in a deserted cabin they discovered in the forest. Two days later the flight was resumed and continued until the party reached Alachua County. Mr. Collar cleared and planted a tract near what is now the city of Gainsville, but after two years' residence there he became ill and was advised by his friends to move to the Gulf Coast on the theory that the salt air would benefit him. He made the trip to what is now Tampa on horseback and was so pleased with what he found that he decided to take a homestead.
He selected 160 acres on the bay front extending east from the mouth of the river and returned to Alachua County to gather his crops and move his family. He returned to Tampa with his family the next year (1822) and was astounded to find that during his absence the government had set aside the land he had selected for his homestead as a military reservation and had troops encamped on it. He had neglected to file notice of his intention at the land office and therefore had no claim on the land. His next selection was a tract on the east shore of the bay at the mouth of what is now known as Six Mile Creek, but which after his location there was called Collar's Creek.
He farmed there successfully for several years, selling his products to the garrison at Fort Brooke and to government vessels which entered the port. He developed a large herd of cattle and hogs, and established trade with the island of Key West, using the fishing smacks which occasionally entered the bay to transport his farm products, beef and pork. But again he was a sufferer at the hands of the Indians. In the fall of 1835 an Indian who he had befriended came to the home of the Collars, warned them that the Indians were on the warpath and entreated them to seek safety at Fort Brooke. The message was discredited at first, but the disappearance of horses and other stock and other depredations led the family to the conclusion that their only safety was in going at once to the garrison, six miles away, and placing themselves under the protection of the soldiers. But their horses and boats had been stolen and they seemed to have no means of escape. To their great relief - and none too soon - two soldiers who had learned of their plight appeared with a boat and rescued the terror-stricken family together with others who had gathered there from homes considered less
secure than that of the Collars.
Twenty-one women and children were hurried into the boat, loading it so heavily that there was only a few inches of freeboard. None of their belongings could be taken aboard, as any more weight would have swamped the boat. Fortunately the bay was very calm, and the trip to the fort was made without mishap. Scarcely had they landed when the reddened sky above the homes of the settlers told them of the destruction of their homes and other products of years of toil and sacrifice. At the fort the party of refugees were given temporary shelter in the hospital building until they could provide shelter for themselves. Mr. Collar was engaged as a guide for the troops on account of his familiarity with the country.
Presently an order came from headquarters - then at St. Augustine, I believe - for one of the two companies then at Fort Brooke to march to the relief of Fort King, near Ocala. Mrs. Jackson told me a few years before her death - and she also told Mrs. Cynthia Farr, who wrote a thrilling story of her life - some details of the reaction at Fort Brooke to this order which I have not seen recorded in any report of the ill-fated Dade expedition. She said that when the order came, Major Belden, commander of one of the companies, declared that before he would go on this expedition to face what he considered certain death for himself and his men he would resign his commission. But Major Dade, commander of the other company, said he would not be considered a coward - he would prefer to die than have the United States put that brand on him.
Hasty preparations were made for the departure of the gallant major and his brave men. In Mrs. Jackson's words, "My sister, Cordelia and I and all the other young women we could reach sat up all night and made 100 powder sacks for Major Dade and his company, and saw them off at daylight."
Addressing me she said "Your mother was in that party of young women." (The family of my great grandfather on the my mother's side, Rev. David Simmons left his plantation in Simmons Hammock and sought protection at Fort Brooke because of the Indian outbreak in 1835. They, like the Collars, had been warned by a friendly Indian of the impending hostilities and had also noted the disappearance of horses, cattle and hogs.)
Continuing her narrative of the historic scene Mrs. Jackson said: "the soldiers stood in line while the major and his officers came and bade us all goodbye. His words at parting were very brave and tears were in many eyes. Before Major Dade and his men had covered half the distance to Fort King they were ambushed and massacred by the savages - all but one, a soldier named Bowen. He was seriously wounded and feigned death, his body being nearly covered by the bodies of his slain comrades. He remained motionless until the Indians left, and at nightfall, though terribly wounded and weak, he crawled away and in time made his way back to Fort Brooke.
"For three weeks our family lived in two small tents near the fort", Mrs. Jackson continued. "We were in constant fear of death. We did not dare to go outside or cook any food, but we did very well on hard bread and water. We frequently saw Indians skulking in the nearby forest. Major Belden burned several houses on the outer edge of the garrison, fearing that the Indians might enter them and attack the small garrison. I tell you, it was a glad day when General Gaines arrived with reinforcements for our little company. This renewed the courage of everyone."
The family continued to live in tents until a ship arrived to begin removal of the captured Indians
to the West. As the ship would be in port several months while the "cargo" was being assembled, the Collar family and other refugees, whose homes had been destroyed by the savages were invited to live on the vessel until the time for loading the Indians arrived.
Nancy by that time was quite a large girl, and being expert with the needle, she sewed for many to aid in the support of the family. When the ship sailed away with its human cargo the Collars again made their home in a wigwam - but for only a short time, as they were invited to use several vacant rooms in General Jessup's quarters. "If we had been the family of a general they could not have done more for our comfort and happiness", said Mrs. Jackson. "My sister Cordelia and I, quite proud young ladies then, felt awfully lifted."
The Collars were very grateful for shelter, as it was in the rainy season. Even a dry floor to sleep on would have been considered a luxury, but now they had clean mattresses stuffed with hay and new blankets with the United States brand on them.
But this happy period of their existence was interrupted by an epidemic of measles and "camp fever" among the troops. The Collar family was not spared - four of the smaller children died and mother became desperately ill. But for the good service of Dr. Robert Jackson of the hospital staff it is probable that she also would have died. Dr. Jackson was described as a remarkably handsome young man, with "fine manners". He had been a student at West Point, and had the distinguishing bearing typical of graduates of that great institution. "I was so grateful to him for his devoted attention to my mother that I fell in love with him. Naturally, we all liked him, and I was quite infatuated - no more, I believe, than he was with me. My family did not think that it was quite right for me to marry until the war ended, yet they did not seriously object. But I felt that father had enough to care for, and thought, too, that I would be doing pretty well - and I was right, for he was an excellent man and liked by everyone who knew him.".
They were married in September, 1836, in Judge Steele's office in the garrison. The chief surgeon (Dr. Burns) had a room in the hospital vacated, cleaned and whitewashed and furnished for them. The room was next to the operating room, and she knew of every case brought in for surgical attention. She saw many desperately wounded men and women, including a great many who had been scalped, saved by the skill of the surgeons.
At this time Gen. Zachary Taylor - afterward President - was in command of the garrison at Fort Brooke and Mrs. Jackson recalled her pleasant acquaintance with the Gen. and Mrs. Taylor, and their daughter, Mrs. Wood, wife of one of the surgeons stationed at the fort.
About 1838 hostilities with the Indians ended, and Dr. Jackson at his own request was relieved of military duty and began his career as a civilian. They erected their first home on the bayfront near the mouth of Spanishtown Creek. They planted a large tract of land and Dr. Jackson was elected judge of the probate court - they prospered and were happy. But disaster and tragedy pursued them. I have made reference in other stories to the terrible hurricane and tidal wave of September 1848 - their home and all of its contents, even the money they had accumulated, was swept away, but Dr. and Mrs. Jackson and their five children escaped and were given shelter by friends who had erected their homes on higher land. Later they built a new and more substantial home fronting on what is now Platt St. This old home, which has been repaired and added to, is still standing at 205 Platt Street.
Dr. Jackson was afflicted with a throat infection during the latter years of his life - he died March 2, 1865. Realizing, after her husband's death, that she had no legal claim to the land on which her home had been erected, Mrs. Jackson attempted to homestead 160 acres extending from about Platt St. to the bay front and from the river to Spanishtown Creek, but she was able to get title to only 80 acres. This tract is today some of the most valuable residence property in the city.
Nancy married Dr. Robert Andrew Jackson Jr. in 1835 in Tampa, Florida. (Dr. Robert Andrew Jackson Jr. was born on 2 May 1802 in Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania or New York and died on 2 Mar 1865 in Tampa, Hillsborough County, Florida.)
Noted events in their marriage were:
1. Alt. Marriage: Marriage date and location, Sep 1836, Fort Brooke, Tampa, Hillsborough County, Florida.