Hillsborough County, Florida


1822 - 1862

John Irving Hooker, a son of Stephen and Elizabeth (Brinton) Hooker, was born in Georgia, September 23, 1822. He moved with his parents to Ware County about 1825 and in 1830 moved to Hamilton County, Florida.

South Florida was opened for settlement after the Armed Occupation Act passed Congress in 1842, and John Irving Hooker decided to apply for land there. His elder brother, William, moved to south Florida about the same time. John Irving's application is dated February 17, 1843 and March 25 he received Permit number 297 for 160 acres in Hillsborough County described as follows: the W 1/2 of the NE 1/4 and the E 1/2 of the NW 1/4 of Section 8, Township 30 S, Range 21 E. He resided on the land for a short time, cultivated it for three years and applied for a patent on February 10, 1849. The permit was granted though by this time he had apparently moved on to a nearby tract in Section 30, Township 29 S, Range 22 E.

On February 1, 1849, in Hillsborough County, John Irving Hooker was married to Cuthbert Wayne C. Lanier, daughter of Lewis and Mary Lucretia (Ross) Lanier. She was born in Georgia, March 8, 1833 and moved to Hillsborough County, Florida with her parents during the 1840's. John Irving and Cuthbert (Lanier) Hooker had the following children:

1. Lewis William Hooker, born 1856; died April 27, 1924; married Elizabeth Roberts.

2. Mary Ellen Hooker, born May 23, 1858; died May 27, 1912; married Stephen M. Sparkman.

3. John Jackson Hooker, born February 12, 1862; died February 1933; married Annie Swearingen, January 30, 1889.

John Irving Hooker was one of Fort Meade's earliest settlers. The community's original pioneer, Francis A. Hendry, told about this in a letter from the year 1908: "Louis Lanier, my father-in-law, very soon moved to Fort Meade and settled very near the bridge on the pretty Peace River, then known as "Peas Creek". (After the U. S. Soldiers left the Fort in 1854) (t)he buildings and improvements fell into the hands of Mr. John I. Hooker, this gentleman using one of the officers' quarters, a splendid double-penned log house, as a residence. In the meantime, quite a number of settlers had occupied the country and the outlook for a promising community was good. Little did we people know the troubles in store for us in the near future. Just after Christmas day, 1855, courier was dispatched from Tampa, informing us, and all frontier people, that an Indian war was upon us and to care for ourselves the best we could. This was a veritable clap of thunder from a clear sky. The people was excited and quickly congregated for self-protection. Mr. Hooker, with his great, large, generous heart, opened the doors of their Government buildings, most of which being still habitable, and invited the whole community to come and take shelter."

During this third and last Seminole War, John I. Hooker served as private in the company commanded by his brother. He was enrolled January 3, 1856 at Fort Meade and was mustered out on August 20, 1856.

John I. Hooker was a prominent cattleman and registered the 22 brand February 17, 1852 and the AH brand, September 15, 1854, both in Hillsborough County. The 1860 census for Hillsborough County shows John I. Hooker as owning $1400 worth of real property and $20, 625 in personal property. Hooker's name appears on Polk County's 1861 tax list, which was compiled shortly after formation of the new county.

John Irving Hooker died January 2, 1862 and was buried in the old Fort Meade Cemetery. His widow married Julius C. Rockner on October 13, 1864. Lewis Lanier was administrator for John I. Hooker's estate and the appraisement took place, December 10, 1864. Among the items listed were: Confederate money in bonds in the amount of $9,522, four percent Confederate bonds totaling $6400, $90 in gold, 5,000 head of cattle valued at $5 per head, and eight Negro slaves valued at $4850. Also included were 160 acres of improved land valued at $800 and 80 acres of unimproved land worth $100.

J. C. Rockner was a prominent cattleman and merchant at Fort Meade. He was born in Europe, December 26, 1939, and was killed in Polk County, July 23, 1877, by William W. "Bill" Willingham. According to the late Will Addison, the two men were involved in a dispute over the alleged stealing of cattle. Willingham was indicted for murder in April 1878 and was acquitted when the trial was held in July 1880. Cuthbert W. C. (Lanier) Hooker Rockner died in Tampa, February 16, 1894 and was buried in the old Fort Meade Cemetery.

SOURCES: 1850 & 1860 Hillsborough County, Florida census; Armed Occupation Act file of John I. Hooker; Hillsborough County marriage and Mark & Brand records; 1861 Polk County tax list; Polk County Minute Book "B"; Polk County Circuit Court minutes; Polk County marriage records; Letter from Captain F. A. Hendry, found in "That Reminds me" column by Ernest B. Simmons, Polk County Record, March 7, 1922; Pioneers of Wiregrass Georgia, Vols. III & IV by Judge Folks Huxford; Hooker family file, Polk County Historical Library; interview with Will Addison, 1976. Compiled by Kyle S. VanLandingham.
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