Who was Captain Jackson? This was the most frequently asked question by those who visited the Jackson house during this year's annual home tour; however, the question should probably be where did he come from?
Levi and Nancy Dixon Coller, the grandparents of Captain Jackson, were the first Anglo-American family to settle in the Tampa Wilderness. Their first born, Mary Josephine, born in 1837, was the first Anglo-American child born in Hillsborough County.
Levi Coller had a large farm where he cultivated what was said to be the first cotton planted in South Florida; he was also suspected of being the first Tampa Bay pioneer to receive a government job. During the Indian War, a lighthouse was erected at Egmont Key where he was the lighthouse keeper. He had many diversified interests and acquired lands along the west bank of the river. Hillsborough County court records have a deed which shows that Levi Coller sold all rights to a parcel of land known as Ballast Point, for the sum of $50.00.
William Parker Jackson was born November 11, 1847 in Tampa, Florida to Dr. Robert Jackson and Nancy Coller, daughter of Levi and Nancy. His father, Robert, a student of West Point and previous graduate of Rutgers College in New Jersey, was a compounder of medicines and the surgeon’s chief steward while stationed at Ft. Brooke, where he arrived in 1834. Robert and Nancy Jackson were married in September of 1836 at the garrison, having the first recorded wedding on Florida’s West Coast. After asking to be relieved of military duty, he moved to a tract of land of approximately 160 acres, known at that time as Jackson’s Point, and became a judge of the probate court of Hillsborough County.
After Dr. Jackson’s death in 1865, his wife, Nancy, was alone and had no legal claim to the land where her home was built; she attempted to secure title to the land the family had been occupying and developing, much of it planted in orange trees. She had intended to homestead 160 acres, but through the unscrupulous dealings of men she had trusted, she had to relinquish half of her acreage. After an appeal to Washington, she finally secured her acreage, which bordered the Hillsborough River and Bay.
In order to secure an independent life for herself and her children, she sold a portion of her homestead to some prospectors who wanted to expand the growth and development of Tampa. One of these men was O.H. Platt of Hyde Park, Illinois. In 1886 she sold him 20 acres of the original Jackson Estate, which he subdivided and named Hyde Park after his home town. Hyde Park Avenue was the first street opened.
William Jackson was only fourteen years old when the hostilities broke out from the Civil War, and at the age of 16 he joined the Home Guard. He became a steamship captain of several ships coming into Tampa, and was later known as "Captain Bill." These ships brought the mail and passengers from Cedar Key and New Orleans, which were the nearest railroad points from the north and west. He also substituted on ships traveling to Havana, Cuba.
In 1874 Captain Jackson was married to Louise Collins of Bainbridge, GA. He retired from the sea in 1887 and became a farmer. On April 29th 1890 he homesteaded 152 and 88/100ths of an acre of land that ran between Hanna and Knollwood Avenues, and Nebraska Avenue west to the Hillsborough River.
In October of 1899 a wedding reception was held for his son, Bartow, at the home. His home was known throughout as the rendezvous of social life and a center of generous hospitality. Captain Jackson later moved to Hyde Park, and in 1914 he was elected as a member of the Board of County Commissioners, where he served his district for two years. Bartow’s home also still stands in Seminole Heights.
Robert A. Jackson, III, a younger brother to Captain Jackson, born in 1852, was one of four co-founders of Tampa Electric Company established in 1887. He later became the Sheriff of Hillsborough County where he held the office for eight years.
Captain "Bill" Jackson died June 23, 1917, at the age of 69. His obituary listed as pall-bearers many names familiar to Seminole Heights and to Tampa, such as Henry Giddens, A.C.Clewis, D.S. and D.B. McKay, Penn Taliaferro and J.C. Hanna. Perhaps now you have a better understanding of whom Captain William "Bill" Parker Jackson was.