Darwin Austen Branch - 2nd and 4th Mayor of Tampa
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Born: November 28, 1832, Vermont
Died: August 16, 1858, Tampa, Florida
First Term: November 25, 1856 - December 6, 1856 (Acting Mayor)
Second Term: February 9, 1857 - February 10, 1858
Born in 1832, Darwin Austen Branch was trained as a physician. Politically active, Branch had served as Secretary for the Florida Know-Nothing Party also known as the American Party. The Know-Nothings in Florida and other southern states were adamant the national party support a strong pro-slavery platform. This platform was adopted at the 1856 Presidential Convention that nominated former President Millard Fillmore. After Fillmore's defeat in the presidential election, the Know-Nothing party deteriorated as a national party.
Dr. Darwin Austen Branch remained politically active in Tampa, and he served as the President of Tampa's City Council in 1856. In early September of 1856, Mayor Lancaster became too ill to perform his duties, and as City Council President, Dr. Branch became the Acting Mayor.
After Lancaster became too ill to serve, Branch served as acting mayor. At twenty-four years old, he was Tampa's youngest mayor until twenty-three year old James Lipscomb took office in August of 1873. During his short term, Dr. Branch essentially served as a caretaker until December 6, 1856, when J. Alfonso DeLaunay won a special election to complete the remainder of the Lancaster's term.
At the next municipal election for mayor, Dr. Branch ran against DeLauney and won. During his second term, the government levied annual taxes on retailers of hard liquor and beer, pool halls, bowling alleys, ferry operators and peddlers. As mayor, Dr. Branch also served as a judge with the legal authority to render decisions concerning minor cases. Most of the cases presented before the mayor's court involved brawling, drunk and disorderly conduct, or petty theft.
Toward the end of Branch's second term, an epidemic of yellow fever devastated Tampa and surrounding areas. The epidemic also took the lives of Branch's mother and sister and on August 16, 1858, Branch himself succumbed to yellow fever.
Sources for this Biographical Sketch:
Covington, Dr. James W. and Wavering, Debbie Lee, "The Mayors of Tampa: A Brief Administrative History," Tampa, FL: University of Tampa, 1987.
Grismer, Karl H., Tampa: A History of the City and the Tampa Bay Region of Florida, St. Petersburg Printing Company, FL, 1950.
Robinson, Ernest L., History of Hillsborough County, Florida: Narrative and Biographical, The Record Company, St. Augustine, FL, 1928.
Tampa Council Minutes, City of Tampa Archives, Tampa, FL
January 1, 1857 - October 2, 1891 Microfilm Roll # 1