Hamlin Valentine Snell - 8th Mayor Of Tampa

Image of a previous mayor

Born: February 14, 1810, Savannah, Georgia

Died: January 29, 1886, Gainesville, Florida

Term: February 2, 1861 - May 1861

Born in Savannah, Georgia, on Valentine's Day in 1810,  Hamlin Valentine Snell moved to Florida in the late 1830s. He then served as Calhoun County's representative in the 1840 Legislative Council. In 1842, he moved to Sarasota to start a small plantation and is credited as the first person to plant guava trees in Florida. Several years later, Snell sold his plantation and relocated to Manatee County.

In 1854, he was elected State Senator for the 18th District, then comprising Hillsborough, Levy, and Hernando Counties. In 1851, Snell was elected Senate President. In November of 1856, he was elected Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives.  Snell moved to Tampa in late 1857. On June 19, 1858, he replaced James T. Magbee as deputy collector for the Port of Tampa. Snell continued to take an active role in local politics which led to his election as Mayor of Tampa in February 1861. 

 On hearing the news that Confederate guns had fired on Fort Sumter, Mayor Snell proclaimed a day of celebration. On April 21, 1861, the 20th Florida Regiment assumed command of the abandoned Fort Brooke and declared Tampa under marshal law. About three weeks later, Snell resigned as Mayor and hurriedly left Tampa after selling his properties. At present the reasons for Snell's rapid departure have not been researched. One possible explanation is that he realized Tampa could not be effectively defended against Union invasion from the sea and had no desire to remain in the city. As the political situation rapidly worsened and it became evident that war was inevitable, many people left Tampa both Unionists and Secessionists. Even as early as November 1860, residents were selling their property and leaving the city. As President of the City Council, John Jackson became Acting Mayor and served without pay for the remainder of Hamlin's term.

Hamlin Snell passed away in Gainesville, Florida on January 29, 1886.

 


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.

Index, Florida Peninsula, May 20, 1861

Tampa Council Minutes, City of Tampa Archives, Tampa, FL

January 1, 1857 - October 2, 1891 Microfilm Roll # 1