Hamlin Valentine Snell - 8th Mayor Of Tampa

Image of a previous mayor

Born: 1810

Died: January 1886

Term: February 2, 1861 - May 1861

Born in Savannah, Georgia, Hamlin Snell moved to Calhoun County, Florida in the late 1830s where he served as the County's representative in the 1840 Legislative Council. In 1842 he moved to Sarasota to start a small plantation and became the first person to plant guavas in Florida which he imported from Cuba. Several years later, Snell sold his plantation and relocated to Manatee County where he was elected State Senator for the 18th District which, at that time, included Hillsborough, Levy and Hernando Counties. He was eventually elected President of the Senate and, in 1857, Speaker of the State House. Snell resigned some months later and moved to Tampa in late 1857. The city appointed him Deputy Collector for the Port of Tampa on June 19, 1858.

Snell continued to take an active role in local politics which led to his election as Mayor of Tampa in February 1861. However, by February 1861, war preparations between the southern and northern states were having its impact on Florida, the third southern state to secede from the Union. Tensions between Tampa's small but influential number of unionists and the secessionist majority became increasingly violent. Most Unionists left Tampa for Key West where they received protection from federal troops. 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 took over 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 never returned to Tampa and, in January 1886, passed away in Gainesville, Florida.


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