Historic Markers Across Florida

John T. Lesley Home

Marker ID:  
Location: on East St between E. Kennedy Blvd. and E Twiggs St., Tampa, FL
County: Hillsborough
Coordinates: N 27° 56.986    W 082° 27.176
  27.94976666    -82.45293333
Style: Free Standing **
Waymark: WMQ7EK


Side 1
At this site, 407 East Street, was the home of John Thomas Lesley, built in 1897. Pioneer settler, soldier, statesman and entrepreneur, Lesley (1835-1913) was one of Tampa's greatest early leaders. A native of Madison County, Florida, he came in 1848 to Tampa, where his father, the Rev. Leroy G. Lesley, served as head of the local Methodist Mission. In the Third Seminole War he served in a local company commanded by his father and during the War Between the States he organized the "Sunny South Guards," the first unit to leave Tampa for active duty with the Confederate Army. After serving with distinction in Tennessee and rising to the rank of Major, Lesley returned to Tampa in 1863. He then organized a second company for service in the Tampa Bay area as part of the Confederate "Cow Cavalry," which he led as Captain until the close of the war. Then followed a brilliant career in which he served as Sheriff of Hillsborough County, Tax Assessor & Collector ex officio (1865-1867); Mayor of Tampa (1869); State Legislator (1877-1880 and 1883-1885); Vice President and founding member of the Tampa Board of Trade (1885);

Side 2
Delegate and Second Vice President of the Florida Constitutional Convention (1885); and Mayor of the Town of Fort Brooke for most of the community's life from 1888 until its annexation by Tampa in 1907. He also played key roles in the creation of Ybor City; the establishment of the city's first waterworks and electric streetcar service; and the coming of the first railroad into the Tampa Bay area. At the height of his powers in 1887 he was called by the Tampa Journal "a man of great influence, (who) exerts today more power in the State Legislature than our present Representatives, the Board of Trade and the whole town of Tampa." On his death in 1913 the Tampa Daily Times noted that "He was a part of Tampa, and a big part, from the city's infancy ... His death marks the breaking of the final link that service the past and its traditions from the present and its hopes, and many tears have been shed because of the breaking of the bond." His name lives on today in the John T. Lesley Camp No. 1282, Sons of Confederate Veterans.

The Tampa Historical Society