The History of Where I am From Bealsville, Florida
This is my great-great-great grandfather MILLS HOLLOMAN was a free
black man apparently living in what is now eastern Pasco County in the 1840s and 1850s. He is shown as paying taxes as a free
man of color in Benton (Hernando) County from 1845- 1856. The 1850 census shows him a 50-year-old farmer born in North Carolina
and living in the Buddy Lake Settlement census district. In 1857-58 Holloman's tax was paid by his guardian Nathaniel Moody.
In 1860 Tampa attorney James Gettis was listed as his agent. In 1863 Gettis was listed as his guardian. The 1870 census shows
Holloman as 60 years old, white, born in Florida, using the Cedar Tree post office. In a letter to the Governor dated February
1, 1871, Judge James T. Magbee recommended that Holloman be appointed to the Hillsborough County Commission. The appointment
was not made. However, Holloman was appointed to the Hillsborough County Commission by Governor Stearns in 1875. Holloman
is reported to be one of the early settlers in Bealsville, a town in Hillsborough County near Plant City. Another source says
he homesteaded in Seffner. A daughter Margaret married Levin Armwood in 1878.
Florida's Black Public Officials 1867-1924 has: "Born 1795, Virginia.
Mulatto. Farmer. Died January 6, 1882, Hillsborough County, Florida. Hillsborough County Commissioner 1868-70, 1870-71."
Some African Americans in South Florida managed to gain both
economic opportunities and political clout during the immediate postwar period, which they then passed on to their daughters
and sons despite the Democratic ascendancy. Levin Armwood, for example, was born to slave parents in Colquitt, Georgia, in
1855 and moved to Tampa sometime after emancipation. In 1878, he married Margaret Holloman, the daughter of Mills Holloman,
an African American citrus grower who had been appointed to the Hillsborough County Commission in 1875 by Republican governor
Marcellus Stearns. 17 With the aid of his father-in-law and perhaps some assistance from the Freedmen's Bureau, Levin, too,
became a citrus grower. In the late 1870s, he was appointed the first Black police officer in Tampa. He also served as a deputy
sheriff, postmaster, and supervisor of county roads. Mrs. Armwood, meanwhile, reared their five children.
From these auspicious beginnings
and despite the imposition of Jim Crow laws in the 1880s and 1890s, the Armwoods would become one of the area's most prominent
African American families. Margaret and Levin Armwood's son Walter achieved prominence as an architect, economist, and school
principal; daughter Idella as a teacher, shopkeeper, and social activist; and daughter Blanche as a founder of domestic arts
schools and a speaker for the National Association of Colored Women and the Republican party. The original Armwood and Holloman
homesteads stood on the outskirts of Tampa, in the community of Seffner, but several children, including Walter, Idella, and
Blanche, moved into the city proper; and most family members maintained close ties with such institutions as St. Paul's AME
The Armwood family was unusual,
however, in its quick rise into the Black middle class, its ongoing political connections to the white community, and the
educational and professional opportunities open to its daughters. Moreover, the Armwoods, like the Hollomans, lived on the
periphery of Tampa, whereas most African Americans lived in the city proper. In Tampa itself, the sections referred to as
"colored" areas housed racially mixed and economically diverse populations. Some self-identified African Americans, such as
Mary Brandon, acknowledged their mixed parentage. Brandon's father was Adam Clay, a West Virginia planter; her mother, Easter
Clay, was a slave. After emancipation, Mary moved to Tampa and set up housekeeping on the north side of the city, where she
lived with her daughter into the 1930s. Dorcas Bryant, who was dark-skinned, was mother to a number of light-skinned children,
at least some of whom were fathered by her former white owner. 18 Sol Stanley, a freedman, lived in the neighborhood with his wife, a white woman. Nancy Ashley, an
ex-slave, continued to live in an apparently consensual relation with her former master, William Ashley, after emancipation.
When Nancy Ashley died in 1872, she was buried alongside William at the predominantly white Oaklawn Cemetery under a headstone
that read, "Stranger consider and be wiser. In the grave all human distinctions of race or caste mingle together in one dust."
In the 1880 census, enumerators noted the mixed-race heritage of twenty-eight local residents—sixteen women and twelve
men—identified as mulatto, but thereafter those of mixed-race backgrounds became Black in official records unless they
were willing and able to pass as white. 19