According to Wikipedia, “a lens lantern is a small, self-contained lamp structure which may sometimes be used to serve as a lighthouse. Unlike a regular fresnel lense, the lantern requires no housing to protect it from the weather; its glass sides would refract and magnify the light in the same fashion as would the lens. Lens lanterns were popular alternatives to lighthouses in the nineteenth century; they required less care, were cheaper to erect, and could be fairly easily placed.”
In early 1900, Clarence B. Moore, a wealthy owner of a Philadelphia paper company who had by that time become a noteworthy archaeologist and expert on Indian mounds, visited Indian Hill. He wrote:
About 3 miles down Tampa Bay from the mouth of the Little Manatee river is an island known as Indian Hill, probably eight acres in extent, almost covered by an aboriginal deposit of shells, including oyster, clam, conch (Fulgur), cockle (Cardium), Pecten, Strombas gigas, Strombus pguilis, Fasciolaria gigantean, Fasciolaria tulipa. … The largest of these heaps has a height of 30 feet above the surrounding shell deposit and 36 feet 7 inches above water level. We believe, after personal inspection of the majority of Florida shell heaps and careful inquiry as to the rest, that the shell deposit at Indian Hill exceeds in height any in the State, though considerably greater altitudes for other sites have been given by writers who base their assertions upon estimate. In Fig. 4 we give a photograph showing the great deposit at Indian Hill, extending completely across the background of the picture, with the house of the owner of the island, Mr. F.B. Walker, occupying the westernmost extremity of the heap.[vi]
In 1908, the Walkers sold Indian Hill to Lewis Symmes and L.L. Buchanan, of Tampa, for the sum of one thousand dollars.[vii] According to a newspaper article from 2007[viii], Lewis and Symmes made the purchase as part of a failed get-rich-quick scheme. They planned to sell the mounds of shells at Indian Hill as material to build roads, but the plan failed. They never came up with a workable method to remove the shell material from the island. They built a pedestrian bridge to the island that proved to be inadequate to the task and was destroyed in a storm. To make matters worse for the new owners, asphalt soon replaced shells as the material of choice for roadways in Florida.
Sometime after the Walkers sold the island, it became a destination for seekers of Native American artifacts. Boat tours from St. Petersburg brought tourists across the bay to visit the shell mounds there and to see the view of St. Petersburg from across the water.
In February, 1926, my grandfather returned to Indian Hill. My grandmother accompanied him. My grandmother wrote a letter to her mother-in-law, my great-grandfather’s widow, on February 8, 1926. The letter, which my grandmother gave to me, describes the visits they made to Egmont Key and Indian Hill.
My grandmother wrote that at Indian Hill she and my grandfather met a man named Boone who, for the prior five years, had been living in the house in which the Walkers had lived. They were invited into the house, and my grandfather was very happy to find things “so much as he remembered them”.
Soon some fishermen came in and we watched them net sheeps head and mullet in front of the house. We ate our lunch with Mr. Boone and Capt. Carpenter on the wharf from the house and then we went over and watched the fishermen prepare theirs by the fishing shack on the small island. They made biscuit and fried fish out doors around a small fire and then made coffee. It was fun to see them. Your son said it was just the way they used to do.
Mr. Boone told them that many people, including Henry Ford, had visited Indian Hill to see the Indian relics. The mound, my grandmother wrote, “has been dug down quite a little”.
In 2014, Hillsborough County purchased Indian Hill from the Symmes family for $100,000, ten thousand times the amount my great-grandfather paid the State of Florida for it in 1895. The island is now part of the 600-acre Cockroach Bay Preserve State Park, which, together with the 5,000 acres of the Cockroach Bay Aquatic Preserve which surrounds the islands, offers unlimited opportunities for fishing and exploration by canoe or kayak.
There is now very little physical evidence that the Walkers’ house ever stood on Indian Hill. Bricks from the foundation can be found there, but not much else. The island is now well covered in vegetation which, unfortunately, blocks all views. I visited the island in April, 2022, and was able to explore the mounds, but even from the highest mound the ocean is no longer visible.
[i] Newspaper article mailed to my grandfather in April, 1936, from Carl W. Bahrt, of Tampa Florida entitled Bones From Mounds Near Here Indicate Massacre of Kids. Newspaper and date of publication not indicated. Carl W. Bahrt (“Willie”) had been a cabin boy at Egmont Key for my great-great-grandfather Walker, according to the notation by my grandmother on a photograph of Carl and his wife. Actually he worked for all of the pilots on Egmont Key as a child, and then from 1907 to 1937 he was himself a pilot.
[ii] Hammett, Yvette C. (2014, April 10). Hillsborough adds Island Gem in Land Buy. The Tampa Tribune. Retrieved 6/15/14 from http://tbo.com/news/breaking-news/hillsborough-county-buys-big-cockroach-mound-20140410/
[iii] Hammett, supra.
[iv] Hurley, Neil E. (1990) Keepers of Florida Lighthouses 1820 – 1939, Third Edition. Historic Lighthouse Publishers.
[v] Helgeson, Baird (2007, September 16). Brush Shrouds Burial Mounds. The Tampa Tribune. Retrieved 2/6/17 from http://www.tbo.com/ap/offbeat/brush-shrouds-burial-mounds-187277
[vi] Moore, Clarence B. (1900) Certain Antiquities of the Florida West-Coast. Reprint from the Journal of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, Volume XI. Philadelphia: P.C. Stockhausen.
[vii] Affidavit dated September 26, 1908, Hillsborough County Deeds Book 90, page 551.
[viii] Helgeson, supra.