Town established by 12 emancipated slaves 158 years ago remains one of Florida’s oldest Black communities
In 1865, Mary Reddick, along with the families of 11 other newly freed former slaves, settled about 7 miles south of Plant City. At the time, the area was known as Howell’s Creek. A year later, the families applied for property through the Southern Homestead Act of 1866. Before ownership of the land was granted, homesteaders had to clear and successfully farm the acres allotted to them. This was challenging work, considering the plot sizes ranged from between 40 to 160 acres.
Mary Reddick’s son, Alfred Beal, excelled at farming and was able to hold onto his land when others in his community faced hard times. After his neighbors were forced into foreclosure, Beal purchased their lots and later resold them – under generous terms – back to the original owners or their families.
In 1923, the residents of the community renamed the town Bealsville, in Alfred’s honor. Bealsville still has many descendants of the original 12 families that established it. It is home to the historic Glover School, which was built in 1933 and is listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.
Historical Marker Inscription
The community that became known as Bealsville was settled in late 1865 by former slaves from nearby plantations in Hopewell, Springhead and surrounding areas. The original settlers were Steven Allen, Issac Berry, Peter Dexter, Neptune Henry, Mills Holloman, Bryant Horton, Samuel McKinney, Roger Smith, Mary Roddick, Abe Segenger, Jerry Stephens, and Robert Story. After emancipation, they were assisted by former slaveholder Sarah Howell, and the settlement was originally known as Howell’s Creek. The settlers then homesteaded property that they acquired through the 1866 Southern Homestead Act. The name of the community first evolved from Howell’s Creek to Alafia. In 1923, it changed to Bealsville in recognition of Alfred Beal, the son of Mary Reddick. After several freezes led to bankruptcy for some of the original settlers, Beal acquired the property and sold parcels of the land back to them, thus ensuring the continuity of the community.
Bealsville stands as a legacy of the emancipated slaves who sought to remake their lives in a new community of their own. Many citizens of Bealsville are descendants from the first settlers; others have moved here. All recognize and respect the original for founding one of Hillsborough County’s oldest and noteworthy communities.
The marker is at the intersection of Nesmith Road and Joe King Road, on the right when traveling west on Nesmith Road. It is in front of the Bealsville Recreation Center.
The Bealsville historical marker was erected in 2013 by the Hillsborough County Historical Advisory Council.
Learn more about Bealsville
Learn more about Bealsville in a Hillsborough County produced video Timeline: Bealsville.