Hickory Island and the Hodges Family
An important pioneer of Levy County was Dr. Andrew Elton Hodges. By the fall of 1855 he was in Guadalupe County near the town Seguin (just east of San Antonio), for it was here that his temper (he had red hair and a temper to go with it) would get him into trouble, something that he would experience again in Levy County. The Sheriff arrested Hodges for “assault with intent to kill”! Not wanting to wait for the trial, Hodges married Nancy Pinkney Maldonata Johnson on 6 January 1856, and immediately escaped Texas by running off to Florida!
Doctor Hodges, after scouting the surrounding area, is said to have settled in
southwest Marion County. One story alleges he bought the springs west of Dunnellon that would later be owned by Albertus Vogt and where he would allegedly discover phosphate.
In the 1860 Florida Census we find the Doctor, age 30, not in Marion County but living in Levy County in Black Dirt District (ie. Southern Levy County)
Following the Civil War, Hodges began purchasing cedar lands along the
Withlacoochee in both Levy and Citrus Counties and in the Gulf Hammock.
Over the next ten years he would accumulate several thousand acres. Cedar logs would be felled by ax and dragged out by teams of oxen to property the Doctor owned on the river at a place that would come to be called Cedar Landing (located at the end of present day Elkins Street in Inglis).
In 1866 Hodges purchased two parcels of land in present day Yankeetown that he would develop as farms, one was called Cherry Hammock and it would be here that he would move the family sometime between 1867 and 1870 and the farm at Black Dirt would be sold in 1872. Soon a small community would develop that would become known as Hodges.
1866 we find a deed made out to Hodges by Civility Jones (see Levy Co Deed Book A, page 23) selling him the 960 acres for $1.00. What does this have to do with Hickory Island you ask? In the probate file is a curious document. It seems that in November 1866 Col. W. R. Coulter, attorney for the widow Jones, met with Doctor Hodges to discuss settlement of the debt and wrote out a description of the lands to be included in the proposed deed. In accordance with custom of the day, the top margin of that document includes the date and location where the document was prepared, “Hodges Island, 7 Nov. 1866”. So from this we can be certain that Hodges was indeed on the island late in 1866 although he would not apply for a government
deed for some fifteen years.
Andrew E. Hodges would have another bout with the law!
In the criminal record books of Levy County in 1867 we find a curious entry
indicating Hodges has been charged with murder, and then, quite improperly, the entire entry is marked out and in the margin is written, “error”. At the next term of the court in the spring of 1868 he would not be so lucky and the charge of murder would be held to him.
Andrew Hodges was indicted for the murder of Benjamin Leak and surprisingly demanded an immediate trial which was granted. As yet we have not been unable to locate the file at the Levy County Clerk’s Office on this case to learn the particulars so all we know is that Doctor Hodges again slipped through the hands of justice and in this case he was acquitted (indications being that the demand and approval of a speedy trial didn’tallow for the necessary witnesses to arrive for the trial).
In 1879 Dr. Hodges purchased property just north of Inglis along present day
Butler Road that he would call Magnolia Plantation.
In 1883 the Doctor attempted to sell the Hickory Island property and listed an advertisement in the newspaper The Levy Enterprise: “HICKORY ISLAND FARM is situated on the Gulf Coast about 20 miles south of Cedar Keys on an island and contains 165 acres of land – 40 acres under cultivation;a grove of five hundred orange trees – 50 of which are now in bearing; and the balance will bear in two years; besides lemons, limes, peaches, plums, guavas, gigs, pecans, &c., all in bearing; and being situated on the Gulf there is an abundance of game, such as deer, turkeys &c. A good residence containing 8 rooms with outhouses, a well of good water and large cistern; and excellent wharf for landing and lading of boats, a good storeroom and office convenient to the wharf. Hickory Island is connected with the main land by a good shell turnpike. Price $6,000. The property did not sell.
In the 1885 Florida State Census A. E. Hodges, age 54, is listed as a Cedar
Merchant living in Cedar Key “District” (i.e. the entire coast of Levy County
was the district). We know he was living at the community he called Hodges
which was located on the Withlacoochee River (near present day Izaak
Walton Lodge) since on 6 April 1885, he applied for a permit to operate a
ferry at this location (his second ferry).
While staying at his Magnolia Plantation (on Butler Road just north of
Inglis), the Doctor took ill until his death on 12 December 1885. The night Hodges died, Aunt Hannah woke the boys (Culpepper, Randolph, Jules and T.R) and they went in to say goodbye to their father. T. R. tells us his father took him by the hand and said, “Son, I am dying, and you must be a good boy.” Doctor Hodges was buried in the family cemetery on Hickory Island.
Mrs. Hodges soon filed a petition with the Judge of Probate demanding her
Dower Right of 1/3 which was required of the law. She of course won and
appraisers were appointed to set aside from the land what she should receive.
Under the law she should have been given ownership of 1/3 of the “property where they resided” and 1/3 of the value of the personal property. Instead she was given lots 13 and 14 in block 1 in Cedar Key and only a life estate on a part (44 acres) of the Hickory Island 160 acres, including the home.
By 1890 there were numerous claims filed against the estate. By 1895 it was necessary to even sell the Hickory Island homestead. With a life estate to the widow, there were few willing to even bid, fortunately, Mrs. Hodges was able to buy the islands herself.