via The Gabber

The History of Lealman’s Main Street

Drivers along 54th Avenue North who cross the railroad tracks by Lealman Fire Rescue Station No. 18 may notice an angled road that parallels the path of the tracks for a few blocks. Located immediately south of 43rd Street North, a sign denotes this narrow road as “Main Street.”

Although unremarkable in appearance today, this short street once served as a commercial hub of the original Lealman community. Named in honor of pioneer farmer Elza Beasley Lealman, this area flourished as an agricultural settlement before St. Petersburg’s founding.

Shifting Boundaries

Known today as the separate areas of West Lealman and Lealman, these communities existed as a single entity until recently. The earliest pioneers settled in Lealman before any of the adjacent cities — Kenneth City, Pinellas Park, St. Petersburg, and Seminole — existed.

Lealman originally included all of Pinellas Park and Sawgrass Lake, stretched westward through Kenneth City toward Cross Bayou, and into many areas currently within St. Petersburg’s city limits.

Farmer and Sheriff

Elza B. Lealman was born in Georgia, either in 1822 or 1823. His mother also hailed from Georgia. His father Thomas was a carpenter from England. He most likely grew up in Lowndes County, near present-day Valdosta.

Elza moved across the Georgia-Florida state line in the 1840s, marrying Elenar Deis in Hamilton County in 1848. His father joined them. Elza acquired 40 acres of farm land in April 1859 from the land office in Newnansville, in Alachua County. After the Armed Occupation Act of 1842, this office offered acreage to white male citizens of Florida who promised to cultivate at least five acres and serve in a militia to suppress uprisings. These uprisings often came from people whose ancestors had, for millennia, lived on the land now occupied by Euro-Americans like Elza and did not want to surrender their land.

By 1860, the Lealmans had four children.

The family soon moved to Suwannee County. Established in December 1858, this north-central Florida county had 2,303 residents on the eve of the Civil War, more than six times the population that lived along the Pinellas peninsula at that time.

At least 250 white men left Suwannee County to fight for the Confederacy between 1861 and 1865. Elza Lealman stayed at home and became a leader in the new county during this time of turmoil.

Lealman served as sheriff from 1862 until 1864. He also held the office of tax collector for an unknown period of time. In order to remain in public office, he had to pledge his loyalty to the Confederacy. No existing Suwannee County records describe Lealman’s governmental service, or the number of constables or officers who worked with him during the war years.

The Lealmans decided to leave their Suwannee County farmstead. They moved to what was then a sparsely settled area — now the most densely populated county in Florida.

Full Article Via The Gabber

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