A short story about the life of Henry Tecumseh Linebaugh

March 4, 2020, The Froe Chips, Mike J. Liles

Linebaugh Library (compliments of WGNS Radio)

Henry Tecumseh Linebaugh died in Tampa, Florida December 17, 1943 at the age of 78. At the time of his death he was living in an eighteen room house on five acres of land on the northern outskirts of Tampa at 3815 North Nebraska Ave. The house had a small orange grove and an opulent entrance. The house had been the home for Henry, Susie and their five boys and three girls. Nebraska Ave. was originally a small street but Henry designed and engineered the improvements to it to make it a grand avenue. The house was located near Linebaugh Ave,, named in Henry’s honor.

I first became aware of Henry Linebaugh while growing up in Tampa. As a pre-teen I attended the YMCA summer camps and the programs offered by the Tampa YMCA, the same YMCA that Linebaugh help start. Later when I learned to drive, I drove on Linebaugh Ave. and for a while used it as a boundary for the city limits. His name was respected as a volunteer and quality builder. He built houses, commercial buildings, churches and even a bridge that crossed Hillsborough River. Henry was sincere in his faith and was a steward for the Tampa Heights Methodist Church. One friend recounted him by saying “Henry T. Linebaugh is a sturdy oak, representing that sturdy manhood that proceeds along all channels promoted by faith and the desire to do good.” Henry Linebaugh was a recognized force in Tampa’s significant growth prior to World War II.

In 1974, I was a recent graduate from MTSU and as I walked into the Linebaugh Public Library on West College Street. I saw a picture and a letter about Henry T. Linebaugh. The same man I had known of in Tampa. To my surprise Linebaugh had been born in Murfreesboro and left his mark not only in Tampa but also in Murfreesboro.

Henry was born in a log cabin in the 13 civil district of Murfreesboro on September 7, 1865. Henry said at one time his family had lived in a nice frame house on about an acre of land. That was before the Union Army occupied Murfreesboro and torched the nice frame house. Henry’s father Benjamin served in the 11th Regiment Tennessee Infantry Company “F” of the Confederacy. Benjamin Franklin Linebaugh wounded in the war returned to Murfreesboro but sadly only lived a couple years after the war.

By the time Henry reached his teens he was accustom to hard work, hard times and only the basic needs. He later said that he didn’t go to school because he didn’t have the needed clothes to wear to school. The widow and three children scraped by and Henry and his brother helped by working on neighbors farms, sometimes tending crops other times clearing land. Henry looking for an easier way to help the family agreed to sell apples for the owner of a local grocery and dry goods store. H.H. Kerr was the owner of the store and former Confederate Cavalryman. He was also the city mayor and mentor to Henry. Mr. Kerr introduced Henry to Dr. John Hall Patterson who had served as a physician in the Confederacy.

Henry and his brother agreed to travel with Dr. Patterson to Auburndale, Florida and help develop an orange grove with Dr. Patterson. Orange groves were a new industry to that part of Florida, made practical because of the completion of the railroad to Tampa by Henry B. Plant and the love of the fruit in the North.

Henry and Charles Linebaugh departed Murfreesboro January 1, 1883 in a heavy snowfall. The wagon train would take 40 days to reach its destination. Henry was just 17 years old and only weighed 96 pounds. Dr. Patterson said he could cook and wash dishes for the wagon train. Henry was quoted as saying “There was a train from Murfreesboro to Auburndale, Florida, but who had $15.00 train fare?”

Two years after moving to Auburndale, Henry moved to Ybor city. Ybor City was the first industrial site sponsored by Tampa. It was a partnership between Tampa and Vicente Martinez Ybor, a successful cigar maker who had backed the wrong side in a political uprising in Cuba. Ybor was looking for a home and Tampa was looking for an industry. Henry was looking for an opportunity and found it in the new cigar industry town. The new workforce from Cuba needed homes and the industry needed factories. A hard working young man from Auburndale was a good fit. It was the start to Henry’s success in the building industry.

Henry never forgot his home town of Murfreesboro and would return often. He even subscribed to the local paper. It was in one of the local papers that he read an article that said Murfreesboro needed a library.

Henry pledged $5,000 as seed money if the new library could be named after his mother, Mattie V. Linebaugh. The money was accepted but sadly Henry died before the opening of the new Linebaugh Public Library.

Henry T. Linebaugh touched many lives, certainly mine, and his work continues to make a positive impact on both Murfreesboro and Tampa.

To read the full story of Henry T. Linebaugh ask The Rutherford County Historical Society or the Linebaugh Library for the paper I wrote titled “My Thoughts about Henry T. Linebaugh”. You may also contact me with questions or a copy of my full report. My hope is that this story of Henry T. Linebaugh will inspire others to succeed.

Mike J. Liles, [email protected]

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