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Hub Williams: The Robin Hood of South Florida

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The outlaw, self-described as the “Robin Hood of South Florida,” John W. ‘Hub’ Williams- met his end in Brooksville at the hands of the Regulators. He called himself Robinhood because he claimed to rob from the rich and give to the poor.

In the book Florida Cow Hunter, The Life and Times of Bone Mizell by Jim Bob Tinsley, it was said that Bone was fond of telling a story of his friend George Mansfield and Hub Williams. George and a fellow cowboy Jim Bates were headed to a dance. They had started drinking on their way and when they saw a rider approaching, George decided to have a little fun and pretended to be the notorious outlaw Hub Williams. He pulled out his gun telling the man he was Hub and ordered him to get off his horse and dance. The man was forced to dance for a half hour before the cowboy relented.

The man told the cowboys he had two quarts of whiskey in his saddle bags and that they all share it. The cowboys thought this a wonderful idea, but when he reached into the saddlebags he produced a gun and informed the cowboys he was the real Hub Williams. He ordered them to dance where he had been dancing. He said “I mean lick ’em up and lay ’em down.” Hub kept the two dancing until they could barely stand. He then fired in the air to scare off the oxen with the cart the two had been riding in.

Hub Williams was arrested in 1874, accused of being a horse thief. He was sent to prison for life by Judge James T. Magbee. He escaped on his way to prison. Some accounts have him jumping through a train window of a moving train to escape. In another account, in a song purportedly by Hub there was a lyric that said he “jumped through the window and escaped from the boat.”

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In the book, Fort Meade, 1849-1900 By Canter Brown, Hub Williams is mentioned as having “attempted to rob Dzialynski, Mitchell, and Company in October 1878, during which Morgan Snow wounded the outlaw in a shootout.” The Tampa newspaper reported “Last Saturday afternoon a desperado named John Williams made an assault on Mr. Philip Dzialynski in his store with a drawn pistol and demanded $200. Mr. Dzialynski of course refused to comply with his demand, when the man Williams made several efforts to shoot him, but fortunately the pistol failed to fire. Mr. Dzialynski, being alone, finally made his escape from the store and locked Williams up inside while he went for assistance. Williams was unable to get into the safe, although he managed break out before Mr. Dzialynski returned.”

Hub Williams came to Brooksville and met his end on February 24, 1880. His reputation as a hardcase and outlaw preceded him. Brooksville at the time was home to a group of vigilantes known as the Regulators. In one account, the Regulators managed to corral Hub at night and he tried to walk away and they opened fire. In a Sunland Tribune article from the time, it was Hub who opened fire first. Hub was wounded in the exchange and then clubbed with a shotgun. The shotgun was damaged and left behind. Hub died the next day from his wounds. People were arrested in the killing of Hub Williams, but no one was convicted. In a sad twist, Hub had been pardoned for his crimes and was no longer wanted.

A Cracker cowboy. 1895. By Frederic Remington.
[Credit: State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory]

Rocco Maglio
Rocco Magliohttps://www.roccomaglio.com
Rocco Maglio is a co-founder of the Hernando Sun. He grew up in Brooksville and graduated from Hernando High. He then worked in technology for starting in the early 1990s. He was fascinated by the potential of the Internet even though at the time there were not graphical browsers. He recently earned a Master of Science in Information Technology with a specialization in Cybersecurity.
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