Deep in the Green Swamp Wilderness Preserve in central Florida between Tampa and Orlando Is the dilapidated remains of an old shack. A nearby make-shift cemetery and headstone is evidence of a tragedy that occurred here. Hand carved in the tombstone is RIP 1917 Mr + Mrs Stewart.
It is unclear how the Stewarts came to homesteading in the middle of the swamp. Born in 1860 Ishom Stewart was a bachelor and horse farmer most of his life. He married Sarah, who was known as Sallie. She was 15 years older than Ishom, and had four children by a previous husband. The two of them never had children of their own together.
In May of 1918 their bodies were discovered in their small wooden home. It was a gruesome scene and they had died a horrible death. As the sheriff started trying to figure out what had happened. Ishom, had recently withdrew all of his money from the bank because he did not trust it in the volatile economy of the time.
It did not take the Sheriff long to figure out that Sallie’s grandson Josh Browning and his friend, John Tucker had recently came into some money. Browning had purchased a brand new car. Tucker’s had given $121 to one of his relatives and witnesses claim both of the men had been seen talking to each other at the train depot shortly before the murders happened. Joshua Browning’s mother told the Sheriff that he had asked if his grandparents withdrew all their money from the bank. Both men were tried and convicted of the murders and each were sentenced to 20 years in prison.
I find it interesting that their murder is referred to as an “axe murder.” Without a confession how would it be known how Ishom and Sallie died unless it was a grizzly scene when the bodies were found. Shortly after their remains were discovered they were buried in a grave near their home. One more strange thing is the tombstone was marked 1917 and the murders took place in 1918. I am thinking maybe the tombstone was placed years after the murders occurred and the date was not remembered correctly. In the mid 2000’s A plaque marking the tragic event was placed on a rock near the tombstone.
If you want to visit the old shack in the Green Swamp Wilderness Preserve, it is about 8 miles down Cumpressco Grade Rd. east of 471. If you do visit please be respectful so that other generations may experience it.
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