Neighbors’ feud at historic Hillsborough ranch ends in court

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FORT LONESOME – You usually don’t have to worry about your neighbors in Fort Lonesome.

It is a place on a map in the southeast corner of Hillsborough County with no actual borders and a population so large it does not estimate a census or a post office.

There used to be a logging here, but now the only thing you can point your finger at and say “This is Fort Lonesome” is a rustic convenience store surrounded by acres of treeless berms that hide sprawling phosphate mines run by the Mosaic fertilizer giant.

Debbie and Anthony Gill are members of a family that has raised cattle for over 100 years on a ranch in Southeast Hillsborough County. [ Debbie Gill ]

Dovie Gill gave the crossroads her name shortly after moving here as a bride in 1929, her grandson Anthony Gill said. She was alone, crying on her porch, when two lost travelers stopped to ask for directions.

“I can tell you where you are, you are in the heart of Fort Lonesome,” she reportedly replied.

The name, like Dovie and the Gill family, stuck.

The Gill family’s 5,000-acre cattle ranch is now recognized by the state as Century Pioneer Family Farm – a designation reserved for farms and ranches that have been owned by the same family for 100 years or more,

In recent years, however, even here in Fort Lonesome, neighborhood issues have arisen.

In a lawsuit filed last month in Hillsborough Circuit Court, Anthony Gill and his wife Debra accuse three people who bought property adjacent to their land of cutting their fences, allowing a bull to fertilize their cows, slaughtered their calves and set up a seasonal deer and wild boar hunting operation on the Gill property.

“The Gill’s have lived in this area forever and have never had a problem with anyone until now,” their lawyer, Robert Eddy, said in an interview.

Fort Lonesome is little more than the junction of State Road 39 and County Road 674 in the far southeast of Hillsborough County.  But a feud erupted in a lawsuit here between the Gill's, a longtime cattle ranching family, and their neighbors.
Fort Lonesome is little more than the junction of State Road 39 and County Road 674 in the far southeast of Hillsborough County. But a feud erupted in a lawsuit here between the Gill’s, a longtime cattle ranching family, and their neighbors. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]

The defendants named in the lawsuit are Steven Bruce Carroll Sr., 69; his son Steven Brian Carroll Jr., 46; and Carson Wilkes Corbett, 27. The men own plots of 10 to 15 acres and are “relatively newcomers to the area,” the lawsuit said. Hillsborough County land records show the Carrolls bought property near the Gills four years ago and Corbett has lived in the area since 2015.

As the feud between neighbors escalated, Elder Carroll filed a number of complaints against the Gills with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and even the US Department of Security. interior.

The sheriff’s office found the complaints without merit and ordered Carroll to “cease and desist from filing further false reports,” the lawsuit said.

Neither Corbett nor the Carrolls responded to phone calls, emails, a letter and a visit from a Tampa Bay Times reporter asking for comment. Court records show the Carrolls responded to a subpoena and hired a lawyer, and three attempts to serve a subpoena on Corbett were unsuccessful.

The original Gill family cattle operation has grown to become the Lonesome G. Ranch today, including a 20-acre pick-your-own orchard, the Southern Peach Co.; a reclamation and environmental operation, Southern Developers and Earthmoving; and a country-chic wedding venue called Southern Grace Barn.

The lawsuit demands the payment of pecuniary damages which he attributes to the actions of the three neighbors of the Gill.

An ornate gate marks the entrance to Lonesome G. Ranch on Bill Taylor Road.  Homeowners Anthony and Debbie Gill have filed a lawsuit accusing neighbors of trespassing and hunting on the property.
An ornate gate marks the entrance to Lonesome G. Ranch on Bill Taylor Road. Homeowners Anthony and Debbie Gill have filed a lawsuit accusing neighbors of trespassing and hunting on the property. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]

The three men regularly encroach on Gill’s property to hunt deer and wild boar with high-powered rifles, during and outside of the hunting season, according to the lawsuit. They built deer hunting stalls on Gills property without permission, according to the lawsuit, and are accused of “operating a deer and hog hunting facility” from their own property by allowing guests to shoot. game on the Gills ranch.

In addition, the defendants slaughtered at least three of the Gills’ Hereford calves, according to the lawsuit.

Over the past few months, Corbett and the Carrolls have stolen security cameras from Gill’s property, menacingly hanged dead deer by the entrance to Gill Ranch, yelled obscenities and threats at the Gill then that they were parked in front of their house and set fire to pastures at least four times, according to the lawsuit.

In a separate allegation, the lawsuit accuses the Carrolls of repeatedly cutting the Gills fence and allowing a bull to cross the fields where the Gills graze 365 head of Brahmin and Hereford X cattle.

As late as August 12, according to the lawsuit, the Carrolls bull was seen “ramming and riding” the Gill cows on Gill’s property, “possibly impregnating a lot.” Deputies from the sheriff’s agriculture department managed to remove the bull from the Gill’s land, but one of their cows was later found dead, according to the lawsuit.

“It is suspected that the cow died of a blunt trauma caused by being struck by the Carrolls bull,” the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit calls for a judge to order the Carrolls to have their bull tested for a contagious venereal disease called trichomoniasis, which often causes infertility. Owners of pets infected with such diseases are required by state law to file a report with the Florida State Veterinarian. Failure to do so is a second degree felony.

If the bull is positive for the disease, according to the lawsuit, the Gill would have to vaccinate about 185 cows with “at least two or three injections … at a substantial cost.”


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