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|Acrefoot and Rattlesnake|
James "Acrefoot" Johnson and his son, "Rattlesnake," became legends in their own times for feats hard to believe but confirmed by many faithful witnesses. How they got their colorful monikers is a tale worth telling. James Mitchell Johnson
|African-American Carpenter Owned Half Of Punta Gorda|
As we enter Black History Month, it is appropriate to credit the first "equal opportunity" employer in Charlotte County -- if not the state and nation -- a remarkable African-American named George
|Airboat Was First Plane To Land At Punta Gorda|
As the first "airboat" to visit the Charlotte Harbor area swooped low over the water -- its eight-cylinder engine and propeller roaring with a never-before-heard sound -- a crowd of 1,000 people waiting
|American History Began Here Century Before Pilgrims - Charlotte Harbor|
Demolition of the Knight-Willis store at Charlotte Harbor Town -- sought by residents there and the county administration -- has been blocked by court action pending settlement of legal action by the owner Eugene Plummer. He is president of the
|Bairdville Home Of Charlotte County Last Pioneers|
The last pioneers of Charlotte County were hardy souls who filed homesteads from 1905-1920 for marshy land no one else had wanted east of Punta Gorda. Where a store,
|Bananas Stolen From Bowlegs Start Last Seminole War|
The last of three Seminole Wars was decided by a relatively minor skirmish at an isolated ranch on the banks of the Peace River. It began in December l855 when Lt. George
|Blinking Light Only Trace Of Bermont Sparkman Towns|
A blinking traffic light at the intersection of State Roads 74 and 31, in east Charlotte County, is all that marks the once thriving towns of Bermont and Sparkman.
|Byron Rhode Recalls His Early Years In Punta Gorda|
You can take the boy out of the country, but you can't take Byron Rhode out of Punta Gorda.
This 90-year-old historian now lives in retirement at Jacksonville. His powers
|CH and N Placida Bunkhouse May Live Again|
There is rising hope that the old Charlotte Harbor and Northern Railroad bunkhouse, built in 1910, will be saved for posterity.
It is said that the county, the local Rotary club
|CIA Held Secret Training In Webb Wildlife Area|
click here for first part
With construction of the Seaboard Air Line Railway from Sarasota to Naples in 1925-26 -- near the Tucker's Grade settlements -- it became feasible to exploit the pine forests for turpentine and lumber.
|Calusa - New book recounts legacy, environment of Calusa|
Before there were Spanish explorers, Seminoles, Cuban fishermen or American settlers in southwest Florida, there were Calusa Indians.
Their legacy of cultural and environmental
|Carpetbagger Built Southwest Florida Public Schools|
Not much is known about the first settlers at Charlotte Harbor during the Civil War because they were blockade runners -- smuggling cattle past the Union side-wheel steamer "Gen
|Carpetbaggers And Scalawags Contested 1876 Election|
For political drama, nothing matches the drama of the 1876 presidential race here between Ohio Gov. Rutherford B. Hayes and New York Gov. Samuel J. Tilden. The outcome
|Carry Nation Left Hatchet Home On Punta Gorda Visit|
Carry Nation, the famous saloon-buster, left her hatchet home in the Fall of 1907 when she came to DeSoto County --then including what is today's Charlotte. She toured several Florida cities to try and defeat Punta Gorda's favorite son, Albert Gilchrist,
|Casino And Pier Was A Popular Englewood Speakeasy|
Folks out Englewood way are all worked up over a proposal to build a pier and shoreside restaurant near the Charlotte County public beach. There was no such opposition in 1923 to a similar facility at the foot of Dearborn St.
|Chadwick Beach Homes Built On Ancient Burial Mounds|
When the Chadwick brothers sold their fish business to the West Coast Fish Company in 1926, after 25 prosperous years, Steve and Clay returned to Lemon Bay from Punta Gorda to begin the development of Chadwick Beach -- now Englewood Beach in Charlotte
|Chadwick Brothers Built Fishing Empire With Mullet|
Action by the county to deepen Stump Pass at the south end of Manasota Key recalls Steve Chadwick and his brothers who turned a fishing camp there into a major fishing business a century ago.
They also built the first bridge to the
|Charlie Cerny Defied Malaria And Bermonts Buzzards|
When Charlie Cerny saw buzzards "wrangling" outside his isolated homestead cabin at Bermont, he knew he had to get up from his sick bed and summon help. "You won't get me," he muttered!
He had a severe case of malaria, high
|Charlotte County Airport Began As World War II Fighter Training Field|
There was great excitement at Punta Gorda in September 1942 when Florida Senator Claude Pepper announced that the Civil Aeronautics Authority had decided to build
|Charlotte County Education1|
Imagine that you, your spouse and several children have moved to a wilderness frontier. Four or five other families are a mile or so distant in all directions. After building a cabin for yourself, what public structure would you and your neighbors build next.?
|Charlotte County Education2|
As the Charlotte Harbor frontier was settled after the Civil War, sawmill operators followed to fill the urgent need for lumber with which to build proper homes, churches,
|Charlotte County Education3|
Few pioneer teachers made a full living from the profession --- cash being a scarce asset in early southwest Florida. Teaching salaries were supplemented with farming or trade skills.
|Charlotte County First Troubadour Was Canadian Country Singer|
Charlotte County got its very own troubadour in 1960 when Jack Butwell emigrated from Toronto, Canada. Today he is remembered as a pioneer of country music. In another generation or so he probably will be remembered
|Charlotte Countys First Black Teacher Had A Thousand Children|
Benjamin Joshua Baker, Charlotte County's first black educator, had a thousand children but none bearing his name. They were his students who revere his memory through
|Charlotte Countys Oldest Church Sanctuary|
The oldest church sanctuary in Charlotte County --- that built by Punta Gorda First Baptist between January 1890 and November 1892 --- is for sale. Once more, local
Merchant ships were crucial to the economy of the earliest settlers around Charlotte Harbor, but the vessels posed problems of navigation and health. Though the harbor is large, its useful channel is relatively narrow and hard to follow. Ship crews often brought in contagious diseases. Local
|Charlotte Harbor Wrecks and Treasure|
The very phrase stirs emotions of wealth and mystery.
Charlotte Harbor has been a happy hunting ground for treasure hunters since Ponce de Leon, Hernando de Soto and Menendez D'Aviles came here in the
|Cigar Manufacturing At Punta Gorda Went Up In Smoke|
The manufacture of cigars was an early and continuing business in Punta Gorda, but it went up in smoke -- no pun intended.
The smoking of "stogies" was almost universal among men before the turn
|Coca-Cola Capped Charlotte County Settlement|
When one searches for objects to be "as American as"-- apple pie, baseball, and Chevrolets come easily to mind.
More appropriate, perhaps, is Coca-Cola.
Duly chronicled in this space have
|Docks Made Charlotte Harbor Marine Commerce Feasible|
Much has been made of the pivotal role in early days of Charlotte Harbor and the ships that sailed upon it. Yet, without docks these would have been useless.
The first dock was built in 1862 on the north shore of the bay by Joel and Jesse
|Doctor Blount Doted On His Scrappy Little Dog - Pee Wee|
Dr. Braxton Blount prided himself on being a "country doctor" who made house calls at any time of the day or night. He was the youngest of three brothers who came from Bartow to the frontier town of
|Eagles Nest A Favorite Lodge Of Prominent Sportsmen|
It is somewhat confusing to adjust one's comprehension of an Eagles Nest being home of the Elks --- but such is the case regarding the historic waterfront lodge at Solana.
|Early Harbor Bridges Celebrated By Public Fish Frys|
With completion of the Tamiami Trail in 1928, the first bridge opened in 1921 across Charlotte Harbor was too narrow for the increased automobile traffic. In addition,
|Early Hunters Give Bear And Coons Plenty Of Respect|
Though the hunt and kill of a huge panther was exciting -- as related in last week's column -- George Rhode and John Bediford of Punta Gorda climaxed their winter-long expedition with greater adventure in an ordinary "cabbage hammock."
|Excursionists Attend Ice Plant Grand Opening-Closing|
Hattie Blanchard, the earnest young woman whose fortunes we have shared via her diary, here records a huge railroad excursion of visitors to view the opening of the Consolidated Ice Manufacturing, Refrigeration and Fish Co. At Punta Gorda.
The huge four-story building for a fish-rending
|FPL Generators Shook The Whole Town When Making Ice|
When Mr. and Mrs. George and Grace Day -- 93 and 86 respectively -- sit on their front porch and watch traffic whiz by on Cooper Street, they marvel that the village of Punta Gorda grew into a city while they watched.
|Fabulous Fish Catches|
Controversy over limitations of commercial fish netting reminds us that the oldest business in Charlotte Harbor is dwindling fast. The fertility of Charlotte Harbor in this century is attested by Rev. George Gatewood, the earliest preacher in Southwest Florida. When he was 80 in 1944, he set down
|First American Explorers|
American history began at Charlotte Harbor a century or more before Jamestown and Plymouth.
Some explorer writing in a mixture of Spanish and Portuguese circumnavigated the peninsula of Florida prior to 1502. In that year, a
|First Christmas Tree|
The first Christmas tree of record in Charlotte County was decorated by pupils of the little Huckeby school at Cleveland, Fla., in 1892 -- according to an early newspaper story by "Old Sundown."
Certain Identity of the writer is concealed by his pen name, a custom
|Flying Bug - World War I Aviation History in Charlotte County|
Adolph Hitler, dictator of Nazi Germany, unleashed his "secret weapon" during the closing months of World War II in a desperate attempt to bring Great Britain to its knees. The device was a small, unmanned
Ghost stories vied with fish tales for local gossip in the old days -- encouraged by Adrian P. Jordan, publisher-editor of the Punta Gorda Herald, who was noted statewide for his tongue-in-cheek articles when news was slow.
|Hattie Tells Her Diary About Marshal Bowman Murder|
The diary of Hattie Blanchard, Punta Gorda teacher for the school year 1902-03, deviated from routine daily activities to record the
|Hatties Diary Records Everday Activities Decades Ago|
Discovery of a turn-of-the-century diary by Miss Hattie Blanchard, a Punta Gorda and Arcadia teacher and tax assessor clerk, gives us a rare glimpse into everyday life then.
The journals were found in a chest of
|History Of Bethel African American Episcopal Church|
Charlotte County's two oldest African-American churches owe a great deal to the piety of Daniel C. Smith --- a member of the survey crew that laid down the right-of-way
|Horse Trough Well|
Horse watering troughs were as common, and necessary, in the olden days as gas stations are today. Troughs have disappeared in most communities, but Punta Gorda's ancient thirst quencher still exists unobtrusively in the center of downtown at the northeast corner of Marion and Taylor streets.
|How Barbara Mackle Was Kidnapped And Buried Alive|
"No! No! No! You can't do this! You've got to let me out. Wait! I'll be good."
Barbara Mackle pleaded with her kidnappers not to bury her alive.
|How Charlotte County Escaped Yellow Jack|
HELP! – Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper of 1888 portrays the yellow fever demon, lower left, dragging down Florida as Columbia rushes to the rescue. Note the vile vapors ensuing from demon’s mouth, the broken “Trade” box on the ground and another vaporous demon right background.
Illustration courtesy State Library Archives of Florida
The Florida yellow fever epidemic of 1887-8 spared the Charlotte Harbor area largely because there were not enough people to sustain one – or, perhaps, primitive quarantine
|Imported Cuban Bats Spurned Their Special -Hotels-|
There was a time in old Punta Gorda when folks earnestly cultivated bats in their belfries. The reason is aptly explained by the number of Florida mosquitoes and
|Indian Agent Could Not Arrange Peace In Seminole War|
The man who, more than any other, opened Charlotte Harbor to American settlement is not remembered at all here -- though a small island and pass at the southern extremity of Sarasota Bay bears his name. He was English-born Capt.John Charles
|Indians Sculpted From Mrs McAdows -Ear-|
The nationally famous sculpture of two American Indians and wildlife totems in the parking lot of Best Western Hotel at Punta Gorda, Florida, faces relocation or destruction.
|John Cross Was Charlotte Countys Forgotten Pioneer|
John Cross was a prime mover a century ago in what is today's Charlotte County, but his memory has been nearly wiped out by the successes of his enterprises.
From an obituary of Cross' son Harry (age 72) in the "Arcadian" of
|Local Folks Celebrated World War End With Dynamite|
Of the 100 or so local soldiers who fought in the First World War, only two died as a result of enemy action -- though a third man who never saw Florida is named also on a memorial plaque in front of the Charlotte County Auditorium.
Ghost towns of the old West still stand on the arid plains as a reminder of prosperity that briefly flourished. The same type of ephemeral villages of old Florida disappeared rapidly under the onslaught of semi-tropical climate and foliage.
|Maine Yankee Boosts Charlotte Harbor Town|
Charlotte Harbor Town began as a loading dock and frontier store for Confederate cattleman running the Union blockade at Boca Grande Pass. However, it was turned into a thriving village by a Yankee transplant named Nathan
|Manatee Wild Man Sparked Search For Gold|
The "Manatee Wild Man" of Englewood set off an intense search for gold treasure in May of 1910, but nothing was ever found except the rotting carcasses of hogs and cows. Shortly after Herbert Nichols and his brothers platted Englewood in 1896 and built a general store there, a strange man
|Marketplace Opportunity to Capitalize on Punta Gorda History|
Punta Gorda’s venerable downtown area is getting a facelift that both and delight and worry residents.
As the county seat – twice judged
|Oldest Charlotte County Church Marks 125th Anniversary|
If God measures piety by years of worship, the holiest place in Charlotte County is the Trinity-United Methodist Church -- oldest here.
It will celebrate its 125th anniversary a week from today, February 15. The public is invited to share festivities -- starting
|Oldest Homes Named in 1993 Survived Charley|
Consider this a post-Charley report on the status of the five most important Punta Gorda homes in the National Register of Historic Districts – as viewed in Nov. 1993 photos.
|Oldtimers Mark Charlotte County Birth|
"Better late than never" is a popular adage that persuaded the Charlotte County Recreation and Parks Department to arrange a 75th anniversary party. The affair will begin at 3:30 p.m. Sunday November
|Oldtimers Told Whoppers About Cowboys - Drunks|
In the good old days before television -- or even radio, if you can imagine that -- folks hereabouts amused themselves in their idle moments with "whoppers."
|Paddle Wheeler -Mary Blue- Died By Fire And Water|
Paddle wheel steam boats were instrumental in opening Charlotte Harbor to settlement and commerce --- starting with the Colonel Clay during the Seminole war of 1849. Yet, none are as fondly remembered as the
|Pocahontas Story Rooted At Charlotte Harbor|
The story of an Indian princess named Pocahontas saving the life of Capt. John Smith at Jamestown, Va., in 1607 is charming – but totally false.
It was lifted from a true incident that occurred
|Port Charlotte Cultural Center History|
When diners gather Sunday at Victoria Estates to celebrate the 30th Anniversary of Port Charlotte Culture Center, they will stroll in the foothills of history.
The unique community center has not yet acquired antiquity, but it already has
|Punta Gorda Historic Depot Was Babcocks Last Gift|
The last of Fred Babcock's many philanthropies -- that we know about, he shunned the limelight -- is the old Atlantic Coast Line railroad depot at Punta Gorda.
He gave the structure, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, to
|Punta Gorda Isles|
The tragic deaths of Wilber H. "Bud" Cole, a founding partner of Punta Gorda Isles, Inc., and members of his immediate family, narrow the number of"young lions" who came to Punta Gorda after World War II to build a unique neighborhood laced with salt-water canals.
Cole, 63, was piloting his plane when it crashed July 31 at Great Abaco
|Railroad Was About The Only Amenity For Early Folks|
Hattie Blanchard gave up teaching high school at Punta Gorda, but returned in the Fall to work for Francis “Frank” M. Cooper, tax assessor for DeSoto County which then included what is now Charlotte County. She boarded with the Coopers.
We learn from her 1903 diary that cows
|Rancher Murders Ended Open Ranges Era|
Leon Thompson of Port Charlotte, retired U.S. Marine Sergeant Major with the Distinguished Service Medal, is a fortunate survivor of the last sensational range war in South- central Florida before the open range was abolished in 1949.
|Rusty Machine Recalls Baker - A Man Ahead Of His Time|
The 800-pound chunk of rusty machinery dug up from a Punta Gorda parking is a relic of the remarkable career of Henry W. "Baker" Smith --- a man who could have been the inspiration for the quip, "Greatest thing since sliced
|Scout Troop Oldest in Florida|
Early Boy Scouts of Punta Gorda remember with fondness and awe the visits of Uncle Dan Beard, national Chief Scout, who treated them to rattlesnake appetizers and taught them how to throw a tomahawk.
Oldest Boy Scout troop in Florida is that of Punta Gorda 5 ---
|Secret Plan Integrated Charlotte High School|
Desegregation efforts in Charlotte County public schools 1963-65 are not well documented in civil rights scholarship,” says Richard McManus, a talented history scholar at Florida Gulf Coast University.
|Seminole War Military Camp Became Site Of Cleveland - Florida|
The rise of ground we now know as Cleveland, on the south shore of Peace River, has been inhabited for least 500 years. We know the precise location of a pre-historic Indian town because of the plat for Cleveland
|Solana Founded by Snow Bird|
Solana, a "suburb" east of Punta Gorda, was platted in 1889; but its roots precede the city by a dozen years.
The first homesteader on the south shore of "Peace River Bay of Charlotte Harbor" appears to be
|Strange Odyssey Of Mrs Halls US Army Camel Bell|
A bell that once hung around the neck of a U.S. Army camel may be a rare, historic relic owned by Mrs. Roland Hall of Port Charlotte.
Whether original or replica, the bell recalls a colorful experiment in 1855-60
|Sun Herald History|
As the "Sun-Herald" began its 100th year of service to the folks of Charlotte County, it re-dedicated a promise made by the first publisher.
Robert Kirby Seward "kicked off" the "Punta
|Tamiami Trail Sparked Drive For First Harbor Bridge|
Agitation for a road from Tampa to Miami began in 1914. A reporter for the Miami Herald dramatized the project by dubbing it the "Tamiami Trail." The Punta Gorda Herald opined that the name was contrived
|Tarpon Tourney Revived Todays Chamber Of Commerce|
The Charlotte County Chamber of Commerce presented its 18th annual Christmas Parade Saturday at Punta Gorda, and it was the best yet.
The Silver King and the Goddess of Gab teamed up in 1937 to lay a solid foundation
|Toledo Blade Boulevard Commemorates An Ohio Newspaper|
With thanks to Cathy Livimpt, Janet Leiser, and the "North Port Sun."
Ohioans traveling Interstate-75 through Sarasota County are surprised to see a "Toledo Blade" interchange at North Port.
|Toth Statue and Punta Gorda Chamber of Commerce|
The Punta Gorda Chamber of Commerce folks – supposed promoter of things beneficial to the community – have their dander up about the huge Native American statue in the front yard of their new office
|Trabue Chess Tourney Goes Big Time With Cash Prizes|
Col. Isaac Trabue, founder of Punta Gorda in 1885, would be pleased.
The eighth-annual Spirit of Trabue revival chess tournament goes big time this year under U.S. Chess Federation rules.
Regular and four-handed games will held
|Tribute to Fred Babcock|
“End of an era” is often used to note the death of people who have contributed greatly to their times and places -- yet, there is nothing better
|Tuckers Grade And Cecil M Webb Wildlife Management Area Mark Legends|
Travelers on Interstate 75 at exit 27 south east of Punta Gorda often wonder about the men whose names survive on road-side signs marking Tucker's Grade and the Cecil
|Uncle Dan Smith|
Punta Gorda was unique among Florida communities in the post-Civil War reconstruction period in that it had a large, integrated population of African-Americans with leaders who contributed significantly to its progress.
|Who Shot Marshal Bowman - An Historical Who-Done-It|
The evening calm of Punta Gorda on January 29, 1903, was shattered by a shotgun blast, then a scream!
City Marshal John H. Bowman, 45, was dead
|Why Tin Roofs Were Popular in Punta Gorda|
Hurricane Charley has brought tin roofs back into style hereabouts, having proven sturdier than asphalt or masonry tiles – and certainly an improvement over “blue tarps.”
It is generally believed that tin roofs on houses reflect "Old Florida" style, but such an assumption