Thursday, July 18, 2019

From St John’s to Charlotte County - Tracing the Evolution of the Charlotte Harbor Area Through Maps

Maps tell an intriguing story of how the land that is now Charlotte County evolved from the period of its being a territory of the United States into statehood and beyond.
Carey and Lea Atlas, 1822, Philadelphia. 
The map above from 1822 gives a perspective on Florida counties in early U.S. history.  In 1821, when Spain ceded Florida to the United States according to the terms of the Adams-Onis Treaty, two counties were established.  St. John’s, at the start of the Florida Territorial period, corresponded roughly with the former colonial province of East Florida. (Escambia was the other county consisting of a large section of what was the colonial province of West Florida.)  What is now Charlotte County would have been part of St. John’s until this very large county was subdivided. 

From 1833 Tanner Map of Florida 

When the 1833 Tanner map above was created, what is now Charlotte County was a part of Monroe, Alachua and Indian Reserved Territories.  An act of the Territorial Legislature established Monroe County as the 6th county in the Florida territory. The county’s boundaries then were the southern portion of Florida extended north to the south shore of Charlotte Harbor.   Alachua County was created by the Florida territorial legislature. This  county originally stretched from the border of Georgia south (later from the Suwannee River) to the north shore of Charlotte Harbor.

From 1839 Map of Florida with Counties 

By 1834, the southern part of Alachua had become Hillsborough County, and at that time, the Charlotte Harbor area was then divided between Hillsborough and Monroe Counties with Mosquito County (for a brief time Leigh Read) to the east.  

From 1849 Map of Florida 

By the time of statehood, in 1845, all of the Charlotte Harbor area (which is now Charlotte County was in Hillsborough County.  At statehood, the population of the entire county of Hillsborough was only 836, not including soldiers or Native Americans.

In 1855, Manatee County was created out of Hillsborough and the Charlotte Harbor area became and stayed part of that county until DeSoto county was created in 1887.  At the time of Punta Gorda’s birth, the city was part of Manatee County, and very soon thereafter was included in DeSoto County, until Charlotte County was established in 1921.   Before it was subdivided into five separate counties, DeSoto had over 24,000 in population and contained over 3200 square miles, whereas the new Charlotte County had only 832 square miles and was less than 4,000 people in population. 

Map of DeSoto County 1890

Compiled by Theresa Murtha from the Maps and Research of Vernon Peeples and the Exploring Florida website.  

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Luna the White Owl had twin in Punta Gorda 100 years ago.

Luna the leucistic screech owl courtesy Peace River  Wildlife Center

Luna, the leucistic screech owl ambassador for the Peace River Wildlife Center, isn’t the first white owl to be seen in Punta Gorda. As reported in the April 2, 1914 edition of the Punta Gorda Herald a white owl was found in the store yesterday.”  It was placed in a wire basket covered by an old coat to keep the light out during the day. Many people stopped by the store to view this odd looking owl.

“Yesterday” happened to be the first of April and some who were skeptical did not take advantage of the opportunity to view the peculiar exhibit, expecting it to be an April Fool’s Day prank.

The white owl was released from the cage at night-fall despite the fact that someone had suggested having Mr. Kinsel, the taxidermist, fix it up for a place in a local museum. 

We can now imagine Luna as part of a 105 year long line of Punta Gorda leucistic owls.

By Marge Hall, PGHC Researcher and Docent 

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Florida during the Revolution

After two centuries of Spanish rule, the British took control of Florida in 1763.  Spain lost Florida to the English in exchange for Havana and Manila, which had been occupied by the British.

The British separated the territory called Florida into two colonies, East Florida, with its capital in St. Augustine, and West Florida, with its capital in Pensacola. East Florida consisted of what is the modern boundary of the state, east of the Apalachicola River. West Florida included the modern Panhandle of Florida, as well as parts of what are now Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama.

In an attempt to bring settlers to East Florida, the British offered land grants to settlers who would come to farm and also defend the new British territory.  Many British brought enslaved Africans  with them to work the farms.

At the time of the American revolution the British had 33 entities in the Americas they considered colonies, including the 13 that were part of the rebellion.  Most of them were in the Caribbean and approximately sixty percent of their military were stationed there to protect their sugar interests extremely important in the global economy of the time.

Florida was fiercely defended by the British during the Revolution as a stronghold against the perceived sedition of the colonies north and concern of rebellion spreading into the Caribbean.  The East Florida colonists who had only recently been given lands were very loyal to the Crown when the  war broke out.  They also invited loyalists from the northern colonists to relocate in East Florida.

George Washington was well aware of Florida’s  strategic significance.  He authorized five separate invasions of East Florida between 1776 and 1780.  During a series of battles from 1779 to 1781, Spain was able to recapture West Florida from the British.  When the American Revolution ended in 1783, England losing interest in the colony returned East Florida to the Spanish to keep control of Gibraltar.
 Charlotte Harbour indicated on 1775 Map. 

It is said that Charlotte Harbor got its name from the British, renaming what was Carlos Baie to Charlotte Harbour for the wife of King George the 3rd.

Florida became a United States Territory in 1821, and was named a state in 1845.

Roger Smith, Doctoral Dissertation, University of Florida
Exploring Florida, Short History of Florida

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Early Punta Gorda Swimming Pools

Giant swimming pools are not a novel lure to this area of Florida. The earliest one was built by Punta Gorda’s founder at the early dawn of the town –  between the late 1880s, early 1890s. Punta Gorda's first swimming pool was constructed by Isaac H. Trabue at 30 feet X 60 feet and 5 feet deep. It was located in a 1. 5 acre park located in block number 49, which was between Olympia and Virginia and Chasteen and Berry.

Filled with sulphur water, the pool was advertised as a fountain of youth by the company selling land here. The Florida Commercial Company, the real estate arm of the Florida Southern Railway, called it “the most delightful bath in the world.”

The bathers in the photo are from left to right:

William Ogden

Frank Q. Brown of the Florida Southern Railroad

Frank Cooper (State Senator)

Col. Isaac H. Trabue

Albert W. Gilchrist

S. F. J. Trabue, (first County Judge of Charlotte County and nephew of founder)

From Burgettt Brothers Collection 
Another huge swimming pool was constructed in the 1920s. After Barron Collier bought the Hotel Punta Gorda (renaming it the Hotel Charlotte Harbor).  He extended the property by dredging a yacht basin on the Charlotte Harbor side of the hotel. On the reclaimed land, he constructed a swimming pool along with his tennis courts and a beach front. Late at night and in the off-season local Punta Gorda kids would go swimming in the hotel pool.