Thursday, March 18, 2021

Isaac H. Trabue - Founder of Punta Gorda

This plaque honors Isaac H. Trabue, the founder of the town of “Trabue” which became the City of Punta Gorda.  

Trabue, born on March 25, 1829 was a lawyer, coal mine operator, Union soldier during the Civil War, and land developer.  He was married to Virginia Scarborough Taylor of Savannah, Georgia.  

Isaac Trabue purchased land south of Charlotte Harbor bay in 1883, which in 1885 was registered as the town of “Trabue”.   Isaac and Virginia came to Florida to live in January of 1886 in a cabin on the Peace River which they had purchased from James and Sarah Lanier, original settlers.

It was Isaac Trabue’s persuading the Florida Southern Railway to build a rail line to Trabue that ultimately accelerated its development with the railroad’s arrival in 1886.

Isaac Trabue’s life here was marked by ups and downs.  A major dispute resulted in the incorporation of the town and its renaming to Punta Gorda in 1887.  Nonetheless, Mr. Trabue led an active life in Punta Gorda as an attorney and community leader and left a lasting legacy.    He departed his town for the last time shortly before his death on July 16, 1907.  

We thank this visionary for founding our town and gifting us with beautiful public spaces along our waterfront.

Friday, March 12, 2021

The Trabue Plat and Waterfront Parks


In 1885 Isaac Trabue registered the land that he had purchased and platted in 1884 in Manatee County as the town of "Trabue." In 1887, it would become Punta Gorda.   He named some twenty streets in the new town after relatives, including Retta Esplanade after his sister - Henrietta,  Virginia and Taylor after his wife,  Elizabeth for his mother,  and Marion after another sister.  

The streets were planned to align with the Charlotte Harbor waterfront, rather than run strictly north and south.  At the end of the streets on the harbor were waterfront parks.  Trabue felt that a shoreline of waterfront parks along Charlotte Harbor would be irresistible to snowbound northerners.  They were originally each named after a street that led to them.

Despite Trabue's stipulation, over the years attempts were made,  some successful, to commercialize the park land.  Harvey Park, for instance, on which Perry and Marion McAdow received city permission to build their mansion became the site of an inn, later a hotel and restaurant.  But for the most part, the waterfront parks remained as lovely respites along Charlotte Harbor.  In the 1950s some of the parks, from Harvey to Berry Street, were combined and renamed Gilchrist Park.  

Thanks to Isaac Trabue and his vision we have the beautiful waterfront parks that we now enjoy.  

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Sallie Jones or "Miss Sallie" as She was Called

Did you ever wonder about the woman for whom Sallie Jones Elementary School was named?   

Born in 1895 Sallie Jones was a descendant of Florida pioneer families.  Her grandfather was killed in a Civil War battle in Tennessee fighting for the Confederacy.  Her father, a tax accessor for Polk County died young in 1898.  Her mother's family, the Koons, were pioneer settlers who traveled from Lake City to Fort Meade by Oxcart where they wrestled a living from the undeveloped country.  

In 1901. Sallie came, as a little girl, to Punta Gorda from Barstow with her mother and three brothers following the death of her step-father, Charles Jennings, from malaria. Her widowed mother, Elizabeth Koon Jones,  moved with her three sons and Sallie to Punta Gorda to be near her brother, cattle baron, W. Luther Koon, who had a large home at Charlotte and Sullivan (later moved and still standing at 360 West McKenzie).  The Jones Brothers were to run a meat market on Marion Avenue when they became adults.  

Sallie started her education at Punta Gorda's first formal schoolhouse on Goldstein Street. Then, after finishing high school, at the time on Taylor Street, she attained a teaching certificate and started her long career in a one-teacher school in Chokoloskee, then Pine Island.  Ultimately she moved back to Punta Gorda,  first teaching lower grades. then on to Charlotte High School shortly after it opened in 1926.

Always determined to obtain a college degree, during the summer months, she attended Flordia State College, the University of Florida at Gainesville, and Florida Southern College, where she obtained her degree.  Tragically, the love of her life was killed in an automobile accident, and Miss Sallie, as she was called, never married. She devoted her life to the education of children.

In 1936, Miss Sallie was elected County Superintendent of Schools, the first woman to hold that position in the state of Florida. She was interested in the progress of public school education, not only locally, but throughout the state of Florida, and the nation. Among her achievements was the start of the school lunch program in Florida.  She also served as President of the Southwest Teachers Association and on many state educational boards. 

When a new elementary school was being erected in Punta Gorda, it was decided to name it in honor of Miss Sallie. She died in 1960 a few years after the Sallie Jones Elementary School opened its doors.

(From information in the archives and library of the Punta Gorda History Center.  For more information on our local history visit the Center at 512 E. Grace Street or on the web

Monday, March 1, 2021

The Woman Who Could Have Been Mayor - Marian Mcadow

The woman credited with being the mother of Punta Gorda’s tropical ambiance, Marian Ann Tyrrel  McAdow,  spent most of her adult life here.  She was born Marian Wild at Put-in-Bay, South Bass Island, Lake Erie, Ohio on September 29, 1869.  When she was a few weeks old, her father, overwrought with ten other siblings to care for, gave his baby daughter to a neighboring couple, Allen Terrell and his wife, who with their new child, moved to Escanaba, Michigan.  

Marian had a life-long passion for horticulture, which she developed at the early age of five.  But it was a chance meeting that enabled her to share it with Florida. While working as a school teacher in Chicago, she met Perry McAdow, the owner of the most productive gold mine in Montana history.  They were married on  October 2, 1897.  He was to give her the opportunity to transform an area of Florida into a tropical paradise.  

Soon after they were wed, Perry brought his pretty, young bride, 31 years his junior, to Punta Gorda where he was to become a prominent citizen, owner of one of the town’s earliest banks and a major influence on Punta Gorda’s development.  He built for their home a huge mansion on filled-in submerged land right on Charlotte Harbor bay. (where the PG Waterfront hotel and Hurricane Charley’s is today).  

Dismayed when she and Perry arrived in Punta Gorda by the lack of what she expected - a tropical jungle with swaying palm trees and other flowering plants, she set about to change that. She traveled to Europe, India, and the Caribbean talking  to leading authorities on tropical landscapes and bringing seeds and plants to start her own beautiful garden and to help beautify Punta Gorda overall.  Not only was she responsible for planting what is now the huge banyan on Retta Esplanade  and the nearby jacaranda that flames red in May, she also drove the planting of the royal palms  along Marion Avenue, though it’s said she would have preferred oaks draped with Spanish moss.  

Known to thousands of readers of the Florida Grower as the “Ornamental Lady”, she influenced through her articles the creation of a tropical paradise throughout South Florida.  Determined to turn as much of South Florida as she could into a blooming paradise, she and friend Sadie Farmington, drove around in her automobile distributing the seeds of beautiful plants.  She also rewarded school children who helped with her mission. 

Perhaps overshadowed by her horticultural  achievements and recognition for being a prominent hostess, with her many dinner parties and yacht excursions, was her civic  involvement and active role as a business woman.  She took over the running of much of Perry’s business affairs after he died in 1918.  It was said that had she not been a woman she would have probably been a Punta Gorda mayor.  She was chair of the Board that developed a revised city charter and recommended to be the first  city manager.  She was also appointed by the Governor to the school board, a role she declined. She was a philanthropist who donated to many local causes and helped raise money for the high school and other community projects.  

Marion also found time for the arts.  She’s was the music director for the Episcopal Church, a good photographer and an accomplished artist.  Many homes at the time had her paintings on their walls, although unfortunately none can be located today.  Her photograph collection was lost in a fire.   

In addition to Punta Gorda, Marion spent time at her home, RyxHaven, in the North Carolina Mountains.  She died September 16, 1950 in Casey Key, Florida.  

(As a footnote and sad commentary on women’s history, while there are many excellent pictures of Perry McAdow up until a few weeks ago only a few not very good photos of Marian could be found.  Fortunately, a writer documenting the history of RyxHaven had  a much better, younger portrait and shared it with us).

Picture Courtesy of Lawrence Newman  and Susan Speight