Woodmen of the World

If you’ve visited Indian Spring cemetery in Punta Gorda, FL, you’ve probably noticed the highly detailed tree trunk grave stones. These grave markers bear the words ‘Woodmen of the World’ and often feature other similar iconography. According to Waymarking.com “Many of these tree stump monuments stand four to five feet high and show sawed or broken limbs traditionally symbolizing a life cut short.”

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Miss Ollie Brackett’s Secret

The most famous prostitute of Punta Gorda was Miss Ollie Brackett. Ollie ran a “disorderly, bawdy house of ill repute” at the west end of Marion Avenue – in those days it was known as the bad part of town. Miss Ollie served a few very select customers herself and managed her “stable” of seven “ponies” who handled the majority of the clientele.

Back in the day there were several brothels here in Punta Gorda. It was a rough pioneer town populated with scores of unmarried cattle men, fishermen, railroad workers and tradesmen. Besides the houses with red lights, there were houseboats of girls on call for fishermen located in what was known as Whore Bay.

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First White Man Dies in America

Juan Ponce de León

Juan Ponce de León came to what is now Punta Gorda on his second expedition in 1521 with 200 colonists. The Calusa attacked, and Juan took an arrow to his hip. His men tried to pull it out but only got the shaft, and the arrowhead remained in his body.

The entire expedition returned to their ships and headed back to their home base in Cuba. But, it was too late! Juan’s wound had become infected. Noble Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León is now honored by Punta Gorda with a plaque titled: “The First White Man Dies In America.”

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A Horse Named Perry McAdow

Perry McAdow of Punta Gorda

Perry McAdow was one of the founding citizens of Punta Gorda. He arrived in Punta Gorda in 1897 with his young new bride Marian.

Another Perry McAdow of the same era was a Thoroughbred race horse. Perry McAdow, the horse, is listed in the racing rosters in 1904 and raced until 1910. That’s a long career for a race horse.

We’ll probably never know who named this horse after Perry McAdow or why. Was Perry a friend of the horse’s owner? Continue reading

Who Killed Marshal Bowman? Suspect 1: Isaiah Cooper

Marshal John Bowman

According to authors U.S. Cleveland and Lindsey Williams, Isaiah E. Cooper was convicted of Marshal Bowman’s assassination, but enough doubt existed that his scheduled execution was postponed three times, and ultimately when former Punta Gorda resident Albert Gilchrist was elected governor of Florida in 1908, he commuted Cooper’s death sentence to life in prison. Continue reading

Meet the Mysterious Mrs. B

Laura Bowman has been snubbed by other local historians. According to Lindsey Williams and U.S. Cleveland, after the assassination of her husband, Marshal John Bowman on January 29, 1903, “Mrs. Bowman moved to her mother’s home at Charlotte Harbor town and died two years later. The children were placed in the Arcadia Orphanage, and adopted.” After many sleepless nights worrying about the sad fate of the orphaned Bowman children, I initiated my own independent research. Continue reading

The Dick Family Mystery

John Monroe Dick was a gentleman farmer

The Dick family’s short presence in Punta Gorda’s early history is a mystery.

Angie Larkin tellls of the Dick family arrival in her book In Old Punta Gorda. The Dick family came to Punta Gorda in 1888 by covered wagon from Texas. They spent their first night in what is now the parking lot of Punta Gorda Waterfront Hotel and Suites. However, they didn’t stay long. In the 1880 Census they resided in Chambers, TX and in the 1900 US Census they were in Galveston, TX. Continue reading

Punta Gorda’s Most Famous Ghost is a Teen-Age Girl

Leah Sandlin painted by Christiane Belle Tremblay

Mary Leah Sandlin’s story is legendary in Punta Gorda. The 14-year-old was ironing clothes on the front porch of her family home when she caught on fire. She leapt off the porch and ran down the street engulfed in propellant-fueled flames. Neighbors put out the fire but Leah succumbed to her massive injuries within three hours. It is said her ghost still haunts the historic family home on Retta Esplanade. Continue reading

Why was McGraw’s Place known as the Bucket of Blood?

In the book, Our Fascinating Past-Charlotte Harbor: Early Years, the authors interchange the alias Bucket of Blood and Bloody Bucket in reference to McGraw’s Place. It was a small gas station with a counter where motorists could buy a soda or candy. McGraw’s Place was located at the corner of Tamiami Trail and Acline Road by the railroad tracks, and had a reputation as a secret speakeasy where locals could procure alcohol during Prohibition. Continue reading

Pregnant Postal Worker Killed in the Street

Kate “Sissie” Dick was an early resident of the new town of Punta Gorda. She came to Punta Gorda along with her parents, John and Amanda Dick, and her many siblings. The family traveled from Texas to Punta Gorda in a covered wagon.

Working Woman, Wife and Mother

Katie worked as the assistant postmaster and married Alfred Sloan on Halloween 1888 at the age of 22. The young couple moved to a home on Alligator Creek across from Indian Spring Cemetery. In 1889 they had their first daughter, Celia. Within two years of wedded bliss, Katie was pregnant with their second child. Continue reading