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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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

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