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Travel Back InTime At Ted Smallwood’s Store - a Preserved Trading Post and Museum, Chokoloskee,
We discovered this treasure by accident and if you are interested in history and how an area evolved then it is a must. We had originally travelled to Everglades City for an airboat ride and afterwards went for a drive to find somewhere to get a drink. We ended up on Chokoloskee Island which is connected to the mainland by a causeway and at the end of a road in a car park by the beach saw a wooden building on stilts with a drink sign outside and went to investigate.
The building is on stilts so we went upstairs and found the museum which is Ted Smallwood’s store which has been preserved in the same condition as when his daughter closed the store in 1982. The curator was extremely helpful and told us all about Ted Smallwood, his family and Edgar Watson, whose story was told by Peter Matthiessen in his novel Killing Mister Watson.
In 1906 Ted became Postmaster for Chokoloskee and opened his general store. As it was such an isolated area it was also used as a trading post from far and wide for such items as furs, hides, and fresh goods. Ted remained as Postmaster until he retired in 1941 when his daughter took over the position. His daughter ran the store until 1982 and it is reported that 90% of the original goods were still in the store. Today the shelves are still lined with the goods that were for sale during these times. We were told most of the apothecary items contained alcohol which was certainly borne out by the smell of several of the bottles which are still full. It is an excellent history lesson of what it was like to live during those difficult times and it was not until 1956 that the causeway connected the island to the mainland. There are also sections where the different tools and household items that were used and available to purchase are show. The area where his daughter lived has also been preserved, again exactly as if she had ‘popped’ out and will return later.
If you look out the back window you can see where Edgar Watson was killed. His tale is also told in the museum. He was a planter who already had a doubtful background and thought responsible for the deaths of more than one men and is also reputed to have killed lots of his hands on completion of their work at his plantation when they went to him and asked to be paid he refused. When he landed at Chololoskee in October 1910 he was met by an angry crowd who killed him.
Author: Stuart and Jill Foster
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