Florida Everglades Boat Tour – 2011

Smallwood's Store

On a recent trip to view the Everglades with our friend, Judy Caseley, we learned about the plight of the future of Smallwood's Store. This piece of Florida history was built in 1906 as a trading post by Ted Smallwood, at a time when the hardy pioneers were settling the town of Chokoloskee in the Everglades. This was long before central air! The Seminoles came to trade their fish and hides for other goods. Ted Smallwood had an excellent relationship with the Seminole people! The store was open until 1982. Mr. Smallwood's granddaughter, Lynn, reopened the store in 1990 as a museum. Inside is much of the merchandise that was in the store when it closed. To enter the museum is to take a walk through time! The Seminoles have donated a replica of a dugout canoe, used for so many generations by their people.

The property it sits on was home to the Calusa, a Native American group who lived in Florida for thousands of years before the Europeans found Florida. They are called the "Shell People.” The Spaniards wrote about the Calusa when they first arrived. The Calusa had a complex society, but vanished by the early 1700s. Many, many artifacts have been found there! Tools, weapons, pottery, and even a skeleton! Shells were used as spoons, bowls, hooks, and other tools. They have been lovingly safeguarded, since they are much older than either the pioneers or the Seminole people, who came to Florida in the early 1700s. What a treasure trove Judy showed us! Bits of pottery and shells turned into tools! They tell a story about a people who have long ago vanished from the earth! There is more to be discovered there, and on adjoining properties. Judy has photographs of the early days of the store, when the red stilted building was the only place to buy fabric, shoes, food, and other necessities! Fishermen would trade their fish for other goods.

The museum is non-profit, open for the education of Floridians and anyone who wants to know more about the people and culture of the past. The future of this little museum is threatened by developers! They have bulldozed the earth around it and blocked off the road to the store. Several families live on the road. They have been denied the right to drive to their homes. The store and grounds are a fortune for historians, archeologists, and anthropologists! History that spans thousands of years! Do we really need another marina or condominium at the expense of our past?

Further, wildlife in the area is having their homes enroached upon! A Great Horned Owl was resting in a tree later that evening!

We strongly urge all of our readers to make your voices heard against this horrible destruction of our history, by sending an e-mail to Collier County Commissioner for District 5, Mr. Jim Coletta. His e-mail address is JimColetta@colliergov.net

Let's make all of our voices heard and help preserve this wonderful piece of our history!

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Everglades Boat Tours with Captain Judy Casely

We had a wonderful time with our friend, Judy Caseley, of Everglades Boat Tours! The Everglades is a beautiful, unique area, and Judy is so knowledgeable! She knows where to see the most birds, the history of the area, and has close ties with Chief James Billie of the Seminole people. Judy is an excellent guide, tailoring her tours to personal interests. She will take you sightseeing, bird watching, shelling, on eco-tours, camping, or on photo shoots! We took along our friend, Don, for an amazing day!

Judy took us to the Smallwood Store first. The store has over a century of history in Chokoloskee in Collier County. She showed us some of the Calusa artifacts she discovered. They lived here for thousands of years before vanishing in the 1700s. There are photographs of the early days of the store, which began as a trading post in 1906. A replica dugout canoe gifted by the Seminole, shows the bond between them and the Smallwood family. The store is now a non-profit museum.

Then we went off across the water to see islands, mangrove, and thousands of birds! shark! Judy brought us to Sandfly Island, where dozens of ibises were roosting. This was home to a Calusa family once. We saw the spring, cistern, and house foundation. Fascinating history! The bugs were really biting, so we didn't stay long. Judy does have special suits to wear if you want to tarry. There's a port a potty on the dock. Ospreys flew overhead, and there were some nests in view. We passed heron along the island shores. The rookery had hundreds of striking ibises, egrets, herons, pelicans, anhingas, and two buzzards. There were many adorable juveniles in the branches. We were enthralled to watch a mother pelican feed her five babies! They plunged their little heads into her throat to get food! I'm certainly glad I didn't have to feed my children like that! We enjoyed watching the pelicans groom themselves and settle in for the night. The young ibises, too, were fascinating to watch! There was lots of activity and noise as all the birds returned home, ate, and found a comfortable perch. Judy taught us about the different types of mangroves the birds were nesting in. Did you know there are three kinds? Black, red, and white. They are an important part of the eco system! A special treat was finding the elegant Roseate Spoonbills! They were wading in shallow water looking for supper! Some others came flying in and settled in a nearby tree. They are really beautiful birds! By now we had spent hours in the ‘Glades, and the sun was setting. Judy knew where to get the best view of that, too! It was spectacular, as you'll see in the photos! Colors changed from glowing gold, to fiery red, to soft pink. Flocks of birds flew over our heads in a stunning display! Awesome sights! The light faded quickly. It was dark when we returned, and Don caught sight of aGreat Horned Owl in a tree. We managed to get a few pictures of this magnificent creature.

Judy herself is a former teacher, a photographer, member of the Audubon Society, and licensed and insured captain. She has lived on a Seminole Reservation, and been a resident of the Everglades area for many years. She was friends with Loren "Totch” Brown, an author, lifetime resident of the Everglades, and advocate of saving the unique ecosystem and historical area that it is! Totch and Uncle Cliff Goff taught her many things about the area. The boat was very comfortable and roomy, too!

We had a day of breathtaking sights and were captivated by the history! Thank you, Judy! If you are interested in touring with her and enjoying a captivating time, the number is 239-695-2929.