If you want to get a sense of the foundation of Florida and it’s rich history, you might want to take a trip down to Chokoloskee Island – a small gem located on the western edge of the Everglades.
Chokoloskee Island is one of the most precious jewels of Southwest Florida, yet somehow it seems to be left forgotten by the rest of the counties near them. This is a place where no more than 1,000 people live, and most residents have lived on the island their entire lives.
The Historic Smallwood Store
We traveled to Chokoloskee a few times, right after Irma, to get a chance to hear their stories and learn about the island’s culture. What we saw will forever stay with us. The people there love their tiny town and its indomitable spirit.
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We ventured into the historic Ted Smallwood’s store, where we met Gary Mcmillin, a resident of the island since the 60’s. We heard that in order to understand the soul of the island, we needed to enter this store.
Gary took us on a tour of the building, which is now a museum open to the public. Stepping into the museum was like stepping into a time machine that takes you right deep in the heart of the Everglades during the early 1900’s. The museum is loaded with authentic artifacts and crafts from Florida’s history, authentic Seminole crafts & carvings, artwork & photography from local artists, alligator heads, and other items.
This is also where the murder of the infamous serial killer, Edgar J. Watson, took place – a monumental event where the people of Chokoloskee came together to put an end to this abusive character.
The century-old building has survived around 6 hurricanes, including Hurricane Irma. Unfortunately, Irma was too strong for the building and it suffered damages to its structure. Gary is seeking support from SWFL to aid in the restoration process.
To support the rebuild of Smallwood Store, visit their GoFundMe page to donate and help preserve Florida’s rich history.