Monday, November 24, 2014

Useppa Island

This is Useppa Island.

This little island (about one mile long and 1/3 of a mile wide at its widest part) has been visited by people for thousands of years.

Paleo Indians lived on the island about 8,000 BCE. Later, Calusa and then Seminole Indians would live on the island.

In the early 1830s a Cuban fisherman named Jose Caldez, operated fishing ranchos here. There were twenty palmetto-thatched houses and sixty people on the island. By 1836, all the houses were abandoned or destroyed. It is believed that Jose Caldez named the island "Josefa" which was later Italianized to "Giuseppe" and eventually transformed into "Useppa".

During the Seminole Wars, the U.S. Army had a very temporary fort here. Fort Casey was built in 1850 but then abandoned before the end of the year.

The 1870 census reported only two people living on Useppa Island. Another report in 1885 said it was totally uninhabited and by 1895 only one family lived on the island.

Useppa Island has been known for its luxury resorts since the late 1900s.

In 1894, John Roach, a multi-millionaire streetcar magnate from Chicago, bought the island for $395. He built the Useppa Inn on the island. Mr. Roach also began inviting his wealthy friends to Useppa Island to partake in the new sport of Tarpon fishing.

Above Tarpon pictures are from the Internet

Some of the famous visitors to Useppa Island were: Teddy Roosevelt, Zane Grey, Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Herbert Hoover, Mae West, Shirley Temple, The Vanderbilt and Ringling families.

In 1911, multi-millionaire, Barron Collier purchased the island. He was the largest landowner in Florida at the time, with over one million acres in his possession.

Mr. Collier built a house and lived on the island. He also improved the sand beaches, built tennis courts and a nine-hole golf course. Mr. Collier made improvements to the island's existing hotel.

Barron Collier died in 1938, the island was then owned and managed by the Collier Development Corporation until 1961 and then a Mr. Snow bought the island, adding an airstrip and swimming pool.

In May of 1960, Useppa Island was used by the CIA to began training for the Bay of Pigs invasion.

Mr. James Turner bought the island in 1968 for $540,000. He made the island an "adults only" resort, no children under 14 years-old were allowed on Useppa.

In 1976, Mr. Gar Beckstead bought the island. He is still the current owner. Mr. Beckstead made many improvements to the island and its buildings. Useppa Island is still a private, island resort called Useppa Island Club and there are some privately owned houses on the island.

The Colonel, his parents, his sister and I visited Useppa Island in mid-October. We made the long drive to Captiva Island and caught the boat, The Lady Chadwick, at 10 a.m.

We boarded the boat and began our trip to Useppa Island, which took about one hour. As the boat made its way to the island, one of the crew members told us of the history of the area. He pointed out other smaller islands and the fishing camps tucked between them.

On our way to Useppa Island we made a stop at Cabbage Key to drop off some of the other passengers on the boat. The Colonel and I have been to Cabbage Key before.

Our approach to Useppa Island.

Our time on Useppa Island was limited. We had enough time for lunch, a visit to the excellent, local museum and a little walk around. We made our way to the Collier Inn for lunch. The Collier Inn was once the home of Barron Collier.

The inn was beautiful inside.

We ate in the dining room that was to the right as you entered the inn and not the one pictured above.

Our lunches were delicious. After lunch we made our way to the little museum on the island. The pink path to the museum took us by beautiful scenery and cottages.

This is the museum on Useppa. It told the history of the island. As volunteers for a small museum, The Colonel and I always like to see how other small museums operate.

Before we headed back to the dock to meet up with the Lady Chadwick again we visited the gift shop and poked our heads into the local bar. We were told to check out the Tarpon scales on display there. The bar top was made of hundreds of Tarpon scales sealed in Epoxy Resin. The person who caught the Tarpon has their name on the scale, as well as how much the Tarpon weighed, and when/where it was caught.

The Lady Chadwick made her way back to the dock. It was time to leave Useppa Island.

We saw some dolphins swimming and jumping alongside the boat during our trip back to Captiva Island. At one time there were seven dolphins. I tried to get a picture of all of them together, but I was fighting the other photographers on the boat to get the perfect picture and my camera was taking too long between shots to be ready again to take another picture...and dolphins are swift jumpers and swimmers. I did get a couple of shots of a single dolphin.

When our boat docked once again at Captiva Island we saw several manatees in the water.

The Colonel and I had been wanting to visit Useppa Island and the little museum there for some time...we can now check that off of our Bucket Lists.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Halloween Firsts

Our little town has a wonderful Halloween tradition. Thousands of area children come to the town's historic district and walk up and down the streets to trick-or-treat at creatively decorated houses.

The Colonel and I love walking around the streets each Halloween to see the little ones all dressed up. It is also fun to see the adults dressed up. The Colonel's parents join us in these walks.

Darling-Sister-In-Law has been retired for over six months now and this was her first Halloween walk downtown. She had a friend from Texas visiting and she joined us too.

This year I dressed as "Rosie the Riveter".

Darling-Sister-In-Law was Frankenstein's Monster. Her Texas friend transformed into a construction worker.

My-Favorite-Father-In-Law was a....cannibal?

The Colonel had meetings all day and did not have the time to work up a costume and My-Favorite-Mother-In-Law went as herself.

We were armed with bags of candy to hand to the little ones as we walked up and down the streets.

Our little town has another tradition on ice cream for the kids is handed out by the Masonic Lodge members in Gilchrist Park.

When Gov. Albert Gilchrist, who was a past master of the lodge, died in May 1926, he bequeathed $5,000 to be used to make sure all the local children had ice cream on Halloween.

According to history, Gov. Gilchrist loved ice cream and he shared that love with the town's children. He invited them to the local pharmacy and soda fountain for free ice cream on Halloween. Before he died, he set up an account to purchase the ice cream into perpetuity.

Apparently the $5,000 account is still there and the lodge only uses the interest from the CD to buy the ice cream each year.

The first year The Colonel and I walked downtown (7 years ago) and saw the line for the free ice cream, I got into the line too and was told that the ice cream was only for kids (we were unaware of the tradition and its rules at the time). So this year, when Darling-Sister-In-Law asked if she was able to get free ice cream, I told her no. She went up to the table to see if she could get ice cream anyway.

The gentleman handed her an ice cream sandwich. I saw other adults with ice cream sandwiches and decided to give it a try again this year. I scored my first Halloween ice cream! Thanks Gov. Gilchrist. I have a great fondness for ice cream too and I am still a kid at heart.