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Coastal History

Hurricane Wilma 2005

The “Greatest Storms on Earth” – Part VII This is a continuation of a series on the history of hurricanes in our area. If you missed a part, you can find it online at under Tales told Twice archives. 2005 Hurricane Wilma Wilma, the most recent hurricane to affect our area five years ago, was also the most unusual in many ways. On October 18 at 11 p.m., the storm was upgraded to a Category Two hurricane. Throughout that night, Wilma, then located southwest of Grand Cayman, continued to intensify to the point where, at midnight, it had jumped ... Read More »

Hurricane Andrew 1992

The “Greatest Storms on Earth” – Part VI In the afternoon of August 23, 1992, highways were jammed as over 700,000 people in South Florida were evacuating due to Hurricane Andrew that was still offshore and bearing down on Miami. By midnight, the eye of the storm was starting to have cycles of eye wall replacement, a phenomenon that occurs in very intense hurricanes (meaning this Category 4 storm was strengthening), while Andrew, the first hurricane of the season, was still 100 miles east of Miami.  Indecisive residents quickly found that their window of opportunity was gone forcing them to ... Read More »

1960 Hurricane Donna

The “Greatest Storms on Earth” – Part V This is a continuation of a series on the history of hurricanes in our area. If you missed a part, you can find it online at under Tales told Twice archives. Similar to other major hurricanes described in this series, Hurricane Donna’s impact was much more than just the physical damage it caused as it passed through Southwest Florida the storm had enormous social and economic impacts as well. While other hurricanes ended chapters in our local history, Hurricane Donna closed the book completely on the pioneer era and opened a ... Read More »

1935 & 1940s Hurricanes

The “Greatest Storms on Earth” Part IV This is a continuation of a series on the history of hurricanes in our area. If you missed part, you can find it online at under Tales told Twice archives. 1935 “The wind, it was tremendous. You couldn’t hear. And the pressure inside the packing house was so much greater than what was outside that the windows blew out. My nephew was pulled right out of my arms. My mother went, too. I never saw them again. I managed to grab hold of the doorway. I felt the house start to rises ... Read More »

1920s Hurricanes

The “Greatest Storms on Earth” – Part III This is a continuation of a series on the history of hurricanes in our area if you missed part you can find it online at under Tales told Twice archives. 1926 “We had about thirty people that night to care for. Waves were washing in on the front porch and coming under the door. All of the chickens were drowning and one of the boys crawled out a back window and got what he could and we cleaned them.” Ted Smallwood, Chokoloskee, September 1926 In the U.S. the Great Depression started ... Read More »

1873 & 1910 Hurricanes

The “Greatest Storms on Earth” – Part II This is a continuation of a series on the history of hurricanes in our area if you missed part you can find it online at under Tales told Twice archives. “The Calusas deemed Marco Island sacred because the hurricanes which came howling up from the Caribbean Sea spun counterclockwise and always seemed to move around the Island.” Really? This quote, taken from a local newspaper article several years ago, repeats a local myth and belief held for many years by Southwest Floridians. There is nothing true about it and the statement ... Read More »

As hurricane season 2010 begins – a look back at past storms

It is now 2010, the 50th Anniversary of the infamous Hurricane Donna which, in the fall of 1960, made landfall in Collier County, literally changing overnight the history of Southwest Florida. As we begin to get ready for hurricane season, it is important to examine not only exactly what a hurricane is, but also to review the impact of several of these historical storms on our area’s geography, and the effects on our local economy and residents. The English word, “hurricane” comes from Spanish. In 1555, the book Historia General y Natural de las Indias first mentions the word Huracán ... Read More »

Key Marco

There is a lot of confusion over where or what is “Key Marco.” Most new residents to the Island have heard of the “Key Marco Cat” and know vaguely that it is a small statue of a kneeling wooden feline image found on Marco in 1896. Others know that it was found by Frank Hamilton Cushing in his archaeological dig on Marco and it, along with over 2,000 other artifacts, were shipped off of the Island to places like the British Museum in London, the University of Pennsylvania and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C. But the term “Key Marco” ... Read More »

The Legend of the Pirate Gasparilla – the REAL Facts…

The truth is that there never was a pirate named “Gasparilla.” Despite the fact that the Annual Gasparilla Festival started in 1904 to celebrate “Pirate Jose Gaspar’s” life which included numerous Gasparilla parades on both land and water and, of course, The Tampa Bay “Buccaneers” – nothing about Gasparilla has ever been confirmed, outside of one sole source: Juan Gomez also known as John Gomez. Much of the “proof” for Gomez’s story of this pirate has to do with local place names and how they fit nicely into the legend. However, the name “Gasparilla” is on maps as far back as 1772 – twelve years before “Jose ... Read More »

The Legend of the Pirate Gasparilla

According to local lore the famous pirate Jose Gaspar was born in Spain in 1756 and joined the Spanish navy as a boy until age 27 when he mutinied and commandeered a ship to the Gulf of Mexico. Gaspar’s decision in 1782 to rebel, and leave his wife and children forever, was because his theft of the Spanish Crown jewels had been detected. A price was declared on his head and he swore a vengeance on all Spaniards. Leading a group of escaped convicts, Gaspar with his stolen ship established a home base in 1783 in the area of Charlotte ... Read More »

Tigertail Beach

People wondering why Marco Island’s Tigertail Beach is located where it is and how it got its name usually reach the wrong conclusions that: 1) that the property was given to the County to be a public beach by the Deltona Corporation because of environmental issues related to the lagoon, protected wildlife, etc. and, 2) it’s given name has something to do with the shape of the existing beach. First, its location is solely a factor of it being the least desirable beach that Deltona owned (in contrast to “Resident’s Beach” which was the best area – dead center of the ... Read More »

March is Women’s History Month—Woohoo!

Did you ever wonder how women got assigned March? Many of the sayings that go along with March might be seen by some to also apply to women. March roars in like a lion goes out like a lamb. The Ides of March. St. Patrick’s Day March Madness March is a tempest March is tempestuous You get the picture.  Women are seen as being emotional, especially boomer women who are in Menopause (dare I say that word). One moment it appears you are roaring about something and as soon as the ‘hot flash’ is over you become as subdued as ... Read More »

The Silver King

After the Civil War, there were few rugged pioneers who chose to settle on the old shell mounds that the islands of Southwest Florida offered and attempt to eke out a living. Few were willing to endure mosquitoes, heat, and almost total isolation, with towns and villages accessible only by boat and no railroad or roads within hundreds of miles.  Homesteaders tried to make a living by commercial fishing in the rich estuaries, burning buttonwood trees to make charcoal for sale in Florida’s largest city, Key West, or planting garden crops of vegetables and fruits to be shipped by vessel ... Read More »

Who Dunnit: Anatomy of an Egomaniacal Con Artist – Part 3 of 3

With Barbara Mackle safe and in good condition after spending 83 hours buried alive in the woods near Duluth, Georgia, attention immediately turned to the kidnappers: Gary Steven Krist, a small time Alaska crook who had escaped from jail in California, and his accomplice, Ruth Eisemann Schier, a bright, petite graduate student.  Everyone wanted to know: who were these people? Why they had done this heinous crime and would they now pay for it? Krist, who had grown up in Alaska, started stealing at age nine. By 14 he was convicted of auto theft and put in a juvenile facility ... Read More »

The Origin of Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is observed on February 14 in the USA and in many countries around the world. How and when did this tradition start? There are many different beliefs about this. Some authorities trace the tradition to an ancient Roman festival called Lupercalia to ensure protection from wolves. During this festival young men struck young women with strips of animal hide and women believed that this made them more fertile. Others link it to an old English belief that birds chose their mates on February 14th. Many others connect the event with one or more saints of the early Christian ... Read More »

The Nerve-Wracking Rescue of Kidnapped Heiress Barbara Mackle – Part 2 of 3

Word got out that Robert Mackle’s daughter Barbara, age 20, had been kidnapped in the early morning hours of December 17, 1968. Everyone in Florida and throughout the nation who knew of the Mackles was shocked and paralyzed. Their concern and fear during the early Christmas season of 1968 paralleled the emotions felt 36 years earlier when the Lindbergh baby was kidnapped and then found dead. On Marco Island, in the Mackle brothers’ brand new development, no one could talk or think of anything but the kidnapping. It was as if a local child had been taken. All radios were ... Read More »

The Daring Kidnapping of Barbara Mackle – Part 1 of 3

1968 After the grand opening of Marco Island on January 31, 1965, the Marco Island Development Corporation, a joint development venture between the Mackle Brothers and the Collier family was going gangbusters.  By 1968, with lot prices averaging $10,300, land sales were totaling $11 million, while the sale of homes had reached $3.5 million.  The value of Deltona stock, the Mackle Brothers’ company, had climbed from $12 per share in 1963 to $20 per share by the start of 1968 and was providing a return of 12% after taxes! By early 1968 the three Mackle brothers, having finished the dredging ... Read More »

A Marine Jacket Comes Home

By Carol Glassman In September of 2005, I was privileged to share an unusual story about a very brave Marine who fought in World War II. The story came to me through his daughter Vickie Kelber, who was then a councilwoman on the Marco Island City Council. The story began: Marco Island’s City Council Chairwoman Vickie Kelber received an amazing message this week; in fact, it came out of the blue: cyberspace. It was something like hearing your message in a bottle – or a jacket pocket in this case – had been found. Vickie received an e-mail message from ... Read More »