More than 700 people came out in support of the historic Smallwood Store Saturday, Jan. 31, at a benefit music concert staged to raise funds for the Chokoloskee landmark enmeshed in a legal tangle.
“It was a real community event,” declared Marya Repko of the Everglades Society of Historic Preservation (ESHP). Approximately $10,000 was raised to help defray legal costs which involve the access road leading to the store.
By 2 PM, 500 wristbands were sold out, and concert goers were marked with a felt pen signifying their paid admission. A black-and-white photo of Smallwood Store taken by Clyde Butcher fetched $1,200 at auction, and fundraisers garnered $1,000for a walk-on role in an upcoming film by KC Schilling whose uncle made “Wind Across the Everglades” in the late 1950s.
Ideal weather provided sunny and breezy surroundings for the attendees who set up lawn chairs to take in the all-day entertainment. The performers donated their time and talent to the event, and provided a sterling array of folk and blues. Popular songstress Valerie Wisecracker elicited plenty of laughter at her personally composed songs of life in the Everglades. Also performing to loud applause were the Florida Boys, Mangrove J. Robert, Snooker Joe Stem, Sun King, the Anderson Brothers, Stone Crab Steve Avery, Gator Nate Augustus, Moccasin Marie Nofsinger, and Raiford Starke.
[/caption] alt=”A6-CBN-2-6-15-4″ width=”200″ height=”100″ />Contributing Native crafts and fry bread were members of the Seminole tribe. Their support of the Smallwood Store harkens back to their ancestors and particularly Charlie Tigertail, who was a friend of Ted Smallwood, founder of the original Smallwood Trading Post.
Granddaughter of Smallwood, Lynn Smallwood McMillan, explained, “This is not a museum where you reproduce history — it’s where history was made.”
The Smallwood Store is a landmark in Southwest Florida history. Nearly 100 years ago, settlers picked up their mail at the trading post, and bought supplies there. The Seminoles traded pelts and deer meat for cloth and ammunition. After 65 years in business, the store closed, but much like a time capsule,the building and artifacts have been preserved.
Currently at stake is the access road to the store. Landowners next door discovered that Mamie Street bisects their property. Creating a new access was deemed harmful to the mangroves, and the Smallwood-McMillans have been waging a court battle to keep the museum open for four years.
For a brief history of the Smallwood Store, there is a new book in print by Everglades City resident Marya Repko. It provides some background history on the state of Florida, a look at Ted Smallwood’s early life, background on the Ckokoloskee Causeway and a recount on how the store was converted into a museum.
For information on obtaining a copy, visit www.evergladeshistorical.org.