We happened upon Indian Mound Park by accident. We were out exploring on our way to "Old Englewood" when we spotted a small county park sign. Pillywiggins are curious by nature so we hung a left to follow the arrow.
The park sits on beautiful Lemon Bay. It has a nice boat launch, a canoe/kayak launch and a large parking lot for boat trailers. Visitors can enjoy fishing, a hiking trail or use the park's pavilion, restrooms, picnic tables & BBQ grills. What makes this park so unique? Indian Mound Park is also a historical archeological site.
Indian Mound Park, also known as Paulsen Point or the Paulsen Point Midden, was occupied by native people called The Manasota Culture from roughly 500 BCE to 900 AD. In the 1960's, before the park was created, an archeological excavation was undertaken by Ripley B. Bullen. It was determined that Paulsen Point was inhabited during four Florida cultural periods from 1,000 BC to 1,400 AD beginning with the Orange Period and the first appearance of ceramics and extending into the Safety Harbor Culture (900 AD to the 1700's).
No burial mounds were found at Paulsen Point although lower levels of the midden do contain human bone; remains of the earliest inhabitants. At least 13 burials were uncovered here but it's possible there were others. (There are reports this site was looted prior to the archeological excavation.) Paulsen Point Midden is the byproduct of longterm human use. It is not considered a ceremonial site.
The 1960's excavations revealed early inhabitants of Paulsen Point enjoyed a varied diet of seafood, shellfish and land mammals such as deer. This area also supports a wide variety of edible plants, berries & fruits.
It doesn't take long to explore Indian Mound Park but what we learned in that short amount of time was very interesting. It's worth checking out. We didn't find anything else like it during our stay but we later learned Paulsen Point is 1 of 8 archeological sites on Florida's public land. Indian Mound Park is located at 210 Winsor Avenue in Englewood. The park is open daily from 6 am until midnight.
Cherokee Street Park, part of Charlotte Harbor Aquatic Preserves, is less than 1/2 mile away from Indian Mound. Yep, we turned off for another sign as we continued up Winsor Avenue toward Old Englewood. We spent a few minutes scanning Lemon Bay for manatee. We didn't spot any manatee but we were digging the informational signage posted in the parks. Another sign we were happy to see - Cherokee Street is a dog-friendly park! Good to know if you're traveling with pets.
We had wandered off course a bit but we were still only a few blocks away from our intended destination. Stay tuned! Our next blog post features local art, a one-of-a-kind statue garden & the funky salvage shop we found in Old Englewood.
Our last stop on our tour of Florida, a week-long stay in Englewood to visit our dear friends Jimbob & Michelle. We booked a condo on Manasota Key about 15 minutes away from our friends. We invited Cousin Aaron to join us for a few days too. We looked forward to seeing him again. We didn't have much planned besides hanging out with our friends & family.
It was after dark when we arrived. We couldn't see the surrounding area but found the resort easily. It looked ok from the outside but we were sure disappointed when we entered our unit. It was long overdue for a complete gut & remodel. A far cry from the digs we had been enjoying. I won't call the place out though. Our unit was squeaky clean and the resort managers were wonderful, friendly & helpful. It would be an awesome place to stay if remodeled.
To be honest, the condo started to grow on us after a few days. It was in a great location. A party store, beach shop, several bars & restaurants were within walking distance. Two had live music nightly. Our unit had a large screened-in balcony overlooking Lemon Bay and the Gulf of Mexico was just across the street. We spent very little time indoors anyway. We were out exploring by day & spent our evenings relaxing on our balcony listening to the music. The fun we were having more than made up for the lackluster condo.
The bands wrapped up by 11 on weekdays, midnight or so on the weekends. After that, our section of the key would clear out completely. I wandered down to the dock a few times late night to listen to the water & enjoy the lights. It was so quiet I often wondered if I was the only one still up on the key.
Most mornings I took a cup of coffee down to the docks to watch the sunrise over Lemon Bay. What a great way to start the day! I'm an early riser now but I've never been a "morning person." That changed during our stay in Englewood. Manasota Key is such an incredible place. I couldn't wait to get up & start my day.
Beachcomber of Manasota Key
If you're looking for a great place to stay on Manasota Key, we recommend booking at Beachcomber of Manasota Key. We loved everything about this resort. It was located on a quiet street closer to our favorite Stump Pass Beach but still within walking distance to dining. The Gulf of Mexico was steps away from our front door. We couldn't hear the bands at night, just the sound of the ocean. Our unit was perfect and so was our view!
The sunsets were spectacular. (Better than Key West if you ask me.) Every evening people wandered to the beach to enjoy the show. The neighbor in the house behind us blew a conch horn from his balcony every night as the sun dipped below the horizon while spectators clapped & cheered for Mother Nature. It was awesome. We never missed a sunset.
There are well over 100 restaurants in the Englewood area but very few chains. My guess is chain restaurants can't compete with the local establishments serving fresh fish & locally grown veggies. With so many choices, restaurants set themselves apart with creative menus & exceptional service. Needless to say, the dining here is out of this world. If you prefer to cook, Englewood has a great farmer's market and plenty of fresh fish markets too. Our favorite restaurants were...
Landy's On the Water - Our first night out with Cousin Aaron. We shared crab cakes & coconut shrimp for an appetizer followed up by fresh seafood entrees. Yum! We returned to Landy's several times for lunch & dinner. I'm a big fan of Greek food so I had to try their Gyros & Spanakopita. Both were delicious.
Lock & Key Restaurant & Pub - Located across from Englewood Beach within walking distance of our resorts. Lock & Key was our go-to place for lunch & dinner when we didn't feel like driving off the key. We tried several items on the menu, all were delicious. My personal favorites were the berry beach salad & the baked brie with peach preserves. All entres are served with their homemade pumpkin bread. OMG, yum! Lucky for us, they sell loaves to go. We went through several for morning coffee & midnight snacks.
Our friend Michelle works at Leverock's in nearby Cape Haze. Of course, we had to check that out too. We went for Sunday Brunch with Cousin Aaron. My roast vegetable frittata was great but Leverock's is best known for their fresh seafood. It's the place to go if you're into oysters! We skipped the oysters but Jason & I returned for lunch later in the week to catch Michelle's shift & chow down on seafood. Yum! Next time we'll take the water taxi to check out Rum Bay.
Every meal we ate in Englewood was fabulous but our absolute favorite restaurant was Farlow's On The Water. It was a tad pricier than the others and reservations are recommended for dinner. We stopped in for lunch first & ate on the patio overlooking the water. That's my salad shown below. Strawberry, mango, feta, candied pecans & cajun shrimp. It was so good! We returned twice more for dinner, eating outside in the beautiful garden area to live entertainment. Farlow's dinner menu features tropical cuisine, fresh seafood & southern/cajun dishes but we ordered from their extensive nightly special list both times. We tried hogfish & golden tile for the 1st time. Both were delicious and prepared in such interesting ways.
Well rested & with our bellies full, we set out to explore Manasota Key, Englewood & the surrounding areas. There's plenty to do around Englewood. Every day was a new adventure. We have so much to share in upcoming blog posts. Art, nature, beautiful scenery & treasures from the sea.
We're just getting started with the best leg of our tour.
A few years ago I watched one of those haunted history shows on TV. I want to say it was on the Travel Channel. The program told "ghost stories" from several historical sites across the U.S. One segment featured the Smallwood Store, a haunted trading post in the Everglades, and the true story of "Bloody" Ed Watson. When I realized our travels would take us directly through the Everglades, the only thing that came to mind besides my fear of snakes was the Smallwood Store. When we hit Everglade City we turned off the main drag & headed to Chokoloskee Island to check it out.
The current settlement on Chokoloskee Island was established in 1874. However, indigenous peoples inhabited this area for at least 1,500 years before European explorers first recorded the island. Chokoloskee Island sits 20' above sea level, a higher elevation than the mainland. Why? Because Chokoloskee Island was built up by seashells discarded by mound-building native peoples that occupied this land for over 2,000 years. These people, called the Calusa, also created wide, shallow canals for their dugout canoes. Their canals were used for transportation into the 1700's.
Smallwood Store - Established 1906
The Smallwood Family
Ted Smallwood moved to Chokoloskee Island in 1897. Five families lived on the island at the time. He built the Smallwood Store in 1906. The post office was moved into the store & Ted Smallwood served as the Postmaster until he retired in 1941. His daughter then became Postmaster & the Smallwood family continued to operate the store until 1982. When the store finally closed it still contained 90% of its inventory & fixtures. In 1990, Ted Smallwood's granddaughter reopened the store as a museum. Her grandson was working the museum the day we visited!
Chokoloskee Post Office at Smallwood Store
The Smallwood Store Museum
Life on Chokoloskee Island
The Seminole People
Chokoloskee Island was originally inhabited by the mound-building Calusa peoples. In 1763, when the Spanish transferred their land claim to Great Britain, the area was mostly uninhabited. It remained unoccupied into the 1800's. The Seminole people resettled the area before Europeans arrived to do the same.
Chokoloskee - The Land of the Walking Trees
We purchased a copy of the "True Tales of the Everglades." It's a short read full of interesting facts & photos. My mom bought me the "Little House" series when I was a girl & I've often imagined what life was like as an early settler. This was the first time I had ever considered life as a settler in the Everglades. I'd like to think I'm a tough little farm girl but Lord knows, I am not tough enough for swamp life.
Smallwood Store's Haunted History
The Story of "Bloody" Ed Watson
"Bloody" Ed Watson was originally from South Carolina. His family relocated to northern Florida where Watson found trouble as a young man. He left Florida for the Indian Territory in Oklahoma and later fled Oklahoma after allegedly killing a female outlaw named Belle Starr. He eventually settled in the Chokoloskee area and began a sugar cane plantation. Watson ventured to the Smallwood trading post every Tuesday to stock up on supplies and laborers to work in his cane. The workers he engaged would never be seen again. Legend has it, Watson killed the workers on pay day. There were rumors & speculation but no proof for 15 years until 1910 when a hurricane exposed the body of Hannah "Big Six" Smith hidden in the mangroves.
When Watson returned to the Smallwood Store the following Tuesday, he was met by a posse formed by the community members. There was a brief standoff before Watson attempted to fire the first shot on the posse. However, Watson's ammunition was wet which caused his shotgun to misfire. The posse unloaded on Watson with the first bullet striking him right between the eyes. Thirty additional rounds struck Watson's body. They say, when the autopsy was performed on Bloody Ed Watson a coffee can full of lead was taken out of him!
The killing of "Bloody" Ed Watson was a community project!
Many believe Watson haunts the Smallwood Store to this day.
Ok, I'll admit. I am a huge skeptic. I try to keep my mind open to all possibilities but that being said, ol' Mr. Watson would have to tap me on the shoulder & holler "Boo!" to get me on board with a ghost story. We found the museum extremely interesting but we saw, heard and felt no trace of Watson.
Another couple entered the museum as we were making our way out. The lady was barely through the doorway when she asked excitedly about the ghost she'd heard about on TV. I had to chuckle when I heard Ted Smallwood's great-great grandson's answer. "He's only here on Tuesdays."
We made it out of the Everglades safely & headed toward our last stop on our Florida tour. We were expecting a low key visit with our dear friends in Englewood. Little did we know, we were about to fall in love with life on Manasota Key.
Nature lovers, you won't want to miss our upcoming blog posts!