; Phantoms and Monsters: Pulse of the Paranormal

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Haunted Smallwood Store - Chokoloskee, Florida

I received an email from a reader in reference to the Smallwood Store in Chokoloskee, FL and its haunted past and present:

"When I visited the store, I did not see or hear anything out of the ordinary. However, many others have, and the place did give me the creeps. Numerous websites say that under no circumstances should anyone walk under the store, even though it is on five-foot high raised pilings. I decided not to challenge my luck.

The Smallwood store is one of the last remaining vestiges of a ghost town named Chokoloskee, located on a small island of the same name. Chokoloskee was the southernmost mainland city on the US gulf coast.

In 1906, Ted Smallwood established a store, Seminole trading post and Post Office in Chokoloskee. Today, the store is mostly remembered as the site of a bloody murder.

Edgar Watson was an outlaw from South Carolina. He gained fame by killing the outlaw Belle Starr. In Chokoloskee, Watson raised sugar cane and produced syrup. Violence followed him. During an argument in Key West, he slit the throat of a man named Adolphus Santini. Although Santini survived, Watson was suspected of many murders in the area. According to one account, he hired a number of migrant workers on his farm and then murdered them to avoid paying their wages.

True or not, people of the island believed that Watson was a murderer. In 1910, Watson became involved in a disagreement with a local man named Cox. Watson went by boat to buy shotgun shells at Ted Smallwood's store and said he was going to kill Cox. When Watson returned to the store a few days later, he was met by a mob. After a brief standoff, Watson was gunned down.

Several years ago, Ted Smallwood's relatives reopened the store as a museum. Lynn, the owner and curator of the museum, has reported many strange occurrences. Interestingly, the hauntings don't appear to be connected to the murder.

Most of the reports are centered on the room that was once Ted Smallwood's bedroom. Although the Smallwoods didn’t live at the store, they would occasionally stay there overnight when they expected a late shipment. The restroom to the museum is located just off the bedroom, and numerous patrons have reported seeing the image of a woman in the dresser mirror on their way to the restroom. Just a few weeks ago, Lynn's daughter saw a shadowy figure move through the bedroom.

Lynn and her family have been contacted numerous times by local residents who have reported hearing trespassers in the store late at night. Invariably, when they go to investigate, nothing is ever found. Lynn told me in no uncertain terms that she will not go into the store alone at night.

Sadly, the Smallwood store faces an uncertain future. Acting illegally, a developer tore-up the 70 year old access road to the store. This was a salvo in the developer's fight against a government ban on building waterfront homes and a marina in a protected wetland. Although it has since reopened, the legal battle continues. To help preserve the Ted Smallwood Store, visit http://smallwoodstore.com"

Also read Historic Smallwood Store w/ video

Lynn Smallwood-McMillin, executive director of the historic Ted Smallwood Store in Chokoloskee, stands behind the counter minutes after the store opened for the first time in six months on Sunday morning. After six months of closure and legal battles over access to the Smallwood's Store, the historic landmark recently reopened after a court order prompted Florida-Georgia Grove LLP, the property owner of Mamie Street where the store and museum sits, to take down it's fence and allow access to the store that's catered to Chokoloskee residents for over one hundred years. Tristan Spinski/Staff



The modern settlement of Chokoloskee Island started in 1874. The Island name is an Indian word meaning "Old Home". Early settlers included Adolphus Santini, CG McKinney and Ted Smallwood. The island residents farmed, fished, caught turtles, and hunted alligators and local wildlife.

In 1891 a post office was started by CG McKinney, who also helped start the first school on the island. McKinney acted as postmaster and Ted Smallwood was the mail carrier. Because of the uncertainty of the mail boat schedule, a conch shell would be blown to alert the islanders that the mail had arrived. In 1906 Ted Smallwood became Chokoloskee postmaster and opened a general store which housed the post office. The store became the main feature of the island, selling supplies to the community and trading and keeping good relations with the local Seminole indians.

Chokoloskee and the other small isolated islands nearby also became a refuge for outlaws, the most notable being Edgar Watson. Watson had ties to other outlaws and had killed at least one person when he came to the area. During an argument in Key West he slit the throat of Adolphus Santini. In 1910, while Edgar Watson was involved in a situation dealing with multiple murders, he returned to Chokoloskee. He was met at the shore by a large crowd and killed. Ted Smallwood continued to run the general store and remained postmaster until he retired in 1941. In 1956 the causeway to Chokoloskee Island was completed, finally providing road to the mainland. The Smallwood Store remained open until 1982, and has now re-opened as a museum. - Jim Pike

News link - October 14, 2011 - Mamie Street back open in Chokoloskee, Smallwood store opens Sunday

The story of the Chokoloskee Bay country: With the reminiscences of pioneer C. S. "Ted" Smallwood (Copeland studies in Florida history)

Seventy-seven years in Everglades-Chokoloskee-Naples;: The story of my life,

Crackers in the Glade: Life and Times in the Old Everglades



I have posted an important poll at the bottom of the 'Tahoe Tessie' article for those who receive the newsletter. Thanks...Lon