I want to tell about two different places in Collier County that are important in Seminole history.
The first is the Tamiami Trail. It opened as a highway on April 26, 1928. So it just celebrated its anniversary. This Saturday in Everglades City is the annual celebration.
Construction of the trail through the heart of the Everglades and Big Cypress was considered a monumental engineering accomplishment for its day. I could talk a long time about it because it is also a big part of the history of my park. But I want to tell how it connects with Seminole history.
When the highway opened, it exposed the once isolated Seminole camps to the modern world. The Seminole or Miccosukee Indians in the area moved their camps along the highway where they would open them up to tourists travelling from Tampa to Miami. There were no organized or federally recognized tribes at the time, and they were limited to what they could do for income.
The modern world was changing the Seminole / Miccosukee culture, but the people adapted to the change. With the villages along the trail, they could still live their traditional way and earn money from the people visiting their village. They sold crafts, wrestled alligators, and put their village on display for people to see. Patchwork was in abundance. This was not the most prosperous time for the people; that would come decades later. But it could probably be considered a very good time for the Seminole / Miccosukee people.
You can find dozens of old postcards on ebay with photos from the villages along the Tamiami Trail. Like this one below.
It is no surprise that when the Miccosukee Tribe formed and gained federal recognition in 1962 that the main reservation is along the trail. And so is their casino near Miami. I have counted about two dozen Indian villages that still remain along the trail today. But with success and modern changes, none of them are operated as tourist villages. Well, maybe the Miccosukee Cultural Center has the appearance of a tourist village, but more as a museum and not as a place where the people live under the chickees. Those days are long gone.
Highway 29 bisects the Tamiami Trail and goes down to Everglades City. You continue south of E-City three miles, over a causeway, and come to the island of Chokoloskee. This is an interesting fishing village that I have written about before.
After the Tamiami Trail opened in 1928, it was still a few years until the road extended to Chok Island. On the south end of the island is the Smallwood Store. This store opened in 1906 by Ted Smallwood. It was operated as a general store and post office after Ted died in the 1950s, and closed as a business in 1982. (Photos from Naples Daily News website.)
The store has been operated as a museum since it ceased as a business. In the same appearance as when Ted Smallwood was alive. Complete with silverfish and absence of any climate control. But it is a neat place, where you step back in time.
When Ted was alive, the Seminoles would come and trade at his store. Ted would barter with the Seminole for feathers and hides in exchange for items sold in the store. You can see his old ledger book on the counter where he recorded some of these transactions. So it is considered an important part of Seminole / Miccosukee history as well as one of the older buildings in the county.
Well last week, the land owner of the surrounding land, bulldozed up the only road to get to the store. Apparently the owner, Florida-Georgia Groves LLC, wanted to pressure the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers to approve a permit to build a marina nearby. This cut off the store and is preventing anyone from visiting, and paying the small entrance fee. So the store is basically being held hostage until the Corp approves a permit to build the marina. I am at loss of how cutting off access to the Smallwood Store will persuade the Army Corp of Engineers. So it has all turned into a political battle for development with the hapless store being the one who suffers. So much for historic preservation.