Smallwood’s Store and Chokoloskee

On this day in 1974, Smallwood’s Store was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Seminole Indians at Smallwood’s Store: Chokoloskee, Florida (early 1900s)

Seminole Indians at Smallwood’s Store: Chokoloskee, Florida (early 1900s)

The Seminole women pictured here represent members of a family camped near Smallwood’s Store on Chokoloskee Island in southwestern Florida. Their style of clothing and beads indicate that the photograph dates to the early 20th century, probably between 1900 and 1920. The archival record for this photograph identifies “Lena’s mother” on the far left, with “Frank Charlie’s mother” to her right. This photograph can be found at the State Archives of Florida in the Bedell collection.

Ted Smallwood at his Post Office and Trading Post: Chokoloskee, Florida (early 1900s)

Ted Smallwood at his Post Office and Trading Post: Chokoloskee, Florida (early 1900s)

Deaconess Harriet Bedell was an Episcopal missionary who worked with Native American tribes, including the Florida Seminoles. She established the Glades Cross Mission in Everglades City, Florida, which was active between 1933 and 1960.

Deaconess Bedell with Seminole women and a child: Glades Cross Mission, Everglades City, Florida (ca. 1940)

Deaconess Bedell with Seminole women and a child: Glades Cross Mission, Everglades City, Florida (ca. 1940)

Seminoles visited Chokoloskee Island as early as the 1880s to trade at the store owned by C. G. McKinney, opened for business sometime after he arrived on the island in 1886. Ted Smallwood succeeded McKinney in 1906 and established Smallwood’s Store, which catered to a thriving business with the Seminoles in alligator skins and otter pelts.

Ruby Tigertail: Chokoloskee, Florida (ca. 1910)

Ruby Tigertail: Chokoloskee, Florida (ca. 1910)

 

Seminole families camped on a beach near Smallwood’s Store while visiting the island, trading animal commodities for sewing machines, cloth, canned goods and other necessities. They built temporary chickees (“home” in Mikasuki), made sofkee (“corn gruel”), and supplied locals with venison and other wild game.

Other stores in the area frequented by Seminoles in the early 20th century included George Storter’s and Charlie Tigertail’s, both in the vicinity of present-day Everglades City. Charlie Tigertail’s store was the first Seminole-owned trading post in south Florida.

Charlie Tigertail: Chokoloskee, Florida (early 1900s)

Charlie Tigertail: Chokoloskee, Florida (early 1900s)

Visit the Florida Photographic Collection to learn more about the Bedell collection and to view historic photographs of the Florida Seminoles and Chokoloskee Island.

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6 thoughts on “Smallwood’s Store and Chokoloskee

    • Thank you for your question. What you are seeing is a hat of sorts worn by Seminole women in the 1930s and 1940s. It was made out of cardboard or similar material and helped shield their face from the sun during agricultural work, but also served as a form of expression. Their hair would have been pulled out and over the board and concealed under dark material.

  1. Smallwood’s Store also gets a mention in Loren “Totch” Brown’s autobiography, Totch: A Life in the Everglades. McKinney was Brown’s grandfather.

    • Thank you for the comment. You might also want to check out Peter Matthiessen’s Killing Mr. Watson, which also takes place on Chokoloskee Island and mentions Smallwood’s Store.

  2. my great grandfather was lee smallwood before totch Brown did his documentry I heard every story sitting on a tailgate it blew me away live in palmetto Fl My grandfather farmed in devils garden want so dearly to meet the rest of my family will be down there next month for the first time

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