In 1906, Ted Smallwood established a store and appropriately named it The Smallwood Store. It was not only a store but a Seminole trading post as well as a US Post Office.
Located in a Ghosttown called Chokoloskee on a far south small island of the US Gulf Coast, it was a lively city filled with lots of intrigue, shady deals and mob activity.
However, what Chokoloskee and The Smallwood Store are most remembered for is murder and the alleged haunting that followed.
Now a museum, the store hosts tourists who venture down to the western edge of the everglades from the mainland as well as parts abroad.
The museum owner and curator, Lynn (a relative descended from Ted Smallwood) has been privy to much of the spooky goings on in the store as related by family members and visitors.
Here now is the story and history of The Smallwood Store as provided by David Hoes:
Haunted Places: The Smallwood Store
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 Smallwood’s 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.
While visiting the store, I didn’t 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 chose to heed those warnings and did not step under the floor.
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: smallwoodstore.com
If anyone has the means to help the museum, please by all means visit the link provided. It would be a travesty to lose another American historical location.
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