after the war - the civil war - indians, settlers, fortune-hunters, mostly folks no longer welcome elsewhere, lived around the thousand islands of southwest florida. over time they killed off the herons for the plume trade (yes all -- in hideous slaughter) most of the gators, and sometimes each other. the difficulty of making a living, and finally, the hurricane of 1910, pretty much cleared everyone out.
last spring i went on a swamp walk in southwest florida - (read all about it here) - and then south past everglades city to visit the old trading post, store, post office built on an ancient indian mound (pile of shells) - the orginal building with lots of stuff still in it. fascinating to go through and read the history and imagine it all.
this book - Killing Mr Watson - takes place right where i stood on chokoloskee bay, and i can picture it all! the book is confusing with so many people and places, but as each person tells their story, the insights into life in those days is wonderful! mr watson is a legend in those parts, and this is the story pieced together from written accounts and interviews, and brought to life by peter mattheissen's imagination.
my sister has kayaked and camped this area of the everglades, and she reports first-hand that "There are remains on Watson's Place. There are cisterns, one with a huge alligator in it (alive), and a smaller cistern where you can't see thru the water. Back in the woods there are foundation remains and a big copper kettle. Unfortunately it is too accessible to motor boats so things are being carted off and the small camping spot is being trashed. You can follow the saga of his life as you kayak thechannels."