A multi-faceted study of late 19th-century Punta Gorda

Punta Gorda: In the Beginning, 1865-1900, by Vernon Peeples, Sr. Book-broker Publishers of Florida. 263 pages. $39.99.

This attractively designed, oversized book is a perfect stylistic match for its historical content. No one has been a more committed student of the Charlotte Harbor area than Vernon Peeples, and his expertise and affection are on strong display in these pages. The book is abundantly illustrated with photos and paintings of late 19th century scenes and personalities, and the thirty page map section is a special treasure.  PeeplesCover

In taking us from the conclusion of the Civil War to the dawn of the twentieth century, Mr. Peeples, who served in the Florida legislature for fourteen years, draws upon his enormous private collection of primary material collected over seven decades. He presents much more than a collection of dry facts, but rather a colorful series of narratives about colorful people developing a frontier.

Before becoming a community for recreation and retirement, Punta Gorda was a lively, thriving center for commerce and transportation. The Peace River and Charlotte Harbor were important links in the maritime trail that moved cargo and people from northern locations down the western side of the Florida peninsula to Fort Myers, Key West, and Cuba. Of course, shipping moved from south to north as well. Moreover, Punta Gorda was the southern terminus of railway lines, making it an important transportation bridge. The Gulf of Mexico and its adjacent waterways teemed with fish.

PeeplesPhoto

In telling the story of the area’s development, Vernon Peeples focuses on the key players and their business activities. He provides full-length portraits of such characters as Jarvis Howard, Isaac Traubue (who founded Punta Gorda), Kelly B. Harvey, Governor Albert Waller Gilchrist, and Marian McAdow, whose gardening innovations contributed to Punta Gorda’s tropical ambience. He even makes a connection between this area and the famous gunmaker Samuel Colt. . . .

To read this review in its entirety, as it appears in the December 26, 2012 issue of the Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the December 27 Naples and Port Charlotte/Punta Gorda editions, click here: Florida Weekly – Peeples 1 and here: Florida Weekly – Peeples 2

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