Life in Florida – by Albertus Vogt

           Copy of
Newspaper Clipping, dated June 28, 1889



“The water-lily dips its vase of snow
On many a shallow cove along whose graceful edge the purple

flowers grow

And dappled river beds and tufted sedge,
And in the stream beneath their image lies
Mirrored like beauty in a lover’s eyes.”

Almost immediately on the 29th parallel of latitude, there empties into
the Mexico Gulf one of the most weird, romantic and beautiful of Americans
rivers.  On account of its strong current flowing at least five miles an hour,
making it’s ascent in a row-boat is full of pulling, but with my good darkies,
Tom and Paddie, at the oars, my Winchester for ‘gators, my Parker’s gun for
water-fowl, and our old dogs, Hamp and Vie, for game; when in camp along the
banks, a stout bamboo pole and phantom minnows for bobbing, 100 feet of line,
and a tiny spool hook for trolling, with my very estimable wife for company,
a bottle of Augustova &c. for tonic and scoring, we’ve made, probably, the
most pleasurable of the many trips of our lives, up the ever-changing, always
tolling, suggestive waters of our beloved Withlacoochee.

To reach the gulf we drive from our home near Dunnellon, 18 miles across
a sparsely settled country to the winter home of our friends, the Alldays,
who have purchased “Bonita Island” from the estate of Dr. Hodges, who knew a
good thing when he saw it, and who here built one of the most conveniently
appointed of the three homes in which he lived, accumulating a competency
and enjoying it like a white man.  Rev. C. A. Allday, on the strength of his
bordering blonde beauty, wedded an Alabama fortune, invested a part of it
here and is living after the Hodge fashion, with a variation of S]^T^S_.  He
keeps a fair pack of hounds, some good guns, and in the proper season kills
a few deer, varying the fun by gratuitous preaching in the rural settlements
around, where with a voice a half-mile square, he wakes up the natives.

In the creation of Mrs. Allday, nature was working on an intensive
system and put all the good possible into her make-up.  Generous, brainy,
accomplished, domestic, andwith a voice like Neilson’s, she forces us to the
conclusion that while her “marriage is NOT a failure”, her choice of domestic
life has robbed the world of a song queen.  After an evening of charming
music, and being subjected to an antiquated order of camp meeting prayer, com-
pressed into a room 18 feet square, with a 12 foot ceiling, rushing out and
up until it flows through the top of a 35 foot chimney.

We turned in to rest * * *. It is morning.  We are up early—eight
o’clock—our breakfast is perfect.  Oysters not five minutes out of the water,
“any way you want ’em”, venison steak, fish, rice, sliced tomatoes, cukes with
the dew on and onions white as snow, a charming hostess and our prayerful.
parson-sportsman; metamorphosed into the most jovial of hosts — as full of
jest and frolic as a sixteen year old, notwithstanding his white hair and
49 years.

LIFE IN FLORIDA                                                     Page 2

We soon launched our boat, the “Nellie”, on Bonita bayou, and while I
hold the tiller and the troll, Tom and Pladdie pull out for the gulf.  Mamie,
she’s my wayward partner, occupies the bow with pole and spinner.  Going with
the tide, the run to “Hickory Island” is an easy one.  This is where Dr. Hodges
made a palatial home to which he used to invite his friends and entertain them.
He kept a fine pack of bear and deer hounds and it is safe to say no more en-
joyable hospitality was ever extended or appreciated in any age or country.
The cellars were filled with the best liquor, cigars and provisions.  The
stables also filled with trained hunting and driving horses.  A grove of
orange and other fruits, among which are figs, identical to those planted by
Mr. Yuleo, at “Tiger Tail Island” in the Homosassa River and superior in every
way to any grown on earth, Smyrna not excepted, to all of which the doctor’s
guests were welcomed.  These – with the sea bathing, boating, fishing, shooting,
and driving with good, fast horses over a shell road two miles long, winding in
and out of shady, flower-strewn islands, with bird songs and orange and lotus
blossoms perfuming the air and star-bedecking the blue waters of the bayou,
whilst ivy, woodbine, and honeysuckles, climbing into the live-oaks and the
palmettoes, combine to make this drive, (said to have cost Dr. Hodges $40,000)
one of the finest in America, and life here under the old regime must have been
close to heaven, for even now, standing here on the sea-wall in front of the
house, I seem to feel the soft, sweet breath of my Maker fresh in my face.

Dr. Hodges is dead, his family lives away from here, his house is closed,
his horses, hounds, boats, etc., are, may-hap, in the happy hunting grounds,
but the orange groves, the figs, the flowers, the pleasant shell-road, all
made by his hands, remain quietly in the most beautiful corner of this island.
He is sleeping.  The green waters of the Gulf he loved so well, are ever musi-
cally murmuring near his grave.  At intervals his life may have been maudlin,
his loves many, but I’d rather take my chances for concious peace hereafter,
on account of a life devoted to making the earth more beautiful and my friends
happy as far as in my power lay, and the leaving behind of those things as
monuments to my memory, than to utter all the loud-mouthed, meaningless halle-
lujahs with which the atmosphere has ever been sprinkled.

If Mr. Flagler ever sees “Hickory Island, he’ll buy it, and with his nice
sense and appreciation of the good and beautiful in nature, he’ll improve on
Dr. Hodges foundation, and the world will be better and happier for it,

With a fine basket of fruit and flowers, we kiss our hands goodbye to
“Hickory Island, hoist our sail and adown past the beautiful isle of Skillings,
Helvenstons and McDows, and several other equally desirable, but now the pro-
perty of the government, awaiting the homesteader.

We float two miles to Chamber’s Island and enter the north channel of the
river.  Up to this point I’d had the most of the fun, shooting at pelicans,
comorands, and porpoise.  Sometimes, tho’ not often, a fellow by chance or by
accident, hits one of these sea-hogs.  I didn’t, but my troll line out behind
the boat caught enough red fish, sea trout and skip-jack to make Mamie mad
with jealousy and to feed our four persons and two dogs for dinner, and enough
besides to swap for vegetables to last us two days.  Mamie said she didn’t
like salt-water fish, anyhow, they didn’t have sense enough to know that a
real nice gold and silver-finished phantom minnow was nicer than a common,
re-painted, nickle-plated spoon hook just floating loose in the water.  She
just believed the slimy things must be all men fish, anyhow.  She had not
caught a single fish in the two-mile run.

LIFE IN FLORIDA                                                       Page 3

On Chambers Island we got an excellent dinner.  After dinner, at low-tide,
we sounded in the channel and found 8 feet of water, with 14 feet in the river
above the bar, and 18 to 29 feet in the channel outside.  Two miles out we
found the oyster bars, and such oysters, —-plump, sweet, and juicy.  We tonged
them up in five feet of water.  I swallowed three dozen.  I am like those slim
sea-fish, I don’t hold much.  I think Mamie swallowed six dozen.  I looked at
her; I was mad and jealous now.  I just wish I had a mouth like the Amazon
River and a stomach like all outdoors, so I could show her how to appreciate

With the utmost sang-froid, she pulled down her apron, made Pladdie hang
a fiddler on her hook and began to fish for sheephead.  I kept on culling oysters,
Directly I heard a splashing in the water and a narrow, very thin screech about
two miles long.  I knew what it was, but I never looked up, I was still pouting
about being three dozen oysters behind.  I simply said, “Dear, you’ll find the
cholera mixture in my gun box.”  Well, my wife is a Methodist, so she didn’t
swear, but she said, “See here, you needn’t think them oysters are working,
Pladdie lift the fish in.”

I took a sly glance at him – about eight pounds — “Dear”, I said, “that
is a fine fish, he’ll make a splended bake.”  She looked a whole ant’s nest at
me and said, “All you men think of is eating; Pladdie put me on another fiddler.”

Well, I sat there and listened at the water splash, and watched sheephead
and drum, until she had taken in eleven fine ones, then I said, “Dear, I declare,
it’s wrong to catch so many fish; you’ll load the boat at that rate.”

She smiled sweetly.  She had beaten my morning’s trolling, but I had won
a point—1 was going to have baked fish for supper sure!”

We took in our mud-hook, run up our sail and the “Nellie” took us quickly
to Drum Island.  This is a long, narrow, shell-ridged, high above tide water
island, and well-shaded by cedars and cabbage palmettos, affording inside its
crescent shape a harbor for fishing shacks, and much resorted to by campers.
Here we pitched our tents for the night.  After landing we had an election for
cook and fire-maker, as is frequently customary.  On the shore we (Mamie and I)
held a caucus, and after discreetly counting noses, agreed that I should nomi-
nate Tom for cook and Pladdie for fire-maker, etc., she seconding my nominations
on condition that she have the camp rocking chair and be general superintendent;

the terms of all offices to last until their holders skipped.  The election was
an entire success – we did not allow the black, Republican votes counted –
to Tom and Pladdie were elected by safe majorities.

While our tent was being stretched, and the fire built, Mamie said she’d
just prospect a little for fish, so fixing her rocker to her notion, under the
shade of a big mangrove, and having Pladdie put a cut bait on her hook, she
threw it out into the channel that runs around the north end of the island.

In less than two minutes she let another of those narrow fish whoops
escape, which satisfies me that all of an oyster feed not taken to the brain
goes into the voice.  Rushing to the spot. I found her braced like a greaser
holding a bronco, while her pole was C-shaped, and her line cutting a new
moon in the brine.

“Give me the pole”, I said.  “Never,” she gasped, and turning her back on
the sea, her pole across her shoulder, she pulled landward step by step like a
draymule, dragging by main strength an 18 pound red-fish on to the shore.  I
will not forget that exploit while we live.  I’ll not be allowed to.  We let
the black Republicans vote in this matter, and the majority said it was the
finest red-fish ever seen.

LIFE IN FLORIDA                                                         Page 4

We had such a supper that only the Gulf coast of Florida can supply—-
baked sheephead and red-fish, stuffed with bread crumbs and oysters, broiled
oysters, Palmetto pickles, chipped Irish potatoes, and coffee.  That night I
slept.  Mamie said she did not “rest well, she’d caught such a big fish.”

After an early breakfast, we set out to beat the sun into the Withlacoo-
chee.  We got there.  From Chamber’s Island to Dunnellon is about 45 miles.
The river is crooked for the first two or three miles, the banks are low.
I shot “gators until we sickened at the scent of their musk.  Mamie caught
black bass until she was tired of pulling them in and her face wore a smile
as triumphant as the Aurora borealis.  For bass fishing, I’ll pit the lower
Withlacochee against the balance of the waters.

Three miles from Chamber’s Island, up the river, we find high banks of
fettle hammocks with the high pine woods often breaking through in the water’s
edge.  The river is deep, averaging at least 12 feet,while the rounding of
every bend brings us to scenes different from the ones we’d just left behind.
The hammocks are generally open, the palmettos tall and straight, frequently
fifty feet to the first leaf.  The settlements are few and far between.

Five miles up we come to Honey Bluff landing.  Here we found 12,000 sticks of
:edar timber piled up on the bank.  This is owned by the Helvenston boys, who
cut and haul it from the gulf hammock, employing many men and oxen in the
work.  This cedar is worth at least one dollar per stick on the bank and is
bought by the pencil mills at Cedar Keys and Crystal River.  We also found our
friend, Allday, is waiting for us at this point, with the information that a
bear, two nights before, had killed a farmer’s hog three miles away in Gulf
Hammock.  Loosing Vie and Hamp and mounting a ready horse, we left Mrs. Allday
and Mamie to have an independent fishfry, and we were off for bruin.  My dogs
are famous for foxes, ..(torn)… on one of them, and about six ..(torn)….,
dead with the brains oozing out ..(torn)… bullet-hole in his head, lay an
enormous panther, nine feet and four inches long from tip to tip.