Mr. Watson and the Daniels Family: A Personal Connection

Fakahatchee Key 2/20/13 - 20

The interior of Fakahatchee Island

Fackahatchee Island is an enormous shell mound island created over hundreds of years by the Calusa Indians.  It is the accumulation of billions of oyster, clam and conch shells, the garbage dump of these Native Americans.  However, the islands are more than merely the dumping place for the detritus of yesterdays dinner.  They were intended to create land, high land in an area that was subject to frequent storms and hurricanes, where a few feet of land above sea level could spell the difference between life and death.  

Fakahatchee Key 2/20/13 - 03

This photo clearly shows the thickness of the Fackahatchee shell mound.

On our 2013 Ten Thousand Islands trip, we spent an afternoon on Fackahatchee Island situated in Fackahatchee Bay.  I found it to be festinating.  We found the remnants of cisterns, homestead walls, the island trash dump and a crude, abandoned cemetery (more on this later).  

Fakahatchee Key 2/20/13 - 13

Although this island was a tomato farm as late as the 1970's, it is now completely overgrown and difficult to get around on.  It is hard to see this "land" as farm land.  But such is the way that squatters eked out a living in these islands and in the Everglades after the Civil War, and for one hundred years thereafter.  The center of the island looked like it could not support any type of farming (see the panorama above at the top of the page).  

The reason for revisiting Fackahatchee Island here today is that in reviewing some photos from that trip, a name jumped out at me from the several I'd taken of the headstones in the little island cemetery: The name -Daniels!  

The name Daniels and the Daniels family feature prominently in the book "Killing Mister Watson".  Crockett Daniels, the patriarch, was a plume hunter involved in all sorts of illegal doings.  Watson took Henrietta (Netta) Daniels as a housekeeper and common law wife for five years, having a daughter with her.  Later, her younger sister Josie Daniels took on the same role and bore another daughter, Pearl and an infant son killed in the 1910 hurricane.  Frank Daniels, Mary Ann Daniels and James Daniels were also mentioned.  

This brings me to my discovery when reviewing those Fakahatchee cemetery photos.  I found that I have photos of the grave markers for Mary Ann Daniels, Vernell Daniels and James Daniels Jr., James Daniels son or grandson.  

Fakahatchee Key 2/20/13 - 08

The birth and death years are about right to be the Mary Ann Daniels in the book.

A crude concrete marker for James Jr..  The Island was abandoned at about this time

Fakahatchee Key 2/20/13 - 06 - Version 2

One more Daniels, not mentioned in the Watson Books.

It was really exciting to discover these photos from that overgrown, forgotten cemetery on that strange shell mound island located in a shallow, mangrove choked bay in the Gulf of Mexico.  It made the people in "Killing Mister Watson" and "Shadow Country" come alive and helped me see them as real people, not simply as characters in a book.  Click on the book titles to see my reviews of these books.  

 © Don Yackel 2020