Jan. 17 history article fixes

In his article “Anatomy of a ghost town, ‘one third sawdust and two-thirds fleas’” in the Jan. 17 Arcadian, Dr. Ross M. Tucker is correct that Pine Level received national attention during the Sarasota “vigilantes” trials in 1885. However, some of his facts are incorrect. Nine to 12 men were indicted for the murder of Charles Abbe and Harrison T. “Tip” Riley. Contrary to the outcome detailed by Dr. Tucker, “eight men were tried; three men sentenced to death; four to life; one acquitted,” according to Jane Snyder Matthews in her 1983 book “Edge of Wilderness: A Settlement History of Manatee River and Sarasota Bay.” She noted that two escaped from the Pine Level jail; one was pardoned; and by 1892, all had been released from prison.

Dr. Tucker states that none of the original buildings remain in Pine Level; however, the Pine Level Methodist Sanctuary is the old school purchased by the church in 1923. He mistakenly writes that “the first floor of the jail [is] now used for a schoolroom” and of a “hanging tree, where justice was dispensed behind the courthouse.” History records no execution by hanging in Pine Level.

In 1914, the Seaboard Air Line Railway built a subsidiary line called the East and West Coast Railway that roughly paralleled State Road 70. Despite its name, the tracks from Bradenton never extended farther east than Arcadia. The seeming surge of growth that Dr. Tucker cites in the early 20th century is for New Pine Level, a station on the line two miles northeast of the original townsite.

For his information, Tucker relied on the “Historical Archaeology of the Pine Level Site (8DE14), DeSoto County, Florida” by Jana J. Futch, the thesis she wrote to earn her master’s degree at the University of South Florida in 2011. However, he did not mention that she also authored the DeSoto County Historical Society’s National Register application for the 40-acre Pine Level townsite; nor did he acknowledge that Pine Level was listed in 2014 in the National Register. It has the honor of being one of the Register’s seven “Reconstruction Era” sites.

Carol Mahler



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