Good day to all!
Did you know Frederick and Jarvis Howard, Union Army veterans and sons of a prominent New York City newspaper publisher, were early residents of the area?
It appears they first came to the settlement of Hickory Bluff (Charlotte Harbor) in the fall of 1873 intent on establishing homesteads on the Peace River’s south shore just northeast of the location that would become Punta Gorda a decade or so later.
Jarvis came with his wife and three children, Frederick with his new bride Anna Guion and two nephews. Imagine, he convinced her to not only marry him, but leave New York City and move to the southwest Florida wilderness. They arrived in January 1874. The area was so remote, Frederick had to hire men and an ox team from Bartow, 75 miles upriver, to build his five-room log house with separate kitchen.
Mail and freight delivery were irregular, coming by boat, usually the Santa Maria or Bonnie, from Cedar Key or Key West, often taking three to seven weeks. If Frederick and Jarvis missed a passing boat, the captain would deposit his delivery at Nathaniel DeCoster’s wharf on the river’s north bank, two miles away. Decoster would then run up a flag to notify them and they’d row over to pick it up.
Frederick “proved” his homestead, receiving a certificate of ownership in October 1880 for 132 acres. Jarvis however, by then, had returned to New York with his family.
Frederick and Anna did well with their investment, selling land to the Florida Southern Railway when it passed through their parcel in 1886 on its way to Trabue (Punta Gorda). In 1889, they sold an additional 18 acres to an investor for considerable profit, so encouraged, Frederick had the remaining property platted into building lots. He named the subdivision Solana, after the sun (Sol) and his wife (Anna). Somehow, it came to be pronounced Salona, which is how I’ve always heard the area referred to.
In the 1890s, Frederick and Anna built a stately home on the corner of Howard Street and Shore Drive, which still stands today. This was Solana’s heyday, with arrival of the railroad and nearby Punta Gorda’s growth.
The area had also become a major producer of pineapples and the community’s pride was its military band. Unfortunately, a disastrous freeze in 1917, followed by a hurricane, ended serious pineapple production, and the market was lost to cheaper Cuban fruit.
Visit Charlotte County History Collections online to view a photograph of Solana’s military band and the Clerk of Circuit Court’s website to view the Solana plat.
This column appears every other Wednesday, courtesy of the Sun newspaper and the Charlotte County Historical Center Society. The Society exists to help preserve and promote Charlotte County’s rich history. We’re always seeking new members, volunteers, and interested individuals to serve as board members. If you believe our area’s history is as important as we do, please call 941-613-3228 for more information.^p