Good day to all. Did you know Charlotte County’s second sheriff was also a boat captain and restaurateur? Arthur F. “Fred” Quednau, better known around town in later years as “Captain Fred,” was born in Punta Gorda, Nov. 11, 1892. His father, Fritz, had arrived earlier that year from Alsace-Lorraine, today a portion of northwestern France, with his wife Minnie to open a cigar factory. Tragically, while on a business trip to Indiana, Fritz came down with pneumonia and died. Fred was just 4 years old.
The eldest of three boys, he made it to third grade before deciding his family would be better off if he went to work doing whatever he could around town. Fred ended up at the railroad dock unloading fish from the “run boats.” Boats that “ran” up and down the harbor from stilted “ice houses” back to fish company warehouses on the railroad dock.
It was obviously work he loved, since by age 16 he had his own boat, the R. W. Powell, and by 17 his captain’s license, hauling cargo wherever his clients needed it to go. It was the R. W. Powell that Teddy Roosevelt chartered during his March 1917 trip to Punta Gorda seeking a world record “devil fish” (manta ray). Isabella “Belle” McBean, Fred’s future wife, provided the camera used to photograph Roosevelt’s party in front of the Seminole Hotel, which was on West Marion Avenue where the Sunloft Building is today.
Belle and Captain Fred married in 1919 and he didn’t like being away from his family, so in 1928 gave up the freight business, opening a restaurant, Fred’s Quick Lunch, on West Marion Avenue. Belle did most of the cooking at home and a full plate of food could be had for 35 cents.
From 1934 to 1940, Captain Fred served on Punta Gorda’s City Council, twice as mayor, and in 1940 defeated Charlotte County’s first sheriff, J. H. Lipscomb, who had been appointed by Governor Carry Hardee soon after Charlotte County came into being in April 1921. Captain Fred had two deputies, Travis Parnell and Ira Atkinson. Deputy Parnell and his wife ran the jail, upstairs at the Olympia Avenue end of the courthouse. They lived in an adjoining apartment and Mrs. Parnell provided meals for prisoners. Deputy Atkinson worked a second job as projectionist at my grandparents’ movie theater on Marion Avenue, where the Ace Hardware parking lot is today.
Although at over 300 pounds, he could be intimidating when needed, Captain Fred was a respected “softy” and never carried a gun. The story goes, on Christmas Eve he’d let prisoners go home provided they promised to return by 5 p.m. Christmas Day. My dad tells the story of how Captain Fred would make his rounds in the evening and if someone was found particularly inebriated, would instruct them to be on the courthouse steps by the time he was done, and they would be. After serving four terms, Captain Fred decided not to seek reelection in 1956, so deputies Parnell and Atkinson squared off with Parnell victorious.
Captain Fred passed away in 1968, just seven days after his 76th birthday. He is interred at Indian Springs Cemetery, next to Belle.
Visit Charlotte County online library resources to view photos of Captain Fred and Belle, with his signature Stetson and cigar, and his prized mango, a variety that can still be found today, if you know where to look.
Select “Library Catalog,” click on “Physical Items,” then “Archive Search.” You can view a tour of the Punta Gorda Archive at https://www.facebook.com/CCLibraries/videos/700670984162512/.