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Jennifer Zoebelein of Charlotte County History Services

2021 marks 100 years since the creation of Charlotte County. Originally part of Hillsborough County, what is now Charlotte County became part of Manatee County in 1855 and then DeSoto County in 1887. Beginning in 1897, however, men known as “Divisionists” sought to divide the county on both political and practical grounds. Their efforts failed until 1920, when Frank M. Cooper and Dr. E. Ethridge, Divisionist candidates to the state legislature, won by “sweeping majorities.”

When the state legislature met in April 1921, members reintroduced the bill calling for the division of DeSoto County. Proposing that the county be divided into five parts, the bill easily passed both the state Senate and House of Representatives and was signed into law by newly-elected Governor Cary Hardee on April 23, 1921. Thus was born the new counties of Charlotte, Glades, Hardee and Highlands, the name “Charlotte” overwhelmingly selected due to Charlotte Harbor’s prominent featuring under the new boundaries.

Charlotte County has experienced many changes over the course of its long history. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, industries like the railroads, turpentine, phosphate and commercial fishing drove economic development and introduced northern visitors to the warm winter climate of southwest Florida. Existing communities like Englewood, Punta Gorda, Cleveland and Charlotte Harbor Town grew as new ones like Murdock and El Jobean emerged.

Though briefly disrupted following the collapse of the 1920s Florida Land Boom and the onset of the Great Depression, the development of Charlotte County continued after World War II. Covering both sides of the Peace River and beyond the Myakka River, these new additions included Port Charlotte, Punta Gorda Isles and Rotonda. From a pre-1921 population of less than 5,000, Charlotte County now boasts almost 200,000 permanent residents as well as thousands of seasonal snowbirds.

To commemorate this historic event, Charlotte County Libraries and History presents “Telling Your Story,” a centennial exhibit that showcases a wide array of artifacts from the county’s archival collection. On display throughout 2021 at Punta Gorda Charlotte, Englewood Charlotte and Mid-County Regional Libraries, the exhibit will feature items like spikes from the Charlotte Harbor & Northern Railway, bricks from the Railroad Section House at McCall, General Development Corporation brochures, keys from the Hotel Charlotte Harbor and more. Libraries and History also invites you to view our Centennial Signs, interpretive markers highlighting the people, places and events that have contributed to our collective historical past. A total of twelve signs will be placed at different county parks during the centennial, each featuring an image from the county’s archival collection. Information on these and other Libraries and History centennial events and programs can be found online at program-guide-libraries.pdf (charlottecountyfl.gov) and CENTENNIAL (sirsi.net). We look forward to celebrating with you!

Dr. Jennifer Zoebelein is the Historian for Charlotte County.

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