There has never been a man who has epitomized the Ten Thousand Islands area of Florida more than Edgar J. Watson. Trying to understand the incomparable Mr. Watson is like trying to navigate through those islands in the middle of the night. There is just no way to do it. The following is one man's attempt to illustrate how E.J. Watson still plays a role in the everyday activities of the area. Here is one account of how more than just the legend of Ed Watson still lives on:
"11/22/97 Dear Old Friend, The most peculiar thing happens to a person once they've entered the city limits of Everglade City, Florida. It is almost as if that proverbial "black cloud" just suddenly hovers over your head. Only, it is not a "black cloud"; it is more like a big black hat. Of course, only one man in Ten Thousand Island's history can ever get away with wearing that black hat. That man was Edgar J. Watson. "Who's Edgar J. Watson?" you ask. Why, he is only the most infamous man in Chokoloskee history. The oddest thing is that he has been dead since 1910 or so they say. But I'll tell ya, Mr. Watson will live on forever. Just let me tell ya a tale of how even today in 1997, Ed Watson makes his presence felt all over these islands. It must've been about three weeks ago when these dang college kids come west from Dade to visit the Smallwood store and take a little boat tour of the islands. Well, I can tell you that ain't no college education sinking into them. They should have known that it was gonna be a bad day when all that rain come down even before nine o'clock. It all started when they got to Ted's old store 'bout ten in the morning. You see, there they were all wet and eager to hear about Mr. Watson's life on Chatham Bend. Now, I've been in Chokoloskee all my life and, I've seen so many city slickers come in and out that there store it'll make your head spin. I am certain that old Ted must be turning in his grave as he watches all them people come in and out his store. Well, soon enough them kids sat down in the southwest corner of the store where they got all of Totch's videos playing. So, the kids sit there and listen to their guest lecturer as he starts talking about the life and times of E.J. Watson. About halfway through the lecture I meander my way through their sitting area and head out the back door. But, as I'm walking I make eye contact with one of them kids. He was a fat feller. Must have been at least two hundred plus pounds; but, that ain't the only reason I laid eyes on him. You see, I looked at him because as I strolled through I noticed that he couldn't take his slanty little eyes off of that picture of Mr. Watson and Mrs. Watson and lovely young Carrie. Right then and there, I knew. I knew he was the one! You see, every once in a while a tourist will come through Everglade City and do everything there is to do here. And, every other once in a while there is a tourist who'll come through and never leave. His body may leave but his heart and soul will be here forever. And, if you are wondering where his heart and soul will be; it'll be at that beautiful white plantation home on Chatham Bend. Everyone says that E.J. died that day in 1910, but I sure as heck don't believe a word they say. I've been here all my life and, I know what I've seen. I have seen (with my own two eyes) a man with auburn hair and a broad black hat covered in a dark overcoat walking through the streets and riding a skiff out in them entangled islands. Now, the funny thing is this figure always has his back to me. So, I can't tell you it is Mr. Watson for sure but, the betting man would definitely put his money on Edgar J. Watson. The most unusual thing about the dark figure is that he only appears when some tourist has something unfortunate happen to him. I swear that I'd seen E.J. that same morning before that class come into town. I seen him out on Chokoloskee Bay grinning his way into them lush tropical islands. Anyhow, them kids went for lunch out towards what is now the Everglades National Park Visitor Center. They all ate their lunches except for the fat feller. They ate anything from sandwiches to fruit to yogurt and not one bit of all that food touched the lips of that plump boy. You see, it had already begun. E.J. was playing with his mind. Back in the store, the kid couldn't take his eyes off of Ed because Ed wouldn't take his eyes off of him. It was as if Mr. Watson had said something to the boy that no one else heard. Well, once E.J. has got their attention he makes sure never let's it go. About two o'clock them kids got on one of them boats and head out on the bay towards all them mysterious islands. And, yes, that kid still looked all dazed and confused. Sure enough, they docked on Sandfly Key around three o'clock and, it was then that I knew it was all over for this feller. Halfway into that deep green trail on Sandfly Key, the other kids claim they heard something like a buckshot out of a double-barrel shotgun. Now, if that wasn't enough to scare the daylights out of them, they noticed that the fat kid was gone. At first, they figured he was just pulling some wild prank but, soon enough, they began to worry that maybe he was lost out there in the wilderness. So, they set up a search party see if they could find him before dark. The only thing worse than being lost in the Ten Thousand Islands is being lost in the Ten Thousand Islands at night. Just about when they'd given up, the rangers and others heard a scream. It'd come from just about where that patch of cactus was growing. There he was! The other kids say that when they found him he was sucking on his thumb and his cap had been knocked of his head. One of the rangers told me that cap was so full of buckshot holes that it reminded him of a block of Swiss cheese. Now, I saw that fat feller as he left this place and let me assure that E.J. Watson got to him. They had to call an ambulance for that boy. One of the rangers told me that the boy was still in a catatonic phase and, the doctors said they can't tell when he come out. If you ask me, there ain't no way that boy is ever coming back out. "Why?" you ask. Well, because E.J. Watson has got his heart and soul down there on Chatham Bend. Later that night I could have sworn I heard a deep chuckle coming from those islands and, I'll bet you anything that it was Mr. Watson laughing at his newest addition to the plantation. Now, I can't tell you why it is that Edgar J. Watson still haunts the Ten Thousand Islands area but, my guess is that he is just taking care of some unfinished business and loving every minute of it! Please make sure that you take care of yourself and your kin if you ever come to Everglade City because Mr. Watson may just be waiting for you. Sincerely, "Little" Robbie Watson P.S. I guarantee you that Grampa is just fine."
There is some question as to who the author of the letter is but, if it is the grandson of Mr. Watson it would definitely be quite a development. You see, it was believed that none of the Watson clan has ever come back to this part of the world in fear that they might be executed in the same fashion dear old Mr. Watson was. Nonetheless, it appears that one thing is certain: apparently, Mr. Watson has never left the Ten Thousand Islands. If there was ever a man who belonged in the Ten Thousand Islands, his name would have to be Watson.
Copyright © 1997. All rights reserved.