Postmaster Ted Smallwood in the doorway of his store and post office
Just 20 feet above sea level at its highest points (and those are shell mounds left by Native Americans), Chokoloskee Island, Florida, barely rises above the Gulf of Mexico at the northern end of the state’s “Ten Thousand Islands.”
Modern settlement began in 1874; early residents farmed, fished and caught turtles. C. G. McKinney moved there in 1886, opened a store and secured a post office for the island in 1891. Ted Smallwood began his postal career carrying the mail by sailboat between Everglades City and Chokoloskee; a conch shell was blown to alert the islanders when the mail arrived.
In 1897, Smallwood married and settled on the island, hunting alligators, fishing and raising tomatoes. In 1906, he became postmaster and opened a store which housed the post office. He worked as postmaster until 1941, when his daughter took over. Smallwood died in 1951, but his daughters kept the store open until 1982. The store was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.
Smallwood Store and Post Office; photo by Karl Holland, State Library and Archives of Florida
Today, Ted Smallwood’s granddaughter has reopened the store as a museum.