Can't Get Enough of Abbe Story

Article excerpt

Some online comments (and one hand-delivered letter) from readers that you may find of interest:

Story: "History for Sale -- Estate on historic Cunliff Lane may contain one of Sarasota's first post offices" (operated by Charles Abbe, murdered in 1884 by the "Sarasota Vigilance Committee"

Comment:

"Anyone truly interested in the facts of the Sarasota Vigilance Committee need to read (Karl) Grismer's 'The Story of Sarasota,' a factual account written shortly thereafter, told by locals who remembered the accounts, including judges, lawmen and other credible Sarasota citizens.

"The history of these homesteaders and their struggles with carpetbaggers and other scoundrels is an interesting story. These are the people who worked tirelessly to build this town and were acquitted, but that story doesn't sell newspapers or books.

"The sensationalized accounting of this event written by (Janet Snyder) Matthews and others are nothing short of pulp fiction based on gossip, rumors and lies." -- MC

In response:

I have written several articles in the past few years about Grismer's and Matthews' accounts of the Abbe murder, including the trial of Alfred Bidwell and others, and such stories create tremendous reader interest.

Believe whatever story you want. But know this: Janet Snyder Matthews has a Ph.D. in history and has had a long and distinguished career in the field, specializing in Florida history and historic preservation. Her book "Edge of Wilderness" has 63 pages of footnotes and bibliography and took years to write. Grismer's 1946 book has no bibliography, and his account of what inspired the Abbe murder is attributed to a "woman, now nearly 80," he would not name.

Not to dismiss Grismer's book. I love it. It has been a valuable source for me, particularly on the 1920s real estate boom. He credits many important early Sarasotans with supplying him with information and checking his work. A master of the sensational sentence himself, he even thanks local newspaper publishers for granting him access to their files. …