My parents are interested in historical homesteading and American frontier life so this was right up their alley. We learned a lot about Ed Watson and his sugar cane plantation, including his bloody end. Learning how many of the “10,000 keys” got their names and how much the area has changed over the years was fascinating.(…)
Watson’s Resting Place
Take a Step Back In Time
Join Us On a Tour Like No Other
Discover how pioneers such as Bloody Watson forged through the Everglades to establish their homesteads over a century ago. Today, you can view the remains of their efforts and get a feel for what life was like back then when pioneers had to hunt, fish and farm to survive in this vast wilderness. You’ll also see where Watson met his demise on the Ten Thousand Islands and where he was eventually put to rest. It’s not all history – you’ll also get to witness an abundance of birds and other wildlife in the Everglades National Park. So get ready to be wowed by dolphins jumping in the boat’s wake and experience the prehistoric Calusa Indian Mounds as we take a short hike offshore.
Explore the history of the Ten Thousand Islands
Learn about Bloody Watson and his incredible story
Take a short hike offshore to the prehistoric Calusa Indian Mounds
Marvel at the abundance of wildlife in the sky and wetlands of the Everglades
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$100.00 /with tax it is $107.00
Boats depart every hour from 9 am to sunset depending on season
The tour leaves from the beach to the left of the Smallwood Store Museum
Open 7 days a week including every holiday besides Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.
Max 6 people per boat
- Smallwood Store Museum tour
What to bring
- Sun protection – hat, sunblock & sunglasses
- Protective footwear (that you don’t mind getting wet)
- A light jacket might be required
- Warmer jackets are recommended in winter
About your guide
Experienced native guide, Licensed USCG charter boat captain
Who is Bloody Watson?
The story goes that Edgar Watson grew up with his father who was an excessive drinker, during the Civil War. It is said that his father would come home and beat Edgar, his mom and sisters and that Edgar could take no more and his father became his first kill. Afterwards, he took his sisters and mother and moved to what is now called Oklahoma. He leased land from Belle Star, a famous bandit queen who ran with Jesse James and the Dalton Brothers. They say he didn’t pay his lease for the land and ambushed her on horseback, killing her and getting away with the murder. However, the locals did run him out of town for this act.
It was then that Watson ended up coming down to the Ten Thousand Islands and once he had docked his big schooner at Pavillion, he started to explore the area until he eventually settled on Chatham Bend. There, he would trade with my great grandfather, Ted Smallwood. Ted always told his wife Mamie to stay out of all the gossip that having the trading post meant not getting involved in any of the problems of the area. So my great grandmother, Mamie House, knowing that people were accusing him of murdering lots of people, sold him some shotgun shells that had been damaged during a hurricane.
The community then came together, waited for him to come to the museum and confronted him asking him who was killing all the people out on his sugar cane farm. He said it wasn’t him, it was his foreman. He then told the community he would take care of him and it wouldn’t happen again. Shortly after, Watson shot his foreman but the body went overboard, so they were left without evidence of the crime. When he approached the Smallwood store from his boat he opened fire on the crowd of locals but his gun jammed from the damaged bullets my great grandmother had sold him. The locals all fired back at the same time so nobody could be convicted of the murder. They say the first shot hit Watson right between the eyes and that they shot him so many times it sank the boat he was in.
Later, the locals dragged his body out to Rabbit Key Pass to be buried. Some years later, it was discovered he had family in Fort Myers so his body had to be moved to the cemetery there. Legend has it that if you bring a metal detector to the place he is buried, it will go off like crazy from all the lead in him.
Watson’s Demise in the Community
The community had noticed that many people were going to Watson’s estate on Chatham Bend and not leaving alive. It is speculated that he was hiring people to work for him and then working them until they wouldn’t work anymore. He would then tell them that he was going to pay them and let them catch a boat back to wherever they were from. But he would just shoot and kill them. The community ultimately had enough of this pattern.
He also was responsible for the first sheriff killed in Collier County, Detective Cox, who came down to investigate all the murders that were being reported. They found his body right out by the Watson homestead and then found his house maid Hannah Waller with window weights tied to her.
For more stories and information about Watson, please join us on this fascinating tour. Afterwards, you can go and look at the exhibit in the museum to see a map that my grandma Nancy (Ted’s youngest daughter) had made up with people that were there when the bodies were found, to give you an idea of the cruel things that were going on on the island in the times of Bloody Watson.
This story is told from the perspective of Mallory and the Smallwood family.
Group tours – Group discounts for 12 or more with a reservation. For more info please call, we will work with you and organize group events.
Group rates - 1 hr, 1.5hr, 2hr or 3hr tours are regularly priced at 50$ per hour. Tour bus rates are 30$ per hour, 45$ for 1.5hr, 60$ for 2 hours, 75$ for 3hr for large groups of over 12.
Why Customers Love Our Tours
(…) Gary was very friendly and knowledgeable. He went out of his way to find gators to show us. His knowledge of local history was amazing. He took us to many islands and shared the history of who all resided there. He not only shared the story of Watson from the book’s point of view, but also the stories passed down through the generations. It was neat to hear the different sides of the story. (…) We can’t express enough of how great our time with them was!
The 10,000 island tour was splendid from every perspective. Captain Gary was an experienced boat captain who knew where to find the wildlife and how to encourage the dolphins to jump in the boat’s wake (exciting to see and video). We saw lots of birds including a dozen plus Oyster Catchers – more than I have ever before seen in one place. Captain Gary was a good story teller who told us about the murder Ed Watson and the books Peter Matthiessen wrote. The 10,000 islands are truly a special place and the Smallwood boat tour is the perfect way to see them.