Interested in local history? Take a stroll around LaBelle with the Downtown LaBelle Self-Guided History Walking Tour.
You can download the app on your phone or view it on a computer browser at downtownlabelle.com/walkingtour. The tour takes about three and a half hours or you can break it down into segments to enjoy at your leisure.
The tour includes stories about notable places in LaBelle such as Barron Park, the Newcomb Bakery, the Luckey Building, the Forrey Building, the Poole Store, the first Bank of LaBelle, Barron Library, the LaBelle Boat Dock, the Haynes-Brungard House, the Caldwell House, the Captain Hendry Hourse and the Hendry County Courthouse.
There are stories about the early Calusa Indians, the days when steamboats on the Caloosahatchee River were the main means of travel, of the Gladesmen, the plume trade and the cowhunters. The tour also includes tales of the land speculators of the 1920s of Hendry Ford’s grand plans for a rubber tree farm near Fort Thompson.
A notable addition to Hendry County History is the story of the great whiskey theft told by Hendry County Sheriff Steve Whidden.
“Prohibition did not find much success in Florida. Long, unpopulated coastlines, easy access to illegal liquor in the Bahamans and Cuba, plus a budding tourist trade,” he explained.
“LaBelle was not unsual in ignoring prohibition,” he added.
On Tuesday, July 8, 1930, a group of men backed a truck up to the Hendry County Courthouse, parking the vehicle under the window of the clerk of courts office.
“Inside the office was approximately 300 gallons of confiscated whiskey in 55-gallon wooden barrels,” he continued. The thieves ran a garden hose from the clerk’s office to the waiting truck and syphoned the whiskey from the barrels into gallon jugs and bottles waiting in the back of the truck.
The Great Whiskey Theft remains an unsolved crime.
The webiste downtownlabelle.com/walkingtour downtownlabelle.com/walkingtour also includes tapes of interviews conducted in 1985 by Katrina Elsken of the LaBelle Leader newspaper as part of a project to celebrate the 80th anniversary of the City of LaBelle. The LaBelle Leader merged with the Caloosa Belle a few years later. The original interview tapes were donated to the Hendry County Historical Society. They were later converted from the cassette tapes to digital format by Keitha Daniels.
The 1985 interviews include Clara Taylor, Flora Forrey Burchard, Captain Alva Burke, Dora Daniels, Edith MaGill, Emma Hand Jennings Tilly, Frank Cothern, Laura Yeomans, Ida Foreey Lofton Kirby, Lillian and Hard Cross, Lois Hendry Barron, Oddis O’Bannon, Pauline Hull Towsend, Rob Waldron, Ed Yeomans, Blanche Matusiak McCorrmick and Tommy Gun.