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-o03THE LADIES SIPPED TEA, THE MEN PLOTTED MURDER By HAMPTON DUNN SARASOTA --Thousands of motorists every day pass the point where U.S. 41 and U.S. 301 merge on the south side of the city --and never notice a little, old-fashioned white frame house which figures prominently in the history of Sarasota County. The house, at the corner of Wood St. and U.S. 41, is now known as "the Wood house," but at one time it was owned by Alfred B. Bidwell. And in this house on Christmas Day, 1884, was plotted the murder of Postmaster Charles E. Abbe, an event that took place two days later. Bidwell was a member and leader of the notorious "Sarasota Vigilance Society," and ring leaders of the group went about their gruesome job of mapping the Abbe murder there in the kitchen of this attractive home, on that holiday, while their ladies poured tea and enjoyed a Christmas party in the parlor! In fact, it was a house-warming party that was going on. The old-timers in Sarasota were upset at this period by activities of land speculators, or land grabbers, who were displacing many of the "squatters" and homesteaders. In 1881, Gov. William D. Bloxham had sold four million acres of Florida lands, including much of present Sarasota County, to Hamilton Disston, the saw manu facturer for 25 an acre. Disposition of this property figured in the disputed land dealing. Bidwell, as a leader of the Vigilantes, was tried and convicted in the Abbe murder. Twenty Sarasotans originally were indicted, but only nine brought to trial. The Vigilantes sent the Postmaster a rope by way of warning him his life was in danger. On Dec. 27, Abbe was fatally shot while gathering help for his orange grove on the bay front a little north of Cunliff Lane, near Bidwell's store. His body was put in a boat, which was set adrift. The gang was broken up after the trials. It's not known for sure why Abbe was a target for the Vigilantes. The Bidwell home was bought in 1896 by Luke A. Wood, as a 30-year wedding anniversary gift. He selected it as "the most desireable place in Florida."
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The ladies sipped tea, the men plotted murder
h [electronic resource] /
by Hampton Dunn.
1 online resource (2 p.) :
Title from caption on PDF of p.1 (viewed Aug. 6, 2010).
At head of title: Photouring Florida.
Typescript of Photouring Florida column that describes the Wood House in Sarasota, which was used as the headquarters for teh Sarasota Vigilance Society in 1884.
x Description and travel.
t Hampton Dunn Photouring Florida collection.