Good Day to all! Did you know Kelly Harvey, after leading the charge to incorporate and rename his adopted town, abandoned it? After weeks of public notice, the meeting to debate and vote on the town of Trabue’s incorporation occurred in early December 1887. Thirty-four men registered to vote on the matter, 30 white and 4 black. Significant, I believe, since Reconstruction in the South had ended a decade earlier. Many of the voters were carpenters or laborers working on the new hotel.
After much discussion, Harvey was successful in his affront to Trabue, changing the town’s name and filing Punta Gorda’s incorporation documents at Pine Level, the DeSoto County seat. What is now Charlotte County was still part of DeSoto County at the time. Just over a year later, Trabue and the railroad company unsuccessfully sued to have the city dissolved. As the new city’s largest land owners, they were most affected by potential property taxes.
Harvey’s willingness to stand up to Trabue made him a community hero. He served on the first city council and in 1891 was president of the city’s Board of Trade. In 1892 he was appointed postmaster, serving for about a year. Harvey became Punta Gorda’s collector of port fees in 1893, also serving as an observer for the Weather Bureau and dabbled in ship and real estate sales, all the while maintaining his services as a surveyor and draftsman. He also remained very active on the local music scene, performing in Punta Gorda’s town band and entertaining guests from across southwest Florida at private social functions. Interestingly, all this time, he remained a bachelor.
However, that changed in October 1896 when he married Mattie Lee Hinckley. From Mobile, Alabama, Mattie had moved to Punta Gorda with her husband Sumner in the late 1880’s and they had two children. A successful businessman in town, with shipping, banking, and cigar manufacturing interests, Sumner had died sixteen months earlier, just 30 years of age. Four years after her marriage to Harvey, Mattie took ill and returned to Mobile where she died. Harvey’s stepchildren and his daughter with Hattie, Marina, were then sent to live with relatives.
In 1901, Harvey remarried. Marina returned to Punta Gorda as a teenager, attending local schools and eventually obtaining her teaching degree from Stetson University in Deland. The Hinckley/Harvey home, considerably expanded by Harvey, still stands at 565 West Retta Esplanade.
For some reason, Kelly Harvey, so influential in Punta Gorda’s beginnings, left town and his family in the early 1920’s, never to return. In May 1923, he was in New York City when awarded a patent for his “auto table” and formed the Auto Table Company. Somewhat similar to today’s hydraulic lifts, but stationary, the “table” was basically a rack cars could be driven onto allowing mechanics to get under the vehicle. At some point, he moved to California where he died in Los Angeles, November 5, 1941.
Visit Charlotte County’s website to view Kelly Harvey related photographs. Select “Community Services”, then “Libraries and History”. Click on “Physical Items”, then “Archive Search”. Enter the subject of your search on the “Search” line. Photographs can also be viewed on the Punta Gorda History Center’s website. Select “Online Collection”, then “Keyword Search” and enter the search criteria.
Check out History Services’ yearlong project, “Telling Your Stories: History in the Parks”. It began in January 2021 with placement of the first interpretive sign “Charlotte Harbor Spa” at South County Regional Park. The last was dedicated December 15, 2021 at Centennial Park featuring Florida postcards. All dedicated signs can be viewed at online library resources. Select “Programs and Services”, then “History Services” and “Virtual Programs”.
Visit the same site to access recently released oral histories featuring 40 local folks. Select “History Services” and scroll down, or phone 941-629-7278, to find out what history related programs and videos are available.
“Did You Know” appears, typically, every other Wednesday, courtesy of this newspaper and the Charlotte County Historical Society. The Society’s mission is to help promote and preserve Charlotte County’s rich history. We are also always looking for volunteers and interested individuals to serve as board members. If you believe our area’s history is as important as we do, please visit Charlotte County Historical Society on-line at https://cchistoricalsociety.com/, or call 941- 769-1270 for more information.
August 2 column