In 1901 Belton Johnson was 5 years old when his family arrived on Sanibel Island. After the 1921 hurricane ravished the family farm, Belton turned to the water and went from earning a farm laborer’s wage of $1.50 a day to a whopping $12 payday, hosting anglers on his charter boat.
A photo from 1912, of Belton Johnson. (right) in a tomato field on Sanibel
Johnson purchased land on Captiva, circa 1940, and moved there soon after. When the hurricane of 1944 destroyed their home, he and wife Miriam rebuilt in exactly the same style as their previous 5-room frame structure home.
Belton Johnson (right) guiding with J.N. “Ding” Darling
Belton Johnson’s speciality was off-shore fishing and at the height of his charter career he would be away from his Captiva home from May to October, chasing blue marlin in the waters of the Bahamas in his 32-foot boat, the Nancy Jane. Back on Captiva in the winter months Johnson would often serve as guide for winter residents, including J.N. “Ding” Darling and the Bixby brothers, Harold and Ralph.
Belton with wife Mariam
A natural-born tale teller who could spin the most ordinary scenario into something colorful (“I was so mad I could’ve ate two fried eggs!”), when fishing was poor Belton was known to entertain his charter guests with stories about lowbush lightning liquor and the backwoods characters from his childhood in nearby Arcadia, Florida.