Faces of Historic Captiva
Historically, Captiva Island has enjoyed a common humanity, attracting artists, writers, fishermen, celebrities, and scores of colorful, everyday island personalities.
American painter and graphic artist, Milton Ernest “Robert” Rauschenberg purchased his first Captiva property in 1968. It was in 1970 he moved from New York City to Captiva permanently, citing here he “felt a magic that was unexplainable in it’s power.” It was on Captiva the artist thrived -- and remained until his death in 2008.
Hattie Brainerd Gore
Hattie Brainerd moved to Buck Key in 1900, one of the early families on the island’s Wulfert settlement. In 1903 she crossed Roosevelt Channel to Captiva and purchased 23 acres from the island’s first homesteader William Binder. The home she built and expanded over the years eventually became a hotel, with Hattie its manager. Additionally, she became the second postmistress on Captiva, the post office being located at the front of the hotel.
J.N. “Ding” Darling
Political cartoonist, conservationist and two-time Pulitzer Prize recipient Jay Norwood “Ding” Darling, along with his wife Genevieve “Penny” (née Pendleton), first visited Captiva in the mid-1930’s. Thereafter the Darlings, often with their children John and Mary, would trek each winter from their home in Iowa to stay at Captiva’s Price’s Cottages. It was “Ding” who encouraged Bowman and Grace Price to change the name of their little resort to ‘Tween Waters Inn.
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.
Anne Morrow Lindbergh
In January 1940, sensing the Lindberghs need to “get away,” Jim Newton rented Anne and Charles a cottage on the island of Captiva, “a remote island, only seven miles long, off the gulf coast of Florida.” It was in January 1950; Anne chose Captiva to find respite from her very public life and obligations of family and career and returned to the island on her own. Her time on Captiva is said to inspire Gift from the Sea; the most celebrated of her more than two dozen literary works.
At age 34, Maybelle came to Captiva Island. She referred to her creations as “songs.” These paintings, prints, and drawings, which often included hand-written prose, were reluctantly sold only when funds were needed. In 1985, neighbor and friend Robert Rauschenberg arranged a trust agreement where ownership of Stamper’s property was transferred to him in exchange for payment of Maybelle’s bills and medical expenses through the time of her death in 1995.
Born in England, Anthony “Andy” Rosse, along with his mother and 6 siblings, entered the USA through Ellis Island in 1906, joining his father in Tampa, FL.
When Andy left home at age 15, he worked the commercial fishing circuit of South West Florida, eventually arriving in Punta Gorda. It was there he met and soon married 14-year old Dessa. While working a fish camp on Buck Key in 1926, the couple discovered Captiva and then moved here permanently in 1935.
Captiva resident Harold McMillan “Bix” Bixby was one of Charles Lindbergh’s primary backers in 1927, when Lindbergh flew across the Atlantic. Bixby even had the honor of naming the single engine plane, The Spirit of St Louis.
Harold Bixby was one of three Captiva Island residents appointed by Governor Collins in 1958 to serve as commissioner to the newly formed Captiva Erosion Prevention District.
The daughter and granddaughter of prominent Minnesota lumbermen, Alice O’Brien early-on expressed interest in social issues and supported organizations promoting feminist causes.
She assumed responsibility for the family business (Putnam Lumber Company) upon her father’s death in 1925, and built her winter home on Captiva.
Thomas Mahlon “Timmy” Wiles, Jr.
In 1952 T.M. "Timmy" Wiles, Jr. opened "Timmy’s Nook” in a shack built by his own hands and operated for 42 years. To this day it is remembered as the place where locals and tourists alike could count on the Wiles girls to serve up good times, affordable hamburgers, and icy cold slices of blueberry sour cream pie.
Signe & James Wightman
Swedish-born Signe Wightman first came to the island in the 20's and met her husband, James, here.
After their marriage, James and Signe purchased the 2-room dressing room for Captiva’s Fisherman’s Lodge in 1927. They later would turn their modest home into the dining room of what they would eventually launch as the “Gulf View Inn.