The Wild Man of Englewood

Sarasota Herald-Trîbune Sunday, Aug. 21, 1960 Wild Man of Englewood

The sensation of the West Coast of Florida in 1910 was a “wild man” who devoured raw cattle and hogs in Manatee County. Yesterday we learned that the notorious creature was (pardon the expression) a resident of Englewood, where he was captured.

Sarasota Times April 7, 1910

Mr. and Mrs. Stuart Anderson of Wentworth Street showed us a newspaper clipping about the man whose arrival in Tampa on May 1. 1910 after his capture was greeted with a blazing headline, “Wild Man From Manatee Here,” as his convoy of deputies transferred him from a wagon to a train and took him’ to Chattahoochee to the “insane asylum.”
Excited reporters “interviewed” the wild man “wearing a bearskin,” and said he had been captured by a Manatee rancher “who found him gnawing away at a quarter of raw beef and going to It like a boy would to chocolate drops.” The rancher was Stuart’s father. J. D. Anderson, whose ranch was located north of Englewood near present-day Manasota Beach Road and SR 776.
Stuart remembers the “monster” well. Though news accounts at the time of his capture described him as a “huge man,” Mr. Anderson said the man actually was rather slightly built person. He agrees with newsmen who said he was a Cuban “slightly out of his mind.” but believes his mental derangement may have been at least partially caused by bin solitary existence and his diet of raw animals.
There is general agreement that the man was a fearsome creature to behold. His costume was a vile smelling garment fashioned caveman style of a piece of animal hide and he was usually barefoot, although during very cold weather his feet were wrapped with pieces of hide. He had glittering black eyes. and a vast black tangled beard matched the unkempt shagginess of his uncut coarse hair, matted with dirt and vermin.
His only speech was a rare grunt, heightening the terrifying affect he created.
As a youngster, Stuart helped his brother Clyde who brought the mail from Myakka River Landing to the Englewood post office which was located in a corner of the Lemon Bay Trading Company store at the foot of Yale Street.
The store was owned by H. C. Nichols, founder of the town of Englewood. The Anderson boys often saw the wild man around the back door of the store and soon noticed the set pattern of his appearances.
The schooners that served the afore came in twice a month with supplies, among which were huge wheels of cheese. The wild man would show up at the back door of the store shortly after the supplies were unloaded, but he would not venture into the store if there were other customers present.
When the store was empty, the wild man would creep through the back door and silently point to the cheese, meanwhile fumbling inside the top of his bearskin shirt, from which he would withdraw a dirty piece of rag and then with much peering around to see if anyone was watching, produce a gold coin.
It was obvious from his gestures that he wanted the whole wheel of cheese, but Nichols sold him only a portion of it since it would be a month before another shipment came in.

Most frequently the portion he got amounted to a gold coin’s worth, but sometimes the portion was smaller, and then Nichols somehow managed to convey to the man that he had some more merchandise coming for his money. Then the wild man would point to whatever struck his fancy and, his purchases completed, he would dart out the back door.
He would almost immediately disappear from sight and a few attempts to follow him met with defeat. Always the trail was lost in the vast wilderness along the bay near where Morrison Street is now located, an area that is even today undeveloped, a tangle of mangrove pine trees and dense underbrush.
No one was too concerned at first about the man. however, except to speculate about who he was, whether he was a mute or lf his lack of speech was due to ignorance of the language and, most important, where he got his gold and how much of it he had.
There were those who figured they knew the answer to the gold question.
Some time before the man appeared in the vicinity of the store, a man had been murdered on Palm Ridge, as the beach was known at that time. The murdered man was said to have had a huge hoard of gold that was never found after his death.
Thus, some of the cracker barrel philosophers had it, the wild man was the murderer who stole the gold and escaped from the beach by swimming across Lemon Bay, or maybe he had a boat, but since he didn’t bother anyone and didn’t appear to be running away, they would postpone plans to investigate to some other time. Besides, those who did try to find his lair, couldn’t locate it.
Eventually, however ranchers north of the area began to miss an occasional steer from their herds and when Stuart’s father and uncle discovered similar losses, they began to suspect that someone was slaughtering the animals, since diligent search failed to find the cattle anywhere.
Recalling the foul odor that rose lie a cloud when the wild man came to the store, the ranchers made him their prime suspect and a group of them, led by Stuart’s father, set out to find him. Wandering into the forest, beyond the present site of St. Raphael’s Church, they continued toward the bay and after several hours of searching they were assailed by the rank odor of rotting flesh.
Following the scent, they came to a small clearing in the midst of which squatted the object of their search, chewing on a huge piece of raw meat.
The clearing was littered with rotting carcasses of numerous hogs and cattle, though the animal he was eating was freshly slaughtered. It was obvious that he would kill an animal, eat whatever he wanted, and leave the remainder to rot in the sun.
They surrounded and overpowered him, and after binding him securely with strong ropes, removed from his person the dirty little bag that contained a few gold coins. The stench of the carcasses drove them rapidly from the clearing, bearing their captive with them.
He was hauled by wagon to the sheriff’s office in the Manatee County seat, which at that time was in Bradenton, and the gold coins were given to the sheriff. This official, finding it impossible to converse with the silent captive who would only grunt occasionally, decided the man was insane and escorted him, with the help of a group of deputies, to the mental institution in Chattahoochee, traveling by way of Tampa where the wild man was a sensation.
No clue was ever found to his identity.
Stuart Anderson personally believes the man was a Cuban who jumped ship in this area from one of the many boats that plied the great shipping lanes that existed in those days along our coast between Tampa and Key West and Cuba.
An interesting sequel to the story is that promptly after his capture, practically every able bodied man in the Lemon Bay area helped ransack the palmetto shelter where the man lived and tore up land nearby for miles around, braving the foul smell for the gold hoard they believed to be there. None was ever found or if it was, it was such a small amount that the finder was able to escape detection.
No trace of the clearing remains today, but legend has it that if you walk to the end of Yale Street toward the bay on a moonlight night and look northward you might see the wild man creeping along the shore and if the wind is right, you will get a whiff of the sweet sick odor of a freshly killed animal!

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