When Spanish explorers arrived in the 1500s,
Charlotte Harbor was home to the powerful Calusa Indians, whose
domain stretched across southern Florida. Primarily a maritime
people, the Calusa thrived on the natural bounty of the south
Florida environment. Although they no doubt hunted deer in the
flatwoods that were to become Babcock/Webb, their villages and
towns were along the coasts of the sea, rivers, and lakes. The
later Seminoles immortalized the Calusa by naming the major river
in the area, the Caloosahatchee, "river of the Calusa."
Post card collection, Florida Photo Archives
A Good Wagon Load, Florida Pineapple
Development of Charlotte County began in 1881 when
Hamilton Disston bought 4 million acres of "swamp and overflowed
lands" in south Florida. He sold the land around Charlotte Harbor
to Sir Edward Reed, a member of parliament, who authorized John
Cross to advertise the sale of cheap land in northern newspapers.
In 1883, Col. Isaac Trabue of Louisville, Kentucky, responded to
the ad and bought land for a town he named Trabue, today Punta
Gorda. A block was set aside for cultivation of pineapples, which
were sold to pay for gold medals for the winners of the annual
Trabue chess tournament. Cattle, timber, and phosphate mining
became major industries in the area. Punta Gorda became known as
the pineapple capital of the United States.
In 1914 lumberman Edward Babcock of Pittsburgh
bought two townships east of Punta Gorda along Telegraph-Cypress
Road for a hunting preserve and a cattle ranch, which he named
Crescent B. In 1931 Babcock leased the timber rights on his
property to Roux Crate and Lumber Company of Bartow. Railroad
grades were built throughout the flatwoods to remove the timber.
This timber was shipped to Africa where it was used in the diamond
mining industry. Along the Seaboard Grade, a set of water tower
pilings remains next to a water hole. The water tower was used to
fill steam engines during the timber harvest of the 1930s.
In the late 1930s the Commission of Game and Fresh
Water Fish, the predecessor of the Florida Fish and Wildlife
Conservation Commission, began to purchase land for wildlife
management. In 1941, the Commission purchased 19,200 acres from
Fred Babcock. Originally named for Cecil M. Webb, who served as
commissioner from 1948-1953, the area was renamed in 1995 to Fred
C. Babcock/Cecil M. Webb Wildlife Management Area. In the 1990s the
Charlotte Harbor Flatwoods and the Yucca Pens Unit were added to
the management area.
The name Yucca Pens derived from the card game
euchre, pronounced "you ker" and played at a gambling house at the
cow pens where cattle was held and sold before being shipped to
Cuba. Herds of cattle were lost-or gained-during euchre. A northern
reporter wrote a story about the game but misspelled it, calling it
In 1957, the field trial grounds were set up in
conjunction with field trial clubs that donated materials and
supplies to build a clubhouse, stables, kennels, and picnic area.
Since 1969, the grounds have been open for limited quail hunting.
In 1968, the Commission leased 1,280 acres of the field trial
grounds to the Boy Scouts for a camp. The Boy Scouts have invested
$3.2 million in facilities and development.
Since its inception, Babcock/Webb has been open to
multiple uses, including hunting, fishing, camping, bird dog field
trials, cattle grazing, apiary leases, target shooting at the
range, timber harvest, horseback riding, bird watching, and