THE RUTLAND HOUSE
The Rutland House was built in 1913 by Charles and Dan Waldron for W.E. Swint, who purchased a portion of the Andrew Wiren homestead. The house was originally located on Periwinkle Way across from the Dairy Queen, about where the Periwinkle trailer park is now. The home is typical “Cracker” architecture, constructed of hard Florida pine and supported off the ground by concrete pillars made with beach sand. This would allow seawater to flow under it during a hurricane. The house was designed to stay cool during the hot summers. The high ceiling (approximately 12 feet high) and wide central hallway provided good air circulation, as did the large windows.
Clarence Rutland purchased the home in 1928 for $2,000 and lived in it until shortly before his death in 1982. The house was donated to the city of Sanibel and moved to its present location on Dunlop Road. It became the first historic building in the Sanibel Historical Museum and Village.
The Rutlands were farmers. Othman Rutland had emigrated from England and moved his family to Sanibel from northern Florida after the “Big Freeze” of 1896. The family rented the Wiren home. When Othman died in 1899, his widow Irene raised turkeys along with her five children. Irene later married the lighthouse keeper, Henry Shanahan, a widower with seven children. The blended Shanahan/Rutland family eventually included 13 children. Clarence Rutland was one of those children.
Clarence and his wife Ruth (Wiles) had no children of their own but everyone called him Uncle Clarence. He was a jack-of-all-trades, a farmer, a fishing guide and a contractor. He grew coconuts and Key limes on his land.
Following are some items of interest in the Rutland House:
- The front room (actually a bedroom) has many displays about the Calusa; note the mound house.
- In the parlor, please note the photographs. Clarence and Ruth Rutland are smiling for the camera. Ruth was ill for some time and died 30 years before Clarence.
- The explosion of the Battleship Maine in Havana Harbor in 1898 gave the United States an excuse to go to war with Spain and led to Teddy Roosevelt’s fame. News of this explosion was telegraphed from Havana to Punta Rassa (the telegraph line crossed Sanibel). The actual telegraph machine is on display in the Bailey General Store at the Historical Village.
- Robert E. Lee, whose birthday was celebrated in the South, is pictured in profile. The Civil War generals (faces attached to pre-drawn bodies) are pictured in the corner.
- On the piano are the photographs of the Dickeys of Captiva. Mrs. Dickey was an accomplished pianist (her teacher studied under Franz Liszt) who had this piano delivered to their Captiva winter home before the bridge and ferry.
- The two-drawer chest belonged to the Eyber family of Captiva whose daughter was married to Andrew Kinzie of the Kinzie Brothers’ Steamship Line (and later car ferry). Kinzie’s daughter, Charlotte, married Duane White, a city of Sanibel “founding father.”
- The claw-legged table is from the Bailey family and the phonograph on it came from a home on Coconut Drive.
- The rocking chair was Clarence Rutland’s, the only item in the house that belonged to the Rutland family.
- In the dining room display case is a chocolate set which belonged to Sam and Francis Bailey’s grandmother, Mary Beers Bailey. Above the case are her sketches of her childhood home in Virginia. The dining room table and chairs and buffet came to the museum via the ’Tween Waters Inn and before that from the Grays of Bristol, Virginia, who had shipped it to their home on Captiva in 1915.
- The glass- fronted china cabinet was bought from Sears Roebuck in 1924 for the Mayer home, Shore Haven, also purchased from Sears. The rose-patterned china belonged to Ruth Rutland.
- The photographs on the walls are from Elise Lilley Fuller’s collection and were taken in 1910 before and following the devastating hurricane of that year. She is the little girl petting the last deer on Sanibel. Both of them were hurricane survivors.
- In the bedroom, the furniture (beds, table, quilt rack and commode) came from the “Club House,” a fishing and hunting lodge on Woodring Point that was built in 1908 by a group of Cincinnati businessmen. It is said their wives were uncomfortable with the rough style of living and the independent ways of Sam Woodring, who was not above bending the law. Some of the ladies persuaded their husbands to build homes on the more “cultured” beach side near The Matthews Hotel (now the Island Inn). In the room is a Herman Rausch 1888 sewing machine, operated with a foot treadle. It cost $50 when it was newly purchased. For the same amount, a porch could be added to a home.
- Under the bed is a chamber pot for use by those who were unwilling to brave the dark and the mosquitoes on the way to the outhouse or privy. Colloquial names are frequently given to this functional equipment. One favorite is “guzundah,” so named because it “guzundah” the bed. For the particular, there is also a wooden box with a set of lids to contain the contents.
- Mosquito nets were absolutely essential in the days before mosquito control – and so was any kind of spray that would deter the pests. Study the photograph near the sewing machine and note its title, “Grandfather’s Survival Kit.” When people could afford it, screens were placed on every window. Still, there were so many mosquitoes covering the screens, a person couldn’t see out of them.
- In the kitchen, imagine having to cook, clean and care for your family with the kinds of equipment on display. Is a “crock-pot” a convenience? Only if you plug it in! The equivalent in this kitchen is the “Fireless Cooker,” which has stones that were heated up before preparing the casserole. And the cordless vacuum cleaner is heavy, awkward and no better than a broom.
- The icebox (don’t call it a refrigerator) might not have consumed much energy, but how long did a block of ice last? By the way, Bailey’s Store did NOT deliver ice. One had to go to the store, collect the ice and get it back home before it melted. Ice first came to the island with the “run boats” that made the “run” through Charlotte Harbor and San Carlos Bay, picking up fish being stored in the scattered fish houses.
- The Hoosier cabinet was a convenient workstation, as was the table and basin by the pump that brought water into the house from the cistern.
- The wash tub, wash boards, and stand would have been left outside on the porch or in the yard where clothes could be hung on bushes or lines to dray naturally. Mary Bell recalled washing clothes inside (because of the mosquitoes) and dressed in not much more than underwear because of the heat. When it was time to hang the clothes outside on the line, she would don a long-sleeved shirt and long pants to help ward off the mosquitoes.
- The cook stove burned wood and has a warming area above the four burners. It also would have been equipped with a tub alongside for heating water.
Submitted by Alex Werner
The front room of Rutland House is dedicated to historical info about the Calusa, Native Americans who lived on Sanibel.
Where did they come from?
Probably from Central America/Yucatan. Land bridges during the last Ice Age as well as water fluctuations in the Gulf of Mexico allowed for canoe exploration of Florida.
What did they do?
Created small villages along the coast and inland. They fished, hunted small game, did light farming and worked with the natural resources present (shells/native wood) to build their homes and, later, shell mounds. They traded with other tribes (wood carvings/pottery/medicines from plants/seeds), and also dealt with tribute and ransom, protecting their territory from other tribes and eventually from the Spanish.
Where was their territory?
From Charlotte Harbor, called Tampa, to the Keys and the east and west coasts of Southern Florida.
How many were there and what did they look like?
No one can really tell but probably in the thousands. The men were tall and handsome; the women were above average height and considered good looking. They all had long black hair and honey-colored skin.
What happened to them?
They eventually died of European illnesses, and the remnants of the tribe were absorbed into the Seminoles/Mikasuki/and Cuban Indians.
What was their relationship with the Spanish?
Very poor and hostile, since the Spanish wanted to convert them to Christianity and establish colonies in their territory.
Are there any artifacts or remains of the tribe?
Shell mounds have been discovered throughout Southwest Florida, as well as skeletons/bones, wood carvings/pottery shards.
Between 3,000 and 5 ,000 years ago, Redfish Pass and Blind Pass were not there. The 1926 hurricane opened them up. The islands are constantly shifting and changing. In 1895, Frank Cushing began digging Indian mounds on Marco Island, about 40 miles south of Sanibel as the crow flies; he found the Calusa Cat, a wooden artifact now in the Smithsonian.
To learn more, Google “Calusa,” read “The Sea Shell Islands” by Elinor Dormer, go to Pineland on Pine Island and walk the trails and old canals, go to Useppa Island and visit their museum, or call the Collier County History Museum and ask about their exhibits and those from Marco Island.