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."

Pineapple
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.

Cards

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 "Yucca."

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 bicycling.



FWC Facts:
When the weather is very cold, a group of bluebirds, and several other bird species, will occasionally roost together in a nest cavity for warmth.

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