Osprey's First Family
Posted by Osprey Real Estate on
Osprey possibly owes its very existence to John Webb, an intrepid pioneer who brought his family to Florida from Utica, New York in 1867.
The fascinating Webb family settled at what is now Historic Spanish Point, and their influence is still felt in Osprey today.
John Greene Webb was born in March, 1824 in Jefferson County, New York. He married Eliza Graves in Utica on Christmas Eve, 1945. They had 5 children. By 1867, Webb had retired as a pharmacist. Eliza suffered from asthma, so the family moved to Florida, hoping the climate would improve Eliza’s health. The Webbs first checked out Key West, where a Spanish trader suggested to them a spot on Sarasota Bay that would make a delightful homestead site. Webb found the spot; it was a paradise. While many think Historic Spanish Point gets its name from the 16th-century conquistadores, there’s no evidence they visited there. Instead, Webb named his homestead Spanish Point to honor the man who suggested the location.
The Webb family planted citrus trees, sugar cane, and a variety of vegetables. The family also built a packinghouse, and Webb’s son-in-law, Frank Guptill, built schooners to transport the produce to various markets. The daughters created scores of sketches and drawings of Spanish Point, and Eliza wrote extensive letters regarding pioneer life in Florida. Many of those artifacts are now preserved in the museum at Historic Spanish Point
Farming wasn’t John Webb’s only business. Southwest Florida was emerging after the Civil War as a hugely popular tourist destination, and the Webbs encouraged visitors to stay at Spanish Point, where they enjoyed the beaches, the climate, the fishing and boating. “Webb’s Winter Resort” was the area’s first tourist resort. John Webb was also Osprey’s first postmaster. By the early 1880s, Webb had tired of having to sail 15 miles just to pick up his mail. He appealed to the U.S. Post Office for a branch office at Spanish Point. When he was told that the location could only have a one-word name, Webb called the location Osprey for the splendid birds that are so common to the area.
When the 20th century began, the Webbs began selling off parcels of land, and in 1910, Chicago socialite Bertha Palmer made her own mark on Osprey, buying 350 acres that included the entire Webb homestead. In 1976, Spanish Point was the first site in Sarasota County to be listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The Palmer family donated Historic Spanish Point to the Gulf Coast Heritage Association in 1980. Today, you can still get a feeling for the romantic, adventurous pioneer lives of the Webb family when you visit Historic Spanish Point in Osprey.