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29 GASPARILLA MAGAZINE SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2016 Arcadia is one of the most beautiful places in Southwest Florida, and one of the most representative pieces of “Old Florida” that we have left. Huge oaks and willows cover the front acreages of large ranch houses set far back from the roads, and cows roam in most of the fields. Tiny little towns like Nocatee and Fort Ogden dot the road along the way to Arcadia, and are filled with street names such as Whiddens Corners, Fugate Avenue and Albritton Street – names many Boca Grande residents will recognize. That’s because small pieces of those families broke from that area to come here, to our little island, to become fishermen. Arcadia is filled with memories, not all of them sweet. It has been a troubled place from time to time throughout history, with a percentage of poverty that is much higher than coastal Florida. Orange groves and cattle have done many families very well, that’s for sure, but there are other tales to be told of despair as well. Oak Ridge Cemetery, just off Levines Ave. in Arcadia, is a beautiful place to be buried. It stretches for acres and is dotted with old-growth trees, and a history that dates back 130 years. There are several (in)famous occupants of Oak Ridge Cemetery. There is talk that a woman who was scalped by local Native Americans is at rest there. There have been calls to the local police station from neighbors who have heard men’s voices talking and laughing well into the night, and even bagpipes playing in the wee hours. Talking Mary And then there is Talking Mary. An island shopkeeper who grew up in Arcadia played in the cemetery as a child, and says one of the statues there used to “speak” to them. “When we were kids we used to play in the cemetery,” she said. “One night we were all playing there, it was before it got really dark, and she was talking to us. Do you know, every time we went after that we heard her talking? I never, ever thought about how she could talk. It wasn’t words we could understand, it was more like mumbling. But we would sit there with our jaws on the ground. It would start, then stop, then start, then stop. “We went back to her probably five or six times, then I forgot about it. Then my sister-in-law and I went to the cemetery one day when I was visiting them last year. She said the mumbling noise could have come from a wasp’s nest that was under Mary’s arm. I never would have guessed that. Who knows, though? “When the wind blows through the trees there, and the moss whispers, it’s just a beautiful place.”


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