January/February 2018 GASPARILLA ISLAND 71
pursue Sarah and marry her against their wishes.
They raised nine children on their homestead –
five sons and four daughters – named Herb, Sam,
Joe, Tom, George, Lill, Rose, Nell and Ann.
The family eventually moved to Bartow, and in
1899 there was a bit of a family drama. Ann fell
in love with her sister Nell’s husband, William
Clement Sprott, and he divorced Nell to marry
her. They had eight children of their own - one
son and seven daughters named Eugene, Thelma,
Ruth, Ruby, Lillian, Catherine, Dorothy and Helen
- and were married for more than 50 years.
The Sprotts were a force to reckon with in
their Polk County hometown. William was quite
the jack-of-all-trades, and worked as a cowboy, a
sheriff, a livery stable owner, a tenant-housing
landlord and owned the first Ford dealership in
Bartow. William also dabbled in bootlegging, and
he was target of two assassination attempts
during his time as sheriff. That was enough for
him to consider moving on to greener pastures
in Florida. On Christmas Day of 1926 after a visit
with Ann’s sister Nell, who owned the Palmetto
Inn at the time, he and the family moved to
Gasparilla Island. They realized a need for more
hotels on the island, so they purchased The Quick
Hotel and renamed it Hotel Palm. They later built
The Sprott Hotel across the street.
By that time William owned numerous rental
properties and homes, a livery stable, a boarding
house and the Ford dealership, but when he
came to the island he realized another source of
revenue in the form of The Boca Grande Ferry
Boat Company. This was years before a bridge
was built connecting the island to the rest of the
world, and in 1930 William started taking people and
cars from the land base near The Fishery to the island
dock at 34th Street (a plaque stands there today if
you’re ever in the area). The charge was $5 a car and
10 cents per person on his first ferry, the Catherine,
and later on the Saugerties as well.
William and Ann’s daughter Ruth was born on
Friday, March 13, 1908 and had almost every
childhood disease known. She survived them all,
though, and accompanied her family when they
William and Ann on one of their ferry boats.