Is Peter Matthiessen’s book, Killing Mr. Watson a true story?

killing mr watsonThe answer is no. And yes.
Author Peter Matthiessen found the Hamilton clan so fascinating that he included a fictional account of their lives in his novel, Killing Mr. Watson. The novel is fiction. But it is closely based on truth, including one theory of what really happened on that beach beside Smallwood’s store in Chokoloskee.
As most great storytellers, Matthiessen weaves an engaging and fascinating narrative from years of meticulous research on Ed Watson, the family’s who lived in the Ten Thousand Islands (the Everglades), and the murder of Mr. Watson in 1910 outside Smallwood’s Store. If you want to know what life was like in the Everglades before it became a national park, I highly recommend Matthiessen’s story.
In subsequent books, Matthiessen changes the Hamilton name due to backlash he received from some Hamilton family members who did not take kindly to how the Hamilton’s were portrayed in the novel. Again, we must realize that Killing Mr. Watson and the books that follow it, are FICTION. Based on truth but fiction nonetheless.
As the descendent of  Florida Everglades pioneers, I tell you EVERY theory that I found in my research about what happened to Ed Watson on that beach. There are many theories, and many people hold to one or the other. The real truth here is that no one will ever know the truth.

The Florida Everglades is full of secrets. And the swamp keeps its secrets close.

smallwood store chokoloskee
Smallwood Store – Chokoloskee, Florida
In my family history, Lostmans Heritage: Pioneers in the Florida Everglades, I follow my slave ancestor, Richard Hamilton and his sons to the ending of an era when the National Park Service evicted the residents, the pioneers, of the Everglades. Along the journey, I uncover secrets and stories, polygamy, bootlegging, fist fights, murders, gangsters, killers, and tales of tomahawks and missing schoolteachers.
lostmans heritage revised2

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(You can still get an autographed copy at YESTERDAY PRESS)

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Read more about Ed Watson’s murder in this article by Coastal Breeze News (2020). The Story of Edgar J. Watson: The Infamous Businessman & Serial Killer