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Ark shells sought for new historical village display

By Staff | Feb 20, 2019


The Sanibel Historical Museum and Village is asking the public to collect ark shells for a display it is planning about Clarence Rutland, the owner of the village’s first home.

Rutland sold ark shells to Thomas Edison to use for the paths between the houses on Edison’s estate. The cost was 50 cents for 60 pounds. When the shells became scarce, Rutland raised the price to $1, and Edison said that was too pricey and stopped buying.

“We want to set up a display showcasing Clarence Rutland and the many things he did during his life on Sanibel,” Executive Director Emilie Alfino said. “We are so taken with the story of the ark shells, we decided to design a display to illustrate Uncle Clarence’s ingenuity. We’re asking the people of Sanibel – residents, snowbirds, and tourists alike – to help us out by collecting ark shells and delivering them to the Historical Village.”

Rutland had an interesting history and was known as a “jack of all trades” on Sanibel. He became known throughout the island as “Uncle Clarence, which he is often still called today. Mail addressed only to “Uncle Clarence” was properly delivered.

Rutland farmed key lime trees and in 1939 started collecting coconuts to grow. One volunteer doing research for the project read that Rutland brought in the coconuts from Cuba. Rutland estimated by 1974 he had sold 40,000 coconut trees. In the 1920s, he tried selling real estate – until he went broke.

He was also a fishing guide for many years.

Rutland died on Jan. 17, 1982, at age 91.

The Sanibel Historical Museum and Village is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday.

For information, call 239-472-4648 or visit online at www.sanibelmuseum.org.

The Sanibel Historical Museum and Village is at 950 Dunlop Road.