submitted by Donna Digennaro, Clermont Historical Society
Monday evening, April 10th, the lure of our beautiful lakes came to life at the Clermont Historical Society in more ways than one! Rebecca Stokes Mendoza and Chuck Heddon gave an amazing presentation interweaving the histories of their families in the Clermont/Minneola area and the development of the Heddon fishing lure. By taking turns, showing beautiful slides, and having artifacts on display, they were able to paint a fascinating picture of life in South Lake County from the turn of the 20th Century up to modern day.
The Heddon family came here from Michigan and originally were snowbirds. The Stokes family were from upstate New York’s Mohawk Valley. It was a love of fishing, hunting and the outdoor life that brought them together. Chuck’s great-grandfather had, quite by accident, learned that the bass would strike a lure as it floated on top of the water. He developed & patented the Heddon lure (pictured above) which is still manufactured today. In an attempt to test the lures year-round, Chuck’s grandparents started coming to this area in the winter. This put them in contact with Rebecca’s great uncle, Charles, and grandfather Harry, who worked for his brother (Charles) as a guide at the Jolly Palms. Room and board were $1.50 per day, which included the use of a horse and dog, and the services of a guide for a local hunt. Harry Stokes was also an avid fisherman and a savvy businessman, so an immediate bond was formed with the Heddon fishermen.
Harry, and his nephew Walter (Charles’ son) often provided guide services for the guests. One guest, Colonel Thornberry was a retired Indian scout. He taught young Walter how to hunt and fish, and how to make and use a bow and arrow like the Indians. In addition, the Colonel taught Walter about target shooting, which was his hobby. The Colonel taught Walter well and Walter was an excellent student, in fact, he went on to be a World Champion Sharpshooter and even won an Olympic Gold Medal.
History is the story of our shared pasts. Sometimes it can sound very cold and distant, but if we look carefully, there is the story of interesting, brave people who often took chances like trying to invent something or like getting on a train and moving hundreds of miles away from everyone you know to take a job as a postmistress in Florida (Rebecca’s grandmother did just that!). The people like the Stokes & the Hedden’s wrote the history of Clermont one day at a time.
The Clermont Historical Society invites you to come to the Historic Village and take a stroll through Clermont’s history. The Village is located at 490 West Avenue and is open every Saturday and Sunday form 1:00 to 4:00 PM. Admission is free, however, a donation of $5.00 per adult is requested. Our next meeting will be Monday, May 8th at 6:00 PM with a presentation at 7:00 PM. The public is always welcome.