It was in the late 1930’s, when Ellis Whidden opened the right fork to Lost Dog Prairie. On this trip, the Whidden’s camped near a big cypress head on a pine island a few miles in, on what is now Sand Road. That road is the right fork off Monument grade. Monument grade starts at Monument Lake one mile West of Monroe Station on US 41. Monument Grade and Sand Road were tram roads put in by the TREE CHOPPERS that harvested the pine and cypress trees in the 1940’s.
Ellis Whidden wanted to open a road on through to Lost Dog and this was the time to do it, he had lots of help, Charlie Benton and a couple others. The Whidden’s had been going out from U.S. 41, north to Buck Skin Prairie, running the prairie up and east, to Lost Dog and then to Lost Dog Swamp where they had a camp.
Ellis Whidden was a fearless man always looking for adventure and the last frontier, snakes, alligators, bears and things that made noise in the night didn't scare him. Ellis had a God given gift, he had a built in compass and never got lost. Some said "he didn't know what he was talking about, that camp ain't that way"!
"Lets get to opening this road"
It was just daylight good, when they started opening
the way through the swamp dodging all the trees they could and cutting
the smallest ones just to get the rig through. This was all a virgin woods
in those years and the tree choppers hadn't set foot on the land. The big
cypress trees and virgin pinetrees hadn't seen an ax or saw. The pines
were so high and big you could see through the big pine islands. This land
was called Big Cypress, but most called it the Everglades. Most of
the roads back then had been made by OX carts.
"Keep going boys. we are almost there"! It was getting late and the
sun was setting. All but Ellis feared they were hopelessly lost. All of
the men were tired and hungry. They were all walked and chopped out. Ellis
recognized the cypress heads of Lost Dog Swamp and told one of them to
walk out on the edge of the open woods ahead. "If you don’t find a set
of buggy ruts, (this buggys ruts), we will camp here". "If
you find the road, then we will be at camp in about 15 minutes". The tired
man staggered out that way and in a little while came running back yelling,
"they are there, they are there, lets get to camp". Those grim faces turned
to smiles and all got a second wind. Ellis wasn't lost after all.
If you are ever out on Lost Dog at night and a friendly cool breeze
is whispering through the saw grass and cypress it may be Ellis Whidden.
I think his spirit lingers in those woods.