Thursday, November 10, 2011

Wildman of the Loxahatchee River

The Loxahatchee Queen II, at Jonathan Dickinson State Park, makes several trips a day seven miles up the Loxahatchee River to the former home of the "Wildman of the Loxahatchee."  You can also paddle your own canoe or kayak up the river to see it - but we opted for the easy way.  Remember, Hubby was starting to not feel well.

Once we arrived, a park ranger told us all about this mysterious man.  His given name was Vincent, or Victor, Nostokovich from Trenton, New Jersey where he was born in 1909.  He served time in a Mexico jail for gun running then made his way east, arriving in Jupiter, Florida around 1936.  By the time he reached here he had a new name - Trapper Nelson.
Trapper set about making his home on the banks of the river, eating whatever he could kill, trap or find.  He planted all sorts of fruit trees and plants to supplement his diet and sold alligator skins and raccoon pelts for extra money.
By all accounts, he stood 6 feet 4 inches and weighed in at 240 pounds of muscle - rarely donning a shirt.  It wasn't long before people were making their way upriver to see this "wildman" who many people likened to Johnny Weismuller of Tarzan fame.  Trapper even built ramadas and fire pits so the Palm Beach socialites (the Kennedy family among them) could have their picnics. 
Trapper Nelson built every structure on the property himself, including this cabin and water tower.
The park ranger is standing next to an alligator skull that decorates the cabin wall.
Despite never having electricity, Trapper tried to make his home as comfortable as possible and somehow installed this sink in his cabin.
He even had a propane powered refrigerator.
The shower may have been a little cramped for someone his size though.
Trapper eventually owned 858 acres of land - some of it acquired by paying the back property taxes on adjoining parcels of property.  This (among other things) did not make him very popular with the neighbors!  When he died (more on that later) people figured he had money hidden somewhere around the property and tore his cabin apart looking for it, to no avail.  However, a few years ago when the park staff was repairing the fireplace they found over 5,000 coins, valued at $1,800.00, hidden behind some mortar.
For many years Trapper welcomed visitors, even allowing them to stay in this guest cabin.
A sign on the cabin is how he kept track of the hurricanes that hit the area, giving them stars for how strong they were.
He even constructed his own wildlife zoo which people could visit - for a fee.  For an additional fee, he would jump in the pen and wrestle an alligator.
Finally, faced with complaints from neighbors, and badgered by authorities about safety and sanitary conditions, Trapper shut down his zoo and refused to allow anyone to visit, with the exception of friends and family.  He became more and more reclusive, threatening anyone who trespassed on his property with a shotgun.  One day in July, 1968, a friend found him under one of the picnic ramadas he had built, dead of a shotgun blast to the stomach.  Some people believed it was suicide and some people said he had made too many enemies.  The only thing anyone knows for certain is that his extended family became rich when they sold the land to the state of Florida.  The mystery continues!

Hubby pneumonia update:  He is slowly, but steadily, getting better.  Each day he's a little stronger - and extremely bored of just laying around the trailer!  Thank you for your prayers.  They are greatly appreciated!



  1. Wow! What a story and what a man! I think this place will definitely go on our "to explore" list.
    Glad hubby is feeling sorry he has had pneumonia. Take good care of yourselves!!

  2. Hi Candy,
    So sorry to hear about your hubby! I hope he has a speedy and full recovery so you can go on many more fun excursions!

  3. First I'm glad to hear that your hubby is getting better. That's scary stuff.
    2nd wow that's one interesting guy! I'm afraid he made one too many neighbors angry. He doesn't seem the type to have committed suicide. Vanna

  4. Great tour and story, this place goes on the list.

  5. Thanks for the awesome story. He sounds like quite a character! Glad Richard is improving.