Sarah Smith McClain "The Ox-Woman"

She stood 6'4" with blue eyes and dark blonde hair.

Sarah Smith McClain

Sarah came to Florida after her husband was hanged for killing a man. To earn a living, she cut cross ties for the railroad, hauled limestone rock and plowed fields. Sarah had two dresses and a black sun bonnet. She wore men's work shoes, carried a huge shotgun everywhere, slept on the floor and drove a cart pulled by two scrawny oxen, followed by two scrawny hounds. Everyone knew the Ox-Woman and generally liked her. Around 1909, Sarah received a letter from her family, asking her to see if everything was OK with Hannah. The only problem was that Hannah lived on the other side of the state and at that time there was no route crossing Florida. If she followed established roads, she would have to go in a circuitous manner that would take three months and cover more than 300 miles. Not the Ox-Woman. Packing up her cart, she set off for the other side of the state - directly across the Everglades. No man had crossed the Everglades, or at least, no one survived to tell. For six weeks the Ox-Woman chopped her way across Florida, walking ahead of the ox cart to clear the way. Panthers, bears, snakes and alligators were fended off by Sarah and her two dogs. She did make it and found Hannah to be quite well. Her duty done, Sarah hitched up the oxen, called the dogs and was off. She started a small farm and lived the rest of her life quietly.

Notes above from Find-A-Grave, author unknown.

Beverly Mott's Notes:
I suspect the "first person to cross the glades" title was fanciful. That would have been 1910. But she's very likely the first white woman to do so unaccompanied.
Sarah's husband was hanged in Charlton Co, GA. Her sister Hannah was two years younger. She was killed by Lesley Cox at Chatham Bend of E.J. Watson fame. I've read that Sarah went to Everglades City from the east coast to find out what happened to her sister Hannah, arriving several months after Hannah was murdered. Another account says Sarah was down there working at Chatham Bend. I don't know which account is correct. From the glades, she continued on to Immokalee, and then LaBelle. Eventually settling in the Ft. Denaud area. She's buried at Ft. Denaud Cemetery in an unmarked (location known) grave.

"Tellable Cracker Tales" , pages 61 thru 63. That book claims there were seven Smith sisters, three of whom were normal sized. The other four were the "big" sisters, each one more than six feet tall: Sarah Smith McLain (also known as "Sadie" or "The Ox Woman"), Nancy ("Big Nancy"), Hannah ("Big Six") and Lydia ("Mrs. Lydia Smith Crews").

As per Joseph Horne Thomas: " Sarah didn't leave Georgia until 1907. Her husband was lynched in 1884. He had another wife and it's moot as to which one was the "real" wife. I can narrow her gravesite in the Old Section of the Fort Denaud Cemetery down to about 10' x 10' -- it probably lies under the paved road that runs on the east side of the Old Section (thanks to a former County Engineer who made the statement why should he care about unmarked graves if the families didn't care enough to mark a grave.)"

As per Waddy Thompson: "My father-in-law owned the place near Immokalee where Sarah/ Sadie homesteaded. It is called Sadie Cypress, and part of the original trail that she cut is still there. There are cypress saplings across the road at about 6 inch intervals where it goes through the soft place in the swamp, a corduroy road is what that was called. The name of the trail is "Sadie Crossing".

Sarah's Ford at Jack's Branch

Sarah's ford at Jack's Branch, named for Sarah Smith McClain, when she lived there.