The John Gorrie Museum State Park swung open its doors Saturday afternoon and delighted visitors with a dual purpose – to spotlight the revitalized exhibit celebrating Apalachicola’s famed inventor and to showcase the definitive biographical novel authored by Apalachicola native Vivian Sherlock.
Flanked by two children of Sherlock, who passed away in 2017 at the age of 102, Apalachicola Area Historical Society President Caty Greene recounted how the society worked closely with Sherlock’s daughter Kitty to republish “The Fever Man” 40 years after Sherlock, a high school and college instructor who grew up here and attended Chapman High School, authored it in 1982.
Greene read several passages that illustrated Sherlock’s masterful prose, full of colorful descriptions that brought to life the energy and passion of the famed 19th-century inventor of what would later become air conditioning. Sherlock’s work is scrupulous in its accuracy of the story of the inventor, who is one of two of the state’s representative statues in the National Statuary Hall Collection in the U.S. Capitol.
On hand for the event were Sherlock’s daughter Ellen Sherlock Amatea, and her husband Frank, from Ocala;; son Mike Sherlock, who lives on St. George Island, as well as a cousin by marriage Ann Tucker.
Kitty Sherlock, who was unable to attend as she lives out West, co-authored a murder myster with her mom whose working title is “Broken Shells,” The setting for the book is a small town named Acadia, based upon small town life in Apalachicola.
Vivian Sherlock wrote another unpublished novel entitled “A Time for Sparrows,” based upon the Minorcan immigrants who came to St. Augustine to work on a plantation where they cultivated the indigo plant used to make indigo dye.
James Hargrove, who worked with Kitty Sherlock to format the republished work, which is now available at both Downtown Books and the Raney House, offered details on Gorrie’s work, as well as the images used to create his likeness for the statue. Margaret Obear, the ranger who greets visitors at the museum, also spoke on Gorrie’s life.
For the time being, the new exhibit occupies just one-half of the museum space, with the rest devoted to a temporary, traveling exhibit on the history of the Florida State Park system.
A reception followed, hosted by the AAHS.
The John Gorrie Museum State Park, at 46 Sixth Street in Apalachicola, is open from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. Thursday through Monday. There is a $2 per person entrance fee. For more information, call 850-653-9347.