SW Florida Walking Tours

The Mysterious Demise of Commodore Colt

SW Florida Walking Tours

The Mysterious Demise of Commodore Colt

Commodore Colt portrait
Commodore Caldwell H. Colt
(1858 – 1894)

He “died in the Hotel Punta Gorda,” posted the Scranton Republican on January 23, 1894. “Caldwell Colt was the richest bachelor in America and he was also the youngest capitalist … his age was only 35 and he leaves millions,” printed the Scranton Republican four days later.

Who was Caldwell Colt?

“Collie” was the son of Samuel and Elizabeth Colt, of gun fame. He was just three-years-old when his father died and was their only child to survive to adulthood. He was his widowed mother’s comfort and she lavished upon him every favor her immense wealth could buy. Based on his passport description, at age 18 he was just ½ inch shy of 6-feet-tall with light brown hair and blue eyes, a long face, pointy chin and roman nose. In 1879, at age 21, he designed the Colt double-barrel rifle, but the family firearms business was of absolutely no interest to him. His proudest accomplishment was being Commodore of the Larchmont Yacht Club in New York.

Celebrated Yachtsman

Collie got his first yacht when he was 18 and collected four more. It was said he spent 10 months out of the year sailing throughout the world. In a transatlantic competition on his schooner Dauntless, he and his crew ran out of drinking water but survived on champagne and wine! Perhaps that’s why he was was described rather unkindly by biographer William Hosley as “a stereotypical icon of foppish indulgence.” He maintained his ketch, Oriole, in Charlotte Harbor year-round.

How did he die?

What happened to the celebrated-playboy-bachelor-millionaire-yachtsman on the evening of Saturday, January 21, 1894 in Punta Gorda?

  • The Fort Myers News-Press reported “he drowned under mysterious circumstances in Charlotte Harbor when he fell from a yacht.”
  • The World in New York on Monday, January 22, 1894, reported he died of heart disease after a hunting trip with his friend Will Henn.
  • The Detroit Free Press reported his death “was caused by malignant tonsillitis, occasioned primarily by the smoking of cigarettes.”
  • The Hartford Daily Courant commented on rumors he had committed suicide. “We have heard a rumor has been started at the north that Colt killed himself. This is absurd and pure fabrication. If it be published it will grieve Mrs. Colt very much and ought to be promptly denied.”
  • The salacious gossip on the streets suggested Caldwell was killed by a jealous husband.

To this day we don’t know the true cause of Caldwell Colt’s death, and we probably never will.

Hear more about Commodore Colt on our Haunted History of Punta Gorda Walking Tour or the Haunted Punta Gorda Pub Tour.

Christiane Belle Tremblay

Commodore Colt’s portrait was painted by a local artist. Originally from Verdun, France, this adventurous lady moved to the US at a young age and lived in Boston for many years before moving to Port Charlotte in 1990. Her favorite medium is oil paint and she is particularly noted for her portraits which feature stunning eyes.

Mysterious Deaths in Punta Gorda

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