Laura married her fourth husband, 34-year-old bachelor Charles Milton Swindal, on Aug. 11, 1927, in Highlands County, five days before she died.
Possibly on a whim, Laura married a
34-year-old bachelor, Charles Milton Swindal,
on Aug. 11, 1927, in Highlands County.
Five days later, Laura was at the Upthegrove
gas station. She had sold a bottle of
illegal whiskey that afternoon to a customer
and he had returned to complain about the
liquor’s quality, demanding a refund. E.P.
Padgett was visiting the area and riding with
Palm Beach County Deputy Sheriff Archibald
Brownlee when the two stopped at the gas
station to see Laura. When they did, they
witnessed her chasing the man out of the store
and waving a gun as he quickly drove away.
Laura’s rage continued as she went back
into the station where her mother took the
gun away from her. Still fuming, she reached
for a bottle of disinfectant, swallowed its
contents and almost immediately collapsed.
Padgett grabbed Laura and attempted to
move the seemingly lifeless body to a bed
while shouting for someone to get a doctor.
Her mother said it was best to let her go. No doctor was
needed. Within minutes she was dead. Many thought of it
as Laura’s last defiant act in a lifetime of defiance toward
Laura Upthegrove Perry Tillman Lawrence Swindal was
buried in an unmarked grave in Woodlawn Cemetery, West
Palm Beach. Her mother was the administrator of Laura’s
estate, which included several pieces of property and a house
in Okeechobee, a house in West Palm Beach and real estate
in Hollywood. Laura’s younger brother, Dewitt Upthegrove,
handled the estate.
There was speculation at one time that Laura may have
buried some of the loot that the Ashley Gang had accumulated
Since she was a known bootlegger and gambler, Laura was not welcomed in some communities
and spent her life after Ashley’s death moving from one town to another.
at the Canal Point gas station, but nothing was ever
found. It had been estimated by authorities that as much as
a million dollars may have been stolen or otherwise accrued
from illegal activities by the gang through the years, some
of it being spent or even given to the needy. Since Laura had
several pieces of property at the time of her death, speculation
is that they might have been acquired with the cash
seized by the gang.
Newspapers of the day called Laura “Queen of the Everglades,”
a no-nonsense woman who was as capable as any
man of living in the wild glades and hammocks.
STEVEN CARR/ELLIOTT MUSEUM
Laura Upthegrove Perry Tillman Lawrence Swindal was buried in an unmarked
grave in West Palm Beach, after committing suicide.