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The Ox Woman: Everglades, Florida

Updated: May 28, 2021

Sarah Smith McCain came to Florida after her husband had been 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 her sister 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.


Sarah's sister Hannah was two years younger than her. Hannah was killed by a man named Lesley Cox while working at Chatham Bend, owned by the notorious serial killer of E.J. Watson fame.


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