Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Indian Key

Indian Key once held a thriving community by the same name, but today it's a ghost town. Which of course makes it very appealing to me.

In 1733, 19 ships from the Spanish treasure fleet wrecked on the nearby reef during a hurricane. The survivors fled by jolly boat to Indian Key, where they made an encampment until their eventual rescue. By the 18th century, many different people from different countries were using Indian Key as a fishing base. Although crews might stay on the island for months at a time, permanent residents were few; it was primarily a sort of temporary way-station for fishermen, turtlers, and probably all sorts of shady characters as well.

In 1821, Florida changed hands from Spain to the United States, and in 1824, a general store was opened on Indian Key to serve people living on the upper Keys. After that, Indian Key became a populous town.

But not for long.

With the advent of the Second Seminole War in 1835, most keys in the area were abandoned as citizens fled the Indian attacks. The inhabitants of Indian Key chose to stay and protect their property. But early in the morning of August 7, 1840, a large tribe of Indians invaded the key. Several of the key's inhabitants were killed during the fight and flight. The Indians burned every building on Indian Key after thoroughly looting them.

There was a naval base on nearby Tea Table Key, but it offered no protection, being caught off guard with only a handful of sailors at the ready. Abandoned by almost all of its civilian population, Indian Key was subsequently taken over by the U.S. Navy until the Second Seminole War came to a close.

By the Third Seminole War, there were only two families left living on Indian Key. The island's last permanent dweller was a shipwreck-salvage businessman named William Bethel, who lived there from the 1850s to the 1880s. Now there's no one there, even though old roads still exist and so does a pier.

I think we should go there and have a party, don't you?

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