Jan 17. 1998

Indian Key

 

On our way down the Keys we stopped at Indian Key, which is a 4-5 acre island with a very interesting history. In the early 1800's a wrecker named Houseman settled the island. When boats wrecked on the reefs, people called 'wreckers' would rescue the crew and the ship contents, with their pay being half the ships contents. In his first year of business, Houseman made a half million dollars, and in his second year one million dollars! That was REALLY a lot for the early 1800's. Needless to say Houseman owned the island and all its businesses. He built a 2 story hotel with bowling alley, billiards, and of course a saloon. Indian Key became Florida's first snow bird haven. Audubon used to spend a lot of time there working on his bird drawings. A doctor came to try to grow sisal. He had all sorts of plants he experimented with which have now taken over the island.

When times were slow, Houseman was known to move the navigational lights which directed boats right onto the reef. This got him into trouble with the law. He had to travel to Key West where he was very unpopular, or St. Augustine which was very far away. Houseman petitioned the governor to make his island the seat of a new county, which became Dade County. This save Houseman a lot of traveling, but eventually he still lost his wreckers license. Needing money, he next approached the governor as a mercenary, offering to kill off the bothersome Indians. Well the government already had someone else for that job, but the Indians got wind of Houseman's offer and made a sneak attack on the island. Most people got away including Houseman, but after the Indians got into the liqueur they did massacre about 6 people and set everything on fire. That was the end of the town.

Stone ruins are everywhere. Houseman ended up as a wrecker in Key West. Just a few weeks after getting his new job, his foot got caught in a line being tossed to another ship. He went over board and was crushed between the two ships.


Last Updated: 2-18-98
By: Ted Handel


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