Letter to Mrs. Phil L. Marsh from Louis Capron, Sep 9, 1961


Material Information

Letter to Mrs. Phil L. Marsh from Louis Capron, Sep 9, 1961
Series Title:
Biographical Materials and Correspondence
Physical Description:
Capron, Louis Bishop, 1891-1971
Publication Date:
Physical Location:
Box: 1
Folder: Correspondence-Marsh, Mrs. Phil L.


Spatial Coverage:
North America -- United States -- Florida -- West Palm Beach

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of Florida
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
sobekcm - AA00006386_00001
System ID:

Full Text

218 Westminister Rd.,
West Palm Beach, Fla.
September 9, 1961.

Mrs. Phil L. Marsh
Longboat Lodge, Box 7
Longboat Key, Florida

Dear Mrs. Marsh:
I have your letter forwarded by Mr. Kidd, and I must get .
what information I can off to you. It must be casual and hit
or miss because I'm working on a book and pressed for time.

You'll have to forgive Florida History for its failings.
It's not the well ordered, tidy thing it is in New England, say, ,
where people came and settled in permanent places with all kinds L
of records state records, town records, church records, family 6\
records where letters were saved where journals were kept -
where town histories were written from the time of Bradford on.

Much of Florida's early history is buried in tons of paper
in Seville or Havana, that has to be dug through, evaluated and
translated, if we are to have a complete picture. For example,
the period of exploration and missionizing in your area lasted N
just about forty years, from the arrival of Narvae in the spring
of 1528, to the destruction of the fort and mission in Charlotte
Harbor in 1568. After that there is almost nothing for two hun-
dred and fifty years. That's quite a gap. Of course_ we have .
a few things, and there are probably many small items with ar-
mored horsemen and tossing banners, because the first ones found
that Florida had no gold or silver. There are no mission records
because the missionaries met a tough race where they found not
converts, but martyrdom. There are no military records because
Spain needed no fort to protect the route of her plate ships.
England, during her brief tenure, paid little attention to this
area. Even after the United States took over, development was
sketchy until after the Seminole War how sketchy, you will
realize as you read Grismer.

Don't ignore Grismer. He did a very good job and covered
the field very well. A great deal of it will hook up to Long-
boat Key, particularly his page #17 in his Sarasota, but for the
conquistadors, he did a much more complete job in his Tampa. His
map on page #33 of his Tampa is important to you. Keep Grismer
handy both his "The Story of Sarasota" and his "Tampa." You
will also need Bickel's "Mangrove Coast," and you should have
Marjorie Stoneman Douglas' "Everglades, River of Grass."

page 2 -


There were Indian mounds on the mainland in Sarasota. I
can't find reference to any on Longboat Key. If there were,
that should be the beginning of your story. This area is
classified by the archaeologists as the Manatee, and it shows
elements of both the Central Gulf Coast to the north, and the
Glades to the south. Mrs. Douglas gives an excellent picture
of the "Glades" culture worked out with Dr. Goggin. If there
was a mound or were mounds on the Key, I suggest you write Dr.
Goggin, tell him what you are doing and ask him what period
was represented, whether you would be safe in assuming Mrs.
Douglas' description of the Glades people would apply, and if
not, where you could find a brief description of the culture
of the people on the Long Boat Key.

Dr. John M. Goggin
Department of Anthropology
University of Florida
Gainesville, Florida


This began and ended as previously stated. DeSoto was
the leader of the expedition that had the greatest impact on
the history of this region. The tribe he came in contact with
at Tampa was the Ocita or Ucita, a branch of the Timucuan fam-
ily. The cacique was Hirrihigua. Swanton also identifies
them with the Pohoy (same Indians another name), Grismer has
much more about these events in his Tampa than in his Sarasota.

If you want to go more deeply into the DeSoto story, go
to the original narratives. University of Texas Press has just
(1951) gotten out a beautiful edition of Garcilaso de la Vega,
"The Florida of the Inca." Elvas, Biedma and Raujel are in
Bourne's "Narratives of DeSoto," 2 vols, New York 1922. Cer-
tainly you should consult the report of the commission headed
by Dr. Swanton of the Smithsonian "Final Report of the United
States DeSoto Expedition" House Document #71, 76th Congress,
1st Session, Washington, 1939. You should find a copy in the
Sarasota Library. If not, Tampa, if not then, University of
Tampa library. This last establishes that DeSoto came ashore on
Long Boat Key.

The Sara DeSoto story, of course, is pure invention.

DeSoto also met the Mococo Indians and Menendez, the To-
cobaga Indians in the Tampa Bay area.

page 3 -

These Timucua Indians were largely wiped out by disease and
invasions by the Indians and colonists from the north, and pro-
bably the Caloosa moved in. They were just south at the time of
De Soto, perhaps even in the Sarasota area. Woodbury Lowery,
page #229 in his "Spanish Settlements Florida,. "The country was
that of the Caloosas on the southern extremity of the peninsula,
extending westward from Point Sable and up the western coast,
probably as far north as the southern shores of Tampa Bay." This
is reflected in Grismer's map in Tampa, P. 33.


Trade between Florida and Havana went on. In 1698, Barcia

"Communication between Havana and the lands of the
cachique Carlos became more extensive each day,inasmuch
as his Indians had been permitted to engage in trade
with the hope that, on the cachiquess having received
as many as fonuteen Franciscan religious, the Indians
might soon be converted to the catholic religion, as
those on some of the islands, or keys, had been. These
Indians went about naked, except for a short cloth worn
over half of their bodies. They wore their hair long,
and tied it back and although they had known the Span-
iards for quite a long time, they were now more barbarous
than at first their own instincts drew them towards all
the abominable vices. They trade in fish, some little
amber which they gather on the beaches, tree bark,
cardinal birds, fruits, and a few pelts. In their canoes
or barks, they go from the keys to Havana, ordinarily in
twenty-four hours. Were they a more competent people
they would become very richly from cardinals alone they
should realize large sums they sell them for ten dollars
a piece (the poorest birds for six) to the men on the
galleons while they are well paid for the other petty
merchandise they bring. This year their commerce in the
month of March was worth more than eighteen thousand pesos
to them, despite the loss of Cartagena and the fact that
neither fleets nor galleons had put in for three years past."

There may be other passages as good as this if you want to
dig. The University of Florida Press published a beautiful edition
of Barcia fairly recently which you should find in both the
Sarasota and Tampa libraries. This is another of your gaps that
could probably be filled by stupendous effort in the mass of Spanish

page 4 -

documents in Spain. Many of these are now being brought to
the United States in microfilm the Library of Congress and,
in Florida, the P. K. Yonge Library of Florida History in Gaines-
ville University of Florida.

I won't go into this further, but refer you to Number 13
of Tequesta, the journal of the Historical Association of Southern
Florida (1953). You should find this in both Sarasota and Tampa
public libraries. Dr. William C. Sturtevant, presently of the
Smithsonian, has made an excellent study of the "Spanish In-
dians." His text, quotes and notes will be very valuable to you.
Wilfred Neill in the Florida Anthropologist (Vol. VIII, No. 2 -
Juno, 1955) comments on this paper and gives further evidence to
show the "Spanish Indians" were Seminole. Whatever evidence may
be advanced to make some of the so-called "Spanish Indians" Semi-
nole, I am convinced that the traders with Havana and the fisher-
men along the Gulf Coast were Caloosas, and the last of them were
forced into the Seminole ranks at the time of the Seminole war.
If my Seminole friends don't like some Indian, and think he's
bad, they're very likely to say he's descended from Caloosas.
But more than anything else, the Seminoles were never coastal
Indians. They were river, swamp and pasture land Indians. All
their town were inland. The Caloosas were coastal Indians and
their villages were along the coast except for a pre-Seminole
group in the Okeechobee area. Furthermore, the record is con-
tinuous of these trading, fishing Indians, whereas the Seminoles,
and the emigrating groups that composed the Seminoles, did not
begin to enter the state until the middle of the eighteenth cen-

For further study of all these Indians, the classic book is
Swanton's Early History of the Creek Indians, a Smithsonian pub-
lication of 1922. I am not quoting Williams and several others
that are copiously quoted by Sturtevant. Dr. Dorothy Dodd, our
State Librarian, an outstanding authority on Florida history and
a writer on the subject, did an important article for you : the
Florida Historical Quarterly, Vol. XXV, No. 3, January, 1947,
"Captain Bunce's Tampa Bay Fisheries."

J. Clarence Simpson, in his 'Florida Place Names of Indian
Origin," Tallahassee, 1956, says:

"SARASOTA the name is probably of Calusa origin,
but at present is untranslatable. Very little is known
of the Calusa language. The waters off the lower West
Coast attracted the Havana fisherman in Spanish times.
They maintained shore establishments for the drying of

page 5 -

fish. As late as 1831, there was such a fishing
settlement of 30 or 40 of the so-called Spanish In-
dians at Sarasota. It is unknown to what extent
these half-breeds incorporated the Calusa element."

He does not give his authority.

As for Longboat Key, turn to Page 181 of Bickel's Mangrove
Coast to find "For over a century itinerant Spanish and Cuban
fishermen had maintained a fishing camp and Indian trading sta-
tion near today's village of Long Beach, etc." and all about
the coming of Whitaker and Snell. In Grismer's Sarasota, Page
31, "Several Cuban fishermen, then squatting on Longboat Key,
told them they thought -"

To conclude this angle, it seems to me that fishermen from
Cuba, as Havana increased in population and settled more and more
into a self-supporting city, had to go more and more afield to
feed it. After Jamaica was ceded to England, in the middle of
the 17th century, the population c Cuba increased to about 30,000,
by the Jamaicans who moved there. These fishermen established
settlements, cohabited with Caloosa women, banded together with
the Indians. These activities extended through Tampa Bay and
there were always some at Sarasota with some of the fishermen
established on Longboat Key.

There isn't any mystery about the "Mistletoe." Youll find
her picture on Page 123 of Grismer's Sarasota. She was owned by
John Savarese of Tampa, and was the first steamer on the Sarasota
run after the channels had bean dredged between there and Tampa.
She made her first trip Monday, October 7, 1895, and regularly
thereafter left Tampa every Monday, Wendesday, and Friday, and
the return trip the next day. She probably carried mail to Sara-
sota, where there was a post office, although Sarasota had only
twenty houses in 1899, and her population in 1912 was only 840.
Grismer has a good description of what Sarasota was like in those

It doesn't seem to me that Longboat Key could have been very
populous in those days when Sarasota was as it was. It's pos-
sible there was a sportsman's lodge of some kind, or perhaps more,
for sporting fishermen. That you'll have to look up. The thing
that really put Longboat Key on the may, though, was when Ringling
built the causeway and put on his development there in 1925.

Some of our local Stamp Club members are interested in Flor-
ida post marks. It turned out they were interested in very early

page 6

marks, but a friend in Vero Beach is interested in recent ones.
Ken Rice kindly wrote him about Longboat Key, and I enclose the

The post office in Longboat, Sarasota County, was
established October 10, 1907, and discontinued January 14,
Longboat Key P. 0., Manatee County, was established
March 27, 1914, as Longbeach, and changed February 1,1958,
to Longboat Key.
Sarasota County cut from Manatee County in 1921.
I enclose the correspondence with map.

I suggest you get your local post office to straighten that
out, or, that failing, the Sarasota Post Office.

I notice I've said nothing about the years of the Seminole war -
1835 -1842. The first of the Muskogee groups that went to make up
the Seminold Nation, began coming into the state around 1750. Due
to white pressure they began drifting south and began to come into
intimate contact with the Spanish-Caloosa elements around 1815. By
1825, the United States government knew they were traveling to
Havana (the Seminoles, that is) on the fishing boats and using them
to supply themselves with rum, rifles, powder and ball. There were
several naval vessels operating in Florida waters. We have records
of their cooperating with land forces, but they must also have
operated independently to patrol the shores and attempt to control
this trade with Cuba. When the war began to move into the southern
end of the peninsula in 1839, Spanish Indians were encountered and
many of them were captured. There may have been some of these fishing
Indians among them. At any rate, this intensification of the war in
the Everglades must have hampered their operations considerably.
After the war, however, they revived. Whittaker found several Cuban
fishermen "squatting on Longboat Key" in December, 1842.Grismer -
Sarasota page 31.

And now you're getting out of the historical period and into the
pioneer and your work really begins. Should any more historical
questions come up I suggest you get in touch with Dr. James W.
Covington of the Department of History at the University of Tampa.
He is an excellent historian and active in the Florida Historical
Society and the Hillsborough County Historical Commission. Go
through Grismer's Sarasota carefully for both material and clues.
Contact the Tampa Tribune and whoever is carrying on McKay's Pioneer
Page. But your best source of material about Longboat Key is the
back files of the newspapers. The Sarasota Times began publication
in 1899. The earliest number Grismer found was June 22, 1899. The
Tampa Herald started as far back as 1850.


Probably your most fruitful source will be the Sarasota papers
of 1924-5-6, when Ringling was building the causeway and doing his
development work on Longboat Key. There are bound to be promotional
stories about the romantic past of Longboat Key. I doubt if there
was much building on the Key before this because of the difficulty
of access and the problem of fresh water and utilities. There might
have been an exclusive sportsman club for the fishing, and you might
find someone who had been connected with that. But any settlers there
would not be the type that would stay on in the exclusive residential
area it became. That's why you didn't find them there, but you might
find some in Sarasota itself. With clues from the newspapers you
might find some people around today who had part in planning Ringling's
development. They could tell you what it was like before.

And this is all the help I can give you. Good luck to you!


s/Louis Capron