The Old and The New
The Old and The New
By JEFFERSON B. BROWNE
A FACSIMILE REPRODUCTION
of the 1912 EDITION
INTRODUCTION and INDEX
by E. ASHBY HAMMOND
BICENTENNIAL FLORIDIANA FACSIMILE SERIES
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA PRESS.
Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data
Browne, Jefferson Beale, 1857-1937.
Key West, the old and the new.
(Bicentennial Floridiana facsimile series)
Includes bibliographical references.
1. Key West-History. I. Title. II. Series.
F319.K4B8 1973 979.9'41 72-14327
published under the sponsorship of the
BICENTENNIAL COMMISSION OF FLORIDA
SAMUEL PROCTOR, General Editor
of the 1912 EDITION
with PREFATORY MATERIAL, INTRODUCTION
and INDEX ADDED
NEW MATERIAL COPYRIGHT Q 1973
BY THE STATE OF FLORIDA
BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF THE
INTERNAL IMPROVEMENT TRUST FUND
PRINTED IN FLORIDA
BICENTENNIAL COMMISSION OF FLORIDA
Governor Reubin O'D. Askew, Honorary Chairman
Lieutenant Governor Tom Adams, Chairman
Pat Dodson, Vice Chairman
N. E. (Bill) Miller, Executive Director
George T. Baumgartner, North Miami Beach
Floyd T. Christian, Tallahassee
Johnnie Ruth Clarke, St. Petersburg
A. H. Craig, St. Augustine
Henry Dartigalongue, Jacksonville
Robert C. Hartnett, Coral Gables
Warren S. Henderson, Sarasota
Beth Johnson, Cocoa Beach
Joe Lang Kershaw, Miami
Ney C. Landrum, Tallahassee
Mrs. E. D Pearce, Miami
Charles E. Perry, Miami
Verle A. Pope, St. Augustine
W. E. Potter, Orlando
Samuel Proctor, Gainesville
Ted Randell, Fort Myers
Blair Reeves, Gainesville
Bob Saunders, Gainesville
George E. Saunders, Winter Park
Don Shoemaker, Miami
Harold W. Stayman, Tampa
Richard Stone, Tallahassee
Alan Trask, Fort Meade
W. Robert Willliams, Tallahassee
GENERAL EDITOR'S PREFACE
THE citizens of Key West in 1912, the year that Jefferson Browne
published his history, thought that they were on the threshold of
a new era of growth and development. On January 22, 1912, at
10:43 A.M., the first official train of the Florida East Coast Railway
arrived at Key West. Ten thousand people were present, yelling and
cheering themselves hoarse. Many were seeing a passenger train for the
first time in their lives. On the train was Henry M. Flagler who owned
the Flagler System, and he was being hailed as a conquering hero. The
Miami Herald enthusiastically called the extension of the railroad into
Key West the "eighth wonder of the world," and spoke in glowing terms
of what it would mean for Key West. The Jacksonville Florida-Times
Union predicted: "Today marks the dawn of a new era. The Old Key
West-one of the most unique of the world's historic little cities-is
shaking off its lethargy and from today the spirit of progress and
development will be greater than ever." It was in this spirit that
Jefferson Browne, a member of one of Key West's most distinguished
families, wrote his book.
Like the Bicentennial which the United States is preparing to
commemorate in 1976, Mr. Browne in his history looked both to the past
and to the future. Speaking for the nation, President Nixon sees the
celebration of this nation's two-hundredth birthday as an opportunity
for the people to look to our national heritage and accomplishments
with pride, and to move toward the fulfillment of national goals yet to
be attained. Mr. Browne was in no way writing in 1912 on such a grand
scale, nor was his purpose so commanding, yet he did title his book Key
West, The Old and The New.
Key West has a rich and colorful history. Settled in the 1820s, it
soon became one of the most important cities in the state. Incorporated
in 1828, it developed as a major shipping base. Schools were established
in the 1830s, and in 1829 the Key West Register was founded, the first
newspaper south of St. Augustine. In 1860 Key West was the second
largest city in Florida, and there were more people living there than in
Jacksonville or in Tallahassee. Several cigar factories and important
military installations operated there. Mr. Browne notes much of this
nineteenth-century growth and development in his book.
Jefferson Browne in 1912 was looking to a bright future for his
community, but Key West failed to grow into a great metropolis; it did
not become "America's Gibraltar" as had been predicted. The overseas
extension of the railroad never enjoyed the volume of business that had
been hoped for. Population remained small and relatively stable until
after World War II. Although Jefferson Browne had hoped for a great
prosperity for his community, he lamented the passing of "the old order,
old ideas, old customs, old beliefs, old ideals-and the old people who
cherished them." The physical features of Key West, at least in 1912,
had not yet been marred. The crystal clear water, the blue skies, and the
magnificent sunrises and sunsets were all there. These were the things
in Key West which Mr. Browne felt would "not change with the
onward progress of development," and would "attract newcomers as
they fascinated the pioneers."
This blending of the old and the new is a basic theme of the
Bicentennial. In establishing the American Revolution Bicentennial
Commission, Congress specified that it should give special emphasis to
the ideas associated with the Revolution-ideas that have vitally
influenced the development of the United States, world affairs, and
mankind's quest for freedom. To develop these concepts on the state
level, the Florida Legislature established the Bicentennial Commission
of Florida. A twenty-seven-member state commission was appointed,
representing the Florida House and Senate and the important agencies
of state government. The Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of Com-
merce, Secretary of State, Director of the Division of Archives, History
and Records Management, Commissioner of Education, Director of the
Division of Recreation and Parks, and a member of the State Board of
Regents are on the Commission. In addition, ten persons, appointed by
the Governor, also serve. Governor Reubin Askew is honorary chairman
and Lieutenant Governor Tom Adams is chairman.
The Bicentennial Floridiana Facsimile Series, which is sponsored
by the Bicentennial Commission of Florida, will publish twenty-five
volumes of rare, out-of-print books and monographs. Representing the
wide spectrum of this state's history from the First Spanish Period to
the twentieth century, the series will make a major contribution to the
knowledge of Florida history. Scholars with a special interest and
knowledge of Florida history will edit each volume, write an introduc-
tion, and compile an index.
Professor E. A. Hammond, editor of this volume, is a member of the
history and social science faculty of the University of Florida. A native
of North Carolina, Professor Hammond is a graduate of the University
of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is a distinguished scholar in
medieval medical history. He has also written widely on a variety of
Florida history subjects. A special interest is nineteenth-century
Florida medical history. During the course of his research, Professor
Hammond has delved into the history of Key West and South Florida.
His work on Dr. Benjamin Strobel of Key West is definitive, and his
articles on the early history of Sanibel and Captiva islands have
appeared in scholarly journals. His interest in Jefferson Browne's book
grew out of his varied research activities. Professor Hammond is
presently gathering data for a medical history of Florida.
General Editor of the
THIRTY-FIVE years had elapsed after the publication of Walter C.
Maloney's A Sketch of the History of Key West, Florida, when
Jefferson Beale Browne, a native son of Key West, set about
bringing the book up to date.1 Having undertaken the revision, however,
he decided to broaden its scope and rewrite the earlier work, extending
the narrative to 1912. Maloney's History had been conceived as a brief
account to be delivered as a public address in Key West as a part of the
Independence Day celebration in 1876. It was Browne's intention to
expand this work by including "all the available information on any
subject connected with Key West, which is of interest to anyone," a
pleasantly naive proposal in the light of more recent historical
scholarship. The ultimate result, Key West, The Old and The New, is
nevertheless a significant history of one of America's most unusual
At the beginning of the American occupation of the small island,
which the Spanish had called Cayo Hueso, or Bone Key, its future
appeared bleak. Archaeological evidence suggested an earlier habita-
tion by aboriginal people, but there was little indication of extended
occupation or stable culture. During the late eighteenth and early
nineteenth centuries, Bahama-based wreckers had .employed its ex-
cellent harbor as a lookout for unwary vessels making their way through
the treacherous and unmarked Florida Straits from Cuba and the Gulf
ports into the open Atlantic. To the first Americans in Key West, it
became apparent that if United States occupation was to be
economically feasible, this farthest major key must be protected by the
military or police agencies of the federal government. And yet the
Treasury Department whose responsibility it was to protect commerce /
in American coastal waters had given little official attention to the
problem of patrolling Florida's more than 2,000 miles of shoreline. Key
West and the other islands along the Straits seemed too remote to be of
Some seven years before the formal transfer of Florida to the
United States, the island had come into the possession of Juan P. Salas '
by purchase from Don Juan de Estrada, Spanish governor of Florida.
Salas had in turn sold his island to John W. Simonton, a merchant of
Mobile. Litigation over ownership ensued in April 1822, when John
Geddes, governor of South Carolina from 1818 to 1822, attempted to
validate a claim to the property by sending an armed party to seize Key
West and instituting a suit at law against Simonton and his associates.
The Geddes claim was judged imperfect, however, and the court ruled in
favor of Simonton.2
Shortly after he had purchased the island, Simonton disposed of
three-fourths of it. One portion was sold to John W. C. Fleeming
[Fleming], also a Mobile merchant; another was bought by John
Whitehead, son of a banker of Newark, New Jersey; a third passed
into the joint possession of John Mountain and John Warner, a
commercial agent of the United States in Havana. The latter two sold
their portion to Pardon C. Greene, a sailing master and native of Rhode
Island. These four-Simonton, Whitehead, Fleeming, and Greene-were
thus the original proprietors of Key West. Simonton, whose business
interests were varied and prosperous, spent most of his time in
Washington where his circle of friends and acquaintances included men
of influence in government. He retained his portion of the island,
however, and later bequeathed it to his wife, Ann. The other proprietors
became prominent Key West merchants and citizens.3
These private proprietors readily understood that the success of
their venture depended largely upon the protection which the American
government could be induced to provide. Accordingly, Simonton,
closest to the Washington scene, made certain that the Treasury
Department understood both the military and commercial importance
of Key West to the nation.4 Consequent to this representation,
Lieutenant Matthew C. Perry, commander of the U.S. Schooner Shark,
received orders on February 7, 1822, from Smith Thompson, secretary of
the navy, to sail from New York to Key West "for the purpose of making
an examination of the Island, its harbors, its extent." Furthermore, he
was authorized, if he thought it feasible, "to take possession of it in the
name of the United States."5 Some seven weeks later, Perry's mission
had been accomplished. On March 28, he reported having taken formal
possession of the island and renaming it "Thompson's Island" in honor
of the chief naval officer, while assigning to its "capacious and
sheltered" harbor the name "Port Rodgers," thus honoring Commodore
John Rodgers, president of the Board of Navy Commissioners." Both
names soon fell into disuse. Perry concluded his report with a
description of the island and an estimate of its importance as a
commercial and military outpost.
In spite of such official encouragement, the prosperity of Key West
was not assured. Its remoteness from the mainstream of American
commercial activity discouraged investment, save in enterprises such as
salvage and wrecking, in which, while risk was great, the promise of
profit was also large. The agricultural potential of the island was
negligible, and its water supply was inadequate, notwithstanding early
claims that there were fresh water springs sufficient to the needs of
settlers. When the frequent recurrence of fevers endemic to the area was
added to these drawbacks, the prospects for successful settlement
The first eight years of American occupation offered little en-
couragement. As the summers came, the fevers returned, and most
settlers, and even the military detachments, deserted the area for the
more healthful latitudes farther north. A notable example of such a
removal was that of Commodore David Porter who, without
authorization from Washington, sailed out of Key West with his ships
and the majority of his naval personnel in October 1823. Only after he
had arrived in the Chesapeake Bay did he notify Washington of his
action.7 Some left only for "the sickly season," others for good. Still,
many courageous ones persevered, refusing to abandon their invest-
ments. Meanwhile, the outlook gradually brightened. By 1830, the
census showed 517 persons in Monroe County, nearly all residing in Key
West. Growth, while unspectacular, continued steadily. Along with a
few outlaws, derelicts, and mere adventurers came thrifty and indus-
trious men and women bent on making of Key West a prosperous
business community and establishing a social structure not unlike that
of other American towns.
One of the foremost of the latter group was William Adee White-
head, the younger brother of John Whitehead; his arrival in Key West
in October 1828 was an important occurrence. He immediately
undertook to make an accurate survey of the island, setting forth in
careful detail the plats and streets. His 1829 map includes the numbered
plats with their dimensions and the designations of ownership.8 This
survey greatly facilitated the transfer of property. Secure, therefore, in
the possession of the island property and enjoying the official protection
of a naval unit-to be exchanged in 1831 for an army detachment-the
proprietors were prepared to offer lots and business opportunity to
persons willing to take their chances on this faraway subtropical isle.
People came to Key West, however, for many reasons. The
wrecking business was in its heyday, and it lured many, notably sailing
masters from New England and the Bahamas. Most were honest men;
some were not. The establishment of Key West as a port of entry in 1822
and the appointment of a customs officer, in addition to the presence of
a small military force, gave assurance to prospective investors that the
American government stood ready to protect them in their ventures.9
Within the next decade, merchant ships in increasing numbers were
making Key West a regular port of call, and the federal government
recognized in its location and harbor a strategic link in its defense
operations. Imports valued at $140,585 were registered at its cus-
tomhouse in 1829, and exports valued at $48,754 were shipped through
its harbor the same year.'0
Among the early settlers whose faith in Key West and whose
business ability and civic interests contributed significantly to the
success of the island was Fielding A. Browne, great-uncle of Jefferson
Browne. Born in James City County, Virginia, about 1791, his
introduction to Key West was entirely accidental." On returning to
Virginia from Mexico, where he had gone to settle the business affairs of
his deceased brother, his ship ran aground on the Florida Reef. Brought
ashore at Key West, he was compelled to tarry there until another vessel
could take him home. He was favorably impressed with the possibilities
of Key West as a business location, and he returned shortly thereafter to
establish a salvage operation. The precise date of his arrival in Key
West has not been determined, but it may be assumed to have occurred
before December 29, 1826; on that date Browne and several other
citizens of the island petitioned Congress for the establishment of a
federal district court in Key West.12 By 1829, Browne's wharf and
warehouse occupied a part of the waterfront between Duval and
Simonton streets. In 1836, he was elected mayor. He was characterized
by his grandnephew as "the typical Virginia gentleman, with the
manners and pronunciation which distinguished them.""3
/ On Christmas night 1830, Joseph Beverly Browne, nephew of
Fielding A. Browne, arrived in Key West. Although only a lad of sixteen,
he had graduated from the College of William and Mary, and had been
invited by his uncle to join the Browne business firm. If it seems
extraordinary that a boy so young had completed the college course, it
should be recalled that academic standards and structures were not yet
formalized. Young Browne's case was not exceptional for those times,
although he was doubtless a gifted student.14 He, too, had been born in
James City County, Virginia. His father was John Eaton Browne,
brother of Fielding. Under the auspices of his uncle, Joseph entered
actively into the business and civic life of the town. In 1840, he was
married to Mary Nieves Ximinez, a native of St. Augustine, who had
come to Key West as a small child when her father, Joseph Ximinez, a
shipowner, moved his business to Key West and set up regular
shipping operations between Cuba and the settlements of southern
Jefferson Browne referred to his parents with admiration and
affection.'6 Since both enjoyed lengthy lives and their son was
frequently in their company, his recollections were probably accurate.
"Mrs. Browne," her son recalled, "was distinguished for her zeal in
church, and all public enterprise in which the women of her day took
part." His father had entered public life at an early age, having been a
delegate to the St. Joseph Convention, called in 1838 to draft a
constitution for Florida. Joseph was only twenty-four years old at the
time. At twenty-six, he was appointed United States marshal, an office
which he held for ten years and ultimately relinquished to become clerk
of the United States District Court. He was a member of the Florida
House of Representatives in the session of 1866, but with the formation
of a "reconstruction" legislature he was not immediately returned to the
House. In the fall of 1872, he was elected to the lower house, and he held
his seat through the session of 1875." He was remembered by his son as
a "Jeffersonian Democrat and a Virginian .interested in public
affairs," possessing tastes and a nature which "fitted him for public life
and made him a marked man in the community as well as the state."
Although he "belonged to the times of broad acres and wide hospitality
like a souvenir from the past," he moved with dignity and ease in Key
West, serving in public office with courage and honor.
Moderate success seems to have attended Joseph Browne's business
endeavors. The United States Census of 1850 valued his real property at
$12,000; the 1860 schedule added to that amount $8,000 in personal
property. However these sums may be interpreted in terms of the
inflated currency of more recent times, it is apparent that Jefferson was
born into a middle-class family, enjoying from birth such social and
educational advantages as well-to-do parents of that era could provide.
The name Jefferson was not a random choice.
Born in Key West on June 4, 1857, he was the fourth child and only
son.18 His early education was in the private schools of Key West, but
after the establishment of a public school he was enrolled there. He
later attended Brookville Academy, Montgomery County, Maryland,
and Kenmore University High School, Amherst, Virginia.19 Soon after
completing his course at the Kenmore School (probably about 1876),
Browne returned to Key West to accept the first of his many public
positions, when he became second assistant lighthouse keeper at the
recently constructed Fowey Rocks lighthouse.20 This important light
warned of the reef along the entrance to the Florida Straits. Tending
the light was not a demanding kind of duty, and young Browne filled his
long and lonely hours with the reading of law books, becoming so
absorbed in the subject that he remained at Fowey for fifteen months, it
is said, without a single day's vacation. When, at the end of that period,
he left to enroll in the law school of the University of Iowa, his
preparation was so thorough that he was able to complete the course
and obtain his law degree in less than two years.21 He promptly gained
admittance to the bars of Iowa and Florida.
Jefferson Browne's professional career was launched by his ap-
pointment as city attorney for Key West shortly after he returned in
1880. The following year, he undertook the dual role of attorney for
both the city and Monroe County. He resigned these posts in 1886 to
become postmaster of Key West, presumably his rewards from the
Cleveland administration for loyal service in the Democratic Party.
This position he relinquished in 1890 to run successfully for state
senator. A measure of the trust he inspired among his associates may be
found in the fact that he was elected president of the Senate at its first
sitting on April 7, 1891.22 He was again in the Senate for the session of
In the meantime, Browne's political horizon was extended by his
election as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention, meeting
in St. Louis in 1888. He was a delegate again in 1904 and 1908. In 1912,
he served as Democratic elector for the election of Woodrow Wilson, in
this instance as chairman of Florida's delegation. This impressive
political success story was marred only by his failure to obtain the
Democratic gubernatorial nomination in 1892 when the state conven-
tion selected Henry Laurens Mitchell.
Browne was appointed collector of customs in Key West in 1893, a
post which he held four years. This was doubtless another reward for his
service to his party. His next public post was that of chairman of the
Florida Railroad Commission, to which he was elected in 1904. He
worked in this capacity until 1907.
It cannot be denied that Jefferson Browne led a full and rewarding
public life, nor can it be said that he ever came under censure for his
public or private behavior. In addition to the offices and responsibilities
mentioned, he was a practicing lawyer, qualified, as he stated on his
professional card, "to practice in any court." His practice was carried on
chiefly in Key West and Tallahassee. Beyond these activities, Browne
also found time for participation in the social, fraternal, and religious
life of his community. He was a member of the Benevolent and
Protective Order of Elks, the first president of the Key West Rotary
Club, and at one time a chancellor of the Knights of Pythias. For several
years, he taught a Sunday school class in the Congregational Church of
Key West. As he entered his successful campaign for a seat on the
Florida State Supreme Court in 1916, the Key West Morning Journal
stated, "Besides his legal attainments, Mr. Browne possesses to an
eminent degree the judicial temperament, and in his practice has always
been more interested in the proper determination of questions of Law
and Justice than in mere victories at the bar."
Judge Browne's career in law had been one of distinction. His
fundamental faith in American jurisprudence, his thorough training in
the legal system, his sagacious approach to human problems, his
gentleness of spirit, and perhaps also his reasoned political conservatism
all had won for him a position of esteem among his fellow members of
the Florida Bar Association. At its organizational meeting in Jackson-
ville on February 5, 1907, he was elected vice-president from the sixth
judicial district, and reelected two years later. At the Tampa meeting of
the association in 1910, he was elected president for the 1910-11 term. In
whatever area of public service he undertook to labor, his qualities of
leadership were recognized and utilized. It was not surprising that, upon
his election to the Florida Supreme Court in November 1916, he was
chosen chief justice.
Browne remained on the court until June 1, 1925, having sat as its
presiding member until 1923. His reasons for resigning were simple and
undisguised: he was sixty-eight years old and homesick for his native
island. When the opportunity came to obtain the judgeship of the
twentieth judicial circuit, permitting him to return to Key West and live
among relatives and long-time friends, he seems not to have hesitated.
Characteristically, this change was only the beginning of a demanding
career as a circuit court judge. Even when the redistricting of the state's
circuit court brought the Miami area into his province of responsibility
and required that much of his time be spent in Miami, he accepted the
additional burden and inconvenience without complaint. He was, in
fact, presiding over a session of court in Miami on April 12, 1937, when he
suffered the heart attack which was to prove fatal.
During the ensuing fortnight, as he lay in a hospital bed in the
Miami Battle Creek Sanitorium in Miami Springs, Judge Browne
apparently realized that the end was near. At his own request, he was
carried home to Key West by ambulance on April 30. Death came at
midmorning four days later as he dictated notes to his stenographer at
his residence in the Air Station Apartments.
Notwithstanding the demands of his professional responsibilities,
Judge Brovne found time now and then to set forth in writing his basic
legal and political philosophies. At least three of his papers have
survived in the legal journals. They reveal not only the wide range of his
interests and his learning but also the dominant attitudes which shaped
his public life. None seems better to exemplify his fundamental thinking
than his presidential address, "Our Progress Towards Absolutism,"
delivered before the Florida State Bar Association at its Pensacola
meeting in 1911.23 Herein is set forth the rational conservatism of his
political orientation. From this we conclude that Thomas Jefferson was
his political idol. The preservation of the integrity of the states as the
main bulwark of people's rights against the absolutist encroachments of
federal power was to Browne a major concern. No one spoke more
eloquently on behalf of the states than Jefferson. Browne saw in
Alexander Hamilton the arch-advocate of absolutism bent on destroy-
ing the governments of states, which he regarded as the instrumentali-
ties for safeguarding the liberties of the people from the excesses of a
radical democracy on one hand and the despotism of a highly cen-
tralized federal government on the other.
Even John Marshall, whom Browne later came to admire, was cited
in this address as the perpetrator of dangerous precedents: "In 1801 ...
there occurred one of those circumstances ... which gave our govern-
ment its leaning toward absolutism, and since then we have continued in
that direction with certain, although at times with halting, steps. This
circumstance was the ascendancy of John Marshall to the Supreme
Bench of the United States." Proceeding then to employ the supporting
opinion of an unspecified historian, Browne added, "Jefferson had
determined upon restricting the powers of the National Government in
the interest of human liberty, and Marshall was bent upon enlarging the
powers of government in the interest of nationality."
The judicial philosophy launched by Justice Marshall had by 1911,
in Browne's opinion, borne its bitter fruit in the "New Nationalism" of
Theodore Roosevelt and the rising clamor for extending the regulatory
power of federal government. The liberal influence of Justice Holmes
was already apparent-he had come to the Court in 1902-and, as
Browne witnessed the trend in the Court away from the strict con-
structionism of the late nineteenth century, he found neither comfort
nor hope in its behavior. In a succinct restatement of his thesis, he
proclaimed, "There must be some power or some body of men occupying
a middle ground between the people and the general government,
capable of protecting the former from the aggressions of the latter."
This, he thought, should be the role and duty of the states. Drawing
upon his very considerable knowledge of the forces which had shaped
the course of European history in the Middle Ages, he found an analogy
(although an inept one) in the English experience of having the despotic
threats of King John neutralized by baronial opposition. For America,
the lesson was unmistakable. Fervently, he reiterated, "Our States are
the ark of the covenant of people's liberties, as the barons in feudal days
were the protectors of the rights of the English people from the
aggressions of despotic rulers." In further support of his argument,
Browne turned to the history of fifteenth-century France where he saw
in the success of King Louis XI in undermining the power of the French
nobility and usurping their appanages a fearful example of how despots
are made. "The duchies were destroyed," he recalled, "but instead of
greater liberty, the necks of the people were bent to the yoke of despotic
Browne had watched with alarm the steady encroachment of
federal power upon what John Marshall had termed the residuaryy
sovereignty" of states. For this he blamed particularly what he called in
his speech "the sapping and mining of the Constitution by judicial
interpretation," to which intrusion Justice Marshall had opened the
door. That the consolidation of federal power leading to the destruction
of states' rights, and consequently of people's rights, should have been
achieved through the agency of the highest court was to Browne the
ultimate irony. To a historian who noted that Justice Marshall had a
remarkable instinct of "what the law ought to be," he replied that this
was a quality which befitted the legislator better than the judge. The
latter should be concerned only with what the law is, not what it should
Still tracing "Our Progress Towards Absolutism," Browne found
distressing trends in his native South. He looked with special disdain
upon certain southerners who supported federal encroachment on
states' rights by means of ever broadening interpretations of interstate
commerce powers set forth in the Constitution. Although he does not
identify them by name, they were in his judgment "hot-headed
enthusiasts and demagogues .. willing to exchange our birthright of
State sovereignty for the mess of pottage of Federal control of
railroads," thus opening the way for further erosion of the rights
reserved to states and their people.24
To Judge Browne, the federal income tax and the direct election of
senators, both soon to be incorporated into the Constitution as
amendments sixteen and seventeen, were serious threats to the powers
of states. The income tax, he said in his speech, was one of the fairest
methods of raising revenue, but one which was "distinctively a State
right and province." Furthermore, "the amendment we have to vote on
contains a clause which is a most sweeping surrender of the rights and
privileges of the States, giving as it does to Congress the power to tax
incomes 'from whatever source derived' and when we adopt the
amendment we give to the Federal government one more agency to
destroy the States." As for the direct election of senators, Browne felt,
as had Jefferson, that some safeguard must be preserved against the
occasional radicalism of the people on the one hand and the centralizing
tendency of the general government on the other. How could the
occasional whirlwinds of popular passion be contained other than by the
disciplined control of a legislature-chosen Senate? He concluded with
the warning, "With the election of Senators by direct vote, this fabric
[safeguard] will be destroyed, and we will continue on the way of all the
great republics of ancient times."
Only six years after these utterances, Jefferson Browne found
himself in the highest judicial office of the State of Florida. Elected to the
Supreme Court in November 1916, he was sworn in as chief justice in the
early morning of January 2, 1917. Later that day, he performed his first
official act when he administered the oath of office to the incoming
governor, Sidney Johnston Catts. Browne was to become a distin-
guished jurist. One need only browse through the Florida Reports
(Cases Adjudicated in the Supreme Court of Florida) for the years of his
tenure to discern the rigorous reasoning, the wide legal knowledge, and
the seasoned sense of justice which he brought to the deliberations of the
court. On the occasion of his death, his long-time friend and law
partner, William H. Malone of Key West, said of him, "Judge Brbwne's
opinions while on the State Supreme Court bench have been referred to
as legal classics. He had the distinction of having one of his dissenting
opinions adopted as the decision of the Supreme Court of the United
Although no hint of political predilection seems to have intruded
upon his judicial opinions, Judge Browne continued to look with
displeasure upon the political trends of his times. The progressivism of
Woodrow Wilson's administration had run its course, but in his
estimation the damage to states' rights was irreparable. Much of the
disapproval which in 1911 he had directed at John Marshall was by 1920
reserved for Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes and the recently elevated
Justice Louis Brandeis. In an article of that year, "The Super-Consti-
tution," published in the American Law Review, Browne attacked with
unconcealed bitterness the extension of "police power," the device by
which he saw popular will undermining constitutional restraints.
Declaring that "police power" was the power of absolutism and
despotism, he proceeded to trace its development through the decisions
of the Supreme Court from Marshall down to Holmes. It was in the
decisions of state supreme courts, however, that he saw the greatest
threat to liberty through the use of "police power." In the case of
Barbour v. State (146 Georgia 667), he found an extreme and ominous
expression of such a danger when the Supreme Court of Georgia
reasoned, "But neither ownership, nor property rights, nor possession
will be permitted to hinder the operation of laws enacted for the public
welfare. Man possesses no right under the laws of constitution, State or
Federal, which is not subservient to the public welfare."
Browne's attention was naturally drawn to the revolutionary
events of contemporary Russia which had not at the time of his writing
become stabilized. He was presumably acquainted with the theoretical
extravagances of Marx, Lenin, and Trotsky, and had heard them echoed
in the political harangues of the socialists of Western Europe, even in
Britain, where Arthur Henderson professed to speak for British labor.
But such exhortations to violence disturbed him not at all. He saw a
greater threat in the silent revolution of court decision and legislative
enactment. In "The Super-Constitution," he wrote, "This country is no
longer in danger from a revolution of force.... The voice of every Red
within our gates raised in one loud acclaim against constitutional
guarantees will be ineffectual to destroy them; while the doctrine of Mr.
Justice Holmes in Noble State Bank v. Haskell, and the Georgia court in
Barbour v. State, will blow away like wind all constitutional protection
of life, liberty and property."
Browne feared that the time was near when radicals would no
longer consider it necessary to nullify the Constitution. They would
need only to control Congress and the legislatures, write such laws as
served their purposes, and, when the Constitution should be invoked to
restrain them, they would have as their champion "the apotheosized
police power, at whose feet all constitutional guarantees must humbly
kneel petitioning observance but impotent to demand it." These
sentiments, thus expressed, were so representative of the conservative
political thinking of the time that the prestigious American Law Review
featured Browne's article in its issue of May-June 1920.
Though Judge Browne's literary talent is best represented in his
professional writing and in the history reprinted in the present volume,
he often wrote verse.26 The following lines, apparently written following
the death of his wife, Frances Atkinson Browne, or of his only daughter,
Susan Nieves Browne Keating, are representative:27
On Parting from Her
Come grief, come woe, come sickness' threatening pall,
Naught more saddening than her absence can befall.
But like the rosy glow of breaking day
Her presence drives all carking cares away.
Her smile a sunbeam, her laugh an angel's song,
Her soul so pure, she never thought a wrong;
Too pure for mortal man, she scorns them all
Who at her feet in humble reverence fall.
God give her to me! God hear my earnest prayer!
Fill not my days with deep and bleak despair.
Not like a rainbow that for a moment cheers,
Then fades away and leaves the world in tears;
Nor like the evening clouds, with gorgeous rays alight,
Nor like the ships that hail, then pass into the night.
But let her presence be hope's beacon-light
That leads to love fulfilled, through darkest night.
One additional item from the pen of Judge Browne is worthy of
mention, an article, "Across the Gulf by Rail," published by the
National Geographic Magazine in 1896. It was patently written to
publicize the expected advantages to Key West and the nation from the
construction of an overseas railroad from the Florida mainland to the
island city, a project in which Henry M. Flagler had already exhibited
some interest and which would eventually materialize.28
Judge Browne's most significant literary undertaking, Key West,
The Old and The New, was a labor of love. He knew Key West as few
others have known it. His inquisitive and retentive mind had prompted
him to collect every available scrap of information relating to the city's
past. Connected by blood and marriage to two of the island's most
prominent families, he had grown up with an awareness of who was who
among its people. His many years of public life had exposed him to the
economic and social developments not only of Key West but of the
entire state. Though he may be considered a southern regionalist, he
was by no means parochial in his vision. Through broad reading and
travel, he was well informed on many matters of national and interna-
tional interest. Still it was his love of Key West and the satisfaction he
found in the friendly relationships he had established there that drew
him ever back to the place of his birth and prompted him to rewrite the
Browne was obviously delighted with Maloney's Sketch, but as time
passed he felt that'a more complete history must be written. He did not
reveal exactly when he made the decision to engage himself in the task,
but it appears that for several years he collected the data which he
would ultimately include. It cannot be claimed that Browne's history
was superior to the Maloney work in literary quality. Browne himself
would have made no such claim and, once he had acknowledged his
indebtedness to Maloney, he proceeded to incorporate lengthy passages
of the earlier book into his own text without further identification or
even the guise of paraphrase. It must be stated, however, that neither
work is of exceptional literary value. Both are, for the greater part,
starkly factual. The chief historical merit of Browne's book is seen in
the impressive body of data relating to every aspect of Key West's
development from 1821 to 1912. His work is superior to Maloney's in
that he was privileged to use as a point of departure the pioneer effort of
his predecessor, that it was based on more extensive work in national,
state, and local records, and that its terminus ad quem was 1912 instead
Much of Judge Browne's history has been and will continue to be a
source of satisfaction to genealogists whose searches lead them to Key
West. His knowledge of family relationships was phenomenal, although
much vital data such as dates of birth, marriage, and death have been
omitted. Although the Key West elite, who were for much of the
nineteenth century members of the Anglo-Saxon, Protestant com-
munity, are featured in his reminiscences, Browne has not neglected
other social, religious, and ethnic segments. Included are treatments of
the Cuban migrations and the Negro population. His public service had
brought him into frequent contact with persons of all classes and ethnic
origins, and he was mindful of their roles in the social structure.
Browne, like so many Key Westers, was interested in people. The
insularity of the town, which rendered it impossible for casual visitors to
slip in and out unnoticed, seemed to intensify the interest, perhaps even
the curiosity, of the inhabitants not only in mere sojourners but in each
other. Besides, Key West was never populous; even by 1910 its residents
did not number over 20,000.
Browne's table of contents, which he has designated "Index," lists
thirty-four brief chapters and suggests the range of data included. The
town's social and economic development claimed much of the author's
attention. Politics is treated extensively and with scarcely any display
of partisanship. Church history composes a comparatively large
segment, as do military establishments. In every area, the approach has
been personalized by the inclusion of names of individuals involved.
Some readers may wish that Judge Browne had injected more critical
opinion into his narrative, that he had been more analytical of the forces
and motivations underlying historical change on the island. This was not
his intent. He was writing a book about his acquaintances, friends, and
relatives, and their forebears, inhabitants of the island city he had
always loved. In such a work, there was no place for harsh judgments
If Judge Browne loved Key West, the city reciprocated. Again and
again, it demonstrated its confidence and affection by electing him to
the public offices which he sought. It found him generous, compas-
sionate, civic-minded, and (even though his last will and testament
provides the only evidence in the matter) convivial. From this will, it
seems proper at this point to quote the following provision: "My entire
collection of wines, licquers [sic], cordials, etc., I desire distributed as
nearly equal as possible [among the following friends]: In doing this I
am not unmindful of the fact that the gift to each one will be small and
that they are well able to buy all they want, but I would like for them
sometime to pour out a draft and holding it up say: 'Here's to Jeff
Jefferson Beale Browne died in Key West at midmorning on May 4,
1937, just one month short of his eightieth birthday. He belongs, along
with Stephen R. Mallory and Dr. Joseph Y. Porter, among the most
eminent sons of the island city.
E. ASHBY HAMMOND
University of Florida
1. Walter C. Maloney, A Sketch of the History of Key West, Florida
(Newark, N.J., 1876; facsimile edition, Gainesville, Florida, 1968).
2. Clarence Carter, ed., Territorial Papers of the United States, Territory of
Florida, 26 vols. (Washington, 1956-62), 22: 382-83.
3. Jefferson B. Browne, Key West, The Old and The New (St. Augustine,
Florida, 1912), p. 52.
4. Simonton's memorandum, December 7, 1821, to Treasury Department.
In Carter, Territorial Papers, 22:411-12.
5. Ibid., 22:362-63.
6. Ibid., 22:385-86.
7. American State Papers, Class 6, Naval Affairs (Washington, 1832-61),
8. For each plat, Whitehead supplied a letter, F, G, S, or W, to indicate
ownership by Fleeming, Greene, Simonton, or Whitehead (John). For some,
names of recent purchasers were supplied. Earlier surveys had been made, but
that of Whitehead was the most complete and reliable for the early part of the
9. Senate Document, May 7, 1822, 21st Cong., 1st sess., no. 78, p. 1.
10. Ibid., p. 4. Although the town was yet to endure periodic epidemics and
occasional destructive fires, its commercial success seemed assured.
11. The United States Census of 1850 lists him as a Key West householder,
aged fifty-four. His death occurred on November 2, 1851.
12. Carter, Territorial Papers, 23:701.
13. Browne, Key West, pp. 52, 175.
14. According to the alumni records of the college, Browne's enrollment at
William and Mary extended from 1826 to 1831. Letter to editor from Gordon C.
Vliet, executive secretary of the Society of Alumni, William and Mary College,
April 10, 1972.
15. Key West records of the 1830s reveal that Ximinez had business interests
in the Charlotte Harbor area. Deed Record Book, A, Monroe County Clerk's
Office, contains a record of the transfer of an island in Charlotte Harbor, Tio
Sespas (the present-day Useppa), to Ximinez on January 23, 1833. United States
Treasury Department records show him bringing cargoes from Cuba to Charlotte
Harbor in 1835. See National Archives, Treasury Department, Letters Received
from Collectors of Customs, 1835.
16. A biographical sketch of Joseph Beverly Browne appears in Browne, Key
West, pp. 225-26.
17. Browne, Key West, p. 225. Browne was in error in recalling his father as
a legislator from 1866 to 1870 and in failing to include him among the legislators of
1873 and 1874.
18. Biographical data principally from obituary notices in the Key West
Citizen, May 4, 1937, and the Miami Herald, May 5, 1937.
19. Neither of these academies has survived and the dates of Browne's
enrollments have not been determined.
20. Fowey Rocks, lying some six miles southeast of Cape Florida (Key
Biscayne), got its lighthouse in 1878.
21. Records of the Alumni Association, University of Iowa, include the entry
"Jefferson Beale Browne, LLB., 1880." Letter to editor from Thomas L. Irwin,
J:r., associate director, University of Iowa Alumni Association, April 26, 1972.
22. Journal of the Proceedings of the Senate of the Regular Session of the
Legislature of the State of Florida (Tallahassee, 1891), p. 3.
23. This address was given on February 23, 1911. Since the proceedings of the
bar association for the years 1910-19 were not published officially, it is assumed
that this speech was privately printed in a limited edition. Two copies are known
to exist: one in the Brooklyn Public Library, New York; the other in the Law
Library of the University of Virginia, Charlottesville. Two other significant
articles by Judge Browne are "The Super-Constitution," The American Law
Review 54 (May-June 1920):321-50; and "The American Law Institute, Its
Organization and Purpose," Proceedings of the Florida State Bar Association
(Miami, 1923), pp. 85-102.
24. It may be assumed that Browne had reference here to such southern
political figures as Napoleon Bonaparte Broward of Florida, Hoke Smith of
Georgia, and Braxton B. Comer of Alabama.
25. The editor has not identified this case. It was mentioned, along with
other distinctions enjoyed by Judge Browne, by Malone at the time of the judge's
death. See Miami Herald, May 5, 1937.
26. Only five of his poems have survived. They were printed in Vivian Yeiser
Laramore, ed., The Second Florida Poets: An Anthology of Forty-two Contem-
poraries (New York, 1932), pp. 24-27.
27. Judge Browne was married June 18, 1889, to Frances Williams Atkinson
of Kentucky. To that union was born Joseph Emmet Browne (b. April 30, 1890;
d. May 7, 1940) and Susan Nieves Browne Keating (b. February 7,1894; d. July 16,
1928). She was the wife of William B. Keating, a Key West physician. (The death
certificate for Susan Keating, issued by the Florida Bureau of Vital Statistics,
lists her birth date as February 8, 1894, and her death on July 15, 1928.)
28. National Geographic Magazine 7 (June 1896):203-7.
29. This will was transcribed and made available by Judge Helio Gomez and
Mrs. T. O. Bruce of Key West.
The Old and The New
By JEFFERSON B. BROWNE
The Record Company I Printer and Publi.her
JEFFERSON B. BROWNE
IF THE memory of the name of Browne, transplanted from
Virginia to Key West by my great-uncle, Fielding A.
Browne, is kept alive by this work, I want the credit to
be given to my Father and Mother, to whom in love and grati-
tude I dedicate this History.
Whatever of gentleness of character and intellectual culture
I possess, I owe to my Father; to my Mother I owe the will to
execute, and the desire to serve mankind.
They now rest side by side, after journeying together for
near a half century, and I paraphrase, in humble reverence to
them, the inscription which I placed on my Father's monument
twenty-three years ago.
"Those best of parents, how shall I repay
The debt of love and gratitude I owe thee?"
"By laying up our counsels in your heart."
As I lay down my pen, whatever pleasure the accom-
plishment of my task affords, it is saddened by the thought that
their eyes will never behold the work which they inspired.
JEFFERSON BEALE BROWNE.
I HAVE written this history of Key West, believing that it
would be interesting to the younger' generation, and to
those who are to come after us, to know something of
the people and events which filled the years that have gone.
My first intention was to copy Colonel Maloney's history,
published in 1876, and bring it down to the present time.
In collecting the data, however, I found that there were a
great many interesting events connected with the early history
of Key West which Colonel Maloney had omitted, and concluded
that if my work was to be as complete as was possible with
available data, I would have to write it anew. This I have done,
using, however, such data as his history contains, and at times
preserving even his phraseology.
The brevity of Colonel Maloney's history is no reflection
on his effort. He states that it was prepared on a few week's
notice and was delivered as an address on the dedication of our
city hall on July 4, 1876. It was impossible for him to have
gotten together in that time the data which my work contains,
in compiling which I have spent more than a year.
I have obtained information from the State, War, Navy
and Judiciary Departments of the government at Washington,
and from the Secretary of State's office at Tallahassee, Florida;
from the New York, Boston and Congressional Libraries, and
miscellaneous old publications. Information, embodied in
a few lines may have been procured only by searching nu-
merous records, and carrying on a voluminous correspondence.
The historian who writes of Key West thirty or forty years from
now, will have no occasion to cover the same ground.
I believe that this work contains all the available informa-
tion on any subject connected with Key West, which is of interest
to anyone. Where some trivial matters are mentioned, it is
because they throw light on the habits and customs of the times,
and may, perchance, brighten what may prove but a prosaic
record of events.
With this explanation, I leave to posterity this compilation,
as a tribute to the ancient order of things, and to the noble
band of citizens who made this their home in the days of the
Old Key West.
PREFACE................................................ ......... 5
J CHAPTER I-General History and Random Sketches.................. 7
CHAPTER II--Educational ......................................... 21
CHAPTER III-Ecclesiastical Relations-Episcopal Church............. 26
CHAPTER IV-Catholic Church .................................. 34
CHAPTER V-Methodist Churches................................... 37
CHAPTER VI--Baptist Church .................................... 43
CHAPTER VII-Burial Grounds ................................... 48
CHAPTER VIII-The Municipality ................................. 50
CHAPTER IX-Monroe County .................................... 58
SCHAPTER X-Courts ................... ....................... 64
SCHAPTER XI-Key West as a Naval Base ........................... 70
CHAPTER XII-Military Post ..................................... 77
CHAPTER XIII-Mail and Steamship Company ..................... 80
CHAPTER XIV-Indian Hostilities ................................ 84
SCHAPTER XV-Civil War......................................... 90
CHAPTER XVI-Commercial ....................................... 99
CHAPTER XVII-Material Development ............................103
CHAPTER XVIII-Salt Manufacturing .............................112
CHAPTER XIX-Cuban Migration ..................................115
CHAPTER XX-Cigar Manufacturing ............................... 125
CHAPTER XXI-Political......................... .............. 129
CHAPTER XXII-Benevolent Societies ..............................138
CHAPTER XXIV-The Spanish-American War ....................... 144
CHAPTER XXV-Hospitals.................. ................ 147
CHAPTER XXVI-Fire Department................................151
CHAPTER XXVII-Militia.............................. 155
CHAPTER XXVIII-Hurricanes .................................... 156
v CHAPTER XXX-Population ................... ................. 169
J/CHAPTER XXXI-Some Character Sketches ......................... 174
CHAPTER XXXII-The Women of Key West.........................186
CHAPTER XXXIII-Florida East Coast Railway .....................194
SCHAPTER XXXIV-Last Word ..................................... 197
1. U. S. Military Cantonment. 2. Warehouses and Wharf of F. A. Browne. 3. Warehouses and Wharf of P. C. Greene. 4. Warehouses and Wharf of O. O'Hara. 5. Duval Street.
6. Front Street. 7. Fire Engine House. 8. Fleeming's Key and Naval Anchorae. 9. Turtle, Crab and Fish Market. 10. Blacksmith Shop. 1I. Tops of Cocoanuts North of the Warehouse.
THE BUSINESS PART OF KEY WEST
Looking North. Reduced from a pencil sketch by W. A. Whitehead, taken from the Cupola of the Warehouse of Messrs. A. C. Tift & Co., June. 1838.
I~a~L~?s* ..,... -.~
1. Whiteheads Point. 2. Light-house 3. Old Grave Yard. 4. Residence of F. A. Browne. 5. Custom House and Collector's Residence. 6. Jail. 7. Court House. 8. Whitehead Street.
9. Caroline Street. 10. Residence of A. Gordon. 11. Clinton Place. 12. Front Street. 13. Foot-bridge across Pond on the line of Duval Street. 14 House begun by Judge Webb, unfinished.
15. Resijdece of Judge Marvin. 16. Residences of P. J. Pontane and Patterson, one behind the other. 17. Residence of Mr. Weaver.
Looking South-East. Reduced from a pencil sketch by W. A. Whitehead, taken from the Cupola of the Warehouse of Messrs. A. C. Tift & Co., June, 1838.
GENERAL HISTORY, AND RANDOM SKETCHES
THE earliest recorded data about Key West is to be
found in a grant of the island of Cayo Hueso on August
26, 1815, by Don Juan de Estrada, the then Spanish
governor of Florida, to Juan Pablo Salas. The grant recited
that it was "in consideration of the several services ren-
dered by him at different times, much in the Royal Artillery
Corps stationed at this fort, as well as the services rendered
voluntarily and without pay at the office of the secretary under
Nothing was done by Salas in the way of settling or improve-
ments and the island wore the same wild aspect that it had worn
for ages, when on the twenty-first day of December, 1821, Salas
offered to sell his right, title and interest to Mr, John W. Simon-
ton,* of Mobile, who had met Salas in Havana. Having heard of
the advantageous situation and capacity of the harbor, etc., Mr.
Simonton was induced from the certain prospect of improvement
throughout the country, by the cession of Florida to the United
States, which his mercantile experience led him to foresee must
advance the interests of a settlement at this point, to purchase
the island for the sum of $2,000.00 on the nineteenth day of
January, A. D. 1822.
Soon after making the purchase he sold one undivided
quarter of his interest to Mr. John Warner, and Mr. John
Mountain, respectively United States consul and commercial
agent for the United States at Havana, and two other quarters
to Mr. John Whiteheadt and Mr. John W. C. Fleeming.1 The
interests of Messrs. Warner and Mountain were soon after
transferred to Mr. Pardon C. Greene, who became a perma-
nent resident of the island at that time.
Salas, however, had made a conditional sale to Mr. John B.
Strong, who subsequently transferred his claim, such as it
was, to Mr. John Geddes, who having the countenance of Captain
Hammersley of the U. S. naval schooner, "Revenge," then in
the harbor, effected a landing and took possession of the island
in April, 1822.
A Dr. Montgomery and Mr. George M. Geddes were in
charge of the party sent by Geddes to take possession in his
name. It consisted of two white carpenters and three negroes,
with provisions and lumber to build a shed. How long they
remained on the island is not known, but as they were supported
by Captain Hammersley of the United States Navy, the other
claimants were helpless to do anything more than protest. A
Appendix A. t Appendix B. t Appendix C.
lawsuit resulted, which was finally terminated by a compro-
mise. One of the legal documents connected with this claim
states that the consideration given for the island, by Strong,
was a small sloop of about thirty-one tons burden, called "The
Leopard of Glastonbury," for which he had paid $575.00.
Strong's title proved imperfect, and Salas, in order to obtain
the restoration of the island to the Simonton claimants, con-
veyed to him five hundred (500) acres of a tract at "Big
Spring, East Florida."
There is no authentic record of the origin of the name Key
West,, of which two explanations are given. One, that it is the
most westerly of the chain of islands or keys extending from
the mainland-hence Key West; the other that it is a corrup-
tion of the Spanish words Cayo Hueso pronounced "Ki-yo
Way-so," meaning bone island.
Mr. William A. Whitehead,* one of the earliest settlers of
Key West, who surveyed and mapped the city in 1829, accepts
the latter theory. He says:
"It is probable that, from the time of the first visit of
Ponce de Leon until the cession of the Floridas to the United
States, the islands or keys, as they are termed (a corruption
of the Spanish word Cayo) which extended in a southwesterly
direction from Cape Florida, were only resorted to by the ab-
origines of the country, the piratical crews with which the neigh-
boring seas were infested, and the fishermen (many of them
from St. Augustine) who were engaged in supplying the market
of Havana from the finnyy tribes' that abound in this vicinity.
Of the occasional presence of the first, we have evidence in the
marks of ancient fortifications or mounds of stones, found in
various localities (in one of which, opened some time since,
human bones of a large size were discovered), and tradition
has in addition brought down to us notices of them which
deserve all the credit conferred upon the same authority, in other
parts of the country. The oldest settler in this part of the country,
one whose residence in the neighborhood of Charlotte Harbor
dated back to about 1775, used to say, that in his early years he
had heard it stated that some eighty or ninety years previous
(probably about the commencement of the eighteenth century)
the Indians inhabiting the islands along the coast and those
on the mainland were of different tribes, and as the islanders
frequently visited the main for the purpose of hunting, a feud
arose between the two tribes, and those from the main having
made an irruption into the islands, their inhabitants were driven
from island to island, until they reached Key West. Here,
as they could flee no farther, they were compelled to risk a final
battle, which resulted in the almost entire extermination of the
islanders. Only a few escaped (and that by a miracle, as they
embarked in canoes upon the ocean) whose descendants, it is
said, are known to have been met with in the island of Cuba.
"This sanguinary battle strewed this island with bones, as
it is probable the conquerors tarried not to commit the bodies
of the dead to the ground, hence the name of the island, Cayo
Hueso, which the English, with the same facility which enabled
them to transform the name of the wine Xeres Seco into 'Sherry
Sack,' corrupted into Key West. That the harbor of Key West
was the occasional resort of pirates has been proven by the evi-
dence of many who were connected with them in their lawless
depredations, and by the discovery of hidden articles that could
only have been secreted by them."
One of the matters intrusted to the commissioners appointed
under the treaty of the cession with Spain, when the United
States acquired Florida, was to pass upon the validity of the
grant of the island to Salas, and they, having resolved it
in his favor, and the same being confirmed by Congress,
the title to all lands on the island of Key West, legally derived
through Juan P. Salas and John W. Simonton, were perfected
and forever settled. Owing to this, there is no confusion of
ancient titles to Key West realty.
The establishment of a territorial government for Florida
in March, 1819, was the beginning of the actual settlement
and development of Key West. Several families from South
Carolina and other States, and from St. Augustine who repaired
here shortly after, were hospitably received by the proprietors,
and building lots were given them within that part of the island
intended to be laid out for the city.
On the seventh of February, 1822, Lieutenant M. C. Perry,
commander of the United States schooner Shark, received orders
to visit the island and take possession of it as part of the territory
ceded by Spain, and on the twenty-fifth day of. March following
there was witnessed by the few residents then here the placing
of a flag pole and the hoisting thereon of the flag of the United
States, while at the same time its sovereignty over this and the
neighboring islands was formally proclaimed. Lieutenant
Perry named the island Thompson's Island, and the harbor
Port Rodgers, the first in honor of the then secretary of the
navy, Hon. Smith Thompson, and the other after Commodore
Rodgers, the president of the naval board. From Lieutenant
Perry's report to the navy department, it would seem that these
names originated with him, and received the approval of at
least three of the proprietors of the island, Messrs. Warner,
Fleeming and Whitehead, who were present. These names,
however, did not remain long in use; Cayo Hueso and its
English substitute, "Key West," seemed to suit the fancy of
the people more than the new names.
Commodore Porter of the navy, also took a hand in naming
Key West and dated his letters from "Allenton," but this was
even shorter lived than the others.
Key West lies in latitude 240, 33', north, and longitude
810, 48', west. Its topography, before its ponds and lagoons
were filled, was like that of other habitable keys near the Florida
Reef, having a high ridge extending along its water front on
the ocean or gulf side, where the deepest water lies,
and sloping back to ponds and lagoons, beyond which lie
high hammock lands. The early settlers naturally selected
the high ridge on the deep-water side to build the city,
and until the onward march of commercial progress and the
development as a naval station drove them further back, the
finest residences were built on and near the water front,
from the present location of the United States Marine
Hospital to the foot of Duval street. Back of the high ridge on
the southwestern end of the island was a large lagoon which
commenced in a swamp not very far from the southwestern end
of the island and continuing along, nearly parallel with the beach,
crossed Whitehead street near Caroline, and entered the water
near the north end of Simonton street. Where it crossed White-
head street it was so narrow that it was easily bridged for carts
and carriages by a few planks. After crossing this street, it spread
out into what was called a pond, which in 1836 covered about
two acres of ground. Duval street then crossed this pond in
about its center. The depth of water varied with the ebb and
flow of the tide, but it was generally about twelve to eighteen
inches deep. A foot bridge, made of piles and covered with planks,
commenced within about 100 feet of the corner of Duval and
Front streets, and extended to within about 75 feet of the corner
of Duval and Caroline streets. A more substantial bridge about
fifteen feet long afforded a passage across the entrance of the
pond, about on a line with Simonton street, which was used by
drays and other vehicles; it being the only way to get to and
from the northwestern part of the island. There was also a
small bridge across Whitehead street, which in 1850 was super-
seded by a wagon road.
No attempt was made to get rid of the lagoon or pond
because it was apprehended that if it should be closed to the
flux and influx of the tides, other portions of the inhabited city
would be subject to overflow, and to guard against this the
charter of 1836 not only restricted the authorities of the city
from filling up the streets, but the owners of lots covered by
the pond were also restrained from filling them.
The hurricane of 1846 so altered the configuration of the
island by washing up the sand, that the pond ceased to receive
the tides, and the consequences apprehended not having
occurred, the restriction against such filling was omitted from
subsequent charters, and in November, 1853, an ordinance was
passed requiring the respective owners of the submerged lots
to fill them up.
These lots were in the hands of various owners, some of
whom complied with the terms of the ordinance, others suffered
the work to be done by the city, and paid the costs of the filling,
whilst others refused to fill in or pay the expense incurred therefore.
The city was surveyed and mapped by Mr. William A.
Whitehead in February, 1829, and like all new cities was more
pretentious on the map than in reality. None of the streets
extending southeasterly were cleared beyond Caroline street.
On the 8th of October, 1831, the city council adopted a reso-
lution giving free commission to the inhabitants of the town
to cut and remove the woods standing on Eaton street, which
caused it to be cleared of trees from Duval to Simonton streets.
As late as 1837 Eaton street beyond Simonton was covered
with its original small trees, heavy underbrush, vines, cacti,
etc., but in that year the woods were cleared and the brush
burned off on all that part of the island lying between White-
head and Elizabeth streets, as far out as Fleming street.
The first street opened through to the South Beach was
Whitehead street. Duval street was only cleared about half
way between Eaton and Fleming street as late as 1836, and the
only house on it at that time, after crossing Caroline street,
was one belonging to Captain Francis B. Watlington. This
house is still occupied by his immediate family, and though
built in the early thirties, weathered the great hurricanes of
1835, 1846, 1909 and 1910, and sustained little damage.
A large part of this work was accomplished in one day by
a party of fifty or more United States sailors sent on shore for
this purpose by the commanding officers of the United States
sloop Concord, and other vessels then lying in the harbor. Prof.
Coffin, instructor in mathematics to the midshipmen, and
leading townspeople, among whom were Judge Marvin, Mr. Jos.
B. Browne, Mr. Stephen R. Mallory and Mr. Asa F. Tift,
assisted in the work, which was done with a view to take away
from the Seminole Indians, who were at war with the whites on
the mainland, the means of concealing themselves, should they
attempt an attack on the town.
The following from the pen of Judge William Marvin, for
many years United States district judge at Key West, is interest-
ing reading of the old days:
"About the persons I found living in Key West when I
first landed there in October, 1836, from a little mail schooner,
which sailed from Charleston (the whole population was then
not very far from four hundred souls), James Webb, then about
forty-five years old, was the judge of the Superior Court. He
had been appointed by President Adams from Georgia. He was
a good lawyer, an impartial judge and a genial gentleman.
He resigned his office in 1839 and moved to Texas, where he
was appointed by President Lamar, secretary of State. Texas
had not then been admitted into the Union-it was the Lone
Star. Mr. Alden A. M. Jackson was clerk of the court and Mr.
Thomas Easton was marshal. They told in that day a good
story of the marshal. He had been only recently appointed. He
was calling in the court the names of the jurors. He did not
know the sound of a single letter in Spanish. He had come from
Tennessee. He came to the name on the list-Joseph Ximinez.
He called 'Joseph Eks-im-e-nez.' No person answered. Some one
whispered to him to call 'Joseph He-ma-nes,' which he did.
Whereupon Mr. Ximinez answered 'here' and walked up to
the clerk's desk to be sworn in. 'Phoebus! What a name!'
exclaimed the marshal.
"The only lawyers at that time at the bar were Mr. Adam
Gordon and Mr. Wm. R. Hackley. Mr. Chandler had, a short
time before, resigned the office of United States attorney and
moved away. I had succeeded to his place. Mr. Wm. A.
Whitehead was collector of the port, Mr. Adam Gordon deputy,
and Mr. S. R. Mallory, inspector.
"The principal merchants were Mr. Fielding A. Browne, a
Virginian; Mr. Pardon C. Greene,* from Rhode Island; Mr.
Oliver O'Hara, from South Carolina, and his partner, Mr.
Charles Wells, from New York. Mr. Wm. Shaw, Mr. Geo.
E. Weaver and Mr. Philip J. Fontane were grocers and ship
chandlers. Mr. Amos and Mr. Asa Tift kept a dry goods store.
Mr. Alexander Patterson was an auctioneer, and kept a store
located near a cocoanut tree at the foot of Whitehead street.
Mr. William H. Wall kept a little store, had been married a
a short time before to Miss Mabritty and lived in a small
house on Whitehead street a little beyond Jackson Square,
the farthest house out on that street. Mr. Lewis Breaker, the
father of Mrs. James Filor, was a justice of the peace. Mr. John
Geiger was pilot, captain of a wrecking vessel, a man of decided
character and a sort of commodore among his compeers. Mr.
Charles Johnson and Mr. Francis Watlington, both bright and
intelligent men, were pilots and wreckers. I am not quite certain
whether Mr. William Curry was living in Key West at the time
I am writing of or not. I am inclined to think he came there at a
somewhat later period. He was at one time clerk in Mr.
Wall's store. At a still later period he formed a partnership
with Mr. George Bowne in the business of buying and sell-
ing wrecked goods, and made money. But few people came from
the Bahamas before 1836. Among the first to come were Mr.
Wm. Curry's family, Mr. Samuel Kemp, Mr. John Braman, Mr.
Benj. Albury, and Mr. John Lowe, Jr.'s family.
"Among the young men about town are to be named Amos
and Asa Tift, Stephen R. Mallory, Joseph B. Browne, John P.
Baldwin and Lieut. Benjamin Alvord, United States Army,
afterwards paymaster general of the army. I do not know that
these young fellows ever 'painted the town red,' for they were
a well behaved and orderly set of young gentlemen; but they,
or some of them, were known to be in the streets very often in
the small hours of the morning, serenading some one or more
of the young ladies of the town. Among these young ladies
were Miss Mary Nieves Ximinez, who married Mr. Joseph
Beverly Browne, Miss Whalton, Miss Breaker, and at a very
little later period, say in 1837-38, Miss Mary and her sister
Miss Nona Martinelli. Nothing pleased Mallory better than to
take his flute and get one or two friends, and Roberts, a colored
man with his fiddle, to join him and go out into the beautiful
moonlight nights and serenade some lady or ladies. Among
the married ladies were Mrs. Wm. A. Whitehead, Mrs. Adam
Gordon, Mrs. Wm. Randolph, sister of Mr. Fielding A. Browne,
Mrs. George E. Weaver, Mrs. Joseph Ximenez, Mrs. Alexander
Patterson, Mrs. Francis Watlington, Mrs. Johnson, Mrs. Whal-
ton and Mrs. Ellen Mallory.
"Messrs. Charles Howe, Winer Bethel, Stephen J. Douglas,
James Curtis, Thomas Ferguson, Walter C. Maloney, James
Filor, Fernando J. Moreno, Senac, Charles and Asa Tift, James
C. Clapp, Rev. Osgood E. Herrick and James Hicks all came
to Key West after 1836. Mr. Howe was living at that time at
The first permanent settlers in Key West were Mr. Joseph
C. Whalton and family, Mr. Michael Mabritty and family,
Mr. Antonio Girardo and family from St. Augustine, Fla., and
Mr. William W. Rigby and family and Mr. Richard Fitzpatrick.
A territorial government was established in Florida in 1819
and Key West then began to feel the benefit of an influx of
population. Probably few new cities have ever started out with
as high a class of population as Key West. Nearly all who came
here had some means, and were people of culture and refinement.
St. Augustine, Virginia, South Carolina, New York and
Connecticut furnished their quota of the early population.
Wrecking and fishing for the Havana market were the almost
exclusive sources of revenue, and as they were both very lu-
crative occupations, many substantial fortunes were made.
The little colony at Key West was not without excitement
at times. On December 7, 1831, the Key West Gazette said:
"Considerable excitement has existed here during this
week occasioned by the riotous conduct of a number of the
passengers from on board the wreck of the ship Maria. As soon
as they arrived here, every accommodation which the place
could afford was granted them; fifteen or twenty tents were
pitched for their convenience, and a number of them were taken
into different houses.
"On Thursday last, after a rather free indulgence to Bacchus,
they, from some imaginary cause, became dissatisfied and
threatened the lives of Captain McMullen and some of his
crew. They evidenced their feelings that night, by the most
boisterous behavior; in consequence of which the inhabitants
at the lower end of the town were prevented from sleeping and
were in momentary expectation of having their homes assaulted.
On Friday afternoon they collected in such numbers on Browne's
wharf that the proprietor was obliged to suspend business.
Here a general battle ensued among them, in which it was
difficult to tell who or how many were engaged, and a disfigura-
tion of eyes and noses followed, which by no means added to
the engaging appearance of the party. The citizens generally
became alarmed for the safety of their property. Under these
circumstances letters were addressed by the proper authorities
to Major Glasel, commandant of the post, and Captain Shubrick,
of the United States sloop of war Vincennes, then in port, request-
ing them to co-operate in protecting the citizens of Key West
from aggression. These calls were promptly answered; a detach-
ment of marines under the command of Lieutenant Engle,
from the Vincennes landed and remained during the night at
the warehouse of Pardon C. Greene, whilst a detachment of
United States troops under the command of Lieutenant Manning,
patrolled the streets. As soon as it was known that steps were
taken to prevent or suppress any riotous conduct, the mob
dispersed and remained perfectly quiet, up to the time of their
sailing on yesterday for New Orleans.
"Had not these steps been taken, it is more than probable
that some serious mischief might have resulted, as the individuals
composing the mob were generally under the excitement of liquor
during their stay here.
"We understand that in consequence of this occurrence,
and the prevalence of unfavorable winds, the Vincennes has
been detained at this place longer than was contemplated on
her first arrival.
"Since the above was in type, we have been informed that
the disturbance originated with a Mr. Smith (one of the contract-
ors), who had illegally exacted money from some of the unfortu-
nate individuals. Upon the interference of some of our citizens he
was compelled to disgorge."
A brief sketch of Key West, written in 1831, has this to say
of the conditions prevalent here at that time: 'The island
was originally settled by persons from almost every country
and speaking almost every variety of language they brought
with them habits, manners, views and feelings, formed in dif-
ferent schools and in many instances totally dissimilar and
contradictory. Some were attracted hither by considerations of
interest alone, and for a long time, in consequence of their
being no court or modes of legal restraint, they had no rules of
conduct for their guide, except such as their own views of what
would conduce to the attainment of their own wishes afforded.
These conditions are now drawing to a close, and giving way to
a different, and we are proud to say a happier state of things.
The establishment of a superior court of the United States and
the salutary lessons which are daily experienced from its judg-
ment, have done much toward purging society of its impurities,
and showing to the strangers that the mantle of the law is at all
times ready to shield them and their property from imposition and
fraud) Moral improvement is on the march; let but men of
influence throw their weight upon its side and they will adopt
the best method of promoting the prosperity and reputation of
On the fourth of May, 1832, Key West was honored by
a visit from the great ornithologist, Mr. John James Audubon. It
was the fifty-second anniversary of his birth. He had already pub-
lished his chief work "Birds of America," which sold by sub-
scription then for $1,000.00 per copy and is now worth over
$5,000.00. It was while he was engaged in this work that he
visited Key West and other points in Florida for data. He came
here from Charleston on the revenue cutter Marion, the
vessels of the United States having been placed at his dis-
posal by the government.
The following sketch of him appeared in the paper published
in Key West in 1832:
"Mr. Audubon-This gentleman left here in the revenue
cutter Marion on Monday last for Charleston, calculating to
touch on his way at the Florida Keys, and probably the main-
land. It affords us great pleasure to state that this expedition
has given him much satisfaction and added largely to his collec-
tion of specimens, etc. Mr. Audubon is a most extraordinary
man, possessed of an ardent and enthusiastic mind and entirely
devoted to his pursuits; danger cannot daunt, and difficulties
vanish before him. During his stay here his hour of rising was
three o'clock in the morning; from that time until noon and
sometimes even until night, he was engaged in hunting among
the mangrove keys, despite of heat, sand-flies and mosquitoes.
On his return from these expeditions his time was principally
employed in making sketches of such plants and birds as he may
have procured. This was not an extraordinary effort for a day,
it was continued for weeks, in short it appeared to constitute
his chief aim, as it is his happiness. Mr. Audubon has adopted
a most excellent plan of connecting with his drawings of birds
such plants as may be found in the neighborhood where they are
taken. We hesitate not in giving it as our opinion that his work
on ornithology, when completed, will be the most splendid
production of its kind ever published, and we trust that it will
be duly estimated and patronized. The private character of
Mr. Audubon corresponds with the nature of his mind and
pursuits-he is frank, free and generous, always willing to impart
information, and to render himself agreeable. The favorable
impression which he has produced upon our minds will not soon
Mr. Audubon was the first ornithologist to find the white-
headed pigeon in the United States, although it was well known
This bird is still found in Key West and is plentiful on the
keys in this vicinity, a circumstance worthy of note, as the
wild pigeon is almost extinct in other parts of the United States.
It resembles the domestic pigeon, in habits and flight,
rather than the passenger pigeon, that almost extinct species.
They do not go in flocks, but separately and in twos and threes.
They are a dark rich blue-black "having the upper part of the
head pure white, with a deep rich brown edging at the lateral
parts of the crown." The young have no white on their heads,
that distinguishing feature not appearing until the birds are
four months old. This bird comes from Cuba in the latter part
of April and remains on the keys where it breeds, until about
the first of October. It is not found elsewhere in the United
Mr. Audubon painted the whiteheaded pigeon on a bough
of what is called in Key West the "Geiger Flower," botanically
known as the "Rough-Leaved Cordia." Of this plant, which is
now abundant in Key West, there were only two specimens
in 1832, and they were in the yard of Dr. Benjamin B. Strobel.
During this visit Mr. Audubon discovered a new
variety of pigeon hitherto unknown to ornithologists, of
which he says: "I have taken upon myself to name this species
the 'Key West Pigeon,' and offer it as a tribute to the generous
inhabitants of that island, who honored me with their friend-
ship." It is sometimes called the "partridge pigeon," from
its resemblance to the partridge or quail in its habits and color-
ing. Like the whiteheaded pigeon, its natural habitat is Cuba,
whence it once came in quantities to Key West and the adjacent
keys, but is rarely found here now. Only a half a dozen specimens
have been procured in the last thirty years, one of which was
shot by Mr. J. W. Atkins, manager of the Telegraph and Cable
Company, an amateur ornithologist of some repute. Mr.
Audubon calls it the "most beautiful of woodland cooers,"
and on observing for the first time "the brilliant changing metallic
hues of its plumage" was so inspired with the difficulty
of copying nature in this instance that he exclaimed "But who
will draw it?" His painting, in the "Birds of America,"
shows it to be a most beautiful bird, but it is obvious that Nature
laughed at man's effort to put on canvas what God had limned.
On February 22, 1832, the one hundredth anniversary of
the birth of Washington, a banquet was given by the patriotic
citizens of Key West, in honor of that occasion. The program
and toasts were of high order and deserve to be perpetuated
in history; not only as a lesson in patriotism but as an illustration
of the thoroughness of the journalism of that day.*
In May, 1860, the United States gunboats Mohawk and
Wyandotte captured two slavers, the Wildfire and Wil-
liams, and brought them into this port with their cargoes
of three hundred Africans.
A barracoon was constructed at Whitehead's point, about
where the principal sand battery now stands, and several
large barracks built for them. These fronted the shore
P distance of about 140 yards from high water mark, and every
day the Africans would go in a mass and bathe. As their clothing
was scant, consisting of merely a clout, they. had none of the
inconveniences of modern surf bathers. The dormitory for their
accommodation was two hundred and twenty-five feet by twenty-
five feet, and this was divided into nine large rooms, so that the
sexes and children of different ages could be separated. They
were fed in squads of ten, seated around a large bucket filled
with rice and meat, each armed with a spoon to feed with. Thirty
gallon tubs well supplied with cool fresh water stood in each
room. The percentage of sick among them was enormous.
Nearly all were suffering with ophthalmia, while many were
totally blind. A hospital one hundred and fourteen by twenty-
one feet was erected, which at one time had as many as one hun-
dred and eighty patients. The hospital was in charge of Doctors
Whitehurst, Skrine and Weedon, under whose care most of the
sick were restored to health.
The Africans were cared for by the Federal authorities
but were the recipients of many acts of kindness from our
citizens. Hundreds visited them daily, carrying clothing, food
and other things for their comfort and pleasure. The first
burial was of a child six weeks old, whose young mother was
barely in her teens. Her devotion to her offspring made her an
object of much sympathy to the visitors to the camp, and upon
the death of the child, our people provided a handsome coffin
to bury it in. The interment took place some distance from the
barracoon, and the Africans were allowed to be present at the
services, where they performed their native ceremony. Weird
chants were sung, mingled with loud wails of grief and mournful
meanings from a hundred throats, until the coffin was lowered
into the grave, when at once the chanting stopped and perfect
silence reigned, and the Africans marched back to the barracoon
without a sound.
In December, 1867,/Key West was honored by a visit from
Mr. Jefferson Davis, late president of the Southern Confederacy,
and his wife, Varina Howell Davis! Mr. Davis' long confinement
in Fortress Monroe had broken his health, and he was advised
to go to Cuba for the winter. He embarked from Baltimore
for Havana via Key West, and spent the day here. He and Mrs.
Davis were the guests of Hon. Joseph B. Browne. A delicate
and thoughtful attention was shown them by Colonel W. C.
Maloney, Sr. He sent a basket of fruit from his garden to
ornament the dinner table, and requested that it be presented
with his compliments to Mr. Davis, after the dinner. In the
center was a fruit of the cocoanut tree, surrounded with its
spiral stemmed blossoms. The delicate green of the anyone,
contrasted with the brown of the sapodillo, and the yellow
and red of the mango gave the needed dash of color; the whole
effect was enlivened by a generous sprinkling of the bright
pink of the West India cherry-the favorite fruit of the donor's
FAC-SIMILE OF LETTER FROM PRESIDENT DAVIS
TO JEFFERSON BEALE BROWNE
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garden. Colonel Maloney had been an uncompromising Union
man during the war, and his intense nature made him a bitter
partisan. But the war was over, Mr. Davis was a private citizen,
his health was broken, and he had suffered the hardships of a
long prison life, and, what was a still more weighty consideration
with Colonel Maloney, he was a guest of the city and entitled
to all consideration.
An incident of this visit, trifling in itself, is indicative
of Mr. Davis' gentleness of character and disinclination to
wound. While out driving with his host, they stopped at a friend's
home to get a ripe sapodillo for Mr. Davis to taste. He broke
it in halves, and on taking a bite, quietly and without any expres-
sion of distaste, put the two parts together, and continued his
conversation. On being asked if he did not like the fruit, said:
"I cannot say that I care for it particularly, but I fancy some
people are very fond of it."
Illustrative of his extreme punctiliousness, this incident is
In 1880 a group of students in the State University of Iowa
were boasting of the distinguished people of their acquaintance.
One of them spoke of knowing Mr. Jefferson Davis who had
been a guest at his father's home in Key West. The claim was
good naturedly challenged, and a wager laid, to be determined up-
on the young man receiving a letter from Mr. Davis which would
verify his statement. The student wrote to Mr. Davis in April,
1880, and after waiting two months, received no reply, and paid
the bet. More than a year afterward a letter came from Mr. Davis
stating that through some accident the letter had been mislaid,
but upon it being lately recovered was promptly answered.
At this time Mr. Davis was engaged in writing his great work,
"The Rise and Fall of the Confederacy," and notwithstanding
the fact that his mind was engrossed with his great subject,
he was concerned lest he might have been guilty of an act of
discourtesy, and hastened to make reparation, although a year
had elapsed since he received the letter.
In 1880 General U. S. Grant, accompanied by General
Phil H. Sheridan, paid Key West a visit on his return from his
tour around the world. He came on the steamship Admiral from
New Orleans bound for Havana. It was a day memorable in
the history of the island-all stores were closed, and it was made
a general holiday.
He was met by a committee consisting of Mr. John Jay
Philbrick, Hons. Frank N. Wicker, George W. Allen, Eldridge
L. Ware, Joseph B. Browne, G. Bowne Patterson, Judge James
W. Locke and many others. A drive over the island, a public
reception, and a banquet were part of the functions provided for
his entertainment. The banquet was served in the St. James hotel,
as it was then called, prepared by Mr. L. Y. Jenness. The menu
was printed on silk American flags; the red, white and blue color
scheme being carried out in the badges and decorations.
S(President Cleveland also paid Key West a visit at the
expiration of his first term, 1889.) He was accompanied by
Ex-Secretary of State Bayard, Postmaster General Vilas and
General Fitzhugh Lee, then governor of Virginia. They spent
only a few hours in the city, but during that time they were
shown around the island in carriages, and held a public reception
in the Russell House.
In 1902 Hon. William Jennings Bryan was a visitor in Key
West, and delivered an address. As there was no hall large
enough to hold all who wanted to hear him, he spoke in the open
air at the corner of Elizabeth and Fleming streets.
K EY WEST was peculiarly fortunate in its early settlers.
Unlike the usual pioneers, they were not mere hewers of
wood and drawers of water, but were people of cul-
ture, education and refinement, and, as was natural for such a
community, they early directed their endeavors towards
moral and intellectual development.
In March, 1831, just two years after the city had been laid
out, a resolution of the town council, proposed by Mr. William
A. Whitehead, called for a public meeting of the citizens to adopt
measures for obtaining the services of a clergyman, and among
the duties required of him was the opening of a school, and the
earliest school established in Key West was by the Rev. Alva
Bennett in 1834-5, he being the first clergyman to have a charge
on the island. It was kept open a little less than a year, as Mr.
Bennett returned north in April,1835, and died soon afterwards.
It was evidently well patronized, for Colonel Maloney in his
history states that "Mr. Bennett realized from it about $30.00
The next school, as appears from an advertisement in the
Key West Enquirer in April, 1835, was kept by Mr. Alden A.
M. Jackson, the son-in-law of Judge Webb, in the county court
house. The terms were from $2.00 to $4.00 per month according
to the branches studied.
During the pastorate of the Rev. Mr. Dyce of St. Paul's
church he conducted a school at the same place.
In 1842 Mrs. Passlague, a relative of Mrs. William Pinckney,
opened a school, which she conducted for a year or two only.
She was a French lady of rare intellectual attainments.
In 1843 a provision was made for paying from the county
taxes for the education of children whose parents were unable
to pay. About thirty pupils were at that time taught at the public
expense. The amount allowed was $1.00 per month for each
pupil, the teacher providing his own school room.
A school was taught by Colonel W. C. Maloney, Sr., on a
lot situated on the western corner of Front and Fitzpatrick
streets. The building was a two-story house, built in the style
then quite common in Key West, and frequently seen in the
West Indies, with jalousies on both floors.
In 1845 Mr. and Mrs. Turner came to Key West from the
north, and opened a school in the court house, which they con-
ducted for several years.
In 1852 Lieutenant Daniel Beltzhoover, a United States
army officer, stationed at this post, taught a class at the barracks.
Shortly after this Mr. John M. Bethel opened a school on Eaton
street, in a building near the' corner of Eaton and Simonton
streets, adjoining the First Methodist church. Most of the present
generation of older men went to school to him. After the Civil
War he returned to Nassau, where he held for thirty years the
position of secretary of the Colonial Parliament, and on his
retirement, he came again to Key West and opened a night school.
Two of his pupils are among the prominent men of Key West,
Hon. William H. Malone, Jr., and Hon. Charles L. Knowles.
He was educated in England, was a teacher of the old school,
believed in thoroughly grounding his pupils in the fund-
amentals, and considered the strap a necessary adjunct to
getting knowledge into a boy's brain.
In 1852 Miss Euphemia Lightbourne, the sister-in-law of
Judge Winer Bethel, opened a school that became one of the
leading institutions of Key West. In 1865 her niece, Miss
Mellie Bethel, became her assistant, and on the death of Miss
Lightbourne in 1887, Miss Bethel conducted the school alone.
It closed its doors permanently in 1911, after sixty years opera-
tion, during which time it never missed a term. Its influence will
continue during the lives of the present generation.
Other excellent private schools were kept by Miss Ann
Elizabeth Browne, and Miss Josephine Ximinez, and many of
our most cultured women studied under them.
1870 marks the beginning of the public or free school system
in Key West. A school was opened on the first floor of the
Masonic Temple on Simonton street. Mr. Eugene O. Locke,
now clerk of the United States district court for the southern
district of Florida, a brother of Judge James W. Locke of that
court, was the first principal. He was succeeded by Mr. Thomas
Savage of Boston, who afterwards became a member of the law
firm of Allen, Long and Savage, of which Governor Long of
Massachusetts was a member. In 1874 a large three-story build-
ing was erected on a lot in the rear of Simonton street, between
Fleming and Southard streets, called Sears school. It ac-
commodated about five hundred pupils. Mr. Justin Copeland
was principal, with a corps of eight teachers. In 1909 it was
abandoned and torn down.
Succeeding principals of Sears school, in the order of service,
were Mr. Barnes of Baltimore, Mr. Wyman, Mr. F. J. Cunning-
ham, Mr. Taylor Lee, Mr. W. J. Cappick, Mr. Adolph Van
Delden, Mr. John A. Graham, Mr. Byrne, Mr. Yancy, Mr.
B. C. Nichols, Mr. Bonnington and Mr. M. P. Geiger.
A public school for the education of the negro children was
opened in 1870, called Douglas school. William M. Artrell,
a negro from the Bahamas, was the first principal.
In 1887, under the administration of Dr. R. J. Perry,
county superintendent of public instruction, a public school was
opened on a lot on Grinnell street, between Division and Virginia
streets. It was called "Russell Hall" in honor of Hon. Albert
J. Russell, then State superintendent of public instruction, a
prominent Mason, a distinguished Confederate officer and a fine
orator, who devoted his life to the cause of education.
The first principal of Russell Hall was Mr. Taylor Lee.
He served one full term, was reappointed, and in his second
year was principal of both Sears school and Russell hall. He died
on December 22, 1888.
He was succeeded as principal by Miss Lovie Turner,
who held that position continuously until the close of the
term, of 1911, when she resigned. She made a fine record and
was loved and respected by the pupils and patrons of the school.
In 1900 Russell Hall was moved from Grinnell street to
a lot on the corner of White and Division streets, and remodelled
into a commodious colonial structure.
In 1909 a handsome concrete building was erected on the
corner of Southard and Margaret streets called Harris high school.
It took the place of Sears school in Monroe county educational
work. The site cost sixteen thousand dollars and the building
forty-two thousand dollars. On the completion, Sears school
house was torn down, and its name abandoned.
Harris high school was dedicated on July 4th, 1909, and
addresses were delivered by Mr. Jefferson B. Browne, Mr.
W. Hunt Harris, Mr. William H. Malone, Mr. Charles L.
Knowles, Mr. Virgil S. Lowe, Mr. J. \ining Harris, Dr. J. N.
Fogarty, Major Hunter, United States army, and Commodore
W. H. Beehler, United States navy.
CATHOLIC SCHOOLS-CONVENT OF MARY IMMACULATE
In 1868 the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary,
a Canadian organization, came to Key West and opened a school
for white girls in a large frame building on the corner of White-
head and Division streets, which had been occupied as a barracks
during the Civil War, where they taught for over ten years.
In 1878 they laid the foundation for a new convent to be
erected bn a part of tract twelve of the original survey of Key
West, extending about six hundred feet along Division street,
conttiling about eight and a half acres. The building is of
native coral rock quarried on the island, the main part of which
cost thirty-five thousand dollars. In 1904 it was enlarged to
nearly twice its original size by the addition on the northeast
end, at a cost of twenty-two thousand dollars. It is the hand-
somest educational building in the State of Florida, and a
monument to the devotion and heroism of the good women who
founded and maintained.it.
Many of the sister; died at their post of duty of yellow
fever, and only once has it closed its doors-in 1898 when the
holy sisters placed the convent, two school buildings and their
personal services as nurses at the disposition of the naval author-
iti s for hospital purposes.
Among the first to receive the loving care of the nuns was
Father Chadwick, chaplain of the Maine. On his recovery he
celebrated mass in the convent chapel, using the chalice given
him by the crew of the Maine, and which had then just been
Of all the good women who gave their services for the
success of this institution, one sister, by reason of her great
ability and long service, deserves special mention-Sister
Mary Theophile, who spent forty years in the educational field
of Key West.
The convent conducted by sisters of the Catholic church
is a religious institution, but non-sectarian in its teachings,
and is liberally patronized by families of Protestants, and the
great majority of our highly educated and accomplished women
received their education at the convent of Mary Immaculate.
Its influence on the morals and character of the women of
Key West is infinite.
The same community of sisters in 1881 established St.
Joseph's College for white boys. The college building, on the
corner of Simonton and Catherine streets, stands on a lot
which extends along Catherine to Duval street, owned by the
In 1869 a parochial school for white boys was established,
conducted by a lay teacher, Mr. W. J. Cappick, under the
supervision of the resident priest.
In 1870 St. Francis Xavier's School for the education of
negro children was opened.
A Jesuit college for the higher education of boys was
established in 1904, and is conducted by the Jesuit priests.
In 1898 Bishop Warren E. Candler of Atlanta, Ga., of the
Methodist Episcopal Church South, representing the Woman's
Board of Home Missions, came to Key West, and interested a
number of gentlemen in a proposition to establish a seminary of
He appointed a committee on ways and means, consisting
of Dr. Cornelius F. Kemp, Messrs. George L. Bartlum, Charles R.
Pierce, Alfred Bates Curry and Jefferson B. Browne. Several
meetings were held by them at the residence of Rev. J. P. DePass,
where plans for raising money, securing a lot and founding the
institution were worked out.
The seminary began in a modest way in 1899 in a rented
building formerly the residence of Mr. Martin L. Hellings, near
the light-house. The next year it was moved to the Gato resi-
dence on Division street, near the North Beach.
The first building erected on the property purchased for
the seminary on United street, was completed in 1901. It was
a large colonial frame building, with recitation rooms, dormitories
and living quarters for the faculty.
Its first principal was Miss Mary Bruce, to whose indom-
itable will and energy the success in launching this institution
is mainly due. She was succeeded in 1905 by Miss Emily J.
Reid who resigned in 1908, since which time the institution
has been under the management of Professor Arthur W. Mohn.
Under him the institution has thrived, and ranks as one of the
first in the State.
In 1910 a principal's residence was erected, and in 1911
an administration building called Bruce Hall was completed.
It is built of artificial stone, and contains twelve recitation rooms,
two music rooms, a chemical and physical laboratory, a library
room, the principal's office and a chapel or auditorium with a
seating capacity of over six hundred, the largest in the city.
Its large roof garden, where open air entertainments can be held,
is one of the most attractive features, and in this climate one
of the most useful.
The colonial building has been recently remodelled, and
named Ruth Hargrove Hall. It is now used mainly as a dor-
mitory and has accommodations for fifty teachers and students.
An attractive kindergarten cottage stands at the rear of the lot.
Additional land was purchased in 1910 and in 1911, and the
school tract now contains three acres.
The institution was first called Ruth Hargrove Seminary,
but in 1910 the name was changed to Hargrove Institute.
ECCLESIASTICAL RELATIONS-EPISCOPAL CHURCHES
THE DESIRE for religious worship, which is a dominant
trait of the English speaking people, manifested itself in
the earliest days of the settlement of Key West, and
the people gathered together in the old court house in Jack-
son Square and held non-denominational services. Occasionally,
when some clergyman would be transiently on the island, his
services would be engaged and the islanders worshipped God
with no thought of the denomination of the pastor.
On the 7th of March, 1831, the first movement was made
to have a clergyman regularly domiciled at Key West. A meeting
of tle town council was held on that day and a motion made
by Mr. William A. Whitehead, requesting the council to call
a meeting of the citizens of Key West for this purpose. In
pursuance thereof a meeting was held on the 9th day of March,
and Judge James Webb of the United States court presided.
A committee of six was appointed, consisting of Hons. James
Webb, David Coffin Pinkham, judge of the county court of
Monroe county, William A. Whitehead, collector of customs
of the port of Key West, Col. Lachland M. Stone, United States
marshal for the Southern District of Florida, Dr. Benjamin
B. Strobel, surgeon of the army post, Dr. Henry S. Waterhouse,
postmaster of Key West, to ascertain as far as practicable how
much could be raised by subscription for the support of a
minister, and the number of children who would attend the school
to be established by him, and to communicate with the bishop
of the Episcopal church of New York, requesting him to procure
and send a clergyman here. In their letter they express proper
consideration for the comfort of the clergyman, and say: "The
minister would not be required in any year, that he should stay
a greater portion of the months of August and September
than would be entirely agreeable to himself."*
On October 13, 1831, another public meeting was held and
the committee reported that they had communicated with the
Rt. Rev. Benjamin T. Onderdonk, Protestant Episcopal Bishop
of New York, and although the letter appeared in a religious
magazine published by the Episcopal church in New York,
no person had been appointed, nor had they received any reply
from the bishop. The committee recommended that their efforts
having failed of response from the Episcopal bishop, that they
invite a clergyman of some other denomination.
Key West was unfortunate in its selection of a bishop to
whom to apply for a pastor, as Bishop Onderdonk on the 3rd
of January, 1845, after a sensational trial, was "suspended from
all exercise of his episcopal and ministerial functions."
ST. PAUL'S EPISCOPAL CHURCH
The Episcopal church was the pioneer religious organization
in Key West, and the entire population who desired a church
to be established here, united for the purpose of public devotion
under the name of the Protestant Episcopal Church, and many
united with it who had not previously been of that faith.
Rev. Sanson K. Brunot, of Pittsburgh, Pa., the first clergy-
man to hold services in Key West, arrived here Decem-
ber 23, 1832. He came with letters of introduction from
the Rt. Rev. Benjamin T. Onderdonk, bishop of New York,
and Mr. S. J. Whitehead of New Jersey. He was only 24 years
old and had not been long in the ministry. He accepted the call
largely on account of his ill health, many of his family having
died of consumption, and he thought thus to avoid becoming
a victim to that disease. He was warmly welcomed on the island
and became the guest of Mr. William A. Whitehead. During
his stay the parish was organized, and an act of association was
drawn up and a charter obtained from the territorial council
on February 4, 1833. The official title of the organization was
"The Rector, Wardens and Vestrymen of St. Paul's Church,
On Christmas day, 1832, was heard for the first time on the
island, the beautiful service of the Episcopal church, by a
regularly ordained priest.
After the morning service the following named persons were
enrolled in the first Episcopal congregation: Mr. James Webb,
Mr. William A. Whitehead, Mr. David C. Pinkham, Mr Field-
ing A. Browne, Mr. Thomas Eastin, Mr. Alexander Patterson,
Mr. A. H. Day, Mr. John W. Simonton, Mr. Adam Gordon,
Mr. William H. Shaw, Mr. J. R. Western, Mr. William H.
Wall, Mr. Theodore Owens, Mr. Eugene Trenor, Mr. L. A.
Edmonston, Mr. Henry K. Newcomb, Mr. Francis D. New-
comb, Mr. Henry S. Waterhouse, Mr. Amos C. Tift, Mr. E.
Van Evour, Mr. John Whitehead, Mr. Pardon C. Greene, Mr.
Oliver O'Hara, Mr. George E. Weaver, Mr. Philip J. Fontane,
Mr. John J. Sands, Mr. Stephen R. Mallory, Mr. Francis B.
Watlington, Mr. Charles M. Wells and Mr. John P. Baldwin.
At the first election of wardens and vestrymen held April
5, 1833, Mr. James Webb and Colonel Oliver O'Hara were elected
wardens, and Messrs. Fielding A. Browne, Pardon C. Greehe,
Alexander Patterson, David Coffin Pinkham and William A.
Whitehead were elected vestrymen.
Mr. Brunot's health soon began to fail and after officiating
only a few times, frequent hemorrhages put a stop to further
public services. Feeling that his end was approaching and
desiring to pass his last days in his old home, he left Key West
in May, 1833, and died soon after his arrival in Pittsburgh.
Before leaving he advised the vestrymen to apply to the
Missionary Society of New York for aid. In July, 1833, the
vestrymen adopted Mr. Brunot's suggestion, and the Missionary
Society appointed Rev. Alva Bennett of Troy, N. Y., and contrib-
uted $200.00 a year towards his salary, to which the parish added
$500.00 a year. Mr. Bennett arrived in Key West in October,
1834, and remained until April, 1835.
On November 16, 1834, during Mr. Bennett's pastorate,
the holy communion was first celebrated in Key West, in the
court house, in Jackson Square, where services were held.
Mr. Bennett was succeeded by Rev. Robert Dyce who was
also appointed by the Board of Missions and arrived in Key
West in September, 1836. In 1837 Mr. Dyce made a tour
of the country to solicit funds for the church and succeeded in
On the 5th of May, 1838, Mrs. John William Charles Fleem-
ing, wife of one of the original proprietors, gave to the vestry
of St. Paul's church a tract of land having a frontage of two
hundred feet on the southeast side of Eaton street, from Duval
to Bahama street, and extending on Duval and Bahama streets
two hundred feet; "the lot to be used for church purposes and
the pews in the church to be free."
On the 10th of July, 1838, the vestry voted to erect a church
building to be constructed of the native coral rock. It was to
be forty-six feet long, thirty-six feet wide and twenty-two feet
high on the inside, and to contain thirty-six pews and a gallery
at one end.
The vestry went to work with a will, and by December 23d
of the same year four hundred and fifty pieces of the native
coral rock had been quarried and placed on the grounds. On
the 3d of March the church was so far completed that the pews
were sold at auction. The church cost $6,500.00.
On February 14, 1839, Mr. Dyce resigned charge of the
parish and was succeeded by Rev. A. E. Ford. Mr. Ford left
in 1842 and was succeeded by Rev. J. H. Hanson, who remained
in charge until May, 1845, when he resigned. During this time
the work on the church was nearly completed.
In October, 1846, the Rev. C. C. Adams was called and
appointed missionary by the Domestic Board of Missions.
Mr. Adams started for Key West via Savannah and St. Augustine.
Before leaving St. Augustine he learned that the church had been
blown down by the hurricane of October, 1846, and at the sugges-
tion of the provincial bishop of Georgia he came to Key West
"to ascertain the character of the parish and if he found it as
being unworthy an effort to rebuild, to so report to him, and
abandon it, otherwise, to go abroad and beg for funds to re-
build." After arriving at Key West Mr. Adams decided on the
latter course, but first received assurances from the vestry that
the new church should be forever free. He left Key West Jan-
uary 11, 1847, having assumed charge on that date.
He returned the following December with about $3,300.00.
A frame church was then erected and the first service was held
in it on July 30, 1848. The church was consecrated January 4,
1851, by the Rt. Rev. C. E. Gadsden, Bishop of South Carolina.
Four pews at the back of the church were set apart for the
use of negroes, both free and slave, who were members of the
Episcopal church. The practice prevailed until in 1888, when
a negro Episcopal church, St. Peters', was erected, since which
time they have attended that church, except a few of the old
negroes who would not sever their relations with the church
of their youth. At the celebration of holy communion they
wait with old time respect for the white people to commune,
and then go reverently to partake of the sacrament.
On January 5, 1854, the parish declared itself self-supporting
and severed its connection with the Missionary Society. On
April 1, 1855, the Rev. Mr. Adams resigned.
In December, 1856, E. O. Herrick was made rector, which
position he occupied until he resigned in January, 1870, to
accept an appointment as chaplain in the United States army.
He was, for many years stationed at Fortress Monroe,
where he was rector of the Church of the Centurian on the
military post at that station. He died at Watertown, N. Y.,
October 1, 1907.
In December, 1857, during Mr. Herrick's pastorate the
present rectory was built at a cost of $4,500.00. In 1860 the
church was enlarged at a cost of about $4,000.00.
The following are the names of the succeeding rectors and
dates of services:
Rev. Wm. T. Saunders, from July, 1870, to June, 1872.
Rev. J. S. J. Higgs, incumbent of the parish of San Salvador,
from December, 1872, to the latter part of January, 1873.
During the winter of 1873 the Rev. Charles A. Gilbert
visited Key West and held services.
Rev. John Reuther, from March, 1873 to 1874.
Rev. J. L. Steele, from 1874 to October 13, 1878, when he
fell a victim to yellow fever.
Rev. J. B. Baez, a Cuban resident of Key West, who had
been ordained a minister, held services until the appointment
of a new rector.
Rev. Charles A. Gilbert, who had visited Key West in 1873,
was called, and was in charge of the parish until November 8,
1880, when he, too, fell a victim to yellow fever.
Rev. Charles Stewart, from November, 1880, to May, 1881,
when he resigned.
Rev. Chas. F. D. Lyne, from December 4, 1881, to February
13, 1886, when he died after a life of long and useful service.
Rev. J. D. Baez again filled the pulpit from February to
Rev. John B. Linn, from July, 1886, to 1890.
Rev. Gilbert Higgs, from 1890 to June, 1903. Mr. Higgs
shares with Mr. Herrick the distinction of the greatest length
of service of the pastors of St. Paul's Church; each having
served faithfully for thirteen years. Mr. Higgs married Miss
Clara Herttell, of Key West, and died in Atlanta, Ga., the 7th
of September, 1911, and his remains were brought to Key West
for burial. Funeral services were held in the parish school house
on the church lot September 11, 1911, the burial service being
conducted by Rev. Charles T. Stout and Rev. A. R. E. Roe.
Mr. Higgs was born in St. George, Bermuda. He was a
man of great energy and fine artistic taste, and found time
from his clerical duties to lay off the church grounds in an or-
namental garden, which during his pastorate was one of the show
places of the city.
After Mr. Higgs' resignation the parish was without a
priest until June, 1904, when the Rev. James J. Cameron
came to Key West and remained until June, 1905.
Rev. Samuel Duncan Day was here from June to August,
Rev. B. F. Brown, from June, 1906, to August, 1906.
Rev. John F. Porter, during September and October, 1906.
On the first Sunday in December, 1906, the Rev. Charles
T. Stout took charge of the parish and is the present pastor.
The first Sunday school was organized November, 1832,
and in January, 1833, there were between fifty and sixty children
In 1851 a Ladies' Missionary Society was formed in the
parish. Its officers were: Mrs. J. Y. Porter, president; Mrs.
S. J. Douglass, secretary; Mrs. Joseph B. Browne, treasurer;
Mrs. Kells and Miss Lightbourne, directresses.
In 1847 a frame church was erected about midway of the
block fronting on Eaton street, which was destroyed in the
great fire of 1886. In the same year another frame building of
like dimensions was erected and furnished with a set of chimes,
which would have done credit to a much wealthier congregation.
At that time they were the only chimes in the State. They were
paid for by private subscriptions-several of the large bells
being presented by individual members. Among those who
presented bells were Mr. Wm. Curry and Mr. Horatio Crain.
The church was liberally supplied with handsome memorial
windows and tablets.
On October 11, 1909, the sixty-third anniversary of the
hurricane of 1846 (which destroyed the stone church), this
church was destroyed by a hurricane. All the bells of the
chimes except the smallest were saved, together with several of
the handsome memorial tablets, which will be restored when
the new church is erected.
A parish meeting was held on March 6, 1911, to devise
ways and means for rebuilding St. Paul's church and a commit-
tee appointed, consisting of Hon. Geo. W. Allen, Hon. W.
Hunt Harris, Hon. Joseph N. Fogarty and Mr. Frank H. Ladd,
Mrs. Joseph Y. Porter, Mrs. J. W. Allen, Mrs. George L. Lowe
and Miss Etta Patterson. Funds have been raised, plans accept-
ed and work on the new church will begin in 1912.
St. Paul's church has seven hundred baptised persons on
its rolls and three hundred communicants. Its Sunday school
has two hundred scholars.
ST. JOHN'S CHURCH
On the 20th of December, 1875, a number of distinguished
Cubans, among whom were Hon. Carlos M. de Cespedes,
Alejandro Rodriguez, afterwards mayor of Havana, and General
of the Rural Guards in Cuba, Messrs. Teodoro Perez, Joaquin
Leon, Juan B. Baez and others, met in St. Paul's church for the
purpose of organizing an Episcopal church in which the services
would be held in Spanish, and a petition to that effect was
submitted to Rt. Rev. John F. Young, Bishop of Florida, and
on the first of January, 1876, Mr. Juan B. Baez was authorized
by the bishop to act as lay reader for the new congregation.
On March 20, 1877, he was ordained deacon by Bishop
Young, and on March 9, 1879, was regularly ordained priest
by Rt. Rev. Benjamin Whipple, Bishop of Minnesota.
The new church, called St. John's Episcopal Church,
began with about two hundred members and continued its
work under Rev. Baez's pastorate until a short time before
his death. Owing to his previous ill health, the congregation
gradually fell off, and with his death no further services were
held, and the church, as an organization came to an end.
HOLY INNOCENTS CHURCH
As early as 1892 the apparent need of an Episcopal church,
more accessible to the members of that denomination residing
in the vicinity of Division street, impressed the Rev. Gilbert
Higgs, and he tried to meet the necessity by holding services
at the residence of Mr. Clement Knowles, Sr., as often as was
compatible with his duties as rector of St. Paul's. This he contin-
ued for a year and a half, assisted by Mr. James M. Jones as
lay reader, and by other members of the Brotherhood of St.
The first Sunday school was opened in Russell Hall school
house on June 23, 1895, with twelve scholars. Dr. Higgs was
superintendent; Mr. James M. Jones, assistant superintendent;
Dr. William J. Bartlum, secretary, and Mr. St. Clair Crain,
treasurer; Mrs. Edward B. Rawson, librarian, and Mrs. Ben-
jamin Tynes, organist. Mrs. Rawson and Mrs. Susan Folker
were the first teachers of the new Sunday school. The organ
used was loaned by Mrs. G. Bowne Patterson.
On August 13, 1895, the Missionary District of Southern
Florida purchased from Mr. Benjamin Tynes a lot on the corner
of Virginia and Grinnell streets, fifty by one hundred feet, the
contract price of which was fifteen hundred dollars. The term
of payment were twenty-five dollars cash and five dollars a
month, without interest. By special effort the entire indebtedness
was paid by Easter, 1903, Mr. Tynes generously deducting one
hundred dollars from the original purchase price. There was a
small building on the lot, which was fitted up and used for Sunday
school and church services. Bishop Gray made his first visit
to the new church February 2, 1896. The sacrament of confirma-
tion was first administered on April 28, 1897, to a class of eight.
On March 19, 1900, the cornerstone was laid for a church,
donated by Mrs. Joseph Y. Porter, as a memorial to her father,
Mr. William Curry. It was completed in October, 1900, and
the first services held by the Rev. Walter C. Cavell, November
4th of that year. As there was an indebtedness on the property
for part of the purchase price of the land, the church was not
consecrated until February 2, 1904, but services were regularly
conducted in the interval.
The name "Holy Innocents" was adopted because of
the preponderance of little children in the congregation.
For a time the minister lived in a rented house, but in
February, 1904, a lot on Grinnel street was purchased from the
Monroe county school board, for eight hundred dollars, and a
vicarage erected which was completed July 15th of that year,
when the pastor and his wife moved into their new home.
The succeeding ministers of Holy Innocents were Rev.
William Curtis White, who served for nearly five years; Rev.
Arthur Browne Livermore, Rev. Charles F. Sontag, Rev. Arthur
T. Cornwall and Rev. A. R. E. Roe, the present priest. The
Right Rev. Anson R. Graves held services during the winter
and spring of 1910, and the Rev. George Ward officiated for a
few months in 1911.
To Judge Livingston W. Bethel belongs great honor and
credit for his untiring work for the success of Holy Innocents.
Never a service has been held when he was in the city that he
was not present, and when pastorless, he officiated as lay reader
and kept the congregation together. He has been senior warden
ever since the church was first established.
ST. PETER'S EPISCOPAL CHURCH (COLORED)
The history of this parish begins about forty years ago
Numbers of colored church people had emigrated from the
Bahamas, and finding no place of worship of their own, decided
to hold services amongst themselves, going from house to house
as opportunity offered. On December 14, 1875, a meeting was
called and presided over by Bishop John Freeman Young of
Florida, and the title of "St. Peter's" adopted as the name
of the new rarish. A vestry was elected which appointed Dr
J. L. Steele the first rector. From this time on the work grew
rapidly, and services were held in various rooms and halls, with
sacraments at St. Paul's.
After Dr. Steele's death in 1878, matters stood still for a
time, but revived with much energy in April, 1887, when Bishop
Weed sent as rector Rev. C. D. Mack.
Plans were laid for purchasing land for a church lot, and in
December of the next year Father McGill, who had then taken
charge, began the erection of a church hall, which building even-
tually became St. Peter's Church. The entire cost of building,
furnishing, and memorials was borne by the members of the
church. J. L. Kerr, a colored priest, did faithful work for over
In October, 1909, the church was badly damaged by a
hurricane, the restoration costing over five hundred dollars.
The next year a second storm entirely destroyed the church,
and from the ruins has been erected a fair sized hall, which is
used for devotional purposes.
Funds are being raised to replace the church by a substan-
tial concrete building. The membership is one of the largest
in the city, the communicants numbering over five hundred,
with three hundred Sunday school children, besides various
In 1908 Rev. A. R. E. Roe became rector of St. Peter's,
but resigned in the fall of 1911 to accept a call as priest of
EARLY items about the Catholic church are very scarce, as
no history of it has been left at Key West. The earli-
est data is obtained from the baptismal, marriage and
funeral registers, which date back something over half a century.
In the early forties Key West was in the diocese of Savannah,
Ga., and priests sent by the bishop of that place, came once or
twice a year to administer the sacraments. On October 10th,
1846, a priest from Havana celebrated high mass in the city
hall, a two-story building erected over the water at the foot of
Duval street, the first floor of which was used as a meat and
Among the earliest priests who officiated at Key West
were Rev. Fr. Corcoran about 1847, and Rev. Fr. J. F. Kirby
The first 'Catholic church in Key West was on the southwest
side of Duval street, about one hundred feet from the corner of
Eaton street. It was dedicated by the Rt. Rev. Bishop Francis
Xavier Gartland on the 26th of February, 1852, and the sermon
was preached by the Rev. Fr. Hunincq, a Belgian priest.
It was called the "Church of St. Mary, Star of the Sea." Since
it first shed its light in Key West it has, like a star of the sea
to the wandering mariner, been a star of hope and comfort in
times of despair and sorrow, and a star of joy to those who have
lived in its teachings. The church was repaired and enlarged
in 1870, and a large pipe organ installed.
This church had among its early congregation many negroes,
some free and some slaves, belonging to Catholic families from
St. Augustine. For them was assigned a part of the church
separated from the whites. This custom still prevails in this
church, which numbers among its members many of the best
The first to be appointed resident priest was Father
J. N. Brozard on November 8, 1852. With him during 1852
was Father Ed. Quigley, and in 1853 Father J. T. O'Neil.
In 1854 Father Quigley was pastor, and in 1855 Father Ed.
Murphy and Father J. Barry officiated. In 1856 Father Kirby
and Father Clemens Prendergast were here administering the
sacraments. In 1857 Bishop J. Barry, then bishop of Savannah,
accompanied by Father Prendergast and Father Ed. Aubrie
(of the society of Priests of Mercy, a Catholic religious order),
visited Key West and administered the sacrament of confirma-
tion. In 1858-9 Fathers J. J. Cabanilla, Marius Cavalieri,
Felix Ciampi, who belonged to the society of Jesus (Jesuits),
officiated at Key West. They were probably only visiting priests
or here on a special mission, as Father Ciampi was a renowned
preacher in Philadelphia at that time.
Bishop Augustine Verot was consecrated Vicar Apostolic
of St. Augustine, Fla., April 25, 1858; transferred to Savannah
in 1861, and appointed First Bishop of St. Augustine, when
Key West became part of St. Augustine diocese.
In February, 1860, Father Sylvanus Hunincq came as
pastor to Key West. He died that summer of yellow fever,
having ministered to many during the epidemic of that year.
A marble slab was inserted in the wall of the church to commem-
orate his life and services to humanity. He was much loved
by people of all denominations for the great catholicity of his
charity. In the same year Father James Hassan was appointed
rector. He was succeeded in 1864 by Father Jos. O'Hara, who
was succeeded by Father O'Mailley. From 1867-9 Father J. B.
Allard was pastor and Father P. La Rocque was his assistant.
Father La Rocque is now bishop of Sherbrook, Canada. Father
Allard died in 1874, and in the absence of Father La Rocque,
who went to finish his studies, Father A. F. Bernier was in charge.
Father.Hugon was in charge from 1875 to 1877. From here
Father Hugon went to Tallahassee where he has ministered
for the last thirty-eight years to a small but devoted, devout
and cultured congregation. In that year Father La Rocque
returned and had as his assistant Father Fourcard, who died
of yellow fever in 1878. In 1879 two Jesuits, Father Avenione
and Father Encinosa came from Havana to assist the priest,
and they also died of yellow fever. At this time Father
Spandenari became assistant to Father La Rocque. From 1880
to 1890 Father Ghione had charge of the church without any
assistant, but in the latter year Father Bottolaccio came as
his assistant. In 1897 Father Ghione went to Italy and left
Father Bottolaccio in charge. Shortly afterwards he advised
Bishop Moore that he would not return to Key West, and the
bishop made arrangements with the Jesuit Fathers of New Orleans
Province, to take charge of the Key West church. Father
A. B. Friend, S. J., arrived in Key West February 15, 1898,
where he has since officiated with the exception of a short interval
when he was stationed at Miami, during which time, the church
was in charge of Rev. Father Schuler.
On the 20th of September, 1901, the church that was erected
in 1852 on the lot on the southwest side of Duval street, between
Eaton and Fleming streets, was destroyed by fire. From that
time until August 20, 1905, the Catholics worshipped in one qf
the buildings put up on the convent ground by the government,
for a hospital during the Spanish-American War.
The new Catholic church is a handsome concrete structure
which was begun February 2, 1904, and dedicated August 20,
1905, by the Rt. Rev. W. J. Kenny, D. D., Bishop of St. Au-
gustine. The design and character of construction are the work
of Father Friend, to whose energies and ability is the church
also indebted for financing its construction. It is situated on
the corner of Division street and Windsor Lane, and built of
concrete made from the coral rock dug from the lot on which
the church is built.
METHODIST CHURCHES-FIRST METHODIST
THE METHODIST church was introduced into Key West
by the Wesleyans from the Bahama Islands, and as
late as 1845 the congregation was composed almost en-
tirely of people from the British West Indies, there being but
one American among them.
In 1837 among the very many worthy persons who came to
Key West from the Bahamas, was Mr. Samuel Kemp, who though
long dead, still lives in the sacred regard of our people. He was
a Wesleyan Methodist and worshipped with those who resorted
to the court house for that purpose for some time, but later erected
at his own expense (assisted in the labor by some of his neighbors
who were mechanics) a small building for public worship on
land owned by himself on Eaton street near William. This was
the first place of public worship in which the denomination known
as the Wesleyan Methodists congregated in this city, and was
the foundation of the Methodist church here.
"Father Kemp," as he was usually called by reason of his
advanced age and somewhat clerical demeanor, officiated as
pastor of this small congregation, and was often assisted in the
devotional exercises of his church or chapel, by Captain Ogden
of the United States army stationed here at the time.
The congregation becoming too numerous to be accom-
modated in this small building, a larger one was erected on a lot
on the southeast side of Caroline street, between Simonton and
In 1844 a break in the Methodist Episcopal Church of the
United States occurred, which resulted in the formation of the
Methodist Episcopal Church South. It grew out of the contention
of the abolitionists that the general conference had the power
to depose from the Episcopacy one who had previously been
elevated to that rank. The Rt. Rev. James Osgood Andrew had
married a lady who inherited some slaves from her first husband,
and it was demanded of him that he get rid of them or desist
from the exercise of his office. In Georgia, where Bishop Andrew
resided, the law prohibited the manumission of slaves. Not-
withstanding this a resolution was introduced in the conference
that "The Rev. James Osgood Andrew be and he is hereby
affectionately requested to resign his office as one of the Bishops
of the Methodist Episcopal Church." After several days discus-
sion a substitute for this motion was offered by two members
of the Ohio conference, to the effect "That it is the sense of this
general conference that he desist from the exercise of his office
so long as the impediment exists."
On May 31st a motion was made to postpone any further
action in the matter until the next general conference, and the
southern members to a man supported it, as did a few of the
conservative members for the Middle and Northern conferences,
hoping thus to avoid the schism which the abolitionists were
bent on effecting. It was defeated by a vote of ninety-five to
Finley's substitute, deposing Bishop Andrew from the Epis-
copacy, was then adopted by a vote of one hundred and eleven
to sixty-nine. This action accomplished what the abolitionisst
had been working for-a separation of the Northern Church
from that of the South-and a plan of separation was adopted
June 8, 1844. By this plan all the property within the limits
of the Southern organization when formed was to be free from
any claim by the general conference. The Southern church was
also to receive an equitable share of the common church property,
A Southern conference was called to meet in Louisville, Ky.,
on May 1, 1845, and on May 15th the Methodist Episcopal
Church South was duly organized. It may not be out of place
here to show the bad faith of the Northern abolitionists. In
1848 the general conference of the Northern section of the
Methodist church repudiated the plan of separation, and the
Church South was forced to go into the courts to maintain its
rights under the plan. Suits were brought in the United States
circuit courts in New York and Cincinnati. In the New York
suit a decision was rendered in favor of the Church South, but
in Cincinnati the case went adversely to them. It was carried
to the Supreme Court of the United States, where on April
24, 1854, by a full bench-Mr. Justice McLean, a Methodist
declining to sit in the case-the judgment of the circuit court
in Ohio was reversed, and the plan of separation sustained in all
The Methodist Episcopal Church South having begun its
existence in 1845, it thus appears that Rev. Simon Peter Richard-
son, who was sent to Key West by the Florida conference in
1845, was the first minister of the Methodist Episcopal Church
South to officiate in Key West, although Rev. Andrew Graham
was stationed here the year before.
Mr. Richardson thus describes the condition of the Methodist
Church and its congregation at Key West in 1845:
"By the conference of 1845 I was appointed to Key West
station. Brother Graham of California memory, was stationed
there the year before, and gave me a very unfavorable account
of his ministry on the island. He told me there were thirty-two
grog-shops there, and that he had encountered many difficulties.
The whiskey men had threatened to wash him, which meant
to tie a rope around his waist and shoulders and from the wharf
to cast him into the water and then haul him in, and then cast
him out again. It is a terrible ordeal to put a man through.
He eluded their grasp by taking refuge on the boat that brought
him over. He suffered many other indignities that were heaped
upon him during the year. His church, building was a small
unceiled structure twenty by thirty feet. His flock was composed
of Wesleyan Methodists from the West India Islands. There
was but one American among them, and the more I thought
over the treatment he had received, the more indignant I became.
The devil made a flank movement on my piety and consecrated
life, until I felt that if I ever heard of any attempt to 'wash'
me they would smell fire and brimstone. I resolved that I would
wipe up the earth with the first man that insulted me. The
devil had got complete control of me.
"I was the only regular preacher on the island. Other
preachers were occasionally there, but the Catholics came
regularly to my church. When I reached the island I was met
by several of the brethren, who kindly conducted me to my
boarding place, with one of the best families I ever knew. They
held family prayers three times a day. I looked around for trouble
but found none. Everybody was polite and kind to me. I soon
began to cool down and feel repentance for my sins.
"In a few days the judge, lawyers, doctors and prominent
citizens called to see me, a reception I never had before nor
have had since. I was invited to the Masonic lodge and chapter,
and made chaplain of both. My little chapel was soon filled with
the women, the men standing around outside. This brought
prominently before the public mind that I must have a larger
church. I collected about four thousand dollars, and from the
rock of the island put up and paid for a large stone building;
but it was not covered in when that ever-to-be-remembered
storm came and prostrated all to the ground, a mass of ruins,
and carried my little chapel entirely away, out to sea, and we
never saw nor heard of it any more.
"This was the condition of affairs in October. I took the
lumber and what I could bring from the wreck of the stone
church and put up a small building to preach in, and large enough
for my Sunday school.
"I was married in 1847. I had been married only a few weeks
when the Catholic priest and the Episcopal and Baptist preachers
came to the island, and all determined to go to the mainland
and collect money to build churches, because of the storm.
This was one of the trials of my life. I had the island largely
under my control. Many of the best families had joined the
church but had nothing left after the storm. They were utterly
helpless to build, and if those preachers succeeded in building
the people would have to go to their churches, having nowhere
else to go. I had spent one of the hardest year's work of my life
to make it a Methodist town, and had succeeded far beyond
my expectations; but I saw that all was lost, in that still form-
ative state, unless I had a church large enough to hold my con-
gregation together. I had had a hard experience in getting
money abroad to build my St. Augustine church. I could not
see how I could well leave my young wife, for I knew I should
be kept months away. But go I must, I did not consult feeling
nor the relations of my young wife. I simply informed her that
I would have to leave her with her good mother for a time until
I could get money to build a new church. I left on the first
vessel for New Orleans."
Mr. Richardson canvassed all the principal cities of the
South an'd succeeded in raising over three thousand dollars.
He thus describes his return to Key West.
"I had the lumber sawed at the mills in the upper part of
the city, and engaged a sloop to take it to Key West. I never
believed in spirit-rappings or any other superstitions, but I
had a distinct presentiment that that vessel was going to be
wrecked. So strong was my impression that I left a duplicate
of the bill at the mill. I went to the insurance office and proposed
to insure. The agent dissuaded me, declaring there was no danger
on the coast at that season of the year. The captain said he would
be glad if he could get wind enough to carry his vessel to Key
West. But with all this, I insured. I still felt a presentiment
that the vessel would be wrecked. On July fifth I left Charleston,
with thirty-two hundred dollars in gold, on a United States
propeller for Key West. The thermometer stood at one hundred
and five in Charleston. The brethren declared I would burn up
at Key West, but when I reached the island the thermometer
stood at eighty-seven. I immediately employed workmen to
commence the building, but my vessel failed to put in her
appearance. Finally I saw a large yawl coming into port with
flag up. It was the captain of the sloop on which I had shipped
the lumber, or a part of it, for the church. His vessel was wrecked
on the Florida reef, and was a total loss. I soon had the bill
duplicated and sent forward and collected my insurance. I
had the church built storm-proof, and by October it was finished,
paid for, and I was in it and preaching. The church I built
remained for fifty years, and was removed only a few years ago
and another erected. We now have four churches on the island.
Mine was the third church we had built during the two years
I was there."
The church built by Mr. Richardson in 1847 was afterwards
lengthened to sixty feet and could accommodate eight hundred
In 1877 plans were adopted for a church to be built of native
coral rock, and the corner stone laid in the latter part of the
year. Work was to progress only as funds were in hand. At the
end of three years the walls were up about twenty feet, a tem-
porary covering put on, and the congregation began worshipping
in it. This was during the pastorate of Rev. John C. Ley. In
his work, "Fifty-two Years in Florida," he says: "The plan after
I left was finally changed, the congregation becoming discouraged
in regard to carrying out the original design, and finished it up
as a one-story building."
Rev. C. A. Fulwood has to his credit the longest term of
service as pastor of this church. He served from 1872 to 1876,
both inclusive, and again in 1888. Rev. E. A. Harrison comes
next with four years; Rev. J. C. Ley also served four years, from
1877 to 1880, and Brother Henry Hice three years, 1895 to
1897. Brother R. Martin with three years, from 1883 to 1885;
Brother Barnett, 1886 to 1887; Brother J. P. DePass in 1898
and 1899, were distinguished ministers who left their impress on
the community as well as their congregations. Rev. J. D.
Sibert is the pastor in 1911.
In 1868 the Methodists having decided to introduce instru-
mental music in their church, about thirty members severed
themselves from the congregation and formed a new organiza-
tion. Those enrolled for the new church were: Mr. Joseph P.
Roberts and Mrs. Emma Roberts, Mr. T. B. Russell and Mrs.
Sarah Russell, Mr. Benjamin Russell and Mrs. Sarah Russell,
Mr. Philip Albury and Mrs. Mary N. Albury, Mr. Randall
Adams and Mrs. Catherine Adams, Mr. George Curry and Mrs.
Mary Curry, Mr. Joseph Ingraham and Mrs. Elizabeth Ingrahamn,
Mr. Samuel Kemp, Mr. John Demeritt, Mr. Jabez Finder an
Mrs. Druscilla Finder, Mr. Joshua Finder, Mr. William Saunders
and Mrs. Elizabeth Saunders, Mr. Benjamin Roberts, Sarah
Thompson, Sarah Curry, Mr. Thomas Adams, Mr. John Roberts
and Mrs. Margaret Roberts.
It was called Sparks Chapel after Rev. J. O. A. Sparks,
its first pastor.
A lot on the corner of Fleming and William streets was pro-
cured and a frame building erected, which was used as a place
of worship until 1887, when the new church was built, under the
pastorate of Rev. W. H. F. Roberts. The deed of gift to the
land contained a clause intended to prohibit the use of in,
strumental music in any church erected thereon. Rev. Mr.
Sparks drew the deed, but it was not properly worded and failed
of its purpose, and in 1892 instrumental music was introduced
in the chapel, over the objection of some of the older members.
The first service in the new church was held September 5,1887,
During Rev. S. Scott's pastorate the church was remodeled and
made very attractive both inside and out.
On October 11, 1909, it was totally destroyed by a hurricane,
and for over two years the congregation worshipped in Harris
high school auditorium. On the second anniversary of its
destruction, work was begun on the foundation for a new church
which will be completed in 1912.
Beginning in such a modest way, Sparks Chapel has main-
trained a healthy and normal growth, and been in the forefront
of the most aggressive evangelical work in Key West.
In 1886 a small band of earnest Christians, members of the
First Methodist church and Sparks Chapel, who lived too far
to attend services with much regularity, organized a congrega-
tion, and met for the worship of God in Russell Hall school.
Their first pastor was Rev. John A. Giddens, who was then living
in Key West on account of ill health.
In 1887 they bought a lot on the corner of Watson and
Virginia streets, and the old Sparks Chapel building moved there-
on, and Memorial Church, M. E. South, began its mission for
good. In 1903 they bought an adjoining lot, and erected a
Among the members of this church were Mr. T. J. Pinder and
family, Mr. Blake Sawyer and family, Mr. William McClintock,
Mr. Hubert Roberts and family, Mr. E. E. Archer and Mr.
The membership is now one hundred and ninety-two,
and two hundred and fifty scholars are enrolled in the Sunday
The Rev. T. H. Sistrunk, the pastor in charge, is a gifted
orator, with the courage of his convictions, and aggressive in
all movements toward civic uplift.
CUBAN METHODIST MISSION
The Methodists were among the first of the Protestant
churches to make converts among the Cuban refugees, and the
Rev. H. B. Someillan was ordained minister and placed in
charge of the Cuban Mission. It was not until 1877 that they
had a church of their own. In that year Rev. J. C. Ley, pastor
in charge of the First Methodist Church, interested Bishop
Pierce in the importance of providing a place of worship for this
congregation, and through him a thousand dollars was furnished
by the Missionary Society, and a lot purchased on the corner
of Duval and Angela streets. The small house situated on the
lot was remodeled and furnished, and has since been the place
of worship of the Cuban Methodist congregation. Rev. H. B.
Someillan was the pastor for many years. He was succeeded by
Rev. A. Silviera. Miss Annis Pyfrom, a highly cultured, talented,
Christian woman, devoted some of the best years of her life in
work connected with this mission. She conducted a parish school
which wielded a great influence on the Cuban population.
One of the first preachers to the Cuban Mission was the
Rev. Van Duzer, who died of yellow fever in the epidemic of 1875.
T HE earliest recorded data of any Baptists meeting for
worship in Key West, was on December 20, 1842, when
"agreeably to appointment, after prayer and deliberation,
the brethren met at the residence of J. H. Breaker for the
purpose of ordaining Brother Charles C. Lewis to the gospel
ministry. Prayer was offered by Brother Breaker on behalf of
the candidate, during which the laying on of hands was perform-
ed by Brothers Elim Eldridge, J. A. Wolfe and O. T. Braman.
Charge was then given by Brothers Breaker and Asa Sawyer,
and the right hand of fellowship by all the brethren present."
This method of ordination was not strictly in accord with
Baptist usage. After leaving Key West, Rev. Mr. Lewis was pas-
tor of the Asia Minor Church, as it was locally designated, but
properly, the Second Baptist Church of North Stonington, Conn.
At the first meeting, this church acquainted the North Stonington
Baptist Association with the manner of Mr. Lewis' ordination,
and inquired if a reordination would be necessary. The old fathers
after mature consideration, decided that Mr. Lewis was script-
urally and regularly ordained, and thus placed the stamp of
regularity on the acts of the little band of Baptists on the island,
and established Mr. Lewis' title to being the first pastor of the
Baptist church in Key West.
As there were no Baptist churches in Florida with which
the Key West church could be associated, they applied for
membership in the North Stonington, Conn., Association, and
were willingly received. For many years they annually cor-
responded with this association, until it was ascertained that
the church in Key West had a member who owned slaves, and
they were notified that if they permitted slave owners to
be members of their church, they could not continue their mem-
bership in the association. The Baptists here saw no reason
to exclude from membership a person who was holding property
sanctioned by the constitution and laws of the United States
and the State of Florida, and upon their refusing to comply
with this demand, were dropped from the North Stonington
Subsequently the church sent Pastor-elect J. H. Breaker
to Mobile for regular ordination. On December 23d of the same
year they met for covenant meeting at the residence of Mr.
J. H. Breaker, who was chosen clerk. Articles of faith and
covenant were read, and ten persons examined and received
for baptism, Catherine and Lavinia Johnson, John Pent, William
Richardson, John Park, Reason Duke, Druscilla Duke, Mary
Arlege, Martha B. Arlege and Susan Sands, who were baptized
on Sunday, Christmas day, 1842. This was the first baptism
by immersion performed on the island.
The formal constitution of the church took place March 11,
1843. Six persons, members of churches in Connecticut, Mr.
J. H. Breaker, Mr. Ben Sawyer, Mr. O. T. Braman, Mr. J. A.
Wolfe, Mr. Asa Sawyer and Mr. Elim Eldridge, with several
others, solemnly entered into a covenant as the "Key West
The first celebration of the Lord's Supper by the Baptists
occurred March 26, 1843. There is no record of the election of
any pastor at this time, but the records state that "in April,
1843, Elder Lewis left the church to go north on account of the
ill health of his wife, and the church was left without a pastor."
In November, 1843, Elder Tripp assumed the pastoral
care of the church. He preached twice on Sundays at the court
The first movement towards building a house of worship
was made April, 1844, and the pastor was sent north to solicit
funds for that purpose. He met with little success, abandoned
the work, and never returned to Key West. The church, though
pastorless, maintained regular prayer services. In 1845 Rev.
Mr. Doolittle took charge, and it is recorded that "He preached
twice on the Sabbath in the Episcopal church." This did not
seem.strange to the Christians who were in Key West at that time,
although it may appear so to denominational people of today.
In April, 1847, Mr. Doolittle returned to his northern home,
when Mr. J. H. Breaker became pastor, and preached at the
court house, and in the Methodist chapel.
During Mr. Breaker's pastorate the first meeting house was
contracted for; the price being six hundred dollars. This house
was opened for worship January 2, 1849.
From 1852 to 1890 the records of the church are lost. The
church however, was not prosperous, the constant change of
pastors preventing any progress.
During the Civil War the white Baptists drifted into other
churches, and the church building was taken possession of by
the negro Baptists, who held services there until the fall of 1879,
when Rev. William F. Wood, who had been a chaplain in the
Union Army, came to Key West and revived interest in the
Baptist church. He continued as pastor until early in 1900,
when he went to Fernandina, where he died. During his pastorate
in Key West he served as a missionary in Cienfuegos, Cuba,
for about two years. He was the first evangelical missionary
to that island.
In 1866 the church building was destroyed by fire, and the
present Baptist church was shortly afterwards erected, largely
through the generosity of Mr. John White, who was for more
than forty years a member of the congregation. A handsome
memorial window to him now adorns the front of the edifice.
The names of the succeeding pastors are Reverends H. M.
King, W. W. Bostwick, J. L. D. Hillyer, R. F. Hart, W. H.
House, T. J. Porter, James L. Rogers, H. H. Sturgis, J. W.
Tucker, M. A. Clonts, who served twice as pastor, W. A.
Norwood who served a few months in the interim, and Earl D.
Sims. Rev. C. E. W. Dobbs, the present pastor came here in
During Mr. White's life, and the pastorate of Mr. Wood
the church thrived to a remarkable degree, and became one of
the foremost evangelical influences in the city. After Mr. White's
death the congregation not being wealthy, funds for the support
of the church were hard to raise, and it was difficult to secure
and keep the services of a pastor, so the congregation gradually
During the pastorate of Rev. M. A. Clonts it regained
its old time membership. Mr. Clonts first came to Key West
in August, 1901, and stayed until October, 1902. Mr. Norwood
succeeded him and served nearly a year. The church was again
left pastorless from August, 1903, until Mr. Clonts returned
in April, 1904. It was then that the church started on its present
era of prosperity. During his pastorate the old First Baptist
Church was formally dissolved, and the Eaton Street Baptist
Church organized on March 23, 1905. On March 3, 1901,
the old church unanimously voted to transfer the property to
the Home Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention,
but nothing was done towards the transfer until Mr. Clonts'
second pastorate, when it was finally consummated. The church
was then repaired and improved by the addition of the new
front, with its attractive columns, and a pastorium was erected.
Mr. Clonts ended his pastorate here September 30, 1908, and
had a church for a short time in Jacksonville. He has since
been engaged in life insurance, and has prospered.
Rev. Earl D. Sims was pastor from June, 1909, until July 31,
The church under the pastorate of Rev. C. E. W. Dobbs,
has grown in membership and grace, and is now one of the strong
religious influences on the island.
The Baptist pastors of Key West have had the hardest
tasks of any of our ministers, as each one has found the small
congregation badly scattered, and have had to
"Watch the things they gave their- lives to, broken,
And stoop and build them up with worn-out tools."
FIRST CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH
The First Congregational Church is one of the later institu-
tions of worship in Key West. Like some of the others it had
its origin in a disagreement among the members of an older
church. Sparks Chapel, one of the Methodist churches, had
a subsidiary organization among its members, known as "The
Band of Prayer," one of the leaders of which was suspended
from the church on a matter of discipline. Thirty-one other
members of the band voluntarily withdrew, and without imme-
diately perfecting any other church organization, met for wor-
ship at the homes of the different members. Finally in July,
1892, the leaders of this churchless band of Christians determined
to organize an independent church. The Rev. Charles W.
Fraizer was called to advise the brethren, and on July 20, 1892,
the church was organized, with Rev. Mr. Fraizer as its first
pastor, at the home of Mr. Samuel Roberts. The meetings
were thereafter held in an "upper room" used as a sail loft.
Mr. John A. Harris was the first convert of the church, his
regeneration having taken place at the initial meeting of the
Band tl Prayer. It was through him that the church obtained
its present site on William street, upon which the commodious
brick church was erected.
The corner stone was laid by Rev. S. F. Gale, home mis-
sionary superintendent of the denomination for Florida, on the
twenty-seventh of June, 1903. From the small beginning of
thirty-two members this church has become one of the foremost
places of worship of the city. The present membership is two
hundred and fifty-six. Mr. Fraizer served as pastor from July,
1892, to September, 1901; Rev. Charles Campbell from Septem-
ber, 1901, to September, 1902; Rev. William E. Todd from
October, 1902, to September, 1903; Rev. H. R. Vau Anken
from November, 1903, to May, 1905; Rev. Neil McQuarrie
from May, 1905, to October, 1908. Rev. H. B. Gibbons from
October, 1908, to October, 1911.
One of the peculiarities of this church is that its membership
has always had a preponderance of male members.
In 1897 some of the devout disciples of Mrs. Eddy met at
the residence of Mrs. Elenor Hellings, on Duval street, to hold
services in accordance with the custom of that sect.
Under the influence of this little band of Christians several
converts were made, and it became necessary to secure larger
quarters for their services, and in 1899 they moved to the
Masonic Hall on Simonton street, where they worshipped until
In 1904 a church was organized with fifteen charter members:
Mrs. Elenor Hellings, Mr. and Mrs. F. A. Beckman, Mrs. Rosalie
Maloney, Mrs. Ida Atkins, Mr. H. T. Mathews, Mrs. E. May
Mathews, Mrs. Mary E. Maloney, Mrs. Annie L. Delaney,
Messrs. Theodore L. Kinsey, H. J. Kinsey, O. C. G. Urban,
Alfred A. Berghell, Ira M. Richardson and Mrs. Elizabeth
In 1911 they bought a lot on the corner of Division and
Georgia streets, and erected thereon a concrete church, where
services are now conducted. Their membership is nearly forty.
About fifteen years ago the Salvation Army sent a captain
to Key West to begin their customary warfare against vice.
In season and out of season, through good report and evil, too,
they have worked hard and diligently. They work in the Master's
vineyard apart from the others, and reach a class that would
never hear religious admonition but for them.
In 1907 Hon. W. Hunt Harris permitted them to use, free
of rent, a lot on Margaret street, where they erected a tabernacle
for indoor worship.
T HE first graves were made on the western beach between
the town and Whitehead's point; most of them in the space
between Emma street and the Marine Hospital building.
A visitor to the island in 1830 described them as being marked by
"a few plain stones to tell that the possessors of the little tene-
ments below once lived and died," but the majority have
merely the stones marking the length of each, but
"Who sleeps below? Who sleeps below?
Is an idle question now."
Prior to 1835 there was no clergyman regularly stationed
on the island, and burial services, in common with other rites
of the church, were conducted by laymen.
That anyone should have been an "old citizen" as early
as 1831 seems strange, but the local paper of that day published
a notice of the death on "Friday, the 13th of May, of Robert
B. Stanard, Esq., formerly of Virginia, and one of the oldest
inhabitants of our town." The funeral services were conducted
by Mr. Win. A. Whitehead. His remains were placed in the
cemetery near the Marine Hospital.
In 1831 a committee was appointed by the town council
to select a proper site for the permanent location of a general
burial place. Part of tract fifteen, lying between the termination
of Whitehead street on the South Beach and Lighthouse Point
was selected and used until 1847. The destructive hurricane of
1846 not only added to the number of the dead, but disinterred
many who had been buried in the old tract. This circumstance
gave rise to the necessity of seeking another place for sepulture.
As late as 1855 interments were occasionally made in St.
Paul's Episcopal churchyard.
In 1847 the city purchased the greater part of what is now
the City Cemetery, which lies to the northeast of Passover and
Windsor Lane. The cemetery has been enlarged from time to
time by the purchase of adjacent tracts. It lies now in a thickly
settled part of the city, surrounded by residences and tenement
In 1868 the Rt. Rev. Father Verot, the Bishop of St.
Augustine, secured from the city council, the grant of a tract
of three hundred feet square in an unoccupied portion of these
grounds, for the consideration of "one dollar," and as the convey-
ance reads, "to be devoted to the exclusive use of a Catholic
burying ground, by and under the control of the said Bishop
and his successors in office."
The disinterment of human bones on the southeast side
of the island, where excavations were being made for public
improvements a few years ago, gave rise to the impression that
a public burying ground had once been located in that vicinity.
These remains, however, were those of the Africans who were
brought to Key West in two captured slavers in 1860; a number
of these died here, and were buried some distance from the bar-
racoon, at the place where the bones were found.
A custom prevails in Key West not practiced elsewhere in
the United States, of closing the doors of stores while a funeral
procession is passing. All business along the line of march is
suspended, and the last tribute of respect thus paid to the dead. /
pT THE MUNICIPALITY
THE first act incorporating the City of Key West was
passed January 8, 1828.
On November 8, 1828, this act was repealed and a new
one incorporating the Town of Key West was passed. It
incorporated all the free white inhabitants of that part
of the island of Key West comprehended within the limits
prescribed by the plan of the town then on file in the clerk's
office in the county; being all that portion of the island beginning
at the junction of White street with the waters of the harbor,
and extending along White street to Angela, thence southwesterly
along Angela to Fort Taylor reservation, thence northwesterly
to the waters of the harbor, and thence along the shore line
back to White street.
The government was vested in a board of seven town council-
men, to be elected by the free white male persons over the age
of twenty-one years, who had resided three whole months within
the proposed limits. The president of the body, in addition
to his duties as such, acted as mayor and exercised the powers,
and received the fees and emoluments of a justice of the peace
for the territory. The council had usual municipal powers, and
the unusual ones of "appointing pilots, regulating pilotage and
enforcing all laws of the territory as well as those of their own
The first charter authorized levying license taxes, but gave
no authority for a tax upon realty. This was a source of much
controversy, the large landed proprietors being opposed to
taxing their realty, as the major part of it was unproductive,
and they were freely donating lots to induce settlers to come to
The incorporated town gave place in 1832 to the incorporated
city by virtue of a charter granted by the territorial council
in that year. It provided for the selection of a mayor and six
councilmen. Twelve months residence was required for voters.
The first mayor elected under this charter was Colonel Oliver
It provided for a tax on real estate of not more than one
half of one per cent on its value. It also authorized a per capital
tax on "free negroes, mulattoes and slaves."
Under it members of the council were fined for being absent
from meetings, and on April 4, 1835, at the suggestion of Mr.
Adam Gordon, mayor, the amount assessed and paid for fines
was donated to the Sunday school library at Key West and its
receipt duly acknowledged by Mr. William A. Whitehead,
superintendent. Note the difference in the public spirit of the old
and the new Key West! Our forefathers considered that those
who offered their services as members of the city council should
attend to those duties or be fined for non-attendance. Under
the present charter councilmen are paid four dollars a meeting
for working for the city, for whose development and welfare,
should be given voluntarily the best services of every citizen.
The members of the town council elected under this act
were Mr. David Coffin Pinkham, president; Mr. Pardon C.
Greene, Mr. Benjamin B. Strobel, Mr. William A. Whitehead,
Mr. Joseph Cottrell, Mr. Fielding A. Browne and Mr. George
E. Weaver. The town council being empowered to elect the
other city officials, elected Mr. William H. Wall, clerk; Mr. P.
B. Prior, marshal, and Dr. Henry S. Waterhouse, treasurer. Dr.
Waterhouse afterwards moved to Indian Key, and on January
17, 1834, he and his young son were drowned by the upsetting
of a small boat in which they had embarked for Matecumbie.
Mr. Prior did not qualify as marshal and Mr. Stephen R.
Mallory, who afterwards became United States senator, and
secretary of the navy of the Southern Confederacy, was elected
and served in his place.
Under this charter an ordinance was passed by which negroes
were not permitted to be on the streets after half past nine
o'clock at night, without written permission (if free) from the
mayor or an alderman, and if a slave from his master or mistress,
under penalty of being whipped or put to labor on the public
streets for three days.
Negroes, whether free or not, were not permitted to play
the fiddle, beat a drum, or make any other kind of noise after
bell-ring without written permission from the mayor or an
Every citizen was empowered to apprehend any negro
violating this ordinance, and take him before the mayor or an
alderman and obtain an order committing him to jail.
No stores were permitted to be open after bell-ring. The
city bell was rung for five minutes before half-past nine every
night. It was amusing to see a belated negro sprinting for home
on hearing the bell ring, in order to get there before it stopped,
and hear some bystander cry out,
"Run nigger, run,
The patrol catch you."
This charter was the first that authorized the assessment of
real estate for purposes of taxation, and the assessment roll
showed the value of realty to be $65,923.75. The improved por-
tion was assessed at $61,005.00, and the unimproved which
included all the rest of the island, was assessed at the rate of
twenty-five dollars an acre, a total of $3,918.75. The taxes
collected on this assessment amounted to $329.61; the expense
of the government being borne largely by the revenue raised
from license taxes. The charter gave no authority to levy taxes
on personal property.
The number of buildings within the city limits in 1832 was
eighty-one, including sheds for the storage of wrecked cotton
and other articles, blacksmith shops, etc. The two principal
buildings were the warehouses of Pardon C. Greene and Fielding
A. Browne; the assessed value of each was $6,000.00, including
the land and wharfs.
In 1835 the city charter was abolished by the territorial
council through the influence of certain parties whose intended
action was unknown to the citizens generally. The repealing
act provided that all ordinances should remain in force.
As soon as this action became known a petition was sent
to congress protesting against it. The congressional Committee
on Territories to whom the matter was referred, having reported
against the action of the territorial council, that body in 1836
reenacted the charter.
Prior to 1828 a survey of the island was made, but when
the proprietors sought to appropriate their several portions
in accordance with the division previously agreed upon between
Messrs. Simonton, Greene, Fleeming and Whitehead, it was
found that the surveyor had left the island without furnishing
them with any courses, distances or other data, whereby their
prospective properties could be defined.
Mr. William Adee Whitehead, a young civil engineer, who
had come to Key West to go into business with his brother, was
engaged to survey the island and lay out the town, which he
completed in February, 1829.
The streets, other than those bearing the surnames of the
original proprietors, were named by them to perpetuate the
memories of their relatives, friends and distinguished citizens.
"Eaton" was named after Hon. John A. Eaton, secretary of
war in President Jackson's cabinet; "White" after Hon. Jos.
M. White, territorial delegate in Congress for Florida; "Duval"
after the governor of Florida; "Grinnell" after the merchants
of that name in New York; "Southard" for a senator and sec-
retary of the navy; "Caroline," "Margaret," "William,"
"Thomas" and "Emma" after brothers and sisters of Mr. John
Whitehead. "Frances" after a daughter of Mr. Fleeming; "Ann"
after Mr. Simonton's wife; "Elizabeth" after a relative of Mr.
Greene; "Fitzpatrick" after Mr. Richard Fitzpatrick, a
then resident and for several years a delegate from Monroe
county to the territorial council. "Clinton Place" after De-
Witt Clinton of New York, and "Jackson Square" after Andrew
Jackson. The little mangrove island just across the harbor was
named Fleeming's Key after one of the original proprietors.
In April, 1836, the first election under the new charter
was held, and Mr. Fielding A. Browne was elected mayor and Mr.
William R. Hackley, Mr. Alden A. M. Jackson, Mr. Pierce P.
Fellows and Dr. D. Platts elected councilmen. The total
vote cast at this election was thirty-nine, the population be-
ing something less than three hundred. The total vote cast in
the city election of November 14, 1911, was two thousand, four
hundred and forty-seven.
In 1838 a novel question of taxation arose. The charter of
1836 authorized the levying of occupational taxes which were
promptly paid by the leading business men of the city without
protest. In the early part of 1838 an ordinance was passed levying
an occupational tax to raise revenue for the year 1838 and Mr.
John P. Baldwin, Mr. George E. Weaver, Mr. John H. Sawyer
and Mr. P. J. Fontaine addressed a communication to the mayor,
Mr. W. A. Whitehead, protesting against the enforcement of
the ordinance, contending that occupational licenses once granted
were for an indefinite time, and that the city had no right to
require those who had been granted licenses in 1837 to take them
out again. That if they could be required to do so annually,
the city could also "compel them to take out licenses daily or
hourly, at the pleasure of the council."
Mayor Whitehead replied to this protest in a document*
remarkable for close analysis and cogent reasoning and completely
and thoroughly disposed of their contention.
Judge Marvin, who was at first inclined to agree with the
contention of the merchants, upon reading Mr. Whitehead's
reply, said to him: "You may be perfectly right, for I am not
at all tenacious of my opinion."
Mr. George E. Weaver said, "I am perfectly satisfied as
to the power of the corporation since reading your communica-
A number of the merchants, however, persisted in their
refusal to pay licenses, and Mr. Whitehead requested that a
meeting of citizens be called by the city council "to determine
whether the laws should be enforced or the charter dissolved."
The council not complying with his request, he called an election
for mayor, and announced his intention to resign his office in
favor of whoever was elected.
Feeling ran high, and those who were opposed to Mr. White-
head's construction of the charter, picked up a low, illiterate
character, the keeper of a sailor grog shop, named Tomaso
Sachetti, who could hardly make himself understood in English,
and ran him for mayor, for the double purpose of placing an
indignity on Mr. Whitehead, and nullifying the objectionable
ordinance. The low element, elated at the prospect of one of
their ilk being mayor of the city, rallied to Sachetti's standard,
and as he also had the moral support of a few of the prominent
citizens, no self-respecting man could be induced to run against
him. He was chosen without opposition, and on the fourteenth
of March was notified of his election by Mayor Whitehead,
who at once resigned as mayor, and turned the office over to
Sachetti. Sachetti's reply on the same date was written by Mr.
Charles Walker of whom Mr. Whitehead says: "He was a lawyer
from New York, a loco-foco, an agrarian, a disorganizer, etc."
Mayor Whitehead left Key West shortly after this and never
returned; and although he retained his interest in the place
until his death in the early eighties, he never got over his treat-
ment by the people of the city he had helped to found, and to
which he had given his best abilities to develop and improve.
Key West thus lost one of its foremost citizens, a victim to a
spirit-still too prevalent-which seeks to belittle and injure
the man who dares oppose public opinion, or who bravely main-
tains his position against popular clamor.
In 1846 after the admission of Florida into the Union,
another charter was adopted, which regulated the affairs of the
city until 1869, when it was superseded by the General Act of
Incorporation for Cities.
About this time Key West started on its career of industrial
development, coincident with the Cuban migration. The
population rapidly increased from three thousand in 1860, to
upwards of twelve thousand in 1870; hundreds of buildings
were erected far beyond the old city limits. Under the general
laws of the State, the city limits could not be extended without
the concurrent vote of a majority of those living within the city,
and those living within the territory to be annexed. Several
attempts were made to extend the city limits, but the population
outside were unable to see what benefits were to be derived
which would compensate them for the increase in taxation,
and voted against the extension.
Those outside the city limits were as orderly and law-abiding
as those within, and were happy and prosperous without the
so-called privileges of a city, and in addition were free from
molestation by city policemen. There were no greater number
of offences committed outside than within the limits.
In 1876 a commodious city hall was built, and its dedication
on July 4th was attended with much pomp. Colonel W. C.
Maloney, Sr., delivered an address which was published as an
historical sketch of Key West. It was the first attempt at compil-
ing for the use of posterity the events that had shaped the des-
tinies of this island. The hall was destroyed by fire in 1886, and
a larger one of brick built on the site of the old. The ground
floor was designed for a market, and for several years was so
used, but at this time there is only one stall in use. Since the
fire engine house was destroyed by the hurricane of 1909, the
ground floor of the hall is set apart for an engine room, and for
other uses of the fire department.
When the pond, which covered most of that part of the city
bounded by Simonton, Caroline, Whitehead and Greene streets,
was ordered filled, several of the owners failed to comply with
the ordinance, and the work was done by the city, and the lots
sold to pay the expense. The lot on which the city hall stands
was acquired in this way, and such was the city's precarious title,
until Colonel Maloney, acting for the city, and Mr. Moreno, the
agent of, and Mr. Mallory, the attorney for the heirs of Mr.
John W. Simonton, to whom the lots belonged, affected a set-
tlement; or rather Miss Florida Simonton, the sole surviving
heir of Mr. Simonton, through her trustee, Miss Mary B. Jones,
gave the property to the city on June 21, 1871.
In 1889 the legislature granted a special charter to the city
of Key West, and included the entire island within the corporate
limits. The government was to be by nine commissioners ap-
pointed by the governor, and they were to appoint all the other
officials. The president of the commissioners performed the
functions of mayor in addition to his duties as commissioner.
The first mayor under this system was Hon. Walter C. Maloney,
This charter authorized a bond issue for paving and street
improvement, and a contract for grading, paving and curbing
certain streets was let to Mr. G. J. Baer. The work was progress-
ing smoothly when a policy of obstruction was adopted by the
engineer. The legal representatives of the contractors appeared
before the commissioners on several occasions, protesting against
this policy, and made every effort to have the work proceed
according to contract. Failing to obtain relief from the commis-
sioners, he gave up all effort to proceed with the work, and brought
suit in the United States court, where he obtained a judgment
for one hundred and seventeen thousand dollars. In 1899 a
bond issue of one hundred and forty-eight thousand dollars
was floated to pay this judgment with accrued interest and
In 1891 the charter was amended, and provided for the
appointment by the commissioners of a mayor who should
not be one of their body, and for the election by the people
of a clerk, marshal, tax collector, assessor, treasurer, etc.
In 1907 a new charter was granted to which amendments
have been made from time to time, according to the fancies
of the members of the legislature, the caprice of ward politicians,
or the demand of agitators. It 'has been demonstrated, however,
that change is not necessarily progress, and those who are least
qualified by ability and experience to suggest amendments to
the organic law are the most eager to propose them.
In 1910 the city voted a bond issue of one hundred and
ninety-two thousand dollars for paving or sewerage purposes,
and a contract was awarded to the Southern Asphalt and
Construction Company to pave all that portion of the city
lying southwest of Caroline street; Division street from Duval
to White street, thence along White street northwest to the
water; Fleming from Whitehead to White street, and Simon-
ton as far as Fleming street, with brick; and Duval street from
Caroline to Division street, with asphalt block. The first brick
in the new pavement was laid by Mr. Charles R. Pierce of
the board of public works on December 11, 1911.
The total bonded indebtedness of the city is something over
six hundred thousand dollars; the assessed value of all property
in 1900 was two million six hundred and seventy thousand
nine hundred dollars, and in 1910 was four million two hundred
and thirty thousand nine hundred dollars. During that decade
over two hundred thousand dollars' worth of real estate was
condemned and taken over by the United States government.
From 1832, the date of the first charter of the city, the
following citizens have successively been elected to the office
of mayor: Mr. Oliver O'Hara, Mr. Fielding A. Browne, Mr.
William A. Whitehead, Tomaso Sachetti, Mr. Pardon C. Greene,
Mr. Philip J. Fontaine, Mr. Alexander Patterson, Mr. Benjamin
Sawyer, Mr. Walter C. Maloney, Mr. Fernando J. Moreno,
Mr. John P. Baldwin, Mr. John W. Porter, Mr. William Curry,
Mr. Philip J. Fontaine, Mr. Alexander Patterson, Mr. Ben-
jamin Sawyer, Mr. John P. Baldwin, Mr. William Marvin,
Mr. Alexander Patterson, Mr. E. O. Gwynn, Mr. William S.
Allen, Dr. D. W. Whitehurst, Mr. Henry Mulrennan, Mr. Joseph
B. Browne, Mr. William D. Cash, Mr. Winer Bethel, Mr. E. O.
Gwynn, Mr. Carlos M. de Cespedes, Mr. Livingston W. Bethel,
Mr. Robert Jasper Perry, Mr. E. O. Gwynn, Mr. William
McClintock, Mr. R. Alfred Monsalvatge, Mr. James G. Jones,
Mr. J. W. V. R. Plummer, Mr. James A. Waddell, Mr. Walter
C. Maloney, Jr., Mr. Robert J. Perry, Mr. James A. Waddell,
Mr. John B. Maloney, Mr. George L. Bartlum, Mr. Benjamin D.
Trevor, Mr. George L. Babcock and Mr. Joseph N. Fogarty.
The surviving mayors are Mr. William D. Cash, Mr.
Livingston W. Bethel, Mr. John B. Maloney, Mr. George L.
Bartlum, Mr. George L. Babcock, Mr. Benjamin D. Trevor
and Dr. Joseph N. Fogarty, the present incumbent.
When Dr. Fogarty finishes the term for which he was
elected November 14, 1911, he will have the honor of having
.held the office of mayor for a longer period-six years-than
any of his predecessors.
Mr. Cornelius J. Kemp, Mr. William B. Curry, Mr. Frank
H. Ladd, Mr. Edward E. Ingraham, Mr. William M. Pinder,
Mr. Charles W. Lowe and Mr. J. R. Valdez compose the present
On the board of public works are Messrs. William R. Porter,
Jefferson B. Browne, Joshua Curry, Charles R. Pierce and Shirley
In 1895 the city undertook to secure a supply of fresh water,
and an artesian well was sunk in Jackson Square to a depth of
two thousand feet. Samples of the borings were taken every
twenty-five feet from the surface to the bottom. A set of these
samples was furnished by Mr. Alexander Agassiz to Mr. Edmond
Otis Hovey, who prepared a very full and exhaustive report
for the zoological society of Harvard College. Mr. Hovey says
that the samples indicate a shallow water origin for much of
the material. The most solid rock passed through came from a
depth of from one hundred and fifty, to one hundred and seventy-
five feet from the surface inclusive. No traces of fresh water
N 1821 when Andrew Jackson was governor of Florida,
he, with the approval of the authorities in Washington,
divided the State into two counties, Escambia and St.
Johns. The former comprised all that part of the State lying
west of the Suwanee river, and the latter all lying east and
Monroe county, named after President Monroe, the sixth
county to be established, comprised no insignificant portion
of the territory. It embraced all that part lying south of a line
commencing at Boca Gasparilla river on the Gulf of Mexico,
and extending up the northern margin of Charlotte Harbor
to the north of Charlotte river; thence up the northern margin
of that river to Lake Macaco; thence along the northern margin
of that lake to its most eastern limits; thence in a direct line
to the headwaters of the Potomas river; thence down that river
to its entrance into the ocean, together with all the keys and
islands of the Cape of Florida.
In 1828 the first division of the Territory of Florida into
counties was made for representative and other purposes (the
territory before that time having been governed by the organic
laws of congress, and a council authorized by that act). In
February, 1836, out of these magnificent boundaries Dade county
was established and so named to perpetuate the memory of Major
Dade who with his command was massacred on December 28,
Its southern line commenced at the western end of Bahia
Honda, and ran in a direct line to Cape Sable;' thence in a direct
line to Lake Macaco, thus cutting off from Monroe county all
of the keys north of Bahia Honda, and all of the eastern portion
of the southern peninsula north of Cape Sable. This caused
much dissatisfaction, as a very appreciable part of the popula-
tion of Monroe county resided at Indian Key, and their business,
domestic and social relations were entirely with Key West.
In 1859 the boundaries of Monroe county were again
changed, and a portion of the county on the mainland was cut
off to form a part of the new county of Manatee.
By the act of 1866 the northern boundary of the county
commenced at the mouth of Broad Creek, a stream separating
Cayo Largo (as it was then called) from Old Roads Key, and
extending thence in a direct line to Mud Point. This change
gave back to Monroe county all the islands from Old Roads
Key to Bahia Honda which had been taken by the act of 1836.
On the thirteenth of May, 1887, the county of Lee was created
out of that part of Monroe county north of the line, which
separates townships 53 and 54 south.
Prior to the organization of Dade county, Monroe was
bounded on the north by Mosquito county, which was created
December 29, 1824. The name Mosquito was not distinctive
enough, however, for a county which shared with all the other
counties in the State the privilege of being inhabited by these
diminutive citizens, and in January, 1845, the name of Mosquito
county was changed to Orange county.
Before there was any survey made of Key West or the town
chartered, there was erected on Jackson Square a building
known as the county court house which was altered and
improved at the expense of the United States in 1830 and occupied
by the United States court until it moved into a building on
Wall street. In 1831 the territorial council appointed Col.
Lackland M. Stone and Mr. Wm. A. Whitehead commissioners
to erect a stone jail and brick cistern, and a lot was purchased
by them, which was part of lot two in square sixty-four, on which
to erect the jail.
In 1832 Col. Stone removed from Key West, and Mr. Field-
ing A. Browne was appointed commissioner in his place. Bids
were called for to erect a jail twenty-six by sixteen feet with
two rooms and cistern adjoining. Bids were received from Mr.
Richard Fitzpatrick for $3,200.00 and from Mr. John W. Simon-
ton to erect the jail without the cistern for $1,699.00. A lot for
the erection of the jail had previously been purchased, but as
the amount appropriated by the legislative council for the jail
and cistern was but $2,000.00, it was decided to build the jail
near the court house on Jackson square where a cistern had al-
ready been built. The jail, which was on the Thomas street side
of the square, was built of native coral rock, the walls being
three feet thick. In 1845 this jail was abandoned, and one of
similar construction erected on Jackson Square near the corner
of Fleming and Whitehead streets. The old jail on Thomas
street was standing as late as 1871, but in its dilapidated condi-
tion was of no use except to afford a shelter to wandering herds
The second stone jail in turn gave way in the march of
progress (or crime?) to a larger and more modern structure
in 1880. In 1907 a concrete wall ten feet high was built around
the rear wing of the jail. In 1910 its capacity was again increased.
In 1875 a small one-story brick building was erected for
an office for the clerk of the circuit court. In it was a fire-proof
vault for keeping county records and court documents. It was
so used until the new court house was completed in 1890.
In 1889 the wooden court house that linked the old Key
West with the new-where Christians of all denominations
had worshipped God, and sung praises unto His Holy Name;
where young children had been carried to have their lives ded-
icated to the service of Christ, with the sign of the Cross; where
the sacred marriage ceremony had been performed; and the
requiem for the dead mingled with the sobs of the afflicted;
where secular and Sunday schools had been taught, and the
territorial and State courts performed their functions-was
torn down to make way for the commodious brick court house
which now stands on the square.
The day before the demolition of the old court house a
number of citizens gathered there, on invitation of the county
commissioners, and participated in what might be regarded
as the funeral services of the old structure. Short speeches were
made by Mr. Eugene O. Locke, Mr. Jefferson B. Browne,
Mr. Walter C. Maloney, Jr., and Mr. W. R. Carter, member of
the Hillsboro county bar.
The erection of a court house and jail on Jackson Square
has fostered the erroneous impression that it is the property
of the county. Jackson Square is the property of the city as
much as the streets, and is held by the same title and from the
same source. No deed or grant in writing to this square was
ever made by the original proprietors, but in the division of
the island the block bounded by Whitehead, Southard, Thomas
and Fleming streets was treated as common or public property,
and shown on the map delineated by Mr. Wm. A. Whitehead
in 1829, as Jackson Square, named in honor of Andrew Jackson.
The delineation and its recordation was a dedication to the use
of the public, and the city holds it in trust, as it holds the streets,
for public purposes only.
Col. W. C. Maloney, one of the great lawyers of his time
says: "In this connection, a matter of moment to all of you,
seems to demand a passing notice, inasmuch as it is believed
to be but little known, and less understood by the community
generally, and some of the officers of government especially,
than it should be, and which affects the interests of the people
inhabiting that portion of the island particularly subject to the
jurisdiction of the 'City of Key West,' under and by reason of
its corporate powers. I allude to the proprietary and possessory
title in and to 'Jackson Square.' There are those of you who are
under the impression that, because of the fact that there is no
instrument of writing, in the shape of a conveyance from the
original proprietors of the island to the city authorities granting
the 'fee,' as the lawyers term it, coupled with the fact that the
county court house and jail have been erected upon it, that the
title to the square is not wholly in the 'city.' Let me assure you that
your condition as owners of this square is much better than it
would have been if the original proprietors had given an absolute
deed of it in 'fee' to the city, for in that case it might have been
sold from under your feet, and the money expended for a banquet
to entertain the king of the cannibal islands, or some other
illustrious dignitary from abroad.
"The proprietors of the island, foreseeing that Key West
must become the county seat of Monroe county, and the most fit-
ting place for the exercise of the judicial powers of the United
States in admiralty and maritime affairs, wisely made room in
your city for the accommodation necessary to these purposes,
and in the plan of the city 'Jackson Square' is delineated, and
in the division of the island between the original agrarian propri-
etors, it was treated as 'common' or 'public' and the plan of
the city with this delineation, being made the incorporated area
of your city by charter, gave to you in your corporate capacity
all the proprietary rights vested in the original proprietors,
save that of alienation, and vested in you, and you only, the
right of possession.
"You hold this square and also 'Clinton Place' by the
same terms by which you hold the streets running through
your city, not by express grant, but by an 'implied use,' or
'usufruct.' You can only lose your right when you suffer them
to be used for other than public purposes, consistent with the
nature of the usufruct."
In 1876 Mr. Wm. A. Whitehead made this contribution
to the literature of the proprietorship of Jackson Square:
"On laying out the town it was first thought desirable that
the public square should be located nearer the water, and the
block between Fitzpatrick street and Clinton Place was thought
of. Another project was to locate it at the 'Middle Spring,'
as it was then called in Square 61, but the fact that there was
already a building on what is now Jackson Square, erected,
if I mistake not, for the use of the county authorities before
the survey was made or the town chartered, led to the selection
of that square for the purpose. As you say in your address, there
is no document emanating from the proprietors conveying the
fee of the streets and squares, nor do I recollect that anything
was said or thought of, at the time, relating to the control of
Jackson Square. That, as well as the streets, was informally
dedicated to public uses, and that there should ever arise any
difference of opinion, in regard to its control, between the author-
ities of the county and the authorities of the town was never
thought of. The former were virtually in possession, and I do
not believe that any application was made to the town authorities
for permission to erect the jail. I am not qualified to discuss the
legal points that may be involved, but knowing as I do the views
and wishes of all the original proprietors, I do not hesitate to
affirm that it was their intention that the square should be used
for any legitimate purpose, either of town or county; and rep-
resenting as I do, one fourth of the proprietary interest, I would
be pleased to join those representing the other interests, in signing
any document that might legally and effectually determine
the rightful control. As such a course is probably impracticable,
I would take the liberty to suggest the appointment of a commis-
sion, composed of an equal number of representatives of the city
and county authorities (with the judge of the United States
district court as umpire, in case of any disagreement), charged
with all needful control of the premises. I think the circumstances
fully warrant some such concession on both sides."
Mr. Whitehead's wise recommendation was never adopted
and the control of, or jurisdiction over Jackson Square, still
remains in this uncertain condition.
Clinton Place, the small triangular plot at the intersection
of Front, Whitehead, and Greene streets, was dedicated by the
original proprietors to the use of the public in like manner as
Jackson Square. In 1886 the Army and Navy Club of Key West
erected a granite monument to the officers and men of the Union
army, navy and marine corps, who died at Key West from 1861
to 1865. A concrete coping has since been constructed around
it by the Federal government, which is permitted by the city
authorities to have the care and maintenance of the plot.
Although the construction of a jail was one of the first public
acts of the county authorities, an incident occurred in 1828,
a narrative of which was published in a Northern paper, indicating
how little use there was for it at that time, which sheds light on
the easy going ways of the people, and their respect for the
supremacy of the law:
Samuel Otis was the keeper of the jail, which was a small
frame building quite distant from the settled part of the town.
A man by the name of Ayres, who was in the habit of getting
drunk, had come to Key West. He was taken in custody by
Captain Otis and carried to the residence of Col. Greene, who
was one of the magistrates, who upon being told that Ayres
was drunk again ordered him put in the lockup, after the following
conversation had taken place:
"Well, Squire, Ayres has been drinking again! Shall I take
him to jail?"
"You may do with him what you please, Capt. Otis,"
replied the justice, not well pleased at the moment with the
"Just as you say, Squire," was the answer of the obsequious
officer, and he forthwith announced to the gentleman in attend-
ance that he must proceed to jail.
"Rot me if I do, Capt. Otis. Ain't I a free citizen of this here
republic? I tell you I won't go unless I please, and I don't please
unless I get my clothes."
"Well Ayres, where are your clothes?"
"Why they are down in the old shed by the water, and there
they may stay for all me, for I won't go to get 'em; that's flat,
"Will you stay here, then, Ayres, while I go."
"No, I won't; how can you 'spect a man to stay here in this
"Well, Ayres, I don't want you to stay here, then; but while
I go after your clothes, do you go to the jail, knock at the door,
and Peter will let you in."
Peter, the jailer, was no less a person than one of three
mutineers who had been sentenced by the Admiralty court to
six months imprisonment, and had stayed there because the judge
had commanded him to do so. He was the factotum of Capt.
Otis, kept the keys and locked himself in after every necessary
opening of the prison doors.
Ayres proceeded to the jail and knocked and when Peter
asked who was there he replied "It's me-open the door! Otis
says you must let me in, and though I don't like altogether to
be shut up with such fellows as you be, I 'spose I must, for they
say it's law."
Upon that, the doors opened "grating harsh thunder,"
and the prisoner within admitted the prisoner from without.
In 1900 the county bought a plot of land opposite the United
States army post, and erected an armory for the use of the local
military company. Shortly afterwards the Supreme Court of
the State decided that it was the duty of the State to provide
armories, and that the county had no authority to expend
money for that purpose. In 1903 the legislature refunded to the
county the sum of $10,000.00 which had been expended for the
armory. With this money the county road, which traverses the
entire length of the island, was built.
The finances of the county are in excellent condition.* The
present county officers are: James R. Curry, chairman; W. R.
Porter, E. Monroe Roberts, Braxton B. Warren and Domingo
Milord, members of the board of county commissioners. Eugene
W. Russell, clerk circuit court; Hugh Gunn, county judge;
Clement Jaycocks, sheriff; Thomas O. Otto, tax assessor;
Theodore A. Sweeting, tax collector.
THE early settlers of Key West were not people to sit
down and wait for things to come to them. In 1827
the Senate of the United States passed a bill for the
establishment of a territorial court at Key West with ad-
miralty jurisdiction. The passage of the bill was opposed
by the people in the northern part of the State, and they had
reasonable prospects of defeating it, when Mr. John W. Simonton
went to Washington and presented a memorial to Congress
urging its passage.*
In 1828 congress passed the bill establishing a territorial
or federal court at Key West under the title of the "Superior
Court of the Southern Judicial District of the Territory of
Florida." Its jurisdiction extended over that part of "the
territory which lies south of a line from Indian river on the east
and Charlotte Harbor on the west, including the latter harbor."
It had civil and criminal jurisdiction, as well for offences
against the laws of the Territory of Florida, as of the United
States, and embraced admiralty and maritime jurisdiction,
thus superseding the jurisdiction of local and inferior magistrates,
as well as the special commissioners for the adjudication of ques-
tions of salvage, arising out of the frequent wrecks occurring
in this vicinity. The establishment of this court, the first term
of which commenced November 3, 1828, led to the migration
hither of a number of lawyers, but the business of the court
not proving very extensive, the stay of most of them was of
limited duration. Considerable amusement was excited at the
time by an announcement in the newly established newspaper
called the "Register," of the arrival of a vessel from Middle
Florida with "an assorted cargo, and seven lawyers." Just how
many of these lawyers remained is lost to history, but that they
were men of ability the records of our courts abundantly show.
Few cities of a population of twenty-five thousand can boast
of a bar superior to that of Key West in the days when the
population was less than a thousand.
Mr. William Allison McRea, Mr. James Webb, Mr. Wil-
liam Marvin, Mr. L. Windsor Smith, Mr. Adam Gordon, Mr.
Samuel J. Douglas, Mr, Edward Chandler, Mr. Stephen R.
Mallory, Mr. William R. Hackley, Mr. Walter Cathcart Maloney,
and others, were men of the highest character, distinguished alike
for their ability as lawyers, and general intellectual attainments.
Dignified and courtly, scrupulous and conscientious, they placed
the profession of law on the high plane tradition tells us it once
Judge James Webb of Georgia had the honor of being commis-
sioned first judge of the superior court in 1828. He retired from
office in April, 1838, and went to Texas, and became secretary
of state of that republic prior to its admission into the Union.
He was succeeded by William Marvin, Esq., in 1839, who occupied
the bench of this court until Florida was admitted into the Union
in 1845, when Isaac H. Bronson, Esq., was commissioned judge
for the whole State. In 1847, when the district court of the
United States for the Southern District of Florida was created,
Judge Marvin was appointed judge of this court and presided
over it until 1863, when he resigned.
Judge Marvin was a man of towering intellectuality and
grandeur of character. While on the bench he published a book
entitled "A Treatise Upon the Law of Wreck and Salvage,"
which became a standard authority in the admiralty courts
of England and the United States, and it occupies today a unique
position among the treatises on the law of salvage. After his
retirement from the bench he wrote a work on "General
Average" which is an authority on this subject. Later he wrote
"The Internal Evidences of the Authenticity of the Four Gos-
pels." In this work he brought to bear his great judicial mind
in the analysis of his subject.
At the close of the war he was appointed provisional governor
of Florida by Andrew Johnson. In 1865 he was elected United
States senator from Florida, for the term which would expire
March 3, 1867. Thad Stephens and his crowd, however, had no
use for men of Judge Marvin's calibre and character, and his
election was nullified by reconstruction, and he never took his
On the resignation of Judge Marvin in 1863 he was succeeded
by Thomas J. Boynton, one of the youngest men ever appointed
to the bench of the United States. He was a man of rare ability,
culture and refinement. He came to Key West for his health,
which had been greatly impaired by intense application to other
sciences in addition to that of the law, but his health not improv-
ing, he resigned his position and returned north, where he soon
Judge John McKinney was appointed in 1871. To him
Col. Maloney, in his history, pays this tribute:
"With melancholy feelings is the name of this gentleman
introduced; modest, dignified, urbane, diligent and learned,
he gave promise of much usefulness: alas! how short his judicial
career. Leaving the island with the expressed intention of remov-
ing his family hither for permanent settlement, he failed to reach
the city of New York alive; his death is reported to have occurred
just previous to the arrival of the steamer in which he was a
The present incumbent of the United States district court
for the Southern District of Florida, Judge James W. Locke,
was appointed by President Grant February 1, 1872, and is
the oldest Federal judge, in point of service, on the bench.*
From the date of establishment of a Federal court at Key
West until in the seventies, the amount of business on the
admiralty side of the court was very large, but as steamships
gradually took the place of sailing vessels, and light-houses were
built on the most dangerous points of the Florida Reefs, the
number of wrecks gradually diminished. The amount of salvage
business before the court is still quite large as compared with
that of other districts, but is light compared with early days.
The act of congress creating the court for the Southern
District of Florida in 1847, prescribed that the judge of this
court should reside at Key West, but in 1896, congress repealed
that part of the act of 1847, and the judge has since lived in
In 1894 the territorial limits of the Southern District of
Florida were enlarged, and they now include all of the State
that lies east of the Suwanee river, and the counties of Madison
and Hamilton west of the Suwanee.
During the Civil War and again during the Spanish-American
War, there was considerable business on the prize side of the court,
and many important and novel questions were therein adjudi-
The national bankruptcy act has also increased the work
of this court, but the general civil and criminal business is
inconsiderable. Only three person's have been convicted of capital
felony during its existence, one of which occurred in this city,
and two on the high seas. Two were capitally punished and the
other was sentenced to imprisonment for life.
Norman Sherwood, the first man hanged in Key West, had
a recontre with a man named Jones on the fifth of July, 1830.
After they were separated he went away, but returned in an hour
with a pistol, avowing his intention of killing Jones. Bystanders
again interfered and induced him to leave, but he returned shortly
still determined to kill' Jones. Mr. John Wilson, who was Sher-
wood's friend and partner, then stepped up and asked
him to give up his pistol; he refused and said he would
shoot any man who attempted to take it. Wilson then
laid his hand on Sherwood's shoulder and again asked
him to give it up, when Sherwood shot him, and he died
a few minutes later. Sherwood remarked that "he regret-
ted Wilson's death, but it was his own fault as he had told him
that he would shoot anyone who attempted to take the pistol
from him; for he firmly intended to shoot Jones and would permit
no man to prevent him; that Wilson had attempted to do this
and he shot him, believing he had a perfect right to do so."
The prisoner was defended by Messrs. Thurston and Braden.
He was found guilty of murder in the first degree, and hanged
on the tenth of December, 1830.
The place where Sherwood was confined was insecure, and
he had several opportunities to escape, and on being asked why
he had not done so, replied: "They want to hang someone for
a pattern, and I guess I'll gratify them."
How thoroughly the grand jurors of those days did their
work of "inquiring into the body of the county" is shown by
their presentment, December 5, 1834, in what they designated--
"A List of Grievances." Some of these grievances still exist, but
others sound strange to modern ears.
They complained that "the jail was in bad condition;
the mortar used for the wall being mostly sand and good for
nothing, the walls filled with loose stones and no mortar mixed
with them, and entirely unfit for the purpose for which it was
"That the officials whose duty it was to keep persons charged
with offences, suffered them to go at large when they ought to
have been confined."
"That the territorial limits of this county were not properly
defined and fixed."
"That foreigners and persons from beyond the boundaries
of this territory were permitted to take fish in this district and
county, and did not pay any tax or revenue to the territorial
"That wrecking vessels were not allowed salvage upon the
duties on the goods saved from wrecks."
"The want of a marine hospital where sick and disabled
seamen could be comfortably situated and properly cared for."
"That grog shops, coffee houses, billiard rooms and other
places were kept open on the Sabbath. These places encourage
the idle and profligate, and the same are highly destructive to
the morals and good order of society."
"The introduction of free negroes and mulattoes in this
county, which is contrary to the policy of protection which had I
long been established and adopted in the southern section of
the United States."
"We also believe and feel confident that this particular
district and county is more exposed to the detestable views of
fanatics and abolitionists attempting to tamper with and corrupt
our slave population than most places."
"The want of a road to some point on the mainland in this
county whereby the citizens may be able to communicate with
the seat of government in the territory."
"Against a law passed in 1833 whereby the guns and boats
of persons who live and may be found on the keys are exempt
from execution. The grand jurors believe that no distinction should
be made between those living on the keys or the mainland."
"We present as a grievance that boats not engaged in trading
or commerce, but which are farm or plantation boats, if over a
certain size, should be required to get papers from the custom
house and have a captain appointed under the restrictions
which trade and commerce are subjected to."
"Against requiring persons who live on the mainland to attend
court in Key West as jurors."
This statement of grievances was sent to our representative
in Congress, with a request to lay it before the president of the
United States, and use his exertions to having the grievances
herein complained of redressed.
Shortly after the admission of Florida to the Union, the
United States court was moved from the county court house to a
stone building belonging to Wall & Pinckney, fronting on
Wall street, back of the building now occupied by Monsalvatge
& Reed on Front street. This building was destroyed by fire
in 1859, and the court moved to the "Stone building" situated
on the corner of Caroline and Whitehead streets, now used as
a United States marine guardhouse. In 1885 it was moved to
a building then belonging to Mr. John W. Sawyer, on the corner
of Front and Fitzpatrick streets, which was destroyed in the fire
of 1886. This was most unfortunate, as all the original papers
and many records of important cases were lost. Court was
next held in a building on the corner of Duval and Charles streets
owned by Williams and Warren, where it remained until the
Government building on Front street, at the foot of Greene,
was completed in 1891.
Prior to 1845 when Florida was admitted into the Union, all
law business was transacted in the territorial court, and it was
not for some time thereafter that there was any business of
importance in the State courts.
SAfter Statehood, justice was administered by a Circuit and
a Probate Court. Monroe county was in the Southern Circuit,
and the first judge was William Marvin, who was appointed in
December, 1845. He held the office only three months, and was
succeeded by Judge George W. Macrae. In January, 1848,
Judge Joseph B. Lancaster assumed the judicial toga. He was
succeeded in 1853 by Judge Thomas F. King, who was followed
in 1865 by Judge James Gettis.
In 1865 James Magbee became judge. During his incum-
bency there occurred one of the most remarkable proceedings ever
witnessed in a court of justice. He was incarcerated in the city
prison in Tampa for being drunk, and while there issued a writ
of habeas corpus, commanding the mayor, J. E. Lipscomb, to bring
the body of James Magbee before His Honor, James Magbee,
to show by what authority he was depriving him of his liberty,
and caused it to be served on the mayor, who treated it with
merited contempt. When the judge was released, he issued a
rule for the mayor to show cause why he should not be punished
for contempt of court in refusing to obey the writ, and made
public his intention to send the mayor to jail. People from all
parts of the county came to town to protect the mayor from the
threatened outrage, and the court house was filled with armed
and determined men.
At the hearing the judge overruled the defendant's plea
and sentenced him to jail. In an instant Mr. Lipscomb snatched
a double barrelled shotgun from one of the bystanders and leveled
it at the judge, but before he could shoot, he was surrounded by
his friends and escorted out of court in defiance of the judge,
and the mob of negroes assembled for his support. No attempt
was afterwards made to enforce the order. Judge Magbee was a
reconstruction judge, and this incident one of the minor out-
rages of that era.
Judge Winer Bethel, of Key West, succeeded Judge Magbee
on April 6, 1875, and served until his death, March 30, 1877.
Next came Henry L. Mitchel, who presided over the court until
he went on the Supreme bench in 1889. Succeeding judges and
their terms of service were G. A. Hanson, 1889 to 1891; Henry
L. Mitchell, 1891 to 1892; G. B. Sparkman, 1892 to 1893; Barron
Philips, 1893 to 1899; Joseph B. Wall, 1899 to 1911.
In 1911 the Eleventh circuit was created, consisting of
Monroe, Dade and Palm Beach counties, and Livingston W. L
Bethel, the present incumbent, was appointed judge. He is a
son of Judge Winer Bethel, who presided over the Circuit Court
for Monroe county thirty-five years ago.
Judge Wall's death on December 19, 1911, removes the
last survivor of those who have presided over the court in
Monroe county, as judge of this circuit.
The first clerk of the Circuit Court was Colonel Walter
Cathcart Maloney, and the first sheriff was Mr. John Costin.*
The first judge of the Probate Court was Mr. Adam Gordon,
who served from August 15, 1845, to December of the same year,
and was succeeded by Mr. Benjamin Sawyer, who held office until
Judge Winer Bethel was appointed in January, 1858.
In 1868 the County Court took the place of the Probate
Court and Judge James W. Locke was appointed judge, who
served until February, 1871, when Mr. Charles S. Baron was
appointed, and was followed by Judge Angel De Lono in 1870.
In 1888 James Dean, a negro lawyer from the mainland, was
elected but was removed from office in 1889 by Governor Fleming
for malfeasance in office. Judge De Lono was appointed to the
vacancy, and was succeeded by Judge Andrew J. Kemp in 1893.
In 1900 Beverly B. Whalton was elected judge and held the office
until his death in January, 1910, and was succeeded by Mr.
Hugh Gunn, the present incumbent.
KEY WEST AS A NAVAL BASE
IN FEBRUARY, 1822, Capt. L. T. Patterson and Lieut.
Tuttle of the United States navy arrived with orders
from the government to survey the coast and harbor,
and they were soon followed by various government vessels
that brought stores and materials, and by the end of the
year the island was a regularly constituted naval depot and
station, under the command of Commodore Porter. A resolution
was adopted in the house of representatives in Washington
requesting the President of the United States to inform the house:
"What appropriation will be required to enable him to
fortify Thompson's Island, usually called Key West, and whether
a naval depot, established at that island, protected by fortifica-
tions, will not afford facilities in defending the commerce of the
United States, and in clearing the Gulf of Mexico and the adjacent
seas from pirates."
To this Hon. Smith Thompson, secretary of the navy,
for whom Captain Perry had named Key West, replied:
"That the geographical situation of the island referred to in
the resolution has for some time past attracted attention, and
been considered peculiarly important both as a military position
and in reference to the commerce of the United States.
"The commander of one of our vessels, cruising in that
quarter was accordingly directed last winter to touch at this island
and take possession of it as a part of the territory ceded by Spain
to the United States, and to make such general examination as
might be useful in forming an opinion of the advantages of the
place, and the propriety of a further and more particular survey.
From the report of Lieutenant Commander Perry, who was
charged with this duty, it has been satisfactorily ascertained
that this position affords a safe, convenient and extensive harbor
for vessels of war and merchant vessels. His instructions, however,
did not require him to make so minute a survey as was necessary,
in order to judge of the extent to which this place might be safely
and advantageously occupied and improved as a naval depot.
"These are some of the obvious benefits in time of peace;
but its advantages in time of war with any European power
having West Indian possessions, are still more important, both
as it respects the protection of our own commerce and the
annoyance of our enemy. An enemy with a superior naval force
occupying this position, could completely intercept the whole trade
between those parts of our country lying north and east of it, and
those to the west, and seal up all our ports within the Gulf of Mexico.)
It may, therefore, be safely answered, to one branch of the inquiry
made by the resolution, that if this island is susceptible of defence,
a naval depot established there would afford a great facility in
protecting our commerce. It is believed, however, that it is
susceptible of defense, at an expense that would be justified by
the importance of the place; but to form any tolerably satisfactory
estimate of the amount, an accurate survey and calculation, by
competent engineers, is indispensably necessary.
"This island is considered so advantageous and convenient
a place of rendezvous for our public vessels on the West Indian
station, that it is intended to make it a depot for provisions
and supplies for the expedition against the pirates, lately author-
ized by congress, to be secured in temporary buildings, under
the protection of a guard of marines."
Commodore Porter's communications to the department
abound in expressions, which show his high appreciation of the
advantages likely to result from the occupation of the island
by the United States as a naval station. Under date of May 11,
1823, when asking for.an increased number of vessels and men,
"From the importance of the trade of Cuba and the Gulf of
Mexico, the whole of which is protected from this place, with a
force not equal to one frigate, I presume my requests will not
be considered extravagant. The arrivals and departures of the
American vessels from the port of Havana alone average about
thirty a week, and those from Matanzas about twenty. Not
a day elapses but that great numbers of American vessels are
to be met passing through the gulf, and since our establishment
here, they daily in numbers pass in sight of us. I mention these
facts to give you an idea of the importance of this station, and to
show the propriety of augmenting the force by the additions
which I have asked."
Under date of November 19, 1823, he said: "The fixing an
establishment at Thompson's Island for rendezvous and supplies
has had a most happy effect in attaining the object had in view.
Its vicinity to Havana, placed as it were, in the thoroughfare
of vessels sailing through the gulf, making it, in many points
of view, an object of great importance to the United States."
Commodore Rodgers thus mentions the island under date
of November 24, 1823: "Nature had made it the advance post
from which to watch and guard our commerce passing to and
from the Mississippi, while at the same time, its peculiar
situation, and the excellence of its harbor, point it out as the most
certain key to the commerce of Havana, to that of the whole
Gulf of Mexico, and to the returning trade of Jamaica; and I
venture to predict, that the first important naval contest in which
this country shall be engaged will be in the neighborhood of this
Seventy-five years afterwards this prophecy was fulfilled,
and with Key West as a base. our fleet engaged in the most im-
portant naval contest ever fought in the gulf, destroyed the
Spanish fleet, and drove Spain from the Western Hemisphere.
Sickness prevailed during the summer of 1823 to a great
extent, and the reports of naval officers to the department,
and from the department to the president, are replete with
explanations as to the cause, and apprehensions as to the effects
upon the permanency of the establishment. "Had the necessary
number of medical men been furnished this year", wrote Com-
modore Porter, "the squadron would have been no doubt in
a great measure saved from the deplorable consequences which
have resulted, as the disease, in its commencement, was com-
pletely under the control of medicine; but I regret to say that
several perished without receiving any medical aid whatever,
and without even seeing a physician."
He further reports that "with the exception of one case of
yellow fever, only bilious fever prevailed until June 20th, and
the cases yielded readily to the agency of medicine, at which
time it assumed a highly malignant form.
"This disease now commenced on board the store ship Decoy,
which was rendered unhealthful by the impurity of her hold.
A quantity of ballast was put on board from this island, containing
shell-fish and sea-weed, which by the heat of the tropical climate,
was thrown into a state of putrefactive fermentation. Two of
the cases, however, which occurred on board this vessel were
contracted by imprudent exposure to a noonday heat in the
streets of Havana."
The secretary of the navy, under date of September 21st,
drew the attention of the president to the impropriety of abandon-
ing the island. "It ought not," said he, "readily be deserted.
It is very desirable to save it." And Commodore Rodgers wrote
a letter to the Secretary on the sixteenth of November, containing
these sensible passages:
"United States Schooner Shark, Hampton Roads, Nov. 16,
1823.-From the little experience I have had, my opinion is that
the climate of Thompson's Island is similar to that of the West
India islands generally; that its air is perhaps less salubrious
than some, but more so than others; and notwithstanding
the objections which may be urged against it, on account of
particular defects arising from its surface, and the many salt and
fresh water ponds which it is said to contain, still, that it is, from
the excellence of its harbor and its peculiar station on the map oJ
the Western Hemisphere, too important an object, in a political
and commercial point of view, to be suffered to remain unoccupied
and unregarded, for, admitting its climate, in its present unim-
proved state, to be as unfriendly to health as even that of the
colony of Surinam, it is, notwithstanding, susceptible of being
so improved, or at least, the dangers attending it so much dimin-
ished by artificial means (such as I will hereafter describe), as
to render the objections to it, if not harmless, at least compara-
These remonstrances had the desired effect and prevented
the abandonment of the island as a naval base.
The first use of Key West as an active base of naval opera-\
tions was in 1822, when Commodore David Porter commanded I
the squadron organized to suppress the pirates of the West
Indies, known as "Brethren of the Coast." Prior to his assuming
command, no satisfactory progress had been made-the draught
of the war vessels being too great to follow the buccaneers into
the shallow bays, coves and rivers in which they sought refuge
when pursued. Operations were conducted in this unsatisfactory
manner for two years when Commodore Porter in command of
the West Indian Squadron, inaugurated a new plan of campaign.
First, he selected the island of Key West as a base of operations,.
and erected a storehouse, workshop, hospital and quarters for
the men. He then detached and sent north the big, useless frigates
and supplied their places with eight small light draught schooners
and five twenty-oared barges. These last were appropriately
named Mosquito, Midge, Gallinipper, Gnat, and Sandfly. Of
the old squadron he retained the Peacock, John Adams, Hornet,
Spark, Grampus and Shark. Thus was gathered at Key West-,
a fleet of twenty-one craft, eminently suited for the work of
driving from the sea forever the dreaded "Brethren of the Coast."
In order to make his barges available, it was necessary to
tow them until he fell in with the buccaneers, and when they
attempted to escape in shallow water, man the barges and go
in pursuit. For this purpose he procured an old New York
steam ferryboat, the Sea Gull, and her use for naval purposes is
the first instance of a steam propelled vessel being used in the ,-
United States navy. In this way, Captain Porter captured
and destroyed a number of the buccaneers' vessels, who made
their final rendezvous at the Isle of Pines. Here he attacked,.
captured or destroyed most all of them. Some that escaped
put into the Port of Fajardo, Porto Rico.
The buccaneers paid tribute to the Spanish government,,
and left the commerce of that nation unmolested, for which
they received its moral support. Commodore Porter followed.
the buccaneers into Fajardo, and upon the military authorities
refusing to give them up, sent a punitive expedition ashore,
and taught the Spanish authorities a needed lesson. Thus was
ended piracy in the Caribbean Sea.
Spain complained of his action at Fajardo, and he was'
court-martialed and sentenced to six months suspension, where-
upon he resigned and entered the service of the Mexican navy,
and later was connected with the Turkish navy, and while hold-
ing this position, the United States in atonement for the injustice
which had been done this gallant and efficient officer, ap-
/pointed him consular agent of the United States in Turkey,
where he died in 1843.
While engaged in the suppression of piracy in the Caribbean
Sea he became impressed with the importance of Key West as
a naval base and so reported to the secretary of the navy in
In 1856 a United States naval depot and storehouse was
V/commenced at the corner of Whitehead and Front streets. In
1857 when the walls were ready to receive the roof, work on the
building was suspended, and it remained so for several years for
want of an appropriation by congress. At the outbreak of the
Civil War it was in this unfinished condition.
/ In 1861 the U.S.S. Atlantic, having conveyed Federal troops
.- for the relief of Fort Pickens, touched at this port for a supply
'-of coal but finding none, was compelled to sail to Havana.
On three occasions has the importance of Key West as a
naval base been demonstrated. During the Civil War more
ships were stationed at Key West than at any other port in the
United States, and but for its occupancy by the Northern forces
as a naval base, the result of the war might have been different.
In 1873 when the capture of the Virginius threatened war with
Spain, nearly every available ship in the navy was hurried to
Key West, which was made the base of all operations. In 1897,
on the breaking out of the war with Spain, every available naval
vessel was again sent to Key West, and the Oregon and Marietta
made their record run from California to the all important Key
Its position on the Straights of Florida-through which four
thousand vessels pass annually, and the commerce of all the gulf
ports-commands the protection of American commerce in any
war. In all past history this position has been of the greatest
importance, and no matter where on the Western Hemisphere
the war may be, the American commerce in the Straits of Florida
will have to be protected from Key West as a naval base.
Whether the inexplicable zeal of certain naval authorities
to develop Guantanamo (a port in a foreign country), at the
expense of one of our own ports, will be sanctioned by congress,
or continue after the personnel of the naval board is changed,
Vague theories, personal preferences, individual hostilities,
and opportunities for speculation, may give Guantanamo a
temporary advantage over Key West, but actual war will again
demonstrate that this place commands the route on the Key
West-Porto Rican strategic line of force, and that it commands
all approaches to the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean Sea and
Panama Canal, and as a distinguished naval historian says, the
government will recognize "the capacity of the Florida Reef
as an advantageous naval station-a sort of Downs or St. Helen's
Roads, in the West Indian seas."
In 1881 the naval wharf was rebuilt; iron piles being sub-
stituted for the wooden ones and a steel pier constructed. This
work was done by Lieut. Robert E. Peary, the discoverer of the
North Pole, who spent a year in Key West. The pier was de-
molished in the hurricane of 1910, and a more substantial concrete
one was completed in 1911.
In 1895 the Navy Department bought the property that was
the home of the two Stephen R. Mallorys, father and son, both
of whom represented Florida in the senate of the United States.
The old house, which was a center of social and intellectual life,
was torn down to give place to coal bins.
In 1890 a double house was built by the Navy Department
for the use of the commandant and paymaster of the station.
It proved too small for two families and is now used exclusively
for the commandant, at the present time Admiral Lucian Young.
In 1902 the United States government condemned for naval
purposes all that part of the island lying southwest of Whitehead
street between Fleming and Fitzpatrick streets, except the
Mallory property, and the old home place of Mr. Joseph Beverly
Browne, on the corner of Caroline and Whitehead streets, which
the government bought in 1858, and the strip of water front
acquired in 1854, on which the machine shop, commandant's
quarters and coal bins had previously been erected. On the prop-
erty condemned, the Navy Department now has buildings for
the various departments of the service, and residences on White-
head street for the paymaster and civil engineer. A distilling
plant with a capacity of fifteen thousand gallons per day was
constructed in 1898, and in 1910 a concrete reservoir of one
million, five hundred thousand gallons capacity was erected on
the Whitehead street side of the navy yard. In 1906 a wireless
telegraph station was constructed, which is one of the most
powerful in the world, and messages sent from here have been
caught by the Mare Island station, a distance of twenty-six
Standing on the naval reservation at the corner of Whitehead
and Caroline streets, is one of the oldest buildings in Key West,
and for many years had the unique distinction of being the only
one not built entirely of wood. It was known as "The Stone
Building," being built of cement from a cargo of that material
wrecked at Key West. It is a quaint three-story structure with
a high pitched roof, having a narrow balcony supported by con-
soles of solid cement, extending the entire side on Whitehead
street. On the gable end was once a similar balcony, but it has
been taken down, and only the consoles remain. Above the side
balcony is a large plaster mask of the builder, Mr. John G. Ziriax,
who kept the foremost bakery of his day. Before it acquired
the cognomen of the "Stone Building" it was known as the
"Ziriax Building". It is now used as a marine guard-house.
Another building on the Naval Reservation which connects
the old and the new Key West, stands about two hundred feet
southwest of the Marine Guard-house. It is a type of the old
style Key West architecture of which so little is left. When the
grade of the reservation was raised it covered part of this house,
and changed its appearance. The first floor was a foot below
the level of the ground, built of stone to about eight feet in
height, above which was the frame part of the building. The
old officers' quarters at the barracks are of the same style of
architecture, and most of the better class of houses in the early
days were so constructed, for the protection, then supposed to be
necessary, against the high tides which prevail during the passage
of a hurricane in this vicinity.