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    The evolution of the Matecumbe School

    The first Matecumbe School, a one room building, was hammered together with wood and nails out at the beach on Upper Matecumbe in the early 1900s. The Atlantic’s salty breezes helped cool the classroom and keep the mosquitoes at bay. A few years later the structure would be moved south to...


    Taking a toll: Human collectors vanishing, but not at Card Sound bridge

    Ten miles off South Dixie Highway on Card Sound Road, tourists in shiny red convertibles pass commuters in silver and black pickup trucks. Some are heading to the biker bar Alabama Jack’s — where they serve deep fried conch fritters and cocktails in plastic cups. Other are making...


    Was Indian Key founded upon Houseman’s subterfuge

    John Jacob Housman is best known as the notorious wrecker of Indian Key. In addition to being a cut-throat operator, he was also an ethically challenged one. 


    The link between pirates and Alligator Lighthouse

    One of the most visible and photographed structures in the Upper Keys is directly related to piratical activity. The story behind the pirate tale begins at the Boston Navy Yard and dates back to 1820 when construction began on a new schooner for the Navy. The 86-foot long ship-of-war was one ...


    A Florida Keys piratical tale or two

    In the early years of the 19th Century, piracy was still a problem in the West Indies, an area that not only included the islands of the Caribbean, but the waters surrounding the Florida peninsula. 


    Joshua Appelby: another case of a dubious Florida wrecker

    At about the same time the dubious wrecker John Jacob Housman first made his way to the Florida Territory, another questionable captain was sailing this way, too. His name was Joshua Appelby, born Dec. 5, 1770 in Newport, Rhode Island. 


    Pirates’ history in the Keys is up for debate

    Pirate tales and the Florida Keys go together like ice and rum. Unfortunately, in the same way a glass of rum starts to water down when exposed to the still, sweltering subtropical heat, the details surrounding piratical tales have a way of becoming diluted, too. 


    An ode to geckos

    I wanted to be a herpetologist. As a boy, turtles, snakes, lizards and geckos filled the aquariums and cages stacked atop my bedroom dresser. 


    Indian Key: Housman acquires property

    Lately, Notes on Keys History must seem a lot like Notes on Indian Key History. The truth of the matter is that learning (or attempting to learn) the history of the Upper Keys is an awesome, often daunting task. 


    Indian Key: the arrival of Captain Housman

    The story of the man who might be the Florida Territory’s most notorious wrecker, John Jacob Housman, is a complicated one. The young captain was born in 1799 Staten Island, New York. He set sail for southern latitudes on the schooner William Henry while still in his early 20s. 

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