One of the last streets crossed by Route One bears the name of John Simonton, who, in 1821, purchased “Cayo Hueso” for $2,000 from a Spaniard, who’s country had just lost the Spanish-American War.Thanks to Simonton and his friends from Alabama, a wrecking economy soon arose, as entrepreneurs with sails descended on Key West to seek shipwrecked treasures in shallow waters.The fishing was pretty good, too.
The stars and stripes was hoisted over Key West and it was declared U.S. territory in 1822. The following year, a customs house was erected to try to keep track of the riches that were being harvested by the wreckers and of the people emigrating to the area to seek their fortunes.The “Mosquito Fleet” was also organized by the navy to combat piracy in 1823, and by 1830, Key West’s per capita wealth was said to be the greatest in the nation.Florida wouldn’t become the 27th state until fifteen years later.
“Cayo Hueso” translates from Spanish as “Bone Cay”.Key West was used as a burial ground by the Calusa and Tequesta inhabitants before Ponce de Leondiscovered the Keys for the Spanish in 1513.Today, there are about 50,000 people alive on Key West and more than 100,000 buried there.Some were killed by pirates, at least one was lynched by the KKK, some succumbed to tobacco, booze and cocaine, some to yellow fever, some perished in shipwrecks, and some lost their lives in the battles that brought Key West under U.S. control.Control was sometimes fleeting, as piracy and smuggling was difficult to eliminate entirely in such a vast area with so many excellent hiding places.Blackbeard https://pirates.fandom.com/wiki/Blackbeard and Jean Lafitte https://www.battlefields.org/learn/biographies/jean-lafitte were some of the more infamous pirates who tormented legitimate shippers and wreckers.
Today, gold is also harvested through tourism.Visitors depart the Keys with their wallets a little lighter.Besides arriving on Route One, there’s been an active airport on the island since 1957, there’s a cruise ship docked in the harbor most days, and some visitors still sail to the island like in 1513, just more comfortably.
While North America goes to hell in an egg basket, there are layers all over Key West!For generations, chickens have roamed freely on the Keys.If you’re a light sleeper, you’ll appreciate wearing earplugs at night.Like the party crowd on Duval Street, the roosters hold forth at all hours.Roosters have been adopted as the informal city mascot.Bars, inns, and eateries are chicken themed, chicken art is in the store windows, and local chicken humor can get you clucking.
The Conch Republic coat of arms is also seen around town, although its origins seem to have faded from the collective consciousness of the city.It was a big deal in the early 1980s, when the U.S. Border Patrol blockaded Key West in hopes of intercepting illegal aliens and illicit drugs, just as the Keys were attempting to increase tourism.In a well-publicized protest, the Keys seceded from the U.S. to form the Conch Republic.Several of the leaders of the movement who have been interred at the City Cemetery have conch headstones!It was a memorable movement that galvanized the community.
Peter Evans FL Key West Feb 20, 2023 History Places to Visit Video Post Cards