Key West History
The Key West history is as rich as the blend of the cultural nationalities currently converging on the picturesque island. Even from the beginning, Key West history has been intense with various powerful nations coming-and-going to take advantage of the island’s resources-rich realm and strategic spot, creating demanding yet colorful cultural transitions in the Key West history. The Calusa people were only the first inhabitants to enrich the development of Key West history…
When Juan Ponce de Leon first visited Key West in 1521, he found the “Bone Island” to be inhabited by the Pre-Columbian Calusa people. Legends tell tales that he found human bones in mangrove clumps on the island. Yet without hesitation, the first European in the Cayo Hueso (Spanish: Bone Island) would later build a fishing and salvage village protected by a small garrison. Spaniards and Native Americans settled alongside. Until in 1763, Great Britain took control. It is only after 20 years that the Spanish would resettle in Cayo Hueso. And this time the Cayo is open to the Cuban and Bahamian fishers. They were also free with the Cayos. Yet in 1815, the Havana Spanish governor deeded the island to Juan Pablo Salas of St. Augustine-Florida, but Florida will later be turned over to the US, prompting Salas to sell Cayo Hueso Island to US businessman John Simonton in 1821. Cayo Hueso turned rich in the turn of this century. Its industries included fishing, salt production, and most famously – salvage.
Inhabitants worked salvaging shipwrecks from nearby Florida reefs, and the island-town was noted for their fine furniture and chandeliers possession – the treasures of Key West. In 1860 ship-wrecking made Key West the largest and richest city in Florida and the wealthiest town in US, and – the Captain of the Caribbean. Then after, Simonton decided to petition the US Government’s formation of a naval base on the island to bring law and order to Key West. And in 1823, dictator Commodore David Porter of the US-Navy West-Indies Anti-Pirate Squadron immobilized the Keys under the grip of Martial Law. At any rate, the navy base on the island was able to keep Key West a US asset during the American Civil War. And island became a retreat once again for the Cubans who helped bring a thriving cigar making industry to Key West.
More progress to Key West history in the year 1912 when the Florida mainland became accessible through HM Flagler’s railroad-bridges extension. Only to be destroyed in the 1935 Labor Day Hurricane, but rebuilt in 1938 by the US Federal-Government as an automobile-highway extension of the US Highway1 as the Key West Overseas Highway. Then again, a US Border Patrol blockade was set on US Highway1 versus the Mariel Boatlift. Still, in 1982, ever enduring, Key West with the rest of the Florida Keys, united as a new Conch Republic – an absolute affirmation of the Key West spirit – ‘Freedom’.