General History of Indian KeyMany early newspapers wrote of the 1840 Indian Key attack very close to the time of the incident. Most have different versions, names, etc. What is history, legend or fable is difficult to determine. Note that it was by a third party. The following is one of the versions.
Indian Key Massacre
- By Jerry Wilkinson -
From the Niles National Register, dated August 29, 1840:
“Indian Key destroyed and the inhabitants butchered by Indians. . . The following letter from our attentive correspondent at Key West, gives some additional particulars of the horrid massacre: Key West, August 1840.
"Dear sirs:—We were alarmed on the morning of the 8th instant, by the arrival here of a great part of the inhabitants of Key Vacas. They had left their homes in consequence of the arrival of a small boat, with some negroes from Indian Key, on the morning of the 7th, who reported that a number of Indians had landed on Indian Key, immediately after the moon had gone down; they think from 100 to 150 in number, that morning, and had murdered all of its inhabitants, and burnt their houses. A party from this, immediately went on board of the wrecking sloop Vevilia, and started. They had not proceeded many miles, when they encountered the wrecking schooner Gen. Washington, direct from Indian Key, whose captain informed them, that it was unnecessary for them to proceed further as all of the houses, except one, owned and occupied by Mr. Charles Howe, inspector of customs, were destroyed—and that the Indians had left the Island about 10 o’clock, A..M. of the 7th, taking away all that they wanted, in the boats belonging to the Key. It appears, so soon as the alarm was given by the yells of the Indians, Mr. Houseman and wife, and Mr. Howe, wife and five children, were successful in making their escape, and went to Tea Table Key, which is about one mile and a half.
“Dr. Perrine, wife and three children remained in their house for a short time, when the doctor went to the cupola and spoke to the Indians in Spanish, but it is supposed they then shot him, for he was not again seen. His lady, with her two daughters and son, retreated to the Turtle Crawl, near the house, watched their opportunity, and while the Indians were plundering, started in a boat for an old hulk, lying about two hundred yards from the Key, where they remained until day-light, when they were taken away by a boat from Tea Table Key. Mr. John Motte, master of the wrecking sloop Key West [The sloop Key West was owned by Housman.], with his wife, two children and his mother, retired for the purpose of secreting them in the privy; but poor unfortunate people, they were soon dragged out, and Mr. Motte and his wife were shot—the mother escaping to the water, by which she was saved—then they dashed out the brains of the two infants against the rocks, and left them with the corpses of the parents. As the house of Dr. P. was burnt, his body must have been consumed in it. A lad about 12 years old, brother of Mrs. E. Smith, hid himself in the cistern of Mr. Houseman’s house— with a carpenter named Blocks—the latter was saved, but much burnt; the lad perished in the flames. The only other person on the Key, at the time of the attack, hurt, was Mr. Otis, a carpenter—he was wounded by a rifle ball, which has been extracted and he is doing well. At Tea Table Key, a U.S. post, about one mile and a half from Indian Key, there were about 12 invalids, in charge of a doctor of the U.S. army. The rest of the detachment of marines, under command of Lieut. Sloan, had left about 48 hours before, in the U.S. schooner Wave, for Cape Romano, to join the expedition of boats in the everglades, under command of Lieut. Comd’g McLaughlin. Nevertheless, the doctor, so soon as he heard of the attack, with five of his invalids and Mr. Houseman [sic], pushed towards the scene of action, with a barge, in which was mounted a gun, which they discharged, on approaching the place— it recoiled and went overboard. The Indians left their plunder, and walked as far as they could in the water towards the boats, distributing themselves and firing, by which they wounded one of the doctor’s men, and obliged him to haul off.
“The following persons were on the Key at the attack—Mr. Houseman [sic] and wife, Mr. Charles Howe, wife and 5 children, Dr. Perrine, wife and 3 children, Mrs. Elliott Smith, child, brother and mother, John Motte, wife and 3 children, Messrs. Otis, Blocks and Glass, carpenters, Mr. Goodhue [Goodyear], clerk of Mr. Houseman, 8 men, crew of the wrecking sloop Key West, and some 10 or 12 negroes, the latter all saved. Out of this number, Mr. Motte, wife and two children, are destroyed, and Dr. Perrine and the brother of Mrs. Smith, with all the houses, except one of the Howe’s. A boat in charge of Charles Stuart, was immediately sent from this place with the news to Cape Florida, and one from this to Cape Romano, with the hopes that some of the Indians might be intercepted on their return. Charles Stuart and one other man had been a hunting, and were in the act of landing on Indian Key, when they were warned by the yells of the savages in time to make their escape.”
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