General History of Indian Key
Invented History: Antonio Gomez and his Spanish Trading Post on Indian Key
Written by Gail Swanson
These web pages by Jerry Wilkinson
Since January 15, 1964, thousands of residents and visitors have read, on a cast-metal plaque erected by the Florida Society of Colonial Dames on Indian Key Fill, this nonsense:
“Indian Key – Spanish Trading Post – established by Antonio Gomez, approximately 1695”
There has never been discovered by any historian I know of any documentation of the [Colonial Dames] trading post. I certainly would have found it, having studied original Spanish documents of Keys history of the 1600s and 1700s for the past 10 years. I have to add the 1700s here, because several authors concocting stories around the few words on the sign, have this Antonio Gomez here in the 1680s, 1690s, or early 1700s.
In war records from 1856 we do indeed find one Antonio Gomez trading with the Indians: he was not Spanish, but Portuguese, he didn’t have a post, he had a boat. He was indeed at Indian Key; for a few minutes.
First, from the 1860 census of Dade County, before we head back to 1856:
“Fort Dallas [Miami], August 25, 1860…[12 Houses Recorded]….House #564, Family #543, Antonio Gomez, age 34, male, Mariner, birthplace, Portugal. Merced Gomez, age 17, female, House Keeper, birthplace, Portugal. Manuel Gomez, male, age 5 months, birthplace, Florida. Antonio Montes Terca, age 12 months, birthplace, Florida.”
Now, from “Memoirs of Reconnaissance, Compiled by Major Francis N. Page, Dept. of Florida, War Department, Record Group 393, National Archives – Records of the U.S. Army Continental Commands, 1821-1920” the following:
In August, 1856, discovery of an Indian trail leading from a house 2 miles from Ft. Dallas on the south side of the Miami River lead to an area search for the enemy Seminoles (Third Seminole War). Quoting now from the “Reconnaissance”,
“At the time those Indians were about Ft. Dallas a man called Antonio Gomez – a Portuguese who resided for years in the vicinity came up from Key West on a sloop boat – movements very suspicious – supposed he intended to introduce liquor on the Miami [River] or to carry off deserters [for a fee from them] - was closely watched – He left for Key West on the 13th, same day the commands left the post. Capt. Hill believed that his object was to trade with the Indians, and that he met them at a bluff some two miles south of the post. Lt. Smead, 1st Artillery reported to Capt. Hill that Sgt. O’Brian informed him that he saw a small boat belonging to one Antonio cruising along the coast near where some Indians were seen a short time since, at intervals of a mile the boat would stop and a man go ashore and remain a short time and about dark the boat anchored 9 miles from Ft. Dallas – When the sergeant reached Indian Key he was told by some of the soldiers stationed there that the boat stopped at Indian Key for a few minutes going up – had whiskey and other stores on board – inquired particularly the strength of this detachment and if any officers were with it – Rumored that there are men in Key West who trade with Indians and supply them with such things as they want.”
How is it possible that our history got so distorted? And in my lifetime will that sorry metal plaque ever be removed?
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