General History of Indian Key
Indian Key - Inspector of Customs, 1856
Written by Dr. Joe Knetsch
The occupation of Indian Key has been sketchy from the August 7, 1840 attack to the 1870 census which indicated a population of 46. The census of 1850 and 1860 do not separate the listing by each island's location, but William Bethel’s name does appear. Charles Howe’s house was not destroyed by the Indians and it appears that he remained for some time. He was appointed a judge of Dade County on February 1841 and sent his children to school with the Perrine children in 1841. All of Howe’s letters dated in 1842 and later were sent from Key West.
Dr. Joe Knetsch of the Florida Division of State Lands has been researching this time gap. Dr. Knetsch’s research indicates that there was a U.S. Inspector of Customs then stationed on the island in 1856.
From: Letters Sent, Register of Letters Received, and Letters Received by Headquarters, Troops in Florida and Headquarters, Department of Florida: 1850-1858. Roll No. 6. "Registered, J-Y, and Unregistered: April-Dec. 1856." National Archives Microfilm M1084. Washington, 1979.
“Key West 9th April 1856
Col. J. Monroe U.S.A.
Comdg in Florida }
“On my arrival here a day or two since I found that the residents of Indian Key had abandoned that settlement from an apprehension of Indian Attacks, and had addressed to you a request for protection to enable them to return and reoccupy it, Capt. Vogdes U.S.A. Comg. this post, has been kind enough to communicate his views freely to me upon this subject, and to hand me a copy of a letter to you relative to it. Not only to enable the few residents of Indian Key to return to their homes, and protect the buildings and other improvements there, (erected since the place was last visited and burned by the Seminoles) but to make the U. S. Inspector of the Customs stationed there to protect the revenue, to return to his duties; as well as to have, at this salient outpost, a means of obtaining reliable information of Indian movements in that quarter. I think it would be judicious to station a small force there at once.
“The views of Capt. Vogdes, that ten men would be sufficient, carefully selecting and commanded by a good non-commissioned officer, and that they should be placed there with the understanding that their occupation of the premises there for the defence of the place should furnish no ground of a claim or charge upon the U. States, are doubtless correct; and if you think proper I will undertake to obtain from the proprietor, Mr. Smith Mowry of Charleston, his assent to, or rather his request for such an arrangement.
“With Great Respect
“Your Obt. Servt.
“/s/ S. R. Mallory”
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