General History of Indian Key
An 1856 Letter Concerning Indian Key
Transcribed by Dr. Joe Knetsch
The following letter was transcribed by Dr. Joe Knetsch of Tallahassee, Florida. Dr. Knetsch is an eminent Florida historian and holds a Doctorate of History from Florida State University. He is the historian for the Division of State Lands and works for the Governor and Cabinet on Florida land issues.
“Charleston May 28, 1856
“Hon. Jefferson Davis
"Secretary of War
"Washington City, DC
“I have just received a letter from Capt. Bethell who is in charge of Indian Key with only one other person that is rather small to defend the Keys.
“He informs me that the Indians are reported as crossing on the Keys and he is very fearful that when they are driven out of the present place that they will visit the Keys so if no troops have been sent down I hope you will do so at once as I have some 24 or 25 houses on the Key that I would much dislike to have destroyed as was the case in the last Indian War. I therefore trust you will send the small quantity required to protect Indian Key & the adjoining Keys. I have written the Hon. S.[Stephen] R. Mallory in the subject who knows the position of matters and will call I trust and explain the situation of matters.
"S. Mowry Jr.”
[Jacob Housman mortgaged Indian Key to Smith Mowry, the writer of the above letter, and Joseph Lawton in March of 1840. The Indians raided and burned the island that August. The Second Indian War was over in 1842 and the mortgage holders from Jacob Housman purchased Indian Key at public auction in Key West on January 15, 1844 for $355. Smith Mowry purchased Indian Key, Lignumvitae Key and “North Matecumbia” interests from Joseph Lawton on January 26, 1853 for $1,250.
The Third Indian War (1855-1857) had officially ended when the above letter was written, however a few marauding Indians remained in the south Florida area. Jefferson Davis became the President of the Confederacy and Stephen Mallory of Key West, its Secretary of War. - Jerry Wilkinson]
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