General History of Indian Key
Sarah Walker Palmer's
version of 
The Massacre at Indian Key
By Jerry Wilkinson
       Sarah Perrine Walker Palmer is Hester Perrine's daughter. Although not actually at Indian Key in 1840, she wrote the following account of the Indian raid. No doubt the information mainly came from her mother but there are a few elements not in her mother's diary. 
       Therefore, this is provided for the serious reader wanting another account of the raid and I quote:
"THE HOLLYWOOD MAGAZINE
March 1, 1925
The Massacre at Indian Key
By SARAH W. PALMER
"- Editorial Note: Our readers will recall the story of the Perrine Grant told last month by Mr. Reese. Mrs. Sarah W. Palmer, sole surviving grandchild of Dr. Henry Perrine, here relates an intensely dramatic account of Dr. Perrine's tragic fate in the Indian Key Massacre of 1840.  In the death of Dr. Perrine and the pillage which followed, ''in many papers and other memorabilia which would have been of inestimable historical value were sacrificed to the blood lust of the Seminole Indians. -
      "In 1838 Congress granted to Dr. Henry Perrine a township on Biscayne Bay for the purpose of proving that all tropical and semi-tropical plants could be grown in Florida. During the winter of that year, Dr. Perrine, his wife, two daughters and a son took up their residence at Indian Key, an island twenty miles south from Cape Sable, to await the termination of the Seminole War, before removing to the mainland. The few families residing at Indian Key had no apprehension of an attack from the Indians who, it was presumed, would not venture so far from the secure retreats in the Everglades. Their supposed security was rendered more certain from the fact, evidently known to the Indians, that a number of United States soldiers were stationed at Tea Table Key, less than two miles distant.
      "Indian Key at this time contained a dozen dwellings, three warehouses and one store, with an area of about twelve acres. The house occupied by Dr. Perrine was the largest on the island. It was three stories high, with a porch and cupola, and was built so close to the sea that during high tide three sides of the house were surrounded by water. Fronting the porch and extending into the ocean was a short wharf, used for unloading supplies; between it and the house was a narrow covered passage, walled on each side. The wharf itself was constructed of posts driven into the ground and covered with timber and planks. The space under the wharf was used as a pen for turtles, called a 'turtle crawl.' It communicated with the cellar by the narrow passage before mentioned, at the outer end of which was a row of palmetto posts driven into the soft marl, far enough apart to admit the tide, but not to allow the escape of the turtles. The cellar under the house being opened to the influx of the sea, was used by the family for bathing, the water being five feet at high tide, but receding as the tide ebbed, leaving but a few inches on the bottom. The bathing place was entered by a trap door from the dressing room above.
      "0ne morning between two and three o'clock, the family of Dr. Perrine was awakened by the discharge of guns, crashing of glass and the fearful yells of the Indians, who had approached the island so stealthily as to escape observation. The Doctor sprang from his hammock, where he had been watching his eldest daughter, who was ill of a fever, caught her up in his arms, and followed by his wife and other daughter in their night robes, started downstairs to seek a place of concealment. At this moment they discovered that the son, a lad of thirteen, was not with them; they found him in his room in another part of the building and hurriedly descended to the dressing room at the foot of the stairs.
      "Here the Doctor left them and went for his fire arms, having in the house at the time one of Colt's revolving rifles, three of Allen's six-shooters, and one double barreled shot-gun. He had plenty of powder and balls, but to his dismay found that he was out of percussion caps, which rendered his firearms useless as a means of defense. Somewhat discouraged but not without hope, the Doctor, finding the yard and porch filled with Indians and no possibility of escape in that direction, opened the trap door leading to the bathing room below, as the safest place of refuge, and bade his family descend and he would go back and see what could be done. They did as he directed, and were soon immersed to the waist in water and surrounded by darkness and gloom. They groped their way into the narrow passage leading to the "turtle crawl," where their further progress was intercepted by the palmetto posts before mentioned. Here they remained in darkness and suspense, awaiting the husband and father whom they were never to see again in this world.
       "The Indians had by this time reached the rear of the house and were crowded upon the porch, but a few feet above the heads of the affrighted family, firing their guns into the windows, yelling and battering away at the door. During a slight cessation of the din they heard Dr. Perrine from the upper porch calling to the Indians in Spanish, informing them that he was a "medicine man." This was all that they could understand, as the Indians gave a shout and apparently left the premises.
       "Dr. Perrine then came down, closed the trap door, drawing over it a large chest of seeds to conceal it. This noble self-sacrificing act, the last he ever performed for his family, undoubtedly saved their lives. Dr. Perrine had many important manuscripts, the fruits of years of labor and of research, which were of incalculable value to him and which he was desirous of saving. Knowing the Indians were friendly to Spaniards and trusting to his knowledge of the Spanish language - which he spoke like a native - and to their known desire to secure the services of a white 'medicine man,' he was confident he could prevail on them to spare his dwelling and the lives of himself and family, and that he would ultimately be able to save his valuable papers. This idea is borne out by the subsequent occurrences of that fatal night.
      "Soon the trembling listeners heard the Indians breaking into the nearby houses, and from their discordant yells it was evident that they had obtained access to the store and were now maddened by liquor. Despair seized the terrified inmates of this half submerged prison, as they heard the returning footsteps of the Indians, who now began a furious assault upon the dwelling. For a time they seemed more intent upon breaking windows and destroying furniture than securing victims. At last a voice was heard to say in English, "All hid, old man upstairs." A rush was then made up the stairs and in a moment the sound of heavy blows, apparently on a massive door that led to the cupola, where it was supposed the Doctor had retreated for safety. Soon a terrific crash as the door yielded, followed by a single rifle shot, then the awful war whoop and the demoniac yells of the savages, indicating their success and the massacre of Dr. Perrine.

       "For a long time the terror stricken captives heard the Indians dragging trunks , etc., over their heads, and loading them into boats. Once, as a turtle splashed, an Indian raised a plank and looked down, but fortunately not towards the end where the family were secreted. As day dawned they could see through the crevices boats passing loaded with plunder, and hear the cry of the  marauders close at hand. Soon they heard desultory firing; then the booming of a cannon, followed by the prolonged yells of defiance. Hope began to animate their hearts, and they awaited with feverish anxiety other indications of the approach of succor. But the firing ceased, and the looked for aid came not. It was afterward ascertained that nearly all of the soldiers stationed at Tea Table Key had been sent a few days before on a naval expedition and those left were in the hospital, as unfit for active service. When it was known at the Key that the Indians had made an attack on this island, a few partly disabled soldiers procured a small boat, in which they placed two four-pound swivels, and as soon as it was light started out for the purpose of intercepting the Indians and to cut off their retreat to the mainland. In the hurry of their departure, they unfortunately took with them six-pound cartridges instead of four, and at the first discharge the overloaded guns recoiled overboard, and the soldiers had to retreat to avoid being captured. The Indians followed them for some distance, firing and killing one of their number.
       "It soon became evident to Mrs. Perrine and her children that the house was on fire, as smoke began to make its way into their hiding place. The tide had now ebbed, leaving but a few inches of water over the bottom. To escape suffocation, they lay with their faces close to the water, splashed it around them to keep the air in motion and breathed through the folds of their wet night clothes. At length the timbers above caught fire, and tongues of angry flame darted out and were choked back by wet marl in the hands of the terror stricken captives, whose doom seemed now to be sealed.
       "No escape was left for them towards the house, as the mouth of their retreat was a fiery furnace, and in front of them was a row of piles driven deep into the marl and spiked at the top. Presently the burning building fell into the cellar with a fearful crash. The boy screamed in terror, as a horrible death by fire seemed inevitable. His mother and sister tried to stop his cries, fearing the Indians would hear him; but he declared he 'would rather be killed by Indians than burned to death,' and broke from them. In his frantic efforts to escape, he forced his way between two palmetto posts, one of which had become loosened at the top, and escaped into the "turtle crawl" whence he made his way to the outside of the wharf. His mother and sisters remained for a short time in agonizing suspense, thinking he would be killed, or taken a prisoner and their discovery would be certain. But hearing no noise, and knowing certain death awaited them where they were, the mother dug down into the marl with her hands to the bottom of a post, and by an almost superhuman effort, displaced it sufficiently for them to pass through. As they went forward under the wharf, on which were several cords of burning wood, the live coals fell on their bare heads and shoulders but they heeded them not, being so overjoyed at having escaped from the horrible death which, but a few moments before seemed to be their doom. Joyfully they inhaled the pure air, thanking God for their deliverance. With cautious steps they made their way through the shallow water to the outside of the wharf, looking anxiously around for the son and for some place of security where they could remain until rescued.
       "Let us now for a moment follow the   son after his flight from the burning wharf. Seeing a fleet of canoes, nearly a mile distant, filled with Indians, and supposing that they had all left the island, he started in the direction of one of the buildings, hoping to find some person who would go to the relief of his mother and sisters. But no human being was visible and no sound heard, except the cracking of the nearly consumed dwelling, so recently his home. He passed in front of the store, the door of which was open, little dreaming that at that moment several drunken Indians were within, collecting the few spoils not taken by those who had left the island. Retracing his steps, he approached the spot where he had left his mother and sisters, in the expectation of never seeing them again, as the wharf was on fire and their escape at that time would have been impossible. As he cast his eyes' despairingly in that direction, to his great surprise and joy he beheld them emerging from the "turtle crawl." He ran to meet them, and as he passed the landing near the store, he saw a boat partly loaded with goods, evidently belonging to the Indians then in the building.
       "When he reached the family, his mother was supporting in her arms her invalid daughter, who, becoming faint, had sunk down and was begging her mother and sister to leave her and make their escape, as she said she was dying and could "go no further." But they succeeded in carrying her through the water to the boat, which they unfastened and with one oar and a pole contrived to push out into the open sea. Their escape was truly providential, for had they been a few moments earlier or later in getting to the boat, they would have been discovered by the Indians, who had partly filled the boat and had gone back to the store for more.
       "Seeing a vessel at anchor a short distance from Tea Table Key, the son took off his shirt, fastened it to a pole, and hoisted it as a signal of distress. They had proceeded about half a mile when they discovered two Indians in a canoe starting in pursuit of them; but seeing a boat approaching from the direction of the vessel, the Indians returned and set fire to the store and the few remaining buildings. Our fugitives were taken up by a boat from the schooner, "Medium," which vessel they reached about noon some ten hours from the time the attack was made on the island. The captain was very kind to the ladies, providing them with sheets in lieu of dresses, making them as comfortable as possible. Mrs. Perrine and her children were almost destitute of clothing and in a nearly exhausted state. Their night garments were in tatters, their hands sore from digging up the marl, their shoulders smarting from contact with falling coals, and their faces blistered from long exposure to the scorching rays of a tropical noonday sun. The next day two sailors returned to the island, gathered the bones of Dr. Perrine from the ruins of his dwelling and buried them under the broad spreading leaves of one of his favorite Agaves on the beautiful island of Lower Matacumba[sic], where perpetual summer reigns and "fragrance ever clothes the flowering earth.
        "The family remained on board the schooner until the afternoon of the next day, when they were transferred to the "Flirt," a United States man-of-war, commanded by Capt. McLaughlin. The "Flirt" proceeded to Cape Florida, where she remained a week, until the arrival of the steamer, "Santos," in which vessel the family took passage for St. Augustine under the care and protection of Dr. Edward Worrel of the army, who very kindly accompanied them to their friends in the North." 
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