History of Stock Island
By Jerry Wilkinson
Like the other Florida Keys, Stock Island
began as a knob of coral rock that appeared as the ocean waters dropped
millenniums ago. Getting a specifically designated name took much
longer than its
neighbor to the west, Cayo Hueso. Also similar to some of the
other Keys, the origin of its name is troublesome.
The Spanish gave names to some of the Keys,
especially after the wreck of the fleet in 1733. When written records
do not associate a Key with a historical event, I search for the oldest
chart/map that does name it. The above nautical chart is
dated "1850" and is one of the Coastal survey series. President Thomas
Jefferson created the
United States Coastal Survey (USCS) in 1807 but the forthcoming war
delayed it getting down to business. I have a feeling that Stock
Island is on the USCS first charts of the Key in 1840, but I don't have
a copy of that chart far enough south to see whether Stock Island is
am certain there are
interesting tales of how Stock Island got its name, but it is clear
that by 1850 the name was in use.
of 'stock' such as cattle, horses, donkeys, etc. could be true,
is it the same as for the Spanish having cows on Key Vaca - a legend.
The Spanish carried considerable "stock" on their voyages and I believe
it was they that introduced the horse to North America. There were
inhabitants of Key
West that could have assisted the USCS surveyors and passed the name on
to them, or it could have been a person's name.
Moser Channel near Marathon was named after a Lt. Moser who was one of
If Key West is the name
derived from Cayo Hueso, Key of Bones, and these bones were the
victims of slaughters by the Native Americans, logic would imply that
there would be archaeological sites on Stock Island. In William
Whitehead's Journal of the 1830's mentioned when digging foundation
sites in 1826-27 in the Key W est area an Indian mound with almost
an entire skeleton of gigantic size was found. He continues that an
Indian mound was found in 1826 containing many bones. OK, enough for
From an Archaeological and
Historical site survey of proposed Village
Key West Resort for Norman Wood and Bernie C. Papy, March 1973,
reveals "Mathew W. Sterling found the second prehistoric aborigines
site (8 -MO-2)
it in the
early 1940's. He
describes ia a midden and as being on a small Island northeast of Key
West." I believe that site 8-MO-2 is located on the Gulf side
Island which I believe is now the jail site. See map at the right. State archaeologist
Henry Baker took 22 boxes of artifacts to Tallahassee for
The site had been previously disturbed
and vandalizing occurred e even
excavation was in progress. I have never seen
any definite interpretation of the
time period; however, the report
states the pottery was of the Glades Period which would be from 750
b.c. to a.d. 1500 and appeared to be of the Calusas from the west
coast od Florida.
In Florida land
cannot be officially owned (deeded) until after it can be
an official state survey. The image to the right is a hybrid chart that
I overlaid the property owners from volume 21 of the Florida Tract
Books onto the survey chart by Charles F. Smith 1873. These
were the first official owners of Stock Island. How does the amount of
land area compare with today's Stock Island?
The entire original survey chart
includes all 36 sections of Township 67 South and Range 25 East. Shown
here are only sections 25, 26, 27, 34, 35 and 36. Each section is one
mile in size which contains 1,562 acres. As a reference, at the lower
right is the western tip of Boca Chica Key. The tiny island at the
upper right is labeled as "Monday Key." This particular survey
shows the original lots with their numbers which were so faded that
I overlaid the numbers in bold type. Each section has its own set
of lot numbers beginning with "1." The lot size is shown with their
division lines and almost too faded to read is the number of acres
hopefully can be read by enlarging the image. For example, William
Lowe's lot 3 of Section 26 had 47.27 acres.
The track book gives the legal
information of the original owners including the person's name, date of
receipt, date of the deed and where recorded for all 36 sections. The
earliest deeded landowner was William A. Lowe dated April 30, 1883 and
he owned 8 lots. The other land owner was Walter
C. Maloney, who owned five lots with deeds dated June 9, 1893.
Therefore, Stock Island began property ownership with two people owning
the entire island.
If one has a complete Abstract of
Title, he/she should be able to trace
ownership back to one of these
documentation that I
have of Stock Island is of William J. Krome surveying and reporting to
engineer James Meredith of the
Key West Extension route for the Florida East Coast Railway owned by
Flagler. A copy was given to the Key West Library.
the chief engineer while surveying the Lower Keys, on March 23, 1905,
he wrote "... Stock Island
is west of Boca Chica and separated by Boca Chica Channel. The northern
2/3 of this key is high rocky hammock with a maximum elevation of over
8 feet at mean tide. Almost 1/4 of a mile from the north side of the
key, a creek snakes nearly across parallel with the southern
shore line. The strip between this creek is low and the rock is near
the surface. There are in dwellings or springs on the key. Stock Island
offers considerable opportunity for development in case of increasing
population in Key West...." Further in the report when writing
about Key West Island, he writes, "... On the east it is separated from
Stock Island by a channel 1000' wide and less than 2' in depth...."
Still further when addressing Boca Chica Channel he wrote, "... It is
obstructed by banks but is continually used by boats drawing 3' or less
wishing to avoid the rough water in the harbor at the west end of Key
West. A strong tidal current passes through this channel...." I
understand the creek is still there.
From a group of 1905 to 1906
newspaper clipping collected by Krome
and compiled by me and also in
the Key West Library, is a clipping titled " Grading At Key West" and
dated February 6, 1906, we read,
".... The grade on Stock Island
has been completed, and like that of Key West it is built on solid
rock. There has been very little filling necessary on Stock Island, in
fact for a long stretch in the center of the island, it was necessary
to excavate in order to get the required grade.
"To those who has never been
over that island a trip over the grade will be
a revelation. The soil
of the island is exceedingly rich and is admirably fitted for truck
farming. There are hundreds of acres of rich hammock land covered with
a black loam which will grow anything...."
To the right are
taken two days later. At the top of the first photo is a body of water
known today as
Cow Key Channel. It is difficult to see, but note that there is just a
walking bridge in the center
of the fill and there are several buildings on the Key West side.
Following some text is the second photo of Henry Flagler and a party
of friends visiting Stock
Island. Flagler is the second from the right.
Another clipping titled "Big Hotel" and
dated February 13, 1906, reads "A party of distinguished guests arrived
in Key West Wednesday evening by the steamer Shinnecock from MIami.... The party
took a ride in a carriage on the county road to the eastern end of the
island and to Stock Island across from Key
Continuing to the 1907 clipping
book we find a clipping from the Miami
Metropolis newspaper (owned by Henry
Flagler) dated February 4, 1907, "The Lady
Lou carried two portable houses to Stock Island Friday. These
houses will be used as the commissary for the camp. A space of 500x600
feet is being cleared away to pitch tents. Mr. Josh, who has been
working with the engineer corps in the harbor,
has been made resident
engineer of Camp 83 at Cuddles. He left today to take
charge of the camp. Mr. Colton who has been in charge of Camp 83, will
be transferred to Stock Island temporarily."
Now appears a clipping with an amazing
declaration if true. A
clipping titled "THE NEW TOWN IS NAMED FLAGLER" and dated May 21, 1907,
reads, "The title to a valuable tract of land on Stock Island has
Mrs. Euphemia Maloney to the promoters of the Florida Keys Land Company.
"As soon as the survey is
made and the lines given, several acres of land will be put on the
market and an effort will be made to develop it at once.
"The town to be
located there has already been named Flagler, after Florida's great
benefactor. The plans of the company will be made public in a few days.
-- Key West Citizen"
The above is the only documented
mention that I have found of a town named Flagler, or any town on Stock
could have just been rumor or hype, or the concept died as in July 1907
the U.S. Navy through the War Department stopped the dredging and
Flagler's additional 135 acres for the Key West Terminal. If the
railroad was not going to be built, then the idea of a town may not be
such a good investment.
There is more to the story of the Navy
the construction, but briefly, Henry
almost immediately stopped all work south of Knight's Key Dock, pulled
his work crews, equipment and closed his Key West offices for the
remaining Keys southward of Marathon, and completed
mini city/terminal about a mile and a half out in Moser Channel south
of Marathon. Many say that this was his way of saying, 'for those who
want the railroad built to Key West - resolve this problem.' He
operated all of 1908 from Knight's Key Dock until the
Navy yielded to the dredging at Key West, then started the Seven Mile
Bridge in 1909. In the meantime, all of the floating construction
brought north and stored in the Miami River.
This could have been a motive to
walk away for the proposed new town on Stock Island. Regardless,
Flagler appears not to
fight the Navy, but simply [my words] let the powers of Key West and
Florida take care of the problem. After a year in early 1909 it was
resolved, the Navy yielded,
Flagler completed the Key West Trumbo Point depot and began the Seven
Mile Bridge continuation onward to Key West.
Leading up to two more Stock
Island articles, the Key West Citizen
published on May 11, 1910 the following; "The first spike to be driven
on the Key West end of the FEC RR was hammered down at 12:33 (on May
10th) on Trumbo Island. There were no ceremonies. The track which is
being built is a short stub from the dock to a point on Trumbo Island
and will be used primarily for the handling of material."
On June 27, 1910 the Key West
Citizen published: "At 5 o'clock Sunday afternoon, June
1910, with no ceremony and few witnesses, Mr. Ernest Cotton, Prof. M.P.
Geiger, Dr. J.B. Maloney, Misses Margaret Jones, Florence and Ottillie,
and a few railroad employees, the greatest event occurred on Stock
Island that has ever happened - the landing of engine No. 12 of the FEC
RR. She had a hard pull to get ashore as the grade was steep and rails
slippery, but by the aid of a few shovels of sand and extra steam she
landed high and dry. Three blasts of her whistle and she was ready for
I assume this is related to the same
June 29, 1910, the Miami News-Record
published: "Engine No. 12 which is known as the "pioneer" of the Key
West Extension arrived at the northern end of Stock Island, about 6
miles from Key West. It had been loaded on a barge towed by the steamer
PHIL SHECKEL. The
locomotive will be engaged in hauling material for
the construction of the track on Stock Island. The engine sent to Stock
Island for the purpose of facilitating the track construction on the
"There are nearly 1000 men now employed
between Key West and Boat [Boot - JW] Key Harbor. Boca Chica has a gang
of about 200 men. Of this number about 70 are engaged in laying rails."
The coming of the railroad to Key
West had already improved the access by the average citizen to Stock
Island with a foot bridge. I do not have the actual documentation but
The meager beginning takes us back to
1917, when Monroe County floated
a $100,000 bond issue to build roads, or trails, on Key Largo, Big Pine
Key and a bridge from Key West to Stock Island.
These three bridges and the coming of the Florida Land
Boom in the 1920s evolved into the beginning of the first Over Seas Highway (OSH) when Monroe County
voted a $300,000 bond issue in 1922 to construct a road from the
Club near the north end of Key Largo, down the key of Key Largo and
along side of the railroad to Matecumbe. Additional roadwork was also
be done in Key West and the Lower Keys. Dade County was to build the
from Homestead to Card Sound.
Stock Island obviously become
useful to Key West as in March 1924 the first six holes of the Stock
Island opened for play. Some where in the archives must be the details
of an amenity such as a recreation activity in the 1920.
In 1926, Monroe
floated a $2.5 million bond issue with an amazing two opposing votes
for more road construction. The Hurricane of 1926 caused some damage to the Upper Keys
road construction but changes were made and in 1927 it was obvious that
a highway at both ends would be built with a water gap of 40 miles between Lower Matecumbe Key and No Name Key. Three ferryboats were ordered from the Gibb's Shipyard of Jacksonville for $850,000 and on January 16, 1928 State Road 4A was opened for two way traffic. The highway crossed
Stock Island via today's MacDonald Avenue, Maloney Avenue across a
wooden bridge to Boca Chica and followed the ocean side route, then
railroad track on Sugarloaf Key to the Gulf side, then across Bow
Channel and on to No Name
Key via the 'old wooden bridge', or vice versa. Some remnants of the
right-of-way and rotten
wooded pilings remain, but only to a very interested investigator.
Boaters throughout the Lower Keys occasionally find isolated groups of
old bridge pilings.
For certain by 1928, all the Keys between Key West and No Name Key were
automobile and weekend cottages/homes and 'fish camps' became a norm.
Even during the toll road operation of the OSH after the 1935
Hurricane, the toll plaza was located at the eastern end of Big Pine
Key. This had to have caused considerable development on Stock Island.
I am a little surprised that the 1938 American Guide Series "U.S. One - Maine to Florida,"
compiled and written by the Federal Writers Project of the Works
Progress Administration (Modern Age
Books, Inc. New York, 1938) skips from Boca Chica Key directly
to Key West as if Stock Island did not exist. Yet, it mentions a
"Botanical Garden." After
a few paragraphs of pleading for assistance, I will display some Stock
that I copied from the Florida Room courtesy of the Key West Library
from old property record cards, thanks to Tom Hambright.
There were cows once on Stock Island;
however, in this photo a little late to give it it's name.
At this early time in Stock
the author is out of additional comprehensive and documented
history to continue. I am
of the opinion that Stock Island is too precious just to drop off the
radar screen. Who was the first family? How did the volunteer
fire department begin? When did Key West annex the northern part? What
was the first church and where? Was there ever a school? Were there any
political figures? The KWC microfilm at the Key West library has the
history there, but I don't have access to it - believe me, it will be
neck breaking, eye straining and time consuming task to ferret it off
It is well known that the Monroe
General Hospital opened on Stock Island in 1944; therefore, Stock
Island must have been reasonably well developed as there was space for
a hospital on the eastern part of Key West. Of course World War II was
in progress. The largest drive-in theater opened in 1053 and all of
these amenities require large land parcels.
The Key West Citizen reported in February 1952
that at Mom's Tea Room on Stock Island, Rita Brown, died of an overdose
of a drugs.
According to the Key West Citizen the
new dog track opened with 4,000 attending in January 1953.
Realizing that had we began a couple
decades earlier we could have collected more and better information,
but that is true with all the Keys. I believe that it is true that
shorted lived city was the City of Stock
Island. There is a story that freeholders approved incorporation in
July 1963 only to have
Circuit Judge Aquilino Lopez Jr. overturn the election effective March
26, 1964. What I do find in Monroe County election records is a
certified freeholders election dated July 22, 1964 for "An act creating
and chartering a muncipality to be known as the City of Stock Island,
in Monroe County, Florida, and to define its territorial boundaries
...." There were 83 votes cast of whicn 36 voted for the
incorporation and 47 voted against.
From the KWC the other week I saw
that on "On January 31, 1953 the dog track, which was built
in six weeks, opened with about 4,000 attending." There must be more to
Whether we agree that it is a part of history or not, I have bits of
info that before WW-II Rose Rabin had a
bawdy place on Truman Ave. in Key West and the Navy forced her to move
to Stock Island. Later, the local Navy met with
the Secretary of Navy that
would move the base away if Key West did no clean up the illegal
prostitutes and B-Girls. In 1954 she was closed. In 1955 she
applied to open again in Key West and Key West revoked
her license for the Imperial Club on Whitehurst. Is there
My interest is
here, but additional information is elsewhere. I solicit information
both textual and imagery. I can be emailed at "email@example.com"
or by phone at 305-852-1620, but I do not take shorthand, so please
mail to: Jerry Wilkinson, 38 East Beach Road, Tavernier, FL 33070
all historical material.
Stock Island Photos with questionable captions -
When the "Islander" first opened on
Stock Island in February 1953, it had the largest screen in the state
of Florida. It had parking for 600 cars and opened with "The Cimarron
Kid" starring Audie Murphy and Yvette Dugay.
Please mail any historic documentation to: Jerry
Wilkinson, 38 East Beach Road, Tavernier, FL 33070
all historical material.
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