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- History of Tea Table Key
- By Jerry Wilkinson
has very little
documented information of Tea Table Key and solicits additional input
readers. To provide assistance, please click the prepared e-mail tab at
the bottom of this page. First to assist readers not certain of the
of Tea Table Key, the above is excerpted from a 1968 navigation chart.
Much of the island's documented history was its role in the Second
War (1835-1842); therefore, a review of this war.
- The war began
with an attack of troops being led from Tampa to Ocala by Major Francis
Dade, the namesake of Dade County. The first recorded action for South
Florida was in January 1816 was the slaughter of the William Cooley
in the Fort Lauderdale area. The reaction was an estimated 200 people
the area to Indian Key and Key West. The next incident was the attack
the Cape Florida Lighthouse in July 1836 resulting in the killing of
assistant light keeper and the burning of inside of the lighthouse.
Jacob Housman then organized an unit of the volunteer Florida Militia
Indian Key. The following year, the third major incident was the
of Captain John Whalton, the lightship keeper at Carysfort Reef, and
crewman on Key Largo in June 1937. One could conclude that the war was
now in the Keys.
Taylor, the commanding
General of the Florida War, assigned two navy ships, the Madison
and the Campbell to cruise the Keys in June 1838. In December
Lt. Napoleum L. Coste, the commander of the Campbell, wrote the
the Navy, James Paulding, that he had established his headquarters at
Table Key and had named it Fort Paulding. No one knows how pleased the
Secretary would have been had he known that the fort bearing his name
a 3.55 acre mangrove island with two post coconut thatch-roof
however, that's the way it was. By far the majority, if not all, of
existing log book
entries referred to it as Tea Table Key and not as Fort Paulding.
As a note, James Kirke
Paulding served both the government and a civilian career. He was
talented and prolific American literary figure. He was the 11th
Secretary of Navy under President Martin Van Buren and served during
the President's term of office. He had extensive naval technical and
Before I continue, new
shown up that Tea Table Key was already owned by Indian Key personnel
being farmed by Lemuel Otis. Copies of the legal confrontation that
has been requested and will be posted as revisions to this page as soon
evidently expanded to
more than two structures. Not much is known of these; however, Lt.
was accused of using military personnel to build himself a personal
following is a transcription of a letter from the Office of the Revenue
Cutters: "Key West, November 10, 1839 - I certify that Lt. Coste while
in command of the USRC [United States Revenue Cutter] Campbell,
I being acting 1st Lt. under his command and at all times present
any men were employed on Tea Table Key and no men were ordered by me or
Lt. Coste to work on his house, or the contrary he frequently
me not to permit any of the crew to assist at his individual property
that at several times part of the crew belong to the vessels were
constructing a palmetto house, the frame of which was brought from Cape
Florida to Tea Table Key (the fact of which the Department was advised)
which houses was intended for boat and store houses where provisions
stored when brought up and boats stored for repairs - Nor were the
of the crew of the USRC Campbell employed.
exist from Key West
civilians attesting to the purchasing of materials, hiring and payment
from a private account of Lt. Coste of civilian personnel to work on
- When Lt.
McLaughlin was made commander
of the military forces in the Keys he made Tea Table Key his
After the Indian Key raid of August 7, 1840, McLaughlin leased the
of Indian Key for his headquarters. Many believe that Tea Table Key was
vacated and everyone moved to Indian Key. Documentation reveals that
is not totally true. From the log of the Flirt commanded by Lt.
McLaughlin: "November 17  - Drilled men at small arms at Tea
Key." Perhaps, just the drill field and flagstaff remained.
- During the attack of
Key in August 1840,
Midshipman Murray attempted to attack the maundering Indians using some
ill servicemen and a cannon that failed. Below is a letter he sent to
his superior officer, Lt. McLaughlin.
- "Lieut. Comd.
Tea Table Key
August 7th 1840
I have the honor to report that Indian Key was last night taken by the
Indians, - of which fact I was appraised from the Medium at
this morning, our force here consisted of five men, with whom
to seven or eight of the sick, who volunteered readily, but were
weak to be of much service, I started for the key; - at first, with the
intention of landing, which however was opposed by the enemy who had
refuge in every house, and opened a heavy fire which fell thick around
us, striking our boats, & wounding one man severely and dangerously
in the thigh. They appeared also in great
the beach, yelling and firing, which firing we returned with
three discharges of
pounders, in the Barges. At the third discharge, being obliged to
fire them athwart ships, our
overboard; being deprived of the means of cutting off their
Tea Table Key, to make preparations for the attack which I think
is their intention to make upon us; being assured, that our amount
of force, and means,
us of no assistance to the inhabitants of Indian Key, if any
is not to
be supposed. The families of Messrs
Housman and Howe & two Seamen have alone escaped.
I have the honor to
(Signed) Francis Key Murray
" P. S. The Indian force at the lowest estimate judging from the number
of Canoes is fifty or sixty, I am obliged to write in great
The Indians used the long guns on the Key firing them at us repeatedly
with good aim. "
As previously stated, I
see no additional use of the name Fort Paulding.
To read more military
the time period, CLICK HERE,
and use the back arrow to return.
This page is still
and will be updated as additional information is found. At the present,
2003, the island is a private residence (two buildings) connected by a
US-1 at about MM 79.3 in the mid 1950s..
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