Our specific goal is to present the who, what, when and how the Upper Keys were more or less permanently settled and to establish the early settlements, some of which are no longer inhabited. The following is excerpted from the 1870 census is presented as a reference.
From 1836 to 1866, the Upper Keys were part of Dade County, therefore Dade County records must accessed for Upper Keys information. The 1860 census for Dade County listed 52 persons in the Middle and Upper Keys. Four families on Key Vaca had 38 members, three families on Indian Key had 13 and two families on Matecumba [sic] Key (Russell and Roberts) had 14. No one was shown on Windley, Plantation and Key Largo Keys. The date for the entire 1860 Keys' census is one day, 24 August 1860.
The Upper Keys were again in Monroe County by the time of the 1870 census. We have copies of the actual work sheets used by the census taker. The work sheet specifically names the island with other details in addition to numerical summaries. A few items are unreadable; however it does give significant data such as: Name, age, sex, color, occupation, property value, country of birth, et cetera. A copy is at the Monroe County library in Key West.
In 1870, this was real frontier living. Miami was not even a town; it was Fort Dallas. Tampa was Fort Brooke. Yet, it was thirty years after the Indian Key massacre. Florida had a total population of 187,748, Key West of 5,657 and the Upper Keys of 134.
The U.S. census started in mid-July on Boca Chica Key with dwelling #1 and family (household) #1. It ended on upper Key Largo with dwelling #94 and family #77; i.e., 17 dwellings were unoccupied. It also indicates that the census enumerator found 94 dwellings of some description from Boca Chica to north Key Largo. Boca Chica had four blacks and one Mexican Indian. Sugarloaf Key had three black woodcutters. The remaining census population was white, except for one black on Little Pine Key, its only inhabitant.
Bypassing the Lower Keys and moving to the Upper Keys from Indian Key to Key Largo, the 1870 census listed 134 inhabitants- all white, no Indians. None had attended school within the last year. Like the census of today, it can be assumed it was not perfect. There were no roads, only paths, and the census taker had to travel from place to place by boat.
Of the 134 Upper Keys inhabitants, there were
53 Bahamians, 71 Floridians, one Georgian, one North Carolinian, one Texan,
one Russian, two Irish and four English. Does this tempt you to read on?
All of the 71 Floridians appear to have had both parents from the Bahamas,
except for two children of a Bahamian father and a Texan mother. It can
be concluded that 124 of the 134 were of Bahamian origin. An occupation
was listed for all those over 18 and there were 24 farmers, 12 seamen,
3 lighthouse keepers, 3 servants, 1 minister, 1 carpenter and 1 farm laborer.