William R. Hackley
By Jerry Wilkinson

       William R. Hackley moved to Key West in 1829 where he remained until 1857. He was a practicing attorney and kept a diary, of which only parts survived. The Key West library has a copy of all surviving portions. It was transcribed by Dr. Robert L. Goulding, Hackley’s maternal grandfather. The Hackley family is an important part of early Florida history.
        Most of the diary is of Key West; however, we pick up with Mr. Hackley visiting the Upper Keys and he briefly refers to Indian Key in 1831. Should the reader only wish to read the entries referring to Indian Key, I have placed an * at those entries :
*        “. . . Thursday, Feby 24th.  Got under weigh a little before sunrise. Wind N.W. and beat up to Indian Key and came to anchor about 4 PM. We stretched out in the Gulf out of sight of land and in going in the Capt. caught two fish that would weigh around 70 pounds. They were 7 ft. long, one broad with an upper bill projecting out 1 foot, they were nearly black but in dying exhibited a change of colour and has on the back a fin 28 inches long and 24 broad which gave them a beautiful appearance in the water and two pectoral fins of 24 inches length and 3/4 broad. The natives of the Bahamas call this a Pike, it is a very good fish.
*       “Friday, Feb. 25.  Got under weigh at daylight with the wind N.E. and stood out to the reef and stood back to the harbour and came to anchor - - - The John Dennison came in and I received a letter from Mother and B. papers. Captn. Wm. Barker went down to Key West with a load of cotton from the British Brig Marcelly of Grenack, Capt. Monroe, who got ashore on the bar at Bear Cut on the 15th. instant from New Orleans bound to Glascow with 991 bales. She is a total loss and the cotton is all landed on the beach. After breakfast went on shore on Lignum Vitae Key where Capt. Rooke has built a house for the purpose of obtaining preemptive right [a method of obtaining the right to purchase land before the Homestead Act.]. It is about three miles from Indian Key and is about 3 miles in circumference and is heavily timbered and a fine soil. In one place when a well was dug a quantity of stiff red clay was found. A quantity of Lignum Vitae grows on the key from whence it derives its name. Capt. Bunce went on shore for the purpose of going down to Duck Key. Wrote a note to Mr. Browne.
     “Saturday, Feb. 26th. Rose just before daylight and after an early breakfast went up to Lignum Vitae Key. The men went to work thatching the house and I took a walk thro the woods. I found the land very good and not difficult to be cleared. The house is made of posts set in the ground and poles nailed across and palmetto leaves tied to them which forms a tight roof and lasts about five years. Got aboard about dark.
*      “Sunday, Feb.27th. Rose about daybreak and after breakfast went to Lignum Vitae Key to look at some traps set last night for raccoons- - they took none and we hunted the woods with the same success. Got on board at 1/2 past 12, read Roccus and remained on board all evening as I dislike Indian Key so much that unless I have business I am determined not to go ashore.
       “Monday, Feby. 28th. Rose at daybreak, after breakfast went up to Lignum Vitae Key and took all hands to finish the house which was done and it makes a much more pleasant one than I had supposed possible. The leaves look rather rough on the outside but within they present a pretty appearance. About 2 P.M. Mr. Burton and two men took the boat and went to look for stone crabs. I accompanied him and waded for more than a hour up to my knees in the water. The crab lives in a hole generally under some stones from which they are very difficult to be taken. They are nearly round with very large claws and are much larger than the common crab and much more delicate eating. Got on board after sunset. Wind blowing fresh from N.E. and about 1/2 past 7 it began to rain but very little fell. The Capt. (Rooke) left one of his men to prepare the ground for planting during his absence to fill his water at the cape [Cape Florida].
     “March 1st., 1831 Florida Reef. Rose at daybreak, the wind blowing so fresh from the N.E. that we do not like to undertake to beat up to the cape [Probably Cape Florida] and therefore did not get under way. Last night there were 7 wrecking vessels out of 12 which are now on the reef in the harbour and at anchor. Read the “Peace Campains of Cornet (sic).”
*       “Wednesday, March 2nd. Rose at daybreak and got under weigh to beat up the reef with wind E.N.E.. Made one or two tacks when we found that the wind was so fresh and the sea so high that it was needless to attempt to get up and so we ran back and came to anchor at Indian Key. Read Hungarian Tales. After dinner took a sail with the Capt. up to Lignum Vitae Key. 
       “Thursday, March 3rd [1831].  Got under weigh at daybreak with a single reefed mainsail, foresail with the bonnet off, and standing jib. The wind in squalls from about NE and a heavy sea even inside of the reef. About 9 A.M. discovered a ship on shore which proved to be the Amulet, of Duxbery, G. Wisdom, Mstr.,[?] from Boston to New Orleans - at Pickles Reef [Off of Tavernier Key] in 8 Ft. of water and she draws 13. On our arrival we found 6 sloops and one schooner at anchor and we came too about half a mile from the ship in a position in some degree sheltered by the rocks but even then the schooner rolled heavily. The ship lay on her bilge [The widest part of her bottom.] and the breakers were white all around her and now and then I could see a sea break on her stern and flying foam all over her - one of the sloops was anchored at a 1/4 mile and had a warp [a rope to pull with] to the ship by means of which by hauling the boats thro’ the midst of the breakers the cargo was transferring on board of the wrecking vessels. Capt. Rooke [Hackley’s captain] went on board but there was enough without him. We went in about sunset and anchored in Tavanier [sic]. Whilst at anchor on the reef the Cutter Marion pass [sic] on her way to Charleston.
       “Friday, March 4th. Got under weigh at 1/4 past 4 and beat out to the reef, the ships still in the same position. Bore up and stood for the Cape and at about 1/4 before 3 came to anchor off the mouth of the Miami [River]. Capt. Barker and Monroe came on board and Capt. Rooke agreed to take a load of cotton to Key West for $2 a bale. Mr. Burton and myself went up the river to procure water, saw some ducks but killed none. I left the boat and walked down the river for a short distance. The land has the appearance of being very rich, being black mould, the grass on the openings, which are frequent, being more than waist high.
       “Saturday, March 5th. Got under weigh at 5 A.M. and beat up to Bear Cut [North Miami Beach] where the cotton was landed from the [aforementioned] brig. The schrs Wm. Ross and Pizarro and sloop Energy are here to take a load; The brig has been burnt to obtain the copper & c. Her stem & a stern part now alone remains [sic] to show the spot she struck, about half a mile from shore. Took my gun and walked about 5 miles up the beach, on my return killed one partridge. I could have shot several but had none but duck shot [too large for partridge] with me.”
      “Sunday, March 6th. Rose at daylight, all hands employed in loading schr. I had so little success yesterday that I do not feel inclined to try the gun again. Read Anne of Grirestein and tried to fish, caught a catfish and in disengaging it from the hook it stuck one of its fins in my finger which gave a great deal of pain for several hours.
      “Monday, March 7th. Rose at daylight, all hands loading schr. I went ashore and walked up the beach and gathered some Hicaco plumes. Returned on board about 12N. Read Roccus. After dinner it became cloudy and rained a little. At night the mosquitoes were so numerous so to make a [mosquito] bar useful.
       “Tuesday, March 8th. Rose at daylight, the Capt. and myself went to ye brig, on our way discovered the whole of the rigging & c. of the brig, got some of it and at 12 got under weigh with a light wind from SSW. There was a heavy fog in the morning. Came to anchor under Key Biscayne about sundown.
       “Wednesday, March 9th. Rose at daylight and took in 33 bales making 246 in all and the bales are piled four tiers on deck. After dinner took a walk up the beach.
       “Thursday (not dated) Rose at daylight & went fishing before breakfast. At 1/2 past 10 a squall came up from the N.W. and blew for a short time accompanied by rain. At half-past 11 got under weigh in company with the schooners Pizarro and Wm. Ross and Sloop Energy and a smack [small fishing boat] all loaded from the Brig Marcelly. Anchored at 7 P.M. off the [Carysfort] Light Ship.
*       “Friday, March 11th. Got under weigh before daylight and at 1/4 before 12 anchored off Indian Key. The Capt. went up to get the men he left. Ye ship Amulet lays on the rocks yet but is stripped of her rigging & c. A little to the southward of Tavanier [sic] Mr. Owens spoke to us, he is bound up to New River [Fort Lauderdale]. About 1/4 before 2 got under weigh and about 7 came to anchor at Key Vacas all in company.
      “ Saturday, March 12., 1831. Got under weigh with a light breeze from the E at 4 A.M. but I did not turn out till day. Capt. Appleby came down in company, arrived at Key West at 5 P.M. The warf [sic] presents a very lively appearance from the number of vessels in port. The Judge called in and set some time. I subscribed $10 toward the salary of a preacher who is to be invited to reside at this place. The judge gave [a salvage award of] $2,200 in the case of the Tison. After tea wrote Mother.
      “Sunday, March 13th. Rose at reveille and read my brief in the case of O’Hare vs. Brig Halcyon and after breakfast read over the authorities relating to the case. About 12 Capt. Rooke went up the reef and at half-past J. Weaver sailed for Charleston in the Sloop Mary from St. Marks. He took my letter to Mother. . . .”
      For a larger portion of the diary, please click HERE.
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