Details of Indian Key continued

This page by Jerry Wilkinson

     Charles Howe is a little more difficult to present, so please follow the dates as I present him as a person, his marriages/family, his property and his businesses.
     While reading remember that Howe was the postmaster, the collector of customs, Dr. Perrines personal friend, owned the house the Perrine family was living in, had the only house not destroyed in the raid and helped the heirs with the Perrine Land Grant after the doctor's death.
     Charles Howe was born in Northboro, Mass. on August 12, 1801 to parents Issac and Hanna Fay How. Evidently the letter "e" was added sometime later. From the Town Clerk of Northboro, we learn that Charles was the last born of 13 children whose names were: Sarah (died age 3), Silas, Hannah, Abraham, Rebecca, Issac Jr., Thankful, Sarah, Catherine, Dinah, Zeviah, Jacob and Charles. Charles married four times. His first wife was Ann Cole, the daughter of a sea captain (Edward Cole), on May 20, 1825. Charles and Ann Howe purchased Key Vaca, Viper Key, Knights Key, Boot Key and Duck Key from Issac Cox on December 8, 1827 for $1,500 to become the third owners of these islands. For a better genealogy CLICK HERE and then the Back Arrow
     During the settlement of the Jacob Housman estate, Charles Howe stated under oath on November 10, 1845, "That for the past 18 years he had been a permanent resident of Florida and that for ten years was a resident of Indian Key in the County of Dade and where he was Inspector of Customs and Postmaster and he was at present Collector of Customs at the Port of Key West..." Performing some subtraction, he therefore became a resident of Florida in 1827 and of Indian Key in 1835. This almost agrees with House Report 638 of the 27th Congress on April 12, 1842 which stated, "The Committee on Claims to which was referred the petition of Charles Howe reports: That petitioner represents that about December 12, 1832 he was appointed inspector of customs to reside and perform his duties at Indian Key in Florida; that he soon after went to Indian Key with his family and continued to reside there and perform his official duties until August 7, 1840, when hostile Indians destroyed and carried off nearly all his property, which he values at $7,714 and left him in a destitute situation." As previously mentioned, the Indians did not destroy his house; however, he did own the house where Dr. Perrine lived which was burned. The Committee determined that he was not entitled to any relief.
     The 1835 residency date is further confirmed from the Monroe County deed book, "April 23, 1835 Jacob and Ann Housman sold to Charles Howe the lot formerly occupied by James Eagan, also the house and kitchen formerly occupied by James Pent. Lot $580 - house $580." However, post office records reveal that Howe was appointed postmaster earlier on February 9, 1835. Of course, he could have been renting at that time.
     Where was Howe between 1827 and 1835? Florida Territorial Papers have him appointed as one of six Monroe County Justices of the Peace on January 18, 1831 and one of 17 in 1833. Monroe County was a large place then, in fact it was almost all of southern Florida. He also owned Duck Key and thought to have been manufacturing salt there.
     The Key West Register on June 4, 1829 reported that: Charles Howe of Duck Key has been appointed by the Governor of Florida, Associate Judge of Monroe County. Monroe County Deed Book A records that on June 1, 1832 Charles and Silas Howe of Duck Key sold the Key Vacas to Charles Edmonton. It appears that Charles Howe was a resident of Duck Key at least until 1833.
       Now to Indian Key, in March 1838, Howe married his second wife Abigail Fletcher Talbert. He had children Sarah Ann, Charles Jr. and Edward C. from Ann Cole. His slaves were: William, March, Samuel, David, Jenny, Hannah and William Henry.
       In the same year there are several records of Dr. Perrine sending Howe seeds to plant while Perrine was still the U.S. Consul at Campeche, Mexico. In July of 1838 Charles Howe was one of the appointed directors of the Tropical Plant Company along with Dr. Perrine and Judge Webb. Later Hester Perrine wrote,  ". . .As soon as our boat came to anchor Mr. Howe came aboard, and in his boat we were landed. Our first Christmas dinner (1838) was eaten at his hospitable table We were shut out of all social life, with the exception of the family of Mr. Howe ."
       After Dr. Perrine's death, it appears that Charles Howe continued to live on Indian Key until 1842 since his house wasn't destroyed and his slaves worked for Lt. McLaughlin as carpenters. Howe wrote to William Fletcher (his brother-in-law) from Indian Key on November 8, 1840, "...We are the only family remaining on the island, and your sister is the only woman nearer than Key West. Capt. H. (Housman) has cleared out for good - took everything he had left to Key West about a fortnight since to sell at auction - his Negroes, boats, vessels and I think I see his object, he is as usual very schemy (sic) " Howe was appointed a Judge of Dade County on February 26, 1841 so he was not in Key West then.
      It further appears that Howe sent three of his children, Sarah, Charles and Edward to live with the Perrine family in New York to attend school in 1841. From here on Charles Howe is difficult to trace. From the Mystic Seaport Museum in Connecticut, letters are found between Howe and Elam Eldridge from May 1838 to June 1848. Elam had built Howe's boat the CHARLES & EDWARD in which he had escaped to Tea Table Key during the raid. In a September 12, 1839 letter to Elam he wrote: "My boat CHARLES & EDWARD was in Government service for 4 months (rented to Lt. McLaughlin), and when they supposed the war (Second Seminole) was over, they gave her up, which was a most fortunate thing for me, for if they had kept her two months longer I believe she would have been ruined..." All letters after July 18, 1842 were from Key West. For a group of letters written by Charles Howe in the 1800s CLICK HERE and then the Back Arrow to return here
     There is nothing in the letters to indicate this, however this should have been the time that Howe was attempting to prove the 36 square miles of the Perrine Grant south of present day Miami by bringing 36 Bahamians to occupy each square mile. In summary, neither Charles Howe nor Henry Perrine Jr. could induce 36 settlers to each farm one square mile in order to satisfy the terms of the Land Grant. It was finally settled in the courts in 1897, or at least it appeared to be.
     It seems as if the Howe family never lost faith in the value of Dr. Perrine's sisal hemp as a product or the allegation that Dr. Perrine had promised Charles Howe a fifth of the Grant. A Henry A. Howe on his way from New York to Key West for a hemp machine filed an 1887 suit in Juno, Florida for the 10,000 acres promised by the Perrine heirs. The lawsuit went to the Supreme Court where it was dismissed in 1898.
     Backing up in time, Charles Howe married his third wife, Eliza Brightman in Key West on November 13, 1847, however she died of yellow fever. He was still in Key West for the 1850 census. He married his fourth wife Julia Blodget on November 7, 1854 in Hadley, Mass.  where he was buried, passing away at age 71 on January 27, 1873. However, he had remained in Key West as the Collector of Customs from 1861 to 1869. During the Civil War, Charles and sons Charles Jr. and Edward were members of the Key West Union Volunteer Corps which offered its services to the Union Commander at Fort Taylor. Children, Charles Jr., Edward and Amelia remained in Key West and became prominent business people.

The End 
 Click HERE to continue tour to the Biography of Dr. Henry Perrine

 Click HERE to return to the Indian Key Homepage

E-Mail to editor

Return to Keys Historeum