Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Indian Key, Florida -A Ghost Town and an Inspiration

Looking out to the ocean from Indian Key
I decided to visit Indian Key, Florida, because it is a ghost town with an interesting history.  Fortunately, Indian Key is preserved forever as a Florida state park in 1824, two Key West men, Joshua Appleby and a man named Snyder, sent an employee, Silas Fletcher, to open a store on Indian Key. The store was to serve wreckers, settlers and Indians in the upper Keys, and a settlement of primarily Bahamian wreckers and turtlers grew up on the island.  Wreckers were folks who salvaged goods off the many ships that ran afoul of the nearby reefs.  By 1829, the settlement was large enough to include a dozen women.  In 1836, Indian Key was the county seat for all Dade County. The county seat was moved to Miami in 1844 and the upper Keys, including Indian Key, were returned to Monroe County.   It had two-story houses, a hotel where John Audubon stayed, a post office, stores and warehouses. Indian Key thrived until August 7, 1840, when Seminole Indians attacked. About 50 to 70 residents escaped, 13 were killed, including a well-known local, Dr. Henry Perrine, a medical doctor and botanist. The Indians burned the buildings on Indian Key after thoroughly looting it.Abandoned by almost all of its civilian population, Indian Key was taken over by the Navy for the duration of the Second Seminole War which ended in 1842.

Part of the town square
The 1850 Census found a few families living there, while only two families were left on the island in 1860. In 1856, during the Third Seminole War, the U.S. Army stationed a few men on the island to protect the two remaining families from possible attack by Seminoles. The Keys lost most of their population again during the Civil War, but William Bethel, a wrecker, continued to live on the island from the 1850s until sometime after 1880.  The town never recovered.
Remains of a house on the Indian Key

All that is there now is a ghost town.  It has ruins overgrown with jungle-like vegetation, streets signs marking paths that follow the grid of original streets and crumbling foundations of buildings.  This island doesn't have any fresh water so the good news is that it’s a bug-free.  It is hard to imagine that in its day, the people only had cisterns to collect water.

Robbie's Marina 
I went by kayak to get to the island.  I left from  Robbie’s Marina which is a favorite Florida stop.  The kayak trip to Indian Key is over mostly shallow water and seagrass flats. Since the water is so shallow and clear, it is possible to see wildlife. I spotted a nurse shark and a ray. The kayak trip took 40 minutes and I enjoyed great views of the Florida Keys.  When returning to Robbie's we had a wonderful lunch there.

Handmade Embossed Patinated Bird Pendant Available HERE

Since returning from the trip,  I made some jewelry components to add to my shop.  One of the components is this handmade bird pendant would make a wonderful focal for a jewelry design. This bird pendant began with a 34mm natural brass circle. There is one hole at the top. If you would like additional holes just convo me. I embossed it with this bird and tree pattern and patinated the metal. The patina metal pendant has been buffed to reveal some of the raw brass of the design. I used patinas of moss and emerald green and yellow. Both sides has been sealed to protect the finish. The reverse side of this bird focal has the same colors and the raised parts buffed to reveal the raw brass.  This bird pendant was inspired by the story of John Audubon staying at a hotel on the Island and working on some of his bird drawings while there.  

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