Indian Key and John Housman
located midway between Key West and Miami, is in the busiest
shipwreck area on the reef. Originally it rivaled Key West as a
wrecking center and, in 1824, a store was erected that supplied
the wreckers with equipment, while the wreckers built houses on
the island as well as a hotel to accommodate people they saved.
Jacob Housman, a famous wrecker from Key West, purchased Indian
Key for $5000, including the store and the hotel.
Housman had gained a reputation for being the most
dishonest wrecking captain on the reef and had moved out of Key
West in order to escape the cityís merchants, lawyers and
political leaders who disliked him.
In 1835, he submitted a petition to the Territorial
Legislative Council asking that Monroe County, which included
Key West and Miami, be split into two counties with the boundary
line at Bahia Honda. His
petition was granted and the new county, named Dade, included
all of the middle and upper Keys as well as a large section of
the mainland. Indian
Key was designated as the county seat and Housman built a
courthouse to preside over wrecking cases in the Upper Keys,
which exempted Housman from the court in Key West.
Housmanís finances began to decline right after the Seminole
Wars when settlers left Indian Key, fearing for their lives.
By March 1840, he was out of money and was forced to
mortgage the entire island and all the buildings.
Within a year, Housman was dead, reportedly killed in an
accident while working as a seaman on a wrecking vessel.
Vessels and Equipment
American Lighthouse System
Key and Jacob Housman
People in the Industry