Today in Key West History podcast

Today in Key West History

43 Keys Media

Key West and the surrounding Florida Keys are rich in history dating back to the Spanish Conquistadors. Each day holds a new opportunity to learn about the significant historical events that happened in Key West and the Florida Keys. These bite sized podcasts are a great way to brush up on your historical facts about this beautiful coral cay archipelago paradise that we call home!

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    Key West History - Jan. 23, 1896 - Florida's Wealthiest Man Dies


    Born in Green Turtle Cay, Bahamas on Sept. 21, 1821, William Curry had always heard the tales of the fortunes that could be made in a nearby city call Key West. At the age of 15, Curry came to the island of Key West as a penniless immigrant, with nothing more than outsized ambition going for him. He arrived in 1837, when Key West was the wealthiest city in the state, and had the most per capita wealth of any city in the country. At that time the main industry was wrecking.    Curry’s work history began as humble as any of ours has. He got a job as a clerk in the office of Weever & Baldwin. The position paid $1 a week and also included room and board. He left Key West for several years to fight in the Seminole War, but eventually landed back in Key West, where he began his climb up the corporate ladder in earnest.   He rose in the ranks to become the US quartermaster, and went on to be named a partner in a firm. He eventually ascended to take over the firm in 1861. William Curry had an innate business sense that served him well. He was able to amass a fortune through his various business holdings and investments - a retail mercantile, wrecking, ship building, and of course, his investments in the stock market.   Curry’s story is the epitome of the “American Dream” - rags to riches story, that gives all of us a glimmer of hope. William married his wife, Euphemia and together they raised 8 children. Eventually, 3 of the children formed the William Curry’s Sons Company and ran the family business through that entity.    William Curry also had a keen eye for real estate, and during the course of his life, he acquired quite a portfolio of some prime Key West real estate. His own personal home, that’s referred to today as The Curry Mansion, was quite impressive. However, the structure that we see standing today is actually the rebuilt version of the home. The original home was virtually all demolished in 1905, and save for the stone hearth and chimney, Milton Curry, a son of William rebuilt the structure entirely. This rebuild included large amounts of then plenteous Date County Pine and lots of ornate and decorative carving that is emblematic of the Georgian revival style.    The 22 room mansion sits like a Gingerbread castle at 511 Caroline St., and to this very day captivates all who pass by.   At the time of his death, William Curry had become Florida’s first self-made millionaire. With an estate valued at $1.5 million, he was at the time, the riches man in Florida.    And it was today, Jan. 23, 1896 that William Curry died. He was survived by his wife and 8 children.    And that’s what happened Today in Key West History.   Today in Key West History is brought to you by 43 Keys Media. You can learn all about our glorious past and what’s currently going on in the beautiful Florida Keys by visiting   You can find this show and others as an Alexa Flash Briefing, you can find us on YouTube, FB and anywhere you listen to podcasts. So, where ever you listen to the show, subscribe to never miss an episode. Then join us over at
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    Key West History - Jan. 22, 1926 - The First Luxury Hotel Opens in Key West


    Despite having decades in the late 1800's where Key West had the highest amount of wealth per-capita, as well as being the largest city in Florida, it wasn't until 1926 that Key West experienced its first taste of luxury. Having confirmed its status as a bonafide city by re-inventing itself after the collapse of the wrecking industry, Key West continued to draw an elite class into its vortex. Politicians, Heads of State, writers and more celebrities than you could imagine were making Key West a destination of choice! During this time, Key West also began making a concerted effort to promote itself as a tourist destination. However, until 1926, there were really no true luxury accommodations to speak of. There were plenty of lavish private homes of the rich and well-heeled, but not all wealthy tourists had access to them.  The LaConcha Hotel was really the first of its kind in Key West. It was a true luxury hotel, complete with private bathrooms, marble tile and it even had an elevator. The LaConcha remains the tallest building on the island today.  Located in the heart of the Duval St. Historic district, it is an icon for locals and tourists alike. After its opening, the LaConcha has a history of hosting many famous people, and it remains a favorite spot to view the island - from the top of the tallest building on the island! You can check out the LaConcha Hotel at Book a stay and come see us! The LaConcha Hotel is one of the few hotels in Key West that have attained the distinction of being on the National Register of Historic Places, as well as being inducted into the Historic Hotels of America program. There are strict requirements to attain both of these designations. The LaConcha has managed to preserve its history and evolve as a modern destination. It was today, January 22, 1926 that the LaConcha Hotel first opened its doors to the public. There was entertainment and a private dinner attended by 175 well-connected Key Westers!  And that's what happened Today in Key West History.  You can visit us at ( to find out more about our beautiful Florida Keys. You can also find this program and others as an Alexa Flash Briefing. You can find us on YouTube and anywhere you get your podcasts.  Where ever you find us, subscribe so that you don't miss a single episode!
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    Key West History - Jan. 21, 1880 - Ulysses S. Grant Visits Key West


    If I described a leader as a failed business man - multiple times, someone who struggled with alcohol, a military man who couldn't stand the uniforms, and a novice politician, you'd probably think I was describing a failed leader who quickly fell off the pages of history.  However, this description fits one of the most influential men in US history in the 19th century! With many accomplishments and a victory in the Civil War, we could only be talking about Ulysses S. Grant!  Learn some little known facts about him on Today in Key West History. It was today, Jan. 21, 1880 that Ulysses S. Grant and rode into town and was the guest of honor at the Jefferson Hotel on Duval St. And that's what happened today in Key West history. Visit us at (
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    Key West History - Jan 18, 1912 - The Filming of Flagler's Railroad Journey


    The dream of one man changed the isolation of the Florida Keys for all time. Henry Flagler was a native New Yorker and he was born in 1830. He only went to school up until the eighth grade. But later on, he went on to establish the Standard Oil Company with John D. Rockefeller - that was in 1870 and he became very wealthy. After that, in 1885, he purchased a shoreline railroad between Jacksonville and St. Augustine, and then he began expanding it toward Miami. Miami was at that time only a very small settlement, not the big metropolis that it is. Now, Flagler had a vision and the vision of his railroad went to Miami. But beyond Miami, he wanted to connect the mainland to the deep port of Key West. At this time, Key West was a booming city it had more than 10,000 residents and it had the highest concentration of wealth of any city in the country. Flagler might have also had in the back of his mind that if he could connect the railroad to Key West, then he could also connect the railroad to Cuba. His railroad extended to Homestead by 1904, and after that he began work on connecting the entire Florida Keys. By 1908, the railroad had connected Homestead to Marathon,. Marathon became a boomtown - ships brought their cargoes of Cuban pineapples and limes, and they were loaded on the railway cars and shipped North. The railroad turnaround from Marathon to Homestead was at the Knights Key Campground. It's just recently been demolished and a brand new resort is still being built right there. It took a whole lot of engineering to overcome that seven mile gap between Marathon and Bahia Honda. During the construction of this section of the railroad, construction work was hampered by devastating hurricanes both in 1909 and 1910. But on January 22, 1912, Henry Flagler, who was now the ripe old age of 82, finally rode his dream from Homestead to Key West. He jumped in the railroad car and went across 42 stretches of sea over 17 miles of concrete, viaducts, and concrete and steel bridges, over 20 miles of filled calls ways ultimately covering 128 miles from island to island, and it was the culmination of his grand vision. Henry Flagler entered Key West that day a hero. Henry Flagler died the following year, and probably never knew that his big dream his vision, his flight of fancy had changed the course of the Florida Keys forever. It was today January the 18th, 1912, that John J. Frawley of the Lubin Manufacturing Company was in Key West to film the arrival of the first train on Henry Flagler's Railroad, and also to get some footage of the other industries of the city. And that's what happened today in Key West history. Today, in Key West History is brought to you by 43 Keys Media. You can find this and other programs as an Alexa flash briefing. You can also find us on YouTube and anywhere you listen to your podcasts. You can also find out more about our glorious past and the Florida Keys and even what's going on right now by visiting
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    Key West History - Jan 17, 1928 - Calvin Coolidge and His Wife Arrived in Key West


    When President Donald Trump visited Key West late last year, it was the first time in nearly 55 years for a sitting US president to visit Key West. Prior to that, the last time was when John F. Kennedy stopped by to inspect the defenses of Key West and provide some positive publicity for South Florida. And that was in November of 1962, following the Cuban Missile Crisis. Key West's location and climate has a long history of drawing in the top executives, not just from companies but also from the most powerful nation in the world. US presidents have loved Key West for years. One of the most famous visitors was Harry Truman. Harry Truman came to Key West 11 times during his presidency. He always ended up staying at the Navy's officer residence. And that house is now called Truman's Little White House. Ulysses S. Grant was the first US president to visit Key West. He came in 1880, it was 11 years after leaving office, while traveling with Civil War General, Phil Sheridan. They were on a steamship from New Orleans bound for Havana, but had to stop in Key West for the day. That was during the period when Key West was one of the largest cities in Florida and also one of the wealthiest. Another Civil War leader, Jefferson Davis had also visited Key West. He stopped by in 1867, the day after he was released from prison on bail. Key West is a good place to go when you just get out of jail! In his first term as President, Grover Cleveland also stopped by Key West in 1889. He spent a few hours in the city and he was shown around the island in carriages, and there was a public reception held at the Russell House. William Howard Taft came to Key West on Henry Flagler's Overseas Railway. The year was 1912. That was just 11 months after the railway opened and President Taft was on his way to inspect the Panama Canal. But of course he had to come to Key West first and then get on a ship. And Calvin Coolidge also stopped by Key West on his way back from a meeting in Cuba. That year was 1928 and he had just finished speaking at a big conference in Cuba. Franklin Delano Roosevelt visited Key West six times between 1917 and 1939, he was practically a snowbird. His first stop was when he was young Assistant Secretary of the Navy and he was en route to Cuba as well. After Roosevelt was stricken with polio, he spent several winters in the Keys on a houseboat. And then he also came back to Key West as president in 1939. It was a very different ride then as he was coming down the overseas highway, in an open air convertible. And you can be sure that Key West always appreciated this type of attention from the chief executive, as many of our streets in Key West our name for Presidents - there's Truman Avenue, there's Einsenhower and Kennedy Dr. Dwight Eisenhower first came to Key West before he became president. He was the Presiding Officer of the Joint Chiefs of Staff when he came and he spent 21 days at the Little White House, trying to recover from an illness. Guess who recommended that he do that? You got it - Harry Truman. Eisenhower also returned in 1955 when he was recovering from a heart attack. You're seeing the theme here. People love to come to Key West to recuperate from all the ills of the rest of the world. President Kennedy came through a trip on Key West back in March of 1961. And he met the British Prime Minister here in Key West for a summit. So prior to Donald Trump visiting at the end of last year, John F. Kennedy's visit to Key West in 1962 was the last time a sitting president came to Key West. A couple other presidents visited us, but it was after they had left the office. Jimmy Carter came down. Bill Clinton has been here. gGeorge HW Bush had a lovely little fishing hidey hole that he liked to come and do some fishing in Islamorada. We heard a lot about that after he passed away last year many many stories were told about the wonderful interactions people had with him while he was in Islamorada. And it...
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    Key West History - Jan. 15, 1971 - Finally a Conviction in the Murder of a Charter Boat Captain and His Son


    Roger Foster, the 17 year old admitted killer of the charter boat, Dream Girls, two man crew was brought to us by a Coast Guard vessel and was immediately whisked away from the docks by FBI agents and Key West Police officers. The husky youth, wearing a t-shirt and pants stained with blood, was held for 15 minutes aboard the Coast Guard Cutter after its arrival, and then hurried to waiting automobile. Both his hands were bandaged and he appeared dazed and he was led ashore as an FBI agent held him firmly by one arm and Sheriff Henry Haskins held the other. The cutter also towed the Dream Girl into port. Her deck was spattered with blood. "I murdered them and threw them overboard." Foster told Coast Guardsmen whenever the charter boat was found on Friday, after a wide search, out of fuel about 20 miles from the coast of communist Cuba. The 17 year old youth was alone on the deck. He said he had killed the captain Douglas Trevor age 47 and his son Edward, 22, who was the First Mate. Foster apparently chartered the sport fishing boat, possibly in a mad effort to reach Cuba for an attempt to assassinate Fidel Castro. After earlier attempting to kill himself in a Key West motel room. A crowd of about 100 had gathered across the boat slip from the Coast Guard dock. The FBI said it would confer with the sheriff's department to determine who had jurisdiction. Newsmen were not permitted to talk to Foster in the waiting room where grief stricken relatives and friends of the Trevor's and Fosters father, Dr. H. A. Foster a Griffin, GA physician. Until the boats arrival, details of the sinister sea tragedy had been withheld from him, presumably because of a weak heart. The Dream Girl was found after a wide search. After reaching it, Coast Guardsmen gave Foster first aid and put him under guard and took the boat in tow. A suicide note found in Rogers blood spattered Key West motel room had said, "I think I'm insane." It urged authorities, "do not publicize my death. And be careful when you tell my father because he has a bad heart." A Key West Naval Physician, Lieutenant Terrell Tanner refused to tell newsmen where his friend, Dr. Foster, was spending the night. "I intended to break the news to him on Saturday" Tanner said, "I think it would be better for him to have what rest he can before he hears what the Coast Guard found." A picture of mental turmoil over American Nazi-ism, the Communist Party and Cuba's dictator Fidel Castro begin shaping up from information police gathered about Roger Foster. He was described by his mother in Griffin as "a brilliant boy who seemed to have stranger ideas" that prompted his parents to have him interviewed by a psychologist. "Maybe he was trying to get to Cuba and go after Castro on his own", Ms. Foster said. Roger tried to start an Anti-communism club at Griffin High School. Rogers mother said distress over a knee injury that prevented him from competing in school athletics may have led him to disappear Monday without leaving any word. At Key West, Roger evidently arranged passage on the Trevor's boat, Dream Girl. Shortly after noon on Thursday the Trevor's departed and it was sometime during the course of the afternoon that a struggle ensued, and both Captain Douglas and his son Edward were killed. Foster eventually pled not guilty to the murders - by reason of insanity. He was then committed to a mental institution, and later ended up standing trial for the murders of the Trevor's. But it was today January 15, 1971, that Roger Foster who admitted he killed charter boat Captain Douglas Trevor and his son Edward off the Marquesas Keys in 1963, was found guilty of second degree murder. And that's what happened today in Key West history. Today in Key West History is brought to you by 43 Keys Media. To learn more about our historical and potentially criminal past visit You can get this program as well as others as an Alexa flash briefing. You can also find us...
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    Key West History - Jan. 12, 1952 - The Pink Shrimp "Gold Rush" in Key West


    In late 1949, 100 years after the peak of the California Gold Rush, Pink Gold was discovered off the Florida Keys near Dry Tortugus. The “gold” was a grooved variety of shrimp called “pink” shrimp in the industry – scientifically Panaeus duorarum. In early 1950, the first shrimpers arrived in Key West looking to off load and process their treasures. On February 11, 1950, The New York Times likened the Pink Gold Rush to that of the Klondike gold strike in the late 1890’s. More than 100 vessels were already at Key West with another 100 reported to be on their way. Fishing vessels and companies “staked claims” to docking space and freezing facilities; ice was being imported from Miami and rooms were hard to come by. The Paulsen-Webber Cordage Corporation reported an upsurge in the demand of “shrimp rope” and wire rope and shifted all production schedules to give priority to the urgent requests. “Pink Gold,” being nocturnal feeders, meant the best catches were made at night but the lack of sounding equipment and the presence of coral formations made fishing difficult. Continuing the trend at WW II’s end, the new trawlers being built were larger, more powerful, better equipped, and capable of longer distances from port and longer times at sea. In 1950, the fleet expansion continued rapidly with the desire, not only for “Pink Gold,” but also for fishery exploratory work looking for latent resources and the expansion of existing fisheries. Many of the shrimp trawlers were built in St. Augustine soon to be known as “Shrimp Boat City.” The Pink Gold Rush prompted St. Augustine to shift focus from catching shrimp to building shrimp trawlers (both shrimping and boatbuilding were a part of St. Augustine’s economy since early 20th century). The boat builders and their suppliers of propellers, engines, rigs, nets, generators, and other machinery saw sales grow to unprecedented levels. The Key West docks quickly filled to capacity and shrimpers began to use San Carlos Island and Estero Island dock to unload their catches. In 1954, other pink shrimp grounds were discovered around Sanibel Island, and Mexico. The heyday of the Pink Gold Rush was during the 1950s and 1960s and although the shrimp industry faces competition from farmed shrimp today, the shrimp fleet of San Carlos Island still off-loads wild pink shrimp. If you are ever in Key West and want to try out our delicious Pink Shrimp, you need to ask if the shrimp dish you are ordering is actually made with Key West Pink Shrimp. It's normally specified on the menu and if it isn't mentioned, it probably isn't. There's one way we always verify that we are eating pink shrimp and it's because Key West Pink Shrimp typically have a small dot on either side of their shell in about the 3rd or 4th abdominal bend. It looks like someone took a Sharpie and made a dot on either side. When you see that, you know you are eating the real thing! And it was today, Jan 12, 1952 that 200 Shrimping vessels were operating out of Key West. It was said that you could walk from one end of the marina to the other without ever touching water. And that's what happened today in Key West History! Today in Key West History is brought to you by 43 Keys Media. To learn more about our delicious past, and our glorious future in Key West, visit  You can get this program as well as others, as an Alexa Flash Briefing. You can also find us on YouTube, and whereever you get your podcasts. Until then, join us for the fun over at
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    Key West History - Jan. 11, 1926 - There's a Menace Terrorizing the City


    There's a menace going on on the streets of Key West, as documented by the historic archive of the Key West citizen. And I quote, "Fully realizing that it is treading on sacred ground to interfere with the pleasures and pastimes of the little folks, The Citizen desires to call attention to the numerous complaints now made about boys and girls on roller skates monopolizing the sidewalks. In certain portions of the city, roller skating on sidewalks is a dangerous pastime dangerous for the children on skates, and very unsafe for pedestrians. It is not an uncommon sight to see a bevy of boys and girls, and frequently of girls only, skating along sidewalks at a fearful rate of speed. They seem to turn corners with complete abandonment and are likely to knock down persons turning the corner in an opposite direction. These children seem to think nothing of skating across the wall street in the thick of traffic, throwing themselves recklessly under the protection of the special Providence that is claimed to exist for the protection of children. Nothing short of a miracle keep some of them from being run over by automobiles on this busy thoroughfare. Climbing the post office steps is said to be another feat most creditably executed by children on skates, much to the discomfort of people entering and leaving the building. With the ever increasing volume of traffic on the streets of Key West, serious or even fatal accidents may be expected in the future. If this practice of skating on the streets and sidewalks is not checked, should a little life be snuffed out this way, all the admonitions of sad parents could not bring that little life back again. And it may be all the result of some fond parents not forbidding their children to race on the streets on roller skates. And it was today January 11, 1926, that The Key West Citizen took a stand against the menace of skating on the sidewalks and the streets and of parkour happening on the post office steps. And that's what happened today in Key West history. Today in Key West History is brought to you by 43 Keys Media. To find out about all of the big historical events and the little ones, visit If you want to come to Key West and skate and scooter, or ride your skateboard, come on down and visit us. You can find this show and more as an Alexa briefing. You can also find us on YouTube and anywhere you listen to your podcast. In the meantime, until see you again visit us at
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    January 10, 1861 - Key West Refuses to Secede from the Union


    Key West was an awkward place to live when the Civil War broke out.   The heavy military presence on the island meant that much of the island supported Union efforts, and with the critical Naval base fortified against capturing from the Confederacy, the island became even more firmly entrenched as a critical port for the Union during the Civil War.   The military had no plans to give up control of Fort Taylor or Fort Jackson, and military battalions were sent in to make sure those bases were firmly in Union control. Fort Taylor played a central role in the sea blockade carried out by the Union Army. soldiers   During this time, Key West had many prominent residents that were deeply Southern. They may not have been as committed to the Confederate as folks from Charleston or Savannah, but locally there was a contingent of Confederate sympathizers. The majority of Key West residents at the time were from the North, the Bahamas or Cuba, so many of the international transplant didn’t have a strong opinion about the war.    Although the state of Florida seceded from the Union, Key West remained under Union control. In fact, the Key West lighthouse was the only lighthouse in Florida that did not come under the control of the Confederacy. During this period, Key West was Florida’s largest and wealthiest city, so despite it’s small geographic footprint, its critical location and status in Florida gave it the ability to control its own fate more than other cities.   Inside the city of Key West, there were very clear alliances being made. On January 29, 1863, the Department of the South ordered that all Key Westers who had relatives in the Confederate Army and who had declined to take the oath of allegiance to the Union, or who had even spoken words disloyal about the Union were to be deported to Ft. Royal, SC, behind the rebel lines. As Union Commanders were preparing to carry out the order, the town was buzzing. Many seething at the audacity of such an order and others indignant that they were being forced out of their homes. This order brought protests from both Union sympathizers and Confederate loyalists.    Property was being sold, people were crying in the streets and it was just complete chaos. The Union men lodged a protest and soon Colonel T.H. Good was sent to Key West with the authority to suspend the deportation order if he saw fit. The day the deportation transport was set to leave with 600 Key West Confederate sympathizers aboard, Colonel Good arrived and immediately suspended sailing.    And it was today, January 10, 1861 that the State of Florida seceded from the Union, with Key West remaining loyal to the Union. Key West was the only southern city to remain in the United States during the Civil War.
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    January 9, 1827 - Construction Starts on the First Sand Key Lighthouse


    Sand key is situated next to a channel that leads to Key West. It's located roughly eight miles to the north west of Key West. In normal conditions, a significant amount of sand accumulates on the submerged reefs at Sand Key and it actually creates a small island. Soon after the United States took possession of Florida in 1821, a wooden daymark was placed on the island to warn mariners of this navigational hazard. Lighthouses to mark Florida's reef had just recently been completed at Cape Florida, Key West and the Dry Tortugas, when Congress allocated $16,000 on May 18, 1826 for a lighthouse on Sand Key. The plans for this tower were similar to those us for the other three calling for a 70 foot conical brick tower, exhibiting a light from 11 lamps set in 14 inch reflectors. Sand Keys light revolved, producing a flashing signature that differentiated it from the nearby fixed light at Key West. The first keeper of Sand Key Lighthouse was slated to be Joseph Ximenez. However, keeper John Flaherty and his wife Rebecca were having a terrible time adjusting to their isolated lives on the Dry Tortugas. So the collector of customs at Key West, William Pinckney arranged for the two keepers to trade assignments. Shortly after the Flaherty's arrived on the island, Sand Key Light was exhibited for the first time on April 15, 1827. With fisherman, wreckers and picnickers from Key West frequenting the island, the Flaherty's thoroughly enjoyed their new social life. Their joy however, was short lived as John became very sick in May of 1828, and then passed away in 1830. Rebecca remained on the island and was appointed keeper after her husband's death. In June of 1831, William Randolph Hackley, and attorney in Key West, recorded the following account of a visit he made at Sand Key Lighthouse. "The wind was so light that we did not get to the Key until noon. I went up to the lighthouse. The light is revolving and it's one of the best in the United States. It's kept by Mrs. Flaherty. She with her sister and a hired man are the only inhabitants of the Key and sometimes there are none but the two females. The length of the key is from 150 to 200 yards, and the average breath 50 yards. We remain till evening and having spent a pleasant day, returned to town around 8pm. The November 23, 1834 edition of the Florida Herald reported a wedding on Sand Key Lighthouse. Rebecca Flaherty had married Captain Frederick Neill. The newlyweds took a lengthy trip the next year to visit family while, a temporary keeper watched the light. Upon their return, Captain Neil was appointed the keeper and served in this role until he resigned in February 10 of 1836. Captain Francis Wallington was the next keeper maintaining the light until July 27, 1837, when the colorful Captain Joshua Appleby succeeded him. Born in Rhode Island in 1773, Appleby became a widower at a young age when his first wife, Sarah Vaille died at 23. Leaving him alone to care for their one year old daughter, Eliza. In 1820, Appleby sailed for the Florida Keys, where he co founded a settlement on Vaca Key and made a living from the sea through fishing, turtling and salvaging shipwrecks. Appleby's salvaging practices were soon called into question as he was accused of conspiring with a privateer, Charles Hoffner, to intentionally run aground vessels captured by Hoffner so the cargo could be salvaged and sold. Commander David Porter, head of the naval Squadron a key was responsible for eradicating piracy had Apple be arrested in 1823, and takeen to the irons in Charleston, South Carolina. Appleby must have been innocent or had friends in high places as he was released after Smith Thompson, the Secretary of the Navy and President James Monroe reviewed the case. Upon securing his freedom, Appleby returned to Rhode Island for a time and then he relocated to Key West. In 1830, the government granted Appleby a license as a wrecker, a trade he practiced for several years. Then on July 27,

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