Brad Bertelli

Brad Bertelli is an author, speaker, Florida Keys historian, and Honorary Conch who has been writing about the local history for two decades. Brad has called the Florida Keys home since 2001. He is the author of eight books, including The Florida Keys Skunk Ape Files, a book of historical fiction that blends two of his favorite subjects, the local history and Florida’s Bigfoot, the Skunk Ape. His latest book, Florida Keys History with Brad Bertelli, Volume 1, shares fascinating glimpses into the rich and sometimes surprising histories of the Florida Keys. To satisfy your daily history fix, join his Facebook group Florida Keys History with Brad Bertelli.

KEYS HISTORY: PIRATE BATTLE LEADS TO BLOODSHED

A land-based highway mile, known as a statute mile, measures 5,280 feet. Water-based miles, called nautical miles, are a little bit longer and measure 6,076 feet, making the distance between Key West and Havana, Cuba, 105 statute miles. Based on the nautical mile, the distance is 91.24 miles. On Nov....

KEYS HISTORY: SHIP CAPTAIN CAPTURED BY PIRATE SEEKS HELP FROM ALLIGATOR SCHOONER

Pirate attacks on American ships sailing in foreign waters were nothing unusual in 1822. The Ann Maria, from New York, was victimized by pirates operating in Cuban waters twice, by the same pirates, between September and November. The Ann Maria was rescued the second time by the U.S. schooner...

KEYS HISTORY: SHIP CAPTAIN CAPTURED BY PIRATES SEEKS HELP FROM ALLIGATOR SCHOONER

Editor's Note: This is the second part in a series on pirate encounters off the Florida Keys. Pirate attacks on American ships sailing in foreign waters were nothing unusual in 1822. The Ann Maria, from New York, was victimized by pirates operating in Cuban waters twice, by the same...

KEYS HISTORY: SOUTHERNMOST NAVY SQUADRON HAD PLENTY OF PIRATE RUN-INS

Editor's Note: This is part one in a series on run-ins with pirates off the Florida Keys. Pirate attacks on American ships sailing in foreign waters were nothing unusual in 1822. The persistent problem was one of the reasons President James Monroe, on March 3, 1819, signed “An Act to Protect...

FLORIDA KEYS HISTORY: REEF RAVAGED COVETED NAVY SHIPS

At about 5 a.m. on Nov. 18, 1822, the U.S. schooner Alligator hoisted its sails and began the slow move away from Matanzas, Cuba. It would be the final mission of the ship’s brief but storied career. The Alligator was one of five swift 12-gun schooners built to serve the...

FLORIDA KEYS HISTORY: RECALLING THE RECENT PAST

The interesting year is ending, and from all indications, 2023 is lining up to be just as interesting, if not a little more.  By this time last year, I was officially unemployed and trying to figure out just what the frick-and-frack I was going to do. Thanks to Collier County...

KEYS HISTORY: SURVEYOR THE FIRST TO PEN BLACK CAESAR’S NAME

Cartographer Bernard Romans named the water feature flowing between Old Rhodes and Elliott Key Black Caesars Creek. The choice was made after the Spanish territory of La Florida was deeded to the English with the signing of the 1763 Treaty of Paris.  The document signified the end of the French...

KEYS HISTORY: FIRST DOCUMENTED CASE OF LEGENDARY PIRATE IS MEMORIALIZED IN PRINT

“Maps of East and West Florida” was published in 1775. Among the features identified in this collection is a map of the Northern Keys that identifies a body of water flowing between Elliott Key and Old Rhodes Key. The mapmaker chose a legendary name for it. The man who did...

FLORIDA KEYS HISTORY: SPONGE WARS IN THE EARLY 1900s PIT GREEKS AGAINST CONCHS

It was May 22, 1914, when Captain Bell of the schooner Amelia wanted to get out of some high winds and set a course for the harbor at Key West. The Amelia was carrying a crew of 20.  When the anchor was dropped, Bell and six of his crew climbed...

FLORIDA KEYS HISTORY: SPONGE OPERATIONS ON SUGARLOAF KEY, PART 2

Dr. J. Vining Harris of Key West began experimenting with the cultivation of sponges at his Sugarloaf Key property in 1897. Circa 1901, Harris abandoned his sponges and allowed H. F. Moore, the head of the United States Bureau of Fisheries, who, like Harris, was interested in farm-raising sponges,...

FLORIDA KEYS HISTORY: SOAKING IN A NEW BUSINESS, PART 1

The Feb. 23, 1913, edition of the Washington Evening Star reported the cultivation of sponges in the warm, shallow waters of Biscayne Bay, the waters surrounding Sugarloaf Key and Key West, and Anclote Key, located offshore of the west coast’s Tarpon Springs.  “The various methods are as follows: ‘seed’ sponges...

FLORIDA KEYS HISTORY: FLAMINGO FLOCK DISAPPEARS

The first use of the word flamingo dates back to the Spanish explorers navigating the waters of the New World in 1565. The name flamingo has a slightly strange origin story, as it comes from the Spanish word flamenco, which historically referred to the German word Flemish. According to Merriam-Webster...

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