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: BAHIAMIANS & EUROPEAN MAN OCCUPIED KEY WITH ‘NO NAME’

PART 1 No name has been given to many of the 1,700 islands considered part of the Florida Keys archipelago, but No Name Key has been assigned to individual islands twice.  One of those islands is usually overlooked by all but those living around MM 11, where the island is visible...

KEYS HISTORY: RELIVING OLD COLUMNS & SPREADING LOCAL HISTORY

While it is hard to believe, I have been writing a history column in one of the local newspapers for a decade. I find it hard to believe. Since 2018, my work has appeared in The Keys Weekly Newspapers, and I could not be more grateful for the opportunity...

KEYS HISTORY: ORIGINAL SEVEN MILE BRIDGE A COLLECTION OF 4 OVERPASSES

The Overseas Highway is a spectacular string of asphalt and concrete and one of North America's most scenic drives. One of the highlights of the drive is crossing the Seven Mile Bridge that connects Marathon with the Lower Keys. While the bridge is an engineering marvel worthy of appreciation,...

KEYS HISTORY: FARMING IN THE FLORIDA KEYS

Lignumvitae Key is in the Islamorada area of the Upper Keys. The island is a bit off the beaten path because it was never connected by the Key West Extension of Henry Flagler’s East Coast Railway or the Overseas Highway. Like many islands making up the approximately 1,700-island archipelago,...

KEYS HISTORY: LIGNUMVITAE KEY BOASTS A STORIED PAST

Spoiler alert: the Florida Keys are a low-lying collection of islands that rises, on average, 3.2 feet above sea level. Three islands, however, boast a peak elevation of 18 feet. Solares Hill, the highest point on Key West and home to the Key West Cemetery, stands at 18 feet,...

KEYS HISTORY: FLORIDA KEYS’ BAHIA HONDA ISLAND BUSTLED WITH ACTIVITY

The first surveyor general for British East Florida, William Gerard de Brahn, named the island Rice Island on his 1772 chart. The island’s Spanish name, Bahia Honda, makes more sense because, in English, bahia honda translates to “deep bay.” At 30 feet, Bahia Honda has one of the deepest...

KEYS HISTORY: MOSQUITOES BROUGHT MISERY & DISEASE TO FORMER UNION PRISON AT FORT JEFFERSON

The Dry Tortugas represent the tail end of the archipelago called the Florida Keys. In 1908, they were declared a wildlife refuge, in part, to protect nesting sooty terns.  While 1935 is remembered as a tragic year for the Upper and Middle Keys, due to the Category 5 Labor Day...

KEYS HISTORY: TAVERNIER’S DOC LOWE WAS A MAN OF MANY HATS

Edward R. Lowe was born circa 1882 and first arrived in the Florida Keys following the conclusion of the Spanish-American War. During the war, he served as a medic. He showed up in the Keys as a teenager, and his time on the islands can be described as nothing...

KEYS HISTORY: SNAKE HUNTER & REVOLUTIONARY SEWER BROUGHT AN ATTRACTION TO MARATHON

Alma Cagle Bishop was born on June 9, 1902, and grew up in what she called the Texas boondocks. She hunted snakes on the Lone Star State’s plains as a little girl.  Before long, Alma was skinning her prey and using the leather to craft handmade belts, wallets and handbags....

KEYS HISTORY: THE STORY OF SPANISH MARIE RUM RUNNER

By every account, Marie was quite a woman. Born in 1903 to a Swedish father and Mexican mother, she grew up to be 6 feet tall with olive skin, blue eyes, and long, flowing black hair.  If the stories are to be believed, and there are heaps and gobs of...

KEYS HISTORY: AFTERMATH OF INDIAN KEY ATTACK SEES ISLAND HANDED OVER TO GOVERNMENT

Editor’s Note: This is the final installment in a four-part series on the attack at Indian Key.  In the days after the 1840 attack at Indian Key, Jacob Housman signed his rights to the island over to the U.S. government.  The document read, in part: “This instrument testifies an agreement between...

KEYS HISTORY: A WARNING SIGN TO AN ATTACK ON INDIAN KEY?

Editor’s Note: This is the third part in a four-part series on the attack at Indian Key.  During the Seminole War, the attack on Indian Key was not an isolated event. In 1836, the threat of an Indian attack in the Florida Keys was running high.  In mid-March, the people of...