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: THE STORY OF CELEBRATED INDIAN CHIEF CHEKAIKA

This is the second part in a four-part series on the attack at Indian Key.  The University of West Florida’s John Worth has researched the Calusa people in both Spanish and Cuban archives. One of the people he identified was the celebrated Indian chief Antonio.  Physically, he is remembered as a...

KEYS HISTORY: WHAT KEYS WATERING HOLE HAS BEEN AROUND THE LONGEST?

There is a bar on Islamorada’s Windley Key with a sign declaring “the oldest most established liquor license in the Keys.” Without even considering some of the older watering holes in Key West, Key Largo’s Caribbean Club could challenge the claim. According to the Key West Citizen, Tom Hanley...

KEYS HISTORY: THE MORE YOU LEARN, THE LESS YOU KNOW

I moved to the Florida Keys in 2001, so I could live on an island, sip rum and finish my great Florida novel. It seems like a lifetime ago. When I was researching my first book, “Snorkeling Florida,” every dive captain had their own story about how this reef...

KEYS HISTORY: THOMAS EDISON’S KEYS VISIT ENDS WITH A GIFT

Thomas Edison is best remembered for his ground-breaking work with electricity and the phonograph. He is not so well remembered as an early Florida snowbird, which he was.  Edison first ventured down from New Jersey and into Monroe County in 1885, when he purchased more than 13 acres along the...

KEYS HISTORY: HERMIT ARTIST CAPTURES THE KEYS THROUGH WATERCOLOR

This is the second in a two-part series on the Hermit Artist of Key Largo.  It seemed that Harry Sonntag, the Hermit Artist of Key Largo, found his peace when he arrived on Key Largo. In 1952, Sonntag strolled into the office at the Key West Citizen and told his...

KEYS HISTORY: HITCHHIKER BECOMES HERMIT ARTIST OF KEY LARGO

Editor’s Note: This the first in a two-part series on Harry Sontang, the Hermit Artist of Key Largo.  In 1960, a Kissimmee couple traveled to St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, to enjoy a tropical island vacation. They stayed in a rooming house where, underneath the bed, they discovered a large bag. When...

KEYS HISTORY: PERKLYAND, DIXIE HIGHWAY & DISPATCH CREEK

Cruising up the Overseas Highway and out of the Florida Keys, there are two ways to drive over Key Largo. Just after Mile Marker 106, the usual option is to follow the highway’s gentle curve, go over the Jewfish Creek Bridge, and up the 18-Mile Stretch. The other option...

KEYS HISTORY: PLANTER COMMUNITY GROWS THANKS TO BAHAMIAN FARMER

The pineapple was a New World treat allegedly “discovered” during Christopher Columbus’ second voyage to the New World. According to the story, on November 4, 1493, a landing crew from one of the expedition ships came ashore at an unidentified island. Columbus named the island, found 300 miles southeast...

KEYS HISTORY: JOHN GEIGER GOES FROM WRECKER TO WEALTHY MAN

Key West’s Audubon House was built after 1846’s Havana Hurricane ravaged Cuba, destroyed the Sand Key Lighthouse, and threw the double hurricane punch of high winds and tidal surge at Key West.  John Huling Geiger was responsible for the house’s construction. He was one of Key West’s early residents and...

KEYS HISTORY: HOMESTEAD CLAIMS REQUIRED CLEARING LAND, BUILDING HOME & PRODUCING CROPS

Even before Florida became a U.S. territory, Spain’s government tried to give away the largely uninhabited frontier land. In the Spanish territorial years, these efforts were called Spanish Land Grants. After the territory became a U.S. possession, President Abraham Lincoln passed the Homestead Act of 1862. The act allowed...

KEYS HISTORY: ADDERLY FAMILY LEGACY LIVES ON AT KEY VACA

The oldest house in the Florida Keys, outside of Key West, takes a bit of effort to find. It is found in the woods of Marathon, on Key Vaca, at Crane Point Hammock.  The house was built by George Adderley, who, circa 1890, at 20 years of age, left his...

BLACK HISTORY MONTH: CONCH STEPIN FETCHIT’S HOLLYWOOD STARDOM

The Lincoln Perry story begins in Key West but does not stay on the island for long. He was born Lincoln Theodore Monroe Andrew Perry on May 30, 1902, on Key West, making him a Conch who would grow up to be a successful, if not polarizing, Hollywood actor. His...