Upper Keys History

The Tropical Hotel as seen on the model of Indian Key at the Keys History & Discovery Center. KEYS HISTORY & DISCOVERY CENTER

Ann Housman was born in Staten Island, N.Y. on May 1, 1797. She would marry Thomas Gibson on Feb. 4, 1818 at the Staten Island Dutch Reform Church. While still living in New York, they would have five children — all of whom would be baptized on Oct. 12, 1828.

One month later, nearly to the day, Thomas Gibson would purchase all rights, titles, and interest to a general store, two-story house and kitchen on Indian Key from Silas and Avis Fletcher for $2,500.

The Gibson family is recorded on the 1830 Monroe County Census as having six children. One of their children would be born in Florida, presumably on Indian Key.

On July 5, 1831, Thomas Gibson would sell his general store, two-story house, kitchen, billiards table, and nine-pin bowling alley to his brother-in-law for $5,000. Gibson’s brother-in-law, Jacob Housman, is sometimes referred to as the “Wrecker King of Indian Key.”

The two-story building, billiards table, and nine-pin bowling alley would become known as the Tropical Hotel. By 1840, the Gibson family had moved away from Indian Key.

Marathon History

Judge E.R. “Doc” Lowe (right) and Frank in 1910. Lowe was in charge of the Florida East Coast Railway company’s hopsital in Marathon. Photo from the Monroe County Library Collection.

The steamboat Columbia, moored at Marathon’s Tail Track Dock, is said to have been the site of Marathon’s first gambling raid by deputy sheriffs, on Feb. 5, 1911. Those arrested were taken to Key West, where they stood before Judge E.R. “Doc” Lowe.

Edward R. “Doc” Lowe was introduced to the Florida Keys during the early construction years of Henry Flagler’s Over-Sea Railroad. He was employed to head the medical station for railroad workers in the Key Vaca area.

Lowe is said to have become one of three U.S. deputy marshals in the State of Florida.

By 1928, “Doc” Lowe was operating a fishing club in Tavernier. In 1935, he would survive the Labor Day Hurricane. According to a story in The Miami News dated Sept. 4, “In one corner, huddled in stark fear were Mr. and Mrs. Doc Lowe, their son and daughter-in-law and the latter’s nine-month-old baby. They were too frightened to talk at first. Doc was wounded in the head, maybe seriously. But they finally told us of the four of them taking turns holding the baby and clinging to a tree for four hours.”

Key West History


According to Rear Admiral Casper F. Goodrich, a piratical event involving the Emma Sophia occurred “in a small port formed by the Florida Isles and Martyr’s Reef.”

A first-hand account of the event penned by William Savage appeared in the Boston Daily Advertiser on Feb. 3, 1819.

Savage wrote, “Davis, the spokesman, drew his knife and swore, that every man should die, unless he found the money, and first he would hang the supercargo. He called for a rope, which he had brought on board, fitted with a hangman’s noose, sent a man up the mizzen yard and rove it and brought the noose down–and one man held it, and another stood ready to hoist. Now, said Davis, tell me where is the money, where are your diamonds, or I will hang you this minute. In vain I repeated I had nothing more but my watch, which I offered and he refused. Once more, said he, will you tell? I have nothing to tell, said I. On with the rope, said the villain, and hoist away. The fellow with the noose came towards me, and I sprang overboard. They took me up, after some time apparently insensible. They took off all my cloaths[sic], and laid me on my back on deck, naked as I was born, except having a blanket thrown over me. Here I laid five hours without moving hand or foot. Meanwhile they robbed us of every thing of the least value.”

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