Historical Sketch of Monroe County

Historical Sketch of Monroe County


Monroe County was created on July 3, 1823, by an Act of the Legislative Council of the Territory of Florida. It was named in honor of James Monroe, President of the United States at the time the county was established. Key West was chosen as the county seat.
Created from?
Monroe County is unique in that it is constituted largely of islands. Nowhere else in the entire United States is there such a province of tropical singularity as the extreme southern tip of the Florida peninsula. On the west coast are the Ten Thousand Islands, and from the mainland more than a hundred miles into the Gulf of Mexico stretches the long line of Florida Keys. Connecting these islands with the peninsula is a railway line one hundred and eleven miles long which was built at tremendous cost and is regarded as one of the outstanding engineering feats of the United States. The Overseas Highway is a hard-surfaced road across the keys [sic] which now affords the pleasures of motor travel under very unusual conditions for thousands of motorists each year. There are two gaps in the highway which are spanned by ferries maintaining regular schedules.
The early history of Monroe county begins with Ponce de Leon's first visit to Florida. He coasted south and sailed around the keys as far as the islands which he named Tortugas, before he made his way up the west coast to what is now Charlotte Harbor. The low lying Florida Keys he called Los Martieres, because to him the rocky islands had the appearance of twisted and suffering souls. No settlement was made at the time of Ponce de Leon's first visit. From then until the cession of the Floridas to the United States, the islands or keys [sic] were resorted to only by Indians, piratical crews, and fishermen (many of them from St. Augustine) who were engaged in supplying the market of Havana. Pirates found a paradise in the Florida Keys, with their commodious harbors encircled by shoals and reefs, apparently made to order for the lucrative practice of looting. Key West, or Cayo Hueso as it was called, situated at the entrance to the Gulf, fronting on a natrual, sheltered, deep-water harbor, had many advantages and gained an unenviable reputation as a pirates' nest during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
The earliest recorded history of Key West is to be found in a grant of the island of Cayo [Hueso] on August 26, 1815, by Don Juan de Estrada, then Spanish Governor of Florida, to Juan Pablo Salas. Salas sold the island for $2,000 to John W. Simonton in 1821, about the time of the cession of Florida to the United States. Later, parts of the island were bought by John Warner, United States consul, John Mountain, commercial agent for the United States at Havana, John Whitehead, and John W. C. Fleming. The interests of Warner and Mountain were soon transferred to Pordon C. Green, who became a permanent resident of the island. Several families from South Carolina and other States, and from


State Library of Florida, WPA - Historical Records Survey, County Histories


Brief history of Monroe County, Florida collected by the Works Progress Administration's Historical Records Survey.

Note to Researchers: Though the WPA field workers included extensive citations for the factual information contained in these county histories, it should be noted that these historical narratives were produced in the 1930s by federal government employees, and might reflect the inherent social biases of the era.