Friday, July 25, 2014

The Florida Keys

Below are two reports to the U.S. House of Representatives about the Florida Keys. They describe each Key and what they found on them. For those of you who enjoy the keys. It is an opportunity to see what they looked like before they were as settled as they are now.

SIR: In compliance with your instructions of November 19, 1856, I proceeded to Key West, but I was unable to engage a pilot to accompany me to Cape Sable, such was the general terror of Indians.
I therefore lost no time in commencing a sheet among the Keys about 25 miles to the northward and eastward of Key West. I reached the scene of active operations about the 20th of January, 1857.
Burnt key, which was the first in order of survey, is upwards of a mile and a half in length, but quite narrow. The land is slightly elevated, and sustains a growth of large trees, principally button wood with scarcely any mangrove. South of these are two small keys, not wooded, and nearly covered at high water.
Directly west of Burnt key, and scarcely half'a mile distant, is Knock-em-down key, which is three miles in length and averages nearly a mile in breadth. Comparatively a small portion of it is beyond the reach of ordinary high water, and it is very much out up by lagoons and creeks. But a small portion of the Key is wooded.
Budd key, the next to the northwest, is about a mile in length, but narrow. lt is separated into three distinct parts by narrow channels, one of which is quite deep, even at low water.
Beyond this to the northwest, are some half a dozen small Mangrove keys, or shoals, only one of which, Michael’s key, is judged worthy ofa name, and that is but little more than a quarter oi'a mile in length.
A mile to the northward, however, brings us to Raccoon key, which is one and a half miles long, and from a quarter to halfa mile in width. The woods occupy but a small portion of the surface. They are principally of buttonwood and mangrove. Northwest of this are three small Mangrove keys, the largest of which, Eagle key, covers an area of nearly a. quarter of a square mile.
Parts of the Torch and Howes keys also come on my sheet. The former group with its numerous shoals, and small grassy keys, intersected by numerous channels, most of them dry or nearly so at low water, covers an area of about four square miles. Torch key proper is, in some places, a mile wide, and is to a great extent overgrown with buttonwood, sea-grape, torch, a few palmetto, and many other species of trees.
East of this are three small keys, from three to five hundred metres in length, each densely covered with mangrove.
Due north of Torch, and separated from it by a channel only onefourth of a mile wide, are a group called Water keys. These stretch in a northerly direction about three miles, and are all connected by flats at low water, at which time they form one continuous chain. But long before the tide reaches its full height, they are separated into nearly a dozen, most of them very small. The most southerly, and the only one of any size, is long and narrow, being more than half the length ofthe whole chain, and supports a ridge of large high trees.
The western half of Howes key lies to the southeast of Water key, distant three-fourths of a mile, and the portion on my sheet covers an area of nearly two square miles. The northwest part is low and intersected by lagoons, and the woods are thin.
To the north and west of Water key are the Eastern and Western Contents. These groups stretch in a. northeast direction for about three miles, and vary in breadth from a half to three-quarters of a mile. They are intersected by numerous deep passages, mostly narrow, except the one between the two groups, which is over half a. mile wide, and at the mouth of which there is a break in the reef which stretches along outside of these keys for a. considerable distance.
Lastly comes Harbor key, situated about :one and a. quarter mile east northeast of the Contents. This is a. small and nearly round key, scarcely two hundred metres in diameter, but the land is high and the woods dense. It can be seen and readily distinguished at a considerable distance, and derives some importance from being a. prominent land mark for vessels cruising in the bay.
There is a narrow strip of coral reef north of the eastern Content group, a little more than one-fourth of a. mile distant, which is bare at low water. Between it and the shore the water is shallow, but the outer edge falls precipitately to a depth of one and a half fathoms.
The space included between the Contents, Water, Torch, and Raccoon keys, an area of six square miles, is one extensive fiat, not quite dry at low water, except in a. few scattered places, yet impassable for boats even of the smallest draught.
The accompanying map of this locality contains eighty-nine quarter section stakes, labelled, respectively, M, P. and M, P.
After completing the sheet just mentioned, I succeeded in obtaining a pilot for Cape Sable, where I commenced about the middle of March, and worked as far from the base line as was practicable previous to triangulation.
Cape Sable, from what I could learn, is probably an island, formed by Shark river leading up to White Water bay, a large inland lake; and this also has another towards the east, which empties somewhere into Barnes’ sound.
From Cape Sable proper, or as it is sometimes called the Eastern Cape, to Palm Point, there is a fine sand beach, with a ridge about three feet in height, running along just back of high water mark. This gradually falls away towards the woods, which are in most places upwards of a hundred yards from the shore, but in some places run in close to the beach.
At Palm Point there is a large open space of firm ground, or fine rolling prairie, some six feet above the level of the sea. It has recently been selected as the site for a small military station, Fort Cross.
The most prominent objects in this vicinity are two tall palm trees, the largest being upwards of one hundred feet in height. They are quite useful as land marks.
Just beyond the prairie at Palm Point, proceeding in a northwest direction, the woods again approach to the water’s edge and continue to skirt the shore for some two miles, where they begin gradually to recede; and there is a fine high sand beach reaching to the Northwest Cape. Here again there is a high undulating prairie. Beyond that the woods grow close to the water's edge, and to the westward of this point there is no clear land for several miles more; in fact, except here and there a very small prairie on some of the innumerable scattered islands formed by the mouths of the various rivers between here and Cape Romano.
For the shore line from Palm Point to the Northwest Cape, I was obliged to use a separate sheet.
From Fort Poinsett, eastward, there is a high sand beach, as far as a point which makes out abreast the east end of the base line. The walking would be good were it not for the dead mangroves which have decayed and fallen into the water. At the foot of the sand ridge the soft gray mud commences and stretches out with scarcely a perceptible variation in the depth of the water for some distance, say two hundred yards, and from these shoals very gradually out to the channel, about three-fourths of a mile, where there is from seven to ten {{eet of water. This channel extends perhaps a mile beyond the Oyster
To the eastward of that the whole country is one extensive flat, dry at low water for miles. After a strong northerly wind has prevailed for a day or two this becomes perfectly bare to a distance of two or three miles from the main, and remains so until a change of wind.
The surface is covered entirely by soft grey mud, into which a pedestrian must sink more than two feet at every step.
Beyond the point above mentioned the mangroves grow to the water’s edge, and, in fact, from the shore line.
This growth continues to the “ upper crossing,” opposite the Orster keys, the eastern boundary of my sheet. Here there is a narrbw opening, perhaps twenty yards wide, where the prairie comes down to the water’s edge. Beyond that the mangrove appears again, and is absolutely impenetrable.
There is a narrow slip of fast land between the beach and the base line. There the “ glades ” commence, a marsh dotted with hammocks. These latter are mostly quite narrow, although some stretch to a considerable length.
To the northwest of the second mile stone of the base line, there is a solid growth of black mangrove reaching to Fort Poinsett. In it are several ponds, mostly small, although the largest is three-fourths of a mile in length. These are all connected together by trails run by the alligators in their migrations from one pond to the other; and to White \Vater lake, which commences about a mile and a half northwest of the west base, and stretches in a northwest direction between four and five miles to just beyond Palm Point, it averages threequarters of a mile in width. The water is salt, and the ebb and flow though slight is plainly perceptible. The bottom is composed of very soft and unusually sticky black mud. The lake is completely enclosed by the woods, except portions of the eastern shore which border on the prairie. While I was there the water was very shallow, as was the case with all the ponds, a number of them even being entirely dry. The greatest depth of water did not exceed six inches. But when the glades are full during the rainy season, the water rises to a height of over six feet.
My sheet of this vicinity also embraces Sandy key. This is a narrow strip of land, in shape, resembling the two legs of a right angled triangle, and is only remarkable for the countless flocks of sea birds which frequent it.
The last sheet referred to is marked by fifty-two quarter section stakes, labelled respectively, M: P: and M, P., mostly the latter.
After completing all that I judged it prudent to attempt previous to triangulation, towards the latter part of April I proceeded to the Vacas keys. Having obtained points of Lieutenant Clark, furnished from his work of this season, I commenced upon Key Vacas, joining Assistant Adams’ work of a previous season, and worked in an easterly direction.
Key Vacas is about five and a half miles in length, and varies in width from a quarter to half a mile. It is mostly wooded, though parts of it are cleared, and towards the eastern extremity there is a small settlement of about a dozen houses.
An extensive shoal makes out from the southern shore for a mile or upwards, scattered portions of which are dry at low water.
A number of very small keys and rocks lie at short distances from the northern shore of Key Vacas, only one of which, Rachel’s key, has been named.
That part of Boot key which my sheet embraces is nearly two miles long but very narrow. The eastern portion is high firm ground, but the middle of the key is entirely out up by lagoons and deep channels.
The Stirrup keys are three in number and lie to the northward of Key Vacas. The largest, on which the station is situated, is three
fourths of a mile long, and in the widest place measures about a quarter of a mile.
Fat Deer key lies to the eastward of Key Vacas, from which it is separated by a narrow but quite deep channel called Jacob’s Harbor Passage.
This key is much out up by numerous channels, most of them deep, and is moreover divided throughout its entire length by a large lagoon.
The whole length of that portion of the group which is contained on my sheet is about two miles, and it averages about a quarter of a mile in width.
Bamboo key lies to the northward of the preceding. It is scarcely a quarter of a mile long by about one hundred metres in width. This sheet is marked by sixty-seven quarter section stakes, labelled respectively M: P: and M, P. It was completed on the 16th of May, at which date I discontinued operations in section VI.
The total amount of work done by my party was: Shore line 210§ miles; wood and marsh lines 69 miles, within a total area of seventythree square miles.
Yours very respectfully,

United States Coast Survey. A. D. Bacns, L. L. D.,
Superintendent United States Coast Survey.
Wasnmeron CITY, D. 0., June 16, 1857.
Sm: In pursuance of your instructions I repaired to Key \Vest in November. Owing to repairs of my vessel, the United States schooner Agassiz, and the death of my assistant, Mr. S. J. Hough, the commencement of my work was delayed until the 3d of January.
The operations of my party this year embraced the topography and marking of the following named Florida keys, viz: Big Torch, Little Torch, Big Pine, No Name, Howes, Newfound Harbor, Pye’s, Annette, Little Spanish, Big Spanish, Flat, Grassy, Johnson’s, East and West Bahia Honda, and several smaller keys in their vicinity.
Ramrod key is one and a half miles in length by one and a quarter miles in breadth. The outer shore is of coral rock. The key is covered with heavy mangrove, palmetto, sea-grape, and buttonwood. On the southeastern end is a lagoon three and a quarter miles long by a quarter mile wide. The depth of water in this lagoon is from five to fifteen inches. This key was marked by fourteen painted posts in parallel meridian, and also in quarter sections. The rocky portion of the key was marked by iron stakes two and a half feet long, driven into the rock four inches. These were marked with a cold chisel on one side, the letters M, MP, or P being painted on another side. On other parts of the key yellow pine posts, four feet long, were driven into the ground one and a half feet and protected by coral rocks piled around them. The posts were marked on one side with the letters U. S. C. S., and on the other side M, MP or P, with black paint.
Big Torch key, which lies next to Ramrod, is irregular in shape, and is divided into three separate keys by a channel one mile in length by one hundred and sixty-four yards wide, with a depth varying from six inches to three feet. The shore of Torch is rocky on the eastern and western sides. The northern and southern being extensive mud plats covered by the sea at high tide. This key is a formation of coral rock covered with a thin crust of marl about one inch in depth, and is thickly wooded with black mangrove, palmetto, sea-grape, and buttonwood. The key was marked by thirty posts of iron and yellow pine, designated as those on Ramrod key.
Little Torch key is separated from Big Torch by a channel two and a quarter miles in length by a quarter mile in breadth, with a depth of three feet. This key is three miles in length and a half mile in breadth. The soil and wood are like those of Big Torch key. Little Torch was marked by fif'teen posts of iron and yellow pine, similar to the section marks of Big Torch key.
Big Pine key, due east of Big and Little Torch, is of irregular shape. It is nine miles in length by three miles in breadth, comprises an area of thirteen square miles, and is covered with a heavy growth of yellow pine trees, varying in height from twenty-five to sixty feet. The eastern shore, extending from Big Pine station, is nearly opposite No Name station, is a white sandy beach, the remainder being of coral rock, with mud flats here and there. This key, as others, is covered with small rocks and with soil in some places from one to two inches in depth. The only feature claiming attention is the pine timber, the northern end being thickly wooded with mangrove and buttonwood. There is on the northwestern side a small lagoon, which is nearly dry at low water. This key was marked by fifty-five posts, yellow pine, with the letters U. S. G. S. on one side, and M, M P, or P on the other, with black paint.
No Name key, which lies due east of Big Pine, is three miles in length, and one and a half miles in breadth. This key is covered with a heavy growth of mangrove and palmetto. A grove of yellow pine trees, about a quarter mile square, extends into the middle of the key. The soil on No Name is similar in character to that of Big Pine key. No Name key was marked by seventeen posts of yellow pine, distinguished as those placed on Big Pine key.
Newfound harbor is a group of three small keys. The largest is of irregular shape, and is one and a quarter miles in length by a quarter mile in breadth in the middle, tapering at each end to two hundred and eighteen yards in breadth. Another is about two hundred and seventy-three yards in length by one hundred and sixty yards in breadth. The third, which nearly joins to Big Pine key, is about a half mile in length by one hundred and sixty-four yards in breadth. These keys are covered with mangrove and buttonwood, and were marked by five posts. There is a fine harbor on the inside of the keys for vessels drawing from four to ten feet. _
Little Pine key lies due north of Big Pine and No Name keys, 18 three miles in length by seven-eighths of a mile in breadth in the centre, the eastern and western ends being about two hundred and eighteen yards wide. This, like Big Pine key, is mostly covered with yellow pine trees, varying in height from twenty-five to fifty feet; the eastern and western ends are thickly covered with black mangrove and buttonwood. The soil is similar to that of Big Pine key. On this key fourteen posts of yellow pine were planted, and marked as those on the key last mentioned.
Pye’s Harbor key is a small mangrove key, and lies between Loggerhead and Newfound harbor. It is surrounded by extensive mud flats, covered with water at the lowest tides.
Annette key, due north of Big Pine, is one and a quarter miles in length by a half mile in breadth. The surface is covered with thick mangrove and buttonwood, and is marked by ten posts of yellow pine. There is a low fiat key adjoining, which is entirely covered by the sea at high tide, and is surrounded by extensive mud flats, bare at low water.
Big Spanish key is the most northwardly, covered with thick mangrove, and entirely overflowed at the lowest tides.
Little Spanish key, east of Big S anish, is about three-quarters of a mile in length by one-quarter o a mile in breadth. This key is also overgrown with mangrove, with extensive mud flats inside. The northern part of the key is nearly covered with water at high tide. This key was marked with two yellow pine posts.
Crawl key, northeast of Annette key, is very small, and covered with mangrove.
Howe’s key, which lies northwest of Big Pine, is thickly covered with black mangrove and buttonwood. The southeastern end is much cut up with lagoons, varying in depth from six to twenty inches, but nearly dry at low tide. This key was marked by fifteen posts of iron and yellow pine, and designated as others already described.
Mayo’s key, east of Annette key, is one mile in length by two hundred and seventy-three yards at the widest part. This key, like the others, is thickly overgrown with black mangrove, sea-grape, and buttonwood, and was marked by four yellow pine posts.
Johnson’s keys, three in number, lie due north of Little Pine key. Key No. 1 is seven-eighths of a mile in length by a quarter mile in breadth. Key No. 2 is about one mile in length by a half mile in breadth. Key No. 3 is six hundred and fifty-six yards in length, and one hundred yards in breadth. These keys are likewise covered with black mangrove, sea-grape, and a small quantity of buttonwood. The area was divided by eleven posts of yellow pine, and marked as those on other keys.
Flat key, northeast of Johnson’s keys, is one mile in length by a half mile in breadth, and is covered by the .sea at high tide. It is thickly overspread with mangrove and buttonwood. This key was marked with three yellow pine posts.
West Bahia Honda, one mile from Flat key, is a half mile in length by one-eighth of a mile in breadth. It is covered by the sea at high tide.
East Bahia Honda, two and a half miles east of Bahia Honda, is about one-half mile in length by one-third of a mile in breadth. This key is also thickly covered with heavy mangroves.
My season‘s work of four months covers an area of thirty-one square miles, and includes one hundred and ninety miles of shoreline. Mr. G. U. Mayo assisted me in the work part of the season, for which great credit is due him. The topography is comprised in three sheets, which will be deposited in the archives when inked. Operations were discontinued on the 3d of May. 18Téie schooner Agassiz was laid up in Baltimore, Md., on June 3,
5 .
I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
C. T. IARDELLA, Sub-Assistant United States Coast Survey. Prof. A. D. Bacnn, Superintendent United States Coast Survey.
INDIAN KEY, May 4, 1857.
DEAR SIR: I have to report that,°in obedience to your instructions of November, I proceeded to Key Largo, Florida, on the 16th of January.
After putting down eighty section posts there for the land office, the Indian hostilities having increased, it was deemed imprudent to expose the party, which was without any means of defence. I proceeded to Point Charles, and continued the plane table work on the outside of Key Largo, and have completed all the key and the creeks as far as it was possible to go from the seaside, also the outside shoreline of Upper and Lower Matecumbe, which extends about four miles below Indian key.
I have surveyed about one hundred and twenty miles of coast and banks, and about five or six of interior, and put down eighty section posts. Most of the outside shore of Key Largo and all the keys are of coral rock, soft enough in places to force the posts down. Where this was impossible, I used iron stakes flattened at the top and marked with a chisel U. S. C. S. on one side, and M. or P. or M. P., as the case required, on the other. The wooden posts were marked with the same character in paint.
The soil on Key Largo from Point Charles, where my season’s work commenced, is superior to that of most of the other keys. This key, Upper and Lower Matecumbe, and Lignum-vitte, being the most fertile of any of the large keys. The growth on them is large and very prolific ; they are covered for some distance back from the water with a low growth of small trees and bushes, where the land is comparatively high, caused by the water making its deposit there, going towards the interior. The trees are large, but the ground swampy from the creeks, which pass through the higher land in small streams, and spread themselves over the key in numerous branches and ponds. The two Matecumbe keys are much more free of these than Key Largo. The upper one has one spring upon it and the lower five.
Key Rodrigues is overflowed at high tide, and Tavernier has some fast land on it, only on the northern end, which would probably be
overflowed at very high tide. The two small keys, Dove and Tea Table, have a very good soil on them, deep enough for almost any growth. If properly drained, they would be very profitable, having the best soil I have seen in Florida. Very respectfully, S. A. WAINWRIGHT. Prof. A. D. BACHE, Srfoerintende'nt U. S. Coast Survey.

No comments:

Post a Comment