The ancient Calusa built numerous mounds and middens on the southwest coast down to Cape Sable. They also lived and fished in the 10,000 Island region and the Florida Keys. Rock Mound near Key Largo was once a large village, about 1000 feet long and 55 feet wide. It is the only rock mound in southern Florida that has survived the growth of condominiums. The Calusa traded with the other tribes in the Caribbean, and when the Spanish arrived, traded with them in Cuba. The Spanish even employed many of them at fishing camps in southwest Florida. The once mighty Calusa were a tribe that Spain was not able to subdue. By the 18th century, many of the Calusa disappeared or were killed off by disease. When the Spanish left Florida in 1763, the last of the Calusa went with them to Cuba. It is rumored that fierce mountain tribes in Cuba are descended from them; we won't know for sure until the political situation changes. The Seminoles have stories and traditions that a few survived in the remote areas of southwest Florida.
During the Second Seminole War, the Navy conducted operations in the Florida Keys to prevent trade between the Seminoles and Spanish. The Navy had bases at Tavernier Key and Fort Paulding on Tea Table Key. They didn't find much evidence of trade between the Seminoles and Cuba, and were not able to do much against the Indians in the vast wet wilderness of southwest Florida.
Other Second Seminole War Forts: Fort Westcott east of the Ten Thousand Islands area. Fort Poinsett was at Cape Sable, and I am told that you could easily see the fort outline from the air until recent "development" destroyed it.
Indian Key State Park
The raid on Indian Key is one of the most startling attacks by the Seminoles during the Second Seminole War. It shocked the civilians and military because the Seminoles used tactics that they normally didn't use. The Indians started the battle at night, attacked a major town that wasn't even on the mainland, and even used a cannon.
Chakaika was the leader of the raiding party, and was from what is known as the "Spanish Indians", or Indians with Seminole, Spanish, and maybe even a little bit of Calusa lineage.
During late 1838, Dr. Henry Perrine built up the settlement on Indian Key. He planned to ride out the war until he could take possession of a land grant on the mainland. His new refuge soon became full of many other settlers that were displaced during the war. A post office and well-stocked store helped make it a thriving town.
Before dawn on August 7, 1840, several large canoe-loads of Indians under Chakaika attacked Indian Key, killing 13 whites include Dr. Perrine. Although there was a high cost in property, the Indians seemed mainly occupied with looting the trading store. Dr. Perrine was killed while trying to talk to them and convince them to leave.
The Indians had planned their attack well. They had waited on a nearby island until the naval forces in the area had left. Once on Indian Key, the attackers fired one of the settlement's cannons at naval ships, preventing the ships from landing on the key and rescuing the settlers. The crew on the Naval ships felt helpless and were only able to rescue several people who escaped out to the ships, like Dr. Perrine's wife.
In the afternoon the Indians left with a huge amount of goods before help from Key Biscayne could arrive. Because of the raid, gunpowder and weapons were distributed to other Seminoles in the southern part of Florida to help in their resistance. Sometime later when Col. Harney raided and captured Chakaika's camp in the Everglades, they found a large amount of goods taken from Indian Key. These goods included, "clothing, calicoes, flour, tobacco, soap, brandy, molasses, linens, all kinds of tools, powder, & c."
Today Indian Key is a quiet island. The park is open to the public, but the only way to get there is by boat. Dr. Perrine's plants have taken over the island and block any breeze on the ground. There are no facilities, and no camping is allowed. Once a year, usually October, the annual reenactment is held commemorating the destruction of Indian Key.
Indian Key is DestroyedSeminole Indian Newsflash: August 7, 1840
Indian Key, Florida Territory
On the morning of the 7th, a large group of the "Spanish Indians" under Chakaika attacked and destroyed the island town of Indian Key, also the county seat of Dade County. Indian Key was established by Wrecker Jacob Housman in 1825.
Famous horticulturist Dr. Henry Perrine has been killed. His wife and children have escaped. 13 citizens of Indian Key were killed, and rescue was prevented by some of Chakaika's band, who found a 6- pound cannon in the community and fired it on the surrounding few Navy ships. Although a fire broke out and destroyed much of the town, it appears that the objective of the attackers was plunder from the trading store. Among the supplies taken were several kegs of gunpowder that will no doubt help continue the war. It appears that the Indians were aware of the Naval force at Tea Table Key, of which the bulk of the force had left the area for maneuvers the day before. Chakaika's warriors left Indian Key in the afternoon with a large amount of plunder and no resistance from the community or the small Naval forces.
Chakaika is a man of huge stature, much feared by everyone. He also destroyed the trading post on the Caloosahatchee under Col. Harney's 2nd Dragoons last July 1839. Harney is vowing revenge, and says that he will stop at nothing to hang every Indians he finds of Chakaika's band; women and children included.